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 – 16 and 17 April 2018
■ Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in Sweden capital Stockholm, which is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Premier to the Nordic nation in 30 years. PM Modi was received at the airport by his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven. The Prime Minister is on the first leg of a five-day foreign tour to Sweden and United Kingdom. Prime Minister will hold bilateral talks with the heads of Nordic countries on the sidelines of the first ever India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm.
■ The government has launched the web-based application ‘e-FRRO’ (e-Foreigners Regional Registration Office) which aims to provide efficient visa related services online to foreigners visiting India.
About ‘e-FRRO’ scheme: The e-FRRO scheme is aimed at building a centralized, transparent online platform for the foreigners to avail visa related services and to provide Faceless, Cashless and Paperless services to the foreigners with user friendly experience. Under the scheme, foreigners would be able to get as many as 27 Visa and Immigration related services in India from the comfort of their place of stay.
Using the e-FRRO application, foreigners can apply online on the portal and obtain the service(s) through email/post without appearing in person at the FRO/FRRO office.
Advantages of e-FRRO include facilitation of legitimate foreigners through “Digital India” vision of the Government, foreigners need not visit FRRO/FRO office – “Services from the comfort of home”, convenient and Time saving, exclusive dashboard for User friendly experience and Uniform & Standardized Services across the Country.
Note that: In 2017, more than one crore foreigners visited India and out of them approximately 3.6 lakhs had to visit FRRO offices spread across the country for various visa-related services. With the launch of the online e-FRRO scheme, their physical visit to the FRRO offices thus been obviated.
■ In order to prepare a roadmap and fast-track the implementation of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, or drones, in the country, the Centre has announced setting up of a 13-member task force which will be headed by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha. The increasing use of drone-enabled solutions by various state departments and ministries — such as the railways, surface transport, power, and law enforcement — further validates the need for a roadmap. The Indian regulatory approach has so far been unfriendly thus far towards drone innovations and applications.
The terms of reference is to also lay down implementable recommendations for central and state governments, industry and research institutions, apart from developing a roadmap. It would also focus on R&D, acquisition and commercialisation, application and adoption in specific sectors, regulatory framework as well as preference for Make in India.
■ The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has extended Phase-1 of FAME India Scheme to provide financial support to electric and hybrid vehicles by another 6 months (till 30 September 2018) or till the launch of phase-II.
About FAME India: Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles India. This scheme was launched in the year 2015 under National Electric Mobility Mission (NEMM). The FAME India Scheme is aimed at incentivising all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses. The scheme covers hybrid and electric technologies like a strong hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.
FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals. It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.
International Current Affairs Capsule – 16 and 17 April 2018
■ The New York Times and The New Yorker have won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their explosive reporting that brought down Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men and also spawned a cultural watershed (#MeToo Campaign)on the issue of sexual harassment.
Note that: Since the Times and New Yorker articles in October 2017, more than 100 women have publicly accused the producer of misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to rape, sparking the #MeToo movement that has gone global.
Reuters have won the 2018 Pulitzer prize in international reporting for coverage of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Reuters also won in the feature photography category for its coverage of the Rohingya crisis.
■ In order to improve road safety worldwide, the United Nations has launched the UN Road Safety Trust Fund. The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will act as the secretariat for the trust fund. It is aimed at accelerating progress in improving global road safety by bridging gaps in mobilization of resources for effective action at all levels. The Fund will mobilize resources from governments, intergovernmental or non-governmental organizations, the private sector, philanthropic organizations and individuals.
The Trust Fund will support efforts along the five pillars of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which include strengthened road safety management capacities, improved safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks, enhanced safety of vehicles, improved behaviour of road users and improved post-crash care.
It is estimated that the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund has the potential to galvanize our global efforts to address the road safety situation, building on the progress made and experience gained over the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
Note that: Road traffic deaths and injuries have become a serious and urgent global concern. Around 1.3 million drivers, passengers and pedestrians die each year, and up to 50 million are injured on the world’s roads.
About international commitments on the issue : The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015, contains targets on road safety in two of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
Sustainable Development Goal 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.
Target 3.6: By 2020, halve the number of global deaths from road traffic accidents.
Sustainable Development Goal 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
■ The United States Treasury Department has put India again on the currency manipulator watchlist as India’s foreign exchange net addition and the bilateral trade surplus with the US have breached two of the three criteria determining manipulation.The Treasury report is required by Congress to identify countries that are trying to artificially manage the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage, for example by keeping the exchange rate low to promote cheaper exports.
The US Treasury Department uses three parameters to determine a currency manipulator:
- Bilateral trade surplus with the US to be $20 billion,
- current account surplus at 3% of country’s GDP, and
- net purchases of foreign currency to 2% of country’s GDP over a year.
About the “monitoring list” by Treasury: It includes those “major trading partners that merit close attention to their currency practices.” In addition to India, the other countries in the list are China, Germany, Japan, Korea and Switzerland.
■ NASA is conducting a study of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic, named the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) mission, in order to see how the tiny sea critters influence the climate in every season. This is the first research mission to conduct an integrated study of all four distinct phases of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom. The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) studies the world’s largest plankton bloom and how it gives rise to small organic particles that leave the ocean and end up in the atmosphere, ultimately influencing clouds and climate.
About NAAMES Mission: The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) is an interdisciplinary investigation resolving key processes controlling marine ecosystems and aerosols that are essential to our understanding of Earth system function and future change. The NAAMES is funded by the NASA Earth Venture Suborbital Program and is the first EV-S mission focused on studying the coupled ocean ecosystem and atmosphere. NAAMES consists of four, combined ship and aircraft field campaigns that are each aligned to a specific event in the annual plankton lifecycle.
Note that: The North Atlantic plankton bloom is among the most conspicuous biological events annually recorded by satellite ocean color measurements, yet even fundamental controls on the bloom’s magnitude and interannual variability are controversial. The bloom climax is one event within an annual plankton cycle that essentially oscillates between a decreasing-biomass phase beginning in the summer and an increasing-biomass phase beginning in Winter-Spring and ending with the bloom climax in Spring.
Economics Today’s Current Affair Capsule – 16 and 17 April 2018
■ The Reserve Bank has tightened reporting norms for the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS), after which banks will be required to upload daily transaction-wise information undertaken by them under LRS.
About LRS: All resident individuals can freely remit $ 250,000 overseas every financial year for a permissible set of current or capital account transactions.
Remittances are permitted for overseas education, travel, medical treatment and purchase of shares and property, apart from maintenance of relatives living abroad, gifting and donations. Individuals can also open, maintain and hold foreign currency accounts with overseas banks for carrying out transactions.
However, the rules do not allow remittances for trading on the foreign exchange markets, margin or margin calls to overseas exchanges and counterparties and the purchase of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds issued by Indian companies abroad. Under LRS, people can’t send money to countries identified as ‘non cooperative’ by the Financial Action Task Force.
Note that: Even though capital controls in any form have no place in a liberalised economy but for India, which is heavily dependent on imports of critical goods and perpetually spends more foreign exchange than it earns, it is difficult to free up remittances because of the havoc this can wreak on exchange rates.
■ The government of India has announced that the first tranche of Sovereign Gold Bond scheme for the current year 2018-19 to be opened for subscription.
About the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme: The sovereign gold bond was introduced by the Government in 2015. While the Government introduced these bonds to help reduce India’s over dependence on gold imports, the move was also aimed at changing the habits of Indians from saving in physical form of gold to a paper form with Sovereign backing. The bonds will be restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, HUFs, trusts, universities and charitable institutions. The bonds will be denominated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of 1 gram. The tenor will be for a period of 8 years with exit option from the 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.
The minimum permissible investment limit will be 1 gram of gold, while the maximum limit will be 4 kg for individual, 4 kg for HUF and 20 kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March) notified by the government from time to time.
■ The 2nd edition of India Mobile Congress (IMC-2018) will be held at Aerocity, New Delhi during 25th to 27th October 2018. It will be held under the theme: “NEW DIGITAL HORIZONS: Connect. Create. Innovate.”
The IMC will be jointly organized by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). It is aimed to provide a platform for policymakers, industry and regulators to engage in meaningful deliberations to drive the future direction of telecom sector.
About IMC: The India Mobile Congress 2018, hosted by the Department of telecommunications and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), is an excellent platform for policy makers, industry and regulators to engage in meaningful deliberations to drive the future direction of this important sector.
■ Making a case for doing away with inflation targeting by the RBI, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) member Surjit Bhalla has said that it has made zero impact on prices. Under the new policy framework, the RBI aims to contain inflation at 4% with a band of (+/-) 2%.
Average inflation in 2017-18 was 3.5%. India’s real interest rate is higher by 2.5%, which is third highest in the world.
What is inflation targeting? Inflation targeting is a monetary policy in which a central bank has an explicit target inflation rate for the medium term and announces this inflation target to the public. It will have price stability as the main goal of monetary policy. Many central banks adopted inflation targeting as a pragmatic response to the failure of other monetary policy regimes, such as those that targeted the money supply or the value of the currency in relation to another, presumably stable, currency.
It will lead to increased transparency and accountability.
The policy will be linked to medium/long-term goals, but with some short term flexibility. With inflation targeting in place, people will tend to have low inflation expectations. Without inflation target, people could have higher inflation expectations, encouraging workers to demand higher wages and firms to put up prices. It thus, also helps in avoiding boom and bust cycles. If inflation creeps up, then it can cause various economic costs such as uncertainty leading to lower investment, loss of international competitiveness and reduced value of savings. This can also be avoided with targeting.
Criticism of Inflation Targeting: Inflation targeting puts too much weight on inflation relative to other goals. Central Banks Start to Ignore More Pressing Problems. Inflation target reduces “flexibility”. It can potentially constrain policy in some circumstances in which it would not be desirable to do so.
Sports Current Affairs – 16 and 17 April 2018
■ The 21st Commonwealth Games 2018 have concluded, in which the host Australia have topped the medal tally with 198 medals including 80 Gold, 59 Silver and 59 bronze medals. While England stood at the second spot with 136 medals (45 Gold, 45 Silver and 46 Bronze). India grabbed the third spot with an overall tally of 66 Medals including 26 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 Bronze Medals.
India was also the best nation in 5 disciplines (Weightlifting, Shooting, Westling, Badminton and Table Tennis), and the second best nation in boxing. Over the 11-day course, Indian athletes set 11 CWG records cumulatively.
In Athletics, 20-year old Neeraj Chopra has become the first Indian javelin thrower to claim a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, with a season’s best effort of 86.47 metres in the final.
Boxer MC Mary Kom, who claimed her maiden Commonwealth gold was India’s flag-bearer at the 21st Commonwealth Games’ closing ceremony.
■ Ram Kumar, the noted Indian painter known for his abstract landscapes, has passed away at the age of 94 years. He was a modernist, associated with the Progressive Artists’ Group comprising M.F.Husain, F.N.Souza, H.A.Gade, S.H.Raza and others. This seminal group gave a new direction to Indian art by introducing a fresh idiom. Ram Kumar was honoured with Padma Shri by in 1972 and Kalidas Samman by the Madhya Pradesh government in 1986. The Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, was awrded to him in 2010.
- Why Ram Kumar Verma matters? He is said to be one of the first Indian artists to give up figurativism for abstract art. He is also one of the few Indian Modernist masters accomplished in writing as well as painting.
- His art commands high prices in the domestic and international market. His work “The Vagabond” fetched $1.1 million at Christie’s, setting another world record for the artist.
“Current Affairs Questions for UPSC IAS Prelims – 16 and 17 April 2018 “
Q1. Who has become first Indian woman boxer to win a Commonwealth Gold?
A) Sarjubala Devi
B) Sarita Devi
C) Mary Kom
D) Pinki Jangra
Q2. Which city to host the 7th edition of Home Expo India 2018?
D) Greater Noida
Q3.Who has become the first-ever Indian woman table tennis player to win a singles gold at the Commonwealth Games?
A) Manika Batra
B) Mouma Das
C) Madhurika Patkar
D) Seresthi Das
Q4. The India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) has bagged first private contract to develop mega tourism project in Andhra Pradesh. Where is the headquarters of ITDC?
A) New Delhi
Q5. Who has been elected as the new international president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)?
A) Amrita Kaur
B) Neeraj Kumar
C) Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje
D) Raghava Reddy
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!