QBullet: General Bipin Rawat Appointed CDS; Maha Cabinet Expanded
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1. Gen Rawat India’s First Chief of Defence Staff
The Union government on Monday announced that General Bipin Rawat will be India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), heading the newly created department of military affairs and acting as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all matters related to the tri-services, an announcement that came a day before his retirement as the Indian Army chief.
The development, perhaps the most significant reform in top military management in India, comes four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech the creation of the post for more effective coordination between the three armed forces. Rawat will take over as CDS on Tuesday.
The creation of a CDS was suggested almost two decades ago by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) in February 2000.
2. Uddhav Inducts Son Aaditya Into Cabinet, Ajit Back as Deputy CM
Debutant MLA Aaditya Thackeray (29) was on Monday inducted as cabinet minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by his father Uddhav Thackeray, making the Thackerays the first father-son duo to be part of the cabinet together in Maharashtra.
NCP’s Ajit Pawar, who had rebelled against his uncle Sharad Pawar and joined hands with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis to become his deputy during the second, short-lived Fadnavis-led government that collapsed in 80 hours, returned as deputy chief minister.
Thirty-six ministers in the three-party government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress took oath at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday, more than a month after Uddhav became CM on 28 November.
3. Maharashtra: 19 is Tally of Ministers Who Are Dynasts, Congress Tops With 8
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray are not the only political dynasts in the Maharashtra Cabinet of 43. There are 17 others on the list topped by the Congress, with eight of the party’s Ministers related to political leaders.
According to the ruling coalition’s arrangement, the Shiv Sena’s quota is 15, including the Chief Minister, the NCP’s 16 and the Congress’s 12. The NCP has seven dynasts as Ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, followed by the Shiv Sena with three.
In the previous BJP-Shiv Sena government, there were at least eight dynasts in the Cabinet. They included Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, whose father Gangadhar Fadnavis was a BJP MLC, and Pankaja Munde, whose father, the late Gopinath Munde, was a senior BJP leader who had served as a Minister in the state and central governments.
4. Capital Freezes Over
Delhi recorded its coldest day ever on Monday, as a thick cover of fog hung over the National Capital Region, throwing life out of gear by disrupting flights and trains, causing a fatal road accident, aggravating air pollution, and increasing the rush of patients at government hospitals.
The Capital has been witnessing an intense cold wave over the past week, a trend that has contradicted the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) pre-season prediction of a warmer-than-usual winter.
The national weather forecaster said on Monday the maximum temperature was 9.4° Celsius at the Safdarjung Observatory, 11° Celsius below the season’s normal, and the lowest day temperature since 1901, the year of the oldest weather records of IMD. The minimum temperature at the observatory, which is the official marker for the city, was 2.6° Celsius.
5. Forest Cover Up But Large Tracts of Dense Forest Have Turned Non-Forest
The biennial State of Forest Report (SFR), released Monday by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, announced an overall gain of 3,976 sq km of forests in India since 2017. But hidden in the not-so-fine print of the report is a loss of 2,145 sq km of dense forests that have become non-forests in those two years.
What largely offset this loss is the conversion of 1,858 sq km of non-forest areas to dense forests since 2017. Dense forests are defined by canopy cover: over 70 percent is considered very dense and 40-70 percent medium dense. Unlike natural forests, commercial plantations grow rapidly and show up as dense cover in satellite images. A monoculture, however, cannot substitute natural forests in biodiversity or ecological services.
Dr Subhash Ashutosh, Director General, Forest Survey of India, told The Indian Express: “Some of these are fast-growing species such as bamboo in the north-eastern region. Also rubber and coconut plantations in the southern states. We need more time and resources if we are to identify and classify plantations through ground-truthing in the biennial report.”
6. Huawei Cleared for 5G Trials as Govt Brushes Aside US Concerns
Controversial Chinese telecom equipment provider Huawei has been allowed to participate in the 5G trials slated for the early part of next year, despite question marks and censures against the company in some countries in the West – particularly the US – over security and other concerns.
Huawei will now be able to join other global equipment makers such as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, US’s Cisco and South Korea’s Samsung in rolling out 5G use cases in India which are expected to lay the foundation of the country’s next-gen telecom ecosystem before an eventual launch around the end of 2021.
7. Modi Tweets Sadhguru Video to Drum Up Support for CAA
In a social media intervention, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun canvassing support for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, retweeting Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s justification of the law that gives a path to citizenship to Hindus and five other communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The PM’s intervention is a departure from his usual tweets where he puts out policy statements, quotes and information of his meetings. The retweet of Sadhguru’s post is clearly a bid to drum up support and indicates, as reflected in his recent public speech in Lucknow, that Modi is ready to join battle with political opponents and commentators critical of CAA. Home minister Amit Shah too tweeted a reference to Sadhguru’s post.
8. India Links China’s Sikkim Offer With Middle Sector Map
India has linked China’s “early harvest” proposal for settling the Sikkim land boundary to the simultaneous demarcation of the middle sector in Uttarakhand as a stepping stone to phased resolution of the decades-old border dispute.
New Delhi and Beijing exchanged maps of the middle sector as far back as March 2002, but there has been no movement since then.
The 22nd dialogue of the Special Representatives (SR) on the boundary issue between national security adviser Ajit Doval and state councillor Wang Yi in New Delhi on December 21 ended with both sides committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
9. Sustainable Development Goals: Kerala Retains No 1 Slot, Bihar at Bottom, UP is Highest Gainer
Kerala retained the top slot while Bihar came out as the worst performer in NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2019, which assesses each state and Union Territory’s achievement regarding sustainable development goals (SDG) such as good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, reduction in hunger and poverty, among others.
Kerala had the top rank among states with a score of 70, while Bihar has lowest score of 50.
In terms of progress, Uttar Pradesh has emerged as the biggest gainer followed by Odisha. While UP saw an improvement in its overall score from 42 in 2018 to 55 in 2019, Odisha increased its overall score by 7 points.
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