Current Affairs Jan 12

Single Window Clearance Portal

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Coal today launched Single Window Clearance Portal, a unified platform that facilitates grant of clearances and approvals required for starting a coal mine in India.

What is a single-window clearance portal?

  • A single window clearance portal is aimed at allowing successful bidders for coal blocks to be able to obtain all required clearances, including environmental and forest clearances, from a single portal with progress monitoring, instead of having to go to multiple authorities.
  • The portal should allow successful bidders to operationalise coal mines more quickly.
  • Presently, about 19 major approvals, or clearances are required before starting the coal mine in the country.

How will this help?

  • The sector has long sought a single window clearance system to help with quicker operationalisation, as obtaining the requisite clearances was taking over 2-3 years for successful bidders in many cases.
  • Some coal blocks auctioned as far back as 2015 has still not been operationalised due to delays in obtaining required clearances.
  • The Parivesh mechanism for forest and environment related clearances would likely be merged into the single window clearance mechanism which is expected to help with the operationalisation of the coals blocks that are set to be auctioned in the upcoming auctions.





Why in News?

  • The second edition of the biennial pan-India coastal defence exercise Sea Vigil-21 will begin on 12 January.
  • The two-day exercise, inaugural edition of which was conducted in January 2019, will be undertaken along the entire 7516 km coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India.

About Exercise

  • The exercise will be coordinated by the Indian Navy and it will involve maritime stakeholders, including the Coast Guard, Customs, fisheries, fishing and coastal communities in all the 13 coastal states and Union Territories.
  • The Sea Vigil exercise began after the entire coastal security setup was re-organised after the 26/11 Terror attack at Mumbai which was launched via the sea route.
  • The exercise is a build up towards the major exercise TROPEX [Theatre-level Readiness Operational Exercise] which Indian Navy conducts every two years.
  • Sea Vigil and TROPEX together will cover the entire spectrum of maritime security challenges, including transition from peace to conflict.




Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE)

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Country.
  • At present, India has a network of 903 Protected Areas in the country covering about 5% of the total geographic area of the country.

New Announcement

  • From this year onwards 10 best National Parks, 5 coastal and Marine parks and top five Zoos in the country will be ranked and awarded every year.

Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of Protected Areas (PAs)

  • It has emerged as a key tool for PA managers and is increasingly being used by governments and international bodies to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the protected area management systems.
  • The results of present assessment are encouraging with overall mean MEE score of 62.01% which is higher than the global mean of 56%.
  • With this round of evaluation, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) successfully completed one full cycle of evaluating all terrestrial National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of the country from 2006 to 2019.

 About MEE

  • MEE is a very important document that provides valuable guidance on various aspects of wildlife and protected area expand MEE of Marine Protected Areas.
  • A new framework for MEE of Marine Protected Areas has been also jointly prepared by WII and MoEF&CC and it will be very useful document to implement.
  • The Environment Minister also launched the Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Indian Zoos (MEE-ZOO) framework which proposes guidelines, criteria and indicators for evaluation of zoos of the country through Management Effectiveness Evaluation Process (MEE-ZOO) in a manner which is discrete, holistic and independent.

The assessment criteria and indicators

  • It look beyond the traditional concepts, include issues of animal welfare, husbandry and sustainability of resources and finance.
  • The MEE-ZOO exercise is moving towards developing highest standards in Zoos across India and adhering to core values of accountability, transparency, innovation, use of technology, collaboration and integrity to achieve the mandate of conservation of endangered species.





Eco-friendly, Non-toxic Wall Paint

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways & MSME will be launching an innovative new paint developed by Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

What is it?

  • The eco-friendly, non-toxic paint, called “Khadi Prakritik Paint” is a first-of-its-kind product, with anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties.
  • Based on cow dung as its main ingredient, the paint is cost-effective and odorless, and has been certified by Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • The project was conceptualized by Chairman KVIC in March 2020, and later developed by Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, Jaipur (a KVIC unit).
  • The paint is free from heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic, cadmium and others.
  • This technology will increase consumption of cow dung as a raw material for eco-friendly products and will generate additional revenue to farmers and gaushalas.




30th National Energy Conservation Awards

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Power, in association with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), organised the 30th National Energy Conservation Awards (NECA).
  • The awards were presented to the winners from different industries and sector establishments.
  • During the event, the Standards and Labelling Programme for Air Compressors and Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV on voluntary basis was initiated;
  • BEE has developed a Management Information System (MIS) portal namely State-wise Actions on Annual Targets and Headways on Energy Efficiency (SAATHEE) which will facilitate real-time monitoring of the progress of implementation of various Energy Conservation endeavours at State level.

About BEE

  • BEE is a statutory body under Ministry of Power which is mandated to implement policy and programmes in energy efficiency and conservation.
  • The objective of such initiatives is to reduce energy intensity in our country by optimizing energy demand and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) which are responsible for global warming and climate change.

Award to Indian Railway

  • Indian Railway bagging 13 awards in three prestigious categories of National Energy Conservation Awards (NECA) for the year 2020.
  • Western Railway has been awarded the First Prize, Eastern Railway has been awarded the Second prize, North Eastern Railway & South Central Railway has been awarded Certificate of Merit in the Transport Category.
  • In Building Category, Divisional Railway Manager’s offices at Bhavnagar and Rajkot have won the first and second prize respectively. Electrical Department, DRM Office, North Eastern Railway has been awarded Certificate of Merit.




ISRO to adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Labs

Why in News?

  • ISRO will adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Labs across the country to promote scientific temperament among students and encourage them for space education and space technology related innovations.
  • This decision was taken by ISRO and Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog.


  • Through this collaboration, the Indian Space Research Organisation will facilitate coaching and mentoring of students in advanced 21st century cutting-edge technologies, including those related to space.
  • The students will not only gain theoretical, but also practical and application-based knowledge of STEM and Space Education related concepts such as Electronics,Physics,Optics, Space Technology, Material sciences and many more.
  • Atal Innovation Mission and NITI Aayog have established over 7,000 ATLs across the country so far, enabling more than three million students between classes six to 12 acquire a problem solving, tinkering and innovative mindset.




Rules for Animals’ Seizure for Cruelty

Why in News?

  • The Central government defended law to deprive owners possession of their animals, including cattle, on the suspicion that they are being subject to cruelty or illegally transported for slaughter.
  • The Centre dismissed the argument that taking the animals from their owners divested them of their livelihood even before they were found guilty of cruelty by a court of law.
  • A petition filed by the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association challenging the validity of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and maintenance of case property animals) Rules 2017.

Court’s earlier directive

  • In the previous hearing, the court had asked the government to delete the Rules, saying the law stripped people of their means to live.
  • But the government said the Rules were in consonance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
  • The Rules prevent owners and transporters from causing animals unnecessary pain and suffering… Animals are sentient beings. They are capable of experiencing pain, sorrow, suffering and discomfort… Article 51A (g) of the Constitution enjoins upon every citizen to have compassion for living animals.
  • Police seized the cattle and vehicles of only those who intentionally violated the Animal Transport Rules.




RBI Financial Stability Report

Report Says

  • Banks’ gross non-performing assets may rise to 13.5% by September 2021, from 7.5% in September 2020 under the baseline scenario, according to Financial Stability Report (FSR) released by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • If the macroeconomic environment worsens into a severe stress scenario, the GNPA ratio may escalate to 14.8%.
  • Among the bank groups, public sector banks’ (PSBs) GNPA ratio of 9.7% in September 2020 may rise to 16.2% by September 2021 under the baseline scenario.
  • The gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratio of private sector banks (PVBs) and foreign banks (FBs) may increase from 4.6% and 2.5% to 7.9% and 5.4%, respectively, over the same period.
  • In the severe stress scenario, the GNPA ratios of PSBs, PVBs and FBs may rise to 17.6%, 8.8% and 6.5%, respectively, by September 2021.
  • These GNPA projections are indicative of the possible economic impairment latent in banks’ portfolios, with implications for capital planning.




K-shaped Economic Recovery

What is a K-shaped recovery?

  • A K-shaped recovery happens when different sections of an economy recover at starkly different rates.

What are the macro implications of a K-shaped recovery?

  • With the top 10 per cent of India’s households responsible for 25-30 per cent of total consumption, so consumption would get a boost as this pent-up demand expresses itself.
  • But it’s important not to conflate stocks with flows, and levels with changes.
  • Upper-income households have benefitted from higher savings for two quarters. What we are currently witnessing is a sugar rush from those savings being spent.
  • This is, however, a one-time effect.
  • To the extent that households at the bottom have experienced a permanent loss of income in the forms of jobs and wage cuts, this will be a recurring drag on demand, if the labour market does not heal faster.
  • Second, to the extent that COVID has triggered an effective income transfer from the poor to the rich, this will be demand-impeding because the poor have a higher marginal propensity to consume (ie they tend to spend (instead of saving) a much higher proportion of their income.
  • Third, if COVID-19 reduces competition or increases the inequality of incomes and opportunities, it could impinge on trend growth in developing economies by hurting productivity and tightening political economy constraints.
  • Policy will, therefore, need to look beyond the next few quarters and anticipate the state of the macroeconomy post the sugar rush.




Parler Social Network

Why in News?

  • Apple, Amazon and Google have suspended the social network called Parler, saying that the platform has not taken enough measures to make sure that content inciting violence remains in check.

What is Parler?

  • It is a social media platform that is considered to be an alternative to Twitter and is popular with conservatives. The platform describes itself as being the world’s “premier free speech platform”.

Why was it suspended?

  • The move has come following the events of January 6 when an armed mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with the police as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win.




China plans to prevent further US sanctions

Why in News?

  • As the US continues to blacklist dozens of Chinese companies it believes are a threat to its national security
  • Beijing responded recently by announcing new rules to protect its firms from “unjustified” US sanctions.
  • The move by China comes just before the implementation of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in November last year that prohibits US investments in Chinese firms allegedly owned or controlled by the Chinese military.
  • The move by China comes just before the implementation of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in November last year that prohibits US investments in Chinese firms allegedly owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

US tirade against Chinese firms

  • US-China relations have continued to sour over the past year.
  • China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom Hong Kong, which allegedly have ties with the Chinese military, will be delisted by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
  • Over the past few months, the US has targeted several Chinese tech giants, including TikTok and Huawei.
  • China’s largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) and drone manufacturer DJI were blacklisted, with American firms being barred from selling products to these companies on national security grounds.

How China plans to respond

  • Recently, China’s Ministry of Commerce said it was introducing new rules on “counteracting unjustified extra-territorial application” of foreign laws.
  • Under the rules, which came into effect immediately, Chinese authorities would be able to issue orders declaring that individuals or companies in the country do not need to comply with foreign restrictions.
  • Chinese entities can now sue for compensation if their interests are harmed as a result of foreign sanctions that “improperly prohibit or restrict” them, and Chinese courts would be able to punish global companies abiding by such foreign laws.
  • The rules do not mention the US directly.
  • It is unclear, however, whether the rules are only meant against sanctions aimed at China specifically, or against other US adversaries such as Russia and Iran, but which end up affecting Chinese companies.




Risk-Based Internal Audit (RBIA) Framework

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to ensure that the internal audit function has sufficient authority, stature, independence and resources within the bank to enable internal auditors to carry out their assignments with objectivity.
  • It also emphasised that this function cannot be outsourced.
  • These directives are aimed at strengthening governance arrangements in banks under the Risk-Based Internal Audit (RBIA) Framework.

The Head of Internal Audit (HIA)

  • Should be a senior executive of the bank with the ability to exercise independent judgement.
  • The HIA as well as the internal audit function should have the authority to communicate with any staff member and have access to all records or files that are necessary to carry out the entrusted responsibilities.
  • The desired areas of knowledge and experience may include banking operations, accounting, information technology, data analytics and forensic investigation, among others.
  • The HIA will directly report to either the Audit Committee of the Board (ACB) / MD & CEO or Whole Time Director (WTD).
  • HIA will not have any reporting relationship with the business verticals of the bank and will not be given any business targets.
  • In foreign banks operating in India as branches, the HIA will report to the internal audit function in the controlling office / head office.
  • The central bank observed that the independence and objectivity of the internal audit function could be undermined if the remuneration of internal audit staff is linked to the financial performance of the business lines for which they exercise audit responsibilities.
  • Thus, the remuneration policies should be structured in a way that it avoids creating conflict of interest and compromising audit’s independence and objectivity.

No outsourcing

  • While the internal audit function should not be outsourced, RBI said where required, experts, including former employees, could be hired on contractual basis subject to the ACB being assured that such expertise does not exist within the audit function of the bank.
  • RBI has encouraged banks to adopt the International Internal Audit standards, such as those issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).




Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to introduce the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) system for all payment transactions of value ₹50 crore and above undertaken by entities (non-individuals) using the Reserve Bank-run Centralised Payment Systems with effect from April 1.

What is LEI?

  • LEI is a 20-digit number used to uniquely identify parties to financial transactions worldwide. It was conceived as a key measure to improve the quality and accuracy of financial data systems for better risk management post the global financial crisis.
  • The RBI asked member banks participating in Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) to advise entities who undertake large value transactions (₹50 crore and above) to obtain LEI in time, if they do not already have one.
  • Member banks should include remitter and beneficiary LEI information in RTGS and NEFT payment messages.
  • Entities can obtain LEI from any of the Local Operating Units (LOUs) accredited by the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF), the body tasked to support the implementation and use of LEI.
  • In India, LEI can be obtained from Legal Entity Identifier India Ltd. (LEIL), which is also recognised as an issuer of LEI by the Reserve Bank under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
  • LEI has been introduced by the Reserve Bank in a phased manner for participants in the over the counter (OTC) derivative and non-derivative markets as also for large corporate borrowers.




NASA to Test ‘Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built’

Why in News?

  • THE world’s most powerful rocket is all set to undergo a crucial “hot fire” test soon.
  • The Space Launch System, which NASA hopes will one day take astronauts to Mars, will blast its four powerful engines while bolted to the ground.
  • The Space Launch System (SLS) will form the backbone of NASA’s Artemis programme, which promises to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
  • Using the 320ft-tall (97m) rocket, the space agency hopes to set up a permanent orbiting lunar base by 2030.
  • NASA will carry out the “hot fire” at the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
  • Once completed, the SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world.
  • Under its 25 core stage engines, the spaceship will reach a record-breaking speed of Mach 23 before separating from its crew capsule.
  • Mach 23 is equivalent to around 17,647.2 miles per hour.
  • The aim of the ambitious mission is to land on the lunar South Pole and mine pockets of water ice there.
  • The frozen ponds were discovered back in 2009 and could potentially be used for life support purposes or even to make rocket propellant.
  • If this rocket propellant theory is correct then trips to the Moon could become much more efficient.
  • The 2024 Moon mission is intended to lay the groundwork for an onward mission to Mars in the 2030s.




WHO’s India Map

Why in News?

  • A Map of India on the website of the World Health Organization, depicting the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in a totally different colour, has evoked angry reactions from the Indian diaspora in Britain.
  • WHO, however, held that it follows UN guidelines and practice regarding maps.
  • Whilst the rest of India is coloured navy blue, J&K and Ladakh have been marked in grey as if they a separate country. The disputed border area of Aksai Chin is demarcated with grey with blue stripes, the same shade as that of China.
  • WHO, as a UN specialized agency, follows the United Nations on representation of territories and boundaries on maps because the United Nations is entrusted with addressing issues involving matters of geo-politics for the UN system.












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