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Current Events 20 February 2017

 

NEWS

20 FEBRUARY 2017 

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : POLITY

Rail Bhavan, North Block spar after Budget merger

2.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA

Rebels kill Indian working with infrastructure firm in South Sudan

3.

GS II : INTER STATE WATERS

Decommission Farakka barrage: Bihar govt.

4.

GS II : GOVERNANCE PUBLIC PROTEST

Villagers protest acquisition of land

5.

GS II : SOCIAL - ELDERLY

Home is where the care is

6.

GS II : GOVERNANCE NGOs

Foreign funds surge under NDA rule

7.

GS II :BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA

India not in race with China in Africa outreach: Ansari

8.

GS II:  SOCIAL - HEALTH

Govt. meets stent makers to ensure a steady supply

9.

GS III : ECONOMY

Law may make your home appear less hazy

10.

GS I : GEOGRAPHY

Why Earth’s inner core doesn’t melt.

11.

GS III:S&T- IT

Now, partly living bio-bots can age and heal too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









 

 

GS II : POLITY EXECUTIVE

Rail Bhavan, North Block spar after Budget merger

  • Less than a fortnight after the historic merger of the Rail Budget with the Union Budget, the Railways and Finance Ministries are not seeing eye-to-eye on some critical issues, including finances.
  • The Finance Ministry, which has taken charge of presenting the annual accounts for the Indian Railways, has asked the Railways Ministry to hereafter remit the annual dividends it receives from the 14 central public sector units (CPSUs) under its purview.
  • Rail Bhavan mandarins are not amused as saving on dividend payments to the MoF was one of the biggest arguments made in favour of scrapping the separate Rail Budget.
  • The Railways ministry has shot back arguing that giving away the dividends from the CPSUs – estimated at about Rs.850 crore for 2017-18would hit its earnings.
  • In its communication in January, the Finance Ministry told the Railways Ministry that since the ‘capital-at- charge’ of the Railways – on which annual dividend was paid by the Railwayswould be wiped-off post the Budget merger, the investment made in the Railways related PSUs would be treated as having come from the Central government’s accounts.
  • ‘Capital-at-charge’ is the Centre’s investment in the Indian Railways — treated as loan in perpetuity.
  • “In view of this, the Ministry of Railways is requested to remit the dividends received from its CPSUs to General Revenues,” the Finance Ministry said in its letter of January 9.
  • The Indian Railways will no longer be required to pay annual dividend of about Rs. 9,000 crore to the Finance Ministry for the capital invested in it following the Budget merger.
  • “The government approved merger of Railway Budget with General Budget on the premise that, besides maintaining its distinct entity as a departmental commercial undertaking as at present, Railways would also retain its functional and financial autonomy,” the Railways Ministry said in its reply to the Finance Ministry on February 13.
  • “The existing financial arrangements with regard to Railway revenue and expenditure has thus to continue even after merger.
  •  The Railways Ministry said the dividend received by the Indian Railways from its CPSUs is not part of the ‘capital- at-charge’.
  •  It went on to point out that since the dividends from CPSUs is a part of the Railways’ overall traffic earning projections for 2017-18, remitting the dividend to the Finance Ministry “would add to shortfall in the Railway earnings.”
  • “As Ministry of Finance, in the larger scenario, is responsible for meeting any gap in Railway resources, the present arrangement of retaining the dividend for Railway PSUs in the Railway earnings may continue,” the Railways Ministry said.
  • Earlier, the Railway Board members were surprised at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget announcement listing three Railways PSUs — IRCTC, Indian Railway Finance Corporation and IRCON — on the stock markets.

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA 

Rebels kill Indian working with infrastructure firm in South Sudan

  • An Indian national, Syed Farooq Basha, was shot dead by rebel fighters in South Sudan on 19 February 2017 , diplomatic sources have confirmed.
  • The incident occurred some 900 km from the South Sudan capital of Juba.
  • This is the first casualty of an Indian in the civil war, which began last year.
  • He was involved in drilling wells for water in the region.
  • Disputed region Abyei is an energy-rich region between Sudan and South Sudan which remains disputed.
  • India had launched “Operation Sankat Mochan” under the leadership of Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, in July 2016 to evacuate nationals caught in the escalating civil war.
  • However only 154 persons chose to be evacuated; hundreds elected to remain as the civil war paused for a while.

 

 

 

 


GS I : GEOGRAPHY

Decomission Farakka barrage: Bihar govt.

  • The Nitish Kumar government has held the Farakka barrage in West Bengal responsible for heavy floods in Bihar and asked the Centre to decommission it to de-silt the heavily loaded upstream of the Ganga river.
  • The State has made the recommendation, observing that the dam is the “genesis of severe” flood consequences and responsible for “alarming” silt increase in the river’s upstream.
  • The Nitish dispensation has made the demand before an experts’ committee formed by the Centre to work out guidelines for desilting the Ganga following last year’s devastating floods, sources told .
  • Such a move, the State has said, will further help in restoration of deltas and its eco-system which is also getting adversely affected due to this barrage.
  • The Farakka barrage was constructed in the early 1960s with the main purpose of helping flush out sediment deposition from the Kolkata Port, besides addressing drinking water requirement in West Bengal.
  • The dam was made operational in 1975.
  • To buttress its point, the State government has referred to Kolkata Port Trust’s data, which suggests that silt dredging at the port has increased from 6.40 million cubic metres annually from pre-Farakka days to four times, i.e. at 21.88 MCM annually, during 2003.
  • “So the barrage is of no help...functioning of the barrage is itself giving rise to consequences of flooding,” the State has said in its submission.
  • Among other, the government has blamed the barrage also for constricting “severely” movement of habitations and normal cycle of aquatic species.

 

 

 

GS II : GOVERNANCE PUBLIC PROTEST

Villagers protest acquisition of land for airport

  • Protesting against the upcoming airport at Kishangarh town in Rajasthan, the people of Rathodon Ki Dhaani village appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to displace them in the name of development.
  • In a unique protest, villagers sat on the road with their cattle bearing plates that read, ‘do the justice PM sahab, don’t kill us for the sake of development’.
  • They said their families have been living in the village for more than 500 years and despite their continuous protest their land is being taken away for the airport.
  • Since 2013, villagers have been protesting for fair compensation but to no avail.

 

GS II : SOCIAL - ELDERLY

Home is where the care is

  • With a never-ending queue of parents being abandoned by their children in Kerala, the most literate State of the country, the Government Old Age Home with dormitories has run out of space forcing authorities to reject 10 to 12 inquiries a month.
  • Notwithstanding the construction of a new building with the capacity to accommodate 60 inmates, based on funding from the National Urban Livelihood Mission and running costs supported by the Corporation, residents could no longer be admitted directly after it became clear that uncaring children found it all too convenient a way to dump their ageing parents there and move on.
  • Now a detailed verification is made about the background of potential residents before admitting them.
  • Besides, candidates recommended by the district collector and destitute persons brought in by police officers not below the rank of sub inspector are also admitted.
  • Each destitute elderly in these old age homes gets an assistance of Rs.1,000 monthly.
  • With Census projections suggesting that India would see a jump in the number of seniors from about 76 million in 2011 to 173 million by 2025, and about 240 million by 2050, it is quite likely that the size of real estate investments into senior housing will expand rapidly in years to come.
  • Yet the assumption here is that the elderly in India will increasingly also seek to reside in specialised homes for senior citizens, and that is not entirely supported by the patterns of old age dependency data that is available so far.
  • As per the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 60th round in 2004, nearly 3% of persons aged above 60 years were living alone, the number of elderly living with their spouse only is 9.3 %, and those living with their children amount to 35.6 %.
  • This likely does not include those who are homeless or destitute, a cohort that could well be a sizeable proportion of the total elderly population.
  • In that case the rise of the senior housing concept as conceived by the private sector will, if it is to gain traction and provide options for the elderly at multiple income tiers, have to focus on affordability, building social acceptance of living in care homes, creating a legal and regulatory framework to ensure that in such environments the security and dignity of the elderly is protected, and critically, ensuring that sufficiently skilled manpower, including nurses and medical professionals, are trained, certified, deployed and monitored in these institutions.

 

GS II: GOVERNANCE  - NGOs

Foreign funds surge under NDA rule

  • Foreign donations to Indian NGOs have surged since the NDA government came to power.
  • As per figures available with the Home Ministry, which regulates the flow of foreign funds to NGOs and associations in India, the 2015-16 fiscal saw a flow of Rs. 17,208 crore from foreign donors, the highest in five years.
  • There were donations of Rs. 14,525 crore in 2014-15 and Rs. 13,092 crore in 2013-14. In 2012-13, the foreign donations received totalled Rs. 9,423 crore, and in 2011-12, Rs. 10,334 crore.
  • There are 33,000 NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that are required to file their annual returns with the Home Ministry, but only 19,000 received funds last year.
  • Of the 16 major donors, at least 14 are Christian organisations, most of them based in the U.S.
  • Last year, the Home Ministry put Colorado-based Christian NGO Compassion International on its “watchlist” as it was accused of funding Indian NGOs involved in religious conversions.
  • The crackdown against the Compassion International, which also figures in the list of the largest foreign donors, led to a diplomatic standoff with the United States.
  • Before it was put on the watchlist, the Compassion International had donated Rs. 292 crore.
  •  In 2015, the Home Ministry notified new rules, which required NGOs to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds is not likely to prejudicially affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with foreign states and does not disrupt communal harmony”.
  •  Under the annual returns category, the NGOs were asked to give an undertaking that the foreign funds were utilised in such a way that it did not affect the “security, strategic, scientific or economic interest, public interest, freedom or fairness of election to any legislature or harmony between religious, social, racial, linguistic group, caste or communities.”
  • The Home Ministry has cancelled the registration of over 10,000 NGOs in 2015 for not complying with the norms.
  • The registration of Greenpeace International was cancelled on the premise that it compromised the country’s “economic security”.

 

 

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA

India not in race with China in Africa outreach: Ansari

  • Vice-President Hamid Ansari differentiated between the relationship India and China have with Africa, en route Rwanda and Uganda on a four-day visit.
  • Speaking at a press conference on board the special aircraft, he stressed that a combined 12 visits to the continent by President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he, as part of India’s outreach to strengthen relations between India and the African states since 2015 (following the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi), showed stylistically different ties from those of other countries, including China.
  • “We are not in competition with China or anybody else as far as our development cooperation with foreign countries especially Africa is concerned. They have their own style of work, they have their own capacities, which are different from us. We have left it to our development partners in Africa, and they decide where they want to use Indian knowledge and expertise
  • Once they do that, then we transform it into concrete projects of assistance. Of course, we have financial constraints, that goes without saying, but, the experience so far has been satisfactory,” he said.

 

 

 

 

GS II:  SOCIAL - HEALTH

Govt. meets stent makers to ensure a steady supply

  • The government has held a meeting with stent makers and importers to review its availability in market amid reports that an artificial scarcity is being created in the garb of withdrawing the device for price relabelling.
  • There are reports of shortage of stents in hospitals after the government reduced their prices by up to 85%, capping rates of bare metal stents at Rs. 7,260 and drug-eluting ones at Rs. 29,600 on February 13.
  • “The government held a meeting with all domestic stent manufacturers as well as all the importers and their associations. They have all agreed that the supplies would be maintained and no shortage will be allowed to develop. There is enough stock,” Pharma Secretary Jai Priye Prakash said.

 

 

 

GS III : ECONOMY

Law may make your home appear less hazy

  • Total private equity investments into real estate jumped 62% to Rs. 38,000 crore in 2016, largely helped by Parliament passing both the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act and GST.
  • January saw Tamil Nadu joining Maharashtra, Karnataka, U.P. and Rajasthan in circulating draft rules for a Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in the respective states.
  • When a consumer invests in a house, she looks for assurances on four fronts:

1.     that the builder has complied with the laws;

2.     promises on timeline and delivery are kept;

3.     the title deeds are clear; and

4.     that construction quality is top-notch.

  •  Let’s look at how the new authority offers protection on these counts.

 

 

GS I : GEOGRAPHY

Why Earth’s inner core doesn’t melt

  •  Scientists have discovered why the crystallised iron core of the Earth remains solid, despite being hotter than the surface of the Sun.
  • Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden found that on the edge of the inner core, pieces of crystals’ structure continuously melt and diffuse only to be reinserted due to high pressure like “shuffling deck of cards.”
  • This energy distribution cycle keeps the crystal stable and the core solid.

 

 

 

GS  III: S&T IT

Now, partly living bio-bots can age and heal too

  • Scientists have 3D printed small, soft bio-bots with living tissues that can not only walk and swim, but also have the ability to age as well as heal if there is an injury.
  • Researchers at University of Illinois in the US made a soft 3D printed scaffold measuring a centimetre or two in length and seeded it with muscle cells.
  • The cells then self-organised to form functional tissues that make the bio-bots move.
  • They are controlled with electrical and light pulses.
  • “These machines are now viewed as partially living, with the ability to form, the ability to age and the ability to heal if there is an injury,” said Taher Saif from Illinois. “We are beginning to look back and try to understand how the cells organise themselves and what language they use to communicate,” he said.

 


 

BioBot

  • It is a desktop 3D bioprinter that builds 3D living tissues out of human cells.
  • It is a beautifully designed, precision manufactured robot that prints cells and bioinks, bringing a new dimension to biology.
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