|251.||Indian Army develops Humraaz app for soldiers to track promotions, postings|
The Indian Army has developed Humraaz mobile application through which serving soldiers can track details like postings and promotions. The app will also enable soldiers to view their monthly salary slips, Form 16 and also download them.
The Humraaz mobile app has been developed in-house by the Army. For security reasons, its installation has been linked to verification of Aadhar details. On installing the app, serving soldiers will be verified with the Army database over National Information Centre (NIC) cloud and they will get a one-time-password (OTP) on their registered mobile number. For accessing the app, soldiers have to link their latest mobile number to their Aadhar number.
|252.||RBI cuts repo rate by 25 bps to 6%|
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reduced short-term lending rate, or repo rate, by 25 basis points to 6%. It was RBI’s third bimonthly policy review for the financial year 2017-18.
The decision of the MPC was consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term inflation target of 4% within a band of /- 2%, while supporting growth.
Repo rate: It is the rate at which RBI lends to its clients generally against government securities. It was reduced by 25 basis points to 6%. The rate cut comes after a slump in food prices in consumer inflation to a record low of 1.54%.
Reverse Repo Rate: It is the rate at which banks lend funds to the RBI. It was reduced by 25 bps to 5.75%.
Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) Rate: It is rate at which the scheduled banks can borrow funds overnight from RBI against government securities. It is a very short term borrowing scheme for scheduled banks. It adjusted to 6.25%.
Bank Rate: It is rate charged by the central bank for lending funds to commercial banks. It was set to 6.25%. It influences lending rates of commercial banks. Higher bank rate will translate to higher lending rates by the banks.
Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR): It is the amount of funds that the banks have to keep with the RBI. It was unchanged at 4%. The RBI uses the CRR to drain out excessive money from the system.
Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR): It was unchanged 20%. It is amount that banks have to maintain a stipulated proportion of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) in the form of liquid assets like cash, gold and unencumbered securities, treasury bills, dated securities etc.
About Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)
MPC is a committee of the central bank — Reserve Bank of India, headed by its Governor. It was set up by amending the RBI Act to provide for a statutory and institutionalised framework for MPC.
The 6 member MPC is entrusted with the task of fixing the benchmark policy interest rate (repo rate) to contain inflation within the target level. The majority voice of the committee will be final in deciding the interest rates.
Composition of MPC includes Governor of RBI (ex officio Chairperson), Deputy Governor of RBI, in charge of Monetary Policy (Member), one officer of RBI (Member) and three members appointed by Central Government as members. Each member has one vote and governor has casting vote in case of tie.
|253.||India can construct Kishanganga, Ratle Hydro Power Plants: World Bank|
World Bank has allowed India to construct Kishanganga, Ratle hydroelectric power facilities on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers with certain restrictions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
The World Bank’s comments came as officials from India and Pakistan concluded the secretary-level talks on the technical issues of the IWT in Washington, US.
Pakistan had opposed the construction of the Kishanganga (Jhelum River) and Ratle (Chenab River) hydroelectric power plants built by India in Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries had disagreed over the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants, as these two rivers are part of “Western Rivers” along with Indus River under. IWT has given Pakistan full control over these three western rivers for unrestricted use. Besides, it also allows India to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers along with other uses, subject to constraints specified in annexures to the treaty.
Due differences over these projects, Pakistan had asked World Bank to facilitate the setting up of a Court of Arbitration to look into its concerns. On the other hand, India had asked for the appointment of a neutral expert to look into the issues, citing that concerns raised by Pakistan were “technical” ones. After that, representatives of the World Bank had held talks with India and Pakistan to find a way out separately.
About Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)
IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan which was brokered by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). It deals with sharing of water of Indus water system having six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries.
It was signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960. It is most successful water treaty in world. Even, it has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990.
As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India. While control over three western rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan. It allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus river, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport.
Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. Under it, Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing. Besides, treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably. The World Bank’s role in relation to “disputes” and “differences” with respect of IWT is limited to the designation of people to fulfil certain roles when requested by either or both of the parties.
|254.||Rising temperatures drive up farmer suicides in India: US study|
According research report from the University of California, US, climate change may have led to over 59,000 farmer suicides over the last 30 years in India.
The study was carried out using data for all States and Union Territories. It tested the link between climate change, crop yields and suicide by comparing the number of suicides across India between 1967 and 2013 with crop yield and climate data. Data on suicides were collected from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Key Highlights of Study
The increase in temperature during the cropping season reduces crop yields, resulting in increased suicides. Even a 1°C increase in temperature above 20° C in a single day during the crop growing season results in about 70 suicides on average. Similar increase in temperature during other seasons did not result in a rise in suicides.
Crop losses due to heat damage causes additional burden on farming households leading to suicides. Moreover, increase in rainfall by 1 cm during the growing season decreases about 0.8 deaths per 100,000, thus lowering the suicide rate by 7% on average.
The effect of climate variation has revealed that past growing season temperature strongly influences suicide rates in the following years up to five years. For instance, abundant rainfall during one growing season leads to dip in the suicide rates for the next two or three years. Drought does not have any effect on suicide rates.
South India, which is generally hotter, has higher farmer suicide rates. States where the yields are more affected by high temperatures are also the States which report higher suicide rates. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have severe suicide rates in responses to temperature and crop yield is also more negatively affected by higher temperature.
Limitations of Study
The study has not looked at other factors that could have contributed to suicides. It did not find any adaptive behaviour to prevent suicides in response to climate change.
|255.||India, China home to 39% of young Internet users: UN report|
According to recently released report-ICT Facts and Figures 2017, India and China are home to 39% of the 830 million young people worldwide who use the Internet.
The report was released by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Key Highlights of Report
Great strides are being made in expanding Internet access through the increased availability of broadband networks. Digital connectivity plays a critical role in bettering lives, as it opens the door to unprecedented knowledge, financial and employment opportunities for billions of people worldwide
There has been significant increase in broadband access and subscriptions, with China leading the way. Youths (15-24 years old) are at the forefront of Internet adoption.
Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Up to 35% of individuals in LDCs are using the Internet are aged 15-24, compared with 13% in developed countries and 23% globally. LDCs saw the highest growth-rate of mobile broadband subscriptions between 2012 and 2017. Despite this, the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in LDCs is the lowest globally at 23%.
Fixed-broadband subscriptions: It has increased by 9% annually in the last five years with up to 330 million subscriptions added. There has been an increase in high-speed fixed broadband subscriptions parallel to the growth in the number of fibre connections. Most of these subscriptions were in developing countries accounting for 80 % of all fixed-broadband subscriptions.
Mobile broadband subscriptions: It has grown more than 20% annually in the last five years and is expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by the end of 2017.
Internet user gender gap: It has narrowed in most regions since 2013. The proportion of men using the Internet remains slightly higher than the proportion of women using the Internet in two-thirds of countries worldwide. In 2017, the global Internet penetration rate for men stands at 50.9% compared to 44.9% for women.
International Internet bandwidth: It grew by 32% between 2015 and 2016, with Africa registering an increase of 72% during this period, the highest of all regions.
Global telecommunication revenues: It declined by 4% from US $2.0 trillion in 2014 to $1.9 trillion in 2015. Developing countries, which are home to 83% of the global population, generate 39% of the world’s telecommunication revenues.
About International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
ITU is the UN specialised agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). It has 193 countries as its members and also 800 private-sector entities and academic institutions. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
ITU is responsible for allocating global radio spectrum and satellite orbits. It also develops the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies to seamlessly interconnect. It also strives to improve access to ICTs among the underserved communities worldwide.
|256.||Government constitutes Committee to study issues related to data protection|
The Union Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) has constituted an expert Committee to study and identify key data protection issues and recommend methods for addressing them.
The ten-member committee will be headed by Supreme Court Judge (retired) Justice B N Srikrishna and comprise of members from government, academia and Industry.
Terms of Reference of Committee
The committee will study and identify key data protection issues and recommend methods for addressing them. It will also suggest a draft Data Protection Bill.
It is seen that protection of data and keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected is expected to provide big boost to Digital economy of the country. The government’s decision to focus on data protection comes on the back of a wave of privacy and data breaches– from corporates such as McDonalds, Reliance Jio and Zomato to government agencies that have leaked the personal data and Aadhaar of over 100 million citizens.
|257.||Government launches e-RaKAM portal|
The Union Government has launched e-Rashtriya Kisan Agri Mandi (e-RaKAM) portal to provide a platform for farmers to sell agricultural produce.
e-RaKAM is a first of its kind initiative that leverages technology to connect farmers from the smallest villages to the biggest markets of the world through internet.
e-RaKAM is a digital initiative that aims to bring together the farmers, PSUs, civil supplies and buyers on a single platform to ease the selling and buying process of agricultural products. It has been developed by state-run-auctioneer MSTC Limited and CRWC (Central Railside Warehouse Company) Limited.
Under this initiative, e-RaKAM centres are being developed throughout the country in a phased manner to facilitate farmers for online sale of their produce. The farmers will be paid through e-Payment directly into their bank accounts under the e-RaKAM initiative.
|258.||Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017|
Parliament has passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with Rajya Sabha approving it. Lok Sabha had passed it earlier.
The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 by extending the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.
In the parent Act, provision to possess minimum qualifications by teachers was relaxed for a period not exceeding five years (till March 2015) in case state does not have adequate teacher training institutions or sufficient number of qualified teachers.
The amendment bill gives last chance to inadequately qualified teachers as on March 31, 2015, working after enactment of the RTE Act, 2009 to acquire minimum qualifications within a period of four years (till March 31, 2019) to hold their jobs as teachers.
The RTE Act, 2009 envisages free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6-14 years. The amendments to RTE Act, 2009 will enable the in-service untrained elementary teachers to complete their training and ensure that all teachers at the elementary level have certain minimum standard of qualifications in order to maintain the standard of teaching quality.
|259.||India, Somali sign agreement on transfer of sentenced persons|
India and Somalia have signed an agreement for transfer of sentenced prisoners in each other’s country. The agreement was signed in New Delhi during the ongoing visit of the Somalia’s Foreign Minister to India.
During the visit, both countries discussed entire gamut of bilateral relations, including the issue of piracy and maritime security. They also discussed regional issues pertaining to developments in the Gulf region and India’s neighbourhood.
The agreement opens a new front for collaboration in anti-piracy operation in Eastern Africa as the incidents of piracy originating from Somalia have affected Indian interests in the Indian Ocean region near the Horn of Africa.
Somalia is situated near the Horn of Africa with the Gulf of Aden to its north. It is among the partner countries of India’s Pan African e-Network project. India-Somalia bilateral trade stood at $391.05 million in 2014-15, a more than 51% increase over the figure of $257.27 million in 2013-14.
Diplomatic contacts between India and Somalia have been infrequent, however, Somalia had participated in the 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi. Somalia plays important role in containing China’s presence in Indian Ocean region. China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Somalia shares border with Djibouti on the west.
India also offers Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) training scholarships and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarships to Somalia. In recent years, India also has extended development assistance which included mini buses to the war-battered country.
|260.||Eminent Scientist Pushpa Bhargava passes away|
Veteran molecular biologist Pushpa Mittra Bhargava passed away in Hyderabad. He was 89. Bhargava was the founding director of Hyderabad based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)
About Pushpa Mittra Bhargava
Born in Ajmer on February 22, 1928. He had earned his Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from Lucknow University. He had started his career with Central Laboratories for Scientific and Industrial Research.
His pioneering vision and efforts led to the founding of CCMB in 1977 as an institution for research in basic biology and for seeking its application for benefit of society. Under his leadership, CCMB had done pioneering research in cell, DNA and molecular biology with close industry linkages. He was strident critic of introduction of genetically modified crops in India.
He was actively engaged with issues in science and policy and served vice chairman of National Knowledge Commission constituted in 2005. He was chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill 2013. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1986.