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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
“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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.