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Prelims Bits (1st Week)

Economy:

43rd GST Council Meeting – IGST exempted on Covid relief items import:

  • Context: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 28 chaired the 43rd GST Council meeting via video conferencing
  • About: The GST Council meeting, attended by Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur and the finance ministers of states and Union Territories (UTs) along with senior officials of the government of India, was convened for the first time in nearly eight months
  • Though the council is required to meet once every quarter.
  • The GST Council’s meeting, the first this year, comes at a time when the country is reeling under the second wave of coronavirus infections that have derailed the economic recovery
  • Council has decided to exempt import of relief items and is being extended till August 31, 2021.
  • Import of medicine for black fungus, that is Amphotericin B, has also been included in the exempted category.
  • Import of Covid-related relief items, even if purchased or meant for donating to government or to any relief agency upon recommendation of state authority, to be exempted from IGST till August 31, 2021
  • FM Sitharaman announced Amnesty Scheme to reduced late fee returns.Small taxpayers can file pending returns under this scheme
  • A Group of Ministers will be quickly formed who will submit their report within 10 days – on or before June 8, so that if there are any further reductions which need to be done will be done, in the sense, that rates will be decided by them.
  • Contentious issue of compensation cess- Same formula as last year will be adopted this year too. The rough estimate is that the Centre will have to borrow Rs 1.58 lakh crore, which will be passed on to states as back-to-back loans.
  • A special session will be held to discuss compensation cess alone. At the session, a decision will be taken on whether the compensation cess will be extended beyond July 1, 2022, how it will be collected, how much it will be, etc.

Shyamala Gopinath Committee:

  • Context: The Reserve Bank of India has set up a five-member Standing External Advisory Committee, headed by former RBI Deputy Governor Shyamala Gopinath, for evaluating applications for universal banks and Small Finance Banks (SFBs)
  • About: The applications for universal banks and SFBs will first be evaluated by the RBI to ensure prima facie eligibility of the applicants, after which the SEAC will evaluate the applications
  • This is part of the central bank’s earlier announced plan to give banking permits on a continuous basis to candidates, a process that is commonly known as ‘on-tap’ licensing.
  • On tap licensing it means the RBI window for granting banking licences will be open throughout the year.

History:

History of Namibia Genocide – Germany officially recognises colonial era Herero & Namaqua genocide

  • Context: Germany for the first time has recognised that it committed genocide against the Herero and Nama people in present-day Namibia during its colonial rule over a century ago
  • About: It also promised financial support of over a billion euros to the Southern African nation
  • Between 1904 and 1908, German colonial settlers killed tens of thousands of men, women and children from the Herero and Nama tribes, after they rebelled against colonial rule in what was then called German South West Africa.
  • While Germany has previously acknowledged the atrocities, they refused to pay direct reparations for many years.
  • Between 1884 and 1890, Germany formally colonised parts of present day Namibia — a territory which was roughly twice as large as the European nation, but not as densely populated.
  • By 1903, around 3,000 German settlers had occupied the central high ground of the region.
  • Tensions quickly rose as local tribes saw the German settlers as a threat to their land and resources.
  • The conflict reached a boiling point in 1904, when the Herero nation — a primarily pastoral community — rebelled against the Germans, and were closely followed by the Nama tribe.
  • The Herero, who by then had embraced some symbols of modernity such as guns and horses, laid siege on a German fort.
  • Significantly outnumbered by the well-armed Hereros fighters, the military commander and governor of the colony at the time, Major Theodor Leutwein, decided to broker a settlement to end the conflict.
  • But Berlin demanded a military solution. Leutwein was replaced by Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, who opted for a far more aggressive military approach.
  • He directed his troops to corner the Herero fighters, who had by then fled to the Waterberg plateau at the edge of the Kalahari desert.
  • His strategy was to ruthlessly “annihilate” the Hereros when they least expected it.
  • During the Battle of Waterberg, around 80,000 Herero, including women and children, were chased across the desert by German troops. A mere 15,000 survived
  • Around this time, the southern Nama communities, too, had led an insurrection against German colonialism.
  • But much like the Herero, they too were brutally suppressed. Around 10,000 of them were killed.
  • Over the next 3 years, thousands of Nama & Herero men, women and children were exiled to the Kalahari desert where many died of thirst.
  • Several others were sent to bleak concentration camps, and used for forced labour.
  • A declaration will be signed in early June, following which it will be ratified by the parliaments of both countries.
  • President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is then expected to officially apologize for Germany’s crimes in front of the Namibian Parliament.
  • Germany’s financial package worth 1.1 billion euros will be paid separately to existing aid programmes in the country over the next three decades.

History of Rwanda Genocide – President Macron asks Rwanda to forgive France over 1994 genocide role:

  • Context: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday acknowledged his country’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but stopped short of a clear public apology.
  • About: France has a role, a story and a political responsibility to Rwanda. She has a duty: to face history head-on and recognise the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth,”
  • Macron said in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of 2.5 lakh victims of the genocide are interred.
  • “Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities”.
  • The remarks were welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame – a fierce critic of France ever since the genocide–who called them “more valuable than an apology” and “an act of tremendous courage”.
  • France’s partial admission of guilt is seen as part of an effort to mend ties with its former colonies and sphere of influence in Africa.
  • The Rwandan genocide of April-July 1994 was the culmination of long-running ethnic tensions between the minority Tutsi community, who had controlled power since colonial rule by Germany and Belgium, and the majority Hutu.
  • Over the course of 100 days, the tragedy took the lives of over 8 lakh people, estimated to amount up to 20% of Rwanda’s population.
  • Hutu militias systematically targeted the Tutsi ethnic group, and used the nation’s public broadcaster, Rwanda Radio, for spreading propaganda.
  • Military and political leaders encouraged sexual violence as a means of warfare, leading to around 5 lakh women and children being raped, sexually mutilated or murdered.
  • Some 20 lakh fled the country. The conflict ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front seized control of the country in July, and its leader Paul Kagame assumed power.
  • Kagame, who has led Rwanda ever since, has been credited for bringing stability and development to the mineral-rich nation, but blamed for cultivating an environment of fear for his political opponents both at home and abroad
  • During the genocide, Western powers including the United States were blamed for their inaction which abetted the atrocities.
  • France, which was then led by Socialist President François Mitterrand, gained notoriety after being accused of acting as a staunch ally of the Hutu-led government that ordered the killings.
  • Bilateral relations nosedived after the genocide, as leaders in Rwanda as well as elsewhere in Africa were infuriated by the role of France.
  • Kagame drew his country – whose official language had been French ever since Belgian rule – away from France, and brought it closer to the US, China and the Middle East.
  • Kagame also broke off relations with France at one point.

Security:

Indian Coast Guard ship ‘Vajra’ commissioned; to enhance coast security.

  • Context: Indian Coast Guard Ship Vessel “Vajra” is indigenously designed and built by Larsen and Toubro Shipbuilding Ltd
  • About: CGS Vajra is the sixth in the series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
  • It is a 98-meter ship equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. It is designed to carry one twin-engine helicopter and four high-speed boats. The vessel can also be used in Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement, and Maritime Patrol. The vessel is also capable of carrying Pollution Response Equipment for oil spill response at Sea.

International Relations:

India Israel Defence Ties – Israel to lease 4 Heron TP drones to Indian Army for LAC surveillance

  • Context: The Indian Army will soon get four Heron TP drones on lease from Israel, which will be deployed along the Line of actual control with China for long surveillance missions
  • About: The drones are capable of operating for nearly 45 hours at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet.
  • The Heron TP drones are equipped with automatic taxi takeoff and landing (ATOL) and satellite communication
  • (SATCOM) systems for an extended range.
  • The drones will be fitted with ultra-long-range surveillance cameras and other state-of-the-art gadgets.
  • The Heron TP, which is as long as a Rafale (14 metres) and has double the wingspan of the French fighter, has been developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
  • It is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for all weather strategic missions.
  • While the Heron TP drones are capable of being armed if needed, sources said the ones being leased by India are non-weaponised versions.
  • The Army and the Indian Air Force use a mix of previous generation Heron and Searcher 2 drones.
  • But the Heron TP is much more capable than its predecessor. “The Heron TP is huge. It looks like an AN-32 aircraft in size because of its large wingspan.
  • It has a maximum take-off weight of 5,670 kg, with a maximum payload weight of 2,700 kg. The earlier generation has less than half this capacity.
  • The defence ministry had also finalised a plan to upgrade around 80-90 Heron drones and also to weaponise them.
  • Of the 90, about 75 are operated by the IAF. The first two drones will be delivered soon. The other two will be delivered after a gap of three months.”

Permanent Indus Commission:

  • Context: After a gap of more than two and half years Indian and Pakistani delegations began the 116th Meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission.
  • About: The Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India and Pakistan. It is created to implement and manage the goals of the Indus Water Treaty, 1960
  • Meeting: The Commission according to the treaty must meet regularly at least once a year. The PIC will hold the meeting alternately in India and Pakistan.
  • The last meeting of the PIC was held in Pakistan in 2018.The Commission was scheduled to meet in 2020, but it was cancelled in view of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Further, Pakistan also has the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

Government schemes and initiative:

Catch the Rain Campaign

  • Context: The Prime Minister has announced the commencement of the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Wave’ campaign. On World Water Day, the ‘Rain’ campaign was launched.
  • About: Catch the Rain is a Jan Andolan campaign. It aims to take water conservation at the grass-root level through people’s participation.
  • The campaign intends to accelerate water conservation across the country.
  • Aim is to encourage all stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures (RWHS). These structures will ensure the proper storage of rainwater.
  • The campaign will be undertaken across the country, in both rural and urban areas. It will be implemented from March 22 to November 30 (the pre-monsoon and monsoon period) in the country

Science and Technology:

Parosmia:

  • Context: Anosmia (smell blindness) and ageusia are the most prevalent symptoms of Covid-19. However, parosmia affects a large number of people. It is characterized by a shift in scent perception.
  • About: Parosmia is a medical term used to describe a condition in which affected individuals experience “distortions of the sense of smell”.
  • A person with parosmia is able to detect certain odours. But they might experience the smell of certain things as different and often unpleasant. For example, coffee may smell like burnt toast.
  • Parosmia is typically experienced by those people who are recovering their sense of smell following a loss from a virus or an injury.