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January 16, 2021
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15th January Current Affairs

Global Housing Technology Challenge

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Light House Projects (LHPs) under Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) at six sites across six states.

What are Light house projects?

The LHPs are being constructed at Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).

They comprise about 1000 houses at each location along with allied infrastructure facilities.

These projects will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses at an expedited pace within twelve months, as compared to conventional brick and mortar construction, and will be more economical, sustainable, of high quality and durability.

These LHPs demonstrate a variety of technologies, including Prefabricated Sandwich Panel System in LHP at Indore, Monolithic Concrete Construction using Tunnel Formwork etc.

Key features of the Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) are:

Launched in 2019, the challenge is undertaken under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).

GHTC aims to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meet the target of constructing 2 crore houses by 2022.

GHTC focuses on identifying and mainstreaming proven demonstrable technologies for lighthouse projects and spotting potential future technologies for incubation and acceleration support through ASHA (Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators) — India.

Industrial Corridor nodes at Krishnapatnam and Tumakuru

In News:

Cabinet approves Industrial Corridor nodes at Krishnapatnam and Tumakuru.

What is an industrial corridor?

An industrial corridor is basically a corridor comprising of multi-modal transport services that would pass through the states as main artery.

Industrial corridors offer effective integration between industry and infrastructure, leading to overall economic and social development.

Industrial corridors constitute world-class infrastructure, such as:

  • High-speed transportation network – rail and road.
  • Ports with state-of-the-art cargo handling equipment.
  • Modern airports.
  • Special economic regions/industrial areas.
  • Logistic parks/transhipment hubs.
  • Knowledge parks focused on catering to industrial needs.
  • Complementary infrastructure such as townships/real estate.

Budget session

In News:

The budget session of Parliament is expected to be held under similar COVID-19 safety measures and restrictions, including strict physical distancing norms, that were in place for the monsoon session.

So far, there is no clarity on whether the Question Hour which was suspended during the monsoon session as part of the COVID-19 restrictions will resume in the budget session.

Constitutional Provisions:

Article 85 requires that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament.

The Constitution does not specify when or for how many days Parliament should meet.

Why is a Parliamentary Session important?

Law-making is dependent on when Parliament meets.

Also, a thorough scrutiny of the government’s functioning and deliberation on national issues can only take place when the two Houses are in session.

Predictability in the functioning of Parliament is key to a well-functioning democracy.

3 states, 3 anti-conversion laws: what’s similar, what’s different?

In News:

The MP Cabinet has approved the Freedom to Religion Bill, 2020 as an Ordinance.

Previously, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have passed similar laws.

What’s similar?

A common feature of all three laws is the declaration of such marriages as “null and void” and the penalising of conversions done without the prior approval of the state.

Differences:

They differ in the quantum of punishment prescribed, and in attributing the burden of proof that a conversion is lawful.

Prior notice:

The MP Law requires a 60-day prior “declaration of the intention to convert” to the District Magistrate for conversion to be valid, following which a couple from different religions can be legally married.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2020 too requires a 60-day notice but also requires the Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry to ascertain the real intention behind the conversion.

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 that came into effect last week, requires a 30-day prior “declaration of intention to convert”.

Who can investigate?

The MP Law: Section 4 of the MP Law states that there cannot be an investigation by a police officer except on the written complaint of the person converted or the person’s parents/siblings. No police officer below the rank of a sub-inspector can investigate an offence under the law.

The Himachal law says that prosecution cannot be initiated without the prior sanction of an officer not below the rank of a sub-divisional magistrate.

The UP law allows the same people as allowed by the MP Law to file a complaint.

Burden of proof:

The MP Law places on the person converted the burden of proving that the conversion was done without any coercion or illegality.

The Himachal law has a similar provision.

The UP law goes further, placing this burden of proof on people who “caused” or “facilitated” the conversion and not on the individual.

Iran begins enriching uranium in new breach of nuclear deal

In News:

Iran has resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at its sensitive Fordow nuclear facility— a major step away from a 2015 nuclear deal struck with world powers.

Implications:

Enriched uranium can be used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear bombs. Weapons-grade uranium is 90% purity.

The move could complicate the incoming Biden administration’s plans to restart nuclear talks with Tehran.

Iran’s changing attitude:

Iran, which insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful, has rolled back a number of commitments under the deal.

It has said it is retaliating for the US economic sanctions that were reinstated in 2018 by President Donald Trump when he abandoned the accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

What is enriched uranium?

Enriched uranium is produced by feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges to separate out the most suitable isotope for nuclear fission, called U-235.

Low-enriched uranium, which typically has a 3-5% purity of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.

Highly enriched uranium has a concentration of 20% or more and is used in research reactors.

Why is 20% purity significant?

Experts at the Arms Control Association said that 120kg of uranium enriched to 20% was about half the amount of uranium that, when enriched to weapons-grade (90% or more), was necessary for one bomb.

They also warned that the production of highly enriched uranium would pose a more serious near-term proliferation risk.