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CURRENT AFFAIRSDECEMBER 2019

Daily Current Affairs: 25th December 2019: The Hindu+PIB


Daily Current Affairs: 25th December 2019: The Hindu+PIB

The following compilation has been made keeping in mind the need of the UPSC IAS exam. Each and every topic which has been included in this compilation is taken from very authentic and relevant source including The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Standard, Press Information Bureau, etc.


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As per the evolving pattern of the UPSC IAS prelims and mains exam each and every topic has been handpicked keeping in mind the syllabus of the exam.



Solar Eclipse


Context: On 26th of December 2019, the annual Solar Eclipse will be visible in parts of the Tamil Nadu. The doctors has urged caution while viewing the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Precautions, UPSC Indiathinkers

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A Solar Eclipse happens when the New Moon moves between the Sun and Earth and blocks the Sun's rays, casting a shadow on parts of Earth.


However, the Moon's shadow is not big enough to engulf the entire planet, so the shadow is always limited to a certain area (just the case above as it will be visible for now in parts of Tamil Nadu). This area changes during the course of the eclipse because the Moon and Earth are in constant motion: Earth continuously rotates around its axis while it orbits the Sun, and the Moon orbits Earth. This is why solar eclipses seem to travel from one place to another.

How many types of Solar Eclipses are there?

There are basically 4 different types of solar eclipses. Normally, how much of the Sun's disk is eclipsed, the eclipse magnitude, depends on which part of the Moon's shadow falls on Earth.

Types of Solar Eclipses, UPSC Indiathinkers

Partial solar eclipses occur when the Moon only partially obscures the Sun's disk and casts only its penumbra on Earth.

Annular solar eclipses take place when the Moon's disk is not big enough to cover the entire disk of the Sun, and the Sun's outer edges remain visible to form a ring of fire in the sky. An annular eclipse of the Sun takes place when the Moon is near apogee, and the Moon's antumbra falls on Earth.

Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely covers the Sun, and it can only take place when the Moon is near perigee, the point of the Moon's orbit closest to Earth. You can only see a total solar eclipse if you're in the path where the Moon's casts its darkest shadow, the umbra.


Hybrid Solar Eclipses, also known as annular-total eclipses, are the rarest type. They occur when the same eclipse changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse, and/or vice versa, along the eclipse's path.

Solar eclipses are only visible from within the area on Earth where the Moon's shadow falls, and the closer you are to the center of the shadow's path, the bigger the eclipse looks.

Solar eclipses are usually named for their darkest, or maximum, point. The exception is the hybrid eclipse.


The darkest point of solar eclipses is only visible from a small area. In most places and for most of the duration, total, annular, and hybrid eclipses look like a partial solar eclipse.

Why Solar Eclipse occur only around New Moon?

For the occurrence of a solar eclipse, the Sun, the Moon, and Earth must be aligned in a perfect or near perfect straight line–an alignment astronomers call syzygy. This happens around New Moon every lunar month.

Why isn't there a solar eclipse every New Moon night?

There are two main reasons for this.

Illustration Image of Solar Eclipse, UPSC Indiathinkers


The New Moon has to be near a lunar node (Lunar nodes are the locations where the Moon crosses the Earth's orbital plane). These nodes are the two points where the plane of the Moon's orbital path around Earth meets Earth's orbital plane around the Sun–the ecliptic. The paths meet because the plane of the Moon's path around Earth is inclined at an angle of approximately 5° to the ecliptic.

The Sun must also be close to a lunar node so that it can form a perfect or near-perfect line with the Moon and Earth. This alignment occurs a little less than 6 months apart, and it lasts, on average, around 34.5 days. It is only during this time–the eclipse season–that eclipses can take place.


It is to be noted that when there is a Full Moon during the eclipse season, we see a lunar eclipse.


Yakshagana

Context: Tiny Padmanur villageabout 30 km away from Mangaluru, is abuzz with excitement ahead of its 60th annual Yakshagana performance.


Yakshagana, UPSC Indiathinkers

About Yakshagana

Yakshagana is basically a traditional Indian theatre form, which was developed in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and western parts of Chikmagalur districts, in the state of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district in Kerala that put forward a combination of dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form. 

It is believed to have evolved from pre-classical music and theatre during the period of the Bhakti movement. Sometimes simply called "Aata" or āṭa ("the play" in Tulu Language), Yakshagana is strongly influenced by the Vaishnava Bhakti movement

This theatre style is mainly found in most parts of Karnataka in various forms. Yakshagana is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn

Its stories are drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other epics from both Hindu and Jain and other ancient Indic traditions.

This year, Christians and Muslims are mandatory members of the committee, which has been hosting the annual Yakshagana performance in the village for the last 59 years.

About Yakshagana Kendra

The Yakshagana Kendra was started in the year 1971 under the Guru Scheme of the Department of Culture, Government of India with the sole objective of providing formal training to young boys of the region on Yakshagana dance and music so that they could join professional troupes, soon after a short term training. 

The Kendra has been providing systematic training to the enrolled students each year as per a syllabus drawn by the Guru originally in consultation with Dr. K. Shivarama Karanth, who had, by his master research work, Yakshagana Bayalata tried to preserve this traditional art from the onslaught of vulgarization. The Kendra has been providing training in an intensive form in a one year course. 

A second year advanced course has also been introduced and this is restricted to five students. Special endowments have been instituted to provide annual scholarship to a few of these advanced students. All the successful students have been gainfully employed by professional Yakshagana troupes.

So far more than 350 artists have been provided by this Kendra to the professional troupes.




Strategic Tunnel under Rohtang Pass


Context: Renaming of the Strategic Tunnel under Rohtang Pass after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been decided by the Union Cabinet.

Strategic Tunnel After AB Vajpayee, UPSC Indiathinkers

Background

It was in 2000 when the decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken. During that time, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India. The foundation stone for the Access Road to the South Portal of the tunnel was laid in 2002.

This 8.8-kilometre long tunnel is hailed as the world's longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres. It reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km. It is a 10.5-metre wide single tube bi-lane tunnel with a fire proof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.

The tunnel is now nearing completion and will providing all weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh which otherwise would have remained cut off from the rest of the country for about 6 long months during winters. 

Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh.

Must Read: Ultimate Guide to UPSC IAS Exam Preparation


SEBI tightens norms for MF investments


Context: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened the  norms for mutual fund investments by minors and has also proposed to stop the usage of pool accounts for mutual fund transactions.



Key Highlights

According to a recent circular issued by SEBI, it was mentioned that if the mutual fund investments were being made by a minor, then the investment has to be made either from the minor’s account or a joint account of the minor.

The payment for investment by means of cheque, demand draft or any other
mode shall be accepted from the bank account of the minor or from a joint account of the minor with the guardian only.

Also, once the minor attains the status of a major, the individual will have to
provide the complete KYC — Know Your Client — details of the updated bank account and no transactions will be allowed till the status of the minor is changed to major.

Further, for existing folios, the fund houses will have to insist upon a change of payout bank mandate before redemption is processed.

SEBI has proposed to discontinue the practice of pool accounts that is typically used by intermediaries like stock brokers and digital platforms for making mutual fund investments on behalf of their clients.

Why such a proposal being made by SEBI?

The proposal stems from the recent issue related to Karvy Stock Broking wherein it was alleged that the broking firm had pledged client securities to raise funds from banks and non-banking financial companies. 

In the recent past, instances have come to light where clients’ funds/securities
were diverted or misutilised by trading member/clearing member toward margin obligations or settlement obligations of itself or for some third party or for raising loan against shares on its own account.

SEBI has proposed that exchanges could put in place a more direct interface that could bypass the intermediaries.




India in the midst of significant slowdown: IMF

Context: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the government to
take urgent policy actions to address the current prolonged downturn in the economy.


IMF Report on slowdown, UPSC Indiathinkers


Key Highlights of the Report

According to the IMF Directors, India’s rapid economic expansion in recent years has lifted millions of people out of poverty. However, in the first half of 2019, a combination of factors led to subdued economic growth in India.

With risks to the outlook tilted to the downside, the IMF Directors called for continued sound macroeconomic management. They saw an opportunity with the strong mandate of the new government to reinvigorate the reform agenda to boost inclusive and sustainable growth.

Growth in the second quarter of FY 2019-20 came in at a six-year low of 4.5% (year-on-year), and the composition of growth indicates that private domestic demand expanded by only 1% in the quarter. Most high frequency indicators suggest that weak economic activity has continued into December. 

The above situation has been attributed to the abrupt reduction in non-banking financial companies’ credit expansion and the associated broad-based tightening of credit conditions appears to be an important factor and weak income growth, especially rural, has been affecting the private consumption.

It was also found that the private investment has been hindered by  financial sector difficulties (including in public sector banks) and insufficient business confidence. It is also opined that some implementation issues with important and appropriate structural reforms, such as the nation-wide Goods and Services Tax, may also have played a role in the slowdown.

About IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.


IMF At a Glance, UPSC Indiathinkers

It was formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference primarily by the ideas of Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, it came into formal existence in 1945 with 29 member countries and the goal of reconstructing the international payment system.

The IMF's primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund's mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.


It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The current Managing Director (MD) and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund is Bulgarian Economist Kristalina Georgieva, who has held the post since 1 October 2019. Gita Gopinath was appointed as Chief Economist of IMF from 1 October 2018. 

Also read: How to chose your optional in UPSC IAS Exam

Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2018-19


Context: The report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2018-19 has been recently released by the Reserve Bank of India.

Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2018-19


Key Highlights of the Report

The Report found that the health of the banking sector hinges around a turn-around in macro-economic conditions.

According to the report, while the Indian banking sector's financial parameters such as bad loans and capital adequacy have shown an improvement in recent times, the overall health of banking sector will depend on revival in economic growth.

The growth slowdown of the country intensified with GDP growth for the second quarter of the current financial year dipping to a 6-year low of 4.5%.

The report noted that during 2018-19, the asset quality of scheduled commercial banks turned around after a gap of seven years with the overhang of stressed assets declining and fresh slippages arrested.

As a result of declining provisioning requirement, the banking sector returned

to profitability in the first half of the 2019-20. Besides, recapitalisation had helped public sector banks in shoring up their capital ratios. 

Despite improvement in some of these parameters, the risk-averse nature among lenders was worrisome. The slowdown of credit flow to the commercial sector in first half of the 2019-20 was evidence of this aversion to risk.

The report observed that capital infusion by the government in public  sector banks was ‘just enough’ to meet the regulatory minimum, including  capital conservation buffer.



Truth About NPR-NRC Link


Context: The Cabinet has approved Census and National Population Register on December 24, 2019 and it has been claimed by the Home Minister Amit Shah that the NPR has got nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens.
NPR-NRC Link, UPSC Indiathinkers

However, there has been a number of protests that have erupted across the country against the proposed country-wide NRC and two States - West Bengal and Kerala - have decided to pause all NPR-related work.

Given below is a series of claims and facts regarding the NPR-NRC link

Claim 1: NPR is nowhere the basis of NRC

Fact: 

NPR (National Population Register) is indeed the basis for NRC (National Register of Citizens) or NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizens), as Section 14A of the Citizenship Act empowers the government to compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue an identity card and to maintain a ‘National Register of Indian Citizens”. Hence, the citizenship register is generated out of the NPR database


The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card) Rules, 2003, introduced the term ‘Population Register’ and said particulars collected in the population register shall be verified and scrutinized for the purpose of preparation and inclusion in the citizenship register. In simpler words, there can be no NRIC without NPR.

Claim 2: There will be no NRC following the NPR

Fact: 

There is a possibility that the government will not establish a citizenship register keeping in mind the earlier NPR exercise done during the UPA regime that did not resulted in the creation of a citizenship database.

The Act clearly says that the government MAY maintain a national register of Indian citizens. There is a possibility for the argument that preparing a citizenship register out of NPR data is not mandatory.


However, the 2003 Rules mandate the Registrar General of India, who is also the Registrar General of Citizenship Registration, SHALL establish and maintain the national citizenship register. The Centre is also mandated by the rules to carry out a house-to-house enumeration and collection of particulars related to every individual and family, including citizenship status.

Claim 3: During NPR, there will not be any collection of proof of details or biometrics.

Fact: Looking through the initial phase, details may be accepted based on self-declaration. But, it should be kept in mind that if a citizenship register is to be generated, scrutiny of documentary proof may become necessary. 

Biometrics were collected during last NPR for some, and biometrics collected for Aadhaar were used for others. As Aadhaar coverage saturation is close to 98%, it is possible to dispense with collection of biometrics during NPR for most residents.

Claim 4: The updation of NPR is being done for efficient delivery of welfare and social benefits under government schemes

Fact: To be specific, this was the original objective of NPR, it may not be correct to argue that NPR is needed for efficient delivery of benefits any more with Aadhaar being introduced and backed by an Act, which mandates linking of subsidies and welfare schemes to possessing an Aadhaar number.

Year End Review-2019: M/O MSME

Context: Ministry Of Micro, Small And Medium Enterprises (MSME) has taken a number of steps during the year for technology advancement, skill development and job creation for empowerment of MSMEs.

MSME Year End Review, UPSC Indiathinkers


Key Highlights 

Under Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), 65,312 new micro enterprises have been set up. PMEGP is a major credit-linked subsidy programme being implemented by the Ministry of MSME since 2008-09.

51 SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) Clusters approved earlier are completed and are functional.

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind launched the Solar Charkha Mission in 2018. 11 Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of Solar Charkha Clusters have been approved by the Scheme Steering Committee during current financial year 2019-20.

The Government approved for continuation of Credit Linked Capital Subsidy component under Credit Linked Capital Subsidy-Technology Upgradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS) in February 2019.

Ministry of MSME is implementing Technology Centre Systems Programme (TCSP) at an estimated cost of Rs. 2200 crore, including World Bank Loan assistance of USD 200 million, to establish 15 new Tool Rooms and Technology Development Centres (TCs).

RBI Expert Committee under U. K. Sinha on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises made 37 major recommendations.


Khadi has got unique HS code issued by the central government on 4th Nov’19 to categorize its products in export. 

Hypersonic Weapons


Context: Russia is the only country in the world that has hypersonic weapons as claimed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to the Putin, for the first time in history Russia has an edge in designing a new class of weapons unlike in the past when it was catching up with the United States.



According to him, the first unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle is set to go on duty this month, while that the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles already have entered service.

The missile flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead. 

What is Mach Number?

Mach number (designated as M or Ma) is the ratio of the speed of the body to the speed of sound in the undisturbed medium through which the body is traveling. For example, If the body is flying at Mach 2, then its speed is twice the speed of sound in air (which is 332 m/s or 1195 km/hr). It is named in honor of Ernst Mach (1838-1916), a physicist from Austria.

Different types of Aircrafts/missiles based on Mach Number (Source-NASA):

  • Subsonic (M < 1)
  • Transonic (M = 1)
  • Supersonic (1 < M < 3)
  • High Supersonic (3 < M < 5)
  • Hypersonic (M > 5)
  • High Hypersonic (M ~ 25) 


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