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22 February, 2020

16 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I Gold deposits found in Sonbhadra (Uttar Pradesh) Human Geography
GS-II Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2020
U.S President Trump to visit India International Relations
India- Maldives Relations International Relations
GS-III Thal Sena Bhawan Miscellaneous
Water table dipping in Bihar
GS-I : Human Geography
Gold deposits found in Sonbhadra (Uttar Pradesh)

Syllabus subtopic: Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the details of the findings; about India’s gold reserves

 

News: The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has discovered gold deposits to the tune of around 3,000 tonnes in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh,

 

Details

  • The gold deposits were found in Son Pahadi and Hardi areas of Sonbhadra district.

 

  • Work on finding gold reserves in Sonbhadra was started almost two decades back in 1992-93 by the Geological Survey of India. The auctioning of these blocks through e-tendering would start soon. The deposits in Son Pahadi is estimated to be around 2,943.26 tonnes, while that at Hardi block is around 646.16 kilogram, the official said.

 

  • It is estimated to be almost five times India’s current reserve of the yellow metal. Besides gold, some other minerals have also been found in the area.

 

India’s Gold reserves

  • As per the World Gold Council, India currently has 626 tonnes of gold reserves. The new reserves are almost five times that amount and estimated to be worth nearly Rs 12 lakh crore.

 

  • The British reportedly were the first to initiate the process of finding gold reserves in Sonbhadra region, which is more in news for being a Naxalism-hit area.

 

  • Interestingly, Sonbhadra – the second largest district of Uttar Pradesh – is the only district in the country which shares borders with four statesMadhya Pradesh to the west, Chhattishgarh to the south, Jharkhand to the south-east and Bihar to the east.

 

  • Currently, India has only three producing gold mines Hutti, Utti mines (both in Karnataka) and Hirabuddini mines (Jharkhand) and the domestic production has almost stagnated at about 2.8 tonnes annually.

 

  • Karnataka has an estimated 17 to 18 tonnes of gold reserves and the state is the major gold producer state in India i.e 88.7% of total gold production in India.

 

  • After the closure of Kolar Gold Fields Mines of BGML in 2001, the Hutti Gold Mines Limited (HGML), a government of Karnataka enterprise has become the sole producer of primary gold in the country.

 

  • The main problem with the Hutti mines is the low grade of ore. The mine reopened in 1948 and has been operating irregularly since then. The principal mine, Hutti and two other units viz Hira Buddini and Utti are all underground mines located in Raichur district of Karnataka.
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GS-II :
Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the key changes proposed in the bill; about CCI

 

News: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has put the draft Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the public domain seeking feedback from all stakeholders.

 

About the draft Bill

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is set to get more powers to oversee mergers and acquisitions (M&As) involving technology companies, which are currently out of its purview. The regulator may also see changes in its structure and functioning to ensure fair practices when it comes to scrutinising business processes.

 

  • According to the proposed bill, the Centre will also have the option to prescribe new criteria for mergers, other than the asset size and revenue of companies—so far the only criteria for competition scrutiny.

 

  • The bill also proposes that it is mandatory for the Commission to give parties to a combination an opportunity for being heard in case any adverse order is going to be passed.

 

  • Buyers forming a cartel may be penalised if the changes proposed by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to the Competition Act are enacted. Buyer cartels were not covered under the Competition Act and hence the proposed changes would give clarity to this aspect.

 

  • The draft amendments also seek to empower the director general for investigation to send a person to prison for up to six months or impose a fine of Rs 1 crore if the latter refuses to produce any book, paper, or document the former has asked for. Currently, the CCI imposes penalties on companies on the basis of their turnover if they flout competition rules. When it comes to directors of companies or proprietorship firms, penalties are imposed on the basis of their income. However, the law does not have any provision to empower the CCI to impose penalties on the income of individuals.

 

  • To remove the lacunae, the MCA suggested the Bill has a provision of income, on which penalty could be imposed under Section 27 of the Competition Act. Including the word ‘income’ in the Act may provide a legal basis to the CCI to impose penalties on individuals.

 

  • However, the amendment does not take into consideration the concept of “relevant turnover” as decided by the Supreme Court in the Excel Crop Care matter in 2017. The existing rules, according to the ministry, were not adequate as new-age technology companies have huge valuations, but their assets and turnover in India keep them out of the purview of the competition law.

 

 

  • The draft amendments also call for introducing a “commitment and settlement” clause in the Competition Act. The enabling clause will allow those found in contravention of the competition law to “commit” to correct their ways to avoid action even before investigation is completed. Even in cases where investigation is over, evidence has been found, and the adjudicating process has started, the companies can still enter a settlement. The companies will have to pay a certain amount as fine and avoid legal proceedings after ensuring that any anti-competitive practice will be corrected.

 

  • The proposed amendments also seek to provide clarity to “hub and spoke cartels”. The MCA suggested hubs also be covered under Section 3(3), which deals with cartels that hinder competition. A hub-and-spoke cartel is basically an arrangement between companies where a dominant player, called hub, is wooed by other firms, called spoke, to destroy competition by, say, increasing or lowering prices. The hub-and-spoke agreements were not specifically covered under the Competition Act.

 

  • The proposed amendments also seek to expand the composition of the CCI by including part-time members in the Commission. The Commission is currently a four-member body, including the chairman.
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GS-II : International Relations
U.S President Trump to visit India

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the details of the visit; about India-US trade dispute

 

News: US President Donald Trump is on his first official state visit to India on 24th February. He is scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on a three-stop visit that will end on 25th February.

 

Background

“Fair trade" and “America First" have been central planks of Trump’s presidency and a pact with India will burnish his credentials as a deal maker, as well as to show his constituency that he has kept his poll promises.

 

Deal or No Deal?

  • US President Donald Trump kept up the pressure on India to lower tariffs, complaining it has been hitting the US “very hard" even as he unveiled a power-packed team—albeit with the trade chief missing—to accompany him on his visit to India.

 

  • Although two defence pacts worth more than $3 billion could be signed during the visit,

 

  • A deal to buy six more Apache helicopters for the Indian Army could be expected around Trump’s visit. That deal is expected to be worth around $800 million.

 

  • The procurement of 24 Seahawk anti-submarine warfare-capable helicopters was cleared by India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by the Prime Minister.

 

  • A limited trade deal with India was seen as a possibility earlier this month, but Trump seemed to have ruled it out. But analysts speculate that one reason Trump does not appear to be in a hurry to wrap up a trade deal with India could be that he has got China to agree to a deal and worked out another with Mexico and Canada to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

 

  • China has the biggest trade surplus with the US, while Nafta has been described by Trump as America’s “worst" deal, blamed for a decline in manufacturing jobs.

 

  • According to foreign ministry both India and the US have agreed not to rush the deal and instead look to the future and strike a deal that will be a “win-win" for both sides.

 

  • New Delhi is looking to increase its energy purchases from the US that would cut down India’s trade surplus. New Delhi is also looking to buy civilian passenger aircraft from the US in the years ahead.
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GS-II : International Relations
India- Maldives Relations

Syllabus subtopic: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the details of the meeting; about India- Maldives relations

 

News: Union Home Minister met his Maldivian counterpart and discussed bilateral cooperation in the fields of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation, among other things.

 

About the meeting

  • The two ministers discussed issues of mutual interest in the area of security and law enforcement cooperation.

 

  • Welcoming the strengthening of India-Maldives Partnership, the Ministers welcomed the expansion of bilateral cooperation between India and Maldives in diverse fields, including policing and law enforcement, counter-terrorism, counter-radicalisation, organised crime, drug trafficking and capacity building.

 

India-Maldives relations

Background

  • The Maldives is located south of India’s Lakshadweep Islands in the Indian Ocean.

 

  • India was one of the first nations to recognize Maldives’ independence.

 

  • India and Maldives officially and amicably decided their maritime boundary in 1976.

 

  • Since then, India and Maldives have developed close strategic, military, economic and cultural relations.

 

  • India has supported Maldives’ policy of keeping regional issues and struggles away from itself.

 

Development of bilateral relations

  • Both nations are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the South Asian Economic Union and signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.

 

  • Operation Cactus: It was an attempt by a group of Maldivians led by Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organization from Sri Lanka, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), to overthrow the government in the island republic of Maldives on 3rd November 1988. The coup d’état failed due to the intervention of the Indian Army, whose military operations efforts were code-named Operation Cactus.

 

  • Drinking-water crisis in Malé: Maldives urged India for help following the collapse of the island’s only water treatment plant, India came to rescue by sending its heavy lift transporters like C-17 Globemaster III, II-76 carrying bottled water.

 

  • The humanitarian relief efforts by the Indian side was widely appreciated in Malé across all sections of people even the Vice-President of Maldives thanked the Indian ambassador for swift action.

 

The current situation between India and the Maldives:

  • India stands ready to work with the Maldives to strengthen maritime security and help  expedite the inclusion of its Indian Ocean neighbour in the Commonwealth again.

 

  • India has invited the country to join the International Solar Alliance.

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GS-III : Miscellaneous
Thal Sena Bhawan

Syllabus subtopic: Various Security Forces and Agencies and their Mandate.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the details of new structure and its significance; about GRIHA

 

News: Defence Minister performed the stone-laying ceremony for the proposed ‘Thal Sena Bhawan’ of the Army in Delhi cantonment.

 

About Thal Sena Bhawan

  • The building spread over 39 acres opposite Manekshaw centre in Delhi cantonment will bring together Army headquarters split in eight pockets across Delhi. Presently, the Army Headquarters is split into eight pockets across South Block, Sena Bhawan, Hutments Area, R.K. Puram, Shankar Vihar and other places, the Army said. The work was sanctioned to make up the existing deficiency of 44% and also to accommodate the Army Headquarters in one place.

 

  • The ‘Thal Sena Bhawan’ is conceptualised as a multi-storey green building adopting Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) norms and will house offices, residential area for security personnel and basic amenities.

 

  • Approximately 7.5 lakh sq.m. of area will be constructed to house the office complex and parking. A total of 6,014 offices will be constructed, which will house offices for 1,684 officers — both military and civilian — and 4,330 sub staff.

 

  • It is proposed to construct this structure in five years. The Army chief would continue to sit in South Block in close proximity to the Defence Minister and the present Army HQ ‘Sena Bhawan’ will continue to exist, though some functions would be shifted to the new complex.

 

 

Significance

  • The new structure will bring together various pockets of the Army headquarters spread across Delhi under one roof thereby improving the working efficiency, while reducing the carbon footprint and logistics requirements. It would also allow more family time for all personnel at peace posting in Delhi.

 

  • Earlier there was movement of about 3,000-4,000 vehicles every day from the various Army establishments in the city. This would be not required once the ‘Thal Sena Bhawan’ comes up.

 

  • The newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) headed by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will work from here. This will help in jointness.

 

About Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA)

  • GRIHA is a rating tool that helps people assesses the performance of their building against certain nationally acceptable benchmarks. It evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle, thereby providing a definitive standard for what constitutes a ‘green building’. The rating system, based on accepted energy and environmental principles, will seek to strike a balance between the established practices and emerging concepts, both national and international.

 

  • GRIHA attempts to minimize a building’s resource consumption, waste generation, and overall ecological impact to within certain nationally acceptable limits / benchmarks. It attempts to quantify aspects such as energy consumption, waste generation, renewable energy adoption, etc. so as to manage, control and reduce the same to the best possible extent.

 

  • With over two decades of experience on green and energy efficient buildings, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has developed GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment), which was adopted as the national rating system for green buildings by the Government of India in 2007.

 

  • This tool has been adopted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. This tool, by its qualitative and quantitative assessment criteria, is able to ‘rate’ a building on the degree of its ‘greenness’.
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GS-III :
Water table dipping in Bihar

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the findings of the report; challenges and steps taken

 

News: The latest telemetry report by the Bihar Minor Water Resources Department was released recently.

 

Key findings of the report

  • The Water table has dipped alarmingly across Bihar between August 2019 and February 2020.

 

  • The dips in water table range from 13 feet to 25 feet. The situation is particularly alarming in the Seemanchal and the southern part of the state.

 

  • About 10 districts, including Katihar and Begusarai, reported a dip of 17 feet to 25 feet in its water table and Patna too reported a 17-feet dip. The report also says the water table in the state has gone down from 10 to 200 feet in the last 10 years.

 

  • According to the report, the groundwater level in Bihar earlier ranged from 40 feet to 200 feet, but the recent dips have brought down the range to between 60 and 250 feet. While this could lead to water crisis during summers, a drought could aggravate the problem.

 

 

Why water table is dipping in Bihar?

Uneven distribution of rains, lack of water-harvesting measures and encroachment upon water bodies are being cited as the major reasons for the alarming dip in water table across Bihar. A recent survey by the state government showed that 34,559 water bodies had been encroached upon. So far, temporary encroachment has been cleared from 20,432 water bodies and permanent encroachment from 2,123 water bodies.

 

Challeneges and their remedies

  • The depleting groundwater level is a crisis that is emerging worldwide, but in Bihar it is getting acute due to
  1. loss of forest and vegetation,
  2. dependency on groundwater and depletion in surface water resources,
  3. overexploitation of groundwater with the coming of powerful pumps, and
  4. cultivation of high water-consuming crops.

 

  • There is an urgent need to check soil erosion, revive traditional water management practices and more efficient use of water in agriculture. Also, roof rainwater harvesting system should be used to take care of urban needs.

 

  • The State govt. have initiated several measures under the Jal, Jeevan, Hariyali mission to improve the water table. An exercise to remove encroachment from water bodies and clear them of silt is being conducted on a mass scale and the results could start showing from next year. Under the mission, about 3,000 ponds are being cleaned and over 2,000 checkdams have been planned in small rivers. All these measures are part of the project due for completion by 2022.
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