Current Affairs

19 July, 2021

International

US, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan to form Quad group for Afghan Peace Process

In accordance with the United States (US) State Department notification, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan are all set to create a new quadrilateral diplomatic group to promote the Afghan peace process, stability and trade in the region. This formation of this quad group is on the lines of deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan as Taliban claimed control of 85% of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US military forces from the country.

Africa – 1st Continent to complete collection of Digital Land Use Data

Under the Africa Open DEAL initiative, a complete collection of accurate, comprehensive digital land use data was collected across the African Continent, making Africa the 1st Continent in the World to have complete digital land use data.
i.This survey is an initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Union Commission (AUC), and conducted by 2018 to 2020.
ii.The data also revealed that Africa has over 7 billion trees outside forest area, indicating the continent has increased crop land by over 25% compared to 2018.
iii.Land use data can be used to study the potential of various countries in Africa and can be used in the fight against hunger.
About Africa Open DEAL:
i.Africa Open DEAL (Data for the Environment, Agriculture and Land Initiative) is an initiative to conduct land data on Africa using “Collect Earth” – an Open Source Software by FAO.
ii.Collect Earth, worked in synchrony with Google Earth, Bing Maps and Google Earth Engine to collect digital land data.
iii.The survey included 100 parameters – covering tree counts, farmlands, wildfires and existing infrastructure among others.
About Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO):
Director General – Qu Dongyu
Headquarters – Rome, Italy
Motto – “Fiat panis” (Let there be bread)

EU Proposes World’s 1st Carbon Border Tax

European Commission (EC), the executive branch of European Union (EU) proposed plans to impose World’s 1st ‘Carbon Border Tax’ from 2026 on imports of carbon-intensive goods, including steel, cement, fertilisers and aluminium as part of a programme to meet its new climate target (Reducing emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030). It aims to protect European industries from competitors abroad not subject to the same carbon levies. During the transitional phase from 2023-25, Importers will monitor and report their emissions.
About European Commission (EU)
It is the Executive branch of European Union (EU)
President – Ursula von der Leyen
Headquarters – Brussels, Belgium

23Mn children Missed Routine Vaccinations in 2020; India showed max increase in children missing DTP-1: WHO/UNICEF Study

In accordance with the official data published by WHO (World Health Organization) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) namely ‘WHO/UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC)’ on comprehensive worldwide childhood immunization figures’ 23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020. This figure is 3.7 million more than in 2019. These were the first official figures to reflect global service disruptions due to COVID-19.

India showed Greatest Increase in Children Missing DTP-1
Notably, India topped the countries with the greatest increase, missing diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis combined vaccine (DTP-1) i.e. first dose with 1’403’000 vaccinations in 2019 and 3’038’000 in 2020. India’s DPT-3 (3rd dose) coverage also fell from 91% to 85%. On global front the, DTP-3 fell from 86% in 2019 to 83% in 2020 while 3.5 million more children missed DTP-1 in 2020 as compared to 2019 This is the highest drop in DTP3 vaccine coverage since 2008.

Table showing Top-5 Countries with the greatest increase in children not receiving a first dose of DTP-1

Country 2019 2020
India 1’403’000 3’038’000
Pakistan 567’000 968’000
Indonesia 472’000 797’000
Philippines 450’000 557’000
Mexico 348’000 454’000

National

CESL Partnered with WRI India to Build Strategy for Renewable Energy Sector

In July 2021, Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) India entered into a partnership to devise strategies for India’s transition path towards a net-zero emission. Under the partnership, WRI India will support CESL to build adaptive business models to support state governments to decentralise renewable energy, realise their targets, and improve battery storage capacities. The partnership would also support CESL to streamline India’s efforts under transition to electric vehicles (EV).

About Net-zero emission:
i.Net-zero emission refers to the Carbon neutrality i.e achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.
ii.A country will reach net zero when the amount of carbon dioxide they add is not more than the amount taken away.
About Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL):
CESL is a subsidiary of the state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), a joint venture of public sector companies under the Ministry of Power
Headquarters – New Delhi
MD & CEO – Mahua Acharya
About World Resources Institute (WRI) India:
Establishment – 2011
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
CEO – O P Agarwal

R K Singh Inaugurates New Initiatives for Energy Efficiency in Building Sector

Union Minister for Power, R K Singh inaugurated ‘Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021’, which is a set of 6 new initiatives aimed at improving energy efficiency in the building sector. The new initiatives were launched virtually by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). It was inaugurated by R K Singh as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’ (Celebration of 75 years of India’s Independence). The new initiatives will help in enhancing energy-efficiency levels in residential buildings across India, which will lead to sustainable habitation.

9th Integrated Ratings for State Power Distribution Utilities
R K Singh released the 9th Integrated Ratings for State Power Distribution Utilities. It covers 41 State Power Distribution Utilities (spread across 22 states) for the rating period FY 2019-20.
About Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)
Director General – Abhay Bakre
Headquarters – New Delhi

MeitY inked MoU with MapmyIndia for Map Services in ‘UMANG App’

i.The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MapmyIndia, thereby enabling map services in ‘UMANG App’.
ii.UMANG stands for Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance.
iii.This collaboration is on the lines to enhance the initiatives of Digital India Programme under the theme of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
About mapMyIndia:
It was the first company to build India’s digital maps, India’s internet mapping portal & technologies, India’s GPS Navigation Auto-tech System along with nationwide Digital Address.
Establishment– 1995
Headquarters– New Delhi
Chairman & Managing Director (MD)– Rakesh Verma
About Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY):
Union Minister– Ashwini Vaishnaw (Constituency- Odisha)
Minister of State (MoS)– Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Constituency- Karnataka)

Economy

Two Indian Organisations Won UNDP Equator Prize 2021

Two communities from India viz, Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited and Snehakunja Trust won the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Prize 2021– for their exceptional achievement in showcasing local, innovative, nature-based solutions for tackling biodiversity loss and climate change and achieving their local development goals. Equator Prize 2021 was awarded to 10 trailblazing Indigenous and local solutions. The winners were selected from 126 nations. Each received a prize of US$10,000 and the opportunity to join a series of special virtual events associated with the UN General Assembly, the Nature for Life Hub and the UN Food Systems Summit later in 2021. Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited is a 1,700-member cooperative, which is managed and run entirely by Indigenous people from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Southern India. Snehakunja Trust is currently piloting the 1st blue carbon project in India.

About United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) in India:
Establishment – UNDP has worked in India since 1951
Headquarters (India) – New Delhi
UNDP Resident Representative in India – Shoko Noda

BoM Signed MoU with NABARD to Improve PSL in Maharashtra

In July 2021, the Bank of Maharashtra (BoM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ‘National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development’ (NABARD) to foster the existing developmental initiatives that are linked to Priority Sector Lending (PSL) in Maharashtra. The MoU is intended to benefit farmers, farmer producer organisations, joint liability groups, self-help groups, rural artisans, weavers, agri-preneurs, agri start-ups, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the State. Under the MoU, the BoM will work with NABARD to develop the rural areas in Maharashtra. BoM is the convenor bank of the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) of Maharashtra.

About Bank of Maharashtra (BoM):
Establishment – Incorporated in 1935, Commenced Operations in 1936
Headquarters – Pune, Maharashtra
MD & CEO – A.S Rajeev
Tagline – One Family One Bank

PFRDA Increased the FDI Limit of NPS fund managers to 74% from 49%

In July 2021, the ‘Pension Funds Regulatory and Development Authority’ (PFRDA) has made amendments over the PFRDA (Pension Fund) Regulations, 2015 and modified the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit in the pension fund management under the National Pension System (NPS) to 74 percent from 49 percent.

PFMs under NPS:
i.The NPS has 7 Pension Fund Managers (PFMs) to manage the funds of individuals as per their choice.
ii.Out of 7 PFMs, HDFC Pension Management, ICICI Prudential Pension Funds, Kotak Mahindra Pension Fund and Aditya Birla Sun Life Pension Management have foreign investments, hence the current increased percent of FDI will benefit them. The other PFMs are LIC Pension Fund, SBI Pension Funds, UTI Retirement Solutions.

Note – SBI Pension Funds Private Limited is the default PFM under NPS i.e. if a user doesn’t choose among the 7 available PFMs, SBI Pension Funds would manage their funds.
About National Pension System (NPS):
i.It is a voluntary defined contribution pension system in India, it was implemented in 2004 for public sectors and later expanded for private sectors in 2009. It was administered and regulated by PFRDA.
ii.It is portable across jobs and locations i.e it would allow a shift from one job/location to another.
iii.Pension plans or retirement plans that are offered by Mutual funds and Insurance companies are not under the jurisdiction of PFRDA.

PM Modi Inaugurates Railway Projects worth INR 1,110 Crore in Gujarat

Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated & dedicated several Railway Projects worth INR 1,100 crore in Gujarat. Inauguration of India’s 1st Re-developed railway station – Gandhinagar Capital Railway Station. Gauge converted cum electrified Mahesana – Varetha line & the newly electrified 266 Km Surendranagar – Pipavav section (~ INR 289 crores). Inauguration of 3-new attractions at Gujarat Science City, Ahmedabad. PM Flagged off 2 new trains i.e Gandhinagar Capital – Varanasi Superfast Express and MEMU (Mainline Electric Multiple Unit) service trains between Gandhinagar Capital and Varetha.

About Gujarat
Chief Minister – Vijay Rupani
Capital – Gandhinagar
Governor – Acharya Devvrat
About Ministry of Railways
Union Minister – Ashwini Vaishnaw (Rajya Sabha – Odisha)
MoS – Danve Raosaheb Dadarao (Jalna, Maharashtra), Darshana Vikram Jardosh (Surat, Gujarat)

Sports

Tokyo 2020: What is Olympic Truce? Know History, Significance and other details

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on July 16, 2021, called on all parties to conflict to observe the Olympic Truce while the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are held in Tokyo, Japan.

After overcoming enormous obstacles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “Athletes from around the world will come together in Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Guterres through a video message. “People and nations can build on this respite to establish lasting ceasefires and find paths towards sustainable peace,” he added. Earlier on July 7, 2021, following the resolution adopted in December 2019, Volkan Bozkir, President of the UN General Assembly made a Solemn Appeal to the Member States to observe the Olympic Truce while the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games proceed.

Tokyo Olympics 2020: First batch of athletes from India’s contingent checks in at Game Village

Tokyo Olympics: The first batch of the athletes from India’s Olympics contingent arrived in Tokyo on July 18, 2021. Excited and cautious in equal measure, the athletes cleared the exhaustive COVID-19 related protocols at the airport. They entered the Games village on the same day when two sportspersons staying there had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Sports Authority of India in a press release stated that the first batch consisting of 88 athletes underwent the COVID-19 testing at the airport and were found to be negative. It further added that the infection control protocol has been briefed to all the contingent members and COVID-19 testing kits have also been distributed to the respective coaches. The delegation in Tokyo was received by India’s deputy Chef-de-mission and COVID Liaison Officer, Dr. Prem Verma at the games.

Miscellaneous

Indian Navy receives 1st Batch of MH-60R helicopters from US Navy

In July 2021, Indian Navy received the 1st batch of 2 MH-60R Multi Role Helicopters (MRH) from the United States (US) Navy. The helicopters were formally transferred during an event, which was attended by Taranjit Singh Sandhu – Indian Ambassador to US.
i.India has ordered a total of 24 MH-60R Helicopters to the US government at an estimated cost of USD 2.4 billion. The Helicopters will be manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
About MH-60R Multi Role Helicopters:
i.MH-60R helicopter is an all-weather helicopter designed to support multiple missions with enhanced performance like vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications.
ii.Induction of the all-weather multi-role helicopters comes with anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare in India-US bilateral defence ties.
iii.Indian cabinet had approved the purchase of helicopters in February 2020
About United States of America (USA):
Joe Biden is the 46th President of USA
US Secretary of State – Antony Blinken
No of States in USA – 50

BrahMos Extended Range Version fails during Test-firing off the coast of Odisha

The extended range version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile failed during a test firing being carried out off the coast of Odisha and fell shortly after takeoff. BrahMos supersonic cruise missile earlier was used for range upto 290-Km but this version is capable of hitting targets up to 450 kilometres. It is expected that the missile failed due to issues with the propulsion system but the exact cause will be assessed by the joint team of scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and BrahMos Aerospace Corporation.

About BrahMos supersonic cruise missile:
i.It is developed by BrahMos Aerospace which is a joint venture (JV) between DRDO and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia.
ii.It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.
iii.Its name comes from two rivers, the Brahmaputra in India and the Moskva in Russia.
iv.It can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land.

Reliance Retail Acquired 40.95% Stake in Just Dial for Rs 3,947 Crore

Reliance Retail Ltd, the largest retail player of India and the subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has made an agreement with Just Dial Ltd and its founder & managing director VSS Mani to acquire an aggregate of 40.95 percent share of controlling stake in Just Dial for a total of Rs 3,497 crore. Initially Reliance Retail will acquire a 25.33 percent stake through preferential shares (at a price of Rs 1,022.25 per share) and later it will buy another 15.62 percent from Just Dial founder VSS Mani (at a price per share of Rs 1,020). After the acquisition, Reliance Retail plans to make an open offer to Just Dial’s public shareholders to acquire up to 2.17 crore equity shares representing 26 percent. The current acquisition by Reliance Retail is intended to strengthen its online presence, with the same motive, it has recently acquired online pharmacy Netmeds and furniture retailer Urban Ladder. VSS Mani will again continue as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Just Dial after acquisition.

About Just Dial Ltd:
Establishment – 1996, 2007 (www.justdial.com launched)
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
CEO – VSS Mani
About Reliance Group:
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
Group Chairman & CEO – Anil Dhirubhai Ambani

IAMAI Appointed Google India MD Sanjay Gupta as its Chairman

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has appointed Google India Vice President and Managing Director Sanjay Gupta as its Chairman for 2021-23 by succeeding Amit Agarwal, Amazon Senior Vice President and India Country Manager. IAMAI has also named Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan as Vice Chairman of its association by succeeding Dhruv Shringi, Yatra.com co-founder and CEO. Harshil Mathur, CEO and Co-founder of Razorpay was elected as the Treasurer of IAMAI succeeding Satyan Gajwani, Vice Chairman of Times Internet Ltd.

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