Daily Current Affairs - 20th Dec 2019

Allow children’s right to protest, says UNICEF

  • The UNICEF has urged governments across the world to allow children their right to protest and appealed to its member-states to refrain from violence and ensure their protection.
  • Children’s rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including in peaceful protest, are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.

CGHS services to be extended to 100 cities: Union Health Minister

  • Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has said that the Central Government Health Scheme, CGHS services will be extended to 100 cities. At present, the scheme is operational across 72 cities through 329 Allopathic Wellness Centres and 86 AYUSH Centres.
  • It serves over 35 lakh beneficiaries, out of which around 17 lakh beneficiaries belong to Delhi and NCR.

Devesh Srivastava elevated to CMD's position of GIC Re

  • Devesh Srivastava has been elevated to the position of Chairman and Managing Director at General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re).
  • GIC is the largest reinsurance company in India in terms of gross premiums accepted in FY17, accounting for about 60 per cent of the premiums ceded by Indian insurers to reinsurers.
  • It provides reinsurance across many key business lines including fire (property), marine, motor, engineering, agriculture, aviation/space, health, liability, credit and financial and life insurance.

Donald Trump faces trial in the US Senate

  • Donald Trump has become the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office.
  • The House voted on two charges - that the president had abused his power and that he had obstructed Congress.
  • President Trump's Republicans control the Senate so it is highly unlikely he will be removed from power.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now indicated it might delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, in order to bargain on the terms of the proceedings. This could put off the trial for an indefinite period, denying Mr Trump his expected acquittal.

FIFA rankings: India static at 108

  • The Indian men's football team remained static at 108th spot in the year-ending FIFA rankings issued.
  • India, however, lost 11 places throughout the year. With 1187 total points, India is placed at 19th spot among Asian countries headed by Japan 28th.

FM Sitharaman holds 5th Pre-Budget Consultation

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has held her 5th Pre-Budget Consultation with the representatives of various Trade Unions and Labour Organisations in New Delhi in connection with the forthcoming General Budget 2020-21.
  • During the meeting, representatives of trade unions and labour organisations shared their views and suggestions regarding labour and employment issues.
  • Discussions were also held on skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling of the existing labour force. Quality of job creation and ensuring minimum wages of workers were discussed.

Gem partners with UCO Bank, BoM for Payment related services

  • The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has signed two agreements with Bank of Maharashtra and UCO Bank to offer services like transfer of funds through GeM pool accounts and earnest money deposit (EMD) to registered users on the portal.
  • The pact also covers advising of performance bank guarantees (e-PBG).
  • GeM SPV is the national public procurement portal for ensuring efficient and transparent mechanisms for procurement of goods and services by central and state government organisations.
  • It is an initiative of the Centre that offers a one-stop inclusive platform for facilitating online procurement. GeM provides tools for direct purchase, bidding, and reverse auction for ensuring transparent and efficient procurement.

ICRA downgrades Yes Bank

  • Rating agency ICRA has downgraded Yes Bank's Rs 52,911.70 crore worth bond programme citing continued uncertainty regarding the timing and quantum of capital raised by the bank. ICRA said that with the delay in capital raise and a likely increase in the NPAs, the capital and solvency profile are expected to weaken further.
  • The bank's solvency profile remains weak with net NPA/CET of 36 per cent as on September 30, 2019 (27 per cent as on June 30, 2019) apart from the stressed exposures in the investment book.

India is world’s third largest producer of scientific articles: US Report

  • With over 1.35 lakh scientific papers published, India has become the world's third largest publisher of science and engineering articles, according to the statistics compiled by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • In 2008, India published 48,998 science and engineering articles. This increased to 1,35,788 articles in 2018 at an average annual growth rate of 10.73 per cent and the country now accounts for 5.31 per cent of the total world publications in science and engineering.
  • China, which accounts for 20.67 per cent of all global publications in scientific articles, is at the top position, followed by the US at 16.54 per cent.
  • The US, the total global publications in science and engineering articles grew at a rate of 0.71 per cent from 3,93,979 in 2008 to 4,22,808 in 2018.
  • The other countries which made it to the top 10 list are Germany (1,04,396), Japan (98,793), UK (97,681), Russia (81,579), Italy (71,240), South Korea (66,376) and France (66,352).
  • The number of scientific papers published worldwide increased from 17,55,850 in 2008 to 25,55,959 in 2018.
  • Specialisation in scientific fields differs among countries, with the US, the EU and Japan more specialised in health sciences and China and India more specialised in engineering, as measured by journal articles and conference papers.

Indian Coast Guard holds 18th National Maritime Search and Rescue Board meeting

  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) organised the 18th National Maritime Search and Rescue Board (NMSARB) meeting to discuss policy issues, formulate guidelines & procedures and assess the efficacy of National Search and Rescue Plan.
  • The apex-level meeting was chaired by Director General Indian Coast Guard and Chairman NMSARB Shri K Natarajan and attended by 48 Board members from various ministries, agencies, all Coastal States & Union Territories
  • Indian Coast Guard being the nodal agency for Maritime Search and Rescue has rescued 9,672 lives by coordinating 3,180 search and rescue missions, which inter alia includes 2,479 air sorties and 3,540 ship deployments, since inception.

Infosys launches blockchain-powered distributed applications

  • Infosys has announced the launch of three blockchain-powered distributed applications for government services, insurance, and supply chain management domains.
  • These comprehensive applications designed as ready-to-subscribe business networks ensure quick deployment, interoperability across disparate systems of value chain stakeholders and a wide variety of use cases involving other digital technologies like IoT, Analytics as well.

Mission on urban renewal extended by 2 yrs to 2022

  • Unable to meet set targets for urban renewal in 500 cities, the Centre has decided to extend the mission period of its flagship initiative Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) by two more years.
  • Launched on June 25, 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AMRUT completes its mission period in March 2020.
  • The government’s flagship initiative promises 139 lakh water connections by March 2020, 145 lakh sewer connections, storm water drainage projects, parks and green spaces and LED streetlights with a total outlay of Rs 77,640 crore (including central assistance of Rs 35,990).

NITI Aayog seeks ideas on population policy

  • Government think tank NITI Aayog will hold a national consultation on population stabilisation to explore ways to strengthen the country’s population policy and family planning programmes. The Aayog has partnered with the Population Foundation of India for the national level conference.
  • Any proposal emerging from the conference will form part of the Niti Aayog working paper that will outline the road map to help achieve India’s vision of attaining population stabilisation.
  • India, with a current population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world. Though birth rates are falling in India yet the population continues to grow as over 30% of the population is young and in the reproductive age group.

Paddler Mudit Dani secures maiden ITTF medal, storms into doubles semifinals in US

  • Indian paddler Mudit Dani secured his maiden International Table Tennis Federation senior medal after progressing to the men's doubles semifinals in the US Open Championships in Fort Worth, USA.
  • Mudit, playing alongside Canada's Marko Medjugorac, won 4-2 against the US pairing of Tian Ye and Si Zhigao in a hard-fought quarterfinal match.
  • The Indo-Canadian duo will take on Hiromitsu Kasahara and Fujimura Tomoya of Japan.

Pat Cummins becomes most expensive overseas IPL player

  • Pat Cummins, with a base price of two crore rupees, became the most expensive overseas buy as he was sold to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for a whopping 15.50 crore rupees. Glenn Maxwell was sold to Kings XI Punjab for 10.75 crore rupees while Aaron Finch was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for 4.4 crore rupees in the Indian Premier League auction at Kolkata.

Portugal announces Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize to perpetuate Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals

  • Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa has announced that in order to help perpetuate Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals, Portugal will be launching a Gandhi Citizenship Education Prize, each year inspired by his different thoughts and quotes.
  • He said, the first edition of this prize will be dedicated to animal welfare as Mahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
  • Mr. Antonio Costa was addressing the second meeting of the National Committee for Commemoration of the 150th Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Ration cards to look similar across country

  • The Centre has designed a standard format for ration cards as it moves ahead with ‘one nation, one ration card’ initiative and has asked State governments to follow the pattern while issuing fresh ration cards.
  • Currently, the central government's ambitious initiative is being implemented on a pilot basis in a cluster of six states. It wants to implement this facility across the country from June 1, 2020.
  • Under the initiative, eligible beneficiaries would be able to avail their entitled foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) from any Fair Price Shop in the country using the same ration card.
  • For national portability, the state governments have been asked to issue the ration card in bi-lingual format, wherein besides the local language, the other language could be Hindi or English.

RBI to conduct ‘Operation Twist’ to manage yields on December 23

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will simultaneously buy and sale government securities worth ?10,000 crore each on December 23 under its open market operations — a move aimed at managing the yields.
  • The RBI will purchase the longer-term maturities, that are trading at a spread of 150 bps (basis points) over the repo rate, so that the yield of these papers will soften and sell the shorter duration ones.
  • The central bank will buy ?10,000 crore of 6.45% government bonds maturing in 2029 and simultaneously sell ?10,000 crore of short-term bonds maturing in 2020.
  • Market experts had suggested unconventional steps by the central bank as policy rate cuts are unable to bring down the bank lending rates proportionately.
  • Operation Twist is a move taken by U.S. Federal Reserve in 2011-12 to make long-term borrowing cheaper.

Realme forays into financial services, launches ‘PaySa’ platform

  • Chinese smartphone maker Realme has announced its foray into the burgeoning financial services sector with "PaySa" platform while evaluating its own digital payments mobile platform next year. The company aims to acquire 25 million customers in the next two years.
  • 'Realme PaySa' aims to serve individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in both metros and tier II and III cities. It offers digital personal loan up to Rs 1 lakh and digital SME loans up to Rs 5 lakh.
  • The app, available on both Google Play Store and realme App store, will have four businesses across lending, savings, payment and protection.

Sweden beats India 4-0 to win U-17 tournament final

  • Sweden wins tri-nation series beating India 4-0 in the final of Under-17 tournament in Mumbai. Sweden scored three goals before half time.

TRAI urged to protect telecom sector

  • Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal has said a combination of rock-bottom tariffs and high consumption is killing the telecom industry and sector regulator TRAI needs to urgently intervene to strike a balance between the needs for protecting investments and consumer interest.

Upgraded version of Pinaka guided rocket system, QR-SAM successfully testfired

  • India had successfully test-fired two missiles from Chandipur in Odisha. The upgraded version of Pinaka guided rocket system was test-fired from the DRDO’s Proof and Experimental Establishment firing test range while the all-weather tracked-chassis Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QR-SAM) tested from a mobile launcher at a launch complex of the Integrated Test Range.
  • Pinaka system has a maximum range of 75 km for Mark-II variant and can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in less than 45 seconds.
  • QR-SAM system can also engage multiple targets within a range of around 25 to 30 km with two vehicle configurations for area air defence.

Zeena Khitta wins women's national 10m Air Rifle

  • Zeena Khitta stunned West Bengal's Mehuli Ghosh and World No.3 Apurvi Chandela to emerge as the new national champion in the Women's 10 metres Air Rifle event at the ongoing 63rd National Shooting Championship Competitions Rifle/Pistol in Bhopal.
  • Mehuli had to settle for the silver while Apurvi won the bronze.