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Current Affairs : 19 - 20 August 2018

NATION

PM Modi announces ₹500 crore aid
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an immediate financial assistance of ₹500 crore to rain-battered Kerala after reviewing the flood situation.
  • Complimenting the State authorities for their efforts in the adverse situation, Mr. Modi also announced an ex-gratia of ₹2 lakh per person to the next of kin of the deceased and ₹50,000 to those seriously injured from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), a PMO statement. 
NSCN-K purges ‘Indian’ elements
  • The Myanmar-based Shangnyu Shangwang Khaplang faction of the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland, or NSCN-K, has ousted the last of its ‘Indian’ leaders.
  • In a meeting at its council headquarters deep inside Myanmar’s Sagaing region — adjoining Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh — the NSCN-K “unanimously impeached” its chairman Khango Konyak for violating “party discipline”.
  • Mr. Konyak, 70, is a Naga of Indian origin. A China-trained rebel, he had taken over as chairman of the NSCN-K after Khaplang died in June 2017 in a Yangon hospital after prolonged illness.
  • After the impeachment, the outfit has appointed Yung Aung, 45, as its acting chairman. 
  • NSCN-K said Mr. Konyak was found guilty of absolute control of powers and functions and trying to enforce a one-man government in violation of the constitution of the ‘party.’
Denotification of private lands in Kolleru Sanctuary put on hold
  • The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court has put on hold the proposal of the Andhra Pradesh government to denotify 20,000 private and D-patta lands located in the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS).
  • The CEC, in a letter to the State government, said the decision of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife to denotify ziroyati (private) and D-patta lands in the KWS did not conform to the 2006 Supreme Court judgement ordering demolition of the fish tanks within the sanctuary.
  • The Standing Committee, at its 48th meeting on March 27, had decided to recommend the proposal of the State government to reduce the size of the KWS from contour +5 ft. to contour +3 ft.
  • Environment Centre president T. Pathanjali Sastry, who had petitioned the Supreme Court in connection with the protection of the Kolleru Lake, told The Hindu that the problem would have been resolved long ago had the State and Central governments paid attention to providing compensation to the D-patta holders and private land owners.
  • The Centre and State were obliged to protect the lake, a Ramsar Site protected not to just the fifth contour, but to contour +10 ft., covering an area of 901 square ft, he said. 
Revise trade laws, tariffs: U.S. Ambassador

  • Calling upon India to rethink trade barriers, tariffs and regulations in order to become a “hub” for innovation and production, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Juster says that India and the U.S. need to see trade relations as an “important strategic element” of their ties.
  • He made a particular mention of barriers for the technology industry, including a Reserve Bank order telling technology companies to base all their servers in India.
  • After rounds of intense trade negotiations since June, India agreed this month to put off until late September its plan to hit the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs worth $ 235 million on 29 American products.
  • The action was in response to the U.S. raising tariffs on steel by 25% and aluminium products by 10%, which India has failed to get a waiver on. The U.S. is also taking a decision on whether to cancel India’s Generalised Systems of Preferences (GSP) status over the tariffs issue.
  • The U.S. Ambassador’s comments are an indicator that trade issues will be highlighted during next month’s “2+2” ministerial engagement between India and the U.S., though the main purpose of the talks is the inaugural engagement of Defence and Foreign Ministers on both sides.
In rhino country, a division to boost conservation efficiency
  • In about a week’s time, an entire forest division in Assam will start moving 160 km northeast. The one-horned rhino of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) is the reason for this “long march”.
  • On August 14, Assam’s Environment and Forest Department issued a notification saying the KNP had been split into two divisions — the existing Eastern Assam Wildlife and the new Biswanath Wildlife — for “intensive wildlife management”.
  • The Brahmaputra separates the two divisions straddling a total area of 1,030 sq.km. Kaziranga had an area of only 232 sq.m when it began its journey as a proposed reserve forest on June 1, 1905.
  • The KNP officials said the creation of the Biswanath Wildlife Division, with headquarters at Biswanath Chariali in northeastern Assam, will entail relocating the Central Assam Afforestation Division at Hojai 160 km away. In fact, the afforestation division has been renamed a wildlife division.
  • KNP was being administered by the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division with headquarters at Bokakhat on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. This division was formed in 1966, two years before the State government designated Kaziranga a national park, though it was given the official status in 1974.
  • The Eastern Assam Wildlife Division had five ranges — Eastern or Agratoli, Kaziranga or Kohora, Western or Bagori, Burapahar and Northern — until the split.
  • Now, the Northern Range, with an area of 401 sq.km, has been upgraded to the Biswanath Wildlife Division with four ranges of its own — Eastern or Gamiri, Central or Biswanath Ghat, Western or Nagshankar and Crime Investigation Range.
  • The KNP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, currently has a staff strength of nearly 1,300. Wildlife officials estimate that the park would require at least 3,000 men if they were to be deployed in eight-hour shifts.
  • According to the last rhino census in March, the KNP has an estimated 2,413 rhinos. The park also has 57% of the world’s wild water buffalo population, one of the largest groups of Asian elephants and 21 Royal Bengal tigers per 100 sq.km – arguably the highest striped cat density.
‘Operation Karuna’ by IAF’s 24 choppers has transported aid and rescued thousands
  • The MI-17 B of the 109 Helicopter Unit, nicknamed ‘The Knights’, from Sulur in Tamil Nadu, is one of the 24 IAF choppers involved in the massive air relief and rescue campaign code-named ‘Operation Karuna’ that commenced on August 9.
  • The unit has flown over 288 missions till Sunday, making a difference between sustenance and starvation for thousands stranded by the floods.
  • The choppers also rescued 2,324 persons and delivered or air-dropped 380 tonnes of food, water, medicines and other aid supplies.
  • Describing the operations so far, Air Marshal Suresh said the machines had made risky and impromptu touchdowns on uncharted landing zones while bringing in marooned persons to safety.
  • The Air Marshal said with Kochi and Kozhikode airports hobbled by the floods, Thiruvananthapuram operated as a transit air base for the forward supply of men and material.
  • The IAF’s C-17 Globe Master flew 11 sorties, bringing in disaster teams and amphibious troops. The C-130s, AN-32s and IL-76s, the standard transport workhorses of the IAF, played a significant role in the operation, which has now shifted gear from rescue to relief.
Half of farm households indebted: NABARD study
  • More than half the agricultural households in the country have outstanding debt, and their average outstanding debt is almost as high as the average annual income of all agricultural households, according to a recent survey by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
  • The NABARD All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey 2016-17 covered a sample of 1.88 lakh people from 40,327 rural households. Only 48% of these are defined as agricultural households, which have at least one member self-employed in agriculture and which received more than ₹5,000 as value of produce from agricultural activities over the past year, whether they possessed any land or not.
  • NABARD found that 52.5% of the agricultural households had an outstanding loan on the date of the survey, and thus were considered indebted. For non-agricultural households in rural India, that figure was 10 percentage points lower, at only 42.8%.
  • The average debt of an indebted agricultural household stood at ₹1,04,602 in comparison to ₹76,731 for indebted non-agricultural households.
  • According to the survey, the average annual income of an agricultural household is ₹1.07 lakh. That is barely ₹2,500 more than the average outstanding debt of indebted farm households.
  • The survey found that only 10.5% of agricultural households were found to have a valid Kisan Credit Card at the time of the survey. 
  • The scheme aims to give farmers credit from the banks with a simplified and flexible single-window procedure. Households who had the card utilised 66% of the sanctioned credit limit, the report said.
  • The biggest reason for taking loans among agricultural households was capital expenditure for agricultural purposes, with a quarter of all loans taken for this purpose.
  • While 19% of loans were taken for meeting running expenses for agricultural purposes, another 19% were taken for sundry domestic needs. Loans for housing and medical expenses stood at 11% and 12%, respectively.
  • While all classes of farmers had debt, the highest incidence of indebtedness came from those owning more than two hectares of land. In that category, 60% of households are in debt.
India building new fighter jet
  • The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), India’s next indigenous fighter, is expected to make its first flight by 2032. Development work on the jet is under way.
  • “The AMCA will feature geometric stealth and will initially fly with two GE-414 engines. Once we develop our own engine, it can be replaced with that. We expect the first flight in 2032,” a defence source said.
  • “There are two major ways of making a military platform stealthier. One is geometric stealth and other is material stealth. In geometric stealth, the shape of the aircraft is designed at such angles so as to deflect away maximum radar waves thereby minimising its radar cross section. In material stealth, radar-absorbing materials are used in making the aircraft which will absorb the radio waves thus reducing the radar footprint. The AMCA will initially be based on geometric stealth, we can look at material stealth at a later stage,” the source said.
  • The Indian Air Force has given land to the Defence Research and Development Organisation to set up facilities for the project.
  • The aircraft will be powered by the same GE-414 engine on the LCA Mk-2 variant which is in the design phase.
  • This is India’s only fifth generation aircraft programme following the decision not to go ahead with the fifth generation project with Russia.
ECONOMY

CAD to widen to 2.5% of GDP: Moody’s, economists
  • India’s current account deficit (CAD) will widen to 2.5% of the GDP in the current fiscal due to the higher oil prices that has been accentuated by rupee depreciation, Moody’s and other experts said.
  • The rupee last week slid to a record low of 70.32 to a U.S. dollar as political turmoil in Turkey and concerns about China’s economic health continued to support safe-haven assets and weighed on emerging market currencies.
  • A key driver has been gradual U.S. Fed monetary policy tightening, which has resulted in dollar appreciation against many other currencies globally. However, the rupee weakness also reflects India’s widening current account deficit as higher world oil prices have pushed up oil import costs.
  • On the positive side, he said as an overvalued rupee was hurting export competitiveness, it will improve export competitiveness of Indian goods and services.
  • Joy Rankothge, Vice President - Senior Analyst, Moody’s Investors Service said while the weaker rupee will benefit exports at the margins, it is unlikely to reverse the trade deficit, which hit a five-year high of $18.02 billion in July.
  • Net oil imports accounted for 2.6% of GDP in FY 2017-18 and will increase further in fiscal 2019.
  • Mr. Rankothge said Moody’s expects the ongoing cyclical recovery in growth to continue with GDP growth averaging about 7.4% this year and next driven by the underlying growth momentum in the economy, pre-election spending and a pickup in rural demand to largely offset the impacts of a weaker rupee and rising oil prices.
PFRDA sets up panel on cyber safety
  • Pension Fund and Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA) has set up a standing committee to suggest steps to deal with cybersecurity challenges to protect the interest of subscribers.
  • The committee on ‘Information Systems and Technology and Cyber Security’ will suggest steps to align PFRDA’s technology with best industry practices.
Indiabulls HF appoints Mundra as a director
  • Indiabulls Housing Finance (IBHFL) the country’s second-largest housing finance company, appointed Mr. S.S. Mundra, former Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, as an independent director on the board of the company.

SPORTS


Bajrang Punia opens India’s gold account
  • The final of the 65kg freestyle wrestling competition on the opening day of the Asian Games here looked like being yet another walk in the park for the 24-year old, who had won all his previous bouts on the day on technical superiority.
  • It didn’t exactly pan out that way but at the completion of his grudge match against Japan’s Daichi Takatani, Punia was the proud winner of India’s 140th Asiad gold with a 11-8 scoreline, the first in this edition and reiterated his credentials as the brightest spark in the next generation of Indian wrestling and an able successor to the mantle of Yogeshwar Dutt — his guru, idol and mentor. 
Sun wins first gold of Asian Games
  • Chinese wushu athlete Sun Peiyuan won the first gold medal of the Asian Games as the Olympic heavyweight made a fast start in its quest to top the medals table on Monday.
Apurvi & Ravi clinch bronze
  • India opened its account in the 18th Asian Games with a bronze medal after Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar cracked under pressure to finish third in the rifle mixed team shooting event
  • Chinese Taipei’s Yingshin Lin and Shaochuan Lu claimed the gold, scoring 494.1.