06th October 2018, Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination, SSC CGL and State Civil Service Examinations.

06th October 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Polity/Economy

‘Don’t have mandate to give special status’

The 15th Finance Commission made it clear that it did not have the mandate to recommend grant of special category status (SCS) to States but assured that its recommendations would be “sympathetic and positive” as far as the needs of Bihar were concerned.

Background

  • The very concept of a special category state was first introduced in 1969.
  • This was done so when the 5th Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states in India with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks.
  • Initially there were three states which were granted this status. They included: Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir. But since then eight more have been included (Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand).
  • The rationale for special status is that certain states, because of inherent features, have a low resource base and cannot mobilize resources for development.

Criteria to get Special Status

Some of the features required for special status are:
  1. Hilly and difficult terrain;
  2. low population density or sizeable share of tribal population;
  3. strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries;
  4. economic and infrastructural backwardness; and
  5. non-viable nature of state finances.

Benefit to get a Special Status state

  • In centrally sponsored schemes and external aid special category states get it in the ratio of 90% grants and 10% loans. For the rest of the states as per the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission, in case of centrally sponsored schemes only 70% central funding is there in the form of grant.
  • They receive preferential treatment in federal assistance and tax break.
  • Further, these states avail themselves of the benefit of debt swapping and debt relief schemes (through the enactment of Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act) which facilitate reduction of average annual rate of interest.

Economy

NHAI rapped for not maintaining green cover along highways

The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday(3rd Oct 2018) came down heavily on the National Highways Authority of India for not maintaining green cover along national highways.

Rapping the NHAI for not implementing the policy to maintain a mandatory green cover along the highways, a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “You are befooling everyone. You are not planting trees. All highways have marriage places along the road instead of trees. Why are you allowing construction along the highways?”

Background

  • The aim of the policy is to promote greening of Highway corridors with participation of the community, farmers, private sector, NGOs, and government institutions.
  • 1% of the total project cost of all highways projects will be kept aside for the highway plantation and its maintenance.
  • This policy aimed at generating employment opportunities for about five lakh people from rural areas.
  • There would be a strong monitoring mechanism in place by using ISRO’s Bhuvan and GAGAN satellite systems.
  • The Green Highway Policy was conceived towards helping in making India pollution free. It will also seek to help in curtailing the number of road accidents in India. The vision of the policy is to provide dignified employment to local people and communities.

What is 'IL&FS crisis'?

About IL&FS

  • More than 30 years old, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. says on its website that it has helped develop and finance projects worth 1.8 trillion rupees ($25 billion).
  • Marquee developments included the Chenani-Nashri tunnel — India’s longest road tunnel at 9 kilometers (5.6 miles).
  • The company describes itself as the pioneer of public private partnerships, with a portfolio of about 13,100 kilometers of roads.
  • Shareholders include India’s largest insurer, Life Insurance Corp.; its biggest lender, State Bank of India; and Japan’s Orix Corp.
  • Its 169 subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures, critics say, make it too complex for any watchdog or credit-rating firm.

In News because:

  • It’s run short of cash. As well as a recent drying up of new infrastructure projects in India, IL&FS has felt the pain from interest rates that have soared to multi-year highs for short-term borrowings.
  • This crisis started when IL & FS failed to repay the short-term loan taken from SIDBI . As a defaulter, ratings of IL & FS continued to fall.
  • The 100% subsidiary of IL & FS Financial Services, IL & FS, also failed to repay 440.46 million rupees.
  • IL & FS fund projects over ten years, but the borrowings taken by it are of short duration, which increases the asset-liability gap.
  • According to estimates, 17% of anomalies were negative for three years. When the outflow of the debt exceeds the property's inflows, the asset-liability discrepancy becomes negative.
  • IL & FS's largest shareholder is LIC, which holds 25.34% shares. ORIX has 23.54% shares after LIC.

impact

  • With the default of IL & FS, investors of non-banking financial companies, mainly Housing Finance companies have been in trouble.
  • Banks and mutual funds are the main sources of funding for finance finance companies and other non-banking finance companies. In financing, banks contribute 40% and mutual fund 30%.
  • IL & FS has introduced three types of strategies to face the crisis - issuing rights shares, selling property to repay the loan and addressing liquidity shares until the sale of property starts.
  • It is planning to raise Rs 4,500 crore while issuing rights shares, in which it will issue 300 million equity shares per 150 rupees per share.
  • Its board has also approved reconciliation of subsidiaries like IL & FS Financial Services, IL & FS Transportation, IL & FS Energy, IL & FS Environment and IL & FS Education;

Economy/Technology

Facial recognition at airports: Government launches Digi Yatra

  • The government unveiled the Digi Yatra initiative under which the flyers can soon use facial recognition technology to enter the airport.
Digi Yatra
  • Travellers can skip long queues and zip through various check points at airports.
  • Digi Yatra initiative also has biometric-enabled digital processing technique that would enable travellers to enter the airport building by scanning a QR code on their mobile phones, after undergoing facial recognition.

International Relation

Rohingya handed over to Myanmar

Seven Rohingya Muslim men, arrested in 2012 for illegally entering Assam, were officially handed over to Myanmar authorities at Manipur’s border town Moreh.

Rohingya handed over to Myanmar

Ecology

Alphonso Mango from Konkan, Maharashtra got GI tagged

Alphonso from Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Palghar, Thane and Raigad districts of Maharashtra, got registered as Geographical Indication (GI).

  • The king of mangoes, Alphonso, better known as ‘Hapus’ in Maharashtra.
  • It is one of the world’s most popular fruit and is exported to various countries including Japan, Korea and Europe.
  • Other similar GI tagged products include: Darjeeling Tea, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus.

About GI Tag

  1. A Geographical Indication or a GI is an indication used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  2. The first GI tagged product of India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  3. Presently, there are a total of 325 products from India that carry this indication.
    Maharashtra:

Environment and Ecology

Gujarat acts to save its pride

News: Stunned by the deaths of 23 lions since September 12, the Gujarat government, which initially insisted that the lions had died due to infighting for territorial domination, has now sprung into action and launched not only rescue efforts but also called experts from outside, including London, and imported a vaccine from the United States.

sudden death of lions

Under Treatment

  • Currently, more than 500 lions have already been screened to detect viral infections in the Gir forests and revenue areas. This has been done so because as Asiatic lions are spread in as many as eight districts in the Saurashtra region.
  • At present, 33 lions are under treatment at the rescue centre in Jamvala, while three others are being treated in the Jasadhar rescue centre
  • It is important to note that the Gir forests, are the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
  • The lions are famously known as Gujarat’s pride.

Reason of death: According to the State Forest Department, of the 23 deaths, four lions died of CDV, and 17 were killed by a tick-borne infection. The cause of death of two lions is yet to be ascertained.

What is CDV

  • Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease that infects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Dogs who have not been vaccinated for Canine Distemper are the most at-risk. While the disease can also be contracted when improperly vaccinated or when a dog has high susceptibility to bacterial infection, these cases are rare.
  • CDV can be spread through direct contact (licking, breathing air, etc.) or indirect contact (bedding, toys, food bowls, etc.), though it cannot live on surfaces for very long. Inhaling the virus is the primary method of exposure. There is no known cure for CDV, and quick response to the disease greatly improves your pet’s chances at survival, especially for younger puppies. Because of its severity, we advise you to contact our office as soon as you notice something might be wrong.

What is tick-borne infection

Tick-borne diseases, which afflict humans and other animals, are caused by infectious agents transmitted by tick bites. Tick-borne illnesses are caused by infection with a variety of pathogens, including rickettsia and other types of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa

Health

India ranks fifth in world in pictorial warnings on cigarette packets

  • India has been ranked fifth in the listing of countries that have pictorial health warning on tobacco products. à (According to ‘the Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report’, released recently by the Canadian Cancer Society)
  • Country is making tremendous progress towards creating public awareness on the health hazards of tobacco abuse.
  • The current pictorial warnings on both sides of all packets of cigarettes, bidis and all forms of chewing tobacco products in India came into effect in April 2016 on the direction of the Rajasthan High Court and, subsequently, the Supreme Court of India.

You should know

  • East Timor is ranked first with 85% of the front and 100% of the back of the packaging being used for pictorial warnings.
  • Nepal follows with 90% coverage on both sides.
  • Indian packaging has the warning on 85% of both sides.
  • The report found that 118 countries and territories have now made picture health warnings on cigarette packages mandatory, up from 100 in 2016.
  • Canada was the first to insist on picture health warnings in 2001.
  • India is the only SAARC country to have a Quit-Line number on tobacco products and the fourth in Asia after Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Government of India for the first time introduced Quit-Line number to be printed on all tobacco products.