Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 02 JANUARY 2018

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 02 JANUARY 2019


UIDAI to record biometric data of applicants seeking NRC inclusion

  •  The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will record biometric data including the fingerprints and iris scans of about 30 lakh applicants who have sought to be included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) after having been excluded from the final draft published last year.
  •  Almost 30 lakh out of the 40 lakh people who found their names missing had filed claims to be included during the claims and objections round that ended on December 31.
  •  A senior government official said the UIDAI would obtain the biometrics when the applicants appeared for hearings to be held by Class-I officers starting from February 15.
  •  By the standard operating procedure (SOP) submitted by the Centre in the Supreme Court, “during the course of the hearings, the State government in collaboration with UIDAI will undertake the process of biometric enrolment of all the applicants of NRC.
  •  “This means that they do not have documents to prove that they came to India before March 1971, the cut-off date to be included in the NRC,” said the official, adding that the 10 lakh people had been identified and that their details were available with the authorities.
  •  “Once the claims have been heard and the final NRC has been decided, only the eligible applicants will be given the Aadhaar card. The authorities will have the biometrics of all the applicants,” said the official.

Centre claims Ganga water quality has improved

  •  The water quality of the Ganga in 2018 has “improved over last year”, according to a written statement in the RajyaSabha on Monday by junior Water Resources Minister Satyapal Singh.
  •  The statement said “dissolved oxygen” levels had improved at 39 locations, and “biological oxygen demand” (BOD) levels and faecal coliform had decreased at 42 and 47 locations respectively.
  •  These three parameters are a proxy for both the presence of aquatic life as well as microbes that may be harmful to these biota, and are conventionally used to assess the quality of the river.
  •  The government said Rs. 5,100 crore, of the Rs. 20,000 crore allotted to clean the Ganga, had been spent under the NamamiGange Programme from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
  •  Last year, Rs. 1,725.86 crore had been spent till December 26, taking the cumulative expenditure to Rs. 5,187.37 crore.
  •  More than half the funds had been directed towards making new sewage treatment plants (STP) and effluent treatment plants (ETP), as well as making sub-par plants work better. From April 2014 to March 2018, a total of 145 projects were sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs. 15,074.76 crore.
  •  However, independent experts have said the cleaning efforts were half-hearted and there was little effort to ensure that the river’s voluminous flow in the upper stretches of Uttarakhand is maintained downstream.


RBI allows relaxation of provisioning norms for MSME loans

  •  Following a demand from the government for a debt recast package for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has relaxed the provisioning norms for lenders for restructuring loans of up to Rs. 25 crore.
  •  According to the guidelines released on Tuesday, the RBI has allowed one-time restructuring of existing loans to MSMEs that are in default but ‘standard’ as on January 1, 2019. Banks have to make only 5% provisioning for restructuring the loans as compared to 15-20% earlier.
  •  The government has been asking for such a package for a long time for the MSME sector which was severely hit due to demonetisation exercise and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  •  “Considering the importance of MSMEs in the Indian economy, it is considered necessary at this juncture to take certain measures for creating an enabling environment for the sector,” RBI said. The issue of restructuring of MSME accounts was discussed by the RBI board on November 19, 2018 . The issue also figured during RBI’s recent interactions with the lenders.
  •  “The above issue has been examined in RBI and a view has been taken to facilitate meaningful restructuring of MSME accounts that have become stressed,” RBI said.

GST collection declines twice in a row

  •  The government’s collections from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) declined for the second month in a row to Rs. 94,726 crore in December, official data released on Tuesday showed.
  •  Collections declined from the Rs. 97,637 crore in November, which was itself lower than the Rs. 1,00,710 crore collected in October.
  •  “This may deter the government from rationalising the rate of goods left in the 28% category like cement, auto parts, etc, in the short term,” Mr. Jain a tax expert added.
  •  The GST Council had in its 31st meeting in December cut rates on 17 items and six types of services, leaving just one common use item — cement — in the 28% tax bracket. The new rates took effect from January 1, 2019.
  •  “While the December collections are lesser than October (where it exceeded Rs. 1 lakh crore) and November, overall average collection for 2018-19 has shown marked improvement over 2017-18,” Pratik Jain, partner and leader, indirect tax, PwC India, said.
  •  This, coupled with decent growth in income tax collections, gives a clear indication that the tax base is expanding.”
  •  Mr. Jain said the next couple of months may also see similar collections, which means that the central government might want to come up with a “more realistic” estimate of GST collections for next year.

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India Pakistan exchange list of prisoners

  •  In a peace overture, India has asked Islamabad to take back dozens of Pakistani nationals who have completed jail terms here. The Indian request came in the context of the exchange of the lists of prisoners in both countries that took place on the first day of the new year.
  •  Out of the total number of Indian prisoners in Pakistan, Delhi has asked Islamabad to release 17 Indian civilian prisoners and 369 Indian fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed.
  •  The MEA said India has shared details of the reconstituted Joint Judicial Committee and of the medical professionals who are expected to visit Pakistan to help the elderly and mentally unsound Indian prisoners in Pakistani custody.
  •  Activists have welcomed the bilateral move, saying this will help long suffering prisoners in each other’s custody. Peace activist Jatin Desai of Pakistan-India Peoples’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD reiterated that both countries in fact claim that the exact number of prisoners in each other’s custody is “a bit higher” than the official numbers shared.
  •  The exchange of lists comes despite continued military tension, which has, however, not dampened humanitarian moves by both sides. In December 2018, Pakistan sent back Indian prisoner Hamid Nehal Ansari who had completed both regular and irregular prison terms. India subsequently released Pakistani Imran Warsi, who was awaiting repatriation after serving a jail term.

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