Current Affairs 4th February

HAL gets contract for 83 LCAs in Rs. 48,000 cr. Deal #GS3 #Defence

At the 13th edition of Aero India in Bengaluru, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was awarded the contract to manufacture 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at an estimated cost of Rs. 48,000 crore while India showcased a range of indigenous military platforms to the world.

We have long witnessed unfortunate attempts to employ force to change the status quo along our unresolved border and India is vigilant and prepared to counter and defeat any misadventure to change and defend our people and territorial integrity at all costs. Our resolve towards this is shown by our growing defence capabilities.

India faced threats and challenges emanating from multiple fronts and it was a victim of state-sponsored terrorism, which was now a global threat.

Mr. Singh will hold an Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defence Ministers’ conclave during the show, which has been restricted to three business days due to COVID-19 restrictions. “India has a vast coastline, but our interests also lie beyond our shores. It includes our people who reside and work across continents, especially in IOR. It is our bound duty to remain capable and willing to assist them in times of calamities and security challenges.”

Deliveries in 8 years

On the LCA contract, he said, “This contract is the biggest Make in India defence contract till date.” The contract includes 73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-1 trainer aircraft at a cost of Rs. 45,696 crore along with design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth Rs. 1,202 crore.

Benefit of the News– About Tejas Deal with HAL

BEL makes modules for radar on Rafales #GS3 #Defence

As part of the offset commitments under the Rafale deal, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has manufactured and delivered Transmit and Receive modules (T/R) for the Advanced Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar on the jet.

In November 2020, the first RBE2 AESA radar with a front end manufactured by BEL in India was delivered by Thales to Dassault Aviation. BEL implemented a set of rigorous processes at its Bangalore facility in order to achieve this key milestone.

India has contracted 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition under a€7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement signed with France in September 2016. It has a 50% offset clause to be discharged by French companies in India.

The T/R modules are key to the RBE2 radar’s active electronic scanning performance, enabling it to steer the radar beam with the speed of an electronic chip.

Transfer of technology

Initiated at the end of 2017, the transfer of technology to BEL had included validation of the company’s technical capacity to deliver prototypes, qualify the various technologies involved in the wiring process, set up a dedicated SMC wiring production line with a preproduction run, train BEL engineers in France and install test benches for microwave characterisation at the BEL facility.

The modules produced in India are then integrated with the RBE2 radar in France.

Benefit of the News– Technology transfer for Rafale

Sri Lanka’s ECT move unilateral: Japan #GS2 #IR

Two days after Sri Lanka decided to scrap a 2019 agreement with India and Japan for operating the East Coast Terminal (ECT), Japan says the decision was “unilateral and regrettable”. The ECT project was expected to showcase India-Japan cooperation in a part of South Asia where Chinese infrastructure projects have been prominent.

Japan, India and Sri Lanka signed the Memorandum of Cooperation for the development of ECT in May 2019,” referring to the tripartite agreement signed by India and Japan with the former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s government.

It is regrettable that the government of Sri Lanka unilaterally made a Cabinet decision and announced the development and operation of ECT as a wholly owned container terminal of Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

However, during the Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Mahinda on Monday, the Sri Lankan government decided that ECT would be operated as a “wholly owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority [SLPA]” and not, as earlier planned, a joint venture with Indian and Japanese entities. Both India and Japan were taken by surprise, given the negotiations thus far, and given that nearly 70% of the transhipment business through ECT is linked to India.

In a possible bid to make amends — the Rajapaksa government has offered the West Container Terminal (WCT) of Colombo Port on a 35-year agreement to India and Japan instead, but officials have thus far been cold to the offer.

Benefit of the News-Regarding the issue of ECT with Sri Lanka

‘Delayed second Oxford dose helps’ #GS3 #SnT

On December 30, 2020, the U.K. granted emergency use approval to the Oxford vaccine based on interim efficacy results from 131 COVID-19 cases. The U.K. regulator approved the second dose of the vaccine to be given 12 weeks after the first.

Now, a preprint paper with updated efficacy results based on research led by Oxford University after a further month of data collection that includes 332 COVID-19 cases shows that delaying the second dose beyond four weeks increases the level of protection.

The data in the preprint show that vaccine efficacy was high when the interval between the two doses was two months and continued to increase with a longer dose interval. Vaccine efficacy after two standard doses increased from 54.9% when the second dose was administered less than six weeks after the first dose to 82.4% when the gap between the two doses was more than 12 weeks.

India began vaccinating healthcare workers on January 16 and the expert committee set up by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) recommended that the second dose be administered between four and six weeks after the first.

According to the latest study, the longer interval between the first and second dose provides better protection without any compromise in the three-month period until the second dose is administered. It reports that the vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 after a single standard dose was 76% from day 22 to day 90. The antibody levels were maintained during this period with no evidence of significant waning of protection.

However, the first dose did not provide protection against asymptomatic infection in the same period. But the overall cases of PCR positives reduced by 67% after the first, suggesting the potential for a substantial reduction in transmission.

Participants aged 18-55 years who received the second dose more than 12 weeks after the first had antibody titres that were two-fold higher than those who received the second dose within six weeks.

The researchers also found that neutralising antibody titres measured by pseudovirus were higher after a longer interval before the second dose.

The researchers say “vaccination programmes aimed at vaccinating a large proportion of the population with a single dose, with a second dose given after a three-month period may be an effective strategy to reduce disease, and may be the optimal for a pandemic vaccine when supplies are limited in the short term”.

Benefit of the News– About Efficacy of the Oxford Vaccine

‘Collection of DNA samples will lead to misuse #GS2 #Governance

Allowing investigating agencies to collect DNA samples from “suspects”, as laid down in the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, will give them “unbridled power that is easily capable of misuse and abuse” and amount to a “threat to the life, liberty, dignity and privacy of a person.

DNA testing is currently being done on an extremely limited scale in India, with approximately 30-40 DNA experts in 15-18 laboratories undertaking fewer than 3,000 cases a year. The standards of the laboratories are not monitored or regulated. The Bill aims to introduce the regulation of the entire process from collection to storage.

The preamble to the Bill says that it aims to provide for “the regulation of use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid [DNA] technology for the purposes of establishing the identity of certain categories of persons, including the victims, offenders, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unknown deceased persons”.

Justice Lokur has questioned the need to collect DNA of a “suspect”. In his submission, he argued that in a blind crime or a crime involving a large number of persons (such as a riot), everybody is a suspect without any real basis. This would mean that thousands of persons could be subjected to DNA profiling on a mere suspicion.

Such an unbridled power is easily capable of misuse and abuse by targeting innocents, against whom there is not a shred of evidence. Such an unbridled police power ought not to be conferred on anybody or any agency as it would amount to a threat to the life, liberty, dignity and privacy of a person.

The committee has said while taking on board these concerns, it has gone with the majority view of retaining the preamble. Its report, however, notes that these fears are not entirely unfounded and have to be addressed by the government and by Parliament as well.

At the same time, the committee observed that it does not negate the need for such legislation, especially when DNA technology was in use. “Its use in recent months has exposed a false encounter in which innocents were killed contradicting initial claims made that they were militants,” the report said. It pointed to the encounter at Shopian in Kashmir last September, where the Army had killed three men claiming to be unidentified terrorists. The DNA sample from the three dead men matched with their families, confirming it to be a fake encounter.

Benefit of the News– About DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019

U.S. extends New START nuclear treaty with Russia #GS2 #IR

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration extended the New START nuclear treaty with Russia by five years, saying it hoped to prevent an arms race despite rising tensions with Moscow.

“President Biden pledged to keep the American people safe from nuclear threats by restoring U.S. leadership on arms control and nonproliferation. The United States is committed to effective arms control that enhances stability, transparency and predictability while reducing the risks of costly, dangerous arms races.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on legislation extending the accord, meaning that the treaty — signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010 — will run until February 5, 2026. The last remaining arms reduction pact between the former Cold War rivals, New START caps to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington.

China’s arsenal

Former President Donald Trump’s administration tore up previous agreements with Moscow and unsuccessfully sought to expand New START to cover China.

Mr. Blinken said the U.S. would use the coming five years to pursue diplomacy that addresses “all” of Russia’s nuclear weapons and to “reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal”.

Benefit of the News– About START Treaty

‘Interest on PF contributions of over Rs. 2.5 lakh must in I-T filing’ #GS3 #Economy

Employees making contributions of more than Rs. 2.5 lakh a year into their Provident Fund (PF) accounts, will have to include the interest on the investments exceeding Rs. 2.5 lakh in their annual income starting 2021-22 and file tax returns accordingly.

The Union Budget has proposed tax on interest income on PF contributions exceeding Rs. 2.5 lakh a year. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that some people were investing as much as Rs. 1 crore each month into PF and suggested it was unfair that they get tax concessions.

The interest portion is calculable on a year-to-year basis… so that is taxable on your calculations in that particular year. Analysts said the change throws up uncertainties.

PF being an interest-bearing product with annual compounding, tracking interest across years that is attributable to only employee contributions will be a challenge.

Benefit of the News– Recent Interest on Provident Fund (PF)

‘India’s weak fiscal position to remain a key credit challenge’ #GS3 #Economy

The Union Budget’s focus on higher capital expenditure, financial sector reforms and asset sales would help to stimulate growth and supply broad-based credit support, but India’s weak fiscal position would remain a key credit challenge compared with its rating peers.

The budget projects a narrowing of the central government’s fiscal deficit to 6.8% of GDP in fiscal 2022 from an estimated 9.5% in fiscal 2021.

However, compared with previous budgets, the gap between our forecasts and the government’s largely reflects increased transparency on subsidy spending and more credible overall assumptions. The ratings agency said the widening of the deficit in fiscal 2021 was driven almost entirely by expenditure to support Indian households and the economy from the pandemic shock.

Benefit of the News– Recent Budget initiative for better fiscal reforms

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