Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 28 June 2020

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 28 June 2020


Government intensifies locust operation in several states

  • Government has intensified Locust control operations in seven states. These are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In total 60 ground control teams of Locust Circle Offices and 12 Drones are being used for Locust Control operations.
  • The Locust Warning Organization and 10 Locust Circle Offices in coordination with State governments undertake locust control operations in schedule desert areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat. 
  • The State Governments through their Agriculture Departments undertake locust control in cropped area. This year starting from 11th April, in this season 1,27,225 hectares have been controlled till 26th of this month.
  • Enough stock of pesticides is being maintained with the locust control organization and there is sufficient availability with State Governments also. Home Ministry has included admissibility of hiring of vehicles and tractors with spray equipments for spraying of plant protection chemicals for pest control.
  • Under Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanization, assistance for purchase of 800 tractors mounted spray equipments sanctioned for Rajasthan. Financial assistance of 14 Crore rupees sanctioned for the State  for hiring of vehicles, tractors and for purchase of pesticides is under sanction. 
  • A total of 1.80 crore rupees sanctioned for Gujarat  for purchase of vehicles, spray equipments, safety uniform, android application and training with regard to locust. Review meetings were organized at different levels, Video Conferences were organized for different State Governments and Locust control preparedness is being reviewed.

Ministry of culture to celebrate Sankalp Parva

  • On the call of Prime Minister NarendraModi, the Ministry of Culture has decided to celebrate Sankalp Parva from tomorrow to 12th July to plant trees. Minister of Culture Prahlad Singh Patel said that his Ministry has recommended to the people to plant five trees which have been identified by the Prime Minister and represent the herbal heritage of our country. 
  • These trees are Bargad, Awla, Pepal, Ashok and Bel. He also said that if the saplings of these trees are not available then people may plant any other sapling of their choice.
  • Mr Patel also said that the organizations must ensure that each employee plants at least one tree of his or her choice over and above five such  trees. 
  • He said, the Institutions must also ensure that the employee takes care of the tree planted by them during the year so that it survives and flourishes.
  • Mr Patel also urged all to participate in the SankalpParv and share the photo of the plantation with the hashtagSankalpParv with the Ministry of Culture.


RBI extends borrowing limits of banks under MSF

  • Amid the economic woes created by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to extend the enhanced borrowing facility provided to the banks to meet their liquidity shortages till September 30.
  • The RBI, as a temporary measure, had increased the borrowing limit of scheduled banks under the marginal standing facility (MSF) scheme from 2 per cent to 3 per cent of their Net Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL) with effect from March 27, 2020.
  • Under the MSF, banks can borrow overnight funds at their discretion by dipping into the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR). This relaxation, which was granted till June 30, 2020, has now been extended till September 30. RBI, in its circular said that banks may continue to access overnight funds under the MSF against their excess SLR holding.
  • The marginal standing facility rate currently stands at 4.25 per cent. The RBI has also extended the relaxation on the minimum daily maintenance of the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 80 per cent for a further period of three months till September 25, 2020.
  • On March 27, the minimum daily maintenance of the CRR was reduced from 90 per cent of the prescribed CRR to 80 per cent till June 26, 2020. This was done in view of the continuing of hardships faced by banks in terms of social distancing of staff and consequent strains on reporting requirements.


Finance commission pushes for farm reforms in states

  • With the Centre deciding to take the ordinance route to push through reforms in agricultural marketing and contract farming, the 15th Finance Commission is considering the promotion of an expanded farm reform agenda for States over the next five years.
  • At a meeting with its Economic Advisory Council on Friday, the Finance Commission set up a panel “to devise a mechanism for incentivisation of States in areas of agricultural reforms agenda for the purpose of inclusion in the Commission’s recommendations in its final report”, according to a statement.
  • “In the framework for the FC’s interim report for 2020-21, we had recommended performance incentives to be given to States on the basis of three measurable indicators of agricultural reforms,” Dr. Chand told.
  • If State Legislatures enacted the Centre’s Model Acts on agricultural marketing and contract farming, as well as the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016, prepared by NITI Aayog, they would be eligible for financial incentives from the Commission from 2021-22.

However, the Centre issued central ordinances on both agricultural reforms and contract farming earlier this month, as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, bypassing the need for States to enact the Model Acts

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UN experts urge release of anti-CAA activists

  • A group of United Nations experts (UN) on Friday issued a statement in Geneva, urging India to release the “human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws”.
  • “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA [the Citizenship (Amendment) Act], and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.
  • They cited the arrest of JamiaMilliaIslamia student SafooraZargar as one of the “most alarming cases”. Ms.Zargar, six months pregnant, was detained for over two months and allegedly not given adequate medical attention. She was granted bail earlier this week on humanitarian grounds.
  • “Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said.


Srilanka turns to China aftermath debt crisis

  • The Sri Lankan government is likely to once again turn to China for help with debt repayment, as it did in 2014, even as its request to India for a postponement of its debt repayment has been hanging fire for the last four months.
  • After a conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Rajapaksa on May 13, Beijing has already approved an additional $500 million loan from its development bank to help counter the impact of the pandemic.
  • Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister MahindaRajapaksa had asked India for a debt deferment during a visit to Delhi in February, as he had confirmed in an interview.
  • In April, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka sought a $400 million currency swap with the RBI under the SAARC facility and again in May, President GotabayaRajapaksa sought a “special” $1.1 billion currency swap facility from Prime Minister NarendraModi, who had called him to discuss the responses to the pandemic and bilateral cooperation.
  • Other countries in the region are also now seeking debt repayments. On Friday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to President Rajapaksa about joining a ‘Global Initiative on Debt Relief” to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, a press release from the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo said.
  • Reports suggest that China has now agreed to a partial repayment, to reduce the dues this year from $100 million to $75 million, a development New Delhi will watch closely.



LIGO detects unusual compact object with mass between black hole & neutron star

  • The LIGO Scientific and VIRGO Collaborations (LSC) have detected an unusual compact object whose mass falls in between that of a typical black hole and a neutron star. 
  • The absence of accompanying electromagnetic signatures such as flashes of light are compatible with both. This puzzling event was registered by the LIGO and VIRGO detectors on August 14, 2019. The work has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
  • Since the first detection of gravitational wave signals emerging from the coalescing of binary black holes in 2015, the LIGO and VIRGO detectors have detected mergers of pairs of black holes, pairs of neutron stars and black hole-neutron star duo. 
  • Looking at the signal waveform, it appeared that the primary object in this merger had a mass of about 23.2 times that of the Sun and the smaller, secondary object had a mass of about 2.6 times the solar mass. The pair joined to form a large black hole of mass 25.6 times the Sun’s mass, having radiated away 0.2 solar masses.
  • There is not much information about the lighter object except for the mass. “Due to the mass asymmetry, it becomes very difficult to detect any signatures of neutron star ‘tides’ which could have given us insights about the star. So one may be able to invoke exotic possibilities,” says Prof. Arun. “It is going to be a very active topic of discussion in the astrophysics community in the coming days,” he adds.


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