Daily Current Affairs for 15th October 2020

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Ban on diesel generators in NCR from today


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

Air quality of Delhi and Gurugram improves slightly but continues to remain in ‘poor’ category, according to CPCB data.

Key details:

  • A ban on diesel generators, except for emergency purposes, will come into force in Delhi and neighbouring cities as part of the Graded Response Action Plan to control air pollution, as announced by the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority.
  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi is likely to stay at the higher end of ‘poor’ or lower end of ‘very poor’ category.
  • SAFAR has stated that stubble burning in neighbouring States is expected to contribute “minimally” to Delhi’s pollution due to wind direction for now.
  • Recently the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA had directed Delhi and neighbouring States to implement air pollution control measures under “very poor” and “severe” category of the GRAP from October 15, including a ban on use of diesel generators.


  • Over 15,000 residents in the Millennium City could be impacted by the ban on generator sets.
  • Most of the housing societies don’t have regular power connection and are entirely dependent on diesel generators.
  • Many residences in housing societies do not have power grid connection or have partial load from the grid and were dependent on the generator sets to meet their power needs.

What is GRAP?

  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government representatives and experts.
  • The result was a plan that institutionalised measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
  • As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • The plan is incremental in nature — therefore, when the air quality moves from ‘Poor’ to ‘Very Poor’, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed.

System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research:

  • Under the plan scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India, has introduced a major national initiative, “System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research” known as “SAFAR” for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
  • It has been combined with the early warning system on weather parameters.
  • The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.

Cabinet approves school education reform project


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

The Union Cabinet has approved a project partially funded by the World Bank.

Key details

  • The project aims to carry out a reform agenda in the governance of school education, and improve data and assessment systems at the national level, as well as teaching and learning outcomes in six States, especially for early childhood and vocational education.
  • The project includes an emergency response component to help the government respond to disaster situations which lead to school closures and loss of learning, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project

  • In June this year, the World Bank approved $500 million STARS program which will improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states through Samagra Shiksha.
  • A major component of the project is the establishment of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a National Assessment Centre.
  • Included in the National Education Policy 2020, this autonomous institution under the Union Education Ministry will set norms for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country, most of which currently follow norms set by State governments.
  • It will also guide standardised testing to monitor learning outcomes at the State and national levels, according to the NEP.

Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC).

  • The STARS project also includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC).
  • It will help the government respond to situations leading to loss of learning such as school closures/infrastructure damage, inadequate facilities and use technology for facilitating remote learning etc.
  • The CERC component would facilitate the rapid re-categorization of financing and the utilization of streamlined financing request procedures.


  • The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha.
  • The identified states will be supported for various interventions for improving the quality of education.


  • The other major initiative at the national level is to strengthen the Education Ministry’s data systems to capture information on the retention, transition and completion rates of students.
  • At the State level, the project seeks to improve education outcomes and school-to-work transition strategies for better labour market outcomes in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha.
  • The project will help the states in developing, implementing, evaluating & improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labor market outcomes.
  • A similar project to be funded by the Asian Development Bank will cover Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Assam and every State will partner with one other State to share best practices.

Areas of Focus:

  • Education governance reform will be a major focus, with the World Bank’s project document estimating that 83% of the project will be dedicated to the public administration of education.

Other areas of focus are-

  • assessment systems,
  • teacher development,
  • early childhood,
  • foundational literacy and numeracy,
  • and vocational education.
  • The World Bank’s latest status report for the project, released earlier this month, also includes plans to include private sector players in the government school system, in “the area of school education governance, management, monitoring, teacher training, school service delivery reform, and overall education service delivery.”
  • The STARS project also aims to focus on initiatives of PM e-Vidya, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission and National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Pakistan re-elected to UN rights body


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

Pakistan has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council despite opposition from activist groups over its abysmal human rights records.

Key details

  • Among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region vying for four seats in the UN’s premiere human rights body, Pakistan secured the highest number of votes.
  • In a secret-ballot voting in the 193-member UN General Assembly on that race, Pakistan secured 169 votes, Uzbekistan received 164, Nepal 150, China 139 and Saudi Arabia lost the race with just 90 votes.

Contest for seats

  • Under the Human Rights Council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.
  • Recently, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the US and Canada called on UN member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them unqualified.
  • Pakistan is currently serving on the HRC since January 1, 2018. With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on January 1, 2021.
  • Since the HRC’s establishment in 2006, this is the fifth time that Pakistan has been elected to the United Nations’ premier body on human rights.


  • In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council due to its well-established pattern of anti-Israel bias and membership rules that allow the election of the world’s worst human rights abusers to the Council.
  • The election of countries like China, Russia and Cuba on the Human Rights Council is a win for tyrants and embarrassment for the United Nations, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said


  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
  • It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.
  • The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in United Nations member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
  • The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Right.
  • The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the UN’s special procedures.

Elections to UNHRC

  • Elections to the Council happen annually, with countries serving for three years on a rotational basis, as some of the seats expire on 31 December every year.
  • There are 47 seats, equitably distributed according to five regional divisions.
  • Countries need a minimum of 97 votes to get elected, and everything happens by secret ballot. This year, 18 seats were up for election: five for Africa, five for Asia-Pacific, two for Eastern Europe, three for Latin America and the Caribbean, and three for Western Europe and other States.

Allow trading in bonds from stressed businesses: CEA Krishnamurthy Subramanian


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news?

Regulators must consider permitting the trading of bonds issued by distressed businesses in the corporate bond market, mooted Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Krishnamurthy Subramanian

Key details

  • With the COVID-19 pandemic set to ‘inevitably’ add to the distress in corporates’ and lenders’ balance-sheets, the country needs a price discovery mechanism for stressed assets.
  • We also need a market for price discovery of stressed assets, without which the process of taking a haircut becomes difficult.
  • Similarly, a corporate bond market that enables bonds of distressed companies to be traded becomes important.
  • In India, it’s primarily just the [firms with] top few ratings that get traded. The U.S. benefits a lot in the creative destruction process by having that market for price discovery. 

Bond trading

  • A bond is a financial instrument that works by allowing individuals to loan cash to institutions such as governments or companies.
  • The institution will pay a defined interest rate on the investment for the duration of the bond, and then give the original sum back at the end of the loan’s term.
  • Bond trading is one way of making profit from fluctuations in the value of corporate or government bonds. Many view it as an essential part of a diversified trading portfolio, alongside stocks and cash.

How does bond trading work?

  • While a bond’s end return is fixed, the market conditions surrounding its sale can cause fluctuations in its price to buy. High interest rates, for example, tend to make bonds less attractive to investors by providing other means of attaining high returns with low risk. For this reason, interest rates and bond prices tend to have an inverse relationship.
  • As well as buying bonds during favourable periods, traders can use financial derivatives to speculate on a bond’s market price.

Spread Betting

Spread betting is a popular form of bond trading for people that only wish to trade the volatility in a bond’s price, without purchasing the underlying asset: but it also comes with significant risks and losses can exceed deposits.

Stressed Assets and Banking in India

  • Stressed assets have been rising rapidly in India, mainly in public sector banks.
  • A number of factors can be identified that have led to this situation.
  • These include global slow down, governance related issues, political factors as well as mal-intentions and misconduct.
  • Consequently, significant losses are incurred by the public as well as the Union Government

which basically owns public sector banks.

  • The chances of misconduct are substantially large in case of infrastructure project especially under public private partnership.
  • There is need to take this opportunity to undertake extensive research into the factors which have led to deteriorating asset quality in public sector banks.

On reforms anniversary, Xi outlines innovation push


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news?

China marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of its first special economic zone (SEZ) in Shenzhen, outlining plans to boost its innovation capabilities and global technological influence, even as it grapples with a bruising trade and technology war with the U.S.

Key details

  • In a long speech, President warned of “unprecedented” global challenges and a “turbulent” world facing China, but did not mention relations with the U.S. specifically.
  • The Communist Party’s has plans to mark the year as when it would eliminate extreme poverty and build what it calls a “moderately prosperous society”.
  • This will be followed by another major anniversary next year, when the Communist Party of China turns 100.
  • Since the setting up of the SEZ in 1980, Shenzhen’s GDP had grown 20% annually, to $400 billion. The GDP of Shenzhen, which is a key tech hub for China and home to some of its corporate giants such as Huawei and Tencent, surpassed Hong Kong’s in 2018.
  • Xi also outlined plans to take forward the integration of Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau as part of the Greater Bay Area plan, which looks to leverage Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.

What is SEZ

  • Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a specifically delineated duty-free enclave and shall be deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations and duties and tariffs.
  • In order words, SEZ is a geographical region that has economic laws different from a country’s typical economic laws.
  • Usually the goal is to increase foreign investments.
  • SEZs have been established in several countries, including China, India, Jordan, Poland, Kazakhstan, Philippines and Russia. North Korea has also attempted this to a degree.

SEZ in India

  • The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy in India first came into inception on April 1, 2000.
  • The prime objective was to enhance foreign investment and provide an internationally competitive and hassle free environment for exports.
  • The idea was to promote exports from the country and realising the need that level playing field must be made available to the domestic enterprises and manufacturers to be competitive globally.
  • A legislation has been passed permitting SEZs to offer tax breaks to foreign investors.
  • Any private/public/joint sector or state government or its agencies can set up an SEZ.
  • At present there are eight functional SEZs located at Santa Cruz (Maharashtra), Cochin (Kerala), Kandla and Surat (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Falta (West Bengal) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh) in India. Further an SEZ in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) is now ready for operation.

India-China relations

  • Relations between India and China in the early 1950s were based on peaceful co‐existence.
  • But these withered and faded in an atmosphere of mutual hostility following the 1962 war between the two countries.
  • Despite divergences in the perceptions and approaches of New Delhi and Beijing on issues such as Sino‐Pakistani military and strategic ties and India’s Tibet policy, both countries have enormous potential and opportunities to expand and deepen their economic and trade ties in their mutual interest.
  • Emerging trends indicate that both India and China would remain highly competitive in the global and regional trade and economic domain, and would continue to compete for status and influence in the Asian region in general, and in South Asia in particular.

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