Current Affairs a for IAS Exams - 25 APRIL 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 25 APRIL 2019


Vice President urges need for integrated farming to increase farm productivity

  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has stressed the need to promote integrated farming practices to improve the productivity of livestock and double farmers’ income.
  • Referring to a study, Shri Naidu said that there were no suicides in families of farmers who diversified into allied activities like poultry, dairy or aquaculture. He observed that farming households with livestock would be able to better withstand distress caused due to extreme weather conditions and crop failures.
  • Quoting NSSO statistics, estimates, the Vice President said that rural India had an estimated 90.2 million agricultural households and facilitating sustainable income for all these households must be the primary endeavor for everyone.
  • The Vice President said that a healthy and robust agricultural sector was an important prerequisite to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth in India. He called for measures to make farming a lucrative career opportunity, especially for the youth, by making agriculture economically viable and financially rewarding.
  • Saying that Agriculture industry contributes 17% of India’s total GDP, out of which, the 27% comes from Animal Husbandry and overall, the dairy, poultry and aqua industries contribute 4.4% to the nation’s GDP, the Vice President said that these numbers signify the crucial role played by these sectors in our economy.

Indian Army plans to construct underground tunnel for storing ammunitions

  • Indian Army is planning to construct underground tunnels for storage of ammunition along the border with China and Pakistan and Public Sector Undertaking NHPC Limited is being roped in for the purpose, army sources said.
  • “Indian Army is in the process of executing pilot projects for construction of semi underground and cavern type ammunition storage construction through NHPC Ltd., for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed in the next few days,” an Army source said on Wednesday.
  • Underground storage offers improved safety, easier camouflage from enemy observation and satellite imagery and protection from enemy strikes like those seen during the aerial engagement on February 27, a day after the Balakot air strike when Pakistan Air Force jets targeted Indian army installations along the Line of Control (LoC). Major armies, including China and the U.S., already use underground ammunition storage, a second source observed
  • These tunnels will be built in high altitude areas in the Northern and Eastern borders. Initially, four pilot projects would be taken up at four different locations along the Northernborder and in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of Rs. 15 crore, the source said. “These are expected to be completed within two years.”
  • As the conditions in the caverns are controlled, it ensures better safety of sensitive ammunition minimising accidental explosions.


RBI divests stake in NABARD and NHB

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has divested its entire stake held in National Housing Bank (NHB), the regulator for housing finance companies, and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to the government, which now holds 100% in these entities.
  • The transactions were completed on February 26 (Nabard) and March 19 (NHB).RBI had 100% shareholding in NHB, which was divested for Rs. 1,450 crore.
  • The Nabard stake was divested in two phases — RBI had 72.5% stake in Nabard amounting to Rs. 1,450 crore, out of which 71.5%, worth Rs. 1,430 crore was divested in October 2010 and the residual shareholding was divested on February 26 this year for Rs. 20 crore.
  • “Divestment of RBI’s stake in NABARD and NHB has its basis in the recommendation of Narasimham Committee II and the Discussion Paper prepared by RBI on Harmonizing the Role and Operations of Development Financials Institutions and Banks,” the Reserve Bank of India said.

Implementation of price controls affects FDI in medical sector

  • Blanket implementation of price controls has contributed to a drastic fall in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the medical device sector, say industry insiders, pointing to a reduction from $439 million in 2016 to $66 million in 2018.
  • Sectors in India which attract the highest FDI according to government figures include services sector, computer software and hardware and telecommunication.
  • Meanwhile, in 2015 the Centre approved 100% FDI in the medical devices sector via automatic route. Previously medical devices, which came under the pharma sector, could take in 100% FDI through automatic route only in case of new ventures. Further approval of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) was needed in case of acquisition of existing companies.
  • The break-through came after the industry urged approval for FDI through automatic route, pointing out that there were no big firms for medical devices in India, and hence no threat of merger or acquisition.
  • The medical device industry is highly technology and capital dependent and experts say it is vital “that the global community be kept engaged for this wealth and technology inflow as well as to help co-create an ecosystem for manufacturing of medical devices in India.”
  • The group has now demanded that India should work towards “resuming collaboration with the capital, technology and export markets of the world.”

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U.S to send armed troops to Mexican border

  • President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the U.S. is sending armed soldiers to the southern border after Mexican soldiers recently “pulled guns” on U.S. troops, escalating his war of words with Mexico on immigration.
  • Mr. Trump was apparently referring to an April 13 incident in which Mexican troops reportedly questioned and pointed their weapons at two U.S. troops conducting surveillance on the border.
  • “Mexico's soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the border. Better not happen again!” he tweeted. “We are now sending armed soldiers to the border.”
  • Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said his government would analyse the incident, take into account Mr. Trump's comments, and act “in keeping with law within the framework of our sovereignty.”
  • “The most important thing is to tell (Mr. Trump) is that we are not going to fight with the government of the United States. We want a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation for development,” he said.

Hongkong jails umbrella movement protesters

  • Four prominent leaders of Hong Kong's democracy movement were jailed on Wednesday for their role in organising mass protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing.
  • The prison terms are the latest hammer blow to the city's beleaguered democracy movement which has seen key figures jailed or banned from standing as legislators since their demonstrations shook the city but failed to win any concessions.
  • Nine activists were convicted earlier in April of at least one charge in a prosecution that deployed rarely used colonial-era public nuisance laws over their participation in the Umbrella Movement protests, which called for free elections to appoint the city's leader.
  • Their trial renewed alarm over shrinking freedoms under an assertive China which has rejected demands by Hong Kong protesters for a greater say in how the financial hub is run.
  • Two key leaders of the mass protests sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, and law professor Benny Tai, 54 received the longest sentences of 16 months in jail, sparking angry chants from supporters outside.
  • The jail terms are the steepest yet for anyone involved in the 79-day protest which vividly illustrated the huge anger particularly among Hong Kong's youth over the city's leadership.


Scientists develop protein against anti-bacterial infections

  •  In yet another attempt to find an alternative to bacteria-resistant antibiotics, scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have found out that milk of an egg-laying mammal contains a novel anti-microbial protein that keeps its young ones safe from infections.
  •  Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, are unique egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea. Their young ones hatch from eggs at a very early stage of development and depend completely on their mother’s milk. But the mammary glands of the female echidnas are devoid of nipples, forcing the young ones to lick milk from the mother’s body surface and potentially making them vulnerable to micro-organisms.
  •  However, nature protects its own. A research team led by scientist Satish Kumar found out that the milk of the echidna has a protein that can puncture the cell membranes of multiple bacterial species, thus destroying the source of infection.
  •  The scientist said that the protein could be used as an alternative to antibiotics. The research team has found out ways to produce the protein in large quantities using E. coli . Scientists pointed out that there is a rise of superbugs due to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics by the animal husbandry industry to raise healthy livestock.
  •  These superbugs can cause mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland, in lactating dairy animals. Dr. Kumar’s team has been able to show that the protein from echidna milk is effective against mastitis-causing bacteria.


P.U Chitra wins gold in Asian athletics

  •  PU Chitra won the gold medal in the 1500-metre women's final at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships being held at Doha in Qatar on Wednesday, the final day of the event. She recorded a time of 4 minutes and 14.56 seconds to give India a third gold medal of the meet.
  •  Chitra, who had been off the track with a knee injury for three months since her bronze medal at the Asian Games last year, has proved her doubters wrong with her showing.
  •  In the men's 1500-metre final a little later, Ajay Kumar Saroj also put up a great show to clinch the silver medal, finishing only behind the gold medallist from Bahrain.

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