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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

06 Jan, 2021

70 Min Read

AI ‘Ramanujan Machine’- Can find Hidden Patterns in Numbers

GS-I : Art and Culture Persons in News

A new artificially intelligent “mathematician” which is called as the “Ramanujan Machine” have the potential to reveal the hidden relationships between numbers.

Key Facts

  • Ramanujan machine comprises of the algorithms that seek out the mathematical conclusions. These mathematical conclusions are likely to be true but have not been proved.
  • The set of algorithms has been named after the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.
  • The new AI mathematician has been designed to pull out promising mathematical patterns from large sets of potential equations.

Source: PIB

Preeti Sinha- To lead United Nations Capital Development Fund

GS-I : Art and Culture Persons in News

  • The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has appointed Preeti Sinha as its Executive Secretary.
  • She is an Indian-origin investment and development banker.

Highlights

  • The executive secretary will work with her focus on providing the micro-finance assistance to women, youth, small and medium-sized enterprises belonging to the underserved communities.
  • The Executive Secretary is the highest leadership rank in the UNCDF.
  • Ms Preeti will oversee the efforts made by the organisation in delivering the scalable impact so as to make the international financial environment work for the frontier and pre-frontier markets of the world.

About United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)

  • The UNCDF was established in the year 1966 by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the economic development across the world.
  • It is headquartered in New York.
  • The organisation helps in providing the micro-finance access to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
  • It also has the mandate to unlock full potential of public and private finance.
  • The organisation makes public and private finance work for the poor in 47 least developed countries (LDCs) of the world.

Source: ANI

Central Vista Project approved

GS-II : Indian Polity Parliament

Central Vista Project approved

  • The Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, gave its go-ahead to the multi-crore Central Vista redevelopment project, which proposes to build a new Parliament three times bigger than the existing 93-year-old heritage building and modify the use of 86.1 acres of land, home to India’s power corridor in the national capital.
  • In their majority opinion, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said the court cannot order the government to desist from spending money on one project and use it for something else.
  • They said the government did not act against public trust.
  • They brushed aside allegations that the government committed foul play and illegally carved out the Parliament project from the Central Vista project.

  • The majority opinion said the project did not involve any “radical” change in land use. The proposed change in landscape would not limit “recreational spaces” for the public.
  • It dismissed notions that the project was “sui generis” (unique) and deserved a “heightened judicial review”.
  • “The right to development is a basic human right and no organ of the state is expected to become an impediment in the process of development as long as the government proceeds in accordance with law,” Justice Khanwilkar wrote.
  • Justice Sanjeev Khanna, in a separate dissent, upheld the project bid notice, award of consultancy and the order of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, but concluded that the Centre did not take the public into confidence about the changes proposed for Central Vista, an area, which in post-Independent India, “inspires and connects common people to the citadels of our democracy”.

About Central Vista Project

  • The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs proposed a Central Vista redevelopment project in 2019.

The project has the following features

  • Constructing a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one.
  • Constructing Common Central Secretariat.
  • Revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
  • North and South Block to be repurposed as museums.

Why is the need of revamping Central Vista?

  • The Parliament building’s facilities and infrastructure are inadequate to meet the current demand.
  • The offices of the Central Government are spread over different locations which affects inter-departmental coordination, and unnecessary travel leading to congestion and pollution.
  • Most of the existing buildings have outlived their structural lives.

History of Central Vista: PT Pointers

  • Currently, the Central Vista of New Delhi houses Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, North and South Block, India Gate, National Archives among others.
  • In December, 1911, King George V made an announcement in Delhi Durbar (a grand assembly) to shift the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi.
  • Delhi Durbar was hosted to mark the coronation of King George V.
  • The task of constructing a new city was given to Edwin Lutyens, known for his strong adherence to European Classicism and Herbert Baker, a prominent architect in South Africa.
  • Herbert Baker is also the architect of the Union buildings at Pretoria, South Africa.
  • Parliament House building was designed by both Lutyens and Baker.
  • Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
  • The Secretariat which includes both north and south block was designed by Herbert Baker.

Source: TH

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

GS-II : International Relations West Asia

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  • Gulf leaders signed a “solidarity and stability” deal after leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar publicly embraced, bringing Doha back into the regional fold after a three-year-long rift.
  • Saudi Arabia had led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond to cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, charging that it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups — allegations that Doha denied.
  • Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, which have mediated between the two sides, signed a deal in Al-Ula, after Riyadh overnight re-opened its land, sea and air borders to Doha.
  • “There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges that surround us, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme and its plans for sabotage and destruction,” said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • The details of the agreement were not immediately released, and analysts warned that any deal could be preliminary in nature and may not immediately end all the measures taken against Qatar.

About Gulf Cooperation Council, 1981

  • GCC is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except Iraq and Iran, namely: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • It was established at Abu Dhabi.
  • Objectives
    1. Customs Union; Common market; Common currency.
    2. similar regulations in various fields such as religion, finance, trade, tourism, legislation, and administration.
    3. Unified military
    4. Set up joint ventures, private sector.

Disintegration of GCC: Qatar crisis

  • Blockade of Qatar in 2017 by Saudi, UAE and Bahrain because it is accused of terrorist funding.
  • Qatar said it will not discuss the compromise until the blockade is removed.
  • Plus there was an issue of killing of Khasshogi who was a Saudi Journalist.
  • Qatar is the largest exporter of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
  • Blockade has made Qatar only more independent in Foreign Policy decisions.
    • It increased assistance for Hamas, Gaza.
    • It increased plan to allow Turkey to set up military camp.
    • It resists call to cut ties with Iran.

India and Gulf Countries

  • Gulf countries need Indians to work for them. NRI gives remittances and India's CAD is reduced by Forex.
  • India tried before 1st lockdown to bring people from these countries. But still they are in West Asia and these countries are discriminatory in nature (no test facilities, captured passport, no wages).
  • India should provide holistic policy for them and bilaterally we can improve ties.
  • Around 8 million people are in West Asia and 50% of them are unskilled and 30% are semi skilled.
  • Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are important transit for international travel. Thousands of Indian tourists were also stranded there during COVID.

Source: TH

Pipeline Network of India

GS-III : Economic Issues Energy

Pipeline Network of India

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that as part of efforts to make India a natural gas-based economy, 10,000 more CNG (compressed natural gas) stations would be opened and several lakh PNG (piped natural gas) household connections given in the coming days.
  • Inaugurating the 450-km Kochi-Koottanad-Mangaluru LNG (liquefied natural gas), Mr. Modi said the facility was part of his government’s “one nation, one gas grid” policy.
  • The government has a concrete plan to move towards a gas-based economy that would be cheaper, convenient and environment-friendly, he said.
  • The Prime Minister said the government would make substantial investments in coal and gas sectors.
  • The plan was to increase the share of natural gas in the energy sector from the present 6% to 15% by 2030.
  • Mr. Modi said the government had definite plans for the future to make the country energy-sufficient and reduce expenditure on foreign exchange through diversification of energy requirement.
  • Focus was being given on increasing production of ethanol to increase its content in petrol to 20% from the present 5%.
  • The world’s largest hybrid energy plant (wind and solar) was coming up in Gujarat.
  • The electric mobility sector too was being encouraged. Through these, alternative, cheap and pollution-free fuel and energy would be made available to people, he said.
  • Giving out statistics on efforts to boost the alternative energy sector, Mr. Modi said while 15,000 km of LNG pipeline was laid between 1978 (when the first inter-State pipeline was commissioned) and 2014, work on 16,000 km that started in 2014 would be completed in the next four years.
  • As against 900 CNG stations between 1992 and 2014, 1,500 new stations were built thereafter and the numbers would increase to 10,000 soon. As against 25 lakh PNG connections till 2014, 72 lakh PNG connections were given till date.
  • The Kochi-Mangaluru pipeline would provide another 21 lakh PNG connections.

National Gas Grid

Objectives

  • To remove regional imbalance within the country with regard to access to natural gas and provide clean and green fuel throughout the country.
  • To connect gas sources to major demand centres and ensure availability of gas to consumers in various sectors.

Major Gas Pipeline Projects

  • Jagdishpur – Haldia/Bokaro – Dhamra Pipeline Project (JHBDPL) & Barauni- Guwahati Pipeline project (BGPL): Timely development of this project is supporting the revival of 3 Fertilizer Plants namely located at Gorakhpur, Barauni and Sindri, and new Fertilizer Unit at Durgapur.
  • North East Region (NER) Gas Grid: A joint venture of five (05) oil and gas CPSEs i.e. GAIL, IOCL, OIL, ONGC, and NRL named as “Indradhanush Gas Grid Ltd” (IGGL) has been entrusted to develop trunk pipeline connectivity in all North Eastern States i.e. Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya in a phased manner.
  • Kochi-Koottanad- Bangalore-Mangalore (Ph-II) Pipeline Project (KKBMPL)
  • Ennore-Thiruvallur-Bangalore-Nagapattinum– Madurai – Tuticorin Natural gas pipeline (ETBNMTPL): This pipeline will connect new Ennore LNG Terminal with various demand centers in the region.

Source: TH

Atmanirbhar Bharat and India’s Recovery

GS-III : Economic Issues Economic reforms

Atmanirbhar Bharat and India’s Recovery

  • While the global economic recovery has been hit by second waves of infections and more stringent lockdowns in several countries, India’s economy is ‘riding against the COVID-19 wave’ with persistent improvements in economic indicators showing a V-shaped recovery.
  • The new year has dawned with the approval of long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine and initiation of vaccination drives in various countries. This gives strength to the optimism on both health and economic fronts despite continuing surge in global cases and the potential challenge of a mutant strain.
  • “In the global economy, rise in lockdown stringency following second waves has slowed... recovery, as seen in tapering Purchasing Managers’ Index estimates, decline in port traffic activity, and stagnating commercial flight activity…,” the review noted, contrasting that trend with India’s recovery path.
  • “The effective management of the COVID-19 spread despite the festive season and onset of winter season, combined with sustained improvement in high-frequency indicators and V-shaped recovery, along with easing of lockdown restrictions distinguish Indian economy as one riding against the COVID-wave.
  • Stressing that the agriculture sector — which clocked 3.4% growth in the first two quarters of FY21 — remained the bright spot of the Indian economy, the review pointed to a 2.9% rise in rabi sowing this year, along with accelerating tractor sales suggesting rural distress had been successfully addressed by the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).
  • “Rise in minimum support prices accompanied by record procurement, and accelerated wage employment generation through MGNREGS, bodes well for rural incomes and bears testimony to PMGKY’s success in alleviating rural distress... This rise in rural incomes is mirrored in the healthy, though moderated, sales in passenger vehicles, two- and three-wheelers and tractors, and a rebound in vehicle registrations for the first time after March 2020,” it said.
  • Mega vaccination drive: Asserting that the government was well-prepared to undertake a mega vaccination drive, following the emergency use approval for two vaccines in India, the Finance Ministry said a blueprint was ‘ready with priority for health workers among others, real-time Intelligence Network Co-WIN in place, upgradation of cold-chain infrastructure for last-mile delivery, and ongoing dry runs’.

About Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Mission) is a campaign launched by the Central Government of India which included an Rs.20 lakh crore economic stimulus package and a number of reform proposals.
  • It is equivalent to almost 10% of India’s GDP.
  • The meaning of the term ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is self-reliant India.

Significance of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

  • Remaking that self-reliance is the only way out for India, the PM quoted from our scriptures “Eshah Panthah”, that is – self-sufficient India.
  • Self-reliance will make globalization human-centric.
  • The definition of self-reliance has changed in a globalized world and it is different from being self-centred. India’s fundamental thinking and tradition of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” provides a ray of hope to the world.
  • This should be seen in the context of Human-Centric Globalization versus Economy Centralized Globalization.
  • Self-reliance does not mean cutting India off from the world. India believes in the welfare of the world and India’s progress is linked with the world. The world trusts that India has a lot to contribute to the development of the entire humanity.
  • The PM also stressed on the need to be vocal for local products and urged people to buy only local products.

Five Pillars of a Self-reliant India

  1. Economy: contemplates not an Incremental change but a quantum leap so that we can convert the current adversity into an advantage.
  2. Infrastructure: that can be an image of modern India or it can be the identity of India.
  3. Systems: driven by 21st-century technology, and that is not based on old rules.
  4. Democracy: a vibrant democracy that is the source of energy to make India self- reliant.
  5. Demand: where the strength of our demand and supply chain is utilized intelligently.

The reforms and stimulus measures under Rs 20 lakh crore package were subsequently elaborated by the Finance Minister in five tranches:

The first tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan – Total Rs 5,94,550 Cr

  • Collateral free loans and emergency credit to restart business including MSME – 3,00,000 Cr.
  • Subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs – 20,000 Cr
  • Fund of Funds for an equity infusion to MSMEs – 50,000 Cr. It will also encourage MSMEs to get listed on the main board of Stock Exchanges.
  • Extended EPF support via and government contributions to EPF accounts of eligible establishments – 2800 Cr
  • Reduced EPF rates of both employer and employee – 6750 Cr
  • Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs – 30,000 Cr
  • Partial credit guarantee scheme for liabilities of NBFCs/MFIs – 45,000 Cr
  • Liquidity injection for DISCOMs via Power Finance Corp/REC – 90,000 crore
  • Reduction of TCS / TDS rates – 50,000 Cr

The second tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan – Total Rs 3,10,000 Cr

  • Free food grains to migrant workers for 2 months – 3500 Cr
  • Interest subvention of MUDRA-Shishu loans – 1500 Cr
  • Special credit facility to street vendors – 5000 Cr
  • Extension of credit linked subsidy scheme in the housing sector for the middle-income group – 70,000 Cr
  • Additional emergency working capital for farmers through NABARD – 30,000 Cr
  • Additional concessional credit through Kisan Credit Cards – 2,00,000 Cr
  • One Nation One Ration card to enable a migrant beneficiary to purchase grains from any ration shop in the country.
  • Affordable housing for migrants and urban poor via a scheme under PMAY and affordable rental housing complexes (ARHC) under PPP mode.

The third tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan – Total Rs 1,50,000 Cr

  • Agri Infrastructure Fund for farm gate infrastructure including cold chain and post-harvest infrastructure – 1,00,000 Cr
  • Food micro-enterprises with a cluster-based approach– 10,000 Cr
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) – 11,000 Cr for activities in Marine, Inland fisheries and Aquaculture and 9000 Cr for Infrastructure – Fishing Harbours, Cold chain, Markets, etc.
  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund – 15,000 Cr
  • Promotion of Herbal Cultivation – 4000 Cr
  • Extending Operation Greens project from Tomatoes, Onion, and Potatoes (TOP) to all fruits and vegetables – 500 Cr
  • Beekeeping initiatives – 500 Cr

The fourth and fifth tranches of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (combined) – Total Rs 48,100 Cr

  • Viability gap funding – 8,100 Cr
  • Additional MGNREGA allocation – 40,000 Cr
  • Earlier measures – Total Rs 1,92,800 Cr
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package for the poor – 1,70,000 Cr:
  • Insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per health worker
  • Free cereals and pulses, gas cylinders to poor families for 3 months
  • Direct cash transfer via Jan Dhan account to poor women.
  • PF credits to low-income workers and advances from EPF.
  • Collateral-free lending for Women SHG up to Rs 20 lakhs.
  • Revenue lost due to tax concessions – 7,800 Cr
  • PM’s announcement in the health sector – 15,000 Cr

Measures taken by the Reserve Bank of India – Total Rs 8,01,603 Cr

  • RBI enhanced liquidity by Rs 1.37 lakh crores by reducing CRR
  • Targeted long-term repo operations of Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Raised the Ways and Means advance limits of the state governments by 60 percent.
  • Raised borrowing limits of banks under the marginal standing facility to avail additional Rs 1.37 lakh crore.
  • Special refinance facilities to NABARD, SIDBI, and NHB
  • Special liquidity facility for mutual funds
  • Moratorium on loan repayments

Other major decisions taken under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

Apart from the above, under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan decisions are also made to reform labour, agriculture, coal sector etc.

Labour sector reforms

  • To avoid regional disparity in minimum wages, National Floor Wage to be introduced.
  • Appointment letter to be provided to all workers to promote formalization.
  • Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) code to cover all establishments engaged in hazardous work.
  • Definition of the inter-state migrant worker to include migrant workers employed directly by the employer.
  • ESIC coverage will be extended to all districts and all establishments employing 10 or more employees as against those in notified districts/areas only.
  • Mandatory ESIC coverage for employees in hazardous industries with less than 10 employees.
  • Introduction of re-skilling funds for retrenched employees.
  • Provision for Social Security Fund for unorganized workers.
  • Provision of gratuity on completion of one-year service as against 5 years.
  • Agriculture Marketing Reforms to provide choices to farmers
  • Now, farmers are bound to sell agriculture produce only to licensees in APMCs.
  • A law will be formulated to provide choices to farmers to sell produce at an attractive price and enable barrier-free inter-state trade.
  • The legal framework will be created towards contract farming and enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters in a fair and transparent manner.
  • Risk mitigation for farmers assured returns and quality standardization to be an integral part of the framework.

Coal sector reforms

  • Introduction of commercial mining in the coal sector through a revenue-sharing mechanism instead of the regime of fixed Rupee/tonne
  • To lower impact on the environment, coal gasification and liquefication will be incentivized through rebate in revenue share
  • Coal Bed Methane (CBM) extraction rights to be auctioned from Coal India Limited’s (CIL) coal mines.

Self-reliance in defence production

  • Ban the import of several weapons and a separate budget provisioning for domestic capital procurement to help reduce the huge defence import bill.
  • Corporatize the Ordnance Factory Board to improve autonomy, accountability, and efficiency.
  • Increased FDI limit in the defence manufacturing under the automatic route from 49 percent to 74 percent.

Aircraft and airspace sector

  • Restrictions on the utilization of the Indian airspace will be eased so that civilian flying becomes more efficient.
  • Development of world-class airports through PPP,
  • The tax regime for Aircraft Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul ecosystem rationalized and the convergence between the defence sector and the civil MROs will be established to create economies of scale.
  • Boosting private participation in space activities. The private sector will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities.

Technology-driven education

  • PM e-VIDYA — a program for multi-mode access to digital/online education — will be launched. The program will comprise one earmarked TV channel per class from 1 to 12. Special e-content will be prepared for visually and hearing impaired. Top 100 universities will be permitted to automatically start online courses by 30 May 2020.
  • Manodarpan, an initiative for psycho-social support of students, teachers, and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing, will also be launched simultaneously.
  • National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission will be launched in December 2020 to ensure that every child attains learning levels and outcomes in grade 5 by 2025.

Ease of doing business related measures

  • The minimum threshold to initiate insolvency proceedings raised to Rs 1 crore
  • Suspension of fresh initiation of insolvency proceedings up to one year.
  • Special insolvency resolution framework for MSMEs to be notified soon.
  • Decriminalization of violations under Companies Act
  • Allow direct listing of securities by Indian public companies in permissible foreign jurisdictions.
  • The government will announce a new, coherent policy where all sectors are open to the private sector while public sector enterprises (PSEs) will play an important role in defined areas.
  • A list of strategic sectors requiring the presence of PSEs in the public interest will be notified.
  • In strategic sectors, at least one enterprise will remain in the public sector but the private sector will also be allowed.
  • In other sectors, PSEs will be privatized.

Source: TH

Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala of Nigeria becomes first female chief of WTO

GS-II : International Relations International Organizations

Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala of Nigeria becomes first female chief of WTO

  • The former Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala has become the next Chief of the World Trade Organisation .
  • She will hold the position from March 1, 2021, to August 31, 2025.
  • Okonjo- Iweala has become the first woman and African to hold the position at WTO.

About Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala:

  • The 66 years old Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala is trained as a development economist.
  • In her home country Nigeria, she was the first female Foreign Minister as well as held the position of Finance Minister twice.

Source: PIB

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