Polity & Governance
- MSME’s To Benefit As GeM Signs MoU With Federal Bank For Payment Services
Government Schemes & Policies
- UP launches Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana on Dhanteras
- India jumps to 63rd position in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report
- Union Cabinet approves revival plan of BSNL and MTNL and merger of the two
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India Launched
Bilateral & International Relations
- PM Modi will skip NAM meet 2nd time in row
- India signs the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Agreement with Pakistan
- GIA delegation presents ‘Report from Ground Zero’ on Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh
Art & Culture
- President Addresses Commemoration of Golden Jubilee of Vishwa Shanti Stupa
Science & Technology
- Google claims it reached “quantum supremacy”
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Polity & Governance
MSME’s To Benefit As GeM Signs MoU With Federal Bank For Payment Services
The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) signed a MoU with Federal Bank to offer a number of services to the registered users on the portal.
About new MoU
- The services offered through MoU includes Transfer of funds through GeM Pool Accounts (GPA), Advising of Performance Bank Guarantees (e-PBG) and Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) to the registered users on the portal.
- The MoU will facilitate a cashless and paperless payment system on the portal.
About Government e-Marketplace
- GeM is a short form of one stop ‘Government e-Market Place’.
- Launched in August 2016, GeM is the national public procurement portal(e-market place) that enables procurement of common use goods and services by various Government Departments / Organisations / PSUs.
- It is hosted by Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D).
- GeM is also working with Banks, TReDs, and SIDBI to provide bill discounting and financing of working capital where the cost of capital is linked to the performance & rating of a seller on GeM. This will particularly support MSMEs to get easy credit and improve business with the government.
- Moreover, GeM portal is also looking at setting up Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) pool account to help sellers comply with the EMD requirements while responding to bids.
Government Schemes & Policies
UP launches Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana on Dhanteras
On the occasion of Dhanteras, Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana was launched in Uttar Pradesh.
Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana
- The programme aims at empowering the girl child for which an amount of 15,000 will be provided to every family in which a girl child takes birth.
- Under the scheme, the state government will direct transfer funds in the account of the registered girls in a phased manner when a girl child will complete various achievements, like vaccination, admission in class 1, 5 and 9, graduation.
- Only Uttar Pradesh girls will be given the benefit
- Daughter’s parents should not be working in government
- Girl must attend school
India jumps to 63rd position in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report
India has moved 14 places to be 63rd among 190 nations in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. However, it failed to achieve government’s target of being at 50th place.
Highlights of World Bank’s ease of doing business 2020
First rank: New Zealand
Last rank (190th): Somalia
India’s neighbouring countries: Nepal (94th), Sri Lanka (99th), Pakistan (108th), Bangladesh (168th)
- The top 10 economies with the most notable improvement in Doing Business 2020 are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria. These countries implemented one-fifth of all the reforms recorded worldwide in 2018-19.
India Specific Highlights
- India has been ranked at 63rd place. India was ranked at 77th place in 2018 ranking.
- India is ranked 9th in world’s top 10 improvers.
- While there has been substantial progress, India still lags in areas such as enforcing contracts (163rd) and registering property (154th).
Reason for India’s improvement
- The establishment of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 as part of a comprehensive strategy to reform corporate law paved the way for gradual increase in the number of reorganizations. As a result, the overall recovery rate for creditors has increased.
- India made starting a business easier by abolishing filing fees for the SPICe company incorporation form, electronic memorandum of association, and articles of association.
- India reduced the time and cost of obtaining construction permits and improved building quality control by strengthening professional certification requirements
- India made trading across borders easier by enabling post-clearance audits, integrating trade stakeholders in a single electronic platform, and enhancing the electronic submission of documents. India now ranks 68th on importing and exporting indicator.
About ease of Doing Business
- Ease of Doing Business (EoDB), an index published by the World Bank, is a benchmark study of the regulations across different Countries of the World.
- The Doing Business project, launched in 2002, looks at domestic small and medium-size companies and measures the regulations applying to them through their life cycle.
- The index is a means of measuring business regulations and its implementation across 190 economies and selected cities at the subnational and regional level.
Doing business ranking is based on quantitative indicators on regulation for
- Starting a business,
- Dealing with construction permits,
- Getting electricity,
- Registering property,
- Getting credit,
- Protecting minority investors,
- Paying taxes,
- Trading across borders,
- Enforcing contracts
- Resolving insolvency
The two parameters that are not included in the ranking process of 2020 are regulation on employing workers and contracting with the government.[Ref: Economic Times, Livemint]
Union Cabinet approves revival plan of BSNL and MTNL and merger of the two
The Union Cabinet approved the proposal for revival of BSNL and MTNL by administrative allotment of spectrum for 4G services among others and in-principle approval of merger of BSNL & MTNL.
- With the proposed measures, it is expected that BSNL will come out of losses by 2023-24 while MTNL will be back to profits in 2025-26.
Proposed framework for merger of BSNL and MTNL
- Administrative allotment of spectrum for 4G services (funded by government of India) at 2016 prices to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd (MTNL) to enable them to compete in the market and provide high speed data including in rural areas.
- Raise long-term bonds with sovereign guarantee by government of India
- Offer Voluntary Retirement to their employees, aged 50 years and above through Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). As per the VRS package, an employee above the age of 53-and-a-half years will get 125% of today’s salary including the pension pay-out.
- Monetisation of the companies’ towers and fibre assets via an infrastructure investment trust (InvIT)
Current situation of BSNL and MTNL
- Since the telecom sector was opened up for private sector participation in 1995, BSNL and MTNL have become marginal players. In the mobile market, their combined customer share is 10.3% as of March 2019.
- BSNL’s customer share among rural mobile subscribers is only 7.2%, which negate the fact that BSNL serves the underserved rural areas.
- BSNL and MTNL are overstaffed compared to private players. About 60% of BSNL’s revenues go towards managing employee expenses, while for MTNL it is around 87%. Also, BSNL has been reporting losses continuously since 2009-10 and both PSUs have been declared as “incipient sick“.
- Besides the competition, which was triggered after entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016, the survival of the PSUs was largely dependent on the attitude of its employees, who could not approach a professional attitude with the change in times.
Why this proposal will revive the BSNL and MTNL?
- Both the firms, especially BSNL, have huge assets, which will be very essential for the smooth rollout of next-generation 5G technology.
- BSNL has huge infra assets and Right of Ways are an advantage, which can be shared with private players.
- Their real estate is very valuable with presence in all major city centres with premium real estate.
- BSNL can play the primary role in Connectivity and while MTNL can Propel it. For instance, BSNL can work on Agriculture services which can on 2G, and MTNL can focus on FTTx (Fiber to the x – optical fiber technologies) services.
Why this proposal ‘won’t’ revive the BSNL and MTNL?
- For 4G, both the PSUs are late entrants.
- Even the big private telecom companies are struggling in telecom sector.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India Launched
In a two-day international meeting of Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Program at Delhi, Union Minister for Environment launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day.
- According to the protocol, India will follow a two-step procedure to count snow leopard i) systematically assessing the spatial distribution of snow leopards and ii) estimating their numbers through camera trapping and genetic evidence.
About Snow Leopard
- Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.
- In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
- Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zonesat elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m or higher in the Himalayas.
- Snow leopards are currently found in only 12 countriesin the world. They are India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- They prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and clear view to help them sneak up on their prey.
- Their spotted coats change with the seasons – from a thick, white fur to keep them warm and camouflaged in winter, to a fine yellow-grey coat in summer.
- Previously, the snow leopard is listed as Endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species. Now, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was first placed on the endangered list in 1972.
- In addition, the snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries.
- The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
About Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP)
- GSLEP seeks to address high-mountain development issues using the conservation of snow leopard as a flagship.
- GSLEP aims to identify and secure at least 20 snow leopard landscapes across their range by 2020 or, in shorthand – “Secure 20 by 2020.”
Habitat and prey loss
- Overgrazing has damaged the fragile high altitude grasslands, leaving less food for the wild sheep and goats that are the snow leopard’s main prey.
- Such increasing loss of its natural prey is a major threat for the long-term survival of snow leopards.
- With less natural prey to feed on and growing numbers of domestic animals being grazed in their hunting territories, snow leopards have increasingly adapted to prey on livestock. This brings them into conflict with local people.
- Herders in these areas live a precarious economic life and loss of even a single sheep causes great economic hardship. This has led to several instances of retaliatory killing of snow leopards.
- Another major challenge for the protection of snow leopards is poaching for their pelts. Their bones and other body parts are also in demand for use in traditional Asian medicines.
- Much of its habitat is extremely difficult to access. Found at very high altitudes, studying the species and its current status and distribution is an arduous task.
- India now has 77% of the world’s tiger population.
Bilateral & International Relations
PM Modi will skip NAM meet 2nd time in row
Vice-President of India represented India at the 18th Non- Aligned Movement summit in Azerbaijan’s Baku. This is the second time in a row that Indian PM skipped the summit, marking India’s transformation from a non-aligned country to one which is supposedly multi-aligned.
- The theme for the Baku summit is ‘Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world’.
About the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
- The NAM was established in 1961 to unite developing states that are not part of any collective defence pacts in interest of any major power.
- It is the second largest international organization after the United Nations with 120 member states.
- It was founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world and at the height of the Cold War.
- It did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union but sought to remain independent or neutral.
- NAM does not have a formal constitution or permanent secretariat and its administration is non-hierarchical and rotational.
- The basic concept for the group originated in 1955 during discussions that took place at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference held in Indonesia. ‘Ten Principles of Bandung’ were proclaimed at that Conference which were adopted later as the main goals and objectives of the policy of non-alignment.
- The movement of Non-Aligned Countries was founded on a wider geographical basis at the First Summit Conference of Belgrade, Yugoslavia which was held in 1961.
Relevance of NAM for India:
- NAM played an important role during the Cold War years in furthering many of the causes that India advocated such as decolonisation, end to apartheid, global nuclear disarmament etc.
- However, NAM was more or less irrelevant for India in terms of helping to promote its security and interests.
- NAM’s lack of utility is clearly demonstrated by the diplomatic positions adopted by member countries during the various wars in which India has been involved that were not favourable towards
- For example, during the 1962 War with China, Ghana and Indonesia, two of the co-founders of NAM, adopted explicitly pro-China positions.
- Moreover, during the vote on the UN General Assembly Resolution of 1971 calling for a ceasefire during India Pakistan war, most NAM members stood completely opposed to India.
- Further, since the end of the Cold War, India has become a key member of various multilateral groupings: BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), G20, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) etc. to enhance economic coordination with countries that are similarly placed.
- These engagements have made the Non-Aligned Movement largely incidental to India’s pursuit of its national interest since the end of the Cold War.
How did NAM helped India?
- The only use NAM had for India was during the 1970s and 1980s where NAM served as a forum to channel India’s dissatisfaction with the international order.
- It was through NAM that India articulated the call for a new international economic order that would cater for the special needs of the developing countries.
- Similarly, through NAM, India articulated the call for a new world information and communication order to provide a greater voice for developing countries in global communications.
- NAM also served as a forum for India to articulate its views on global nuclear disarmament and the discriminatory nature of the global nuclear order at the centre of which stood the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
India’s shift to Multi-aligned policy
- This is the second time in a row that Indian PM will skip the summit, marking India’s transformation from a non-aligned country to one which is multi-aligned.
- It is significant to note that Prime Ministers of India’s neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives are attended the 18th Non- Aligned Movement summit.
- While NAM in the past helped deal with challenges like colonialism, it is now increasingly seen as having outlived its usefulness.
- Indian government believes NAM will be of little use in furthering India’s case on important issues like the menace of terrorism and UNSC reforms.
India signs the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor Agreement with Pakistan
India has signed the Agreement with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at Zero Point, International Boundary, Dera Baba Nanak.
- Pakistan also issued coins to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, marking the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor for the Sikh pilgrims from India.
The highlights of the Agreement are:
- Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor;
- The travel will be Visa Free;
- Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport;
- Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country;
- Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day;
- The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days
- India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. Confirmation will be sent to pilgrims 4 days before the travel date;
- The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for ‘Langar’ and distribution of ‘Prasad’.
- The Kartarpur Corridor is a border corridor between the India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines ofDera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (in Punjab, Pakistan).
- The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located on the banks of the Ravi River, near the border in Pakistan.
- It is intended to commence the pilgrimage through Kartarpur corridor on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev (9th November 2019).
- For decades, Sikh devotees have been demanding that India and Pakistan collaborate to build a corridor linking it with the Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.
- Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first suggested the corridor in 1999.
- Pilgrims would be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year, cutting more than 200 km to just 6 km.
- It could initiate meaningful confidence-building measure (CBM).
- The initiative can also become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith, which could provide a balm for many communities. For example, Kashmiri Pandits, who have long asked for access to visit the Sharda Peeth in the Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Sufis in Pakistan who wish to visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan.
- More people-to-people contact can help improve ties between the two nations. History shows that religious triumphs can be a diplomatic tool to ease tension between countries.
- The main issue that has been a point of discussion is the insistence of Pakistan to levy $20 as service charge per pilgrim per visit. India has consistently urged Pakistan to not levy any fee on the pilgrim. However, India signed the agreement but keep insisting on to abolish the levy.
- In Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, Guru Nanak (founder of Sikhism) assembled a Sikh community and lived there for 18 years until his death.
- Pakistan issues coin to commemorate 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
GIA delegation presents ‘Report from Ground Zero’ on Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh
A delegation of Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) presented a ‘Report from Ground Zero’ on Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh after setting aside of Article 370 & 35A.
- The delegation briefed the MoS (PMO) about the findings of their observations after field study of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Founded in 2015, Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) is a group of empowered Indian women, intellectuals & academicians working together to elevate the position of women in our society, committed to work in the service of the nation.
- Aim: to become the voice of the most silent and underprivileged section of our nation with legal and academic support.
- Composition: National leaders, President Awardees, distinguished Supreme Court lawyers, industrialists, professors of prestigious institutions, principals of colleges, directors of institutes, internationally renowned artists/dancers, sportswomen, writers, poets, IT professionals and many others from various fields.
Art & Culture
President Addresses Commemoration of Golden Jubilee of Vishwa Shanti Stupa
The President of India addressed the commemoration of Golden Jubilee of Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Rajgir, Bihar.
Vishwa Shanti Stupa
- Vishwa Shanti Stupa, located in Rajgir, Bihar, is one of the 80 Peace Pagodas (Stupas) around the world.
- It was conceptualised by renowned Buddhist monk Nipponzan Myohoji.
- Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese Buddhist monk, started constructing Peace Pagodas in 1947 in many locations around the world.
- Vishwa Shanti Stupa is the tallest peace Pagoda in the world.
- Built completely with marble, the stupa comprises four golden statues of Lord Buddha with each representing his life periods of birth, enlightenment, preaching and death.
- There are 7 Peace Pagoda or Shanti Stupas in India, other Stupas are Global Vipassana Pagoda Mumbai, Deekshabhoomi Stupa Nagpur and Buddha Smriti Park Stupa Patna.
- Rajgir was the capital of the Magadh until the 5th century BC when Ajatashatru moved the capital to Pataliputra.
- Rajgir is a popular pilgrim destination for Buddhists as Lord Buddha spent 12 years over there and also preached two sermons.
- The first Buddhist Council, immediately after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha, was convened at this place which presently is called Rajgir.
- Rajgir is also known as Panchpahari as it is surrounded by five holy hills.
- The legend has it that the ancient city Rajagriha existed even before Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It was the ancient capital city of the Magadh rulers until the 5th century BC when Ajatashatru moved the capital to Pataliputra (which is now known as Patna).
- Lord Mahavira too spent 14 years of his life at Rajgir and nearby areas.
- Rajgir has been mentioned in the epic Mahabharata
Famous Buddhist location in Rajgir
- The Gridhakuta hill is also known as the Vulture’s Peak. This is the place where Lord Buddha preached many of his teachings and sermons. Upon the attainment of enlightenment, he preached two of the most important sermons known as Lotus Sutra and the Prajnaparamita over here.
- At this Hill, Buddha made Mauryan king Bimbisara convert to Buddhism.
- There are several Jain temples on the hills surrounding Rajgir. Lord Mahavira spent 14 years of his life at Rajgir. It was the capital of his favourite shishya (follower) king Shrenik. Rajgir is, therefore, an important religious place for Jains too.
The Saptparni Cave was the cave where the first congregation of the Buddhist Council took place after Lord Buddha attained Nirvana.[Ref: PIB]
Science & Technology
Google claims it reached “quantum supremacy”
Google researchers claim to have achieved a major milestone in computer science known as “quantum supremacy.”
[Read IASToppers’ Mains Article on ‘quantum supremacy’ at https://www.iastoppers.com/quantum-supremacy-claimed-google-mains-articles/]