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1. Iran withdraws from the JCPOA deal completely
- Iran on January 5 has announced that it will fully withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, following the U.S. targeted strike that killed the country’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
- President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018.
- The Iran deal was one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of former President Barack Obama’s tenure but has continued to be a divisive issue in Washington since it came to fruition in 2015.
- The situation became even tenser in the early days of 2020 after the US announced it killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, in an airstrike. Iran’s top diplomat called the incident an act of “international terrorism.”
- Just days after the strike that killed Soleimani, Iran announced it would no longer comply with the JCPOA, effectively abandoning the deal altogether.
- To understand the polarizing nature of this deal, why Trump’s decision continues to face criticism, and the geopolitical implications of both the US and Iran are stepping away from it, here’s a quick breakdown of the historic pact and the debate surrounding it.
The Iran Nuclear Deal
- In July 2015, Iran and six countries reached a historic agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
- The six major powers involved in these negotiations with Iran were known as the P5+1, which stands for the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members (the US, France, the UK, China, and Russia) and Germany.
- The deal came together after two years of intense discussions and aimed to restrict Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting economic sanctions against Tehran.
- As part of the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges – tube-shaped machines that help enrich uranium – by two-thirds. It also agreed to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%.
- In other words, Tehran agreed to restrictions that would allow it to have enough enriched uranium to maintain the country’s energy needs, without having the ability to build a nuclear bomb.
- On top of this, Iran agreed to give access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, to its nuclear facilities, among other facilities. The IAEA has repeatedly found Iran to be complying with the terms of the pact.
- In January 2016, when the IAEA declared Iran was living up to its end of the bargain, all nuclear-related international sanctions against Iran were lifted.
2. Inauguration of Artificial Intelligence based NSE knowledge hub
- Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Commerce, and Industry & Railways Minister, inaugurated the National Stock Exchange (NSE) Knowledge Hub in New Delhi, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered learning ecosystem that will assist the Banking Financial Services And Insurance (BFSI) sector.
- The NSE Knowledge Hub will enhance skills and help academic institutions in preparing future-ready talent for the financial service industry. It is also available on mobile and attempts to bring together world-class content and learners through this state- of- the- art and future-ready platform.
- While inaugurating the knowledge hub, the Hon’ble Minister said that although India has developed as the second-largest fintech hub in the world, a lot of work still needs to be done in the BFSI sector. He hoped that the Knowledge Hub created by NSE will fill in these gaps and help the financial sector to move into the future. Commerce and Industry Minister said that this industry-driven learning ecosystem will help India in building next-generation skills and capabilities in the BFSI sector.
- This Knowledge Hub by NSE will strengthen and empower those working in the BFSI sector and will benefit investors and the financial services to give world-class services through knowledge, innovation and value- addition. Further, the Commerce and Industry Minister assured continued Government support to investors and startups.
3. India’s UJALA Programme completes 5 successful years
Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on January 5th, 2015, the Government of India’s zero-subsidy Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) and LED Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP), marked its fifth anniversary.
- SLNP is the world’s largest streetlight replacement programme and UJALA is the world’s largest domestic lighting project. Both have been spearheaded and implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of PSUs under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
- Under the SLNP programme, over 1.03 crore smart LED streetlights have been installed to date, enabling an estimated energy savings of 6.97 billion kWh per year with an avoided peak demand of 1,161 MW and an estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction of 4.80 million CO2 annually. LED streetlights have been installed in various states across the country, helping generate approximately 13,000 jobs to support GoI’s Make in India initiative.
- Through the UJALA initiative, over 36.13 crores of LED bulbs have been distributed across India. This has resulted in estimated energy savings of 46.92 billion kWh per year, avoided peak demand of 9,394 MW, and an estimated GHG emission reduction of 38 million CO2 annually.
- With the average household electricity bills down by 15 percent, the annual energy saving is equivalent to a week’s average earning. The sale of LED bulbs in the Indian market increased from 0.1 percent of the lighting market in 2014 to 15 percent within a year, with a projected increase to 60 percent by 2020. The domestic LED market has also grown significantly beyond the UJALA programme, with the industry selling over 1.15 billion LEDs, far exceeding the UJALA programme’s target of 700 million LED unit sales.
- By March 2020, SLNP aims to replace 1.34 crore conventional streetlights in India with smart LEDs. This ambitious goal will make a tremendous difference, enabling peak demand reduction of about 1500 MW, annual energy savings of 9 billion kWh, and reduction in 6.2 Million tons of CO2 per year. EESL has an ambitious plan in this portfolio for the next 4-5 years where it intends to bring investment to the tune of INR 8,000 crores by 2024 by covering entire rural India. It is expected that more than 30 million LED streetlights would be retrofitted/installed by EESL.
4. Indian Army to sign MoU with Russia for elite AK-203 assault rifles
- The Indian Army is reportedly planning to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to procure more than 750,000 elite AK-203 assault rifles. The Indo-Russian Rifles (IRRPL), an India-Russia joint venture (JV) at Korwa, will manufacture the assault rifles in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Of the total order, 100,000 rifles will be manufactured in Russia. The JV based in Amethi will produce the remaining 650,000 units.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the rifle-manufacturing facility in Korwa. IRRPL is a JV between Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) on the Indian side, and Rosonboron Exports and Concern Kalashnikov on the Russian side.
- The Indian Army’s OFB owns a 50.5% stake in the JV and the remaining 49.5% is held by Russian partners. The JV was formed consequent to the inter-governmental agreement signed between the two countries in February last year.
- In July last year, the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the operationalisation of the JV IRRPL to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles in UP.
5. MECOS-3, 2020: Global Marine Ecosystem Meet in Kochi
The Marine Ecosystems-Challenges and Opportunities (MECOS), the third international symposium is to be held in Kochi. The symposium is conducted by the Marine Biological Association of India between January 7, 2020, and January 10, 2020.
Scientists, Fisheries researchers, Marine biotechnologists and oceanographers from all over the world are to participate in the meet. The symposium will act as a common platform for the experts to discuss climate crisis, unusual warming of Arabian Sea, ocean acidification, etc.
The symposium is to focus on the Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations, SDG-14. SDG-14 says, “Conserve and Sustainably use the oceans and its resources for sustainable development”.
6. First Antarrashtriya Yoga Diwas Media Samman to be conferred
Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shri Prakash Javadekar will confer the first ‘Antarrashtriya Yoga Diwas Media Samman’, in New Delhi on 07th of January, 2020.
Acknowledging the positive role & responsibility of media in disseminating the outreach of Yoga in India and abroad, the Ministry of I&B had instituted the first Antarashtriya Yoga Diwas Media Samman (AYDMS) in June 2019 to mark the contribution of media in spreading the message of Yoga.
The Samman to be conferred on Media Houses would be given under the following categories:
- Thirty (30) Sammans under Three (3) categories will be conferred.
- Eleven Sammans to be conferred under the category “Best Media Coverage of Yoga in Newspapers.
- Eight Sammans to be conferred under the category “Best Media Coverage of Yoga on Television.
- Eleven Sammans to be conferred under the category “Best Media Coverage of Yoga in Radio.
The Samman will comprise of a special medal/plaque/trophy and a citation. The contribution of Media in popularizing of Yoga and the entries were assessed by a Jury comprising of 6 members and was headed by Justice C. K. Prasad, Chairman, Press Council of India.
International Day of Yoga
The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on 21 June since 2015. The idea of International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, during his address at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on 27 September 2014.
7. Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park Census: Increase in Salt Water Crocodiles
The population of the saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has increased in the water bodies of Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park and its nearby areas in Kendrapara district, with forest officials counting 1,757 individuals in this year’s annual reptile census on January 3, 2020. Last year, they had counted 1,742 crocodiles in the area.
There are 620 hatchlings, 325 yearlings, 288 juveniles, 185 sub-adults (six to eight feet long) and 339 adults (more than 8 feet long). Last year, we had sighted 619 hatchlings, 347 yearlings, 273 juveniles, 178 sub-adults, and 325 adults. The enumerators also sighted around 12 albino crocodiles and four giant crocodiles more than 20 feet long in the water bodies of Bhitarkanika during the census.
In 2014, the number of crocodiles was 1,644, and in 2015 no. of crocodiles was 1,665 crocodiles. In 2016, they found 1,671 and in 2017, the numbers of the reptile reached 1,682. In 2018, they were 1,698.