UPSC Current Affairs: 10th November 2020

Australia-India Water Centre 

Context: 

  • Australia-India Water Centre (AIWC) has been inaugurated in a virtual event. 

Key points:

  • This Water Centre is led by IIT Guwahati from Indian side and University of Western Sydney from the Australian side. Along with this, the centre has 21 partners from India and Australia.
  • This Water Centre will help the Indian and Australian partners to explore opportunities and create synergy for a long-time collaboration in the field of research and education between the two countries.
  • This Water Centre will help in fighting against the common water challenges and issues faced by both the countries like floods, droughts, water security, climate change, over-exploitation of water, degradation of water quality, etc.
  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian PM Scott Morrison gave a joint declaration in a virtual summit in June 2020 that “Water security” is a major challenge for both the countries and decided to strengthen the technical and policy cooperation to improve the management of water and sustainable development. 
  • With this view, different universities, business partners and research organisations from both the countries committed to form Australia-India Water Centre (AIWC).

About MOUs signed for Australia-India Water Centre (AIWC):

  • The agreement signed on this occasion tries to explain the cooperation between all the parties. 
  • All the included parties will work closely for collaboration in the field of water research, student and staff exchanges, for a joint Master’s level course in water futures, workshops, short-term training, conferences, etc. 
  • The agreement which is signed for 5 years will bring collaboration in capacity building, technology transfer focusing on water security, river health, safe drinking water, etc.
  • Director of IIT Guwahati, T. G. Sitharam said water is going to play an important economic and strategic role in future. 
  • The Water Centre will focus on collaboration on different aspects related to water security.

 

15th Finance Commission 

Context: 

  • The 15th Finance Commission has submitted its report.

Key points:

  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission has finalised its report for fund devolution from the Centre to States for the five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
  • The Commission was asked to give its recommendations on many unique and wide-ranging issues in its terms of reference.
  • Besides its main recommendation on devolution of funds between the Centre and the States for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26, the Commission addressed all its unique terms of reference, such as:
    • Considering a new non-lapsable fund for financing national security and defence spending.
    • Offering performance incentives to the States that deliver on reforms.
  • Apart from the main report, uniquely titled Finance Commission in Covid Times, the 15th Finance Commission presented two volumes as part of its submissions.
  • One focuses on the state of the Centre’s finances, with in-depth scrutiny of the key departments, medium-term challenges facing the Centre and a road map for future.
  • The other volume is dedicated to the States, with the finances of each analysed in great depth. It has come up with State-specific considerations to address the key challenges that individual States face.

About Fifteenth Finance Commission:

  • Finance Commission is a constitutional body for the purpose of allocation of certain revenue resources between the Union and the State Governments.
  • The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under article 280 of the Constitution.
  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission was constituted in November 2017, by a Presidential Order against the backdrop of:
    • The abolition of the Planning Commission.
    • Abolition of the distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure.
    • Introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • It is chaired by N.K. Singh.

 

Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)

Context: 

  • India recently signed a MoU for granting of a $500 million package to the Maldives.

Key points:

  • Following this the Exim Bank of India and the Maldives’s Ministry of Finance signed an agreement for $400 million in Male.
  • GMCP consists of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
  • It would ease much of the pressure of the main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.
  • When completed, the project would render the Chinese built Sinamale Friendship Bridge connecting Male to two other islands, thus far the most visible infrastructure project in the islands.
  • At present, India-assisted projects in the region include:
    • Water and sewerage projects on 34 islands,
    • Reclamation project for the Addl island,
    • A port on Gulhifalhu,
    • Airport redevelopment at Hanimadhoo,
    • Hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhumale.

 

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

In News:

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered a detailed probe against Google for ‘abuse’ of its dominant position, primarily with regard to its digital payments application GPay.

About Competition Commission of India (CCI):

  • The Competition Commission of India (CCI) was established under the Competition Act, 2002 for the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Act.
  • It was duly constituted in March 2009.
  • It is a statutory body responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout India.
  • The following are the objectives of the Commission.
    • To prevent practices having an adverse effect on competition.
    • To promote and sustain competition in markets.
    • To protect the interests of consumers.
    • To ensure freedom of trade.

 

National Agricultural Higher Education Policy

Context: 

  • ICAR has recently launched Rs.1100 crore ambitious National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP).

Key points:

  • It aims to attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country.
  • It is funded by the World Bank and the Indian Government on a 50:50 basis.
  • The objective of the NAHEP for India is to support participating agricultural universities and ICAR in providing more relevant and higher quality education to Agricultural University students.
  • In addition, a four year degree in Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Forestry has been declared a professional degree.
  • The overall objective of the project is to provide more relevant and high-quality education to the agricultural university students that is in tune with the New Education Policy – 2020.
  • It is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.

About Student READY:

  • NAHEP has launched the Student READY – Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana.
  • The programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship.
  • The internship is provided usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, and research expertise and entrepreneurship skills.

 

Thirty Meter Telescope Project

Context: 

  • The Indian Astronomers have collaborated with 2020 Physics Nobel Laureate Prof Andrea Ghez on the “Thirty Meter Telescope Project”.

About Thirty Meter Telescope Project:

  • It is an international partnership project between India, China, Japan, California and Canada.
  • The telescope is being installed at Hawaii and is to revolutionise the understanding of the universe.

About the Telescope:

  • It is an extremely large telescope. It is designed for UltraViolet to mid infrared observations. It has 30 metres prime mirror diameter and is three times as wide as the largest existing visible light telescope in the world.
  • The three major instruments to be included in the telescope are Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, Wide Field Optical Spectrometer and Infrared Multi Object Spectrometer.

India’s Proposal to change location:

  • The proposed site to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope was considered as sacred to the indigenous Hawaiians. 
  • Thus, it is being objected to by the local communities in the region. Due to these obstructions, the project has not made any significant progress. Thus, India has suggested a change of location.

India’s role:

  • India has committed to offer 200 million USD. 
  • This is a tenth of the proposed cost. India is to contribute 83 of the 492 precisely polished mirrors needed for the project. 
  • India, as of 2020, will receive 10% of available slots. 
  • The level of contribution determines the amount of viewing time a member country gets.