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Current Affairs 19 April 2017

 

NEWS

19 April 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS I : GEOGRAPHY

Met dept. expects a ‘normal' monsoon but doubts loom

2.

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-U.K

Mallya held, released on bail

3.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

May for snap polls in U.K. on June 8

4.

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-AUSTRALIA

Australia visa cut to hit Indian IT workers

5.

GS III: SECURITY

13 Indians reported killed in U.S. bombing

6.

GS II :  POLITY-JUDICIARY

SC questions Army's silence

7.

GS II:  BILATERAL-INDIA- CANADA

India opposes ‘genocide' charge

8.

GS II: SOCIAL- EDUCATION

Hindi may become must till Class X in CBSE schools

9.

GS II:  POLITY- ELECTIONS

Centre promises election reforms

10.

GS III: SECURITY

Panama papers leak: Centre assures SC of probe

11.

GS III : CYBER SECURITY

New data safety regime from TRAI by Deepavali

12.

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-U.S

Modi, McMaster discuss security

13.

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA- CHINA

CPEC unrelated to Kashmir issue: China

14.

GS III: ECONOMY

RBI red flags banks' telecom exposure

15.

GS III: ECONOMY

IMF trims India growth forecast

16.

GS II : GOVERNMENT POLICIES

‘Common duct policy' soon

17.

GS III: ECONOMY -RAILWAYS

Railways seek aid for unviable routes

18.

GS II: SOCIAL-HEALTH

Phase I clinical trial of Zika vaccine to begin next month

19.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT

Buzz over photograph of ‘Indian wolf ' in Sunderbans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS I : GEOGRAPHY

Met dept. expects a ‘normal' monsoon but doubts loom

  • India is likely to get ‘normal' monsoon rains, according to the first official forecast of the season by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • Rains are likely to be 96% of the 50-year average of 89 cm for the monsoon season of June to September.
  • They are expected to fan out favourably and "help agriculture." There is, however, a significant element of uncertainty in this forecast.
  • For one, there's the looming threat of El Nino.
  • Secondly, the IMD has adopted a new weather model this year, and it is still a work-in-progress.
  • Every number forecast by the IMD has a built-in 5% error margin.
  • India saw drought years in 2014 and 2015.
  • As for 2016, it received 3% less than the 89 cm average, despite an IMD forecast of ‘above normal' rains. The dynamical model in April had forecast excess rains (more than 110%) and India ended up with 3% less.
  • Given the deficient pre-monsoon rains over large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, good rains are essential this year to trap enough soil moisture for a healthy kharif crop, which is vital to keep inflation down and rural consumption up.
  • The El Nino - characterised by surface waters of the equatorial Pacific warming up more than half a degree - is known to dry up monsoon rains every six out of 10 years.
  • This year, international weather models as well as the IMD's own dynamical global climate forecasting system model indicate that El Nino conditions might set in during the "latter part of the monsoon."
  • Another climate phenomenon, called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which refers to a swing in the sea surface temperatures in the western and eastern Indian oceans, is also known to influence the Indian monsoon.
  • A ‘positive' IOD can counter an ominous El Nino. In its assessment, the IMD expects "weak positive IOD" to develop in the latter half of the monsoon, which means that it's unlikely to be a potent ally this year.

El Niño and La Niña

  • El Niñoevents are associated with awarming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, whileLa Niñaevents are thereverse, with a sustained cooling of these same areas.
  • These changes in the Pacific Ocean and its overlying atmosphereoccur in a cycle known as theEl Niño-Southern Oscillation(ENSO).
  • The atmosphere and ocean interact, reinforcing each other and creating a'feedback loop' which amplifies small changes in the state of the ocean into an ENSO event.
  • Even in a neutral state, temperatures in the Pacific Ocean vary from east to west - for example, the western Pacific 'warm pool' in the tropical Pacific has some of the warmest large-scale ocean temperatures in the world.
  • During an ENSO event, ocean temperatures become warmer than usual or cooler than usual at different locations, which are reflected in ocean temperature gradients.
  • Themost important driver of ENSO is these temperature gradients across the Pacific, both at the surface and below the surface, particularly at the thermocline.
  • The termEl Niñotranslates fromSpanish as 'the boy-child'.Peruvian fishermen originally used the term to describe theappearance, around Christmas, of awarm ocean current off the South American coast.
  • La Niña translates as 'girl-child' and is the opposite ENSO phase to El Niño.

 

Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

  • It is also known as theIndian Niño, is anirregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.
  • The IOD involves an aperiodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures, between "positive", "neutral" and "negative" phases.
  • Apositive phasesees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean-which tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia.
  • Thenegative phaseof the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west.
  • The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent.
  • A significant positive IOD occurred in 1997-98, with another in 2006. The IOD is one aspect of the general cycle of global climate,interacting with similar phenomena like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean.


Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO)

  • It is thelargest element of the intraseasonal (30- to 90-day) variability in the tropical atmosphere.
  • It was discovered in 1971 by Roland Madden and Paul Julian of the American National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
  • It is alarge-scale coupling between atmospheric circulation and tropical deep convection.
  • Unlike a standing pattern like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden-Julian oscillation is a traveling pattern that propagates eastward at approximately 4 to 8 m/s (14 to 29 km/h, 9 to 18 mph), through the atmosphere above the warm parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans.
  • This overall circulation pattern manifests itself most clearly as anomalous rainfall.
  • The Madden-Julian oscillation is characterized by an eastward progression of large regions of both enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall, observed mainly over the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

 

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-U.K

Mallya held, released on bail

  • Wanted tycoon Vijay Mallya was arrested in London on 18 April 2017 morning, based on an extradition warrant.
  • He was later granted bail and released on a bond of £6,50,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on May 17.
  • Earlier this year, India began formal proceedings to extradite Mr. Mallya, wanted in connection with a number of charges, including defaulting on loans amounting to Rs. 9,000 crore.
  • While no one had been extradited for 23 years after the India-U.K. Extradition Treaty of 1993, Britain last year extradited Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, wanted by India in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

 

GS II : INTERNATIONAL U.K.

May for snap polls in U.K. on June 8

  • British politics took another dramatic and unexpected turn on 18 April 2017, as Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to hold a snap general election on June 8.
  • "We need a general election and we need one now," she said, as she accused Opposition parties and the House of Lords of "political game playing" and sought to explain a reversal of her previous statements that there should be no general election until 2020.
  • Holding - and winning an election - would enable Ms. May to address one of her biggest weaknesses, often pointed to by critics at a time when Britain is expected to be ‘taking control" by exiting the European Union (EU).
  • Legislation that came into effect in 2011 requires fixed term Parliaments and elections every five years from 2015 onwards, though a clause under it enables Parliament to be dissolved, triggering an election, if two-third of members at the House of Commons agree to it.

 

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-AUSTRALIA

Australia visa cut to hit Indian IT workers

  • The Centre said it was studying the implications of the Australian government's decision to scrap "457" visa programme that allowed Australian companies to hire Indians in a number of skilled jobs., and warned that the move could have an impact on negotiations on the free trade agreement - Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) - between both countries.
  • It will be replaced with a more stringent system, making it difficult to hire non-Australian citizens.
  • Amongst the measures planned are reductions in the tenure of many of the visas from four years to two years, the Australian government said.
  • According to the notification, the new visa programme will cut more than 200 eligible jobs for skilled migrants - from 651 to 435, visa fees are set to increase, and the visas will be restricted to filling "critical skills shortages".
  • According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Indians constituted 76% of the total ‘457' visas issued in the three IT streams, and 57% of permanent migrant visas issued in the skilled stream of workers last year.

 

GS III: SECURITY

13 Indians reported killed in U.S. bombing

  • An Afghanistan-based news agency said on 18 April 2017 that 13 Indians were killed in the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) attack by the U.S. military in Achin district of Nangarhar province last week.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it was not sure of the claims and was still verifying it.

 

GS II :  POLITY-JUDICIARY

SC questions Army's silence

  • The Supreme Court on 18 April 2017 asked the Army why it chose to maintain silence despite Commissions of Inquiry set up by the Manipur government over alleged rape and murder against its personnel in Manipur during insurgency.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit highlighted the case of murder of Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri girl, in 2004.
  • The judicial inquiry report into the case alleged she had suffered "brutal and merciless torture" by a 17 Assam Rifles team.
  • Rebutting the Army's submissions that an internal enquiry into the Manorama incident had revealed some "violations of laid-down procedures", Justice Lokur asked why the Army agreed to pay Rs. 10 lakh compensation, as ordered by the Supreme Court, for a mere violation of procedure.
  • The Army counsel submitted that the operation conducted in the Manorama incident was based on reliable intelligence and the Army "is not averse to an enquiry by a high-ranking officer."
  • Attorney- General Mukul Rohatgi, who joined in the hearing on the Army's side, submitted that the Army did not come within the jurisdiction of a Commission set up by the Manipur government.
  • The court then turned to the Manipur government to ask why it never tried to "break the stonewall" created by the Army to access evidence from personnel.
  • This time the court was referring to the suicide of a 15- year-old girl in 2003 after she was allegedly raped by two Army personnel.
  • "This was the case of a 14- year-old girl and there was no allegation she was an insurgent. She was working in a farmhouse when people came and raped her.
  • Mr. Attorney, you may have two alleged rapists," the Bench addressed Mr. Rohatgi.
  • Mr. Rohatgi said rape might have been committed but there was only an allegation that it was committed by Army personnel.

 

GS II:  BILATERAL-INDIA- CANADA

India opposes ‘genocide' charge

  • India has registered a strong note of protest before the visiting Canadian Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, against a provincial Assembly legislation which had accused India of "genocide" in the events of 1984.
  • According to Defence Ministry sources, Arun Jaitley made this the focus during their bilateral discussion.
  • Calling the Bill an unwarranted comment on India's internal situation, Mr. Jaitley conveyed that there was considerable "disquiet" in India and the language was "unreal and exaggerated" which did not conform to reality.
  • "It was conveyed that as another liberal democracy, it is not in the spirit of India- Canada relations and did not help in furthering the relationship," a Ministry source said.
  • In response to Mr. Jaitley's comments, Mr. Sajjan dissociated himself from the situation, and said it was a private member's Bill and moved in the context of the local elections.
  • In their discussions, the two ministers agreed to deepen the defence cooperation.

 

GS II: SOCIAL- EDUCATION

Hindi may become must till Class X in CBSE schools

  • Students of schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Kendriya Vidyalyas (KVs) may have to compulsorily study Hindi till Class X with recommendations of Committee of Parliament on Official Language in this regard getting the President's nod.
  • The CBSE, as on this February, has 18,546 schools in India and 210 schools in 25 foreign countries.
  • There are 1,117 KVs, 2,685 government/aided schools, 14,141 independent schools, 589 Jawahar Novodaya Vidyalayas and 14 Central Tibetan Schools, as per the board's website.
  • The CBSE had last year recommended a three-language formula - English and any two Indian languages - to be expanded to Classes IX and X.
  • However, the HRD Ministry is yet to take a call on the suggestion.

 

GS II:  POLITY- JUDICIARY

Centre promises election reforms

  • The Union government told the Supreme Court on 18 April 2017 that it had constituted a task force to frame a road map for implementation of the Law Commission's recommendations on decriminalisation of politics.
  • A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file an affidavit during the day on a PIL petition seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive.
  • The Bench listed it for final hearing on July 10.
  • The Law Ministry said that the disqualification period specified under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, was a policy decision that had been enacted by Parliament after due deliberations for curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into the political arena.
  • "This court has held in a catena of cases that no mandamus can lie to the government for framing law or introducing amendments to existing law as framing of policy, setting standards and the making of law falls within the executive domain of the legislature. It is submitted that the judiciary may step in to fill gaps only where there is a statutory vacuum, but not where a valid law already occupies the field."
  • On the issue of setting up special courts for MPs or MLAs for disposal of criminal cases, the Ministry said such a prayer was "unwarranted" as long as cases are disposed off within a year.

 

GS II: POLITY  JUDICIARY

Panama papers leak: Centre assures SC of probe

  • Assuring a "thorough investigation" into the Panama papers leak, the Centre told the Supreme Court on 18 April 2017 that the probe into the offshore accounts of Indians linked to the leak is complicated and spans several international jurisdictions.
  • The court asked the Centre whether a separate Special Investigation Team, besides the Multi-Agency Group (MAG) set up by the government to probe the black money cases, should be formed to exclusively probe the leak.
  • The government assured the court that it is "absolutely serious" about probing disclosures made by a website in the Panama papers leak, allegedly naming nearly 500 high-profile Indians who have money parked in off-shore accounts.
  • The apex court had on March 7 asked the Centre to place before it in a sealed cover all the six reports of MAG after it was informed that the sixth report has been completed and the government was prepared to place all reports before the court.
  • The Centre had sought dismissal of the PIL, saying the MAG has already been set up to ensure "speedy" probe against Indians whose names figured in the Panama papers.

 

GS II : POLITY  JUDICIARY

New data safety regime from TRAI by Deepavali

  • The Centre informed a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is working on a new regulatory regime to ensure online data protection, and it will be ready by Deepavali.
  • The AG explained the need for online privacy in the light of 'right to be forgotten' of an individual.
  • This right, also called the 'right to be erased', is one of the major casualties in the Internet age, Mr. Rohatgi said. It deals with the person's right to wipe out his past demeanours for which he has already suffered punishment.
  • "The 'right to be forgotten' is practised in the U.K., the U.S. and the E.U. A person commits a minor felony and is punished at the age of 20. But if a search is done on him in the Internet, the information about this felony is the first to pop up on the screen despite the fact that in the real world it is long past and forgotten," Mr. Rohatgi submitted.
  • The debate was part of a Constitution Bench hearing for a declaration that a 2016 policy of instant messaging app - WhatsApp - to give Facebook access to information and personal details shared by millions of its users was a violation of their privacy and free speech.
  • The Bench scheduled the next hearing by April 24.

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA-U.S.

Modi, McMaster discuss security

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 18 April 2017 held talks on Afghanistan, the West Asian region and the Korean peninsula with the visiting U.S. National Security Adviser, Lt. General H.R. Mc- Master.
  • Lt. Gen. McMaster, the first high official of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to visit India, met Mr. Modi after completing his trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • "Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster shared his perspective with Prime Minister on the security situation in the extended region, including in Afghanistan, West Asia and the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]. During the conversation, they exchanged views on how both countries can work together to effectively address the challenge of terrorism and to advance regional peace, security and stability," a press release from the Prime Minister's Office stated.
  • The two sides discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including their shared interest in increasing defence and counter-terrorism cooperation, it said.

 

GS II : BILATERAL-INDIA- CHINA

CPEC unrelated to Kashmir issue: China

  • China on 18 April 2017 reinforced its call for India's participation in the Belt and Road connectivity initiative, telling that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), on which India has its reservations, was not linked to the Kashmir issue.
  • India has objected to the CPEC as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • Referring to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor - one of the major economic corridors it is planning in its neighbourhood, China said that the four countries are ready to advance it within the framework of Belt and Road.

GS III: ECONOMY BANKING

RBI red flags banks' telecom exposure

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised a red flag over banks' loans to telecom players and asked the lenders to increase their standard asset provisioning more than what is prescribed so that they can built ‘necessary resilience.'
  • The telecom sector is reporting stressed financial conditions.
  • Telecom players are reeling under a huge debt - estimated to be about Rs. 4.2 lakh crore - amid a tariff war and a consolidation among some of the players.
  • Banks have to make 0.4% provision for standard advances.
  • RBI governor Urjit Patel had earlier said five sectors, including telecom, contributed to 61% of the stress in the banking system.
  • Banks are reeling under asset quality pressure amid sluggish economic growth as their gross non-performing asset rate rose to 9.1% in September 2016, from 5.1% a year ago.
  • RBI has also asked banks to increase standard asset provision in other stressed sectors.

 

GS III: ECONOMY INDICATORS

IMF trims India growth forecast

  • The IMF on 18 April 2017 trimmed India's annual growth forecast by 0.4 percentage points to 7.2% for 2017, citing the impact of demonetization in its latest annual World Economic Outlook (WEO).
  • The Indian government in February had pegged GDP growth at a higher than- expected 7.1% for the current fiscal despite the note ban.
  • However, analysts had raised concerns over the figure, saying it had not taken into account the full impact of demonetisation.

GS II : GOVERNANCE POLICIES

‘Common duct policy' soon

  • The Centre is likely to soon come out with a new policy under which a common duct will be laid across a city and service providers such as telcos and digital TV players can lease these ducts to pass their fibre through it to offer services to consumers.
  • The ‘common duct policy,' for which Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is carrying out pilots in Deoghar in Jharkhand, could reduce operational cost of firms, remove right of way challenges, while eliminating the need for frequent digging up of roads.

GS III: ECONOMY -RAILWAYS

Railways seek aid for unviable routes

  • The Railway Ministry has sought compensation for operating railway lines of strategic and national importance - a practice discontinued following the merger of Railway and Union Budgets.
  • Every year, the Indian Railways used to get subsidy from the Finance Ministry for losses incurred on railway operations on strategic lines.
  • After the Budget merger, the Finance Ministry had discontinued the practice of providing annual subsidy to the Railways for operating loss-making strategic routes as the Railways was no longer required to pay an annual dividend.
  • Recently, two Parliamentary bodies - Standing Committee on Railways and Estimates Committee - recommended that the Finance Ministry should continue compensating the Railways for losses in operating strategic lines.
  • The subsidy provided to the Indian Railways by Finance Ministry for non-profitable routes stood at Rs. 4,024 crore and Rs. 3,723 crore in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively.
  • However, in 2016-17, the Railways had budgeted subsidy of Rs. 4,301 crore on unviable routes which it didn't receive from the Finance Ministry as its annual dividend was waived off.
  • "As these lines mainly cater to defence movements on border areas and development of social and backward region, the Committee recommends that reimbursement of operational losses on strategic lines and railway lines in hilly, coastal and backward areas should be continued and desires the Ministry of Railways to pursue the matter with Ministry of Finance in this regard," the committee added.
  • The Estimates Committee, chaired by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, in its report on Structural Changes in Union Budget had also said that the Railways should "continue to get reimbursement of losses on operation of strategic lines."

 

GS III: S&T -HEALTH

Phase I clinical trial of Zika vaccine to begin next month

  • Bharat Biotech International Ltd in Hyderabad will start the Phase I clinical trial of Zika virus vaccine (MR 766) in two centres in India next month.
  • It will be a randomised, placebo-controlled, double blind trial involving 48 adults, both men and women (who are not pregnant).
  • Each volunteer will receive two vaccine doses on days 0 [the starting day] and 30 and will be followed-up for a year for both safety and immune response.
  • The Phase I is being initiated based on the promising results in animals trials.
  • In the animal trials, two doses of the vaccine made using an African Zika virus strain conferred 100% protection against mortality and disease in mice.

 

GS III: ENVIRONMENT  BIODIVERSITY

Buzz over photograph of ‘Indian wolf ' in Sunderbans

  • A picture of purportedly an Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) in Sunderbans captured by a naturalist has taken wildlife enthusiasts and forest department officials in West Bengal by surprise.
  • While the State forest department was yet to verify the veracity of the claim, the photograph has sparked speculation whether the Indian wolf, categorised as ‘endangered' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was in fact spotted in the mangrove forest.
  • The Indian wolf is a Schedule I animal in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.
  • Indian wolf prefers to live in scrublands, grasslands and semiarid pastoral, agricultural landscape, and this was the first record of an Indian wolf from a "mangrove terrain".
  • Pradeep Vyas, West Bengal's Chief Wildlife Warden, however, said the forests of the Sunderbans did not have the habitat to sustain wolves.
  • He said ‘camera traps' had been placed in the area, which would have captured the animal if it was in fact roaming there.
  • The Indian region of the Sunderbans has a population of about 100 tigers.

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