Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 18 December 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 18 December 2019


::NATIONAL::

Centre tells SC that UIDAI proposal to monitor online platforms by social media agency dropped

  • The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has decided to shelve its proposal to hire a social media agency to monitor online platforms.

  • The top court was told by the Centre that UIDAI's Request for Proposal (RFP) issued for a social media agency has not been pursued by it and as of today there was no plan to have any such an agency.

  • The top court had last year questioned Moitra, then MLA of TMC over her claim that the Centre's move of hiring a social media monitoring agency was aimed at "mounting surveillance on social media platforms" and asked her to submit material within two weeks in support of her apprehension.

  • The Centre had earlier told the court that it was willing to accommodate the suggestions of the TMC leader in UIDAI's proposal to hire a social media agency to monitor online platforms.

  • Moitra has alleged that the haste with which the RFP was being pushed through, with the bids scheduled to be opened less than two weeks after the publication of the RFP itself, demonstrated the mala fides of the Centre and the UIDAI.

  • The plea had claimed that weekly and monthly reports are to be prepared by the social media agency, indicating the most discussed topics, top detractors, top influencers and the net sentiment related to Aadhaar.

Govt.plans to upgrade 2.5lakh anganwadis in next 5 years

  • The government is planning to upgrade services with facilities like creche and smart teaching/learning aid at about 2.5 lakh anganwadi centres across the country in the next five years, senior Women and Child Development Ministry official said.

  • Currently, a total of 13.77 lakh anganwadi centres are operational in the country with a strength of 12.8 lakh workers and 11.6 lakh helpers, as per the official data.

  • It is still at a planning stage and is being discussed at multiple levels in the government. After getting necessary approvals, it will be implemented most likely next year, he told PTI on the sidelines of the event.

  • The objective is to make anganwadi centres interactive and "more child-friendly" by providing additional facilities like creche as well as smart teaching and learning aid, he added.

  • The ministry is mulling over upgradation at a time when some of the anganwadi centres in the country do not even have toilet facility and drinking water supply.

  • The official also highlighted the progress made in the implementation of the 'POSHAN Abhiyan' (National Nutrition Mission) that aims to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight babies.The Mission strives to achieve reduction in stunting from 38.4 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022.

  • Asserting that India is fighting the war on malnutrition aggressively, the official shared a recent comprehensive nutrition survey that found that the level of stunting has come down to 34.7 per cent.

::ECONOMY::

Govt.plans for hi-tech crop assessment for next crop season

  • Crop assessment will turn hi-tech from the next crop season in June 2020 as the government plans to use remote sensing, satellites, drones and artificial intelligence extensively to get realtime estimates of crop yields accurately from villages, which will help officials plan food supply better and speed up insurance claims.

  • “First we will integrate the new age technology with the age-old method of crop cutting experiments (CCE) used to assess crop losses. Gradually we will replace it,” a senior agriculture department official, who is directly involved in the government’s crop insurance scheme, told.

  • CCE is performed in the field by marking a specific area (25 square metres) in the field, harvesting the crop in the area and weighing the produce, which is taken as the yield per acre. The result, despite not representing the yield of the entire agroclimatic zone, is taken into consideration while calculation crop damage.

  • The government is already conducting a pilot study of using technology for the assessment of crop yield and harvest losses in at least two districts across states of different agro-climatic zones. It has commissioned the study to 12 technology companies, including government-owned IASRI, ICRISAT and SAC.

  • Another reason for using new age technology, according to the official, is that in the existing method of crop yield estimation, the allocation and selection of fields for conducting CCE is based on the information of crop of previous years due to non-availability of current year information at the time of survey.

Indian banks to receive $7.5b as part of quicker resolution processes

  • India’s banks are set for a $7.6 billion earnings windfall this month as the country’s bankruptcy court has made sudden progress in clearing a backlog of large cases.

  • The gains will be welcome news for banks, which are facing a further increase in their $130 billion pile of bad loans thanks to India’s shadow banking crisis and the slowdown in the economy. Many lenders are expected to set aside additional provisions in their earnings reports for this quarter.

  • The total proceeds from the bankruptcy cases should total Rs 54,000 crore ($7.6 billion), according to KarthikSrinivasan, group head of financial sector at ICRA Ratings, the local arm for Moody’’s Investors Service. The banks should be able to use a large part of it “to step up provisioning as bad loans continue to rise,” Srinivasan added.

  • India has seen slow progress since the bankruptcy court was set up in 2016 to get to grips with the bad loan crisis. Only 15% of cases admitted to the court had produced a resolution plan as of September, according to data published by the insolvency board.

  • However, the December bonanza will be shortlived as India’s prolonged economic downturn continues to push up overall bad loans, said Suresh Ganapathy, who oversees financial research at Macquarie Capital Securities.

  • The soured debt ratio in India’s banking system will rise above 11% by the end of March, from 9.3% some 12 months earlier, according to a Credit Suisse note in August.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

UN urges world to share refugee burden equitably

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries to take joint responsibility to care for a surging number of displaced people.

  • In his opening speech to the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva today, Guterres said it is a moment to build a more equitable response to the refugee crisis through a sharing of responsibility.

  • The forum will last through Wednesday. It begins exactly a year after the UN General Assembly adopted a framework aimed at creating a more predictable and equitable approach to providing assistance to refugees and host communities.

  • The meeting is the first of its kind, pooling together heads of state, government ministers but also business leaders, humanitarians and refugees themselves to offer ideas and pledges for more efficient support.

  • At the end of 2018, nearly 71 million people were living in forced displacement due to war, violence and persecution, including nearly 26 million people who had fled across borders as refugees.

Former Pakistan PM sentenced to death for high treason

  • Pakistan's former dictator Pervez Musharraf was today sentenced to death in a case of treason for subverting the Constitution.

  • This is the first time in Pakistan's history that a military chief has been declared guilty of high treason and handed the death sentence.

  • A three-member bench of a special court, headed by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, found the ailing 76-year-old former Army chief guilty of high treason and handed him the death sentence.

  • Musharraf is currently living in Dubai on self-exile. The former Army chief left for Dubai for medical treatment in March 2016 and has not returned since, citing security and health reasons.

  • His indictment for treason was a highly significant moment in a country where the powerful military has held sway for much of its independent history.

  • Musharraf seized power by ousting then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 bloodless coup. He has also served as Pakistan's president from 2001 to 2008. He was sentenced for suspending the Constitution and imposing extra-constitutional emergency in 2007.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

India conducts trial of land attack version of Brahmos

  • India today successfully conducted a developmental trial of the land-attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from Chandipur Integrated Test Range, off Odisha coast.

  • DRDO said, the test was conducted at 0830 hrs, met all flight parameters. It said, the missile flew in the designated complex trajectory meeting all mission parameters. The nine-meter long missile can travel at thrice the speed of sound and carry a conventional warhead weighing up to 300 kg.

  • Today’s successful test of Indo-Russian joint venture supersonic cruise missile has further bolstered India’s national security. On in September, the missile was tested from the same test range in Odisha.

  • In March, 2017, the first extended version of the BrahMos missile, which had a strike range of 450 km, was test-fired successfully from Odisha coast.\

::SPORTS::

SmritiMandhana included in ICC ODI and T20 teams

  • India opener SmritiMandhana was today named in both the International Cricket Council's ODI and T20 teams of the year, capping off a memorable season. Mandhana has JhulanGoswami, PoonamYadav and ShikhaPandey for company in the ODI team of the year and all-rounder Deepti Sharma in the T20 side.

  • Mandhana has played 51 ODIs and 66 T20Is for India, besides a couple of Test matches. She has a combined tally of 3476 runs in T20Is and ODIs.

  • Australia's Alyssa Healy was chosen as the T20 cricketer of the year following her record-breaking 148 against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

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