Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 25 April 2020

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 25 April 2020


PM urges better use of digital platforms to gram panchayats

  • On National Panchayati Raj Day today, the Prime Minister launched the e-Gramswaraj Portal and Mobile app as a portal to prepare and plan Gram Panchayat Development Plans. He said that the portal will ensure real time monitoring and accountability. The portal is a major step towards digitization down to the Gram Panchayat level.
  • The Prime Minister also interacted with Panchayat representatives from across the country. Speaking to a Panchayat representative from Maharashtra he urged the use digital platforms such as e-NAM and GEM portal to reach out to larger markets for better prices for village produce.
  • He also appreciated a representative from Baramulla for coming up with local slogans and spreading the message of social distancing and adherence to lockdown guidelines down to the grass roots.
  • He also appealed to people in rural India to download AarogyaSetu app and asked Panchayat representatives to ensure that every person in their Panchayat downloads the app.
  • He remembered Mahatma Gandhi's conception of Swaraj as being based on Gram Swaraj. Quoting the Shastras, he reminded the people that the source of all strength is unity.
  • The Prime Minister also warned against misinformation as an obstacle in dealing with crisis situations. He asked all Panchayat representatives to spread correct information on treatment and prevention of coronavirus to every person.

NBWL gives nod for mining in Assam elephant reserve

  • Amid the countrywide lockdown, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recommended coal mining in a part of an elephant reserve in Assam.
  • The NBWL’s Standing Committee had on April 7 discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from the Saleki proposed reserve forest land for a coal mining project by North-Easter Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited.
  • The NBWL had in July 2019 formed a committee comprising its member R. Sukumar, Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden, and a representative of the local wildlife division for assessing the mining area.
  • He recommended a “cautious approach” for preserving the “basic integrity of this forested hill slope” that is a part of the elephant reserve in Assam adjoining Arunachal Pradesh’s Deomali Elephant Reserve with “a sizeable population of elephants”.
  • “For the unbroken area, the matter will be considered after the user agency submits a feasibility report for underground mining, and also submits compliance report regarding fulfilment of all other conditions” as recommended in a meeting on January 21, the NBWL committee said.



No proposal to amend legislation to control fiscal deficit target says FC chairman

  • Despite the strain on government finances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no credible proposal to amend the legislation meant to control the fiscal deficit, Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission N.K. Singh said.
  • While presenting the Union Budget in February, the Finance Minister had invoked the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act’s escape clause to relax the fiscal deficit target for 2020-21 by 0.5% percentage points to 3.5% of the GDP.
  • If the government wishes to increase spending further in light of the current crisis, as many economists have recommended, it may need to amend the Act.
  • The State governments have been demanding that their own 3% fiscal deficit targets be relaxed to 4% or even 5%, to give them elbow room in dealing with the impact of the lockdown.
  • According to an official statement, Economic Advisory Council members felt that options need to be considered for financing the additional deficit. 
  • It is important to ensure that the State governments get access to adequate funds to undertake their fight against the pandemic, they said, adding that different States may come out of the pandemic’s impact in different stages.
  • A support mechanism for cash-starved small enterprises needs to be a top priority, along with partial loan guarantees and other measures to protect non-banking financial companies, the Council said.

RBI report suggests robust deposit growth and decline in credit growth

  • Deposits registered a healthy growth in the first fortnight of the current financial year, while loans declined, in a period which is marked by limited economic activity due to the nationwide lockdown.
  • According to latest data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), liabilities of banks grew by ₹1.47 lakh crore for the fortnight ended April 10. During the same period, bank credit contracted by ₹31,562 crore.
  • The government imposed a nationwide lockdown in the last week of March to control the spread of COVID-19.
  • The 21-day lockdown was later extended till May 3. Some economic activities like harvesting has been allowed in the second phase of lockdown. Bank loans grew by a whopping ₹2.31 lakh crore in the fortnight ended March 27, 2020, indicating robust loan demand.
  • Credit growth for the year ended March 27 was 6.1%, one of the lowest in many years, which was 13.3% in the previous year. Deposit growth for the financial year 2019-20 was 7.9% as compared to 10% in the previous year.


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Worldbank organises workshop on “Contract Management during Emergency situations”

  • A virtual workshop on “Contract Management during Emergency situations” was organized by World Bank in collaboration with AIMA (All India Management Association) for Project Management Unit of Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project which is implementing USD 250 Million Flood Recovery Project funded by World Bank in the union territory of J&K.
  • AIR Correspondent reports that the objective of the workshop was to educate participants about the likely adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of the bank funded projects, its possible implications on contract management and to equip them with the various mitigations measures.
  • Legal expert briefed participants about various provisions in Indian legal system for interpreting contractual provisions including force majeure in emergencies and dwelt at length on the provisions provided under sections’ 32 & 56 of Indian Contract Act, 1872.
  • Contract management expert delved at length on the affects of COVID-19 on the construction sector and likely claims to be made by the contractors due to the COVID-19 and the lockdown.

U.K considering Iran’s missile launch as a significant concern

  • The U.K. said on Friday that an Iranian satellite launch earlier this week was of significant concern and inconsistent with a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution.
  • “Reports that Iran has carried out a satellite launch using ballistic missile technology are of significant concern and inconsistent with UNSC resolution 2231,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement.
  • “The UN has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran must abide by this,” the spokesman said.
  • “We have significant and longstanding concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile programme, which is destabilising for the region and poses a threat to regional security,” the spokesman added.


European medicines agency claims malaria drugs could cause side effects

  • The European Union's medicines regulator on Thursday warned countries that malaria drugs being used experimentally to treat the new coronavirus have potentially serious side effects, including seizures and heart problems.
  • The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine - two medicines embraced by U.S. President Donald Trump and others as a potential COVID-19 treatment - are known to cause heart rhythm problems, especially if combined with other drugs.
  • There is currently no licensed treatment for COVID-19 and dozens of trials are under way globally. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have long been used to treat malaria and anti-inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to the heart problems, the two drugs can also cause side effects including liver and kidney damage, seizures, and result in low blood sugar.
  • Earlier this month, part of a study in Brazil was suspended after doctors found one quarter of patients taking chloroquine developed irregular heart rhythms after taking a higher dose.
  • In the U.S., doctors reported disappointing results this week for a study investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19. Among 368 patients who took the drug with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, there were more deaths among those who took the drug versus those who received standard care.
  • The EMA reminded doctors and patients to report any suspected side effects from hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to national authorities. "These must not be used without a prescription and without supervision from a doctor," the agency said.


ICC to consider safe ball polishing

  • The use of artificial substances to polish the cricket ball, which effectively means ball tampering, could be considered for legalisation when the game resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic that has made bowlers wary of applying saliva on the red cherry.
  • ESPNCricinfo has reported that administrators are “open to the option of allowing for the use of an agreed artificial substance to polish the ball under the supervision of the umpires.”
  • The matter of saliva being unsafe was raised by the ICC’s medical committee and it would be addressed before cricket resumes. Shining the ball is an integral part of cricket as it helps the bowlers swing the ball.Former India pacer Venkatesh Prasad supports the idea of not using saliva on the ball.


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