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Note:  The following Current affairs has been selected from AIR, PIB, PRS, BBC, The Hindu, IDSA (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), Live mint, Indian Express, Quora.com, Hindustan Times, Telegraph, The Times , WTO, New Indian express , The Guardian and is highly recommended for UPSC Prelims and Mains Examination


News Analysis: 14-02-2019

National News

General Studies-II : Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.


Rafale cost is 2.86% lower, but Dassault benefited without bank guarantee: CAG

  • The contract signed in 2016 to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets from France through the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) was 2.86% lower in value than “Audit’s aligned price” of the bid received in 2007 when the then UPA government had sought to purchase 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said in its report, tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

  • The CAG also observed that the price could have been reduced further had the benefits of waiving of the bank guarantees for the vendor (Dassault Aviation) been passed on to India.

  • There have been varying claims from government officials on how much cheaper the 2016 deal was, with estimates ranging from 9% to 20%.

  • On the delivery schedule, the national auditor found that the 2016 deal’s terms would ensure only a month’s advantage over the timeline offered in the 2007 bid.

  • The report, which had been widely awaited in the wake of a string of revelations on procedural deviations in the negotiations to acquire the French Rafale jets and political allegations of financial irregularities in the deal, was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha

  • In its performance audit report on ‘Capital Acquisition of the Indian Air Force’, the CAG reviewed 11 contracts signed between 2012-13 and 2017-18 with an approximate value of ₹95,000 crore.

  • On the Rafale’s India Specific Enhancements, which cost more than €1.3 billion of the €7.87 billion deal, the CAG stated that there was a saving of 17.08%. However, the audit noted that four enhancements were “stated not to be required in the technical and staff evaluations” and that the cost of these four items constituted about 14% of the ISE estimated cost.

  • On the overall delivery schedule of the 36 jets as per the 2016 deal, compared with the delivery of 18 jets in flyaway condition plus another 18 produced in India under licence under the terms of the MMRCA proposal, CAG noted that there was an improvement of only one month in the 2016 contract.

  • The Centre has made repeated assertions that under the IGA, better terms had been achieved in terms of “better pricing, better maintenance terms and better delivery schedule.”

  • The CAG also observed that in respect of bank guarantees, the French government had not agreed to an escrow account and had contended that the “guarantees already provided by the government of France were far reaching and unprecedented.”

  • The finally approved Article 5 of IGA by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), provided that the advance payments were to be made directly to the bank accounts of the French vendor that were opened in a French government controlled bank, over which the French government was to exercise control and monitoring for effective implementation of IGA and the supply protocols, the auditor noted in the report.

  • Underscoring the importance of a sovereign guarantee to this deal, the CAG observed that in case of a breach of agreement, the Indian party (Ministry) would have to first settle it through arbitration directly with the French vendors.

  • “If the arbitration award were in favour of Indian party and the French party fails to honour the award, Indian party should exhaust all available legal remedies. Only then the French government would make these payments on behalf of the vendors,” the CAG noted.

Source: The Hindu









General Studies-II : Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Kerala takes the lead in the fight against trans fat

  • In a first, the Health Department has drawn up an action plan to generate public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fatty acids (TFA) in commercially available food items and to encourage the local food industry to meet the current statutory limits set for TFA.

  • The draft is expected to be finalised and released shortly.

  • The initiative has been launched after the Health Department’s various studies suggest that an unhealthy diet with a high TFA content is a significant factor that pushes up metabolic syndrome and the burden of its associated complications.

  • The year-long action plan has specific components on building awareness on trans fat among food business operators and giving them scientific sessions and training on how they can keep their food TFA-free.

  • Clear time lines are being set as to when each of the components of the plan should be completed and when enforcement should begin. Salt being a major contributor to hypertension and stroke, the action plan also plans to address the high salt content in processed foods, pickles, papads and condiments by encouraging manufacturers to move to low sodium options.

  • The Health Department is being supported in this initiative by Vital Strategies, the nutrition wing of the World Bank; the WHO; the FSSAI; and the State Food Safety wing, which will be in charge of enforcement.

Source: The Hindu

General Studies-II : Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.


Shutdown over Article 35A paralyses Valley

  • Normal life was paralysed in the Kashmir Valley on Wednesday due to a shutdown called by separatists in anticipation of the petitions challenging Article 35A coming up before the Supreme Court for hearing.

  • All shops and markets remained closed and government offices registered a very thin attendance. There were very few private vehicles plying on the roads. Security was tightened across the State.

  • The J&K government, which is under President’s Rule, has submitted an application before the court and sought adjournment.

  • The Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside from acquiring any immovable property in the State.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


‘Only 84% rural households have electricity in four States’

  • Only 84% of rural households have electricity connection in the four States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan, a comprehensive private sector survey of 10,000 households has found.

  • This is in contrast to the government’s Saubhagya Scheme data, which shows that 100% household electrification has been achieved in U.P., Bihar and Odisha; and 99.9% in Rajasthan.

  • According to the data in the survey report by SmartPower, the 84% figure for households with electricity connections could actually be even lower. The report said that 90% of the households surveyed had an electric connection or “electric pole within 50 m distance”. Within this figure, 84% of the households were the ones with an actual electricity connection. The report also found that only 75% of all households used electricity from the grid, suggesting that there were several households that relied on off-grid sources of electricity despite having a connection.

  • Despite the increasing footprint of grid-electricity, this study finds that several non-grid sources are in use; these include, primarily, solar home systems, followed by rechargeable batteries, mini-grid electricity, and diesel generators,” the report said. “Overall 16% of households use non-grid-electricity sources, half of which also have grid connections.”

  • This is an important finding, as there is an assumption that non-grid sources are popular only among un-electrified households

  • 80% of the households with electricity infrastructure within 50 m said they did not make use of an electricity connection because they could not afford one. Other reasons for choosing off-grid sources included unreliable supply of electricity, inadequate supply of electricity and lack of residence proof.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : India and its neighborhood- relations.


Well oiled

  • It is easy to see why the Saudi Crown Prince has chosen to include India in his Asia tour

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits India next week at a time when both countries are seeking to deepen bilateral cooperation.

  • For MBS, as he is widely known, the visit to India, Pakistan, China, Malaysia and Indonesia is an opportunity to re-assert Saudi Arabia’s role as a major foreign policy player in Asia amid growing criticism over the Yemen war and the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

  • For the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the visit, with general elections approaching, is an opportunity to cap its pursuit of stronger ties with West Asian nations on a high note.

  • High-level visits between India and Saudi Arabia have become the new normal since King Abdullah came to India in 2006, the first Saudi monarch to do so in five decades.

  • Four years later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Riyadh. Mr. Modi visited Riyadh in 2016; last year, he met MBS in Argentina on the sidelines of the G-20 summit at a time when the Crown Prince had already come under sharp criticism in many Western countries.

  • A number of factors have influenced the turnaround in ties between the two countries, which had been underwhelming during the Cold War.

  • When India’s economy started growing at a faster clip post-liberalisation, its dependence on energy-rich nations grew.

  • And Saudi Arabia was a stable, trusted supplier of oil. Post-9/11, the two have expanded the scope of their partnership to economic issues and fighting terrorism.

  • MBS is expected to announce Saudi investments in both India and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally exercised great influence over Pakistan, had recently offered a $6 billion loan to Islamabad to stabilise the economy.

  • In India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have acquired a 50% stake in a refinery complex in Maharashtra.

  • The project remains stalled amid protests against land acquisition, but it shows Saudi Arabia’s interest to make long-term investments in India’s energy sector. Another subject that that will come up in bilateral talks is Iran.

  • MBS has made containment of Iran his top foreign policy priority, and has U.S. support in this pursuit.

  • India is certain to come under U.S. pressure to cut oil imports from Iran: it has so far walked the tightrope between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

  • Even as its ties with the Kingdom improved over the past decade, India deepened its engagement with Iran, be it on oil trade or the Chabahar port.

  • This is driven by the conviction that while Saudi Arabia is vital for India’s energy security, Iran is a gateway to Central Asia.

  • New Delhi is sure to continue this balancing act even as it seeks to strengthen the Saudi pillar of India’s West Asia policy.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Sanctions-hit Venezuela seeks to double oil exports to India

  • U.S. has warned buyers against dealing with Caracas

  • Venezuelan oil company PDVSA is looking to double exports to India as U.S. sanctions hobble deliveries to the U.S. and Europe.

  • The country’s oil exports since the sanctions took effect on January 28 have fallen to 1.15 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude and refined products, Refinitiv Eikon data showed, down from about 1.4 million bpd.

  • In response, Venezuela is turning its focus to buyers paying in cash, especially in India, its second-largest customer after the U.S.

  • Before the sanctions, PDVSA shipped over 5,00,000 bpd to the U.S., its largest cash market, followed by India at above 3,00,000 bpd and then China.

  • Venezuela has sent its Oil Minister, Manuel Quevedo, to India to convince refiners, including Reliance Industries Ltd and Nayara Energy Ltd, to double their oil purchases. “We are selling more than 3,00,000” bpd to Indian buyers, Mr. Quevedo said on Monday in New Delhi. “We want to double that amount.”

  • Venezuela is open to barter arrangements with India using oil as payment, he said, but did not elaborate.

  • Two supertankers, Baghdad and Folegandros I, left from Venezuela’s Jose terminal late on Monday carrying cargoes destined for Indian ports. Finding buyers in Asia may be difficult, however, analysts said, as Washington uses its financial clout to pressure countries.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


U.S. to discuss trade, e-com rules with India

  • U.S. Ambassador Kenneth I. Juster will lead a delegation of officials to hold talks with Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday to resolve several sore trade points, including the concerns of American CEOs regarding doing business in India and bilateral trade imbalance.

  • The status of the review of India’s eligibility for the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is also likely to come up in the light of recent developments where the U.S. has again threatened to withdraw the export exemptions for India. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross would participate in the discussions “remotely” as he had to cancel his scheduled trip to India due to inclement weather and logistical issues, the U.S. Commerce Department said in a statement.

  • Other issues that had particularly incensed American businesses are India’s new data localisation rules that force foreign companies to store Indians’ data within the country, and rules amending FDI rules in e-commerce that had hurt American giants like Amazon and Walmart. These are likely to be high on the agenda of Thursday’s Indo-U.S. CEO Forum.

  • Trade tensions between the two countries rose last March when U.S. President Donald Trump notified the imposition of higher import tariffs on steel and aluminium, which affected several countries, including India.

  • In retaliation, India announced counter-tariffs on 29 American goods, worth about $235 million, but has delayed implementing them in the hope of resolving the matter.


Source: The Hindu


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