21st January Current Affairs

1.Guru Gobind Singh

News: The Prime Minister, bowed to Guru Gobind Singh ji on his Prakash Purab. He greeted the nation on this auspicious occasion.

Guru Gobind Singh

  • Born Gobind Rai, Guru Gobind Singh was installed as the Sikh Guru aged nine when his father and the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to embrace Islam.
  • His notable contribution to Sikhism is the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699. The only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna in December 1666. He was educated in reading, writing, and also martial arts, archery and horse riding. Not only was he a brave warrior, but he was also a great poet and philosopher. His literary contributions include the Jaap Sahib, Benti Chaupai, Amrit Savaiye, etc.
  • He took part in many battles, particularly against the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. In the Battle of Anandpur (1704), the Guru lost his mother and two minor sons who were executed. His eldest sons also died in battle.
  • The Khalsa: Guru Gobind Singh’s most significant contribution was the institutionalising of the Khalsa, which was a warrior community. An initiation ceremony called Amrit Pehul was created and rules were formulated for the Khalsa. A male Khalsa was given the title ‘Singh’ and a female was given the title ‘Kaur’. This code solidified the martial spirit of the Sikh community.
  • Guru Gobind Singh started the tradition of the Five K’s for the Khalsa. The Five K’s are kesh (uncut hair), kanga (wooden comb), kara (iron or steel bracelet), kirpan (dagger) and kacchera (short breeches). These were the five articles of faith that a Khalsa must always adorn. The tradition is still followed.
  • The Guru also laid down many other rules for the Khalsa warriors to follow like abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, halal meat, etc. The Khalsa warrior was also duty-bound to protect innocent people from persecution. Everyone was treated equally and caste was abolished.
  • The Khalsa tradition was responsible for converting the Sikhs into a strong and disciplined fighting group. This also paved the way for the establishment of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799.
  • Another significant contribution of Guru Gobind Singh was the enshrining the Sikh scripture Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of Sikhism. Thus, after his death, there were no more Gurus in human form.
  • Guru Gobind Singh also wrote the Zafarnama which was a letter to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb is believed to have agreed to a meeting with the Guru but died before that.
  • The Guru along with his troops was stationed in the Deccan when two Afghan assassins commissioned by Wazir Khan gained access to the camp. One of the assassins stabbed the Guru at Nanded. The assassin was killed by the Guru while his accomplice was killed by Sikh guards. Guru Gobind Singh died of wounds a few days later on 7 October 1708 aged 42.
  • After the Guru’s death, there ensued a long and bitter war between the Sikhs and the Mughals.

2.Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin

News: The Prime Minister, released financial assistance to over 6 lakh beneficiaries in UP under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin through video conference. He interacted with the beneficiaries.

About Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin

Objective: To provide pucca house to all who are houseless and living in dilapidated houses in rural areas by 2022.

Funding Pattern

  • Under PMAY, the cost of unit assistance is to be shared between Central and State Governments in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and hilly states.
  • The unit assistance given to beneficiaries under the programme is Rs 1,20,000 in plain areas and to Rs 1,30,000 in hilly states/difficult areas /Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for Selected Tribal and Backward Districts. Presently the NE States, States of HP, J&K and Uttarakhand and all 82 LWE districts are identified as difficult and hilly areas. The unit size is 25 sq.m including a dedicated area for hygienic cooking.
  • The beneficiary is entitled to 90 days of unskilled labour from MGNREGA.
  • The beneficiary would be facilitated to avail loan of up to Rs.70,000/- for construction of the house which is optional. Funds will be transferred electronically directly to the account of the beneficiary.

Target Group

  • Identification of beneficiaries eligible for assistance and their prioritisation to be done using information from Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) ensuring total transparency and objectivity.
  • The list will be presented to Gram Sabha to identify beneficiaries who have been assisted before or who have become ineligible due to other reasons.
  • The finalised list will be published. Annual list of beneficiaries will be identified from the total list through participatory process by the Gram Sabha.
  • Gram Sabha will need to justify in writing with reasons for any alteration of priority in the original list.

 3.Ratle Hydro Project

News: Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has given its approval for the investment in 850 MW Ratle Hydro Project. It is located on tiver Chenab, in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Details:

  • It will be done by a new Joint Venture Company (JVC) to be incorporated between National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Ltd (JKSPDC) with equity contribution of 51% and 49% respectively.
  • Government of India is also supporting the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir by providing grant of Rs. 776.44 crore for Equity contribution of JKSPDC in the JVC to be set up for construction of Ratle HE Project (850 MW).
  • NHPC shall invest its equity Rs.808.14 crore from its internal resources. The Ratle Hydro Electric Project shall be commissioned within a span of 60 months. The Power generated from the Project will help in providing balancing of Grid and will improve the power supply position.
  • Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to make the Project viable, will extend exemption from levy of Water Usage Charges for 10 years after commissioning of the project, reimbursement of State’s share of GST (i.e. SGST) and waiver of free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in a decremental manner, i.e., the free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be 1% in the 1st year after commissioning of the Project and rising @1% per year to 12% in the 12th year.

Significance:

  • The construction activities of the Project will result in direct and indirect employment to around 4000 persons and will contribute in overall socio-economic development of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Further, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be benefitted by getting free power worth Rs. 5289 crore and through levy of Water Usage Charges worth Rs.9581 crore from Ratle Hydro Electric Project, during project life cycle of 40 years.

4.Geohazard Management

News: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has entered into a framework memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) to strengthen collaboration in the field of technical exchange and co-operation on sustainable geohazard management.

Details:

  • As per the agreement, DRDO and MoRTH will co-operate in various mutually beneficial areas related to geohazard management.
  • The initiative will ensure safety against the adverse effects of landslides and other natural calamities on national highways in the country.
  • DRDO’s Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is working for the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness in various kinds of terrains and avalanches.
  • The expertise of DGRE in mapping, forecasting, control and mitigation of landslides and avalanches in Himalayan terrain will be utilized for designing national highways including tunnels.
  • Terrain and modelling simulation is an important asset with DGRE, which will play an important role in planning and building robust road infrastructure in difficult terrains.
  • It has been agreed that the expertise of DRDO will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.
  • Some of the areas identified for collaboration include detailed investigation of the critical avalanches/geo hazards, planning, designing and formulation of sustainable mitigation measures for geo-hazards on national highways including tunnels, monitoring and supervision of mitigation measures etc.

 5.India Innovation Index

 News: NITI Aayog, along with the Institute for Competitiveness, today released thesecond edition of the India Innovation Index in a virtual event. The report examines the innovation capabilities and performance of the states and union territories. The first edition of the index was launched in October 2019.

About the index:

  • The index attempts to create an extensive framework for the continual evaluation of the innovation environment of 29 states and seven union territories in India and intends to perform the following three functions:
  1. Ranking of states and UTs based on their index scores.
  2. Recognizing opportunities and challenges.
  3. Assisting in tailoring governmental policies to foster innovation.
  • The Index is calculated as the average of the scores of its two dimensions – Enablers and Performance.
  • The Enablers are the factors that underpin innovative capacities, grouped in five pillars:

(1) Human Capital,

(2) Investment,

(3) Knowledge Workers,

(4) Business Environment, and

(5) Safety and Legal Environment.

  • The Performance dimension captures benefits that a nation derives from the inputs, divided in two pillars:

(6) Knowledge Output and

(7) Knowledge Diffusion.

Highlights of the Index

  • In the second edition too, the index found that the level of competitiveness among the states and union territories was high, which is essential for them to continually improve on their enabling factors as well as innovation performance, year by year.
  • In the ‘Major States’ category, Karnataka continued to occupy the top position, while Maharashtra moved past Tamil Nadu to reach the second place. Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab completed the top ten in that order.
  • Karnataka’s rank is attributable to its substantive number of venture capital deals, registered geographical indicators and information and communications technology exports. Karnataka’s high Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow has also enhanced the innovation capabilities of the state. Four southern states—Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala—occupied the top five spots under the ‘Major States’ category this year.
  • Overall, Delhi retained its first rank, while Chandigarh made a big leap since 2019 and landed in the second place this year. Under the ‘North-Eastern/Hill States’ category, Himachal Pradesh moved up from the second position to emerge as the top ranker this year, while 2019’s top performer (in this category), Sikkim, slipped down to the fourth position.

 

6.Question hour

 News: Question Hour, which had been suspended by the government during the monsoon session, will resume when Parliament meets for the budget session.

Background:

  • The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, showed some degree of independence by giving members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • Later, the Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions. The next stage of the development of procedures related to questions came up with the framing of rules under the Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions. Parliament has continued this tradition.
  • In 1921, there was another change. The question, on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star. This marked the beginning of starred questions.

What is Question Hour?

  • The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is termed as Question hour. It is mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of the House. During this time, the members ask questions and the ministers usually give answers. The questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
  • Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made:
  1. There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
  2. Question Hour is not scheduled on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.
  • The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.

 7.Pre RERA and Post RERA

 News: Shri Hardeep S Puri, MoS, I/C, Housing and Urban Affairs has stated that the history of urban India and the real estate sector will always be remembered in two phases – ‘Pre RERA’ and ‘Post RERA’.

Background:

  • Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA) was enacted in 2016 and it had been in the works for more than a decade. RERA has infused governance in a hitherto unregulated sector.
  • Along with demonetisation and GST, it has, to a large extent, cleansed the real estate sector of black money.
  • It has transformational provisions, conscientiously addressing issues which have been a constant bane for the sector.

About RERA:

  • The Act stipulates that no project can be sold without project plans being approved by the competent authority and the project being registered with the regulatory authority.
  • This provision ended the practice of selling on the basis of deceitful advertisements.
  • Promoters are required to maintain“project based separate bank accounts” to prevent fund diversion.
  • The mandatory disclosure ofunit sizes based on “carpet area” strikes at the root of unfair trade practices.
  • The provision for payment of“equal rate of interest” by the promoter or the buyer in case of default reinforces equity. These and many other provisions have empowered consumers, rectifying the power asymmetry prevalent in the sector.

RERA and Cooperative Federalism:

  • Though the Act has been piloted by the Central government, the rules are to be notified by state governments. The regulatory authorities and the appellate tribunals are also to be appointed by them.
  • The regulatory authorities are required to manage the day-to-day operations, resolve disputes, and run an active and informative website for project information.
  • Since RERA came into full force, 34 states and Union territories have notified the rules, 30 states and Union territories have set up real estate regulatory authorities and 26 have set up appellate tribunals.
  • The operationalisation of aweb-portal for project information, which is at the heart of ensuring full project transparency, has been operationalised by 26 regulatory authorities.
  • Around 60,000 projects and 45,723 real estate agents have been registered with regulatory authorities.
  • Twenty-two independent judicial officers have been appointed to redress consumer disputes, and 59,649 complaints have been disposed-off.

Conclusion

  • RERA is to the real estate sector what SEBI is to the securities market. It helped consumers from the various malpractices in the real estate sector.