This Daily Current Affair Capsule covers relevant news from national dailies and government releases on PIB for Aspirants of UPSC IAS, CDS, SSC CGL, NDA, etc. who will find it highly useful to cover for revision and awareness purposes.
National Important Current Affairs – 15 February 2018
■ The environment ministry has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017. The India State of Forest Report 2017 is the 15th such report in the series which is published every two years. The report for the first time contains information on the decadal change in water bodies in the forest during 2005-2015, forest fire, production of timber from outside forest, state wise carbon stock in different forest types and density classes.
- India’s forest cover increased by 6,778 sq km over the last two years. The increase is based on satellite data and subsequent ‘ground truthing’, has put the total forest cover at 7,08,273 sq km which are 21.54% of the country’s geographical area.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha and Telangana saw an increase in their green footprint during the last two years.
While overall green cover, including tree patches outside recorded forest areas, reported an incremental 1% increase (8,021 sq km) over the last assessment year in 2015, the quality of forests remains a hotly debated subject.
Taking into account the density (canopy covering branches and foliage formed by the crowns of trees), forest cover is divided into ‘very dense’, ‘moderately dense’ and ‘open’ forest.
- The ‘very dense’ forest cover has increased over the last assessment of 2015, but the ‘moderately dense’ category reported a decline — a sign which environmentalists consider quite worrying.
The report also shows the total mangrove cover stands at 4,921 sq km and has shown an increase of 181 sq km. All the 12 mangrove states have shown a positive change in the mangrove cover, as compared to the last assessment.
Report shows that three states – Andhra Pradesh, followed by Karnataka and Kerala – have shown the maximum increase in forest cover.
- Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover of 77,414 sq km in the country in terms of area, followed by Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
- In terms of percentage of forest cover with respect to the total geographical area, Lakshadweep with (90.33%) has the highest forest cover, followed by Mizoram (86.27%) and Andaman & Nicobar Island (81.73%).
■ Rajasthan government has announced one-time farm loan waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers in the state, which would cost Rs 8,000 crore to the exchequer. The government has also announced setting up a farmer loan relief commission where farmers can approach and present their side for getting relief on merit basis. The states announced farm loan waivers in last one year are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Now Rajasthan.
According to a 2017 report by the RBI, farm loan waiver amounting to Rs 88,000 crore likely to be released in 2017-18 by seven states, including Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, may push inflation on a permanent basis by 0.2%.
■ Defence Acquisition Council has cleared a plan to procure some much-needed fire-power for the armed forces, expected to cost Rs. 15,935 crore. The list includes light machine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles.
About Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):
It was set up to counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, by the government of India in 2001 to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister. The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources. The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.
■ The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, has recently hosted an ‘LPG Panchayat’ at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The LPG Panchayat was organised by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas with an aim to provide a platform for LPG consumers to interact with each other, promote mutual learning and share experiences.
- Each LPG Panchayat has about 100 LPG customers coming together, near their living areas, to discuss safe and sustainable usage of LPG, its benefits and the link between clean fuel for cooking and women’s empowerment.
- The LPG Panchayat is an interactive communication platform which aimed at educating rural LPG users about proper safety precautions to be taken while using LPG, its benefit to the environment, its effect on women empowerment and health.
- One lakh LPG Panchayats would be activated across the country under the scheme during the next one and a half years.
The agenda would also include safe practices, quality of service provided by distributors and availability of refill cylinders.
About the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Rs.8,000 crore has been earmarked for providing 50 million LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households. Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
■ Medical Council of India (MCI) proposal to amend the Screening Test Regulations 2002 has been approved by Health Ministry. It is now mandatory to qualify NEET to pursue the foreign medical course.
Note that: A common National Entrance Exam viz. National Eligibility cum Entrance Test has been made mandatory for admission to all medical courses in the country. Indian students can also pursue medical education abroad and have to qualify a Screening Test called Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE), for registration to practice in India after obtaining a primary medical qualification (MBBS) overseas. However, few medical institutions / Universities of foreign countries admit Indian students without proper assessment or screening of the students’ academic ability to cope up with medical education with the result that many students fail to qualify the Screening Test.
The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. Under the 1956 Act, the objectives of MCI include –
- Maintenance of standards in medical education through curriculum guidelines,
- inspections and permissions to start colleges,
- courses or increasing number of seats.
- Recognition of medical qualifications.
- Registration of doctors
- maintenance of the All India Medical Register.
- Regulation of the medical profession by prescribing a code of conduct
- Taking action against erring doctors.
■ ‘Indo-HCM’, country’s first ever Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) has been released. The manual has been developed by CSIR-CRRI on the basis of an extensive, country-wide study of the traffic characteristics on different categories of roads like a single lane, two-lane, multi-lane urban roads, interurban highways and expressways and the associated intersections on these roads. It will guide road engineers and policymakers about road expansion.
The manual lays down guidelines for when and how to expand or manage different types of roads and their intersections and the level of services to be put in place. It has been developed based on the unique nature and diversity of traffic on Indian roads. India was among the very few South Asian countries which did not have the practice of having a country-specific HCAP manual. This manual would now help in the scientific planning and expansion of road infrastructure in the country.
■ Jogighopa, a small town in Assam, is set to become India’s gateway to South-East Asia as well as the rest of the North-East with the road ministry gearing up to develop a multimodal logistics park (MMLP) there with road, rail, waterways and air transport facilities. Under the project, all four types of transportation—road, rail, air and waterways—will be available. A special purpose vehicle, backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will execute the project in two phases.
Note that: The current transit corridors from mainland India to the North-East region pass through an area known as the “Chicken’s Neck”— which is a narrow tract of land in India between the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Since it is close to these borders and cannot be expanded, the North-East region requires an alternative route for providing connectivity to the rest of India—a route with adequate expansion potential.
This move comes at a time when India’s neighbourhood is gearing up for trade. For example, Bangladesh’s development of the Khulna-Dhaka-Sylhet Economic Corridor and the Banglabandha-Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Economic Corridor—to promote industrial development in the region. These initiatives are expected to drive freight movement in the region and facilitate trade between India and Bangladesh, and between Bangladesh and Bhutan through India.
It is a small town located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the Bongaigaon district in the state of Assam. Within the city are the remains of the five rock-cut caves, examples of Salasthambha period architecture.
■ The Government has extended the anti-narcotics scheme for 3 more years to combat illicit trafficking in drugs and psychotropic substance. The purpose of the scheme is to assist States and Union Territories, which are contributing to controlling inter-state and cross-border drug trafficking. The assistance to States and Union territories for narcotics control has been extended with an estimated budget of 21 crore rupees. The Home Ministry notification has said that financial assistance will be provided to all the anti-narcotics agencies for strengthening their enforcement capabilities to combat illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
The scheme was first launched in October 2004, for a period of five years and later extended twice in subsequent years. According to the latest assessments, there are approximately 40 lakh drug addicts in the country.
International Current Affairs Capsule – 15 February 2018
■ Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is arriving in Hyderabad on a three-day visit to India. He will visit the Makkah Masjid and interact with the Iranian community in Hyderabad, before coming to Delhi. He will hold talks with Prime Minister Modi to review the progress achieved in bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Note that: PM Modi had paid a visit to Iran in May 2016.
■ South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has resigned, in a televised address to the nation after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party threatened to oust him from office via a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Mr Zuma’s resignation followed weeks of intense public pressure to step down amid long-standing corruption allegations. The 75-year-old was the country’s President for the last 9 years, has been under increasing pressure to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. He led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid. But, now he leaves office with his name in several scandals.
Economics Today’s Current Affair Capsule – 15 February 2018
■ Mumbai has been placed at 12th position in New World Wealth’s list of top 15 wealthiest cities globally. Mumbai also features among the top 10 cities in terms of billionaire population with 28 billionaires (individuals with $1 billion or more in net assets). The list was topped by New York with a total wealth of $3 trillion. London ranked second in the list with $2.7 trillion, followed by Tokyo ($2.5 trillion), and San Francisco Bay area ($2.3 trillion).
Note that: Total wealth, refers to the private wealth held by all the individuals living in each city. It includes all their assets (property, cash, equities, business interests) less any liabilities. Government funds are excluded from the figures.
■ The Punjab National Bank has informed of detecting an over 11,000 crore rupee scam. Billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi has allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking from one of its branches for overseas credit from other Indian lenders. The bank has detected some fraudulent and unauthorized transactions in one of its branches in Mumbai for the benefit of a few select account holders with their apparent connivance. PNB has suspended 10 officers and referred the matter to the CBI for investigation.
■ Cab hailing company Ola has said it has started offering its services in Perth, Australia, “on a limited basis”. The SoftBank-backed company had announced its plans to make a foray into the Australian market.
Note that: Ola was founded in 2011, it has over 125 million users and more than one million driver-partners across 110 cities on its platform in India.
■ Finance minister Arun Jaitley had proposed a merger of these three PSU general insurers in the Union Budget to be completed by early 2019. The three public sector general insurance companies to be merged are — National Insurance (NIC), Oriental Insurance (OIC) and United India Insurance (UII).
It is mainly to boost up their solvency ratio and divest part of its holding in the market. The merger will also stop the unhealthy competition between the government-owned insurers and make companies stronger.
Sports Current Affairs – 15 February 2018
■ Tamil Nadu has won the Senior Women’s National Football Championship for the first time. Tamil Nadu defeated Manipur, 2-1 at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.
“Current Affairs Questions for UPSC IAS Prelims – 15 February 2018 “
Q1. Which Indian swimmer has become the first Asian to swim across Ocean Seven, which consists of seven long-distance open-water swims, which includes the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar?
- A) Bhakti Sharma
- B) Ashwin Menon
- C) Rehan Poncha
- D) Rohan More
Q2. The first-of-its-kind Centre for learning the Sanskrit language has come up in which city, for which no prior knowledge of Sanskrit is required?
- A) Chennai
- B) Ahmedabad
- C) Delhi
- D) Patna
Q3. Under whose chairmanship the 4th meeting of Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister (EAC-PM) held in New Delhi, in which presentations were made on Health Reforms, World Bank Report on Indian Economy and on Indian Fiscal-Monetary Framework?
- A) Narendra Modi
- B) Arun Jaitley
- C) Arvind Panagariya
- D) Bibek Debroy
Q4. Asma Jahangir, the renowned human rights lawyer who has passed away recently hailed from which country?
- A) India
- B) Israel
- C) Myanmar
- D) Pakistan
Q5. The 2018 National Productivity Day (NPD) is observed on which date in India with the theme – Industry 4.0 Leapfrog Opportunity for India?
- A) February 09
- B) February 12
- C) February 11
- D) February 10
Answer these questions in the comments below. We encourage you to discuss your thoughts on the news and issues mentioned in today’s current affairs post. The idea is to promote healthy discussions on interesting issues to make preparation fun. Have a good day!