06 th Dec, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Soil Health card scheme’ (GS3: Indian Agriculture)
Issue: Soil Health Card Scheme has been taken up for the first time in a comprehensive manner across the country. Under the scheme soil health cards are provided to all farmers so as to enable the farmers to apply appropriate recommended dosages of nutrients for crop production and improving soil health and its fertility.
The unique features of SHC scheme are:-
- Collecting soil samples at a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in un-irrigated areas.
- Uniform approach in soil testing adopted for 12 parameters viz. primary nutrients (NPK); secondary nutrient (S); micronutrients (B,Zn, Mn. Fe & Cu); and other (pH, EC & OC) for comprehensiveness.
- GPS enabled soil sampling to create a systematic database and allow monitoring of changes in the soil health over the years.
To enable quick soil sample testing and distribution of soil health cards, the soil test infrastructure has been upgraded, 9263 soil testing labs have been sanctioned to States. In addition, 1562 village level soil testing projects have been sanctioned to generate employment for rural youth.
Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is implementing this scheme
‘Economic slowdown’ (GS3: Economy)
Issue: Before the optimism over a possible US-China trade truce could sink in, global equity investors are staring at yet another crisis—a potential economic slowdown.
Reasons for this fear of economic slowdown
- In the US, short-term yields trading above long-term rates have triggered fears of a recession among investors, which led to the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling more than 700 points
- Unnerved by these developments, equities in other developed and emerging markets took a knock too
- In the backdrop of global monetary tightening and limited clarity on a resolution of the US-China trade conflict is also causing fear among the investors
- Developments in the three events—US-China trade issues, oil prices and the national election—will determine the performance of the Indian stock market and other emerging economies too
‘World trade organization’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The World Trade Organization agreed Tuesday to hear complaints from Switzerland and India over US steel and aluminum tariffs, bringing the total number of such complaints it is reviewing to nine.
The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) has accepted to create separate panels to hear the complaints by Switzerland and India, after the two countries filed a second request for their cases to be heard.
The decision to establish the panels follows rounds of failed consultations between the parties and marks an escalation in an ongoing showdown at the WTO around Trump’s controversial trade policies
The General Council convenes as the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to deal with disputes between WTO members. Such disputes may arise with respect to any agreement contained in the Final Act of the Uruguay Round that is subject to the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU). The DSB has authority to establish dispute settlement panels, refer matters to arbitration, adopt panel, Appellate Body and arbitration reports, maintain surveillance over the implementation of recommendations and rulings contained in such reports, and authorize suspension of concessions in the event of non-compliance with those recommendations and rulings.
‘World’s fastest growing cities’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: When it comes to the top 10 cities for economic growth, India is set to dominate over the next two decades, according to Oxford Economics.
Observations made by Oxford economics
- Surat, a diamond processing and trading center in Gujarat, will see the fastest expansion through 2035, averaging more than 9 percent
- While economic output in many of those Indian cities will remain rather small in comparison to the world’s biggest metropolises, aggregated gross domestic product of all Asian cities will exceed that of all North American and European urban centers combined in 2027.
- The fastest-growing African city is the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, while the top spot in Europe is held by the Armenian capital of Yerevan, according to the report. San Jose—a proxy for Silicon Valley—will be best performer in North America.
‘AADHAR’ (GS2: Legislature)
Issue: The government is in the last stages of finalizing a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act to give all citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and the data.
Reason for such an amendment
- This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders.
- A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional.
- However, the proposal, which will now be sent to the Cabinet, is likely to benefit only those who do not have a PAN card or do not require one, as the court had upheld the linkage of PAN with Aadhaar.
Other amendment bought include
In line with the court order, the proposal seeks to appoint an adjudicating officer to decide whether a person’s Aadhaar-related data need to be disclosed in the interest of national security.
‘Carbon emission’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.
Observations made in the report
- India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.
- The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use
- CO2 emissions have now risen for a second year, the study’s authors say, after three years of little to no growth from 2014 to 2016. The rise in 2017 was 1.6%.
- The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third.
- China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.
- Emissions in the U.S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline.
- Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
‘Air pollution’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: Exposure to air pollution causes 7 million deaths worldwide every year and costs an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report.
Other observations made in the report
- The same human activities that are destabilizing the Earth’s climate also contribute directly to poor health
- The health burden of polluting energy sources is now so high, that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively pays for itself
- One in every eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollution which now contributes to more disease burden than smoking.
- The estimates show that India with 18 per cent of the global population has a disproportionately high 26 per cent of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.
- Over half of the 12.4 lakh deaths in India attributable to air pollution in 2017 were in persons younger than 70 years.
- The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level were less than the minimal level causing health loss.
India has one of the highest annual average ambient particulate matter PM2·5 exposure levels in the world. In 2017, no state in India had an annual population weighted ambient particulate matter mean PM2·5 less than the WHO recommended level of 10 μg/m³, 45 and 77% of India’s population was exposed to mean PM2·5 more than 40 μg/m³, which is the recommended limit set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of India
‘Monetary policy committee’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) kept its policy rates unchanged on Wednesday, as was widely expected, and cut its inflation forecast for the rest of the financial year, citing a sharp fall in crude oil prices and food “deflation”.
The central bank also introduced proposals to improve policy rate transmission and credit discipline, besides initiating a predictable liquidity injection over the next six quarters. Taking into account easing of food inflation, crude prices and an appreciating rupee, the MPC slashed its inflation projection to 2.7-3.2% from 3.9-4.5% for the second half of the current financial year. It expects inflation to quicken to 3.8-4.2% in the first half of the following year.
About Monetary policy committee
The Monetary Policy Committee of India is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India that is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India. The meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee are held at least 4 times a year and it publishes its decisions after each such meeting.
The committee comprises six members – three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India. They need to observe a “silent period” seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”. The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee. Decisions are taken by majority with the Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie. The current mandate of the committee is to maintain 4% annual inflation until March 31, 2021 with an upper tolerance of 6% and a lower tolerance of 2%.
The committee was created in 2016 to bring transparency and accountability in fixing India’s Monetary Policy. The monetary policy is published after every meeting with each member explaining his opinions. The committee is answerable to the Government of India if the inflation exceeds the range prescribed for three consecutive months
‘Witness protection scheme’ (GS2: Judiciary)
Issue: The Supreme Court on Wednesday brought in place a witness protection regime in the country noting that one of the main reasons for witnesses turning hostile is that they are not given security by the State.
About this scheme
- Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 will come into effect immediately across all States.
- Under it, witness protection may be as simple as providing a police escort to the witness up to the courtroom or, in more complex cases involving an organised criminal group, taking extraordinary measures such as offering temporary residence in a safe house, giving a new identity, and relocation at an undisclosed place.
- The top court said the scheme, which aimed to enable a witness to depose fearlessly and truthfully, would be the law of the land till Parliament enacted suitable legislation.
‘Central information commission (CIC)’ (GS2: Statutory bodies)
Issue: The Supreme Court of India directed several states to fill up the vacancies lying in Information commissions
About Central Information Commission (CIC)
The Central Information Commission has been constituted with effect from 12-10-2005 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities.
The Commission has certain powers and functions mentioned in sections 18, 19, 20 and 25 of the RTI Act, 2005.These broadly relate to adjudication in second appeal for giving information; direction for record keeping, suo-motu disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on inability to file RTI etc; imposition of penalties and Monitoring and Reporting including preparation of an Annual Report. The decisions of the Commission are final and binding.
- Under the provision of Section-12 of RTI Act 2005 the Central Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a body to be known as the Central Information Commission.
- The Central Information Commission shall consist of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and such number of Central Information Commissioners not exceeding 10 as may be deemed necessary.
Eligibility criteria and the process of appointment of CIC/I
- Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows.
(i) The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
(ii) The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha ; and
(iii). A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
- Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be , or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.