Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 May 2019
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
• In view of Mr. Hershman’s revelations, the agency had earlier
sought the permission of the trial court to conduct further investigation in the
• 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
• 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
• 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• Some large States like Bihar and West Bengal have withdrawn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
• 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.
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
• 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
• 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.”
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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.
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.