Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 16 August 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 16 August 2019


::NATIONAL::

Centre pushes for population control measures in its agenda

  • Noting that those keeping the size of their families small are practising a form of patriotism, Prime Minister NarendraModi, in his Independence Day speech on Thursday, set off speculation that a renewed governmental push for population control may be in the offing, as in the States such as Assam.

  • A total of 35 private member Bills regarding population control have been introduced in Parliament since Independence, with the Congress MPs contributing the largest number.

  • Going beyond educational and mass awareness programme on population control or policy interventions has always been a touchy issue, following incidents of coercive sterilisation, even forced vasectomies, during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977.

  • Manu Gaur heads Taxab, which works on population issues, and his Responsible Parenting Bill, 2019, was the model for Mr.Balyan’s Bill. He acknowledges that there is a mental block, but says population control should not run aground overs fears of forced sterilisation.

  • The Assam government has barred (from a set cut-off) all those with more than two children from government jobs and made rules preventing such parents from contesting elections to the local bodies and other positions.

  • The significance of Mr.Modi flagging the issue from the ramparts of the Red Fort has not been lost on anyone, and there is a feeling that a more interventionist move on population control is probably on the anvil.
    Centre to go for mass campaign against single use plastic

  • Union Minister PrakashJavadekar on Thursday announced that a massive campaign will be launched to make India free of single-use plastic.

  • Mr.Javadekar made this announcement at Sau Paulo in Brazil, after Prime Minister NarendraModi in his Independence Day speech urged people to shun single-use plastic and go in for jute and cloth bags. Mr.Javadekar is in charge of the Environment Ministry.

  • In this regard, a series of meetings will be held with all stakeholders, including State governments, to chalk out a concrete plan to make it a people’s campaign, Mr.Javadekar was quoted in an official statement issued by the Environment Ministry in New Delhi in the national capital.

  • Talking about Mr.Modi’s speech, Mr.Javadekar said the Prime Minister had laid out the vision for the next five years and highlighted the first 75 days of the present government, which, according to him, were highly productive with historic decisions on the triple talaq and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

  • “Prime Minister in his speech has laid a roadmap for five years. I am sure under his dynamic leadership, India would become a 5-trillion dollar economy sooner than later,” the statement said quoting Mr.Javadekar, who is in Brazil to attend the ministerial meetings of the BRICS and BASIC countries.

::ECONOMY::

RBI gives guidelines to PSB’s on ATM transactions

  • The Reserve Bank on Wednesday asked banks not to count failed transactions at ATMs due to technical reasons as part of “free ATM transactions” permitted every month.

  • Besides, use of ATMs for balance enquiry and fund transfers too should be not part of the free transactions facility given to a customer. Banks provide certain number of free transactions at ATMs to their customers and beyond that impose charges.

  • The RBI’s clarification in this regard comes after it has come to notice of the central bank that transactions that have failed due to technical reasons, non-availability of currency in ATMs are also included in the number of free ATM transactions.

  • Further, non-cash withdrawal transactions (such as balance enquiry, cheque book request, payment of taxes, funds transfer), which constitute ‘on-us’ transactions (when a card is used at an ATM of the bank which has issued the card) shall also not be part of the number of free ATM transactions.

Agritech sector to solve supply chain issues

  • With Indian farmers facing post harvest losses amounting to a whopping ₹93,000 crore, a slew of agritech start-ups are now trying to bridge that gap with demand driven cold chains, warehouse monitoring solutions and market linkages that can significantly boost farmer income.

  • According to a new study from Information technology industry body NASSCOM, these efforts to create supply chain efficiency are the focus of more than 50% of India’s booming agritech industry, which has received 300% more funding in the first half of 2019 than in the whole of 2018.

  • In its report “Agritech In India: Emerging Trends in 2019” released this week, NASSCOM noted that India is home to more than 450 startups in the agriculture technology sector, of the global total of about 3,100.

  • With regards to funding, the start-ups received 10 times more money in 2017-18 than in 2013-14. Over the same period, funding for global start-ups only doubled.

  • Corporates and investors are playing a vital role with over $200 million in the last 18 months coming for B2B start-ups, with technology innovations that are aimed directly at the farmer.

  • “India’s agriculture sector is advancing steadily towards its digital transformation and the start-up ecosystem is playing a critical role here, bringing innovation and disruption in much-needed areas,” says NASSCOM president DebjaniGhosh.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

UNSC to have closed door meeting on Kashmir issue

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will meet on August 16 morning to discuss Kashmir (India’s abrogation of Article 370), Poland’s mission to the UN confirmed . The Presidency of the UNSC is currently with Poland.

  • Consultations are a way for Security Council members to informally take up an issue and the “closed” refers to the fact that the consultation is not open to the public and no record of statements is kept. The format also precludes Pakistan from participating, a diplomat said.

  • Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.N., MaleehaLodhi had handed over a letter from the country’s Foreign Minister, Shah MahmoodQureshi to the UNSC President and Polish Ambassador to the U.N., Joanna Wronecka, requesting that the Council take up the issue.

  • Diplomats in New Delhi have pointed out that China’s push to bring back Kashmir to the UNSC shows that Beijing remains committed to its ties with Pakistan. Diplomats said the presentation of the Indian case by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar earlier this week has not influenced Beijing’s decision makers.

  • A former Indian representative to the U.N. said the body will have to first address how it can take up Kashmir under the “India-Pakistan Subjects”, which was relevant till 1971 but is known to have lapsed after U.N. recognised the Simla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan.

Hongkong cuts taxes to boost economy amid protests

  • Hong Kong’s government announced tax cuts and higher social spending Thursday to reverse a deepening economic slump aggravated by anti-government protests and the U.S.-Chinese tariff war.

  • The territory’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, cut this year’s official growth forecast to 0 to 1 per cent, which could be the worst performance since 2009 during the global financial crisis. The previous forecast was 2 per cent to 3 per cent.

  • Hurt by the plunge in U.S.-Chinese trade, growth already was declining before anti-government protests erupted this year over a proposed extradition law and other grievances.

  • The changes will result in some 1.3 million taxpayers having their taxes waived, Chan said at a news conference. He said the government will increase payments for elderly and low-income residents and provide subsidies to small businesses and parents of schoolchildren.

  • Hong Kong’s economic growth held steady at 0.6 per cent over a year earlier in the quarter ending in June but economists have cut forecasts as the U.S.-Chinese trade war and protests mounted.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Study finds microplastics in arctic leading to air contamination

  • Minute microplastic particles have been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow, according to a study that called for urgent research to assess the health risks of inhalation.

  • Every year, several million tonnes of plastic litter course through rivers and out to the oceans, where they are gradually broken down into smaller fragments through the motion of waves and the ultraviolet light of the sun.

  • The new study, conducted by scientists at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute and Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, found that microplastic particles can be transported tremendous distances through the atmosphere.

  • Ms. Bergmann and her colleagues used an infrared imaging technique to analyse samples collected between 2015 and 2017 from floating ice in the Fram Strait off Greenland, visiting five floes by helicopters or dinghies.

  • The team’s hypothesis for airborne transportation builds on past research conducted on pollen, where experts confirmed that pollen from near the equator ends up in the Arctic.

::SPORTS::

Deepak Punia becomes India’s junior world champion

  • Wrestler Deepak Punia has become India’s first junior World Champion in 18 years. He claimed a gold medal at the Junior Worlds with a win over Russia’s AlikShebzukhov at Tallinn, Estonia yesterday.

  • The score was tied 2-2 at the end of the 86-kg men’s freestyle bout. However, Deepak was declared champion because he had scored the last point.

  • In 92-kg weight category, Vicky claimed bronze after he defeated BatmagnaiEnkhtuwacin of Mongolia 4-3. The President of Indian Wrestling Federation, BrijbhushanSharan Singh congratulated Deepak for his achievement.

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