Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 8 NOVEMBER 2018


Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 8 NOVEMBER 2018


::NATIONAL::

Centre under the proposed Ganga bill bans ports & jetties

• The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority, according to a proposed ‘Ganga Act’.

• The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018, proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’

• The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river. Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed, say several activists and researchers, and persistent campaigns notably led by the late G.D. Agrawal led to the government finally recognising the need for proposed and existing hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum flows all through the year.

• The waterways project involves creating permanent and movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-silting to ensure that minimum river depths for the smooth movement of the vessels are maintained.

• Activists say that while the government’s efforts have been largely on cleaning the Ganga namely, by installing sewage plants in riverine cities such as Allahabad and Varanasi and Kanpur but neglecting to take steps to ensure the river’s natural flow is maintained through the stretch.

Election commission issues order of poll expenditure

• The costs incurred on publicising information about the criminal cases against a candidate, as recently directed by the Supreme Court, will be counted as part of poll expenditure, according to the Election Commission.

• The expenses will be borne by the candidate and the political parties. “This being an expenditure [made] in connection with the election, if expense is incurred in this regard, the same will be counted for the purposes of election,” said the EC.

• There is no limit on the party election expenditure. For Assembly polls, the cap on expenses by the candidates is between ₹20 lakh to ₹28 lakh. The Commission said the FIR cases have to be given publicity.

• If after filing the nomination, the status of the criminal case changes, it will be open to the candidate to notify the revised status to the Returning Officer and publish the revised status.

• Separate formats have been specified by the Commission for the candidates and the political parties.

::ECONOMY::

No mandatory pension benefits in centre’s model construction workers’ welfare scheme.

• There are no mandatory pension benefits in the final version of the Centre’s model construction workers’ welfare scheme despite earlier suggestions that 20% of the construction cess fund be set aside for retired workers.

• The final version of the scheme, which was released last week, simply notes that: “Considering that pension would constitute a permanent liability which the States may not be able to sustain in the long term, the State Welfare Boards may formulate pension schemes depending upon their financial capacity.”

• The model scheme was formulated in response to the Supreme Court’s March 2018 order in a case filed by the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCC-CL). The NCC-CL now plans to file a review petition in the case which was closed on October 4, asking the apex court to continue monitoring government actions on the issue.

• “ The model scheme which does emphasise health and life insurance, as well as scholarships for the children of construction workers also allows for funding of skill development institutes and temporary housing. That will eat up the money [from the cess fund]. This is money specifically for workers; it should go only to them ”said NCC-CL coordinator.

RBI data shows increase in cash in circulation & ATM withdrawals post demonetisation

• Thursday, November 8, marks the second anniversary of the demonetisation exercise. It was on the same day in 2016 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that ₹1,000 and ₹500 currency notes would no longer be legal tender. These notes constituted over 86% of the currency in circulation, then.

• One of the objectives of demonetisation was to move to a ‘less-cash’ society. However, two years down the line, it appears the objective has not been achieved.

• According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, currency in circulation rose to ₹19.6 lakh crore as on October 26, 2018, a 9.5% growth from two years ago. The currency in circulation was ₹17.9 lakh crore on November 4, 2016, the week before the note ban came into force.

• With cash back in the system, ATM withdrawals have picked up. According to RBI data, cash withdrawals from ATMs grew 8% to ₹2.75 lakh crore in August 2018 from ₹2.54 lakh crore in October 2016. The October figure, which will be released in December, could well be higher, as withdrawals generally increase in the festival season. Cash withdrawals from ATMs fell sharply during the demonetisation exercise, hitting ₹1.06 lakh crore in December 2016.

• While cash withdrawals have gained pace, addition of ATMs has been slow. In the last two years, about 8,000-odd ATMs had been added. In the three months till August 2018, ATMs expansion has picked up again with about 1,000 ATMs being added every month. There are 2.28 lakh ATMs as of August 2018.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

China sees India as a digital partner in future

• In tune with its rise as an internet giant, China is roping in India as a niche digital partner, as part of Beijing’s drive to cyber-connect with Eurasia its new frontier for trade and investments.

• At a conference on defining common international standards for two-dimensional (2D) barcodes the gateways for linking genuine buyers and sellers, as well making digital payments by scanning QR codes Chinese officials say that India is already on board in this global exercise.

• Last November, Zheng Chao, Executive Director of the Global Unified Two-Dimensional Code Registration Management Center (UTC), based in Beijing, signed a “strategic cooperation” agreement on 2D coding with his Indian counterpart. As a result UTC (India) was formed.

• Analysts say that China appears more inclined to source pharmaceuticals and agro-products from India, following an unabated trade war with the United States.

• The BRI envisions physical and digital connectivity in Eurasia and Africa the basis for smart cities and industrial parks, through heavy investments in infrastructure.

• Chinese officials spotlight that Beijing has already become a heavyweight in cyberspace, leading to its natural emergence as one of the focal points of the global digital economy.

ASEAN members of proposed RCEP offer concession to India on trade

• Several Asian member countries of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have offered India a significant concession on the extent to which it needs to open up its markets, in a bid to encourage it to join the partnership quickly, according to a diplomat from Singapore.

• The RCEP is a proposed trade agreement between the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and their six free trade agreement partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.

• Opening up its market to China has been India’s main concern about joining RCEP, a sentiment echoed by the Commerce Ministry, NITI Aayog, and then Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.

• India has achieved some success regarding some of its other concerns, such as getting the other RCEP countries to liberalise their services markets and allow for a more free movement of service sector professionals.

• India and a few other countries want only a statement on “substantial progress” to be made during the summit, and for negotiations to be pushed into the second half of next year.

• Apart from India, Indonesia and Australia are also due to go to elections in 2019, and while this adds to the urgency of concluding the RCEP negotiations, it makes it harder for governments to give any concessions on tariffs and subsidies closer to polls, given political compulsions, diplomats said.

::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::

UN report says Ozone layer is recovering

  • • The ozone layer that shields life from cancer-causing solar rays is recovering at a rate of one to three percent per decade, reversing years of dangerous depletion caused by the release of harmful chemicals, a U.N. study said on November 5.
  • • The four-yearly review of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 ban on man-made gases that damage the fragile high-altitude ozone layer, found long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone.
  • • “The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing to occur every year. As a result of the Montreal Protocol much more severe ozone depletion in the polar regions has been avoided,” the report said.
  • • The U.N. had already hailed the success of the Protocol, which banned or phased out ozone depleting chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once widely used in refrigerators and spray cans, but the report said it was the first time that there were emerging indications that the Antarctic ozone hole had diminished in size and depth since 2000.
  • • In the Arctic, annual variations were much larger, making it hard to confirm whether there had been a definite recovery in the layer since 2000.
  • • However, while most of the banned gases have been phased out, the report found at least one violation of the protocol: an unexpected increase in production and emissions of CFC-11 from eastern Asia since 2012. The report said the source country or countries had not yet been identified.

::SPORTS::

Sindhu & Srikanth advance in China open World Tour Super 750

  • • K. Srikanth progressed to the pre-quarterfinals with an easy victory but H.S. Prannoy exited after a straight-game loss in the opening round of the China Open World Tour Super 750 badminton here on Wednesday.
  • • Fifth seed Srikanth, ranked ninth, saw off France’s Lucas Corvee 21-12, 21-16 in 35 minutes to set up a clash with Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto.
  • • However, Prannoy lost 21-11, 21-14 to Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie of Indonesia in another men’s singles opener. in women’s singles, J. Vaishnavi Reddy lost 21-12, 21-16 to Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand in a women’s singles match.
  • • In mixed doubles, the Indian duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa fought hard before losing 18-21, 21-19, 21-17 to seventh-seeded Malaysian combination of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying.

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