This post covers relevant news from national dailies and government releases for aspirants of examinations like UPSC IAS, CDS, SSC CGL, NDA, etc. It is highly useful for both, revision and awareness purposes.

National Important Current Affairs – 4 February 2019

■ Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the first-ever varsity in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, the University of Ladakh.

  • Ladakh has first cluster university comprising degree colleges of Leh, Kargil, Nubra, Zanskar, Drass and Khaltsi.
  • While the Jammu region has four universities besides an IIT and an IIMC, and the Kashmir Valley has three universities and a National Institute of Technology (NIT), Ladkh region lacked any such higher education avenues.

■ Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1st, 2019. It is the last Budget of the present Government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Important Tax proposals in Interim Budget 2019 are:

  • Individual tax payers with taxable income of up to Rs 5 lakh will get full tax rebate from now on. And, those earning Rs 6.5 lakh will not have to pay tax, if they invested in specified savings such as PF, PPF, etc. This move will benefit around 3 crore middle class tax payers.
  • However, other tax slabs will remain unchanged.
  • For salaried persons, Standard Deduction is being raised from the current Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000.
  • The Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) on fixed deposits and postal deposits will be exempted for interest earned up to Rs 40,000 from Rs 10,000 currently.
  • The rent up to Rs 2.4 lakh will be exempted from TDS.
  • The benefit of capital gains of up to Rs 2 crore will be increased to investment on two residential houses. This benefit can be availed only once in a lifetime.
  • The benefit of the section 80IBA of Income Tax Act will be extended for one more year for availing of the affordable housing.

Note that: An interim budget is conventionally passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion.

■  Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has declared one of the rarest mammal, Indus River Dolphin, which is only found in Beas River as Punjab State Aquatic Animal.

  • Furthermore, the Chief Minister has also approved to declare Kanjli Wetland and holy Kali Bein River as a wildlife conservation reserve to mark the historic celebration of 550th Parkash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.
  • A ban on the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Aceclofenac for veterinary use has been also approved to ensure vulture conservation.

■ The Union Government has appointed Rishi K Shukla, former Madhya Pradesh DGP , as the new director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a fixed tenure of two years. After the unceremonious exit of Alok Verma, M Nageswara Rao had been working as the Interim Director.

■ Andhra Pradesh Government has launched the second phase of Pasupu-Kumkuma (Turmeric-Kumkum) scheme and welfare pensions. Under this, 94 Lakh DWCRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) women will be given Rs 10000 in three installments.

  • Under the scheme, Rs 2500 will be given on 1st February 2019, Rs 3500 will be given 8th March and Rs 4000 will be given on 5th April.
  • 54 Lakh pensions will be given to different categories of people each month and it will cost a monthly expenditure of Rs 1100 crore. The Annual Expenditure will be around Rs 13200 crore.

■ In order to provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government is launching the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).

  • Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.
  • This will not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season.

■ Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has approved the procurement of around 73000 Sig Sauer rifles from United States of America under fast track procurement mode for infantry modernization.

  • These Sig Sauer rifles which is used by US forces as well as several other European forces will be delivered within one year of finalization of the deal.
  • The Sig Sauer rifles will replace the current INSAS rifles
  • The new rifles will be used by the troops deployed along the 3600 km border with China.
  • Note that: Army needs around 7 lakh rifles, 44000 light machine guns (LMGs) and around 44600 carbines considering the evolving security threats along Pakistan’s and China’s border.

■ A committee comprising the chairmen of distribution companies of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, representatives from Power Ministry and Power associations has been set up under the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to explore the available prepaid payment methods by state electricity distribution companies to power plants.

  • The aim of the committee is to study the working capital cycles of power distribution companies and generation companies in pursuit of identifying the stressors.
  • The Committee will suggest a mechanism for prepaid system of transactions after studying the regulations with respect to payment mechanism and transaction across power sector value chain.
  • In order to put in place a bill discounting mechanism ahead of General Elections, a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Mininster is also looking at the recommendation made by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha simultaneously. The P K Sinha committee had suggested that Financial institutions like REC (Rural Electrification Corporation) and PFC (Power Finance Corp) may discount receivables from discoms and make payment to generators.

International Current Affairs Capsule – 4 February 2019

■ Manus Island ’s refugee Behrouz Boochani ’s debut book “No Friends But the Mountains” has won Australian literary prize – both the non-fiction prize at the Victorian premier’s literary awards (25,000 dollars) and the Victorian prize for literature (100,000 dollars).

The writer was an asylum seeker who was on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for almost six years and was denied entry to Australia.

World Cancer day is being observed today on 4th February. The Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year through education, raising awareness and by pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the deadly disease.

It is organised by the Union for International Cancer Control, which is launching a new 3-year campaign with the theme: “I Am and I Will.” ‘The campaign is an empowering call-to-action urging for personal commitment and represents the power of individual action taken now to impact the future.

Note that: Over 9.6 million People die each year from cancer which is more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Economics Today’s Current Affair Capsule – 4 February 2019

■  The Transparency International has conducted a survey to analyse the best practices followed by the states in the Budget Formulation. The survey was based on four parameters which include public disclosure, budgetary process, post-budget fiscal management and efforts to make the budget more transparent and citizen-friendly.

The top slot in the survey has been occupied by Assam. Assam has been followed by Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. While Meghalaya, Manipur and Punjab figured in the bottom list.

  • Assam is the only state out of the 29 states and 2 UTs, which has published a Citizens Budget in the public domain. Also, the government of Assam is the only government that has conducted budget awareness campaigns across 17 districts.

■ In order to improve the digital learning system in the state, Microsoft has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sikkim government . The MoU aims to boost digital literacy and new age technology knowledge in government schools. This agreement will also help Sikkim to upgrade its state curriculum from class VI to class X with IT course.

■ The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has lifted the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework operational curbs on Bank of India (BoI), Bank of Maharashtra (BoM) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC).

The PCA restrictions have been lifted after these banks provided a written commitment that they would comply with the norms of minimum regulatory capital, net NPAs (Non-performing Assets) and leverage ratio on an ongoing basis. These Banks have also carried out structural and systemic improvements.

What is PCA? Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) norms allow the regulator to place certain restrictions such as halting branch expansion and stopping dividend payment. It can even cap a bank’s lending limit to one entity or sector. Other corrective action that can be imposed on banks include special audit, restructuring operations and activation of recovery plan. Banks’ promoters can be asked to bring in new management, too. The RBI can also supersede the bank’s board, under PCA.

■ India’s new e-commerce policy came into effect on February 1, 2019 under which a new set of policy rules had been formed for the e-commerce companies. DIPP has given them a 60-day window period for aligning themselves to the government’s modified foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.

  • It bars online retailers from selling products through vendors in which they have an equity interest. 
  • It disallows e-commerce players to control the inventory of the vendors. Any such ownership over the inventory will convert it into inventory based model from marketplace based model, which is not entitled to FDI.
  • Also bars them from entering into exclusive deals with brands for selling products only on their platforms.
  • Under the new rules, the e-commerce retailer shall be deemed to own the inventory of a vendor if over 25 per cent of the purchases of such a vendor are through it.
  • It restricts marketplaces from influencing prices in a bid to curb deep discounting. With this, special offers like cashback, extended warranties, faster deliveries to some brands will be prohibited, with the view to provide a level playing field.

The key objective behind the revising the FDI rules for the e-commerce giants is to provide a level playing field in the retail space, because heavy discounting on online retail sites was causing heavy losses to the small and medium brick and mortar stores.

The policy will hugely impact global e-commerce players like Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon, who would have to change their business structures to comply with the new policy.

Sports Current Affairs – 4 February 2019

■ Nepal’s young cricketer Sundeep Jora, who made his debut in T-20 International against UAE, has became the youngest man to score a half-century in T20 Internationals. At age of 17 years and 103 days, Jora became the youngest player to score a fifty in T-20 International.

■ In Cricket, India beat New Zealand by 35 runs in the fifth and the final ODI at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington to register a win in the five-match series by 4-1.

“Current Affairs Questions for UPSC IAS Prelims – 4 February 2019 “

Q1. Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana assures monthly pension of how much?

  • A. Rs 1500
  • B. Rs 2000
  • C. Rs 2500
  • D. Rs 3000

Q2.  Who was awarded the best marching contingent trophy of the Republic Day parade?

  • A. Jat Brigade
  • B. Gorkha Brigade
  • C. Rajput Brigade
  • D. Sikh Brigade

Q3. An international conference on 8th century Himalayan sage Guru Padma Sambhava was held recently in which place?

  • A. Kolkata
  • B. New Delhi
  • C. Mumbai
  • D. Chandigarh

Q4. An eight-member search panel to select members of anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal which held its first meeting recently is headed by ?

  • A. Anna Hazare
  • B. R M Lodha
  • C. Ranjana Prakash Desai
  • D. Dipak Misra

Q5. India’s unemployment rate hit a 45-year-high of how much per cent in 2017-18, according to the NSSO’s periodic labour force survey (PLFS) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

  • A. 5.8
  • B. 6.1
  • C. 6.4
  • D. 6.7

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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