20th Sep, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Interest savings scheme’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: In a respite to the common man, the Union Government on Thursday hiked the interest rates of small savings schemes, including National Saving Certificate and Public Provident Fund, for the October-December quarter.
Changes made in the interest rate include:
- After the revision, the interest rate for the five-year Senior Citizens Savings Scheme will be 8.7% instead of the current rate of 8.3%.
- Public Provident Fund (PPF) and National Savings Certificate (NSC) will fetch an annual interest rate of 8% in place of the existing 7.6% and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) will yield 7.7% but will now mature in 112 months instead of 111.
- The girl child savings scheme Sukanya Samriddhi will offer 8.5% instead of 8.1%.
Impact of this on the Bonds
The rates of small savings schemes are linked to government bond yields. The move is expected to see banks hiking their deposit rates in line with the small savings rate offered by the government.
Why did the government increase the interest rates?
The move has come after the latest data of the Reserve Bank of India showed that fresh investments in small savings schemes like post office saving schemes, senior citizen savings schemes and PPF dropped to almost nil.
‘Dam rehabilitation and Improvement project’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the Revised Cost Estimate of Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) at the revised cost of Rs 3466 crore with the financial assistance of the World Bank to improve safety and operational performance of 198 Dams, along with institutional strengthening with system wide management approach.
About the project
The project will improve the safety and operational performance of selected existing dams and mitigate risks to ensure safety of downstream population and property. The primary beneficiaries are both urban and rural communities dependent on reservoir and downstream communities, who are prone to risk associated with dam failure or operational failure. Further, through institutional strengthening component, effectiveness of Dam Safety Organisations will be increased to take the lead to make dams safe from structural and operational point of view through capacity building of staff and officials.
DRIP envisages following objectives: –
- a) Component-I: – Rehabilitation of Dam and its Appurtenant Structures,
- b) Component-II: – Institutional Strengthening and
- c) Component-Ill: – Project Management.
The Project implementation has been granted in-principle approval for two years extension in the year 2017 by Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the World Bank with a revised closure date of the project by 30th June 2020.
‘Exercise Aviaindra 2018’ (GS2: India-Russia bilateral ties)
Issue: Exercise Aviaindra is an Air Force level exercise between India and the Russian Federation. First Aviaindra was conducted in 2014 and has been planned as a bi-annual exercise.
Objective of the exercise
The aim of the exercise is focused towards anti-terrorist operations in a bi-lateral scenario. The exercise would further enhance the co-operation and understanding each other’s Concept of Operations. In addition to flying exercise, there would be formal interactions, discussions, exchange of ideas and friendly sports matches to enhance bonhomie between the two Air Forces.
‘Tuberculosis’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: India is one of the major contributors to under-reporting and under-diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the world, according to the Global Tuberculosis Report 2018 released by World Health Organization (WHO)
What the report says?
- India accounted for 32% of global TB deaths among HIV-negative people, and for 27% of the combined total TB deaths in HIV-negative and HIV-positive people in 2017
- TB affected all countries and all age groups, but overall estimates for 2017 showed that 90% of cases were adults (aged ≥15 years), 64% were male, 9% were people living with HIV, of which 72% were in Africa.
- Among these, two-thirds of TB cases were reported in eight countries — India (27%), China (9%), Indonesia (8%), The Philippines (6%), Pakistan (5%), Nigeria (4%), Bangladesh (4%) and South Africa (3%).
- The report also highlighted that drug-resistant TB remained a global public health crisis. In 2017, 558,000 people were estimated to had developed disease resistant to at least rifampicin – the most effective first-line TB drug.
- Among the five major risk factors for TB, including alcohol, smoking, diabetes, HIV and undernourishment, a majority of TB patients in India, over 6 lakh, were attributable to undernourishment.
Tuberculosis (TB), once called consumption, is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs.
Active TB typically causes many symptoms that are most commonly related to the respiratory system, including coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm). Other symptoms include:
- unexplained fatigue
- night sweats
- appetite loss
- weight loss
While TB usually affects the lungs, it can also affect other organs, such as the kidneys, spine, bone marrow, and brain. Symptoms will vary depending on which organ is infected. For example, tuberculosis of the kidneys can cause you to urinate blood. According to WHO more than 95 percent of all deaths related to TB cases occur in low- and middle-income countries
People who use tobacco or misuse drugs or alcohol long term are more likely to get active TB, as are people diagnosed with HIV and other immune system issues. TB is the leading killer of people who are HIV-positive, according to WHO. Other risk factors for getting active TB disease include:
- end-stage kidney disease
- certain cancers
‘India-Pakistan trade’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Trade between India and Pakistan can increase from $2 billion at present to $37 billion if both countries do away with artificial trade barriers, a World Bank report.
Other observations made in the report
- India’s informal trade with Pakistan is 91% of formal trade
- Port restrictions offset the advantage of geographical proximity, which should lead to low transit costs and times between the states or provinces in northern India and Pakistan and thus boost trade. Pakistan allows only 138 items to be imported from India over the Attari–Wagah land route.
- The complex relations between India and Pakistan have adversely affected bilateral trade as well as trade within the region, said the World Bank. The two countries account for 88% of South Asia’s gross domestic product and 86% of its population.
Current scenario of trade between the two countries
Under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), both countries have reduced tariffs to a maximum of 5%. India has reduced tariffs to zero on imports from the least developed countries. However, India (614 items) and Pakistan (936 items) continue to maintain long lists of sensitive items, numbering 614 and 936, respectively, including items on which no tariff concessions are granted.
India accorded Pakistan most-favored-nation status or non-discriminatory market access in 1996, under the World Trade Organization. However, Pakistan has not yet granted India the same status.
‘India-Afghanistan ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the growing presence of the IS (Da’esh) in Afghanistan, and the continuing influx of terrorists from Pakistan, during his day-long visit to Delhi
Other topics on which discussion were carried out include
- New Delhi would back the Afghan government on its decision to engage the Taliban in talks that are “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led.”
- During his meeting with Mr. Modi, President Ghani made a special mention of the siege of Ghazni city in August where a sizeable number of foreign fighters had fought alongside the Taliban
Bilateral relations between the two countries
Bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of India have traditionally been strong and friendly. While the Republic of India was the only South Asian country to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s, its relations were diminished during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government. India aided the overthrow of the Taliban and became the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan. Indians are working in various construction projects, as part of India’s rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan
The relation between the people of Afghanistan and India traces to the Indus Valley Civilization. Following Alexander the Great’s brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the region known today as Afghanistan. In 305 BCE, they ceded much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.
India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan as the international coalition fighting the Taliban withdraws combat forces through 2014. Especially, it wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. India has already invested $10.8 billion in Afghanistan as of 2012. More such projects are likely to come up after Nato’s withdrawal. This includes setting up Iron ore mines, a 6 MTPA steel plant (by SAIL—Steel Authority of India Limited), an 800 MW power plant, Hydro-electric power projects, transmission lines, roads etc., India helped Afghans in the reconstruction of Salma Dam in the Herat province. Besides producing 42 MW power, this Indo-Afghan friendship dam provides irrigation for 75,000 hectares of farmland in the Chisti Sharif district. India and Iran are set to ink a transit agreement on transporting goods to landlocked Afghanistan. The Indian government is investing more than US$100 million in the expansion of the Chabahar port in southeastern Iran which will serve as a hub for the transportation of transit goods.
‘India-South Korea ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: One of the major foreign policy initiatives of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is the government’s ‘New Southern Policy’, with a goal of deepening ties with South East Asian nations as well as India and building an inclusive regional architecture in Asia
India and South Korea have agreed to boost bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030 from $20 billion now. Seoul wants to elevate ties with India to the level of those with four other major powers around the Korean Peninsula — the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
Bilateral relations between India and South Korea
India–South Korea relations have been relatively strong for 2,000 years, although more progress arose during the past three decades. Korea and India share a lot of similarities in every aspect. Since the formal establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1973, several trade agreements have been reached: Agreement on Trade Promotion and Economic and Technological Co-operation at 1974; Agreement on Co-operation in Science & Technology in 1976; Convention on Double Taxation Avoidance in 1985; and Bilateral Investment Promotion/ Protection Agreement in 1996. Trade between the two nations has increased exponentially, exemplified by the $530 million during the fiscal year of 1992-1993, and the US$10 billion during 2006-2007. It further increased to US$17.6 billion in the year 2013.
During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, South Korean businesses sought to increase access to the global markets, and began trade investments with India. In July 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the world’s largest smart-phone factory “Samsung” in Noida, India