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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

30 Dec 2020


Japan to Join 'Five Eyes' to Check China's Clampdown on Uyghurs

  • Amid calls within the Japanese government to join the 'Five Eyes' intelligence-sharing alliance, it provided key inputs to the US and the UK regarding Chinese clampdown on Uyghurs.
  • Five Eyes is a network of five nations -- Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US who collaborated to better respond to increasing threats by North Korea and China. Japan is on its way to become the 'sixth eye'.
  • As per reports, Japan had provided intelligence to the US and the UK last year on China's forceful detainment of Muslim Uyghur minority people on condition of keeping the source confidential.
  • The US as well as the UK stepped up their criticism against the Chinese severe crackdown on Uyghurs in the Xinjiang autonomous region.

Britain and Turkey Reach Post-Brexit Agreement

  • Turkey and Britain signed a free-trade agreement as the UK prepares to leave the European Union's economic orbit at the start of the new year.
  • The deal, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, aims to support trade between the two countries which was worth more than $25 billion in 2019. It is one of many post-Brexit trade deals the British government is pursuing with nations around the world and came days after it finalized a trade agreement with the EU.
  • Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and Dominick Chilcott, the British ambassador to Turkey, signed the British-Turkish agreement.
  • Pekcan hailed the deal as the most significant trade pact for Turkey since the signing of a customs union agreement with the EU in 1995.

UK Signs Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam

  • The United Kingdom and Vietnam signed an agreement on free trade.
  • Earlier this month, the country's government announced signing a free trade deal with Singapore and concluded negotiations with Vietnam.
  • The ceremony took place in London and involved the ambassadors as the Vietnamese trade minister and high-level officials were unable to visit the UK over the situation with COVID-19.
  • The agreement will come into force on Friday and stipulates elimination of 99 per cent of tariffs within seven years.
  • After the UK officially left the EU on January 31, it has been working to secure various bilateral economy-related deals with various countries amid the transition period, which will end on 31-12-2020.
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Tata Sons to Buy Stake in AirAsia India

  • Tata Sons Ltd. has agreed to buy an additional 32.67% stake in AirAsia India Ltd. from its joint venture partner for $37.66 million, increasing its stake in the budget airline to 83.67%.
  • Tata Sons, which owns a 51% stake in the Indian joint venture, also has the option to buy out AirAsia Bhd's remaining 16.33% stake after the closure of the deal.
  • AirAsia Bhd had in June approached the Tata group to sell its stake, as mandated by the terms of the joint venture under which Tata Sons has the first right to buy out the shares.
  • This (Tata Sons) transaction will reduce cash burn of the company in the short term and allow AirAsia to concentrate on the recovery of its key ASEAN markets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines in the long run.

Future Group Firms Receive Large Orders from Reliance

  • According to Future Group founder Kishore Biyani, the group's fast-moving consumer goods firm, Future Consumer, and apparel manufacturing company Future Enterprises have received large orders from Reliance Retail.
  • Reliance Retail, a unit of Reliance Industries, agreed to buy the retail assets of the Future Group on a slump sale basis for about Rs. 25,000 crore, it was announced in August. The deal is yet to be closed.
  • The Competition Commission of India has already approved the deal, which also requires clearance from the SEBI and the NCLT, in addition to NOCs from creditors and minority shareholders. Meanwhile, Amazon, which owns a 49% stake in Future Coupons, a Future Group holding company, has won a stay on the deal from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre last month, and has asked Indian regulators to consider the interim order before clearing the transaction.

Rule of 1% GST Liability Payable in Cash May Impact 45,000 Units

  • The mandatory requirement of 1% cash payment of GST liability effective January 1 would be applicable to about 45,000 taxpayers. This comes to only 0.37% of the total businesses registered in the Goods and Services Tax system. 
  • To curb tax evasion by way of fake invoicing, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) had recently made it mandatory for businesses with monthly turnover of more than Rs. 50 lakh to pay at least 1% of their GST liability in cash. The new rule restricts use of input tax credit (ITC) for discharging GST liability to 99% effective January 1, 2021. 
  • However, this restriction will not apply in cases where the managing director or any partner has paid more than Rs. 1 lakh as income tax or the registered person has received a refund amount of more than Rs. 1 lakh in the preceding financial year on account of unutilised input tax credit.
  • Data analysis showed that of the total GST taxpayer base of 1.2 crore, only about 4 lakh have monthly supply value greater than Rs. 50 lakh. Of these, only about 1.5 lakh pay less than 1% of their GST liability in cash. When exclusions in the rule are applied, around 1.05 lakh taxpayers get further excluded from these 1.5 lakh taxpayers. Thus, the rule would apply only to 40,000 to 45,000 taxpayers.
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US Plans to Set Up a Nuclear Reactor on Moon

  • USA plans to set up the first nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of 2026. In early 2021, the US Department of Energy in collaboration with NASA intends to solicit industry design proposals. It also got an impetus with a recent White House directive.
  • The outgoing President Donald Trump issued the National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion.
  • Under it, he asked NASA to initiate a fission surface power project for lunar surface demonstration by 2027 with scalability to a power range of 40 kilowatt-electric and higher to support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars.
  • The objective of NASA behind this was to establish a flight hardware system that is ready for integrating with the lunar lander by 2026 end. The nuclear reactor is known as the fission power system that will benefit future robotic and human expedition missions to the moon as well as Mars.
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Roger Federer to Skip 2021 Australian Open

  • Six-times champion Roger Federer has withdrawn from the 2021 Australian Open as he continues to work his way back to fitness from two knee operations earlier this year.
  • He last played a competitive match at the season-opening Grand Slam in January before he had to undergo surgery on his knee.
  • The start of the 2021 Australian Open has been delayed for three weeks until February 8 due to the country's strict border rules to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 
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Harsh Vardhan Opens New IMD Centre in Ladakh

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will now provide specialised weather forecasts for traffic movement on highways, agriculture, and defence personnel from its Ladakh centre. Located at 3,500 metres above sea level in Leh, it will be the highest Meteorological Centre (MC) in India.
  • The centre was virtually inaugurated by Minister for Earth Sciences (MoES) Harsh Vardhan. After Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, the Leh centre is the second MC located in the Himalayas.
  • The UT is a geo-strategic location from the security point of view.
  • Even though there are only two districts, Kargil and Leh, the Union Territory has varying micro-climatic zones ranging from plains, cold desert, hills and extreme dry places. "All these micro-climatic regions require specific and localised weather monitoring and information. 

Gujarat MP Vasava Resigns from BJP, to Quit LS Too

  • Gujarat BJP MP and former Union Minister Mansukh Vasava quit the party and said he would also resign from Lok Sabha in the Budget session of Parliament.
  • In his resignation letter, Vasava did not specify any reason for quitting the party. But as per reports, the six- time MP, who is vocal on tribal issues, had been critical of BJP's policies after he was dropped as Union Minister in 2016.

New Phase of Electoral Bonds in January

    • With Assam and West Bengal Assembly elections coming up, the government announced a 10-day window from January 1 for the 15th phase of sale and encashment of electoral bonds.
    • The bonds will be valid for 15 days from the date of issue and no payment shall be made if political parties deposit them after the validity period.
    • Only the State Bank of India is authorised to issue and redeem the electoral bonds through 29 branches. The previous window was opened for 10 days from October 19 during which electoral bonds worth Rs. 282.29 crore were sold, half of them in Mumbai though the polls were held in Bihar and Hyderabad municipal corporation.
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US Approves Sale of 8 Apache Helicopters to Kuwait

  • According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the US State Department signed off on arms sales to Kuwait worth over USD 4 billion that include eight Apache AH-64E helicopters, along with equipment upgrade of 16 older Apaches.
  • Another DSCA release informed about the State Department's approval of a proposed USD 200 million sale of spare parts for Kuwait's upgraded Patriot missile defence system.
  • The security agency said both sales will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.
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Atanu Chakraborty Likely to be Next HDFC Bank Chairman

  • Former economic affairs secretary Atanu Chakraborty is set to be appointed as the next chairperson of India's largest private sector lender HDFC Bank. The appointment, however, is subject to the Reserve Bank of India's approval.
  • The board of HDFC Bank cleared Chakraborty's name for the position of part-time chairperson of the bank in its meeting. The incumbent chairperson of the board, Shyamala Gopinath, is set to retire on 1 January.
  • The appointment assumes significance as the private lender had recently undergone a leadership change, with its long time managing director and chief executive officer, Aditya Puri, retiring in October, and Sashidhar Jagdishan taking over.
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Srinagar's Amar Singh College Recognised with UNESCO Award

  • Srinagar based Amar Singh College has been recognized with the 'Award of Merit' in the 2020 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The restoration of the Amar Singh College brought back one of the most prominent institutional buildings in Kashmir to its former glory.
  • The college building is 80 years old and INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) chapter in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir had carried out the conservation work at the Amar Singh College.
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Gujarat Solar Power Policy

  • The Gujarat government announced the new solar power policy, 2021. According to the policy any developer or person or industry can set up a solar project in Gujarat. The policy mainly aims to reduce the power cost of industrial units by around 50%. This is to be achieved by removing capacity ceiling for setting up a solar project in Gujarat.
  • The policy allows the power consumers to set up solar projects on the rooftop and backyards. The consumers can also offer their space to the third parties for power generation and utilisation.
  • The security deposit provided to the power companies has been reduced to five lakh rupees per megawatt. Earlier it was twenty-five lakh rupees per megawatt.
  • The policy aims to increase the presence of "Made in Gujarat" brand in global market.
  • The policy allows a group of consumers to set up solar projects as a collective ownership project for self-consumption.
  • In order to encourage small scale solar projects, power discoms, the new policy is to purchase power at 20 paise per unit from them. The small-scale solar projects are those projects that produce power up to 4 megawatts.
  • Under the policy the state government will purchase the surplus power. The surplus power limit is to be set by the project proprietor. For MSMEs and residential consumers the state government of Gujarat is to purchase a surplus Tower at 2.25 rupees per unit.
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Ramesh Pokhriyal Lays Foundation Stone of 'TiHAN-IIT Hyderabad'

  • Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal virtually laid the foundation stone of 'TiHAN-IIT Hyderabad', India's first Testbed for Autonomous Navigation Systems (Terrestrial and Aerial).
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has sanctioned Rs. 135 crores to IIT Hyderabad under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to set up a Technology Innovation Hub on Autonomous Navigation and Data Acquisition Systems (UAVs, RoVs, etc.).
  • The Technology Innovation Hub on Autonomous Navigation Systems for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Remotely Operated Vehicles at IIT Hyderabad, known as 'TiHAN Foundation' was incorporated as a Section-8 company by the institute in June 2020.
  • "TiHAN Foundation, established at IIT Hyderabad, is a multi-departmental initiative, including researchers from Electrical, Computer Science, Mechanical and Aerospace, Civil, Mathematics, and Design at IIT Hyderabad with collaboration and support from reputed institutions and industry.

Karnataka to Set Up more Medical Colleges under PPP Model

  • As per State Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar, Karnataka needs more medical colleges to meet the demand for doctors and the government is willing to establish more in Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
  • Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of the new building of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Medical Sciences and Research centre Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa, said that establishing a medical college requires Rs. 600-700 crore.
  • If it is built in the PPP model, it reduces the burden on state exchequer and also helps provide affordable medical education and treatment to the needy. This model is being adopted in Gujarat and the same will be implemented in Karnataka.
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Rehung and Revamped Mona Museum in Tasmania Opens its Doors after Nine-month Closure

  • One of Australia's most important contemporary art museums re-opened after closing its doors for nine months. The Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart (Mona), Tasmania, has been rehung during the pandemic, drawing on the collection of its founder, the gambler and mathematician David Walsh.
  • New pieces on show include a giant bronze sculpture by US artist Tom Otterness, Girls Rule (2020), which doubles up as a children's playground while House of Mirrors (2016), created by the Australian artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, invites visitors to get lost in a bewildering maze. Other works on display include the porcelain sculpture series Cunts and other conversations (2008-11) by Greg Taylor and Sidney Nolan's paintings such as Dog and Duck Hotel (1948).
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Venkaiah Naidu Releases the Book 'Oh Mizoram'

  • Venkaiah Naidu virtually released the book 'Oh Mizoram', written by Governor of Mizoram, P. S. Sreedharan Pillai.
  • Pillai is a lawyer, an orator, a prolific writer, a philanthropist, and a thinker. He has written 125 books in Malayalam and English. 'Oh, Mizoram' is his first poetry collection in English.
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