This Daily Current Affair Capsule aims to be a time-saving tool for going through relevant news from national dailies and government releases on PIB. Aspirants for UPSC IAS, CDS, SSC CGL, NDA, etc. will find it highly useful to cover for revision and awareness purposes.

 

National Important Current Affairs – 15 March 2018

■ The Finance Bill 2018, has been passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion, amid loud protests by the Opposition as the government deployed a parliamentary procedure called “guillotine” to ensure that all outstanding demands for grants were put to vote in one go without discussions. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved 21 amendments to the Finance Bill, which contains taxation proposals for 2018-19. The Appropriation Bill which contains details plans on how government ministries and departments would spend their money this fiscal.

This was the first time in years that the Lok Sabha did not discuss and vote on even one demand for grants. Budgets were previously passed without discussion in 2013-14 and 2003-04 when all demands were “guillotined”.

About ‘Guillotine’ in Parliament:

It refers to the exercise vide which the Speaker of the House, on the very last day of the period allotted for discussions on the Demands for Grants, which puts to vote all outstanding Demands for Grants at a specified time. It is used to conclude discussions on financial proposals within the time specified. All outstanding Demands for Grants must be voted by the House without discussions once the guillotine is invoked. Thereafter, all outstanding Demands are guillotined. Invoking the guillotine ensures timely passage of the Finance Bill and the conclusion of debates and discussions on the year’s Budget.

The finance bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha. However, since it is a money bill, the Upper House can only suggest changes to it which may or may not be accepted by the Lok Sabha. In effect, this year’s Budget exercise is complete. With the Rajya Sabha paralysed this session due to Opposition protests, the Finance Bill, classified as a money Bill, will be considered passed if the Upper House does not return it in 14 days.

Note that: Both Houses of Parliament have seen repeated adjournments with the opposition protesting against various issues, including the passage of the budget without debate and scams in the banking sector.

 

■ The Department of Consumer Affairs is celebrating the World Consumer Rights Day this year with the theme “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer” in New Delhi.

About World Consumer Rights Day: It is an annual international event that signifies celebration and solidarity in the international consumer movement, demanding that, consumer rights are to be respected and protected. The event also gives a chance to protest against the market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights.

Note that: National Consumer Right’s Day is celebrated on December 24th, commemorating the coming into effect of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

 

■ An India-UK Joint Team has been awarded the Newton-Bhabha Fund for a project on Groundwater Arsenic Research in Ganga River Basin. 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.

About the problem of 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.

 

■ As a part of the IAF’s move to strengthen its overall operations in the strategically important border state, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) largest transport aircraftC-17 Globemaster – has made a historic landing at Arunachal Pradesh’s Tuting Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) which is situated near the Chinese border.

About 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 mainly used to perform strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; medical evacuation and airdrop duties.

 

■ The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2018 has been introduced in the Lok Sabha, which aims to streamline and strengthen the chit fund sector. It 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.

  • The 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 also mandates video conferencing while the opening of bids and seeks to hike commission of foremen from 5% to 7%.

 

■ The apex body for all nutrition-related activities under the POSHAN Abhiyaan – the Executive Committee, held its first meeting to decide on the road map for the mission. The Committee is headed by Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Apart from the executive committee, the National Council on India (NCI)’s nutritional challenges under chairmanship of Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog has also been set up under the POSHAN Abhiyaan. The NCI will submit report to the Prime Minister every six months.

Note that: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the POSHAN Abhiyaan at Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan on occassion of  Women’s Day on 8th March 2018.

 

■ The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the proposal of Department of Fertilizers to continue Urea Subsidy Scheme upto 2019-20 at a total estimated cost of Rs. 1,64,935 crore for disbursement of fertilizer subsidy. This implies that there will be no increase in the price of urea, till 2020.

About Urea Subsidy: Urea Subsidy is a part of Central Sector Scheme of Department of Fertilizers w.e.f 1st April, 2017 and is wholly financed by the Government of India through Budgetary Support. Urea subsidy also includes Imported Urea subsidy which is directed towards import to bridge the gap between assessed demand and indigenous production of urea in the country. It also includes freight subsidy for movement of urea across the country.

In light of the increased efficiency of Urea due to Neem Coating, Government had recently decided to bag Urea in 45kg bags. Earlier, 100% Neem Coated Urea was made mandatory in 2015. Neem Coating helped in plugging the diversion of the subsidized Urea towards non-agricultural purposes.

 

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

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: 

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. IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. It also provides consulting and training services in many areas crucial to aviation. It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

International Current Affairs Capsule – 15 March 2018

■ The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the research body of the Ministry of health, has won the International Kochon Prize 2017 for its contribution towards Tuberculosis research. ICMR is presently in a process to begin trails using the two new TB drug (Bedaquiline and delamanid) combinations for MDR-TB and XDR-TB. The trails will be combining two existing drugs and the two new drugs to reduce the duration of treatment from the current 24-30 months to 6-9 months.

The ICMR, which is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is also one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world. Through its research groups — National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT), JALMA and India TB Research Consortium — ICMR has accelerated the efforts for research and development on the disease in the country by working with public and private institutes. It guides research efforts towards the development of point-of-care diagnostics, shorter treatment regimens and an effective vaccine for Tuberculosis.

About the Kochon Prize: It  is given by the Kochon Foundation, a non-profit foundation registered in the Republic of Korea. The $65,000 Prize is awarded annually by Stop TB Partnership to individuals and/or organizations that have made a significant contribution to combating TB.

 

World Hindi Secretariat building has been inaugurated in Mauritius by President Ramnath Kovind. The Secretariat is fully financed by India with a grant of Rs 33 crore. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of this building in 2015 during his Mauritius visit. The purpose of the secretariat is to present Hindi as a common man’s language ‘Janbhasha’ in front of the world.

 

 

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

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

The Hague-based ICC had announced earlier that it was launching a “preliminary examination” of Duterte’s bloody campaign against drugs that has drawn international concern. Nearly 4,000 drug suspects have been killed according to police records 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, The Neatherlands, 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. 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. Presently, Argentinian judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi is the President of the ICC.

 

Economics Today’s Current Affair Capsule – 15 March 2018

■ The World Bank, in its bi-annual India Development Update has said that the goods and services tax (GST) implemented by the NDA government from 1 July 2017 is one of the most complex with the second highest tax rate in the world among a sample of 115 countries which have a similar indirect tax system.  India’s GST structure has five tax slabs of 0, 5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%. Further, there are several exempted sales and exports are zero rated, which allows exporters to claim refund for taxes paid on inputs.

  • The increased administrative tax compliance burden on firms, arising because the prevalence of multiple tax rates. It implies a need to classify inputs and outputs based on the correct applicable tax rate. Firms are also required to match invoices between their outputs and inputs to be eligible for full input tax credit, which increases compliance costs further.
  • The locking-up of working capital due to slow tax refund processing.

The introduction of GST was accompanied by disruptions faced by state administrations in initial days due to lack of clarity on discontinuation of local taxes. For example,

  • In Tamil Nadu where the state government devolved an entertainment tax to local governments in order to impose it over and above a 28% GST.
  • To preserve revenue collections, Maharashtra has also increased motor vehicles tax to compensate for losses due to GST.

 

■ In order to facilitate 100% ash utilization by all coal based thermal power plants, a web portal for monitoring of fly ash generation and utilization data of Thermal Power Plants has been launched. An “ASHTRACK” mobile application has also been launched to establish a link between fly ash users and power plants executives for obtaining fly ash for its use in various areas.

Further, for the better management of fly ash waste from thermal power plants across country, the Government has reduced the GST rates on fly ash and its products to 5%.

About Fly ash:

Fly ash is a fine, glass powder by-product recovered from gases of burning coal in thermal power plants during production of electricity. They are micron-sized earth elements primarily consisting silica, alumina and iron. The Fly ash causes air pollution, contaminates water and soil systems. The wet disposal of Fly ash results in leaching of toxic heavy metals in ground water system.

Uses of Fly Ash – Fly ash can be used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement contents of concrete. It can be used in the production of bricks for building construction. Other uses of fly ash can be to make blocks, tiles, wall panels, cement and other construction materials.

Note that: In 2016, Maharashtra became the first state in the country to adopt the Fly Ash Utilization Policy.

 

■ The government 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 which was implemented by the previous UPA government.

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.

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 has resulted in these PTHs and STHs earning a ‘windfall gain’.

About 80:20 gold scheme:

The scheme was introduced 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.

 

■ A three-day Annual Krishi Unnati Mela is being organised between at Mela ground, IARI, Pusa, New Delhi. The Krishi Vigyan Mela (Agriculture Science Fair) was initiated in 1972 and continues to be a highly important annual event of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

  • The objective is to create widespread awareness about the latest agricultural technological developments and receive feedback from the agricultural community, which helps in designing and shaping the Institute’s future research strategy.
  • This mela is organized every year with a specific theme on a priority area of agricultural research and technology transfer.
  • Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), state agriculture/horticulture departments, entrepreneurs, private agencies involved in agriculture will  participate in the mela.

 

“Current Affairs Questions for UPSC IAS Prelims – 15 March 2018 “

Q1. Stephen Hawking, the legendary theoretical physicist who has recently passed away, belonged to which country?

  • A) United States
  • B) France
  • C) United Kingdom
  • D) Germany

Q2. The Union Government has launched TB-free India Campaign from which city with an aim to eradicate TB from India by 2025?

  • A) Lucknow
  • B) Varanasi
  • C) New Delhi
  • D) Gandhi Nagar

Q3. Who has been newly elected as the President of Nepal?

  • A) Bidya Devi Bhandari
  • B) Kumari Laxmi Rai
  • C) Ram Baran Yadav
  • D) Bhimsen Thapa

Q4. Consider following statements about MANAK, recently in news:

1. It is one of the five components under INSPIRE scheme
2. It is recently revamped to align it with Start-up India
3. It is implemented by Dept of sci and tech and National Innovation Foundation

Choose correct code from below:

  • A) 1 only
  • B) 2 only
  • C) 3 only
  • D) All 1, 2 and 3

Q5.Which Bollywood personality has been honoured with the ‘Godavari Gaurav’ award?

  • A) Deepika Padukone
  • B) Amol Palekar
  • C) Shahrukh Khan
  • D) Raj Babbar

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!

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