Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 31 DECEMBER 2018


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 31 DECEMBER 2018


::NATIONAL::

CIC quizzes home ministry over denial of information

  •  The Central Information Commission has slammed the Home Ministry for denying information on 13 inquiry commission reports on communal riots in the country. In response to an RTI request, the Ministry said it was not the custodian of the records sought.
  •  Charging the Ministry’s Public Information Officer (PIO) with “causing deliberate obstruction to the flow and dissemination of information…and not furnishing any reasonable justification for such complete inaction,” Central Information Commissioner BimalJulka asked why punitive action should not be initiated.
  •  In his strongly worded December 27 order, Mr.Julka noted that the issue involved the larger public interest and directed the Home Secretary to depute a senior official to find out the status and location of the 13 reports and the reason for the denial of information within 15 days.
  •  Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), had filed an RTI request in July 2017 asking for the other 13 reports to be also made available, with all their volumes and annexures.
  •  Not receiving any response within the stipulated 30-day time frame, Ms.Bhardwaj filed a first appeal. A day later, in a late response, the Ministry’s PIO simply dismissed the request saying that she was not the custodian of the records sought.

Centre launches Ujjawala sanitary napkin initiative

  •  The Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins initiative by three oil marketing companies – IOCL, BPCL and HPCL – was launched by Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister DharmendraPradhan here on Sunday.
  •  The three companies will set up 100 manufacturing units at the Common Service Centres (CSC) covering 93 Blocks across 30 districts of Odisha at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.94 crore.
  •  Mr.Pradhan said the mission, which forms part of the CSR initiative of OMCs in Odisha, is aimed to educate women on female hygiene and health, improve accessibility to low cost eco friendly sanitary pads and boost rural employment and economy.
  •  At least 10 Ujjwala beneficiary women will get employment at each CSC. Each facility will have a capacity to produce 1,200-2,000 pads per day and will have a sterilisation room to ensure that the napkins are sterilised before they are packed for use by rural women.
  •  The CSCs are also being provided with raw material, enough to make 45,000-50,000 pads. These napkins will be priced at Rs. 40 per pack, each containing eight pads. The Ujjwala pads will be made of virgin wood pulp sheet, non-woven white sheet and a gel sheet which are all biodegradable in nature and will leave minimal carbon footprint.

::ECONOMY::

NBFC’s say bank like regulation might hamper their growth

  •  At a time when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is mulling tighter regulation around non-banking financial companies, these firms, also referred to as shadow banks, have written to the Prime Minister NarendraModi that such regulations will hamper the growth of the sector.
  •  “Regulation with the objective of aligning it with that of banks is leading to over regulation where NBFCs are being regulated like banks,” the letter that was sent to the prime minister’s office said. The letter was submitted after the chiefs of NBFCs met Mr.Modi last week.
  •  Last week, the Reserve Bank said it intends to strengthen the Asset-Liability Management framework for NBFCs on lines similar to that for banks and harmonise it across different categories of NBFCs.
  •  The move comes after the sector faced stress on liquidity following the IL&FS crisis.There are around 10,000 NBFCs registered with the RBI.
  •  The Reserve Bank of India-regulated sector grew 15.8% in 2017-18. By the end of March 2018, it was 19.8% of the scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) taken together, in terms of balance sheet size. The shadow banks said systemically, NBFCs having asset base of Rs. 500 crore, must be allowed to accept public deposits.
  •  The sector also sought a liquidity window from the RBI, including for housing finance firms, against sale of secured loans by taking appropriate margins on these loans.

CII claims GDP growth would sustain

  •  India will continue to be the fastest-growing major economy, with robust GDP growth expected to continue through 2019, the Confederation of Indian Industry said, based on strong drivers from the services sector, infrastructure activity and better demand conditions.
  •  Better demand conditions, settled GST implementation, capacity expansion resulting from growing investments in infrastructure and continuing positive effects of the reform policies undertaken and improved credit offtake especially in services sector at 24% will sustain the robust GDP growth in the range of 7.5% in 2019,” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General of CII, said in a statement.
  •  On Ease of Doing Business, CII said the government should continue to place high priority on simplifying business procedures in 2019, especially in terms of working with the States for grassroots improvements.
  •  The CII also said to spur credit growth and improve liquidity, the RBI should look at revisiting lending restrictions of banks placed under Prompt Corrective Action, and the opening of a limited Special Liquidity Window to meet emergencies of financial institutions.
  •  CII said India can guard against risks of higher oil prices by raising domestic production of oil, providing a special window for oil marketing firms to procure oil and stepping up diplomacy with the U.S. to continue to secure purchases from Iran.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

Pakistan upgrades border armoury

  •  Pakistan has drawn up an ambitious plan to procure close to 600 battle tanks, including T-90 tanks from Russia, primarily to bolster its military might along the border with India, intelligence sources said on Sunday. Most of these tanks will be able to hit targets at a range of three to four km, sources said.
  •  The Pakistan Army is also procuring 245 150mm SP Mike-10 guns from Italy of which it has already received 120 guns, they said.
  •  The sources said Pakistan was eyeing to buy from Russia a batch of T-90 battle tanks the mainstays of the armoured regiments of the Indian Army and that the move reflected Islamabad’s intent to forge a deeper defence engagement with Moscow. Russia has been India’s largest and most trusted defence supplier post- Independence.
  •  The sources said as part of the mega plan to significantly revamp its armoured fleet by 2025, Pakistan has decided to procure at least 360 battle tanks globally besides producing 220 tanks indigenously with help from its close ally China.
  •  Pakistan Army’s move to enhance its armoured corps comes at a time when the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed growing hostilities in the last one year. The Indian Army has been strongly retaliating to every unprovoked firing.

Germany allows car makers to upgrade exhaust filters

  •  Germany cleared away legal hurdles for carmakers to upgrade exhaust emissions filtering systems on older diesel cars as a way to avoid vehicle bans, but failed to quell doubts among manufacturers and suppliers over the effectiveness of retrofits.
  •  Carmakers have been forced to consider upgrading exhaust treatment systems on older cars after German cities started banning heavily polluting diesel vehicles to cut pollution from fine particulate matter and toxic nitrogen oxides.
  •  The fight over refits is the latest fallout from an emissions cheating scandal triggered by Volkswagen in 2015 after it admitted systematically hiding illegal pollution levels from regulators.
  •  An environmental and regulatory backlash ensued and lawmakers and the auto industry are now at odds over how to clean up dirty air in inner cities.
  •  Carmakers want customers to buy new cars with cleaner engines, while environmentalists and consumer groups argue that retrofitting older vehicles may be more cost-effective.
  •  Hamburg has banned older diesel cars from the city centre, and other cities, including Berlin and Stuttgart, the home of Germany’s car industry, are set to introduce similar bans.
  •  Of the 15 million diesel cars on Germany’s roads, only 2.7 million have Euro-6 technology.Evercore ISI has estimated that upgrading the exhaust cleaning of just the Euro-5 fleet could cost up to €14.5 billion ($17.9 billion).

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

Researchers set to track helium in earth’s mantle

  •  Helium – the second most abundant element in the universe – is hard to come by on Earth in its gaseous state, because it is so light that it can escape easily. But one of the places where it is found is in volcanic lava plumes, such as seen in Iceland and Hawaii, originating from the Earth’s mantle.
  •  Now a group of researchers has come up with a striking possibility that the mantle helium must exist as the compound FeO2He which is stable and solid under the pressure and temperature conditions prevailing at those depths.
  •  The team used a crystal search algorithm CALYPSO which they had developed, to look at possible compounds containing helium. If the energy of the suggested compound containing helium was lower than that of free helium, then the compound state would be considered favoured and the algorithm would give a positive answer.
  •  Their calculations showed that this compound is stable at temperatures between 3000 K and 5000 K and at pressures between 135 and 300 GPa. These conditions correspond to those found in the core–mantle boundary.
  •  If this result is proved right by experiment, it will solve the longstanding problem of where ancient helium is stored within the Earth.

::SPORTS::

India beats Australia to regain Border-Gavaskar trophy

  •  India beat Australia by 137 runs in the 3rd test held in MCG,Melbourne
    With an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-Test series, India will now attempt to accomplish what no Indian team has ever done triumph in a Test series in Australia when the Sydney Test begins on January 3.
  •  India’s last Test victory at the iconic MCG came way back in 1981 when Sunil Gavaskar’s team, inspired by KapilDev, overcame Australia by 59 runs.

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