Today’s Current Affairs November 24 (from The Hindu, The Economist and other sources)

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The news items have been sourced from The Hindu, with additional inputs from The Economist, Washington Post, TIME etc

Today’s news November 24, 2019

Front page …

Fadnavis swearing in as Maharastra chief minister leaves the Sena-NCP-Congress fuming.

A surreptitious maneuver by wily Ajit Pawar enabled the BJP leader Fadnavis to prevail upon the Governor to swear him in as the chief minister. Ajit Pawar, out-witted his uncle, Sharad Pawar, in the midnight drama, managed to be sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister.

The early-dawn developments was a virtual coup that  clearly rattled the octogenarian NCP patriarch, Insiders say, he had some inkling about such defiance by his protégé Ajit, and a handful of other MLAs.

The coming together of NCP, Congress, and the Shiva Sena had seemed an ideologically incongruous combination from the very start. After the hurried swearing in ceremony, the three aggrieved parties have knocked the Supreme Court’s door for an urgent hearing.

According to the latest news, the Supreme Court has asked the BJP to produce two letters, the one that showed Fadnavis had the backing of NCP MLAs, and the Governor’s letter inviting BJP to form the government.

Related news .. A decision of this kind can be taken by the Union government after a formal cabinet meeting. The decision, when formally communicated to the President, enables him to issue the notification revoking President’s rule in the state. In situations of extreme urgency when the nation’s interest is in grave peril, the Prime Minister can bypass this process using Clause 12 of the Rules of Business, and send his recommendations to the Rastrapati Bhawan. In this instance, the PM did just this.

In a press briefing of the three parties held at 12.30pm, Sharad Pawar confidently claimed that BJP  can’t garner enough support in the Assembly to win the trust vote.

In a party meeting held later at 4.30pm the same day, as many as 49 out of 54 NCP MLAs presented themselves to assert their loyalty to Sharad Pawar.

Good words used .. Surreptitious, Rattle, Fume as verb, Octogenarian, Outwit, Wily, Incongruous, Protege, Inkling, Patriarch

Massive data leak roils KEA

Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA) has fallen prey to hackers who have stolen the personal details of lakhs of students. The KEA, exasperated by this malicious attack, has approached the police to nab the culprits.

Good words / phrases used .. Fall prey to, Exasperate, Nab

Bengaluru news ..

Cubbon Park to get a face-lift under the Smart City initiative..

The iconic Cubbon Park, home to myriad species of plants and trees, will get a huge make-over under the Smart City initiative. Plans are afoot to develop a lotus pond, erect a walkway, and rejuvenate the Park. Such renovation will resuscitate the colonial era park facing slow death.

Good words used .. Face-lift, Myriad, Iconic, Afoot, Resuscitate, Make-over

Decongesting the Outer Ring Road (ORR)

Bengaluru’s worsening traffic snarls invite a lot of hostile attention both from inside India and abroad. To alleviate the suffering of the commuters, efforts are on to decongest the ORR by building six-lane roads from end to end. A group of officials visited the spots that have become choke points for traffic. They now mull solutions to remove the bottlenecks.

Good words used .. Snarl, Alleviate, Mull

Karnataka matters ..

Rows of empty houses at Nava Talamari stand testimony to bad planning that caused a humungous waste of money

In the aftermath of the calamitous floods in 2009, the government swiftly built numerous low-cost dwelling units in Nava Talamari for those whose houses were swept away. Sadly, the location of the new settlements was badly chosen. The distant location of these settlements made the houses unattractive for occupation. Few have moved in so far. When asked, the targeted beneficiaries say that they live off their cattle. The clustered houses are unsuitable for animal husbandry, and so they are disinclined to occupy them. With no claimants, the houses languish presenting a sight of dereliction and waste. 

Good words / phrases used…. Live-off, Dereliction, Calamitous, 

Government bestowed undeserving favours on JSW, says High Court

The Karnataka High Court has expressed its displeasure at the way the state government bent backwards to accommodate the unjustified and illegal mining activities of JSW. It seems the company flouted the relevant mining regulations with impunity, as the government chose to look the other way. The flagrant violation of law favored the company at the cost of environment and the state exchequer.

Good words / phrases used .. With impunity, Exchequer, Bend backwards, Look the other way, Flagrant, 

National

Speeding car veers off a fly over killing one woman and injuring four

In a gruesome road accident in Hyderabad, a car speeding at 120 kmph collided against the side railings of the highway and tumbled to the ground below. A woman passenger was killed, and four others on board the car sustained grievous injuries. The mangled remains of the car now lie on the spot reminding the passers- by about the perils of reckless driving.

Good words / phrases used.. Gruesome, Grievous, Mangled, 

 

Patients with rare diseases wait long for succor await Union Health Ministry’s nod..

Patients afflicted by rare diseases like Lysosomal Storage Disorder represented by their society LSDSS, and the Organization of Rare Diseases of India(ORDI) have moved the Union Health Ministry for help, but the latter’s reaction has been lukewarm. The case has drawn public sympathy, because most of the patients are children.

Good words used .. Afflicted, Lukewarm, Succor

Activists protest the current trend of democratic regression ..

A large procession of activists, intellectuals and concerned citizens marched towards the parliament to air their consternation about the erosion of democratic institutions under the BJP rule. Most participants expressed their dismay at the highhanded way the government has tried to stifle the ongoing JNU protests over fee hike.

Good words used.. Consternation, Stifle, 

International

Hong Kong braces for District Council polls amid simmering public anger

Hong Kong has been rocked by spiraling student protests for the last few months. In the coming election 4.1 million voters will elect 452 representatives for the District Councils. The bustling city has seen disruptions of unprecedented scale as angry students have taken on the police with whatever weapon they could lay their hands on. In a recent attack, a police man’s leg was hit by an arrow apparently shot by a protester. A peaceful end of the elections will not lead to lasting peace in the city, as the chasm between the two sides has widened considerably.

Good words / phrases used … Chasm, Take on, Bustling, 

CPEC is a white elephant, says a top U.S. diplomat

Alice Wells, the top American diplomat for South and Central Asia has stated that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project(CPEC) being undertaken by China will prove to be a dead investment for the cash-strapped country trying somehow to stay afloat with fresh borrowings. According to her, CPEC will provide very less job opportunities for Pakistan’s young men and women, and servicing the Chinese debt will be a daunting task for the government.

The Pakistan government, however, has denied the allegation.

Good words / phrases used .. Stay afloat, 

Lula emerges from the jail, roaring and blustering

The ex-president of Brazil, Lula, who has been released from jail has defiantly declared that he will never give up his left-leaning social welfare policies. If elected, he will strive to reverse the rightwing politics of the present president Bolsonaro, who has proved to be divisive, anti-poor politician.

Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, will guest-audit BBC 4 radio programme

The Swedish teenager, who shot to fame after her strident UN speech on climate change, will guest-audit BBC 4 radio broadcasts.

Finance

Rating Agencies methods will be scrutinized

Nirmala Sitaraman, while delivering the G.Ramachandran Memorial Lecture, has called into question the veracity of the ratings given by rating agencies. She recalled how IL&FS collapsed under the load of its own financial irregularities despite having been given the highest rating by the Agencies.

India Inc, still in ‘wait and watch’ mode..

The large corporate houses of India, who have no shortage of capital, are not starting new ventures, nor expanding their existing plants. The pervasive atmosphere of gloom, and policy uncertainties of the union government seem to be curbing their urge to increase their capital expenditure (Capex). The cut in income tax rates announced by the Finance Minister has failed to induce the corporate houses to move aggressively towards capacity expansion. This has proved to be a worrisome development for the government.

Tea Industry experiencing painful transformation ..

Tea has been one of India’s major foreign exchange earners. Indians drink tea in great quantities, which is why the domestic demand for tea continues to grow year after year. Tea gardens in the north east and south of the country provide employment to thousands of workers. However, tea industry having its roots in the colonial era, has more than its share of woes. Tea gardens have become un-remunerative due to falling yield. Tea companies have abandoned their gardens and fled leaving the workers to fend for themselves. No doubt, tea yield increases and falls cyclically. The owners know it, and have learned to wait out the bad times. Tea garden workers live in shanty dwellings around the gardens and depend upon the employer for all their needs. Sadly, their children do not study and don’t pick up skills for non-tea estate jobs. This heavy dependence on the tea gardens for a living creates many problems.

The large tea companies have slowly gone out of business due to their inflexibility of management practices, and their inability to cut costs. Worryingly for them, smaller tea gardens with much less overhead have emerged and flourished. But, these smaller units are more prone to distress when market fluctuates and  harvest plummets. So, they are not the ideal employers the workers look forward to.

Labour costs have gone up, and the selling prices of tea in auctions have not kept pace. This creates more unforeseen probes for the tea producers, both big and small. Despite being the preferred beverage, per capital tea consumption of tea in India stands at just786 grams per year – one of the lowest in the world.

The Tea Board of India has an unenviable task in hand – how to enable the tea growers to bring about structural changes in the industry, so that tea industry continues to flourish.

Why government hesitated to hold back the spending survey data…

The National Statistical Organization (NSO) conducted a survey in 2017-18 in all-India basis to asses Household Expenditure. The data that the survey produced showed an alarming dip in household expenditure. Such decrease is quite unsettling for everyone in the government and among the public. It created unease in the government, who decided not to publish it. However, the media got hold of a copy and made it public. When asked, the government stated that the data collection process was flawed in certain ways, so the findings had to be withdrawn.

There has been considerable criticism in some sections of the media about the government’s tendency to conceal inconvenient data. Such criticism may or may not be correct, but when we find that agencies like the IMF, The World Bank have expressed doubts about the authenticity of Indian government’s economic data, it makes the citizens uncomfortable.

For some time, the Chinese used to fudge their growth figures, but when they found that manipulating data did them more harm than good, they mended their ways. Now, analysts treat China’s published economic data with more seriousness. India must take a cue from the Chinese in this regard.

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