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1 & 2 February 2020 - Current Affairs

International :
  • The United Kingdom formally left the European Union on January 31, 2020, ending 47 years of membership and marking the beginning of an uncertain future. Britain's exit was celebrated as an independence day by Brexiteers with many toasting to the moment. The United Kingdom has become the first-ever nation to leave the European Union. A countdown was initiated to mark the moment, at the end of which, the message was clear "The UK has left the EU". This brings an end to the tumultuous three years over the Brexit deal, which had repeatedly failed to pass through the UK Parliament. Brexit was inevitable after the 2016 Brexit referendum when 51.9 percent votes were cast to leave the EU, while only 48.1 percent votes supported the referendum to stay in the European Union. 

    Britain's exit from the European Union has, however, just initiated the divorce proceedings between the two, as future terms of trade and exchange will need to be agreed upon. The United Kingdom will now be required to strike a new free-trade deal with the European Union to enable a smooth transition. The UK government has set an ambitious goal of reaching a new trade agreement by the end of 2020 on almost everything, ranging from trade in goods and services to fishing, aviation, medicines and security.

  • The Maldives has once again become a member of the Commonwealth of nations. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih made the announcement on 1st February 2020, fulfilling one of his key presidential pledges. The president said that the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, confirmed Maldives’ reinstatement into the organization as its 54th member state. The Maldives first became a member of the Commonwealth in 1982 but former President Abdulla Yameen decided to leave it in October 2016, amid mounting pressure from the group over corruption and deteriorating human rights.

  • President of India, Ramnadh Kovind inaugurated the worlds biggest Meditation Centre of the Sri Ramchandra Mission on the occasion coincides with the 75th year of the Ramachandra Mission in Hyderabad, Telangana state, India.

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on 2nd February 2020, inaugurated the month long Ekushey Book fair at the Bangla Academy premises in Dhaka. Ekushey Book Fair is the biggest and longest book fair of Bangladesh. It is organised every year in February commemorating the martyrs of the language movement during which eight people laid down their lives on February 21, 1952 for establishing Bangla as the official language of the then East Pakistan.

National :
  • Indian Railways has announced that it will equip all coaches and engines with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. About 3, 50,000 passenger coaches and freight coaches of the railways will be equipped with RFID tags for their smart monitoring. Indian Railway is taking this measure to improve the safety and reliability of the rolling stock. According to an estimate, this project will cost Rs. 112.96 crore. 

    Radio-frequency identification or RFID tag uses electromagnetic fields to track and identify various objects. Each RFID tag consists of a small radio transponder, a transmitter, and a radio receiver. An RFID reader decodes the information sent by the RFID tag. An RFID tag can be affixed to any object to track and monitor assents, people and inventory. It is generally affixed to the computer equipment, cars, passenger trains or buses, books, etc. It is faster than barcodes as RFID can be read several times while barcodes can be read one at a time. 

    Highlights :
    • The government has already equipped about 22000 freight trains and 1200 passenger coaches with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.
    • About 3500 static RFID readers will send data to a central control center using the LLRP standard of GS1 barcode.
    • The data can be read even if the train speed is 182 km. Indian Railway believes that it will help them to monitor wagons and surveillance on every passenger compartment.
    • The RFID Tag will provide not only the coach number but also all the information including its construction history.
    • This will reduce network problems, eliminate connectivity problems and the government will be able to exploit resources with more efficiency.

  • India has banned exports of all kinds of personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks used to protect people from air borne particles. The move assumes significance as there could be a spurt in demand for such products due to outbreak of novel Coronavirus that has claimed more than 200 lives in China while the number of confirmed cases reached near 10 thousand. 

    The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, DGFT in a notification said, export of all varieties of personal protection equipment including clothing and masks used to protect the wearer from air borne particles or any other respiratory masks or any other personal protective clothing including coveralls and N95 masks is prohibited with immediate effect.

  • The government of India will launch a campaign to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2025, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. Presenting the Budget for 2020-21, Sitharaman proposed to expand Jan Aushadhi Kendras to all districts of the country to provide medicines at affordable rates. She further said proceeds from taxes on medical devices would be used to support setting up of hospitals.

  • Madhya Pradesh has bagged the first position for the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana. In Madhya Pradesh, more than 14 lakh 55 thousand beneficiaries have been registered under the Pradhan Mantri Matra Vandana Yojana. The first installment has been paid to about 13 lakh 40 thousand women, while second installment to around 12 lakh and third installment has been paid to 8 lakh 80 thousand beneficiaries.

Bilateral :
  • India and Maldives on 2nd February 2020 signed five MoUs for establishing the Addu Tourism zone in five islands of Addu atoll at a cost of 2.49 million dollars. The MOUs were signed between the High Commissioner of India Sunjay Sudhir, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid and Addu City Council. 

    A 6th MoU to set up a bottled water plant in Hoarafushi was also signed. All six projects are grant projects falling under India’s High Impact Community Development Scheme (HICDP). These projects are driven by the needs of communities on the islands.

Economy :
  • Central Board of Direct Taxes has said that The Finance Bill, 2020 has proposed that an Indian citizen shall be deemed to be resident in India if he or she is not liable to be taxed in any country or jurisdiction. It said that the new provision in Finance Bill, 2020 is not intended to include in tax net those Indian citizens who are bonafide workers in other countries. CBDT issued a clarification on the new provision pertaining to residence in India saying this is an anti-abuse provision since it is noticed that some Indian citizens shift their stay in low or no tax jurisdiction countries to avoid payment of tax in India. 

    CBDT noted that the interpretation by some section of the media that Indians who are bonafide workers in other countries, including in the Middle East, and who are not liable to tax in these countries, will be taxed in India on the income that they have earned there is incorrect. It stated that in case of an Indian citizen who becomes deemed resident of India under this proposed provision, income earned outside India, shall not be taxed in India unless it is derived from an Indian business or profession.

  • Budget 2020-21: New power generation companies to be taxed at 15%.
    1.) To boost power generation capacity, government has extended the new corporate tax regime for new manufacturing plants to new power generation companies.
    2.) New power generation companies will have to pay just 15 per cent tax under the new corporate tax regime.
    3.) The move will help is setting up of new power generation companies to meet the growing energy needs of India.

  • Budget 2020-21 : Government mulls changes in PFRDA Act; to separate it from NPS Trust for government staff. 
    Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed to make amendments for separation of government pension trust from the PFRDA to strengthen the pension fund regulatory body. She also said that the government will help ease in mobility while in jobs. "We wish to infuse into the universal pension coverage with auto enrolment facility. Also, we wish to place such mechanism which will enable inter-operability and provide safeguards to the accumulated (pension) deposits," she said.

  • Budget 2020-21 : FY 20 fiscal deficit seen at 3.8 per cent.
    1.) FM Sitharaman informed Parliament during Budget presentation that India's fiscal deficit is now pegged at 3.8% for FY20, a significant loosening over the widely touted target of 3.3%.
    2.) India's fiscal deficit — the gap between expenditure and revenue — touched 114.8% of 2019-20 Budget Estimate at Rs 8.07 lakh crore at the end of November.
    3.) With the aim to limit fiscal deficit at 3.3% of GDP, Modi govt had originally pegged its projections for the current financial year at Rs 7.03 lakh crore.
    4.) For the entirety of FY20, govt's revenue receipts had been projected at Rs 19.62 lakh crore, while the total projected expenditure for the fiscal had been pegged at Rs 27.86 lakh crore.
    5.) GST collections turned out to be a major dampener during a year marred by persistent lag in growth. Besides, the corporate tax cut, which Nirmala Sitharaman announced in September to push the downturn-affected investment cycle, likely hit revenues to the tune of Rs 1.45 lakh crore.
    6.) After the revenue shortfall hit home, the govt had brought in austerity measures by pruning the January-March spending limit, telling all of its departments to keep expenditure at 25% of BE for the period.

    Up to November, as per Controller General of Accounts' figures:
    a) The Central govt received Rs 10,12,223 crore (48.60% of total BE receipts for FY20), consisted of Rs 7,50,614 crore Tax Revenue (Net to Centre), Rs 2,32,600 crore of Non-Tax Revenue and Rs 29,009 crore of Non-Debt Capital Receipts.
    b) Non-Debt Capital Receipts comprised the loan recovery worth Rs 10,910 crore and divestment proceeds to the tune of Rs 18,099 crore.
    c) Rs 4,21,850 crore transferred to State govts in the form of devolution of share of taxes. This sum was Rs 10,113 crore less compared to the corresponding period a year ago.
    d) The total expenditure by the Centre was Rs 18,20,057 crore (65.3% of BE). Of this, Rs 16,06,215 crore was on Revenue Account and Rs 2,13,842 crore on Capital Account.
    e) Of the total revenue expenditure, Rs 3,41,812 crore was on account of interest payments and Rs 2,35,015 crore on account of major subsidies.

  • Budget 2020-21: DDT is gone! Big Budget move for stock markets. FM Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to remove the deeply unpopular dividend distribution tax (DDT). According to industry and markets, dividend distribution tax is a surrogate tax and it obstructs the flow of foreign direct investment. Therefore, doing away with this tax can give a major push to investment. 

    The abolition of this tax can also boost market sentiment and make Indian equities more attractive. The clamour had been growing for the abolition of DDT ever since the corporate tax cut in September. The task force on the direct tax code had also recommended scrapping this tax in order to boost investments.

  • Presenting the Budget for 2020-21, Sitharaman said Rs 99,300 crore has been allocated for the education sector and Rs 3,000 crore for skill development for the next fiscal. She said that, the government plans to start a programme for urban local bodies to provide opportunities for internship to young engineers. She also said National Police University and National Forensic University are being proposed, while planning to allow degree level full-fledged online education programme by institutions ranked in top 100. Special bridge courses will be designed for teachers, nurses, para medical staff, caregivers, she said.

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced Nirvik (Niryat Rin Vikas Yojana) scheme to provide enhanced insurance cover and reduce premium for small exporters and simplified procedures for claim settlements. The scheme is being prepared by the commerce ministry. Under the scheme, also called the Export Credit Insurance Scheme (ECIS), the insurance guaranteed could cover up to 90 per cent of the principal and interest. The ministry has also proposed to subsidise the premium under the scheme that has to be paid by exporters of certain key sectors. 

    The Export Credit Guarantee Corporation currently provides credit guarantee of up to 60 per cent loss. The development assumes significance as exporters have raised concerns over availability of credit. The country's exports contracted for a fifth month in a row by 1.8 per cent in December 2019 to USD 27.36 billion. During April-December 2019-20, exports slipped 1.96 per cent to USD 239.29 billion, imports declined 8.9 per cent to USD 357.39 billion, leaving a trade deficit of USD 118.10 billion.

  • The government of India raised the deposit insurance coverage to Rs 5 lakh from the current Rs 1 lakh. The move comes after the government and RBI were widely criticised over their handling of the closure PMC bank in September last year, leaving thousands of people helpless and unable to withdraw their own money. SBI analysis shows that 61% of the total deposit accounts in India are under Rs 1 lakh, around 70% are under Rs 2 lakh and 98.2% are under Rs 15 lakh. There have been widespread calls to raise the cover.

  • Economic Survey 2019-20 has projected economic growth at 6 to 6.5 per cent in the next fiscal. It calls for more reforms for making it easier to do business in the country. The Survey, tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament, emphasises on entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation at the Grassroots. It has suggested that industrial sector performance is a key to achieve the target of a five trillion dollar economy.

  • Budget 2020-21 : Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that PAN shall now be instantly allotted online on the basis of Aadhaar. She said, is aimed at further easing the process of allotment of PAN by eliminating the need to fill up detailed documents.

  • Budget 2020-21 : Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said nominal GDP growth for 2020-21 is estimated at 10 per cent. Presenting the Budget for 2020-21, Sitharaman said receipts for 2020-21 are pegged at Rs 22.46 lakh crore while expenditure at Rs 30.42 lakh crore. The revised estimated expenditure for FY20 has been pegged at Rs 26.99 lakh crore and receipts at Rs 19.32 lakh crore, she said. The net market borrowings would be at Rs 4.99 lakh crore in FY 2019-20 and are estimated at Rs 5.36 lakh crore in the next fiscal.

  • Budget 2020-21 : Foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country has increased to USD 284 billion during 2014-19, says Finance Minister Nirmala. "India's FDI got elevated to the level of USD 284 billion during 2014-19 from USD 190 billion that came in during the years 2009-14," she said. The foreign inflows into India grew 15 per cent to USD 26 billion during the first half of the current financial year. Sectors which attract maximum foreign inflows include services, computer software and hardware, telecommunications, automobile and trading.

  • Union Budget has proposed a 16-point action plan to boost agriculture and farmers welfare and doubling farmers' income by 2022. It also seeks to double farmers' income by 2022. Finance Minister said, the budget is aimed at boosting the income of people and enhancing their purchasing power. Comprehensive measures for 100 water-stressed districts have also been proposed in the Budget. Meanwhile, agricultural credit target has been set at 15 lakh crore rupees. 

    Twenty lakh farmers will be provided funds for setting up standalone solar pumps. Farmers will also be allowed to set up solar units on barren and fallow lands and supply power to grids. Youth and fishery extension work will be enabled by rural youth as Sagar Mitras, forming 500 fish farmer producing organizations.

Defence :
  • Defence Ministers of nearly 40 countries participated in the biennial Defence Expo 2020 which began in Lucknow on 2nd February 2020. Defence Ministers of Czech Republic, Mexico, South Korea, United Arab Emirates are among those participating including ministers from 14 African countries. For the first time India-Africa Defence Conclave will be held during the DefExpo.

Science & Technology :
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it is preparing low-cost satellite launch vehicles costing around 30-35 crores rupees each, which can put into orbit satellites weighing 500 kgs. The first such launch is expected to take place in the next four months from the country. 

    This capability will give ISRO a big commercial boost as it will be able to cater to micro, mini and medium segments of the market. ISRO has earmarked 1,600 million Dollars for launch vehicles of which 870 million Dollars will be for PSLV and the remaining for GSLV.

  • The government in its budget 2020 has announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) with a total budget outlay of Rs 8000 Crore for a period of five years to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST). The range of quantum technologies is expected to be one of the major technology disruptions that will change entire paradigm of computation, communication and encryption. It is perceived that the countries who achieve an edge in this emerging field will have a greater advantage in garnering multifold economic growth and dominant leadership role. 

    The Mission will be able address the ever increasing technological requirements of the society, and take into account the international technology trends and road maps of leading countries for development of next generation technologies. Implementation of the mission would help develop and bring quantum computers, secured communications through fibre and free space, quantum encryption and crypt-analysis and associated technologies within reach in the country and help address India specific national and regional issues. The mission will help prepare next generation skilled manpower, boost translational research and also encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development. By promoting advanced research in quantum science and technology, technology development and higher education in science, technology and engineering disciplines India can be brought at par with other advanced countries and can derive several direct and indirect benefits.

Sports :
  • 'Rubigula', Flame-Throated Bulbul, has been unveiled as the official mascot for the Goa 2020 National Games in Panaji, Goa on 31 January, 2020. Goa will be hosting the 36th edition of the National Games from 20th October to 4th November 2020. The Flame-Throated Bulbul is the state bird of Goa.

  • In Tennis, American Sofia Kenin won her first Grand Slam title with victory over Spain's Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open. Kenin, who turned 21 in November, is the youngest Australian Open champion since Russian Maria Sharapova in 2008.

  • In tennis, Serbia's Novak Djokovic won his record 8th Men's singles title in Australian Open at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on 2nd February 2020. 

    The men's doubles title was clinched by Joe Salisbury of UK and American Rajeev Ram who beat Australia's Luke Saville and Max Purcell.

Days :
  • Indian coast guard celebrated its foundation day on 1st February.

Appointments :
  • Lieutenant General YK Joshi took over as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command at Udhampur on 1st February 2020. Gen Joshi commanded 13 JAK RIF in Operation VIJAY and PARAKRAM. Nicknamed 'Joe', he also displayed outstanding leadership during the Kargil war.



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