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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

21 Sep 2020


Opposition Parties in Pakistan Launch Alliance to Oust Imran Khan

  • Demanding Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's immediate resignation, the country's major opposition parties have launched an alliance to hold a countrywide protest movement to oust his government.
  • A 26-point joint resolution was adopted by the All Parties Conference (APC), which was hosted by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) and several other parties.
  • At a joint press conference after the end of the multi-party meeting, JUI-F chief Mualana Fazl ur Rehman read out the resolution and said that the Opposition parties have agreed to launch an alliance named Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to organise countrywide protests against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government from October.
  • The resolution alleged that the Khan government has been granted "fake stability by the same establishment" that interfered with the elections to bring the incumbent rulers to power.
  • The protests would start in phases. In the first phase, the opposition parties will hold joint rallies in all four provinces in October. The second phase will begin in December during which the opposition will hold huge rallies across the country.
  • Finally, a "decisive" long march towards Islamabad would start in January next year to oust the government.
  • The forum also demanded that elections be held again in a transparent manner and that electoral reforms should be passed in order to ensure free and fair polls.

Thailand Protests: Activists Challenge Monarchy by Laying 'People's Plaque'

  • Anti-government protesters have installed a plaque declaring Thailand 'belongs to the people', in a bold show of opposition to the monarchy.
  • The plaque was laid near Bangkok's Grand Palace in the latest challenge to Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
  • Student-led protests calling for reform of the country's monarchy and political system have been going on since July.
  • The protests over the weekend were some of the largest in years, with thousands defying authorities to demand change.
  • Their calls for royal reform are particularly sensitive in Thailand, where criticism of the monarchy is punishable by long prison sentences.
  • Protesters are also demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took power in a 2014 coup and won disputed elections last year.
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CCI Approves Alstom's Acquisition of Bombardier Transportation

  • Fair trade regulator CCI has approved acquisition of sole control over Bombardier Transportation, the global rail solutions division of Bombardier, by Alstom S.A. In addition, the regulator has also given approval to Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Bombardier Inc for picking 18 per cent and 3 per cent stake in Alstom, respectively, a press release said. Alstom is a French corporation globally active in the rail transport industry. In India, it manufactures and supplies signalling solutions, rail electrification, rolling stock, track works, maintenance services and also provides associated construction and engineering services through its subsidiaries. Bombardier Inc is a Canadian firm, globally active in the business aircraft and the rail transport industries while CDPQ is a global long-term institutional investor, it added. Separately, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) also gave nod to acquisition of sole control over DuPont de Nemours Inc''s Nutrition and Bio-sciences business by International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). According to a combination notice filed with the regulator, the proposed combination relates to the acquisition of sole control by IFF, over the Nutrition and Biosciences business of DuPont, by means of acquiring sole control over SpinCo, a company newly formed by DuPont and to which DuPont will transfer the Nutrition and Biosciences business. The proposed transaction involves the combination of two largely complementary businesses in the food and beverage, home and personal care, and health and wellness markets, it added.The regulator said that the Commission approves acquisition of sole control by International Flavors & Fragrances over Nutrition & Bio-sciences business of DuPont.

PSBs Report Frauds Worth over Rs. 19,964 cr in April-June

  • As per reports, public sector banks (PSBs) reported frauds worth over Rs. 19,964 crore in total 2,867 cases during the April-June quarter of the ongoing fiscal year.
  • The country's largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI), saw the highest number of fraud cases; however, Bank of India was the worst hit in terms of value.
  • Bank of India took the biggest hit in terms of valuation at Rs. 5,124.87 crore in 47 cases, followed by Canara Bank Rs. 3,885.26 crore in 33 cases, Bank of Baroda Rs. 2,842.94 crore in 60 cases, Indian Bank Rs. 1,469.79 crore in 45 cases, Indian Overseas Bank Rs. 1,207.65 crore in 37 cases and Bank of Maharashtra Rs. 1,140.37 crore in nine cases.
  • As compared to these, the second-largest public sector lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) reported much less amount of fraud at Rs. 270.65 crore, even as the number of cases stood at 240.
  • Among others, UCO Bank had Rs. 831.35 crore as fraud reporting in 130 cases, Central Bank of India Rs. 655.84 crore in 149 cases, Punjab and Sind Bank Rs. 163.3 crore in 18 cases and Union Bank of India reported the lowest amount of fraud at Rs. 46.52 crore in 49 cases.
  • Of the 12 PSBs, SBI reported the maximum 2,050 fraud cases involving Rs. 2,325.88 crore during April-June 2020.
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DRS to Feature for First-time in Women's Bilateral Series

  • The upcoming T20Is between West Indies and England will become the first women`s bilateral series to feature Decision Review System (DRS).
  • According to a report, the technology was available throughout the last two T20 World Cups, and in the ten televised games in the 50-over World Cup in 2017, but has never previously been used outside of them in women`s international cricket.
  • Last summer, both teams in the women`s Ashes called for DRS to be introduced in bilateral internationals after England batter Fran Wilson was incorrectly given out lbw in the first ODI, with replays showing that the ball had hit her glove rather than her pad.
  • Under the ICC`s playing conditions, the use of DRS in women`s internationals is at the discretion of the participating boards, as is the case in men`s internationals.
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MoU Signed between AYUSH Ministry and MoWCD to Control Malnutrition

  • The Ministry of Ayush and Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to control malnutrition in the country. The MoU was signed under the Poshan Abhiyaan.
  • Women and Child Development Ministry would initiate scientifically proven and user based solutions to control malnutrition in the country.
  • Medicinal and nutri Gardens would be established at the Anganwadi centres.
  • Under the MoU, specific areas have been identified for co-operation:
  • Integration of AYUSH into POSHAN Abhiyaan.
  • Controlling malnutrition through the principles and practices of Ayurveda, Yoga and other Ayush initiatives.
  • The MoU seeks to implement following activities:
  • Yoga programmes at Anganwadi centers.
  • Visit of AYUSH workforce to Anganwadi centers once in a month.
  • Sensitisation meeting of AYUSH medical officers with Anganwadi workers.
  • Development of Poshan Vatika.
  • Generation of baseline data in nutritional status of targeted population.
  • Implementation of region specific nutrition values.

India Extends $250 mn Aid to Maldives to Tackle Covid

  • India handed over emergency financial aid of $250 million to the Maldives, 10 days after the US signed an agreement with the island nation to develop military ties.
  • The grant was in response to the request made by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overcome the difficult economic situation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Maldives.
  • A handover ceremony was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Maldives.
  • The financial assistance was announced first during a virtual meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
  • India has gone the extra mile to help the Maldives whose economy is projected to contract by eight per cent this year. The RBI raised treasury bonds that were sold to the State Bank of India (SBI), Male, for handover to the Maldives Government.
  • This was a reversal of the situation in 2013 when India fought tooth and nail to keep away the US from entering into a security partnership with the Maldives. The UPA government had then assessed that American entry would give rise to misgivings at a time when it thought India and China could co-exist in the Indian Ocean.
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BSF and BGB to Work Together to Reduce Number of Border Killings

  • India's Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh's Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) have decided to work together to ensure that incidents of deaths on the Indo-Bangladesh border can be decreased as the four-day long biannual meet between the border security forces of both the nations ended.
  • The BSF said that both the parties agreed to reduce instances of death at the border. The BGB officials ahead of the meeting had highlighted the rise in the number of deaths on the border, but BSF maintained that it only fires with non-lethal weapons only in self-defence when they are surrounded by a large number of armed miscreants.
  • BSF also stated that the death or apprehension of criminals on the border are irrespective of nationalities.
  • BGB Director General (DG) major general Md Shafeenul Islam also assured BSF DG Rakesh Asthana that both the forces will work together to check the rise and activities of insurgent groups of India and share realtime information on drug trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling of fake Indian currency notes and damaging of the Indo-Bangladesh border.
  • This was the 50th border coordination conference between both nations.
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Anil Dhasmana New Chief of NTRO

  • Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief Anil Dhasmana was appointed as National Technical Research Organisation, India's technical body that is responsible for geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery.
  • Dhasmana succeeded former Intelligence Bureau officer Satish Jha who demitted office.
  • Dhasmana, a 1981 batch Indian Police Service officer, is a Pakistan expert and was the lead planner of the Balakot air strikes in February 2019 after Pakistan-backed terrorists killed 40 CRPF soldiers in the Pulwama car bombing.
  • The top police officer returns to the center of action 14 months later at a time the NTRO is playing a crucial role, tracking movements of the China's People's Liberation Army near the many friction points along the Line of Actual Control that have seen heavy deployment of soldiers and support elements from both sides.
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World Alzheimer's Day

  • World Alzheimer's Month is the international campaign by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer's Month was launched in 2012. World Alzheimer's Day is on 21 September each year.
  • It is important to raise awareness about this brain condition since Alzheimer's disease affects about 6 percent of people aged 65 years and older but an average of 2 out of 3 people globally have little or no understanding of it nor of dementia, as previous studies indicate. Many even consider this disease is a normal part of ageing which is not true.
  • The following are the 7 stages of Alzheimer's disease: stage 1 - no impairment, stage 2 - very mild decline, stage 3 - mild decline, stage 4 - moderate decline, stage 5 - moderately severe decline, stage 6 - severe decline and stage 7 - very severe decline. The seriousness of this disease demands awareness and hence, it is crucial that people should understand and encourage openness and discussion on dementia.

International Day of Peace and Non-Violence

  • Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21st September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.
  • For the United Nations, 2020 was already meant to be a year of listening and learning. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN has invited millions of people worldwide to join UN75, the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation on building the peaceful and prosperous future that we want.
  • The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
  • The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
  • The International Day of Peace has a theme each year and "Shaping Peace Together" is the theme for world peace day this year (2020).
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Labour Sector Reforms: Three Bills Introduced in Lok Sabha

  • The government introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha to bring reforms in the labour sector. The bill includes laws on social security, occupational safety and health and industrial relations. These bills are the part of government's labour reform agenda under which, government plans to amalgamated all the existing labour laws into four labour codes that are- on wages, industrial relations, social security and safety, health and working conditions. This is being done to improve ease of compliance and bring uniformity in labour laws.
  • The Industrial Relations Code, 2020
  • The bill subsumes- the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; the Trade Unions Act, 1926; and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
  • It recognises the trade unions.
  • The code contains provision for "notice periods" for strikes and lock-outs, standing orders, and resolution for industrial disputes.
  • The bill also include the mandatory provision for companies, having 300 or more workers, to prepare orders regarding the conditions of service, including shift timings and termination of employment.
  • The code is aimed at promoting the ease of doing business and increasing investment by encouraging the labour flexibility.
  • The Social Security Code Bill
  • The Bill replaces nine social security laws.
  • It subsumes the Employees' Provident Fund Act, 1952, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and the Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act, 2008.
  • The bill seeks to bring unorganised sector, gig workers and platform workers under the umbrella of social security schemes by providing them life and disability insurance, health benefits, maternity benefits, provident funds and skill upgradation.
  • The Occupational Safety Code
  • It replaces 13 labour laws on safety, health and working conditions.
  • The laws include: Factories Act, 1948; Mines Act, 1952; Dock Workers Act, 1986; Contract Labour Act, 1970; and Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979.
  • The bill seeks to regulate health and safety conditions of workers in establishments with 10 or more workers.

Lok Sabha Passes Taxation Bill

  • Lok Sabha passed a Taxation Bill that seeks to provide various reliefs in terms of compliance requirements for taxpayers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The reliefs include extending deadlines for filing returns and for linking PAN and Aadhaar.
  • The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, will replace the Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020, promulgated in March.
  • Among others, the Bill seeks to give tax exemption for contributions made to PM-CARES Fund, which was set up in March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Further, the Bill seeks to make faceless assessment applicable to at least eight processes under the I-T Act, including for collection and recovery of tax and gathering of information.
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Second Phase of Punjab Achievement Survey Begins

  • According to the PUNJAB school education department, all arrangements for the second phase of the Punjab Achievement Survey (PAS) have been completed. The survey will be conducted from September 21 to October 3 and the final phase in November.
  • The survey is being conducted to assess the learning outcomes of students of government and government-aided schools. State Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla has directed the department to ensure the survey is a success.
  • the survey will be conducted for classes I to XII. For class I students, there will be 10 questions for each subject. and for classes II to V there will be 15 questions for each subject. Each question will be of 2 marks. For students of classes VI to X, each paper will have 20 questions and one paper will have 40 marks. The primary classes survey examination will start on September 21 and will be ending on September 25 while the survey of students from classes VI to X will start on September 21 and end on September 26. Surveys for XI and XII will begin on September 21 and end on October 3.
  • For the first time, Punjab is conducting PAS on the lines of National Achievement Survey (NAS) to assess learning outcome levels of government and aided school students and to prepare them for NAS.
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Sarcophagi Buried for 2,500 Years Unearthed in Saqqara

  • A total of 27 sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago have been unearthed by archaeologists in an ancient Egyptian necropolis.
  • They were found inside a newly-discovered well at a sacred site in Saqqara, south of the capital, Cairo.
  • Thirteen coffins were discovered earlier this month, but a further 14 have followed.
  • The discovery is now said by experts to be one of the largest of its kind.
  • Images released show colourfully painted well-preserved wooden coffins and other smaller artefacts.
  • Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a designated Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Initial studies indicate that these coffins are completely closed and haven't been opened since they were buried.
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