Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 may 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 May 2019

::NATIONAL::

CBI to continue probe on Bofors case

• The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday said its probe in the Bofors case would continue following certain revelations by one Michael Hershman.

• In view of Mr. Hershman’s revelations, the agency had earlier sought the permission of the trial court to conduct further investigation in the case.

• It submitted that Mr. Hershman, in an interview to a TV channel, stated that he was in possession of material which would show the payment of bribes in the Bofors deal, and that the involvement of powerful persons might be the reason for the chequered history of this case.

• It said the Delhi High Court had in 2005 quashed the proceedings in an arbitrary manner saying that the evidence collected from the authorities in Sweden were “neither available in original nor duly authenticated copies.”

• The agency had also blamed the UPA-I government for delay in making the appeal. In November 2018, the Supreme Court refused to entertain the CBI plea saying it was not convinced by its arguments.

• Making a submission, CBI counsel said it would decide the future course in the matter later. But at the moment, it did not want to pursue the application for permission to further probe the case.

• Advocate Ajay Agarwal, who sought further probe, filed an application for withdrawing it. But when the court threatened to impose costs for wasting its time, he said he would argue on it. The court agreed to his submission. Last year, the CBI moved the trial court seeking permission for further probe, saying it had come across fresh evidence.

Only half a percent of funds earmarked for PMFBY spent in north east

• Out of Rs. 1,400 crore earmarked annually for the north-eastern States under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, only Rs. 8 crore or just over half a per cent was actually spent last year, according to senior Agriculture Ministry officials. Four north-eastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram are not covered under the scheme at all.

• In fact, farmers in seven States and four Union Territories nationwide will not be covered by the scheme in this kharif or summer season, for which sowing begins next month.

• Some large States like Bihar and West Bengal have withdrawn from PMFBY to set up their own State-level schemes and Punjab has never participated in the scheme, while UTs like Delhi and Chandigarh are largely urban spaces.

• However, States in the Northeast, as well as the Union Territory of Daman and Diu, face challenges such as the lack of interest by insurance companies and the lack of State budgetary resources to pay their share of the premium, say officials. The Centre is now making it compulsory for insurance companies to bid for these States as well.

• Insurance companies have been reluctant to bid for these States, as the administrative costs are high. There are no proper land records. Historic yield data is not available for these States, particularly at the gram panchayat and block level. It is difficult to conduct CCEs [crop-cutting experiments] needed for many of the horticulture crops,” said an official

• Lack of forecasting infrastructure has also hampered the penetration of the weather-based insurance scheme in these states.The Centre also argues that several State governments are not sufficiently interested in promoting the scheme.

::ECONOMY::

Finance commission claims high GDP growth in medium term

• The 15th Finance Commission on Thursday said that India’s GDP numbers suggest a continued high growth trend in the medium term even though they have fluctuated in the last few years.

• “These discussions are credible to the ongoing work of the Commission to reach an appropriate conclusion on both the vertical and the horizontal devolution,” the statement added.

• “The Commission observed that the GDP numbers have somewhat fluctuated within the overall global trend, which suggests continued high growth trend over the medium term,” the statement added.

• “The Commission also made note of the revenue projections and said that although the direct tax collections and projections are healthy, the ones for indirect tax have been fluctuating and need to stabilise in a stronger position,” a senior official in the Finance Ministry told.

• The 15th Finance Commission has been holding detailed discussions with the Finance Ministry over the last few months to discuss the consequences of the Seventh Pay Commission and the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) on financial positions of the States.

Study claims teen pregnancies leading to undernourished babies

• Teen pregnancies contribute to under-nutrition in babies, according to a study that analysed data from India and appeared in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health .

• The paper recommends policies and programmes to delay marriage, especially in districts where there is a higher prevalence of child marriage.

• The study examined data for over 60,000 women from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) to study the extent to which teenage pregnancy contributes to under-nutrition among children. Of these, 14,107 women first gave birth during adolescence; 31,475 during young adulthood, and 14,514 during adulthood.

• According to the study, children born to adolescent mothers (10-19 years) were 5 percentage points more likely to be stunted (shorter for their age) than those born to young adults (20-24 years) and 11 percentage points more stunted than children born to adult mothers.

• The study said that lower education levels among adolescent mothers had the strongest impact on stunting levels and accounted for 18% of the difference, followed by socioeconomic status which contributed to 13% of the difference in a child’s height for age.

• The research also highlights that while adolescent pregnancy is more likely to occur in high poverty contexts, it could trap mothers in an unending cycle of poverty as “women who bear children early are more likely to discontinue education and, thus, have lower earning potential.”

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::INTERNATIONAL::

India Iran consular meeting held amid U.S sanctions

• Two days after the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, India held the 11th Consular Committee Meeting with Iran on Thursday which dealt with smoothing visa and legal matters essential for bilateral ties.

• Both sides went ahead with the talks, even as Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for a drone attack on Saudi oil installations on May 14.However, indicating a balancing act, India issued a statement on Thursday, “strongly” condemning the attack.

• “Both sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including early conclusion of Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance on civil and commercial matters, extending longer duration of e-Visa for each others’ nationals on reciprocity and visa facilitation for greater people-to-people contact,” a press release issued by the External Affairs Ministry said.

• Iran has been conducting talks with various countries for bilateral visa arrangements to help facilitate smooth travel as the country is facing U.S. government-backed international sanctions that can potentially affect the free movement of business travellers. India offers e-visa facilities to Iranian travellers. It is understood that Iran wants longer duration e-visas from India.

• India seemed to be carefully balancing its moves with the Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, and issued a statement in support of Saudi concerns after talks with Iran. “We strongly condemn the drone attack on oil installations in Saudi Arabia. We reiterate our resolve to fight terrorism,” the official spokesperson said.

OPEC stresses on peaceful conditions for stable oil supplies

• The organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has said the Gulf region needs more peace and stability to ensure the flow of oil supplies.

• OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo in a press statement in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday said any tension that occurs in the region affects the whole world. He was speaking during the official launch of the project to establish the 250,000-barrels per day (bpd) capacity refinery to produce the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, 2020-compliant bunker fuel in Fujairah.

• Barkindo added that it is too early to talk about OPEC's decision to continue to reduce the production of oil producing countries and their allies. He pointed out that OPEC still needs more accurate data on the market and that the final decision on whether to continue to reduce or not will be determined in June.

• UAE-based Brooge Petroleum and Gas Investment yesterday unveiled a plan to build the refinery to produce IMO 2020-compliant bunker fuel in Fujairah, scheduled for completion by the first quarter of 2020.

• From 1st January 2020, IMO will enforce its Marpol Annex VI regulation mandating all ocean-going vessels to burn bunker fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5%, down from the current limit of 3.5%.

• The refinery will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa to comply with the upcoming IMO 2020 regulation. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has ruled that from 1st January 2020, marine sector emissions in international waters be slashed to 0.5%. IMO 2020 regulations will see the largest reduction in the sulphur content of a transportation fuel undertaken at one time.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Basel convention concludes defeating Indian proposal on waste dumping

• A proposal by India to prevent developed countries from dumping their electronic and plastic waste onto developing countries, was defeated at the recently concluded meeting of the Basel Convention in Geneva.

• The 14th meeting of the Basel Convention, which lays down guidelines on the movement of hazardous waste, concluded in Geneva on the 10th of May after two weeks of negotiations involving 187 countries.

• A key outcome of the meeting was an amendment to the Convention that includes plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which would, according to a statement by the United Nations, “make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”

• Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern, has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans, 80%-90% of which comes from land-based sources.

• India’s laws currently don’t allow electronic and plastic waste to be imported into the country. Plastic and electronic waste recyclers in Special Economic Zones were permitted to import waste for recycling. However, they will not be allowed to do so after August 31 this year.

• Despite these restrictions, countries continued to ship different kinds of plastics and e-waste to Indian ports.

::SPORTS::

Indian shooters gain momentum in ISSF shotgun worldcup

• India's Kynan Chenai and Prithviraj Tondaiman shot two perfect rounds of 25 each to lead the 109-strong qualification field in the men's trap shooting competition of ISSF Shotgun World Cup in Changwon, Korea today.

• With three more rounds to be played tomorrow before the top six go through to the medal round, India will feel they are in a strong position to clinch final berths.

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