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Current Affairs- 23 August 2018

NATION

Accept ₹700 cr. UAE offer or compensate us, says Kerala
  • The Kerala government has asked the Centre to go by the 2016 National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) while taking a call on the UAE government’s offer of ₹700 crore in assistance or compensate the State for the loss of such a hefty sum.
  • The relevant section of the chapter on ‘International Cooperation’ of the NDMP reads:    “As a matter of policy, the Government of India does not issue any appeal for foreign assistance in the wake of a disaster. However, if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the Central Government may accept the offer. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, is required to coordinate with the Ministry of External Affairs, which is primarily responsible for reviewing foreign offers of assistance and channelising the same. In consultation with the State Government concerned, the MHA will assess the response requirements that the foreign teams can provide.”
India-Pakistan ties key to regional stability: China
  • China on Wednesday offered to play a “constructive role” to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.
  • “We welcome the positive remarks made by the Indian and Pakistani leaders on improving their bilateral relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.
  • Mr. Lu was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reported remarks seeking “meaningful and constructive engagement” with Pakistan, in a letter to Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan.
  • Mr. Khan, in turn, proposed that, “To move forward Pakistan and India must have a dialogue and resolve their conflicts, including Kashmir.” 
NGT asks for action plan on e-waste in three months
  • Stating that scientific disposal of e-waste is an important factor for protecting the environment, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to submit an action plan on e-waste management within three months.
  • A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel said: “Proper disposal of e-waste is an important issue. We direct the MoEF, the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board to prepare an action plan for enforcement of rules and taking action against violators.”
  • The direction came as the NGT was disposing of a plea against unauthorised “recycling, collection, dismantling, burning, selling” of e-waste and other solid waste on roadsides and riverbanks in violation of E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016, and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The plea had further stated that electronic waste accounted for 40% of lead and 70% of all heavy metal found in landfills.
‘Need to resolve intra-State inequalities’
  • The need to resolve intra-State inequalities, and an orderly fashion of urbanization were among the many issues touched upon during the 15th Finance Commission’s second consultation with leading economists and expert
  • The meet, at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), saw the participation of 16 eminent economists and domain experts including Dr. Vijay Kelkar, former chairman of 13th Finance Commission and architect of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • N.K. Singh, chairman, highlighted the changed economic scenario following the dissolution of the Planning Commission in August 2014, which altered the traditional system of resource allocation and blurred the distinction between plan and non-plan funds.
  • The wide-ranging discussions addressed prevalent intra-State inequalities, while underscoring the need to increase funds and resources to Urban Local Bodies (ULB) and strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • The meet stressed on the importance of encouraging urbanisation in an orderly manner to facilitate balanced socio-economic development.
  • It concurred that Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) needed a holistic view to ensure synergy in resource allocation.
  • The Commission’s first meeting with economists and experts was held in New Delhi in May to look at issues related to its Terms of Reference (ToR). A State visit is scheduled next month.
‘State can stop voluntary retirement of doctors’
  • The State can stop government doctors from taking voluntary retirement in public interest, the Supreme Court has ruled.
  • The fundamental right to retire is not above the right to save lives in a country where government hospitals cater to the poorest, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S. Abdul Nazeer said in its judgment.
  • “The concept of public interest can also be invoked by the government when voluntary retirement sought by an employee will be against public interest.”
  • Qualified doctors did not join the public service, and even if they did so, they chose voluntary retirement and went into lucrative private practice.
  • It said the poor could not be put in peril by a paucity of specialists in government hospitals. The State governments had an obligation “to make an endeavour under Article 47 to look after the provisions for health and nutrition.”
  • The doctors, as citizens, had certain fundamental duties under Article 51(A) towards their fellow citizens. The right to practise a profession under Article 19(1)(g) was subject to the interest of the general public, the court said.
  • The ruling is based on an appeal by the Uttar Pradesh government against the Allahabad High Court’s decision to allow Dr. Achal Singh, who was working as Joint Director, Medical, Health and Family Welfare, in Lucknow, to voluntarily retire with effect from March 31, 2017.
Senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat passes away
  • Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Gurudas Kamat died of a heart attack here early on Wednesday morning.
  • Mr. Kamat was removed as the Gujarat in-charge of the party in 2017 by Mr. Gandhi, who replaced him with former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. In response, he had quit from all organisational posts in the party.
Quad countries discuss ocean security
  • The Quad grouping is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. and should not be seen in an exclusive context, a senior Japanese diplomat said.
  • He was speaking at the launch of a report on the policy recommendations on Indian Ocean security by four think tanks from the Quad countries at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).
  • The other think tanks, which include Australia National University, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, USA, along with VIF formed the Quadripartite Commission on Indian Ocean Regional Security, which put out a series of 20 policy recommendations for stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • One of the recommendations is that the four countries should work to oppose “the establishment of permanent Chinese military bases” in the IOR and demonstrate to China that security needs can be met through cooperation with other nations.
Curbing open urination is next step
  • Under new norms, cities and towns wanting to be declared ODF+ (Open Defecation Free Plus) must also be free of public urination and not just open defecation. 
  • This is the first time that the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) is officially including the elimination of open urination in its agenda.
  • The Mission is focussed on infrastructure and regulatory changes, on the assumption that this will lead to behaviour change.
  • The ODF+ and ODF++ protocols, which were released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs last week, are the next step for the SBM-U and aim to ensure sustainability in sanitation outcomes.
  • The original ODF protocol, issued in March 2016, said, “A city/ward is notified as ODF city/ward if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open.” So far, 2,741 cities have been certified as ODF, based mostly on third-party verification of toilet construction.
  • The new ODF+ protocol, says that a city, ward or work circle could be declared ODF+ if, “at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained.”
  • The ODF++ protocol adds the condition that “faecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated faecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.”
ECONOMY

India seeks revision in price of gas via TAPI line
  • India has sought renegotiation of the natural gas price it is to source through a proposed $10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline due to slump in global energy markets, a top source said.
  • The four nations had in 2013 signed a gas sale purchase agreement (GSPA) that bench-marked the price of natural gas that Turkmenistan is to export at 55% of the prevailing crude oil price. 
  • This translates into a price of about $7.5 per million British thermal unit (mmBtu) at current oil prices at the Turkmen border.
Siemens Gamesa begins first hybrid power pilot
  • Renewable energy firm Siemens Gamesa announced the commissioning of its first hybrid project for thermal power giant NTPC. 
  • The firm commissioned 3.375 MW of wind-solar hybrid pilot project for NTPC in Bijapur district of Karnataka.
SPORTS

Ice-cool Sarnobat makes history

  • Rahi Sarnobat became the first Indian woman shooter to win a gold at the Asian Games, achieving the feat after a nerve-wracking 25m air pistol finals
  • The 27-year-old held her nerve to pip Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon after both were tied at 34 points following 10 series of five shots each, taking it to a shoot-off.
  • Sarnobat became the second Indian shooter to win a gold here after 16-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary’s effort on Tuesday. 
  • She is also the sixth Indian to shoot a gold in the Asiad, joining Chaudhary, Jaspal Rana, Randhir Singh, Jitu Rai and Ronjan Sodhi. Her 34 in the finals is also a joint Games Record.
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