December 2019

Daily Current Affairs (12-12-19)

ECONOMICS

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT TRUSTS (InvITs)

Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:      

Economy [Paper-II]: Infrastructure in Indian Economy

Why in News?

Union Cabinet has given its approval to the proposal of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, authorizing National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to set up Infrastructure Investment Trust(s) (InvIT) as per InvIT Guidelines issued by SEBI.

News in Detail

  • This will enable NHAI to monetize completed National Highways that have a toll collection track record of atleast one year and NHAI reserves the right to levy toll on the identified highway.
  • Under InvIT, highway projects will be bundled to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to be offered to investors.
  • The SPV would then be traded on the stock exchanges, and returns will be linked to the InvIT’s performance in the capital market.
  • InvIT as an instrument provides greater flexibility to investors and is expected to create specialized Operation & Maintenance concessionaires, attract patient capital for around 30 years to the highways market.
  • NHAI’s InvIT will be a Trust established by NHAI under the Indian Trust Act, 1882 and Securities and Exchange Board of India (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014.

What is Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs)?

  • SEBI notified the SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) Regulations, 2014 on September 26, 2014, providing for registration and regulation of InvITs in India.
  • The objective of InvITs is to facilitate investment in the infrastructure sector.
  • It is a Collective Investment Scheme similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of money from individual and institutional investors in infrastructure projects to earn a small portion of the income as return.
  • Such a model is more attractive for investors as it provides greater flexibility and they don’t have to build an infrastructure project from scratch and is averse to construction risk.
  • It is designed as a tiered structure with Sponsor setting up the InvIT which in turn invests into the eligible infrastructure projects either directly or via special purpose vehicles (SPVs).

Structure of InvITs

  • An InvIT consists of four elements: 1) Trustee, 2) Sponsor, 3) Investment Manager and 4) Project Manager.
  • Sponsors’ means promoters and refer to any organisation or a corporate entity with a capital of Rs 100 crore, which establishes the InvIT.
  • The infrastructure company interested in getting funds from the public will form the trust, and then appoint an investment manager who will be responsible for how the assets and investments of the InvIT are managed.
  • Project manager executes the projects. It is overseen by the investment manager.
  • Since the instrument is essentially a trust, the company will also appoint a trustee, who has to ensure that the functions of the InvIT, investment manager and project manager comply with SEBI rules.

[Source: Economic Times, PIB]

 

GEOGRAPHY

RARE EARTH ELEMENTS

Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:     

Geography [Paper-I]: Marine and Continental Resources

News

  • The United States Army is planning to fund the construction of a Rare Earths processing facility to secure the domestic supply of minerals that are used to make military weapons and electronics.
  • This will be the first financial investment by the US military into commercial-scale Rare Earths production since the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War II.

Why U.S. is planning to focus on Rare Earths?

  • The decision comes after China threatened to stop exporting Rare Earth materials to the US amid the ongoing trade war between the countries.
  • President Donald Trump earlier this year ordered the military to update its supply chain for the niche materials, warning that reliance on other nations for the strategic minerals could hamper U.S. defenses.
  • While Rare Earth elements are used in building consumer electronics, in healthcare and transportation, they are especially important for governments because of their use in manufacturing defence equipment.
  • Currently, China refines approximately 80%-90% of the world’s Rare Earths, thereby having substantial control over their supply.

What are Rare Earths?

  • Rare Earth Elements or Rare Earth Metals are a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table — the 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium, which tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and have similar chemical properties.
  • The 17 Rare Earths are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).
  • Despite their classification, most of these elements are not really “rare”.
  • One of the Rare Earths, promethium, is radioactive.
  • According to the Rare Earth Technology Alliance (RETA), the estimated size of the Rare Earth sector is between $10 billion and $15 billion.
  • About 100,000- 110,000 tonnes of Rare Earth elements are produced annually around the world.

Are they really “Rare”?

  • The term “rare earth” arises from the minerals from which they were first isolated, which were uncommon oxide-type minerals (earth) found in Gadolinite extracted from one mine in the village of Ytterby, Sweden.
  • However, with the exception of the highly-unstable prometheum, rare earth elements are found in relatively high concentrations in the earth’s crust.

Uses of Rare Earths

  • They are important in technologies of consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, clean energy, advanced transportation, healthcare, environmental mitigation, and national defence, among others.
  • Scandium is used in televisions and fluorescent lamps, and yttrium is used in drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
  • They are used in space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones. Cerium, the most abundant Rare Earth element, is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.

Dominance of China

  • In China, the mining of Rare Earths began in the 1950s, but it remained a cottage industry until the 1970s, when the chemist Xu Guangxian found a way to separate the Rare Earth elements.
  • China’s Rare Earths deposits account for 80% of identified global reserves.

Rare Earths in India

  • In India, monazite is the principal source of rare earths.
  • The resource estimates of monazite in the beach and inland placer deposits have been enhanced from 10.70 million tonnes in 2009 to 11.935 million tonnes in 2016.
  • Indian Rare Earths (IREL), a Government of India Undertaking, and Kerala Minerals and Metals (KMML), a Kerala State Government Undertaking, are actively engaged in mining and processing of beach sand minerals from placer deposits.
  • IREL has a plant at Udyogamandal, Aluva, located in Ernakulam district, Kerala, wherein the monazite is chemically treated to separate rare earths in its composite chloride form and thorium as hydroxide upgrade.
[Source: Indian Express, ibm.gov.in]

 

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (USCIRF)

Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:    

International Relations [Paper-I]: India’s Foreign Policy, International Organisations, International Treaties and Forums, their structure and mandate

News

  • United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha.
  • It has sought American sanctions against Union Home Minister and other principal Indian leadership if the bill is passed by both houses of Parliament.
  • Earlier, USCIRF had also issued a statement against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and a mob lynching incident in Jharkhand.

What is USCIRF?

  • It is an advisory or a consultative body, which advises the US Congress and the administration on issues pertaining to international religious freedom.
  • USCIRF describes itself as an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission that was created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
  • The broad-based coalition that advocated strongly for IRFA’s enactment sought to elevate the fundamental human right of religious freedom as a central component of US foreign policy.
  • In practice, the USCIRF has little teeth in implementation, but acts as a conscience-keeper for the two branches in the US government — the legislature and the executive.

What is the IRFA?

  • International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was passed by the 105th US Congress (1997-99) and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton on October 27, 1998.
  • It is a statement of the US’s concern over violations of religious freedoms overseas.

[Source: Indian Express, uscirf.gov]

 

FACTS OF THE DAY

WORLD’S 1ST FULLY ELECTRIC COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT
  • Signifying the start of the electric aviation age, the world’s first fully-electric commercial aircraft took its inaugural test flight in Vancouver, Canada.
  • Australian engineering firm MagniX designed the plane’s motor and worked in partnership with Harbour Air.
  • The e-plane, a 62-year-old, six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane was retrofitted with an electric motor.
  • The technology would mean significant cost savings for airlines and zero emissions.
NANAVATI COMMISSION
  • Gujarat government recently tabled the report of the Nanavati Commission in the Legislative Assembly.
  • It was set up in 2002 to probe the burning of the Sabarmati Express in 2002 and the subsequent riots in Gujarat.
  • Initially a one-judge Commission headed by Justice K G Shah, it was later expanded to be headed by retired Justice G T Nanavati.
  • The Commission found that there was no conspiracy involved in the riots and they were largely the outcome of the anger over the Godhra train burning incident.
  • It gave a clean chit to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as well as to police, the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal.
KERALA NUTRITION RESEARCH CENTRE
  • Kerala is launching a nutrition research centre in Thiruvananthapuram, with the cooperation of National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM).
  • It will monitor and supervise the implementation of all nutritional programmes for women and children.
  • It wil be launched as part of Sampushta Keralam, a project being implemented by the Department of Women and Child Development (WCD), under the National Nutrition Mission.
  • Kerala government has given administrative sanction for 42 lakh for the research centre.
TAGORE NIKETAN
  • University of Kerala has initiated steps to establish ‘Tagore Niketan’, a reference section in its library.
  • It will include the literary works and images of Rabindranath Tagore, and studies and other writings based on his life and acclaimed poems.
  • Tagore Niketan, which will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tagore’s visit to Kerala, is being designed to aid research and further studies on the celebrated poet.
SUBRAMANYA BHARATHI
  • The 138th birth anniversary of Tamil poet ‘Mahakavi’ C. Subramanya Bharathi was celebrated on 11th December, 2019.
  • He was born on 11th December 1882, in a village called Ettayapuram in Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu and his childhood name was Subbiah.
  • He was a poet, freedom fighter and social reformer from Tamil Nadu. He was respectfully referred to as “Bharathiar”.
  • He is considered as one of India’s greatest poets. His songs on nationalism and freedom of India helped to rally the masses to support the Indian Independence Movement in Tamil Nadu.
  • Kannan Pattu”, “Nilavum Vanminum Katrum”, “Panchali Sabatam” and “Kuyil Pattu” are examples of Bharathi’s great poetic output.
  • He published the sensational “Sudesa Geethangal” in 1908.
  • He participated in Benaras Session (1905) and Surat Session (1907) of the Indian National Congress.
  • He believed in women’s rights, gender equality and women emancipation. He opposed child marriage, dowry and supported widow remarriage.

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