Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (21st to 27th March, 2019)

 

Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (21st to 27th March, 2019)

(Info graphic Summary at the end)

 

Topic : SpiceJet joins global airlines grouping IATA as member

Topic in Syllabus: Science and Technology

 

Why in news?

SpiceJet has joined global airlines’ grouping IATA as a member, becoming the first Indian low-cost carrier to get the membership.

 

More about on news:

  • The membership would help SpiceJet, which has ambitious expansion plans, to have codeshares and agreements with other carriers,
  • SpiceJet has become the first Indian low-cost carrier to join the IATA as a member, it added.
  • IATA also provides us a platform to closely work and collaborate with other airline members and expand our network through code shares and agreements with partner airlines.

 

Benefits of joining IATA:

  • The IATA represents more than 290 airlines, including Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara.
  • The IATA membership is significant for rapidly expanding the airline’s international footprint.
  • This in turn enables an airline to seamlessly expand the network options for its passengers in future.
  • The membership will further enable us to inculcate global best practices and innovations.

 

About IATA:

  • The International Air Transport Association is a trade association of the world’s airlines.
  • IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards.
  • It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Functions of International Air Transport Association (IATA):

  • Safety: It is one the functions of the IATA through Global Safety Information Centre which study the measures to track the real time of aircraft in flight. This move was in response when in Malaysia Airlines 370 disappeared on 8 March, 2014.
  • Security: It became prime duty of IATA to ensure security in aviation services. Hence, it circulated universal norms to the countries of the world to develop a check point on the basis of risk assessment and passenger differentiation.
  • Simplifying the Business: IATA is prime formulator of industrial policy to solve the aviation issues and simplify the aviation trade & business such as electronic ticket, bar coded boarding pass, fast travel initiative, self-service baggage options etc.
  • Environment Friendly Aviation Services: All members of the IATA agreed to improve their airlines more fuel efficient on the basis of the resolution of 69th annual general meeting in Cape Town, South Africa on “Implementation of the Aviation Carbon-Neutral Growth (CNG2020) Strategy.”

 

Sample Question:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) often seen in the news, with respect to consider the following statements

  1. Recently SpiceJet and Indigo has joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
  2. SpiceJet is the first Indian low-cost carrier to be an IATA member, and fifth member in India.
  3. The IATA membership is significant for rapidly expanding the airline’s international footprint.

Choose the correct answer from the above

a). 1 and 2 only

b). 1 and 3 only

c). 2 and 3 only

d). All of the above

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic : What is the significance of the Golan Heights?

Topic in Syllabus: World Geography

 

Why in news?

President Donald Trump said on recently that the United States should back Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967.

 

More about on news:

  • The dramatic shift mirrors Trump’s decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US Embassy to the city, which delighted Israel but infuriated Palestinians and many Arab political and religious leaders.
  • The Golan announcement is likely to further complicate Trump’s long-awaited plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Trump created a controversy where none needed to exist. Israel has been under no pressure to end the occupation of the Golan, which began during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War with the seizure of some 400 square miles by Israeli troops.
  • Support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would also give Israel’s right-wing parties an opening to argue for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

 

Why is this area contentious?

  • The Golan Heights were part of Syria until 1967, when Israel captured most of the area in the Six Day War, occupying it and annexing it in 1981.
  • That unilateral annexation was not recognized internationally, and Syria demands the return of the territory.
  • Syria tried to regain the Heights in the 1973 Middle East war, but was thwarted.
  • Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan had been relatively quiet since.
  • In 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement. But the negotiations collapsed and subsequent talks also failed.

 

Why does Israel want the Golan?

  • Security. Israel says that the civil war in Syria demonstrates the need to keep the plateau as a buffer zone between Israeli towns and the instability of its neighbor.
  • Israel’s government says it also fears that Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seeking to establish itself permanently on the Syrian side of the border in order to launch attacks on Israel.
  • Both sides covet the Golan’s water resources and naturally fertile soil.
  • Syria insists that the part of the Golan held by Israel remains occupied territory and has demanded its return.

 

Demography of Golan Heights:

  • More than 40,000 people live on the Israeli-occupied Golan, more than half of them Druze residents.
  • The Druze are an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam and many of its adherents in Syria have long been loyal to the Assad regime.
  • After annexing the Golan, Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, but most rejected it and still identify as Syrian.
  • About another 20,000 Israeli settlers also live there, many of them working in farming and tourism.

 

What is the current military situation?

  • Assad’s forces are now back in control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, which reopened in October 2018, while United Nations forces are still carrying out refurbishment works to positions they were forced to leave years ago.
  • Although Israel signaled that it would not impede the Syrian army’s return to Quneitra, it has repeatedly expressed concern that Assad may defy the U.N. armistice, or let his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies deploy there.

 

What separates the two sides on the Golan?

  • A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is stationed in camps and observation posts along the Golan, supported by military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
  • Between the Israeli and Syrian armies is a 400-square-km (155-square-mile) Area of Separation” – often called a demilitarized zone – in which the two countries’ military forces are not permitted under the ceasefire arrangement.
  • The Separation of Forces Agreement of May 31, 1974 created an Alpha Line to the west of the area of separation, behind which Israeli military forces must remain, and a Bravo Line to the east behind which Syrian military forces must remain.
  • Extending 25 km beyond the “Area of Separation” on both sides is an “Area of Limitation” in which there are restrictions on the number of troops and number and kinds of weapons that both sides can have there.

 

Sample Question:

The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to

a) Central Asia
b) Middle East
c) South-East Asia
d) Central Africa

Answer: b)

 


 

Topic : RBI’s Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) scheme to boost foreign investment in debt market

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy

 

Why in news?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on recentlyfinalized the voluntary retention route (VRR) scheme to boost foreign investment in Indian debt markets.

 

More about on news:

  • Investments through the route will be free of the regulatory norms applicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided investors maintain a minimum share of their investments for a fixed period.
  • The scheme which was proposed on October 5, 2018, has a minimum retention period of three years where investors need to maintain a minimum of 75% of their investments in India.
  • FPIs registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) are eligible to voluntarily invest through the route in government and corporate bonds.

 

About Voluntary retention route:

  • It is a new channel of investment available to FPIs to encourage them to invest in debt markets in India over and above their investments through the regular route.
  • The objective is to attract long-term and stable FPI investments into debt markets while providing FPIs with operational flexibility to manage their investments.
  • This new investment route was proposed by the central bank in October 2018 at a time the rupee was weakening against the dollar very sharply.
  • There were also talks of a special NRI bond scheme to attract more dollar funds into the economy and stabilize the rupee.

 

How much money can an FPI invest through this route?

  • Investments under this route as of now shall be capped at Rs 40,000 crore for government securities and 35,000 crore per annum.
  • But the limit could be changed from time to time based on macro-prudential considerations and assessment of investment demand.
  • There will be separate limits for investment in government securities and investment in corporate debt.

 

Are there any other facilities for investors through VRR?

  • FPIs investing through this route will be eligible to participate in repos for their cash management, provided that the amount borrowed or lent under repo were not to exceed 10 per cent of the investment under VRR.
  • They will also be eligible to participate in any currency or interest rate derivative instrument, OTC or exchange-traded instrument to manage their interest rate risk or currency risk.

 

When will this offer be operational?

  • It will be open from March 11, 2019 until end-April.

 

Benefits of VRR:

  • The RBI will conduct dollar-rupee buy/sell swap action of $5 billion for a three-year tenor.
  • Such a swap route has been explored by various emerging market economies as an effective tool to manage liquidity.
  • Apart from liquidity infusion, the move will boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves and is likely to support the exchange rate.

 

Sample Question:

Which of the following statements are correct with respect to Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) Scheme

  1. It is a new channel of investment available to FPIs to encourage them to invest in debt markets in India over and above their investments through the regular route.
  2. The objective is to attract long-term and stable FPI investments into debt markets while providing FPIs with operational flexibility to manage their investments.
  3. The minimum retention period shall be five years.

 

Choose the correct answer from the above

a) 2 and 3 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 1 only
d) All of the above

Answer: b)

 


 

Topic : Social Media Platforms present “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the 2019 General Election” to Election Commission of India

Topic in Syllabus: Indian polity and constitution

 

Why in news?

The Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), recently presented a “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019” to Chief Election Commissioner.

 

More about on news:

  • The Code of Ethics has been developed as a follow up to meeting with IAMAI and representatives of Social Media Platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and TikTok etc.
  • The formulation of the Code augurs a good beginning but is essentially, a work in making.
  • The Participants need to follow in letter and spirit the commitments made in the Code of Ethics.
  • The Platforms have committed to process any violations reported under Section 126 of RP Act, 1951 within three hours as per Sinha Committee recommendations.

 

Significance:

  • The Platforms have also agreed to create a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the ECI and appoint dedicated teams during the period of General Elections for taking expeditious action on any reported violations.
  • Participants have also agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements issued by Media Certification and Monitoring Committee.
  • The Code of Ethics also promises to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements.
  • IAMAI has agreed to coordinate with participants various steps mentioned in this code.
  • Participants have also committed to voluntarily undertake voter awareness campaigns.
  • The ‘Code of Ethics” has been developed to ensure free, fair & ethical usage of Social Media Platforms to maintain the integrity of the electoral process for the General Elections 2019.
  • The Code voluntarily agreed upon by the Participants comes into operation with immediate effect.

 

Sample Question:

“Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019” recently presented by

a) Association for Democratic Reforms
b) NITI Aayog
c) Election Commission of India
d) The Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Answer: d)

 


 

Topic : Italy set to become first G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’

Topic in Syllabus: International Affairs

 

Why in news?

Italy and China want to revive the spirit of the ancient Silk Road by deepening their trade and investment ties, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on recently.

 

More about on news:

  • Xi is set to sign a deal on Saturday that will see Italy become the first member of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations to join China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure project (BRI), which is inspired by historic, centuries-old trade routes.
  • Besides the BRI accord, various deals worth up to €7 billion ($7.9 billion) are expected to be agreed, including agreements opening up the northern ports of Trieste and Genoa to Chinese containers.
  • Italy’s populist government is eager for such initiatives to get underway swiftly as it battles to revitalize a sickly economy, which has slipped into its third recession in a decade

 

About G7:

  • The G7 or the Group of Seven is a group of the seven most advanced economies as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The seven countries are Canada, USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. The EU is also represented in the G7.
  • These countries, with the seven largest IMF-described advanced economies in the world represent 58% of the global net wealth ($317 trillion).
  • The G7 countries also represent more than 46% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) based on nominal values, and more than 32% of the global GDP based on purchasing power parity.
  • The requirements to be a member of the G7 are a high net national wealth and a high HDI (Human Development Index).

 

Silk Route:

  • The Silk Road was a network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce.
  • This term was coined by the German geographer and traveler, Ferdinand von Richthofen, in 1877 CE, who designated them ‘Seidenstrasse’ (Silk Road) or ‘Seidenstrassen’ (silk routes).
  • The network was used regularly from 130 BCE, when the Han officially opened trade with the west, to 1453 CE, when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with the west and closed the routes.

 

One Belt One Road:

  • The ‘One Belt’ and ‘One Road’ refer to China’s proposed ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and ‘Maritime Silk Road’.
  • Connectivity covers five major areas of interest: policy coordination, infrastructure construction (including railways and highways), unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people ties.
  • Among these, infrastructure construction is the dominant feature of the New Silk Road.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the followings with respect to ‘Belt and Road’ initiative

  1. BRI is an ambitious China’s ambitious development strategy and framework that aims to boost its connectivity and trade that will that will connect Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe….
  2. It comprises two components viz. the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
  3. Recently Italy set to become third G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.

 

Choose the correct answer from the above

a) 1 only
b) 1 and 3 only
c) 1 and 2 only
d) All of the above

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic : India moves up to 76th rank on energy index

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy

 

Why in news?

India has moved up two places to rank 76th on a global energy transition index, which has ranked 115 economies on how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.

 

More about on news:

  • The report contains the Energy Transition Index (ETI), which compares the energy sectors of 115 countries and analyses their readiness for energy transition.
  • Sweden retained its top spot on the list, followed by Switzerland and Norway in the second and third positions respectively.
  • The United States, which is placed at the 27th position, was found to have made progress in reducing the use of coal in power generation.
  • The developing countries in Asia, on the other hand, showed significant improvements towards universal access to electricity led by India (76), Indonesia (63) and Bangladesh (90).
  • The report says despite the diversity of the top performing nations in their primary energy mix, systems and resources, they all share certain characteristics, demonstrating a combination of technical advances and effective policy-making and implementation.

 

India’s performance:

  • India is amongst the countries with high pollution levels and has a relatively high CO2 intensity in its energy system.
  • India has made significant strides to improve energy access in recent years, and currently scores well in the area of regulation and political commitment towards energy transition.
  • While India has scored low in terms of system performance, it ranks considerably higher when it comes to readiness to adapt to future energy needs.
  • India is also the second best in the BRICS block of emerging economies, with Brazil being the best at 46th place globally.
  • However, India is the only amongst the five economies to improve its rank since last year.

 

Driving change:

The report highlights the scale of the challenge ahead. Overall the global energy transition has slowed with year-on-year increases in global average ETI scores at their lowest for five years – here’s the reasons:

  • Energy security and access scores showed great improvement, driven by gains in access to electricity in emerging markets, particularly in Asia.
  • Environmental sustainability scores improved marginally, indicating a general lack of substantive progress.
  • Economic development and growth scores declined compared to the previous year, due to rising household electricity prices and commodity price volatilities.

 

Global Energy Transition Index

  • The WEF has ranked 115 economies on how well they are able to balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.
  • The WEF index considers both the current state of the countries’ energy system and their structural readiness to adapt to future energy needs.
  • The ‘transition readiness’ component of the index has taken into account six individual indicators:
    • capital and investment
    • regulation and political commitment
    • institutions and governance
    • institutions and innovative business environment
    • human capital and consumer participation
    • Energy system structure

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements with respect to Global Energy Transition Index

  1. The Global Energy Transition index 2019 report has been released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
  2. China is ranked even lower than India.
  3. India is the only amongst the five economies to improve its rank since last year.

 

Choose the correct answer from the above

a) 1 only
b) 1 and 2 only
c) 2 and 3 only
d) All of the above

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic : Pakistan Okays plan to open ShardaPeeth corridor for Hindu pilgrims in PoK

Topic in Syllabus: International Affairs

 

Why in news?

The Pakistan government on recently approved a proposal to establish a corridor that will allow Hindu pilgrims from India to visit ShardaPeeth, an ancient Hindu temple and cultural site in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

 

More about on news:

  • Pakistan has decided to open the Sharda temple.
  • The ShardaPeeth corridor, when opened, will be the second religious tract after Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan-controlled territory that will connect the two neighboring nations.
  • India had already sent a proposal to Pakistan to open the temple corridor.
  • After Kartarpur, a piece of big news is in the offing for Hindus.

 

About ShardaPeethCorridor:

  • Established in 237 BC during the reign of Ashoka, the 5,000-year-old SharadaPeeth is an abandoned temple and ancient centre of learning dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning.
  • Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, SharadaPeeth was one of the foremost temple universities of the Indian subcontinent.
  • After Partition in 1947, the temple went under the control of Pakistan.
  • It is also one of the three famous holy sites for Kashmiri Pandits, the other two being the Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag and the Amarnath temple.
  • Kashmiri Panditorganisations have been demanding opening of the ShardaPeeth corridor for many years now.

 

Location:

  • SharadaPeeth is about 150 kilometres from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and 130 kilometers from Srinagar.
  • It is situated 1,981 metres above sea level, along the Neelam River in the village of Sharda, in the valley of Mount Harmukh, which is believed by Kashmiri Pandits to be the abode of Shiva.

 

Significance:

  • The peeth is also considered a historical seat of learning, and was once at par with the ancient seats of learning at Nalanda and Takshila.
  • Kashmiri Pandits consider Sharada as their “kuldevi” or principal deity.
  • The SharadaPeeth is believed to be one of the foremost temple universities of the subcontinent between the 6th and 12th centuries CE.
  • There are competing theories about when it was built, but it has been suggested that the temple is over 5,000-year-old.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements with respect to ShardaPeeth

  1. It was once regarded as a major centre of higher learning of Vedic works, scriptures and commentaries.
  2. It is located on the banks of Neelum river

 

Choose the correct answer from the above

a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: c)

 


Info graphic Summary