18th April, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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Issue: With a view to achieve total digitization of postal operations in the country, under the IT Modernization Plan, Department of Posts has launched DIGITAL ADVANCEMENT OF RURAL POST OFFICE FOR A NEW INDIA (DARPAN) Project, which aims to connect all 1.29 lakh Rural Branch Post Offices in the country, to enable them to do online Postal and Financial Transactions.
About the project
Hand held devices with SIM connectivity and solar power backup are being installed in all Branch Post Offices in the Country. The total Project cost is more than Rs.1300 crores. 61,941 Branch Post Offices have been rolled out under DARPAN Project.
‘SAARC and climate change’
(GS2: Regional groupings)
Issue: Agricultural experts from SAARC nations will present a position paper on ways and means of addressing impact of climate change on agriculture and discuss adaptation measures for climate resilient agrarian systems at the three-day SAARC regional Conference on “Climate Resilient Agricultural Policies, Strategies and Programmes”.
The consultation will not only strengthen partnership amongst SAARC countries on climate resilient agricultural systems, but also cover research, economics and innovative policy towards climate smart agriculture in South Asia. A discussion on the UNFCCC decision on agriculture will also be held during the Conference.
Significance of this summit
SAARC accounts for one-fourth of the global population and around 67 percent of its population lives in rural areas (as per 2014 statistics). Almost half of the workforce is employed in the agriculture sector and around 42 percent of South Asia’s landmass is under agricultural operation. Much of the agricultural production in the region is undertaken by small holders and an average range of landholding in SAARC countries varies between 0.3 to 1.4 hectares. Agriculture plays a central role in South Asian economies, lives and livelihoods. Crops grown in the region are important, both for regional and global food security.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 3.8% (US$2.9 trillion) of the global economy, as of 2015.
SAARC was founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. Its secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The organization promotes development of economic and regional integration. It launched the South Asian Free Trade Area in 2006. SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic relations at the United Nations as an observer and has developed links with multilateral entities, including the European Union.
(GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: First meeting of National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges under POSHAN Abhiyaan was held today at the capital.
About the project
The POSHAN Abhiyaan targets reduction in the level of under-nutrition and other related problems by ensuring convergence of various nutrition related schemes. It will monitor and review implementation of all such schemes and in this endeavour, the Abhiyaan seeks to utilize existing structural arrangements of line Ministries wherever available.
The mandate of the National Council on India’s Nutritional Challenges is as under:
(a) Provide policy directions to address India’s nutritional challenges through coordinated inter-sectoral action.
(b) Coordinate and review convergence between Ministries.
(c) Review programmes for nutrition on a quarterly basis.
The Council will submit its report to the Prime Minister every 6 months.
‘ATAL tinkering labs’
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: Atal Tinkering Labs Celebrate Annual Community Day
What are ATAL tinkering labs?
Atal Tinkering Labs, under the Atal Innovation Mission of the NITI Aayog, were envisioned as innovative maker spaces, setup across India, in every school, accessible to every child. Equipped with modern technologies to help navigate and impart crucial skills in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ATLs are at the vanguard of the promoting scientific temper and an entrepreneurial spirit in children today. The ATL Community Day initiative is an effort to spread awareness as well as engage the local communities in the neighborhood of an Atal Tinkering Lab, to come and experience the exciting new world of science and future technologies.
Computational thinking, Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, design thinking, advanced robotics – to name a few – are becoming increasingly relevant today. And Atal Tinkering Labs have evolved as epicenters for imparting these ‘skills of the future’ through practical applications based on self-learning. Bridging a crucial social divide, Atal Tinkering Labs provide equal opportunity to all children across the spectrum by working at the grass-root level, introducing children to the world of innovation and tinkering.
‘ATAL pension Yojana’
(GS2: Welfare policies for vulnerable section of the population)
Issue: Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is being implemented through the APY Service Providers comprising of Public Sector Banks(PSBs), Private Sector Banks, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Cooperative Banks and Department of Post both in urban and rural areas across the country. The total number of subscribers registered under APY as on 12th April 2018 has crossed 97.60 lakhs.
Atal Pension Yojana (previously known as Swavalamban Yojana) is a government-backed pension scheme in India targeted at the unorganized sector. It was mentioned in the 2015 Budget speech by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 9 May in Kolkata. As of May 2015, only 20% of India’s population has any kind of pension scheme, this scheme aims to increase the number.
In Atal Pension Yojana, for every contribution made to the pension fund, The Central Government would also co-contribute 50% of the total contribution or ₹1,000 (US$15) per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of 5 years. The minimum age of joining APY is 18 years and maximum age is 40 years. The age of exit and start of pension would be 60 years. Therefore, minimum period of contribution by the subscriber under APY would be 20 years or more.
‘World Heritage Day’
(Facts that can be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Every year, 18th April is celebrated worldwide as World Heritage Day to create awareness about Heritage among communities. This year the theme is Heritage for Generations emphasizing on inter-generational transfer of knowledge.
National Rail Museum, New Delhi has chalked out an elaborate programme to celebrate World Heritage Day. The focus shall be to foster dialogue and interaction between generations.
Indian Railways are the proud owner of 04 UNESCO World Heritage Sites viz. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kalka Shimla Railway and Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Mumbai. These World Heritage Sites will be celebrating World Heritage Day on 18th April, 2018 by undertaking various activities to foster fruitful dialogue between generations.
‘Law Commission and simultaneous elections’
(GS2: Executive body)
Issue: A draft white paper released by the Law Commission of India on Tuesday recommends holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, possibly in 2019.
It suggests amending the Constitution to realise this objective.
Suggestion given by the commission
1. The first among these is that “simultaneous elections may be restored in the nation by amending the Constitution, Representation of the People Act of 1951 and the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies.”
2. It recommends that in 2019, the election could be held in phases. In the first phase, it says, elections to the legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with the Lok Sabha in 2019 could be held together. The rest of the States could go to elections in proximity with the Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
3. Citing no-confidence motion and premature dissolution of House as major roadblocks to simultaneous elections, the commission says the parties which introduce the no-confidence motion should simultaneously give a suggestion for an alternative government.
4. It even suggests the relaxation of the “rigours” of the anti-defection law in the Tenth Schedule to prevent a stalemate in the Lok Sabha or Assemblies in case of a hung Parliament or Assembly.
5. The panel says that in case of mid-term elections, the new Lok Sabha or Assembly would only serve the remainder of the term of the previous Lok Sabha/Assembly and not a fresh term of five years.
6. The commission says the Centre should get the Constitutional amendments, if agreed upon, to be ratified by all the States so as to avoid any challenge to them.
7. It also says that the Prime Minister/Chief Minister should be “elected” to lead by the full House like the Lok Sabha Speaker.
About Law commission of India
Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice. The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.
(GS2: Organization of Legislature)
Issue: Raising the issue of recent bank frauds, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, headed by M. Veerappa Moily, decided to summon Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel next month to answer questions about the health of the banking sector.
About Parliamentary standing committee
In the Indian Parliament, a Standing committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament. It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. The work done by the Indian Parliament is not only voluminous but also of a complex nature, hence a great deal of its work is carried out in these Parliamentary Committees.
Both Houses of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, have similar Committee structures with a few exceptions. Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedures of conducting business are broadly similar. These standing committees are elected or appointed every year, or periodically by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, or as a result of consultation between them.
There are two types of Parliamentary Committee, the Standing Committee and the Ad hoc Committee.
‘Pre-historic art site’
(GS1: Indian ancient culture)
Issue: A pre-historic rock art site discovered in the vast expanse of limestone blocks on the eastern banks of Naguleru near Dachepalli has thrown light on the Neolithic civilisation that flourished in Guntur during 1500-2000 BC.
About the site
The rock art site on natural lime stone is the first of its kind in the country. The motifs in the form of engraving, pecking and brushing throw fascinating insights into the social and cultural practices of ancient civilizations. What has made archaeologists look up this latest discovery is the dexterity with which early human was able to engrave different animal motifs like fish, snake, peacock, eagle, bull and scorpion on limestone blocks.
One petroglyph shows an anthropomorphic figure with its head in between the two hands. Another engraving shows a warrior holding a sword and a shield, indicating the practices during Iron Age.
About Neolithic civilization
The word ‘neolithic’ was first coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865. Miles Burkit enumerated four characteristics of neolithic culture
1. Animal domestication
2. Agricultural practice
3. Grined and Polished stone tools and
4. Pottery manufacture
The discovery of the tools and implements of the neolithic age was made by Le Mesurier in Uttar Pradesh in 1860. Later on, Frasher discovered such objects in Bellary in South India. The people of this age used tools and implements of polished stone.
Neolithic People: The civilisation and culture of the Neolithic age shows distinct traces of progress. The Neolithic men had a settled life. They practised agriculture and grew fruits and corn. Animals, such as the cow, dog, ox, goat etc. were domesticated. The art of producing fire by the friction of bamboos or pieces of stones was known to them. Instead of eating the uncooked flesh of various animals, they now started roasting it. Besides this, bows and arrows were invented and were used for the purpose of hunting. They also learnt pottery, at first by hand and then with the potter’s wheel. They painted and decorated their pots. They lived in caves, the walls of which were polished and painted with the scenes of hunting and dancing. They also learnt the art of spinning and weaving clothes. They used to bury their dead and construct tombs over them which were known as Dolmens, Menhirs
Neolithic Tools: The stone tools of the Neolithic age bear unmistakable signs of polish either all over the tools or at the butt end and working-end, or only at the working end. They fashioned their tools out of fine-grained dark-green trap, though there are examples of the use of diorite, basalt, slate, chlorite, schist, indurated shale, gneiss, sand stone and quartzite.
Occupation: Neolithic settlers were cattle-herders and agriculturists. They produced ragi, wheat, barley, rice, masoor, moong, kulthi etc. Hand-made pottery is also found in the early stage. Elephant, rhino, buffalo, ox, stag remains are also found in plenty. But there is no specification of these domesticated. The pottery were well made but were coarse in nature, not that much polished.
Red, Grey, Black and Red Ware, Black Burnished Ware and Mat-impressed Wars are associated with this culture.
Tools making was another important occupation which included a variety of picks, scrapers, eyed needles, bodkins and pierced batons.
‘India-Sweden joint action plan’
(GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Swedish counterpart, Stefan Löfven, on Tuesday agreed upon a joint action plan (JAP) for both countries to take forward a wide range of initiatives in defence, trade and investment, counterterrorism, renewable energy, smart cities, women’s skill development, space and science and healthcare.
Major outcomes of this action plan
1. The bilateral summit here was additionally significant for the opportunity it afforded both sides to discuss Sweden’s interest in proposing the Saab Group’s Gripen-E single-engine jet fighter for the Indian Air Force, as a Request for Information had been issued earlier this month to Stockholm.
2. On counterterrorism, Mr. Modi and Mr. Löfven emphasised that the global counterterrorism legal framework should be regularly updated to address the changing threat of terrorism with strength.
3. Innovation was front and centre in the bilateral summit today, with a separate discussion focused entirely on this area, and the outcome being a joint declaration on a Sweden-India Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future, which built upon the joint statement between the two Prime Ministers in Mumbai in 2016.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The rupee extended its losing run for the second straight day, falling by another 15 paise to end at a near 7-month low of 65.64 against the U.S. dollar amid persistent capital outflows and a fresh ripple of geopolitical tensions.
Reasons for this downward trend
Headwinds in the form of consistent widening in the trade deficit accompanied by portfolio outflows amid unsupportive global factors kept overall sentiment highly bearish
Country’s trade deficit hit $13.69 billion in March, climbing from $11.98 billion in February. This is the weakest close for the rupee since September 27, 2017 when it had ended at 65.72.
‘International Monetary Fund and India’
(GS2: Global groupings)
Issue: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday said India should address labour market rigidities to create more jobs and undertake financial sector reforms to improve governance in public sector banks to contain downside risks to its medium-term growth prospects.
In its biannual World Economic Outlook, IMF kept its GDP growth forecast for India unchanged at 7.4% for 2018-19 and 7.9% for 2019-20, holding that economic activity will be lifted by strong private consumption as well as fading transitory effects of demonetisation of high-value currencies and implementation of the national goods and services tax (GST).
The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have projected the Indian economy to grow at 7.3% in 2018-19. IMF said while acceleration in India’s growth in the medium term will provide some offset to China’s gradual slowdown, an important challenge for India is to enhance inclusiveness.
The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944. The 44 countries at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The IMF’s responsibilities: The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
* promote international monetary cooperation;
* facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade;
* promote exchange stability;
* assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments; and
* Make resources available (with adequate safeguards) to members experiencing balance of payments difficulties.
Organizations and finances
The IMF has a management team and 17 departments that carry out its country, policy, analytical, and technical work. One department is charged with managing the IMF’s resources. This section also explains where the IMF gets its resources and how they are used.
The IMF has a Managing Director, who is head of the staff and Chairperson of the Executive Board. The Managing Director is appointed by the Executive Board for a renewable term of five years and is assisted by a First Deputy Managing Director and three Deputy Managing Directors.
Most resources for IMF loans are provided by member countries, primarily through their payment of quotas.
Quota subscriptions are a central component of the IMF’s financial resources. Each member country of the IMF is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative position in the world economy.
The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves. Gold remains an important asset in the reserve holdings of several countries, and the IMF is still one of the world’s largest official holders of gold. While quota subscriptions of member countries are the IMF’s main source of financing, the Fund can supplement its quota resources through borrowing if it believes that they might fall short of members’ needs.
The IMF has evolved along with the global economy throughout its 70-year history, allowing the organization to retain a central role within the international financial architecture. Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes taking place in the world economy. Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. The Fund actively promotes good governance within its own organization.