Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 8 NOVEMBER 2018
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.
No mandatory pension benefits in centre’s model construction workers’
• 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
• 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
• 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.
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
• The BRI envisions physical and digital connectivity in Eurasia and Africa
the basis for smart cities and industrial parks, through heavy investments in
• 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.
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.