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Current Affairs : 12 November 2018


Blasts rock Chhattisgarh red zone on poll eve
  • A day before the first phase of polling for 18 out of 90 constituencies in the partly Maoist-dominated areas of Chhattisgarh, insurgents triggered a series of improvised explosive devices (IED) in the Koylibeda block of Kanker district, killing one BSF Sub-Inspector and injuring another.
  • In a separate incident in Bedre in Bijapur district, a suspected Maoist was killed, the police said.
  • Special Director-General (Anti-Naxal Operations) D.M. Awasthi said around one lakh security personnel, including those of Central paramilitary forces, have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling. 
  • Drones are being used in sensitive areas to track the movement of Maoists as they might target polling personnel on way to the booths, he said.
  • Due to the Naxal threat, polling in 10 constituencies — Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta — will start at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. In Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot, the polling time will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Goa yet to pass rules of new disability Act
  • Agitated by the delay in framing the rules of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and the consequent delay in the implementation of the Act in the State, the Goa disability sector has warned the State government not to take them for granted.
  • In a letter addressed to the Secretary, Goa State Social Welfare Department (SWD), on Saturday, Raj Vaiday from the disability sector association of schools and Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) said, “All the delays that the government incurs is a delay in the denial of their rights.”
  • The State government has also not appointed a Disability Commissioner after the previous incumbent, Anuradha Joshi, quit over the government’s inability to provide her with infrastructure and human resource. 
  • The letter also points out that the promised Special Cell for Disabilities has not yet materialised, the website of the SWD is in bad shape.
  • Several special schools have recently petitioned the SWD fearing scuttling of their operations if the State government fails to release their grants, which are delayed beyond the sustainable limit.
  • Mr. Avelino de Sa, president of DRAG, the body spearheading the cause of persons with disability, said that as per the 2011 Census, Goa’s figure for persons with disability was 31,000. With the categories of disability going up from seven to 21 as per the new Act, the figure must have gone up. However, with the rules not framed and endorsed by the State Legislative Assembly and notified, the new Act was only on paper.
  • Many issues of accessibility of public places, including government buildings and beaches, implementation of reservations in jobs due to lack of roster maintenance, have been pending for a long time.
  • The letter said that the RPWD Act 2016 passed was gazetted by the Centre in December 2016, and the rules came into force in June 2017. Each State had to adopt and gazette the Act. Goa did it in November 2017. The mandate of the law is that the rules be framed and come into force within six months.
  • The letter further says that the drafting of the rules have been tossed between the State Law Department and the SWD in the name of vetting for too long. 
Cyclone clouds ISRO’s GSAT-29 launch plan
  • Much expectation is pinned on the November 14 space mission being taken out by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at Sriharikota, weather willing.
  • ISRO is readying itself to put communication satellite GSAT-29 on its heavy-lift vehicle, the GSLV-MkIII, in an evening launch on that day.
  • Weather watch is a routine pre-launch activity for space agencies and especially so for ISRO around this time of the year.
  • A senior official said mission managers were keeping an eye on the cyclonic buildup on the east coast in Andhra Pradesh, where the launch centre is located.
  • ISRO is also preparing for a PSLV mission on November 26 to launch HySIS, a new variant of Earth observation satellites, along with 20-30 small commercial satellites. 
  • One significance of the GSAT-29 mission is that an Indian spacecraft will be flown after about seven months: the last one was the IRNSS-1I launched on April 12.
  • For the other, it would be ISRO’s second communication satellite mission of 2018. It had launched another communication satellite, GSAT-6A, on March 29 but lost it in space a day later.
  • The subsequent post-mortems of the 6A mission and the recall of the 5,400-kg GSAT-11 satellite from Guiana before its launch have also pushed back ISRO’s ambitious plan to have a mission a month.
  • A third factor weighing on Wednesday's mission: this would be only the second trial or developmental flight, D2, of the GSLV-MkIII or MkIII.
  • On its success hinge many major future missions, including lunar lander-rover Chandrayaan-2 that is slated for January next year.
  • Although there was a PSLV mission on September 16, the two small satellites on it were commercial Earth observation spacecraft belonging to a U.K. agency.
  • The GSAT-29 satellite itself is one of the planned Indian HTS quartet. The HTSs or high throughput satellites are being sent out to provide a vastly improved and faster Internet connectivity. GSAT-19, the first of the series, was sent up in June 2017 from Sriharikota.
  • The third and ISRO’s heaviest to date, GSAT-11, awaits a scheduled launch on December 4 on a European space vehicle, Ariane-5, from French Guiana.
Burial urn of Megalithic era unearthed in Kerala
  • A huge burial urn dating back to the Megalithic era that was unearthed while clearing a private road to a house at Hydermettu, near Nedumkandam, recently is believed to be one of the major findings that would shed light on life in the pre-historic era on the western side of the Western Ghats.
  • The urn is said to be the largest one unearthed from the region so far. It is 3-ft wide at its mouth and its shape is a variant of other ones explorated in the district. 
  • Moreover, there are art works on it — a pointer to the cultural awareness of a society that belonged to the pre-historic period.
  • A large number of burial urns have been unearthed from Ramakkalmedu, Mundieruma and Puzhpakandam nearby in the recent past.
  • However, they were comparatively small in size and did not have notable decorative works, said V.M. Safeer, Head, Department of History, MES College, Nedumkandam. He said the burial urns belonged to 1,00 BCE and 500 BCE.
India, Singapore begin sea drills
  • The 25th edition of the India-Singapore bilateral naval exercise, SIMBEX, has begun at the tri-services command in Port Blair.
  • The exercise, which kicked off on Saturday off the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, will conclude on November 21.
  • “Started as basic Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises in 1994, today these exercises have graduated to complex maritime combat drills, including missile and torpedo firings, and shore-based intensive professional exchanges,” the Navy said in a statement.
  • Seven ships from the Indian Navy and five ships from the Singapore Navy along with an Archer class submarine and a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle will take part in the exercise.
  • Maritime patrol aircraft of both countries, P8I of Indian Navy and Fokker F50 from Singapore, will also take part.
  • The number of missiles and torpedo firings being undertaken are in fact unprecedented and perhaps the largest the Indian Navy has undertaken with any foreign Navy till date, the Navy added.
  • The two countries have vastly expanded their military cooperation in recent years under India’s Act East policy. Late last year, the two countries signed a naval agreement which has a provision for mutual logistical support and gives India access to the Changi naval base.
  • India and Singapore are working on a trilateral exercise with an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) country, likely Thailand, and eventually plan to scale it up to a multilateral format.
IAF alive to threats: Dhanoa
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) is “very much alive” to the emerging threats that could arise in the Indo-Pacific region, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said, saying the force was prepared to deal with any challenge to protect India’s national interests.
  • He said there was cause for concern over the rate of modernisation and induction of new equipment in India’s neighbourhood, even as the nation faced challenges emanating from “unresolved territorial disputes” and “sponsored” non-state and transnational actors. But the IAF was capable of, and was moving ahead, for countering them effectively, he told.
  • Asked if the IAF could play a role in smashing terrorist training camps across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, he did not rule out such a possibility.
  • Referring to India’s immediate security challenges, without naming China and Pakistan, he said, “The current challenges emanate from unresolved territorial issues, sponsored non-state actors and transnational actors who act against national interests through the global commons.”
  • “The IAF is prepared 24x7 for any threat and is ready for a befitting response to any contingency with all our available assets,” he said. Mr. Dhanoa made an indirect reference to China’s rapid modernisation of its Air Force, and about the infrastructure development Beijing had carried out in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) bordering India.
  • Asked if the IAF was capable of playing a role to expand India’s geopolitical influence in the Indo-Pacific region, he said: “We have the second largest fleet of C-17s in the world. Therefore, India will pull its heft in helping out friendly nations in times of human distress and humanitarian relief.”
  • At present, the IAF has a fleet of 10 C-17 Globemasters, used for strategic airlift missions, transporting troops, and cargo for long-range missions.
  • The U.S. has been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific, which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China’s growing clout in the region.

Rajapaksa joins SLPP, weakens Sirisena-led SLFP
  • Bidding farewell to his political party of 50 years, controversially installed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa joined the recently formed Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP).
  • His official membership in the SLPP made clear that he would contest the snap election, announced for January 5, from the new party, and not from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), where he built his political career.
  • With this move, Mr. Rajapaksa also drew several other members of the SLFP to the new party, leading to the disintegration of the already-fractured SLFP, led by President Maithripala Sirisena.
  • Just as Opposition parties geared up for a high-stakes legal battle challenging the President’s actions, Mr. Rajapaksa’s move signalled a shift in the political terrain.
  • The SLFP is one of the two main parties that has shaped Sri Lanka’s national politics for half-a-century. Led by members of the iconic S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike family for the most part, the party is now on the verge of collapse.
Largest brain-mimicking supercomputer switched on
  • The world’s largest supercomputer designed to work in the same way as the human brain has been switched on for the first time.
  • The Spiking Neural Network Architecture machine is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.
  • SpiNNaker, built at the University of Manchester in U.K., can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine on the planet. Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in the nervous system that communicate by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy.
  • It is unique as it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.

      Free trade advocate T.N. Srinivasan passes away at 85
      • India lost one of its notable economists with the passing of T.N. Srinivasan. Indian economists around the world joined the chorus of tributes and praise for the academi.
      • Thirukodikaval Nilakanta Srinivasan was most recently the Emeritus Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics at Yale University. Prior to that he had been advisor to and professor at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, including the World Bank, MIT, Stanford University, and the Indian Statistical Institute. In 2007, he was conferred the Padma Bhushan for his contributions to literature and education.
      • Dr. Srinivasan’s teachings and beliefs regarding international trade would and should have an impact in all discourse on the subject, especially today when a number of large economies are increasingly looking inward and adopting protectionist policies. He believed that international trade should be free and without barriers.
      • Recently, Dr. Srinivasan spoke about how U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran would be detrimental to the global economy, as well as to India in particular.
      • He also gave advice and commented on contemporary issues regarding the Indian economy, including demonetisation (“the government’s implementation showed extreme unpreparedness and lack of thought”), inflation targeting (“I have serious reservations about its relevance and applicability in the domestic context”), and fiscal deficit.
      • Another crucial contribution he made to economic discourse and policymaking in India was along with Jagdish Bhagwati, where he spoke about how the government should move away from allocating resources and that administrative control had many more systemic problems than leaving such decisions to the market did.
      • Dr. Srinivasan was well known (and somewhat feared) for being unforgiving of errors in method, sharply criticising such lapses. His critique of an IMF working paper by Dani Rodrik and former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian on India’s transition from ‘Hindu Growth’ to productivity is a case in point. “This is a disappointing paper,” Dr. Srinivasan’s first line reads. “It sees a mystery and fails to convince through analysis why it does. Had the authors been familiar with Indian economic literature, they might not have written it!”
      • Another example of his self-deprecatory wit can be seen in his comments on the report by the committee headed by a former student of his, current RBI Governor Urjit Patel: “I have to share the blame for any fault in his committee’s report, for not having trained him appropriately!”
      • In a tweet, the 15th Finance Commission described Dr. Srinivasan as: “a towering figure whose iconic works in macroeconomics has left an indelible footprint for academic India.”
                    Saudi in talks to cut crude output
                    • Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal that could see OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers cut output by up to 1 million barrels per day (bpd), two sources told , as the world’s top oil exporter grapples with a drop in crude prices.
                    • The sources said any such deal would depend on factors, including the level of Iranian exports after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Tehran but granted Iran’s top oil buyers waivers to continue buying oil. Riyadh was surprised by the waivers granted to customers such as China and India, a move which hit oil prices, at least three industry and OPEC sources told Reuters.
                    • Now, Saudi Arabia wants to act to prevent a further slide in prices and is leading discussions on cutting oil output next year, the sources said. 
                    • Under a deal set to expire at the end of the year, OPEC and non-OPEC producers had agreed to curb output by around 1.8 million bpd. OPEC and its allies will meet in Vienna on December 6-7 to decide on output policy for 2019.

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