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Insights Daily Current Events, 18 May 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 18 May 2016

Paper 1 Topic: art and culture.

Ancient Buddhist site found in Amaravati

Archaeologists have found an ancient Buddhist site at Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh.

What has been found?

  • Three mounds studded with brickbats and pottery in red colour. The mounds were formed on huge boulders on which a brick-built stupa was raised.   
  • Huge fragments of terracotta and brick tiles used to cover chaityas and viharas.
  • Few years ago, a relic casket with a gold leaf was also found at the same site.

Other details:

  • The bricks, used in the construction of stupas and viharas measuring 60x30x8 cm and 58x28x7 cm, invariably belonged to the Satavahana era (1st Century B.C.).
  • Excavations also revealed that the Buddhist monks relied for drinking water mainly on two tanks spread in an extent of half-an-acre and two rock-cut cisterns.
  • The Buddhist remains like stupas, chaityas and viharas show that Buddhism existed from 1st Century B.C. to the 5th Century AD, but later the region came under the influence of Saivism in the Vishnukundin era, and under Vaishnavites between the 13th and 17th centuries AD.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

SBI begins merger with associate banks

The State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, has kick-started the process of merging its five associate banks with itself at one go. The merger is expected to be completed by the end of the current financial year.

  • The merger move comes after the government announced a road map for bank consolidation during the budget.
  • The five associate banks are State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.

Key facts:

  • The merged entity will have one-fourth of the deposit and loan market, as the SBI’s market share will increase from 17% to 22.5-23%.
  • The total business of the merged entity will be over Rs. 35 lakh crore.
  • Also, SBI’s staff strength will increase by 35-49% while branch network will increase by 6,000. At present, the SBI alone has more than 15,000 branches in the country.

Benefits of merging:

  • The merger will make it a bigger bank and will bring in a lot of efficiencies.
  • Now there are a lot of overlaps among associates. Merging is expected to end these overlaps.
  • This might also be helpful in funding the huge infrastructure financing needs of the country.
  • If the merger goes through, the combined entity will be ranked as the 45th largest bank globally in terms of assets, up 7 ranks from its current 52nd position.
  • Post the merger, the cost-to-income ratio will come down by 100 basis points a year. The cost-to-income ratio is nothing but the company’s costs in relation to its income. To get the ratio, operating cost of a company has to be divided by its operating income.

Way ahead:

  • The SBI will have to create and expand its present structure to ensure smooth operations of the merged entity.
  • The SBI has to create a post-merger structure. Controlling the branches will be crucial.

Previous mergers:

SBI first merged associate State Bank of Saurashtra with itself in 2008. Two years later in 2010, State Bank of Indore was merged.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

N.K. Singh to head panel to review FRBM Act

The government has announced the constitution of a panel under Former Revenue Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP N.K. Singh to review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act of 2003.


  • The committee will review the working of the Act in the context of the uncertainity and volatility of global economy and suggest changes that are in tune with the broad objective of fiscal consolidation.
  • The committee will examine whether a broad fiscal deficit range should be adopted in place of specific target. It will also examine the need and feasibility of aligning the fiscal expansion or contraction with credit contraction or expansion, respectively in the economy.
  • The committee will also provide an assessment of the impact of its recommendations on the government deficit and FRBM parameters.


The decision to form the committee was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during the presentation of Union Budget 2016-17.  

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 1 Topic: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

India suffers from huge gender pay gap, says report

According to the recently released Monster Salary Index, there exists a gender pay gap of 27% in India, where men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs 288.68, whereas women earned only a median gross salary of Rs 207.85 per hour.  

  • Monster Salary Index is aimed at empowering jobseekers by establishing a benchmark to compare their salaries with other anonymous profiles across a broad spectrum of industry domains, experience, functional groups both in India and other global markets.

Highlights of the report:

  • According to the report, the highest gender pay gap was recorded in the manufacturing sector at 34.9%. The lowest gender pay gap was recorded in the BFSI and transport, logistics, communication, equally standing at 17.7%.
  • According to the report, some of the reasons behind gender pay gap could be the preference for male employees over female employees, preference for promotion of male employees to supervisory positions and career breaks of women due to parenthood duties and other socio-cultural factors.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 3 Topic: Land reforms in India.

‘No profiteering at the cost of farmer’

The Supreme Court has declared land a “scarce natural resource” and forbidden the government from using its powers of compulsory land acquisition to strip poor farmers of their livelihood only to transfer such land to private builders to feed their business interests.

What has the court said?

  • Land, acquired in the name of residential or commercial projects, should revert to its rightful owner — the farmer — in case the project does not take off. No third party has any rights on the land.
  • There is no objection to acquisition of land for a compelling public purpose or regulated development of colonies, but release of land to a builder who comes into the picture after acquisition notification tantamounts to acquisition for a private purpose.
  • It amounts to transfer of resources of the poor for the benefit of the rich. It amounts to permitting profiteering at the cost of livelihood and existence of a farmer.
  • If the law allows the State to take land for housing needs, the State itself has to keep the title or dispose of land consistent with Article 14 after completion of acquisition. If after initiation of acquisition, process is not to be completed, land must revert to the owner and not to anyone else directly or indirectly.


These observations were made by the court during a landmark ruling which quashed the transfer of 280 acres of land acquired by Haryana government from farmers in Rohtak to a private builder in 2006 for developing a residential colony.

  • In 2002, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) proposed to acquire around 850 acres of land in Rohtak. However, in April 2003, only 441 acres were acquired. The state later released about 280 acres of the acquired land to Uddar Gagan Properties Limited in June 2006.

Sources: the hindu.

Facts for Prelims:

  • The J&K Wildlife Department has recorded its first ever sighting of a group of eight Himalayan brown bears in Kargil’s Drass Sector. This is a rare record. In the recent past, no such sighting has ever been reported from J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where these animals are distributed. The sighting of such relatively large numbers of Himalayan brown bears in just one wildlife zone out of four major areas of Suru, Zanskar, Drass and Kargil in the Ladakh region is a positive indication. Brown bear is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ list of vulnerable animals.   


  • May 16, 2016 marks the 100 years since the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret Anglo-French pact reached during the First World War that proposed splitting the Middle East up into zones of foreign control. Also known as the Asia Minor agreement, Sykes-Picot defined the borders of the modern states of Syria and Iraq, handing the former over to the French and the latter over to the UK. The impact of the agreement is still being felt today. Most recently, the Islamic State militant group has made the elimination of the borders defined by Sykes-Picot a crucial part of its propaganda. The agreement was concluded in secret partly because it represented a betrayal of promises the British government had already made to Hussein bin Ali, the sharif of Mecca. The Arab leadership, under the command of Sharif Hussein, was promised complete independence following the war, in exchange for supporting the allies against the Ottomans.


  • The government has amended rules and introduced several measures including a system similar to ‘tatkal’, to expedite examination of patent applications by start-ups as well as entities choosing India for the first filing of patent. This comes in the backdrop of 2.37 lakh patent applications pending in the country. Under the ‘tatkal’-like system applicants can opt for the ‘expedited examination’- route on the grounds that they have chosen India as the competent International Searching Authority or International Preliminary Examining Authority in the corresponding international application, and file their applications first in India. The ‘expedited examination’-route is also available to all entities that qualify as a start-up as per the definition for start-up provided in the Patent Rules. The applications for this route have to be filed only electronically. The move is to popularise India as a patent filing hub so that more companies file applications in India.