Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 30 DECEMBER 2018


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 30 DECEMBER 2018


::NATIONAL ::

Meghalaya’s mine rescue operations to resume today

  •  The search for 15 miners trapped in a water-filled coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13 will resume on Sunday, with divers from the Navy and experts from other agencies reaching the spot on Saturday afternoon.
  •  Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force, not equipped to undertake operations in narrow ‘rat-hole’ coal mines, had tried in vain to drain out the water from the rectangular 350 ft pit at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district. The pumps available with them were not powerful enough to drain out the pit that kept filling with water to a level of about 70 ft.
  •  The NDRF had a few days ago suspended the operation to rescue the miners or retrieve their bodies, triggering criticisms against the Narendra Modi government for being indifferent to the mishap. A renewed search by multiple agencies, including the Navy, Odisha Fire Service and Coal India Limited, was subsequently ordered.
  •  The NDRF handed over the rescue operation to the other agencies but will remain a part of the exercise. While the 15-member Navy team from Vishakhapatnam has five divers, the Coal India Limited team includes a mining and a disaster expert.
  •  India gives aid for Bhutan’s development
  •  India will support Bhutan’s developmental needs by providing ₹4,500 crore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday, while visiting Prime Minister of the Himalayan country LotayTshering indicated his government’s commitment to maintain warm ties with India.
  •  Bhutan remains one of the key recipients of developmental assistance from India. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India provided ₹4,500 crore for the 11th five year plan that lasted between 2013-18. The Hindu had reported on Friday that India is committed to supporting Bhutan’s next five-year plan to begin shortly.
  •  Mr. Modi said that to share the benefit of the South Asian Satellite, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is moving ahead with plans to set up a ground station in Bhutan that will help in telemedicine, disaster relief and climate trends.
  •  The visiting leader thanked his Indian counterpart for reaching out to him soon after the election victory and sought continued support in generation of hydro power. Dr. Tshering reiterated that hydro electricity is the main source of revenue for his country and negotiations to fix the tariff rates on major projects continue.
  •  The statement is significant as it comes in the backdrop of reports of differences in the tariffs preferred by Delhi and Thimphu for the 720 megawatt Mangdechhu project, being set up with Indian collaboration.
  •  Mr. Modi said Bhutan will soon adopt the RuPay cards introduced by the Indian government earlier.

::ECONOMY::

RBI claims Indian banks to perform well in 2019

  •  Indian banks, especially those in the public sector, that have been reeling under stressed assets for the last few years, may have something to cheer about in the new year.
  •  This is because the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its annual ‘Trends and Progress of Banking in 2017-18’ report, pointed out to the revival in credit growth in the first half of current financial year, and said, “overall improvement in the health of the banks is on the cards.”
  •  In addition, the banking regulator also noted that the stressed assets of banks had begun to stabilise, albeit at elevated levels.
  •  These developments augur well for the banks and other financial intermediaries in the economy as they struggle to regain the momentum lost in the preceding six years, it said.
  •  The report noted that the balance sheet expansion of commercial banks between 2012-13 and 2017-18 had been slow due to an increase in stressed assets but during the first half of the FY19 ‘growth returned to the balance sheet bolstered by recovery in loan books.’
  •  RBI also pointed out that recapitalisation of public sector banks for 2018-19, which was enhanced to ₹1,06,000 crore from ₹65,000 crore, was aimed at meeting regulatory capital requirements.
  •  Observing that the presence of RBI officials in the boards of public sector banks leads to ‘serious conflict of interest,’ the central bank said there is a need to bring in legislative changes to do away with the requirement of nominating RBI officials as nominee directors on the boards of PSBs.

Automibile industry to grow in 2019 :study

  •  Despite headwinds, demand for automobiles is expected to grow in the next few months owing to enhanced economic activities, including spending on infrastructure and rural development, said the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on the outlook for the sector.
  •  He said since the financial sector had been a dampener in the last few months, the authorities must “take measures to ensure flow of funds in the financial system is restored so that the sector can play its role to support the growth of the industry and economy.”
  •  He said the Indian automobile industry will move to Bharat Stage VI from April 2020 and several other regulatory compliance issues would have to be fulfilled in the next one year.
  •  As per SIAM data, commercial vehicle, three-wheeler and two-wheeler segments in the period between April and November 2018 reported double digit growth at 32%, 25% and 11% respectively. But the passenger vehicle industry grew moderately at 5% during that period.
  •  He said the first setback was due to the Kerala floods and subsequently, several factors influenced the decline in demand, including rise in interest rates and fuel prices, insurance cost hike and NBFC crisis leading to liquidity tightening.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

Bangladesh elects new parliament

  •  In Bangladesh, polling was held today to elect a new Parliament amid tight security. At least 17 people were killed and over dozens injured in the poll-related violence. Sources said that most of the dead were activists of ruling party Awami League while others were workers of opposition BNP or its allies.
  •  Over six lakh security personnel including soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed across the country for smooth conduct of the elections. According to the Election Commission, 1,848 candidates are contesting for 299 out of 300 Parliament seats. Voting was suspended in one seat due to the death of a candidate.
  •  The voting took place at more than 40 thousand polling stations. Electronic Voting Machines, EVMs were used for the first time in a general election in the country, though only on a limited scale. Out of the 299 parliamentary constituencies that went to polls, six saw the use of EVMs.
  •  While incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is seeking a fourth term , her rival ex-premier and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khalida Zia faces an uncertain future in a Dhaka jail. Zia, serving a 10-year prison term on graft charges, has been barred from contesting the polls.

People still stranded due to Srilankan flash floods

  •  The recent flash floods in Sri Lanka caught people of the Northern Province unawares. Many in the Tamil-majority area, across Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna, were yet to fully recover from the harsh drought over the past few years when the unexpected, heavy showers ravaged their villages.
  •  According to data provided by the Disaster Management Centre on Saturday, nearly 1,25,000 persons from 40,000 families have been affected over the last week. Several of them were forced to leave their homes and are staying at welfare camps. Relief work is on but the floods have left a huge trail of destruction to homes, property and livestock that supported many low-income families.
  •  The island has become increasingly vulnerable to flash floods, going by their recurrence in recent years. In the summer of 2017, the southern districts witnessed one of the worst floods in Sri Lanka, setting off landslips and claiming over 200 lives.
  •  In the recent instance in the war-affected northern region, Kilinochchi district is the worst affected, official figures show. Nearly 55,000 people have been badly hit and as many as 1,800 families are in relief centres, where district authorities provide cooked meals, essentials and basic medication.
  •  The damage to paddy land has been significant and Chena cultivation, or the production of ‘other food crops’ including green gram, peanuts and potatoes that sustains thousands of small scale farmers has been badly hit. The biggest challenge facing us is livelihoods. Over the last few years in the drought and now the floods, they have been severely hit.
  •  Mr. Sirisena currently helms a task force overseeing northeastern development, while Mr. Wickremesinghe following his reinstatement as Prime Minister after the political crisis is also the Minister for Resettlement & Rehabilitation and Northern Province Development. They have an urgent task at hand.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Researchers develop new algorithm to detect rare cells

  •  Much like finding a needle in a haystack, identifying rare cells from a dataset comprising millions of cells can be hugely daunting. Now, a new algorithm developed by Delhi-based researchers makes it easy — it can find rare cells from a very large pool of cells in a matter of seconds.
  •  The algorithm Finder of Rare Entities (FiRE) assigns a rareness score to each cell that is computed based on the gene expression profile of about twenty thousand genes. Cells having scores above a certain threshold are reported as rare cells. Besides being fast, initial studies show that the new algorithm has superior sensitivity and specificity compared with existing methods.
  •  Circulating tumour cells, cancer stem cells, antigen-specific T cells, circulating endothelial cells are a few examples of rare cells. Rare cell populations such as circulating tumour cells can shed light on the process of cancer metastasis (spreading of cancer to other parts of the body) thus providing invaluable information for early detection and clinical management of the disease.
  •  The researchers used five data sets to test the algorithm. In the case of peripheral blood containing 0.3% megakaryocytes, the gene expression of about 68,000 different cells was compared, and rare cell populations with different grades of rarity showed up. The cluster with the rarest cells comprised of only megakaryocytes, thus validating the algorithm.
  •  In a simulation experiment to evaluate the performance of FiRE algorithm, the gene expression profiles of two types of cells were mixed in vitro. And by increasing the percentage (from 0.5 to 5%) of one cell type, the team tested the precision and sensitivity of FiRE and other existing algorithms to correctly identify the rare cells.

::SPORTS::

Women’s national boxing championships begin

  •  Third edition of women's national boxing championships begins in Vijayanagara, Karnataka today. Country's top boxers will be vying for top honours as the tournament will be held at the JSW Sports-owned Inspire Institute of Sport till 6th of the next month.
  •  With close to 250 entries received from 31 states and institutions, pugilists will compete in all 10 weight categories.
  •  World Championship silver and bronze medallists boxers, Sonia Chahal, LovlinaBorgohain, Pinky Jangra and NikhatZarin will be trying to upstage one another in the race to claim the top honours.

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