9 PM Current Affairs Brief – December 22nd, 2019

India, China to intensify boundary settlement

News:India and China have agreed to intensify efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to their border dispute and work on more Confidence Building measures(CBMs) to maintain peace and tranquillity along the frontier.

Facts:

About India-China Border:

  • The border between India and China is not clearly demarcated throughout.Along certain stretches of its 3,488-km length,there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • India after the Independence had believed that it had inherited firm boundaries from the British but this was contrary to China’s view. However,China felt the British had left behind a disputed legacy on the boundary between the two newly formed republics.

India-China Border Dispute:The India-China border is divided into three sectors namely Western (Ladakh, Kashmir), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).

Western Sector:

  • The boundary dispute in the Western Sector pertains to the Johnson Line proposed by the British in the 1860s that extended up to the Kunlun Mountains and put Aksai Chin in the then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India used the Johnson Line and claimed Aksai Chin as its own.China initially did not raised objections when India said so in the early 1950’s.
  • However,in the years that followed it reversed its position and stated that it had never acceded to the Johnson Line and therefore did not see why it should cede Aksai Chin to India.

Middle Sector:

  • China has accepted Sikkim as a part of India and this region is less contested.

Eastern Sector:

  • The disputed boundary in the Eastern Sector of the India-China border is over the McMahon Line. It was formerly referred to as the North East Frontier Agency and is now called Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is the largest disputed area covering around 90000 sq. km.It was occupied by China during the 1962 war but later withdrew beyond the International boundary represented by Mcmahon line.

Pacts signed between India and China:

  • The two countries are engaged in Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) on the border with bilateral agreements signed in 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013.
  • In 1993, India and China had signed an accord to reduce tensions along their border and respect the LAC.
  • In 2012, the two sides signed a Joint Boundary mechanism to remove misunderstanding on a real time basis in case of any transgression along the LAC.
  • In 2013, the two sides signed the Boundary Defence Cooperation Agreement to prevent any flare up along the un-demarcated border. This encompasses both military and diplomat level dialogue mechanism.

Rajasthan bags four prizes for job guarantee scheme

News:Rajasthan has bagged four prizes for its performance under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(MGNREGA).

Facts:

About the awards:

  • The prizes were given to the Zila Parishad officials and panchayat representatives of Kota, Dungarpur, Bhilwara and Jaisalmer districts.
  • The achievements of the Panchayati Raj bodies in the NREGA works included construction of watershed structures, strengthening of rural infrastructure and geotagging of the MGNREGA works.

About MGNREGA:

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an employment guarantee actIt was introduced in 2005 through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,2005.
  • The Act aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year .
  • It will be provided to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • Ministry of Rural Development (MRD),Government of India in association with state governments monitors the implementation of the scheme.

Features of the Act:

  • MGNREGA is implemented mainly by Gram Panchayats(GPs).Labour intensive tasks like creating infrastructure for water harvesting, drought relief and flood control are preferred.
  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) has also enshrined social audits in the Act.
  • A social audit is an accountability tool that measures, evaluates, identifies gaps in service delivery and elicits promises to rectify these gaps with the direct participation of intended beneficiaries in this process.

MGNREGA and Constitution:

  • The Act aims to follow the Directive Principles of State Policy enunciated in Part IV of the Constitution of India.
  • Article 41 of  the Constitution provides that the State shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want.
  • Article 40 mandates the State to organise village Panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.Hence,conferring the primary responsibility of implementation on Gram Panchayats,the Act adheres to this constitutional principle.
  • Also,the process of decentralization initiated by 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India that granted constitutional status to the Panchayats is further reinforced by the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA that endowed these rural self-government institutions with authority to implement the law.

Annual report of the insurance sector

News:The annual report of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) for 2018-19 has been released.

Facts:

Key terminologies:

  • Insurance density is measured as the ratio of premium (in US dollars) to the total population.
  • Insurance penetration is measured as the ratio of premium (in US$) to GDP(in US$).
  • Insurance density and insurance penetration indicate the level of development of the insurance sector.

Highlights of the report:

  • The insurance density of the life insurance sector in 2018 was $55, unchanged from the life insurance density of the previous year.
  • Life insurance penetration for 2018 was 2.74% slightly lower than the 2.76% of 2017.
  • Life insurance penetration increased from 2.15% in 2001 to 4.60% in 2009 and has thereafter showed a generally decreasing trend.
  • The insurance density of the non-life insurance sector has risen from $2.4 in 2001 to $18 in 2017 and to $19 in 2018.

Additional information:

About IRDAI:

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India(IRDAI) is an autonomous,statutory body created by IRDA Act,1999.
  • It was created based on the recommendations of the Malhotra Committee.It is headquartered in Hyderabad.
  • The functions of IRDA includes (a)regulating the insurance industry and protects the customers (b)promotion of competition to enhance customer satisfaction and (c)lowering premiums for ensuring the financial security of the insurance sector.

UDAY scheme loses power, sharp spike in discom losses

News:According to the data,Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) which was launched to revive the electricity distribution companies(discoms) has severe shortcomings.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the data:

  • The distribution companies (Discom) losses which had progressively reduced in the first couple of years since the rollout of UDAY scheme in 2015 have rebounded in the financial year 2019.
  • The discoms have also missed the year 2019 UDAY target to bring down their Aggregate Technical and Commercial(AT&C) losses to 15%.
  • The Book losses of discoms has also reduced from Rs 51,000 crore in the financial year 2016 to Rs 15,132 crore in 2018.However, the losses in 2019 have increased to Rs 28,036 crore vis-a-vis 2018.
  • This points that discoms are lagging behind in eliminating the ACS-ARR gap (the gap between Average Cost of Supply and Average Revenue Realised).
  • The primary reasons for the losses is (a)failure of discoms to collect the full cost that they pay for power and (b)delayed tariff hikes by the states.

About UDAY Scheme:

  • The Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana(UDAY) was launched by the Ministry of Power in 2015 to help turn around the poor financial situation of state discoms.

Objectives of the scheme:The scheme envisages:

  • Financial Turnaround of Discoms
  • Operational improvement of Discoms
  • Reduction of cost of generation of power
  • Development of Renewable Energy
  • Energy efficiency & conservation.

Components of the scheme:

  • Takeover of 75% of discom debt by state governments.
  • DISCOMs to issue bonds for the remaining 25% of their debt.
  • Reduction in Aggregate Technical and Commercial(AT&C) losses.
  • Timely tariff revisions and elimination of the gap between the Average Cost of Supply (ACS) and Average Revenue Realised (ARR) by the financial year 2019.

Significance of the scheme:

  • Financially & Operationally sound DISCOMs
  • Increased demand for power
  • Reduction in stressed assets
  • Availability of cheaper funds
  • Increased capital investment
  • Development of Renewable Energy sector.

Nagpur Resolution: A Holistic approach for empowering citizens

News:The ‘Nagpur Resolution- A holistic approach for empowering citizens’ was adopted during the Regional Conference on ‘Improving Public Service Delivery – Role of Governments’, in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

Facts:

About the conference:

  • The conference was organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG),Government of India in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra.

Key Highlights from the conference:The Conference resolved that Government of India and the State Governments shall collaborate to:

  • empower the citizens through timely updation of citizens charters, implementation of enactments and benchmarking standards for continuous improvement;
  • empower citizens by reduction in timelines of grievance redressal;
  • adopt a holistic approach for improved service delivery through digital platforms;
  • achieve a sense of common identity by exchange of expertise in the areas of Improved Service Delivery between the paired States under the Ek Bharat –Shreshtha Bharat Program;
  • Ensure timely publication of Good Governance Index to identify the quality of governance in 10 sectors especially those pertaining to welfare and infrastructure at the Union, State and District levels.

Additional information:

Citizens charter:

  • The citizen’s charter is basically a set of commitments made by an organization regarding the standards of service which it delivers.
  • It comprises of the Vision and Mission Statement of the organization, stating the outcomes desired and the broad strategy to achieve these goals and outcomes.

About Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat:

  • Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat was announced by the Prime Minister on 31st October,2015 on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • The scheme aims to promote engagement amongst the people of different states/UTs so as to enhance mutual understanding and bonding between people of diverse cultures,thereby securing stronger unity and integrity of India.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development has been designated Nodal Ministry for coordination of the programme.

About Good Governance index(GGI):

  • The Good Governance index is a comprehensive and implementable framework to assess the State of Governance in all States and UTs which enables ranking of States/Districts and present a comparative picture.

Components of GGI:There are ten sectors for the GGI and it comprises 51 indicators.

Carbon dots help detect herbicide pollution

News:Researchers from Assam have used the commonly found invasive plant water hyacinth to produce carbon dots.

Facts:

About the research:

  • Researchers from Assam have used the invasive plant water hyacinth to produce carbon nanoparticles.
  • These extremely tiny (less than 10 nanometres) particles can be used for detecting herbicide pollution.
  • Researchers are also exploring if its fibre can be used to make furniture.

Water Hyacinth:

  • Water hyacinth is a free-floating perennial aquatic plant (or hydrophyte) native to tropical and subtropical South America.They are considered as Invasive alien species.
  • The one plant of water Hyacinth is capable of duplicating itself every nine days.Hence,it has spread rapidly to other parts of the world.India has also been infested by this weed.
  • States like Assam and Kerala are highly affected by the Water Hyacinth. It is also referred to as the Bengal terror given its effect on the local ecology and lives of the people.
  • It has an effect on irrigation, hydroelectric generation and navigation.It also leads to a drastic reduction in fish production, aquatic crops and an increase in diseases caused by mosquitoes.

About Carbon dots:

  • Carbon dots are carbon-based nanomaterials whose size is less than 10 nm or nanometre.
  • Carbon dots exhibit a wide range of physicochemical properties making them an ideal platform for several important environmental, biological, and energy-related applications.
  • They have been employed in emerging applications including antibacterial agents, self-healing materials, and mass spectrometry.
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