Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 24 February 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 24 February 2019


World bank study reveals ganga basin states may face severe crop failures in future

  •  The Ganga river basin could see crop failures rise three-fold and drinking water shortage go up by as much as 39% in some States between now and 2040, says an assessment commissioned by the World Bank and submitted to the Central Water Commission.
  •  If there is no intervention, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are likely to see a deficit in irrigation water of 28%, 10%, 10% and 15% respectively in 2040 as compared to the current levels. Madhya Pradesh would see a 39%, Delhi 22% and Uttar Pradesh a 25% deficit in drinking water during the same period, the assessment released earlier this week noted.
  •  The basin provides over a third of India’s available surface water and contributes more than half the national water use, of which 90% is for irrigation.
  •  The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.
  •  There aren’t any easy solutions, the report cautioned, pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solve all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed, it said.
  •  The government was to have operationalised the Ganga law to address the issue of the river’s ecology. The lack of such a law has triggered hunger strikes, mainly by activists in Haridwar, to give effect to the law.

Government reiterates commitment to farmer welfare,inaugurates PM KISAN yojana

  •  To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government is launching the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN). Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
  •  A small and marginal landholder farmer family for the purpose of the calculation of the benefit is defined as “a family comprising of husband, wife and minor children (upto 18 years of age) who collectively own cultivable land upto 2 hectare as per land records of the concerned State/UT”.
  •  The existing land-ownership system in the concerned States/UTs will be used for identification of beneficiaries. Those whose names appear in land records as on 01.02,2019 are eligible for benefit. If a Landholder Farmer Family (LFF) has land parcels spread across different village/revenue records, then land will be pooled for determining the benefit.
  •  The benefit shall be transferred by Government of India to the bank account of the beneficiaries through State Notional Account. For transfer of benefit, District-wise beneficiaries lists shall be certified and uploaded by the States/UTs on the PM-KISAN Portal of Govt. of India and the funds will be electronically transferred to the beneficiary’s bank account by Gol through State Notional Account on a pattern similar to MNREGS.
  •  Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Shri Sanjay Agarwal has requested State/UT Govts to immediately initiate the work of identification of beneficiaries and uploading the relevant data for release of funds by Govt. of India in the bank accounts of eligible farmer families.


NITI aayog hosts conference on Future Indian Banking

  •  NITI Aayog co-hosted a conference on “The Future of Indian Banking” on February 22, 2019, with the Foundation for Economic Growth and Welfare (EGROW Foundation). Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, inaugurated the event.
  •  The conference aimed to increase and elevate the discourse on the banking sector in India, and help develop insights to inform the continued evolution of the Indian banking sector for optimally supporting the growing credit needs of the Indian economy.
  •  Dr. Rajiv Kumar highlighted the tremendous progress made by the banking system in the past four years that provided a strong foundation for a long runway for expanding credit and supporting accelerating growth of India’s economy.
  •  He indicated that there was still a lot of work to be done in improving the financial system and furthering reforms in the financial sector.
  •  Technology has become critically important for banking already and will continue to become more important in future. This will serve to bring banking closer to the customer, including those in rural areas, and also bring tremendous efficiencies with greater speed of service at much lower cost.
  •  Appropriate skilling of banking human resources is necessary to keep pace with best credit practices and new technology-based banking paradigm. In addition, banking staff needs to be trained to prepare for a larger role of banking in expanding the Indian economy.
  •  The event hosted over 200 domestic and international participants, including policy makers, academicians, researchers, professionals, and students from various banks, universities and institutes.

Stable employment key to housing demand says Financial experts

  •  Growth in stable employment opportunities and addressing local infrastructure concerns are key for housing demand to go up in established cities, said Srinivas Acharya, managing director of Sundaram BNP Paribas Home Finance.
  •  “The affordable and above affordable sector of housing do see a definite demand whenever the government addresses the employment generation issues and the infrastructural points,” he added.
  •  “Interest rates do not drive the sentiments any longer. The need for house does drive. The need is certainly there, but the local infrastructural issues have to be addressed,” he added.
  •  “As for the impact of the reduction in Repo rate, debt-market is yet to react. We do see a reduction of 10 basis points, but not wide spread,” he added.
  •  Sundaram BNP Paribas Home Finance, he said, had not faced any liquidity pressure. “Rather, we have been able to raise fresh loans at attractive rates. Specifically on commercial papers, we do see rates easing up quite a lot. We did raise one-year CP for Rs. 100 crore recently at a very good rate,” he added.
  •  “With the increased push to infrastructure and tax-benefits for building affordable houses, the budget has certainly given a very positive push. But, what ails the construction sector is the absence of established norm for lending to this sector. There is a general panic whenever a builder goes bust for his own reason,” Mr. Acharya said.

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India all set to attend OIC meeting next month

  •  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been invited to deliver an address at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi next month.
  •  This is the first time that a leader of the non-Muslim country has been invited to the OIC conference.
  •  Ms Swaraj will be the Guest of Honour and address the inaugural plenary of the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of OIC on the 1st and 2nd of next month.
  •  She will attend the two-day meeting at the invitation by Foreign Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  •  The OIC has a specially designated “Kashmir contact group” that coordinates positions at the United Nations, often led by Pakistan, to protest alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and invoke UN resolutions.
  •  In 2018 alone, the OIC had issued no less than five statements specifically dealing with the situation in J&K, and calling for the international community to intervene.
  •  Coming on the heels of statements of solidarity from the UN Security Council and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) over the Pulwama attack, the speech at the OIC inaugural plenary is also expected to take forward India’s case for action against the Jaish-e-Mohammad and strictures on Pakistan.
  •  In a statement, the External Affairs Ministry said, New Delhi sees the invitation as a milestone in the comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE.
  •  It is also a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.

Venezuelan opposition blocking aid from neighbouring countries

  •  Venezuela’s Opposition and activists prepared on Saturday to confront troops stationed along the country’s borders to block their plan to bring in food and medicine that authorities are calling a veiled U.S.-backed invasion.
  •  Opposition volunteers in neighbouring Brazil and Colombia planned to arrive at the border to help carry humanitarian aid to a sick and hungry population suffering from an economic meltdown under President Nicolás Maduro .
  •  While the need for basic food and medicines is real, the effort is also meant to embarrass military officers who continue to support Mr. Maduro's increasingly isolated government.
  •  Juan Guaidó, recognised by most Western nations as the country’s legitimate head of state, defied court orders not to leave Venezuela by arriving on Friday in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, where aid from the U.S. and Colombian governments is stockpiled in warehouses.
  •  Mr. Maduro blames the country’s dire situation on U.S. sanctions that have blocked the country from obtaining financing and have hobbled the OPEC nation’s oil industry. Ms. Rodríguez says the aid is poisoned.
  •  UN Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres urged Venezuelan authorities to refrain from using lethal force against protesters. The U.S. “strongly condemns the Venezuelan military’s use of force against unarmed civilians and innocent volunteers” on the border with Brazil, the White House said.


NASA gives approval to Space X for ISS mission

  •  NASA has given SpaceX the green light to test a new crew capsule by first sending an unmanned craft with a life-sized mannequin to the International Space Station.
  • “We’re go for launch, we’re go for docking,” said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator with NASA Human Exploration and Operations.
  •  NASA signed contracts in 2014 with SpaceX and Boeing for the companies to shuttle U.S. astronauts to the ISS.
  •  NASA ended its space-shuttle program in 2011 and since then has relied on buying spots on Russian Soyuz rockets to send U.S. astronauts to the orbiting ISS.
  •  “This is an absolutely critical first step that we do as we move towards returning the crewed launch capability back here to the U.S.,” said Mr. Gerstenmaier, speaking at a press conference in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  •  The March 2 flight will be identical to a flight that is set to take two astronauts to the space station later in the year, possibly in July.
  •  The Crew Dragon capsule has seven seats. It should dock with the ISS on March 3, then detach and return to the Earth on March 8.


Indian Hockey captain named AHF player of the year

  •  The Asian Hockey Federation has honoured Indian skipper Manpreet Singh with the 2018 Player of the Year award.
  •  Women team's striker Lalremsiami has bagged the Rising Player of The Year prize.
  •  Manpreet led the Indian team to an unbeaten streak at the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat where the team was declared joint winners with Pakistan.
  •  He also contributed to the team's silver medal win at the FIH Champions Trophy in Breda.
  •  The 18-year-old Lalremsiami put up an impressive performance as a striker at the 2018 World Cup. She was also a part of the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires where the under-18 team won a silver medal.

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