Today’s Current Affairs December 1

December 1, 2019

National

Vande Bharat Express now a moribund project

Prime Minister Modi’s bold ‘Make in India’ initiative has often been ridiculed as a non-starter, but the Vande Bharat Express made under this initiative is a shining example of success of Modi’s vision.

Vande Bharat Express is also known as TV18. It is an inter-city electric-driven, express train now running between Delhi and Varanasi. What makes this train special is the fact that it was manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in a record time of just 18 months. The best design brains of this public sector unit pooled their expertise to design, manufacture, test, and hand over this train to the railways. The train is state-of-the-art in design and passenger comfort. It is fully air-conditioned, has a capacity to carry 1128 passengers in its 18 compartments. The train can run at a top speed of 180 kilometers hour. The train, having chair car accommodation and electric engines and driver cabins s at both ends provides fast, relatively inexpensive connectivity between cities. The train has been running satisfactorily since February 2019.

The technical perfection of the train, and the short time in which it was produced brought cheers to one and all. It has been heralded as a success of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Buoyed by the success, the Railways planned to procure 20 more such trains in the near future.

However, the electrical engineers and the mechanical engineers engaged in the project were locked in an unseemly squabble over claiming credit for the success. It later deteriorated and forced the authorities to transfer a few top engineers to other posts. A vigilance inquiry was ordered against all senior engineers for sidestepping procurement guidelines. This irked and demoralized them.

Now, it has emerged that the government wants to procure the trains from overseas suppliers. China is eagerly waiting to grab this order.

Thus, India emerging as a proven manufacturer of such high-tech trains for its own use, and later exporting them, will become an importer. The indigenous exercise will go waste, and botch the country’s dreams to emerge as a reliable exporter of such trains. China will gain more experience, create more jobs, all at India’s expense.

It is worth noting here that the vigilance inquiry has found nothing to point out.

It is unclear why the government has not stepped in to put the project back on track. People suspect some vested interests have been at work to undermine the achievement of the ICF.

Good word used .. Moribund

Public anger sweeps the country as repeated rape incidents pummel public conscience

The gruesome rape and murder of the Hyderabad veterinary lady doctor has caused widespread revulsion and extreme anger against the culprits and the police. The Telengana government has decided to hasten the prosecution through a fast-track court. The crime occurred close to the IT city, Hyderabad. Women going out to work no longer feel safe, and they have been at the forefront of public demonstration against the police and the government.

Good words used .. Pummel, Revulsion

Rampant over-use of antibiotics, now a global issue

Doctors often have been accused of prescribing antibiotics for ailments that can heal on their own.  In fact, it complicates the problem in so many other ways. Antibiotics enfeeble the immune system of the body, and when the patient fails to complete the full prescribed course, the bacteria become resistant letting the ailment to return with a vengeance. It also leads to a situation where the bacteria become resistant even to powerful antibiotics, leaving the doctor with no weapon to fight infection. The patient might succumb to the disease.

A survey conducted shows that private doctors in India are more used to prescribing unnecessary antibiotics, than their counterparts in the public sector.

Police recruitment drive in J&K draws rousing response

It has come as a huge relief for the police top brass to find that young men and women came forward for the recruitment drive in large numbers, even in the worst militancy affected areas. This shows how livelihood issues trump over emotional appeals. For just 5200 vacancies, as many as 77600 candidates applied. It calls the bluff of the separatists have a sway over the youth of the State.

Good words and phrase used .. Rousing, Trump as verb, Call one’s bluff

International

Iraqi Prime minister’s resignation offer does not quell street protests

 Iraq has democratically elected government, but, much like India, the political elite manage to make millions through corrupt means. The lengthening shadow of neighboring Shiaite Iran, lack of jobs, and an air of despondency have brought the angry young men and women to the streets. They feel that a complete overhaul of the system is the need of the hour. The resignation of the prime minister does little to address the chronic ills f the system, they feel. So, they continue to demonstrate in the streets causing much worry for the government.

Iraq as a country .. It is an oil-rich, Islamic country, where Shias are in majority, and Sunnis in minority. The neighboring Iran is a Shia country. Most of the Shia shrines are in southern Iraq. Scores of Iranians visit these shrines every year. Iran has a dominating influence over Iraq’s internal politics, a factor many Iraqis resent.

Good words used .. Quell, Despondency

Hong Kong protests may get increasingly strident

Older citizens of Hong Kong, who had remained aloof so far, have decided to joins ranks with the young pro-democracy protesters, thus escalating the demonstrations. This is an ominous development that Beijing is clearly worried about. All attempts to douse the flame of protest have yielded no results.

Good words used .. Strident, Aloof, Ominous, Douse

Finance

Reliance Ji0 might be allowed to acquire the assets of the bankrupt RCom

In  the bidding process, Airtel offered to buy the assets paying Rs.9500 crores, but wanted deferred payment facilty. In contrast, Reliance Jio has offered to pay Rs.3600 crores upfront for the RCom assets. It seems the Committee of Creditors (CoC) will prefer the Jio offer. Most of this money will go to government to be adjusted against the pending spectrum dues of RCom. The lenders (mostly bankers) will be left high and dry. RCom owes Rs.49,000 crores to the bankers and other lenders, and about Rs.28,800 crores to the government towards spectrum dues. So, one can imagine the huge loss to the bankers and lenders, and the government caused by the bankcruptcy of RCom. Only a year ago, Reliance Jio (of Mukesh Ambani) had offred to pay Rs.25,000 crores for the same asset that t is now acquiring for a mere Rs.3600 crores.

Copious rain may bring in bumper wheat harvest, and a major headache for government

Heavy rainfall this year could result in bumper wheat crop, but the storage and disposal of such large wheat stock will pose a problem for the government. The procurement by government agencies will have to be geared up, and the excess stock will have to be exported. However, international prices of whet are lower than Indian prices. So, the government may have to give subsidy to wheat exporters. Such subsidy has always been a contentious matter, because it runs counter to WTO rules.

Global firms likely to shift base from China to India

The Finance Minister disclosed that twelve global companies may leave China to relocate in India. Increasing labor cost, trade tensions with the U.S. have made China a less attractive place today for global companies. The lowering of corporate tax by the Modi government has acted as an incentive for such companies to shift their operations to India.

Hyundai India to export its Venue model Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) to South Africa

 In the first lot, Hyundai Motors India Ltd. (HMIL) will desptach 1500 cars through Chennai port to South Africa. India is emerging as a global manufacturing hub, especially for low-cost cars.

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News from other sources (BBC)

Due to increasing global warming, ice in the Arctic sea is melting. This ownership of this land mass s disputed with so many countries claiming chunks of this territory. The major claimant is Russia. Other claimants are Canada, the U.S., Denmark, and Netherlands. However, Russia dominates the area.

Due to melting of the ice, a ship route has opened up to the north of Russia making it possible to use it as a naval route for bulk exports. The Arctic area is rich in minerals, oil, and high quality coal (Anthracite).

India imports coke for use in its steel mills, thermal power plants, and other such industries. Presently, India imports coke from Australia, Indonesia etc. India has signed an agreement with Russia to import the Coke emanating from the Arctic area. The coke will be shipped through this newly-opened route.

[See world map to locate Arctic sea.]

Home task …What is the difference between coal and coke? India has huge coal deposits. Why does India import coke then?

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