Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 March 2018

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 March 2018


 

Paper 2:

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

80:20 gold scheme

Context: The government has announced that it will review the circumstances under which Premier Trading Houses (PTH) and Star Trading Houses (STH) allegedly earned windfall gains under the 20:80 gold import scheme implemented by the previous government.

 

What’s the issue?

The previous government had, in May 2014, allowed PTHs and STHs to import gold under the 20:80 scheme, which was earlier restricted only to banks and public sector enterprises. This, the government has said, resulted in these PTHs and STHs earning a ‘windfall gain’.

A CAG report published in 2016 found that the 80:20 scheme had resulted in a loss of Rs 1 lakh crore to the exchequer.

 

About 80:20 gold scheme:

The scheme was introduced in in August 2013 with the aim of curbing gold imports. Under the scheme, up to 80% of gold imports could be sold in the country and while at least 20% of imports had to be exported before bringing in new consignments of the yellow metal.  Further, the permission to import the next lot given only upon fulfilment of the export mandate. The policy was aimed at tackling the widening fiscal deficit.

Later, the RBI relaxed the rules with the aim to facilitate gem and jewellery export, which had declined due to the import curbs. Following relaxation of the rules, private firms were allowed to import gold under the scheme. In May 2014, the RBI had allowed certain premier export houses to import the gold subject to some restrictions. Under the earlier scheme, only state-owned entities were allowed to initially import the yellow metal. Later, the scheme was scrapped.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Context: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the National Aviation University to enhance human resource availability in India’s aviation industry.

  • Under the agreement, the signatory institutions would also leverage “the existing infrastructure for training in India to expand the reach of vocational training in aviation disciplines”.

 

Background:

India is expected to be the third largest aviation market in the world behind China and the US by 2024, and is forecast to grow to a market size of 480 million passengers in 2036.

 

About IATA:

What is it? The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 280 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. Formed in April 1945, it is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, which was formed in 1919.

What it does? IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. It also provides consulting and training services in many areas crucial to aviation.

Headquarters: It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

What’s important?

  • For Prelims and Mains: IATA and its structure.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Philippines withdraws from ICC

Context: The Philippines is pulling out its support from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in protest against the “baseless” and “outrageous” attacks against the administration as well as violations of due process.

  • The decision comes after the ICC said it could investigate Philippines President Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity involving extrajudicial killings resulting from his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

 

Background:

The Hague-based ICC announced last month it was launching a “preliminary examination” of Duterte’s bloody anti-drug crackdown that has drawn international concern. Police say they have killed nearly 4,000 drug suspects as part of the campaign, while rights groups claim the toll is around three times the numbers given by authorities.

 

About ICC:

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • It is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
  • Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on July 1, 2002.
  • Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.
  • The Court’s management oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, consists of one representative from each state party.
  • Each state party has one vote and “every effort” has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are made by vote. The Assembly is presided over by a president and two vice-presidents, who are elected by the members to three-year terms.

 

What’s important?

  • For Prelims and Mains: ICC and issues related to its functioning.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

 

Carbonaceous chondrites

Context: A study of two meteorites which fell in Assam and Rajasthan over a span of 13 hours in 2017, by the Geological Survey of India (GSI), has concluded that they may contain “significant clues to the origins of life.

 

Key facts:

  • Two meteorites fell in 2017, one on June 6 in Assam one in Mukundpura village in Rajasthan.
  • After studies, experts have found that the Mukundpura meteorite is a carbonaceous meteorite, one of the most primitive types. The meteorite belongs to a very rare and primitive group of meteorites called CM group of carbonaceous chondrites.
  • The meteorite that fell in Natun Balijan in the flood plains of Lohit River, has been classified as an “ordinary chondrite.”

 

Significance of this discovery:

  • Meteorites mostly originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Carbonaceous meteorite may contain clues to the formation of early life. This is a rare type, since carbonaceous meteorites constitute only 3%-5% of all meteorite falls.
  • Also, this meteorite could be carrying some of the most pristine primordial matter recovered from space as it is made up of materials which were formed during the early stages of the formation of the solar system. A detailed analysis could provide clues about the origin of life and the formation and evolution of the solar system.

 

About carbonaceous chondrites:

  • Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, unlike other meteorites, contain very primitive traces of carbon. And carbon forms the backbone of all life on earth.
  • They represent some of the most pristine matter known, and their chemical compositions match the chemistry of the Sun more closely than any other class of chondrites.
  • They are formed in oxygen-rich regions of the early solar system so that most of the metal is not found in its free form but as silicates, oxides, or sulfides.
  • Most of them contain water or minerals that have been altered in the presence of water, and some of them contain larger amounts of carbon as well as organic compounds. This is especially true for the carbonaceous chondrites that have been relatively unaltered by heating during their history.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: basics of money laundering.

 

Bill on chit funds

 

Context: The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2018 has been introduced in the Lok Sabha. The bill aims to streamline and strengthen the chit fund sector. The Bill is based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and the Advisory Groups on Chit Funds set up by the central government.

 

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Amendment Bill provides for allowing the mandatory presence of two subscribers, as required either in person or through video conferencing duly recorded by the foreman, while the bids are being opened.
  • It mandates video conferencing while the opening of bids and seeks to hike commission of foremen from 5% to 7%.

 

Background:

The Chit Funds Act, 1982 was enacted to provide for the regulation of chit funds which are indigenous business in India and have conventionally satisfied the financial needs of low income households.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Newton-Bhabha Fund for arsenic research in Ganga basin

Context: An India-UK Joint Team has won the Newton-Bhabha Fund for a project on Groundwater Arsenic Research in Ganga River Basin.

 

Key facts:

  • The Newton Bhabha Fund, provided by the British Council, aims to bring together the UK and Indian scientific research and innovation sectors to find joint solutions to the challenges facing India in economic development and social welfare.
  • The team members involved with the project will try to assess how the problem of arsenic poisoning can get aggravated in the next 25 to 30 years and influence groundwater management practices and suggest water remedial technologies accordingly.

 

Arsenic in groundwater:

Arsenic in ground water is a geogenic contaminant i.e. caused by natural geologic processes.

  • Arsenic-containing groundwater in Ganga River basin is hosted by the sediments deposited by the rivers during the late Quaternary or Holocene age (<12 thousand years). Incidence of high arsenic in groundwater reported from various parts of the country, particularly in the Ganga- plains is a serious threat to the health of human being.
  • Over the last three decades numerous measures have been initiated which includes alternate arrangement for supply of arsenic free water to the affected populace and providing arsenic removal plants.
  • Arsenic occurrences in ground water in these areas is highly sporadic in nature and all the sources in these areas are not necessarily contaminated.

 

Way ahead:

Technological options to combat arsenic menace, in groundwater, to ensure supply of arsenic free water, in the affected areas can be in-situ remediation of arsenic from aquifer system, ex-situ remediation of arsenic from tapped groundwater by arsenic removal technologies, use of surface water source as an alternative to the contaminated groundwater source, tapping alternate safe aquifers for supply of arsenic free groundwater or combination of above techniques.

 

What’s important?

For Prelims and Mains: Arsenic contamination- effects, causes and solutions.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

C-17 Globemaster:

Context: The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) largest transport aircraft – C-17 Globemaster – has made a historic landing at Arunachal Pradesh’s Tuting Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) near the Chinese border. The landing of the aircraft is seen as part of the IAF’s move to strengthen its overall operations in the strategically important border state.

What is C-17 Globemaster?

  • It is a US-manufactured aircraft named after two previous piston-engined military cargo aircraft, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster and the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.
  • It is commonly used to perform strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include medical evacuation and airdrop duties.
  • They are operated in diverse terrain – from Himalayan air bases in North India at 13,000 ft to Indian Ocean bases in South India.

 

Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term:

Context: Nepal’s lawmakers have elected President Bidya Bhandari for a second term.

Key facts:

  • In 2015, she was elected as the first female head of the state.
  • An electoral college, including members of parliament and provincial assemblies, will vote in the Presidential election.

 

The Delhi End TB Summit:

 

Context: The Delhi End TB Summit was recently held in the national capital.

Key facts:

  • The Summit was co-hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and Stop TB Partnership.
  • The Summit will continue the high-level dialogue that was started in Moscow last year during the Global Ministerial Conference to End TB.
  • It will set the stage for the September 2018 United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB, where Heads of State are expected to commit to an ambitious plan of action to put the world on track to ending TB.

 

World Hindi Secretariat:

Context: World Hindi Secretariat building has been inaugurated in Mauritius.

About WHS:

  • It is an international organisation representing countries and regions where Hindi is the first or customary language, where a significant proportion of the population consists of Hindi speakers or where there is a notable affiliation with North Indian culture.
  • The organisation was set up by the governments of India and Mauritius to promote Hindi across the world.
  • The main objective of the WHS is to promote Hindi as an international language and further its cause for recognition at the United Nations as an Official Language.