Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 JANUARY 2019


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 JANUARY 2019


::NATIONAL::

Centre to hike pensions for the vulnerable sections of society

  •  Ahead of the 2019 election, the Rural Development Ministry has proposead that the monthly pensions of the elderly poor, disabled and widows be increased from the current ₹200 to ₹800. For those above the age of 80, the proposal is to increase the pension from ₹500 to ₹1,200 a month.
  •  The Ministry has submitted the proposal, which would have an additional annual cost implication of ₹18,000 crore, to the Finance Ministry to be considered for inclusion in the interim Budget to be presented on February 1.
  •  The Centre has been considering various welfare measures to benefit rural Indians and farming communities before the LokSabha election. Senior government officials have mentioned income support, interest waivers and increased access to credit as some of the other measures being considered.
  •  The NSAP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with an annual budget of ₹9975 crore. It currently covers more than three crore people who are below the poverty line (BPL), including about 80 lakh widows, 10 lakh disabled and 2.2 crore elderly.
  •  In his last budget speech in February 2018, Finance Minister ArunJaitley had said that the government “is implementing a comprehensive social security and protection programme to reach every household of old, widows, orphaned children, divyaang and deprived as per the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC).”

Import of plastic waste to India rises despite ban

  •  In spite of a ban on the import of plastic waste into India, the influx of PET bottles has quadrupled from 2017 to 2018 thanks to legal loophole, says a Delhi-based environmentalist organisation, PanditDeendayalUpadhyaySmritiManch (PDUSM).
  •  Government and industry estimates suggest that India consumes about 13 million tonnes of plastic and recycles only about 4 million tonnes.
  •  A lack of an efficient waste segregation system and inadequate collection is the root cause, according to experts, for much of the plastic not making its way to recycling centres.
  •  To incentivise domestic plastic recycling units, the government had banned the import of plastic waste, particularly PET bottles in 2015. In 2016, an amendment allowed such imports as long as they were carried out by agencies situated in Special Economic Zones. It’s this loophole that’s been exploited.
  •  A senior Union environment ministry official, who declined to be identified, told that while the ministry couldn’t vouch for whether such plastic imports had quadrupled, it was true that the imports had “substantially increased” and action was being contemplated.
  •  Ravi Agrawal, director of Toxics Link, an organisation that works on plastic waste management, said that figures were “plausible” as China, once a major global importer of plastic waste for recycling, had banned such imports.

::ECONOMY::

Bihar emerges as state with highest growth rate in this financial year

  •  Bihar and Andhra Pradesh led the pack among States in terms of GDP growth in financial year 2017-18, clocking 11.3% and 11.2% growth, respectively, compared with the national GDP growth of 6.7% for the year, according to a report by Crisil.
  •  According to the report, 12 of the 17 general category States grew faster than the national growth rate.
  •  However, it noted that this growth was not equitable, with the gap between the per capita incomes in low-income and high-income States widening over the last five years
  •  The analysis found that between the financial years 2012-13 and 2016-17, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka were the fastest growing states, on average.
  •  While all three managed to maintain their GSDP growth higher than the all-India GDP growth in 2018, only Gujarat remained in the top three. Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka both saw their rankings slip to 9 and 4, respectively.
  •  The States at the bottom, similarly, saw a reversal of fortunes. West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar had ranked at the bottom in the past five years.
  •  In financial year 2017-18, however, Bihar rose to the top spot and West Bengal rose to the sixth rank, with a growth of 9.1%, significantly stronger than the national GDP growth rate. Jharkhand, however, remained at the bottom.
  •  “A larger impact is expected on fiscal and revenue deficit to gross state domestic product ratios for Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Rajasthan, among non-special category States, in FY20,” the report said.

LIC completes acquisition of IDBI bank

  •  The government, which had a majority stake in the bank, started the process to sell a part of its stake to LIC, which is also owned by the government, in June last year.
  •  The bank’s board has now approved reclassification of LIC as promoter of IDBI Bank. IDBI Bank shares closed at ₹56.50, down 3.17% from its previous close.
  •  “The deal is envisaged as a win-win situation for both IDBI Bank and LIC with an opportunity to create enormous value for shareholders, customers and employees of both entities through mutual synergies,” the bank said.
  •  The over 1,800 branches of IDBI Bank will be be used by LIC to sell insurance policies. “IDBI Bank and LIC have started working to ensure full realisation of their synergies over the next 12 months.
  •  Improved financial health will pave the way for the bank to exit from PCA in a time bound manner and be a future-ready, top-ranked bank,” the bank said.
  •  Following the stake acquisition by the LIC, IDBI Bank has re-initiated divestment process of its stake in IDBI Federal Life Insurance Co. the bank said.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

Pakistan to share data on kartarpur corridor in Punjab

  •  Indian and Pakistani officials are expected to meet next month to discuss a “draft agreement” on the Kartarpur corridor in Punjab, sources confirmed. The meeting follows the Pakistan government’s announcement that it had shared the draft of the agreement, to be signed by the two governments.
  •  In a statement on Monday, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the draft had been shared “in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment” to open the pilgrim corridor in time for the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November 2019.
  •  The Kartarpur initiative is seen as an exceptional case for the Indian government, which has refused to open talks with Pakistan on any other issue until concerns on terror are addressed. It has agreed to work with Pakistan on the plan to help Sikh pilgrims access the sacred site, which is just four kilometres across the border from India.
  •  Among the issues that need to be finalised are the exact point of crossing over for the pilgrims, the identity cards required, as well as security procedures and guarantees needed by both sides.
  •  In a previous draft, Pakistan had proposed a 14-point agreement, which included visa free travel for the pilgrims who would be processed at checkpoints on both the Indian and Pakistani side. The agreement included setting up a database of all pilgrims visiting, with a suggested cap of 500 pilgrims per day.
  •  On Monday, the Pakistan government released photographs of work on an expressway to be used to shuttle the pilgrims from the border and for levelling work being undertaken near the Kartarpur shrine.

China witnesses lowest economic growth in nearly 3 decades

  •  China’s economy cooled in the fourth quarter under pressure from faltering domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs, dragging 2018 growth to the lowest in nearly three decades and pressuring Beijing to roll out more stimulus to avert a sharper slowdown.
  •  Growing signs of weakness in China which has generated nearly a third of global growth in recent years are fueling anxiety about risks to the world economy and are weighing on profits for firms ranging from Apple to big carmakers.
  •  Policymakers have pledged more support this year to reduce the risk of massive job losses, but have ruled out a “flood” of stimulus like that which Beijing has relied on in the past, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.
  •  With support measures expected to take some time to kick in, most analysts believe conditions are likely to get worse before they get better, and see a further slowing to 6.3% this year.
  •  The government may unveil more fiscal stimulus during the annual parliament meeting in March, including bigger tax cuts and more spending on infrastructure projects.
  •  Some analysts believe it could deliver 2 trillion yuan ($295.13 billion) worth of cuts in taxes and fees this year, and allow local governments to issue another 2 trillion yuan in special bonds largely used to fund key projects.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Around 19 Indian amphibian species in IUCN critically endangered list

  •  An updated list of Indian amphibians was released on the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) website last week, with 19 species being treated as critically endangered and 33 species as endangered.
  •  Nirmal U. Kulkarni, a herpetologist and conservationist from MhadeiReseach Centre said, “Since 2009, the scientists of the ZSI in collaboration with other institutes have been updating the Indian amphibian checklist periodically. In 2009, the total number of species listed was 284.
  •  The current list bears the names of 432 amphibian species from India, the year of discovery and their IUCN ‘red list’ conservation status.
  •  Among the amphibians listed, 19 species are treated as critically endangered and 33 species as endangered, Mr.Kulkarni said, noting that the list describes 19% of amphibians as data deficient species and 39% as not assessed by the IUCN.
  •  It is high time that we assess the IUCN status for the Indian ‘not assessed’ amphibians (169 species) based on species-specific field exploration,” said the conservationist, who conducts studies along the Mahadayi of the Western Ghats.

::SPORTS::

Indian captain maintains top position in ICC test rankings

  • A maiden Test series triumph in Australia saw both the Indian team and its skipper ViratKohli consolidate their positions in the latest ICC Test rankings released today.
  • India, with 116 points, stayed as the No. 1 ranked Test team. Kohli with 922 points maintains his top position. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson with 897 points ranked second.
  • CheteshwarPujara after his dream series Down Under is ranked third among the batsmen while young turkRishabh Pant has entered the top 20 with a career-best 17th rank.
  • In the bowler's list, KagisoRabada still topped the chart while RavichandranAshwin and RavindraJadeja are the best-ranked Indians at fifth and ninth place respectively.

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