Daily News Analysis for IAS/UPSC (23-06-2015) Current Affairs


Think tank report hints at diversion of cheap farm loans

  • a research paper by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has found that the crop loans extended in India are in fact close to exceeding the total expenditure on farm sector inputs.
  • A possible explanation for the apparent anomaly, it argues, could be diversion of funds resulting from the arbitrage opportunity created by the huge subsidy of 5 percentage points on short-term agricultural credit but adds that more research is needed to get at the truth.


Share of private moneylenders in total farm credit has shot up

  • Though data show that institutional credit is close to 100 per cent of the total short term farm input costs, the other striking finding of the paper includes the sharp rise in the lending by private moneylenders.
  • The significant growth in institutional credit in India since 1951, the paper finds, has not resulted in a commensurate reduction in the dependence of farmers on non-institutional sources for loans which, in 2013, accounted for as much as 36 per cent of total agricultural credit.


Support rehabilitation of NoRKs, govt. tells banks

  • Scheme formulated by the Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs (NoRKA) to help Malayali expatriates who had returned from war-torn countries such as Yemen, Iraq, and Kuwait and those forced out by the stringent labour reforms in Gulf nations.
  • NRI deposits in Kerala banks had crossed Rs.1 lakh crore in the last fiscal
  • Minister for Planning K.C. Joseph also urged banks to support the rehabilitation scheme initiated by the government.
  • Reminded banks of their social obligation to support NoRKs who had contributed to the growth in bank deposits.
  • The rehabilitation package for NoRKs includes schemes for setting up self-employment ventures by arranging bank loans at low rates of interest.
  • The State government provides 10 per cent capital subsidy for projects up to Rs.20 lakh.
  • The government is also planning to enhance the capital subsidy and introduce interest subvention.


E-payments to earn tax breaks

  • In an attempt to curb black money transactions, the government has introduced a draft proposal that has provisions for income tax benefits for consumers who make a certain proportion of their expenditures through electronic means.
  • If accepted, the proposal could also penalise cash transactions.
  • In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said “one way to curb the flow of black money is to discourage transactions in cash. I therefore, propose to introduce soon several measures that will incentivise credit or debit card transactions and disincentivise cash transactions.”


Bill on mandatory rural service for doctors to be notified soon

  • Karnataka Compulsory Service Training by Candidates Completed Medical Course Bill 2012 had got Presidential assent and a notification would be issued shortly.
  • Making one-year rural service mandatory for those completing MBBS or postgraduate medical courses will automatically address the dearth of medical professionals in rural areas and thus improve the health scenario.
  • The Medial Education and Health and Family Welfare departments have jointly formulated the rules.
  • The Minister said Rs. 300 crore was required for addressing the issue of scarcity of medical professionals in rural areas.


New U.K. rules will hit Indian nurses

  • Changes to British immigration rules will force thousands of nurses recruited by the National Health Service from non-European Union countries to leave the United Kingdom in the next two years.
  • Among those affected will doubtless be Indian nurses, who are the second highest non-EU nationality after Filipinos in the nursing workforce in this country.
  • Under the new rules, persons from outside the European Union should be earning £35,000 or more in order to be able to stay in the U.K. after six years.


DHAKA Bus service begins

  • The first commercial bus service from Kolkata to Agartala through Dhaka started here on Monday. It was flagged off in Dhaka during Narendra Modi's visit.


New Kailash route boosts people-to-people ties

  • Under grey skies and a light drizzle, 43 Indians bound for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, crossed the India-China border at Nathu La, pioneering a pilgrim route, and adding another dimension to the Sino-Indian people-to-people contacts.
  • A traditional welcome awaited the travellers as they cleared immigration at the pass.
  • All the pilgrims were honoured at the pass with Kha Da, a traditional Tibetan white scarf, before they headed for the green buses which would take them for the pilgrimage.
  • The Nathu La passage for the sacred site seemed to combine spirituality with Soft Power — an essential ingredient of India-China ties, which appear to be undergoing a rapid transformation.
  • The Chinese side also well understood the empathetic chord that was struck at a people-to-people level by the opening of the new route.
  • The Indian side also stressed the link between societal ties, deepened by the new Kailash route, and a thriving Sino-Indian relationship.


Central schools to teach yoga

  • Yoga will be introduced as a subject from Class VI to X in all Central government-run schools and 80 out of 100 marks will be reserved for practicals during which students have to perform various asanas, HRD Minister Smriti Irani announced today.


Tiny island okays same-sex marriage

  • Pitcairn Island, a tiny speck in the Pacific that’s home to just 48 people, has passed a law allowing same-sex marriage but has no gay couples wanting to wed.
  • First settled in 1790, Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory that has some legal autonomy and is often considered the world’s smallest country by population.


Maharashtra gets ‘State butterfly’

  • Maharashtra has become the first State in the country to have a ‘State butterfly.’
  • The BJP-led government has declared the Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) as the State butterfly.
  • The Blue Mormon is a large, swallowtail butterfly found primarily in Sri Lanka and India, mainly restricted to the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, South India and coastal belts.
  • It may occasionally be spotted in the Maharashtrian mainland between Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra.
  • It is reportedly the second largest butterfly found in India, just smaller than the southern birdwing


Sugarcane farmers switch to flowers and soya bean

  • Farmers in Latur, Osmanabad and Solapur relied on water-intensive sugarcane, expecting huge profits.
  • The unpredictable monsoons and the groundwater depletion have forced them to rethink their strategy and for the first time, the government, too, is encouraging them to look beyond sugarcane.
  • The government-sponsored ‘Beyond Sugarcane’ movement has gathered pace in the dry district of Osmanabad, with thousands of farmers taking to soya bean, tur and horticulture, and most importantly Gerbera.
  • This campaign supplements the much-publicised ‘Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan’ aimed at creating decentralised water sources.
  • The cut Gerbera flowers are sent to Delhi, Hyderabad, Banglore and Thailand and provide an income of around Rs. 1 lakh per acre every month
  • The success of the Gerbera cultivation here is reflected in the fact that two new varieties of the flower will be named after two villages of Osmanabad: Padola and Upla.
  • Mundhe says drip irrigation has been made compulsory for all sugarcane farmers if they want loans. “We are even planning to ask the sugar mills not to accept sugarcane unless it is from a certified drip-irrigated farm,” he says.


Critics of World Bank projects intimidated: report

  • Indian government and company officials engaged in widespread use of intimidation, including threats of physical violence and death, against outspoken members of communities that stand to be displaced or otherwise affected by World Bank-financed projects, according to a scathing report this week from a major human rights group.
  • The 144-page Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, “At Your Own Risk: Reprisals against Critics of World Bank Group Projects,” detailed how governments and powerful companies in India and across the world have “threatened, intimidated, and misused criminal laws” against such persons even as the Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), “failed to take adequate steps to help create a safe environment in which people can express concern or criticism about projects.”
  • Specific cases of intimidation and threats against dissenting opinion that the report outlined include the Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydroelectric Project in Uttarakhand, where community protesters were allegedly threatened with violence and death by officials of Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Ltd; the Madhya Pradesh Water Sector Restructuring Project where community member Ram Sharan Gupta told HRW that he was threatened with violence and death after he brought a complaint to the Bank’s Inspection Panel; and government’s jailing of a lead complainant who was protesting the Bank-financed Mumbai Urban Transport Project shortly after the Panel sent its report to the board in December 2005.
  • Notable mention was made too of the Indian government’s 2015 crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs, particularly Greenpeace, in whose case the report questioned whether there was a link to certain World Bank projects.


Rishikesh to host Yoga Maha Kumbh

  • Next year, when Haridwar will host the Ardh Kumbh Mela, Rishikesh, the “unofficial yoga capital of the world,” will host the first ‘Yoga Maha Kumbh,’
  • Fourteen places, including Haridwar and Rishikesh, would be developed by the Tourism Department as yoga centres.
  • Sixty-eight Ayurvedic hospitals would start offering daily yoga workouts within 15 days. In 25 important tourist destinations, parks would be developed within a week with ‘yoga corners’ for the people to practise yoga.


U.N. accuses Israel, Hamas of committing war crimes

  • The Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced it had gathered “substantial information” and “credible allegations” that both sides had committed war crimes during the conflict, which killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
  • Israel, which has been harshly critical of the commission since its inception last year, blasted the report as biased, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting his country “does not commit war crimes.”
  • Hamas, meanwhile saluted the “condemnation” of Israel in the report. “Hamas welcomes the report’s condemnation of the Zionist occupier for its war crimes during the last war against Gaza,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum
  • In Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, a senior official from the Palestine Liberation Organisation said the report reinforces “our will to go to the International Criminal Court.”


EU launches navy operation against migrant-traffickers

  • The European Union launched a naval operation on Monday to try to stop human-traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe in unseaworthy boats, a lucrative and at times deadly practice.
  • More than 100,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year, with some 2,000 dead or missing during the perilous quest to reach the continent.
  • Information-gathering and patrolling on the high seas to support the detection and monitoring of smuggling networks,
  • The targets are not the migrants. The targets are those that are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths
  • The EU aims to “dismantle the business model” of the traffickers by destroying their boats, she said.
  • But the U.N. has been slow to endorse the operation amid criticism from refugee groups that the move will only deprive migrants fleeing poverty and conflict of a major way to escape, rather than address the roots of the problem.


Eurozone finance chiefs look for Greek deal later this week

  • Eurozone Finance Ministers broke off talks on Monday without an agreement on Greece’s bailout, saying they aim to reach a deal later this week that might keep the country from defaulting and falling out of the currency union.
  • Greece needs more loans from its creditors, which include its fellow eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund, in time for June 30, when it faces a debt repayment it cannot afford.
  • Earlier on Monday, the Greek government submitted proposals to its creditors aimed at breaking the deadlock over the crisis.


‘Implement committee report on capacity building in banks, non-bank institutions’

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is seeking to structure a roadmap for extensive capacity building across bank and non-bank institutions in India.
  • Gandhi said the concept of capacity building went beyond just training and included human resource development, organisational development, institutional and legal framework development.
  • The government actively led the process in the banking and securities industries before the regulators took on that role
  • The Committee on Capacity Building in Bank and Non-Bank Institutions was set up by the RBI in response to recommendations by the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC), a body set up in 2011 to reform the institutional and legal structures of the financial sector.
  • The Committee has envisaged capacity building in terms of HR management practices, underlining the strategic importance of HR in affecting the top and bottom lines of balance sheets, training methodologies and interventions, including requiring employees to pass certification programmes prior to being promoted, and system-wide measures which include creating a banking aptitude test and creating centres of leadership development.
  • He felt that there was a need to build capacity at the board and top management levels. Weaknesses in corporate governance had contributed to the financial crisis worldwide, he pointed out.
  • The Indian Banking Regulation Act (1949) required only 51 per cent of the board of a banking company to have specialist knowledge
  • While mandatory certification of all directors was not yet on the cards, systematic induction and training processes ought to be implemented immediately
  • He underscored the need for a separate certification process for professionals in banks and financial services, creating qualified individuals who could meet the growing complexity of capital markets, and niche products.


Coal India assures supply to MSME sector

  • CIL earmarks about 8 million tonnes of coal annually, sold at notified prices, to MSME sector which constitutes brick kilns, food processing industry, lime factories, smokeless fuel plants, coke oven units and other small industries that rely on coal for their manufacturing process.
  • In line with the New Coal Distribution Policy of Government of India, consumers in small and medium sectors having annual requirement of less than 4,200 tonnes of coal and otherwise not having any access to purchase coal or sign a FSA (fuel supply agreement) get coal through State-nominated agencies.