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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

26 Jul 2019


India may Build Tesla-scale Storage Plants for Batteries

  •  India is putting the final shape on a plan to build at least four Tesla-style giga factories to manufacture batteries with an investment of around $4 billion, as the country prepares to switch to electric vehicles to curb pollution and cut its dependence on foreign oil.
  • Aimed at securing India's energy needs, the plan to set up these factories of 10 gigawatt hours (GWh) each is being helmed by federal policy think tank NITI Aayog and looks to accomplish what Tesla has done at its Gigafactory in Nevada, US.
  • The focus on battery storage manufacturing will enable India to develop an electric vehicle ecosystem including manufacturing and R&D, an opportunity the country missed while developing the solar industry.
  • As part of the plan, the government may offer a raft of incentives to manufacturers such as concessional financing options with around 3% foreign exchange hedge on overseas loans and a fixed 3% interest subvention on loans availed in Indian rupees. In addition, a reduction in minimum alternative tax (MAT) may be offered.
  • Apart from electric vehicles, such battery storages will cater to the consumer electronics industry and electricity grids, given the intermittent nature of electricity from clean energy sources such as solar and wind.
  • According to a conservative scenario envisaged by NITI Aayog, India will need six such gigawatt-scale facilities (of 10 GWh each) by 2025 and 12 by 2030. While this doesn't include the export market potential, the base scenario envisions 11 such giga factories by 2025 and 24 by 2030.
  • To put this into perspective, each GWh (1,000 megawatt hour) of battery capacity is sufficient to power 1 million homes for an hour and around 30,000 electric cars.
  • The programme aims to be technology-agnostic, meaning it will be left to the market to determine which technology is best suited for the country, depending on demand and price.
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North Korea Tests Short-Range Ballistic Missiles

  •  North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles, its first missile test since its leader, Kim Jong Un, and US President Donald Trump agreed to revive denuclearisation talks last month.
  • South Korea, which supports efforts by North Korea and the US to end years of hostility, urged the North to stop acts that are unhelpful to easing tension, saying the tests posed a military threat on the Korean peninsula.
  • The South said it believed the missiles were a new type of ballistic missile but it would make a final assessment with the US.
  • Firing a ballistic missile would be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the North from the use of such technology. North Korea has rejected the restriction as an infringement of its sovereign right to selfdefence.
  • North Korea launched the missiles from the east coast city of Wonsan with one flying about 430km and the other 690km over the sea. They both reached an altitude of 50km.
  • The launch casts new doubt on efforts to restart stalled denuclearisation talks after Trump and Kim met at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas at the end of June 2019.
  • US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho are expected to meet on the sidelines of a forum in Bangkok.
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New Shirt Sponsor for Team India

  •  The Indian cricket team will have a new shirt sponsor starting from the September 15-October 23 home series against South Africa, with online tutorial firm BYJU's securing a transfer of sponsorship rights from Chinese mobile manufacturer Oppo, according to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
  • The deal between the BCCI and Oppo, which was inked in 2017 for a five-year period, was reportedly worth ~1079 crore.
  • Oppo was paying BCCI ~4.61 crore per bilateral match and ~1.56 crore for an ICC hosted match.
  • Prior to that, STAR India used to pay BCCI ~1.92 crore per bilateral match and ~61 lakh for an ICC match.
  • The BCCI will be paid the same amount of money by BYJU's as Oppo. However, the financial details of the transfer have not been revealed.

Dhoni to undertake patrolling, guard duties in Army stint

  •  Former Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel in 2011, will join his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir at the end of July 2019 and carry out duties with the troops for 15 days.
  • The 38-year-old Indian cricketer, who is in the Parachute Regiment (106 Para TA battalion) of the Territorial Army, would be assigned routine patrolling and guard duties.
  • As requested by the officer and approved by army headquarters, he will be taking on duties of patrolling, guard and post duty and shall be staying with troops.
  • Dhoni, who made himself unavailable for the West Indies series to serve the regiment, had conveyed to the army that he would like to serve his battalion which is at present stationed in Kashmir valley as a part of Victor Force.
  • The veteran wicketkeeperbatsman was accorded the honour by the Indian Army in 2011, along with Abhinav Bindra and Deepak Rao.
  • In 2015, the Ranchi player became a qualified paratrooper after completing five parachute training jumps from Indian Army aircrafts in the Agra training camp.
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Karnataka speaker Disqualifies Three Rebel Lawmakers

  •  Karnataka speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualified three rebel lawmakers and said decisions on other dissident MLAs would be pronounced soon, adding to the suspense of government formation in the southern state days after the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition was toppled in a trust vote.
  •  Kumar announced that Congress MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathahalli and Ranebennur legislator R Shankar stood disqualified. Jarkiholi and Kumathahalli were part of the 15 MLAs who resigned as legislators earlier in July 2019, bringing the coalition government to the brink of collapse. Shankar has resigned as a minister and pledged support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The speaker insisted that the disqualified lawmakers couldn't contest election until the term of the current assembly – due to expire in 2023 – is over. 
  • There are disqualification petitions against 14 more MLAs – 13 rebels and one Congress lawmaker who didn't turn up for  trust vote –pending before Kumar.
  • With this decision, the strength of the 225-member assembly comes down to 222. The BJP has 105 MLAs.

Speaker Forms Four House Committees

  •  The Speaker Om Birla formed four parliamentary committees and their chairpersons for the 17th Lok Sabha.
  • The Public Accounts Committee has Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as its Chairperson. BJP MP Kirit bhai Solanki has been made the chairman of the committee for welfare of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Ganesh Singh has been made chairman of the committee for welfare of OBCs while Meenakshi Lekhi is the chair of the committee on public undertaking.
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Subhash Garg Takes Charge as Power Secretary

  •  Senior bureaucrat and former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg will take over as the power secretary even as he waits for the government's approval to his request for voluntary retirement on October 31, 2019.
  • He took over as finance secretary in March, 2019.
  • Garg was secretary in the Department of Economic affairs (DEA) and was designated as finance secretary since he was the senior-most bureaucrat among the five secretaries in the finance ministry.
  • According to retired bureaucrats, the position at the finance ministry is considered a highprofile posting in comparison to the position of the power secretary.
  • Garg was due to retire in October 31, 2020, when he turned 60 years. He joined the service in 1983 as an IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre. He was appointed DEA secretary on June 21, 2017.
  • In March 2019, Garg was elevated as the finance secretary after the retirement of Hasmukh Adhia in December 2018.
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Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 Passed in Rajya Sabha

  •  The Narendra Modi government cleared a major legislative hurdle in the Rajya Sabha when it managed to pass the contentious Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Upper House despite having fewer numbers than the Opposition.
  • The bill itself was passed by a "voice vote". However, the government faced voting for the first time in its current tenure when the Opposition demanded that its motion to send the bill to a select committee for further scrutiny be put to vote. The motion was defeated 117 versus 95, subject to correction.
  • The Congress bristled at the bill, which changes the tenure and salaries of key bureaucrats tasked with providing information, but the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sailed through by managing to enlist the support of a few neutral regional parties: the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
  • The House saw brief adjournments on four occasions, as Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Party members raised constant slogans in the well of House.
  • The bill changes the fixed fiveyear term of chief information commissioner and information commissioners provided for in the Right to Information Act, 2005, and states that the central government will notify the term of office of these officials.
  • The bill also states that the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of these officials will now be determined by the central government, as against the 2005 Act that says the salary of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the central level will be equivalent to that of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners; and the salary of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the state level equivalent to that of the election commissioners and the chief secretary to the state government.
  • The Opposition and several activists contend that these provisions weaken the RTI Act and bring the department firmly under the government's control.

Triple Talaq Bill Gets LS Nod

  •  The Lok Sabha  passed a bill that penalises talaq-e-biddat (triple talaq), a practice of divorce in the Muslim community, amid strong protests by the Opposition which demanded that the bill be referred to a parliamentary panel for review as it criminalized a civil right issue.
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 was passed by a voice vote after the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, and key Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally, Janata Dal (United), among other Opposition parties staged a walkout.
  • The bill, which will now be sent to the Rajya Sabha, makes the practice of instant triple talaq — under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by uttering the word "talaq" thrice in succession — a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years' imprisonment and a fine. A cognizable offence is one in which the police may carry out an arrest without a warrant, and is used for serious crimes such as theft, rape and murder.
  • The bill allows the wife or her relatives to file a complaint, and has a provision for a magistrate to grant bail to the accused. It also leaves scope for reconciliation between the couple.
  • In the 2017 Shayara Bano versus Union of India and Others case, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held in a 3-2 majority verdict that instant triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala (in which a woman must marry and divorce another man to re-marry her first husband) were unconstitutional practices.
  • The previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government then tabled a version of the bill, which was passed by the Lower House in December 2018, but remained pending in the Upper House.
  • With the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha, the bill lapsed and was introduced in the first session of the newly elected Lok Sabha. The previous NDA government also promulgated two ordinances—in September 2018 and February 2019 — penalising the practice.
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