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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 17 April 2020

Contents

  1. Golden Temple sees a big dip in offerings
  2. World’s gaze may shift from China to Make in India
  3. India eyes record food production
  4. China may have conducted Nuclear test: U.S.
  5. More time to renew policies, Insurers’ may be adversely impacted: IRDAI

GOLDEN TEMPLE SEES A BIG DIP IN OFFERINGS

Focus: GS-I Art and Culture

Why in news?

Amid the ongoing curfew in the wake of COVID-19, the offerings at Golden Temple have fallen drastically

Important Gurudwaras in Sikhism

  • Panj Takht: There are five Takhts and these Takhts are five gurudwaras which have a very special significance for the Sikh community.
  • Akal Takhat Sahib means Eternal Throne. It is also part of the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. Its foundation was laid by Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Sikh Guru.
  • Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib is situated at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. It is the birthplace of the Khalsa, which was founded by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
  • Takht Sri Damdama Sahib is situated in the village of Talwandi Sabo near Bathinda. Guru Gobind Singh stayed here for about a year and compiled the final edition of Guru Granth Sahib, also known as the Damdama Sahib Bir in 1705.
  • Takht Sri Patna Sahib is situated in Patna city which is also the capital of Bihar state. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born here in 1666 and he spent his early childhood here before moving to Anandpur Sahib.
  • Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra.
  • Nankana Sahib (Pakistan): Birth place of Guru Nanak Dev.
  • Gurudwara Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur, Pakistan): Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life.

Golden temple

  • Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating), situated in Amritsar (Punjab), is the most sacred temple for Sikhs. This temple propagates Sikhism’s message of tolerance and acceptance through its architecture that has incorporated symbols from other religions.
  • Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a Muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore in December 1588.
  • Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction based on caste, creed, sex and religion.
  • Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs in Amritsar, attracts approximately seven million tourists in a month.
  • It is gold-plated and almost 430 years old.
  • Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslim and the Hindu way of construction work and this is considered as one of the best architectural specimens of the world.
  • It is often quoted that this architecture has created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India.

Recently in news: Kartarpur Corridor

  • The Kartarpur Corridor is a visa-free border crossing and secure corridor, connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to the border with India.
  • The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the India–Pakistan border without a visa, creating a link which allows pilgrims holding Indian passports to easily visit both the Kartarpur shrine and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side of the border.
  • The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 and the corridor was built to commemorate 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism on 12th November 2019.

Sikhism

  • The founder of Sikhism is Guru Nanak Dev, whose birthplace is Sri Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
  • The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple’. Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus.
  • Sikhs believe in one God. They believe they should remember God in everything they do. This is called simran.
  • There are over 25 million Sikhs worldwide, the great majority of them living in the Indian state of Punjab.
  • The Sikhs call their faith Gurmat (Punjabi: “the Way of the Guru”). According to Sikh tradition, Sikhism was established by Guru Nanak (1469–1539) and subsequently led by a succession of nine other Gurus.
  • All 10 human Gurus, Sikhs believe, were inhabited by a single spirit. Upon the death of the 10th, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), the spirit of the eternal Guru transferred itself to the sacred scripture of Sikhism, Guru Granth Sahib (The Granth as the Guru), also known as the Adi Granth (First Volume), which thereafter was regarded as the sole Guru.
  • Sikhism was well established by the time of Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru. Guru Arjan completed the establishment of Amritsar as the capital of the Sikh world and compiled the first authorised book of Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth.

WORLD’S GAZE MAY SHIFT FROM CHINA TO MAKE IN INDIA

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, GS-II International Relations

How have businesses be impacted by COVID-19?

  • The pandemic has caused significant disruption to economic activity across the world as nations enforce lockdowns.
  • China has been the biggest exporter of steel, chemicals, toys, rare earths, mobiles, electronics, garments, bulk drugs and many other items.
  • Shutdown of manufacturing, transportation and shipping in various countries has disrupted supply chains of raw materials and end-use products.
  • Most companies have realized the risk of depending too much on one country for their sourcing needs.
  • Hence, there is scope for further diversification of supply chains, some of which could come to India.

Will supply disruption lead to a rise in prices?

While prices of primary commodities may have moderated, we should expect an increase in prices of manufactured goods such as mobiles, processed food, medicines and other pharmaceutical goods in the short run because of supply shortages.

Should India worry about a supply shortage of APIs?

India’s overdependence on China for sourcing requirements does result in a vulnerability, especially in the context of pharmaceutical manufacturing, where a bulk of our active pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs comes from China. Some shortages are possible and it will take a few years for India to become self-reliant in the production of APIs.

What is likely to be the impact in the long run?

  • The impact in the long run depends on factors such as domestic land and labour reforms.
  • Much will depend on the stability of India’s taxation policies and speed of approvals.
  • The US-China trade war followed by the covid-19 outbreak has possibly made the world aware of the risks associated with putting all the eggs in one basket.
  • This could benefit India as it pushes for a China+1 policy and aims to integrate itself with global value chains.
  • Thus, it may create productive non-farm employment in the manufacturing sector.

Does this mean more jobs and higher wages?

  • More job opportunities will shift a lot of India’s workforce from the agricultural sector to the non-farm sector.
  • Given the supply of unskilled labour, the immediate impact on wages may be small due to India’s surplus labour.
  • However, over time as productivity increases, wages may go up steadily.
  • The creation of high productive jobs will shift factors of production from the low-wage, low-productivity primary sector to the modern sector.

INDIA EYES RECORD FOOD PRODUCTION

Focus: GS-III Agriculture

Why in news?

  • On the back of a normal monsoon forecast, the Agriculture Ministry is targeting a record foodgrain production of 298.3 million tonnes for 2020-21, higher than the 291.95 million tonnes estimated for 2019-20.
  • Both rice and wheat production targets are minimally higher than the previous year.
  • However, the focus is on driving the growth in pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds.

Background Normal rainfall

On 15th April 2020, the India Meteorological Department issued its first forecast for the monsoon, predicting normal rainfall, with a chance of above normal rain in August and September.

Targets set by the Agriculture Ministry

  • The main kharif season crop is rice, and the Agriculture Ministry is targeting a harvest of 102.6 million tonnes, slightly higher than the last kharif season harvest.
  • However, it has lowered its rice production target for the next rabi season.
  • This means that the total rice production target for 2020-21 is 117.5 million tonnes, barely higher than the previous year’s target.
  • Wheat production is also expected to remain steady, with a 2020-21 target of 106.5 million tonnes, in comparison to the previous year’s estimate of 106.21 million tonnes.
  • The Agriculture Ministry hopes to ramp up production of coarse cereals and pulses this year.
  • Oilseeds are a major priority, especially due to the disruption in edible oil imports caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Ministry has also created an action plan for oil palm plantation, given the disruptions in imports.

What are Karif and Rabi Crops?

  • The agricultural crop year in India is from July to June.
  • The Indian cropping season is classified into two main seasons-(i) Kharif and (ii) Rabi based on the monsoon.
  • The kharif cropping season is from July –October during the south-west monsoon and the Rabi cropping season is from October-March (winter).
  • The crops grown between March and June are summer crops. Pakistan and Bangladesh are two other countries that are using the term ‘kharif’ and ‘rabi’ to describe about their cropping patterns.
  • The terms ‘kharif’ and ‘rabi’ originate from Arabic language where Kharif means autumn and Rabi means spring.
  • The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc.
  • The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.

CHINA MAY HAVE CONDUCTED N-TEST: U.S.

Focus: GS-II International Relations, GS-III Science and Technology, Prelims

Why in news?

China may have secretly set off low-level underground nuclear test explosions despite claiming to observe an international pact banning such blasts, the U.S. State Department said in a report on 15th April 2020 that could fuel U.S.-Chinese tensions.

U.S. concerns about Beijing’s possible breaches of a “zero yield” standard for test blasts have been prompted by activities at China’s Lop Nur nuclear test site throughout 2019.

Beijing’s lack of transparency included blocking data transmissions from sensors linked to a monitoring centre operated by the international agency that verifies compliance with Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) treaty banning nuclear test explosions.

Zero yield

Zero yield refers to a nuclear test in which there is no explosive chain reaction of the type ignited by the detonation of a nuclear warhead.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test–Ban Treaty (CTBT)

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test–Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.
  • It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but has not entered into force, as eight specific nations have not ratified the treaty.
  • The treaty was opened for signature in September 1996, and has been signed by 184 nations and ratified by 168.
  • The treaty cannot enter into force until it is ratified by 44 specific nations, eight of which have yet to do so: China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Egypt, and the United States. The U.S. Senate voted against CTBT ratification in 1999.
  • Hence, India is a non-signatory member to the treaty.
  • In order to verify compliance with its provisions, the treaty establishes a global network of monitoring facilities and allows for on-site inspections of suspicious events.

What is the difference between signature and ratification?

  • The signature to a treaty indicates that the country accepts the treaty.  It commits not to take any actions that would undermine the treaty’s purposes. A treaty is signed by a senior representative of a country such as the president or the foreign minister.
  • The ratification symbolizes the official sanction of a treaty to make it legally binding for the government of a country.  This process involves the treaty’s adoption by the legislature of a country such as the parliament.  It also includes the submission of the so-called instrument of ratification to the treaty’s depository, which for the CTBT is the UN Secretary-General.  Only then is the process of ratification officially concluded. The ratification of a treaty may require the adjustment of a country’s legislation, reflecting its commitments under the treaty.

MORE TIME TO RENEW POLICIES, INSURERS’ MAY BE ADVERSELY IMPACTED: IRDAI

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • Insurance regulator IRDAI has extended the time available to renew, without a break in their validity, motor third party and health insurance policies whose renewal date coincides with the lockdown period (March 25 to May 3). These policies can be renewed till May 15.
  • The extension is to ensure continuity of the statutory Motor TP cover from the date on which the policy falls due for renewal so that any valid claim triggered during the grace period can be paid.
  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) wants insurance companies to critically examine their capital availability and solvency margin for the current financial year (2020-21).
  • Advising their boards to undertake such an exercise, the regulator said the need for them was to devise strategies for ensuring that the insurers had adequate capital and resources available with them.
  • The IRDAI advisory, coming in the backdrop of COVID-19 outbreak, said that the spread of the virus and further extension of the lockdown were likely to have a significant impact across various sectors of the economy.

Adversely Affected Capital, liquidity position of insurers

  • Indian insurers need to prepare strategies and action plans for business continuity to ensure enhanced protection to the policyholders.
  • Due to the stress experienced by the economy, sufficiency of capital and liquidity position of the insurers may be adversely impacted and all the insurers need to guard against the same.
  • It is critical in these difficult times for all the Indian insurers to ensure that at all times they protect the interests of policyholders and provide necessary financial security to them.

IRDA or IRDAI

  • Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) or Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is a statutory body set up by the IRDA Act, 1999.
  • It is an autonomous and apex body which has the responsibility to regulate and control the Insurance sector in India.
  • Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) was established after the recommendations of Malhotra Committee report of 1994.
  • The committee had recommended for the establishment of an independent authority for the regulation of Insurance sector in India.
  • Thus, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Act, 1991 was enacted and the IRDA received the status of a statutory body in 2000 by the Indian Parliament.

Mission and vision of IRDA

  • The protection of the interests of policyholders and ensuring fair treatment of the investments of policyholders.
  • To speed up the orderly growth of Insurance sector to ensure the benefit of common man and for providing long term funds for increasing the growth rate of Indian economy.
  • To ensure the promotion, monitoring, and enforcement of high standards of integrity, competence, financial soundness and fair dealing of those which are regulated by the IRDA.
  • To ensure fair, transparent and ordinary conduct in the financial market which deals with insurance services and to build a reliable management information system for enforcing higher standards of financial soundness among the insurance market players.
  • To ensure that proper actions are taken in case such standards are inadequate or are enforced ineffectively.
  • To promote self-regulation in the day today working activities of the insurance industry which are consistent with the prudential regulatory requirements.
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