Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 18 February 2018
Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 18 February 2018
India & Iran on transit and trade:
Iran on Saturday joined hands with India to promote connectivity through
the port of Chabahar and asked the United States to respect territorial
Welcoming the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Prime Minister Narendra
Modi urged for closer cooperation in the fields of energy, banking and
“On important bilateral and international issues, we have no divergence.
We discussed our agreements and the future course of action on Chabahar and
India’s contribution to the Chabahar-Zahedan railways,” said President
Rouhani in his speech at the end of bilateral talks with Prime Minister Modi
and official delegates.
Both sides agreed on making transit and trade the core of bilateral ties
and emphasised the role of Chabahar in serving as a door to the landlocked
Mr. Modi described Chabahar as the “golden gateway to Afghanistan and
the Central Asian region.”
Expressing a common resolve to go ahead with developing the area around
the port of Chabahar, a joint statement at the end of the visit said, “The
Iranian side welcomed the investment of the Indian side in setting up plants
in sectors such as fertilizers, petrochemicals and metallurgy in the
“Might is not the criterion to be right as there are other criteria
also. Our destiny was in the hands of the U.S. for a long period of time,”
said President Rouhani, addressing the Observer Research Foundation. “The
U.S. made a promise to us and they have broken it. If it violates this
agreement (n-deal), you will see it will regret it,” he added.
Sex Ratio at birth: NITI Aayog Report
The sex ratio at birth (SRB) saw a decline in 17 out of 21 large states
of the country.
Gujarat recording an alarming dip of 53 points, a Niti Aayog report
stated and stressed on the need to check sex-selective abortion.
According to the report, among the 17 states which recorded substantial
drop of 10 points or more.
In Gujarat the SRB fell to 854 females from 907 females per 1,000 males
born registering a drop of 53 points from 2014-15 (base year) to 2015-16
Gujarat is followed by Haryana, which registered a drop of 35 points,
Rajasthan (32 points), Uttarakhand (27 points), Maharashtra (18 points),
Himachal Pradesh (14 points), Chhattisgarh (drop of 12 points), and
Karnataka (11 points), theHealthy States, Progressive India report states.
“There is a clear need for States to effectively implement the
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 and
take adequate measures to promote the value of the girl child,” the report
The India State Forest Report(SFR)
The India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017 published recently has
revealed that the mangrove cover in the country has increased by 181 sq. km.
But the Indian Sundarbans that comprise almost 43% of total mangrove
cover have shown only a marginal rise of 8 sq. km., at 2,114 sq. km. from
2,106 sq.km. in the 2015 SFR report.
This is in spite of large scale planting of mangroves by the State
Forest department and NGOs over many years.
The latest figures raise the question of whether enhanced human
pressures on the only mangrove forest that harbours a healthy tiger
population is affecting the ecosystem.
Unlike the rest of the country, large areas of mangrove forest in the
Indian Sundarbans fall under the Sunderban Tiger Reserve where human
activities are prohibited.
The Indian part of the Sundarbans covers 4,263 sq. km.out of which 2,584
sq. km.is core and buffer area of the tiger reserve.
A detailed understanding of the threat to the mangroves of Indian
Sundarbans has been highlighted in a ‘State of Art Report on Biodiversity in
Indian Sundarbans’ published by World Wide Fund for Nature, India (WWF).
The publication reveals that along with climate change, the mangroves
are threatened by habitat degradation due to industrial pollution and human
disturbance, fuel-wood collection and lack of any high elevation spaces for
the mangrove species to regenerate and thrive.
The report states that it is a matter of concern that if the present
rates of change prevail, the Sundarbans mangroves could disappear as the sea
This is because the forest’s natural response to retreat further inland
is blocked by geographical features and man-made obstructions.
Authors of the chapter on Mangroves & Associated Flora put the number of
mangrove and associated flora species in the region at 180.
The authors have suggested a “rehabilitation of former mangrove areas
and creation of new mangrove habitations through intensified afforestation
Ratul Saha of the WWF, one of the authors of the publication, pointed
out that the threat to each mangrove species varies in magnitude and it is
important to fill these knowledge gaps through more research.
Of the 180 mangrove and associated species or halophytes (plants adapted
to growing in saline conditions), 34 are true mangroves, of which 19 are
major mangroves and 15, minor mangroves.
The species diversity of halophytes of Indian Sundarbans is recorded as
71 mangrove associates, 30 back mangroves, six species of epiphytes and
parasites, 23 grass and sedges, four ferns and 12 herbaceous plants.
Mangroves are classified as plants having salt tolerance mechanisms like
salt glands, aerial roots in the form of pneumatophores and viviparous
germination (germinating before detaching from parent).
They grow mostly in the inter-tidal spaces and are dispersed by water
buyout propagules (seeds or spores).
There are several prominent mangrove species.
Heritiera fomes or Sundari trees from which the Sundarbans draws its
name, has a very restricted distribution in South Asia and is classified as
Endangered in the IUCN Red list.
The publication lists five species of mangroves whose status, as per the
IUCN Red List, ranges from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered.
Sonneratia griffithii , one of the tallest trees of the Sundarbans
referred to as Keora by locals is critically endangered while Ceriops
decandra (Goran) is Near Threatened.
C. decandra and Avicennia (locally known as Bain) are gathered in
violation of law for supplementing fuel wood requirements by the residents.
Species like Xylocarpus granatum , which has a traditional medicinal use
in treatment of cholera, diarrhoea and fever is also one of the species
which faces threat due to illegal felling.
Among the many associates of mangrove, which grow as climbers and
shrubs, some are used for firewood.
The other category of flora, back mangroves, are not found in
inter-tidal areas colonised by true mangroves. Excoecaria agallocha ,
commonly called Goria found towards the mainland along the small canal is
one common example.
Among the salt marshes of Sundarbans, Sesuvium portulacastrum, with
thick, fleshy leaves borne on succulent, reddish-green stems is a pioneer
species. Salt marshes are found hosting the mangrove fern Acrostichum aureum
The WWF publication points that among the twelve orchid species reported
in the past from Sundarbans, most can no longer be found.
Climate change is being attributed to the decline of mangrove species
The authors emphasise the importance of involving the local population
in conservation, keeping in mind the limited livelihood options and the
extreme climate events that they have to grapple with.
The population density of the Indian Sundarbans outside the Tiger
Reserve area is 1,000 people per sq. km., and there is high malnourishment
reported from here.
Illegal clearing of forests for fisheries has turned out to be a major
issue over the past few years.
Nationally, the SFR 2017 report estimates the maximum increase of
mangrove cover from three States, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
While the maximum increase of 82 sq. km. has been recorded in
Maharashtra, where Thane district alone has witnessed an increase of 31 sq.
km., Raigarh has 29 sq. km. and Mumbai Suburban, 16 sq. km..
Andhra Pradesh has seen a rise of 37 sq. km. in the SFR survey, done
every two years, with districts like Guntur and Krishna contributing the
Gujarat’s tally rose by 33 sq. km. in Bhavnagar, Junagarh, Kutch and
In all three States, the increase has been attributed to plantation and
Tamil Nadu found an increase of 2 sq. km. of mangroves, taking the
extent of such forests to 49 sq km, as recorded in the FSR report.
Among the striking features of Tamil Nadu’s efforts is that Nagapattinam
district recorded a decrease of 16 sq. km.while Tiruvarur district posted a
rise of 16 sq. km.
Districts like Cuddalore, Pudukkottai and Thoothukudi also have recorded
a small increase of 1 sq. km. of mangrove cover each, compared to 2015.
Ramanathapuram district found its cover decreasing by one sq. km.
British Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded on Saturday for an urgent
deal with the EU on post-Brexit security cooperation, warning that citizens’
lives were at stake.
In a speech at the Munich Security Conference, she acknowledged that no
deal currently exists between the EU and a third country “that captures the
full depth and breadth of our existing relationship”.
But she said there was no reason both sides could not come up with
practical ways to create a “deep and special partnership” on security.
“We cannot delay discussions on this,” Ms. May said. She also warned
European partners not to put politics above cooperation against crime and
“This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between
partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to
inhibit our cooperation and jeopardise the security of our citizens,” Ms.
May told the audience.
She cautioned that if there was no special deal on security by the time
Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, speedy extraditions under the
European Arrest Warrant “would cease”.
And if the U.K. were no longer part of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement
agency, information sharing would be hampered — undermining the fight
against terrorism, organised crime and cyberattacks.
CEA on PSBs
Strong cases have emerged to seek increased regulation and private
sector participation in public sector banks in the wake of recent episodes,
including the Punjab National Bank scam, said Chief Economic Adviser Arvind
Citing recent incidents in the Indian banking system such as the Punjab
National Bank loan fraud, Bank of Baroda’s South Africa exit plan and SBI’s
higher provisioning for bad debts.
Mr. Subramanian said that the key was how to take advantage of these
events and make policies to ensure that these did not happen again.
Mr. Subramanian was delivering the inaugural address at the Madras
Management Association Annual convention 2018.
Mr. Subramanian said that the possibility of allowing a much greater
majority private sector participation in the public sector banks must be
Taxpayers’ money was used to recapitalise the public sector banks, which
had been facing the high non- performing assets problem.
“The question is, are we getting enough value for this taxpayer money
and will this taxpayer money be better protected in the current government
ownership structure or will it require a different policy structure?” Mr.
“The government also realises that some banks are unviable and need to
be shrunk. There are three strong cases which have emerged for private
participation in public sector banks. I am not saying all public sector
banks should be privatised,” he said.
The CEA said some people had suggested that the public sector banks’
governance practices should be reformed first before looking at private
“But we have been at it for 30-40 years. What is the guarantee that what
is recommended now will be implemented more effectively than in the past?”
One of the strong cases for private participation in public sector banks
was that they were “handicapped” in terms of recruitment procedures and HR
procedures due to their ownership, when compared with their private sector
Decision making in the Indian government was paralysed by the fear of
four Cs — Court, CBI, CVC and CAG, he said.
“These are four overhanging fruits over honest decision making, affected
by the government structure,” the CEA said.
One of the problems was that during the boom period it was PSBs that had
financed the infrastructure sector and got into trouble. They are now
finding it difficult to get out of the situation, he added.
PSU banks behind audit firms
Public sector banks (PSBs) are aggressively reaching out to the big four
audit firms to get their systems assessed for risk in the wake of the fraud
committed at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), according to audit
professionals at these firms.
While PSBs often tended to keep away from broadening forensic data
analytical capabilities beyond traditional anti-fraud and compliance
functions, they were now preparing to scale up risk management capabilities,
Audit professionals at the big four (Deloitte, KPMG, PwC and EY) said in
the past, they tried reaching out to PSBs, including the PNB but faced a
rigid approach when convincing bank officials of possible system anomalies.
PSBs are always restricted by either budgetary constraints or a mindset
for keeping control physical and not fixing responsibility for compliance,
Now, as many as four PSBs had enquired with KPMG this week alone to
enlist their audit and advisory services. These banks were the same entities
that had featured in the ongoing crisis at the PNB.
The PNB had invited a Request for Proposal (RFP) to carry out the
forensic auditing of their systems in 2016 but did not show interest in
spending more than ₹15 lakh for the work.
Most of these firms had opted out of participating at such a cost, the
Security experts, who had done digital forensic testing for PSBs, said
these banks were far too lethargic in decision-making and suffered from a
“The risk officer in a PSU bank is convinced he will not be thrown out
if something goes wrong in the system,” said Sachin Dedhia of Skynet Secure
Solutions which does digital forensic testing for PSBs in Mumbai.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Ancient Climate Change vs Rare forest owlet
Between four and six million years ago, long before humans evolved,
drastic climatic changes in the Indian subcontinent led to the evolution of
a new bird: central India’s now-endangered and rare forest owlet.
Scientists have also found that it belongs to the same genus as the
commonly-seen spotted owlet, finally settling a century-old debate on its
genetic relationship with other Indian owlets.
The taxonomy of the forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewetti), which resembles
the spotted owlet Athene brama, has always been a mystery.
Taxonomists placed it in a separate genus Heteroglaux and sometimes in
Athene; others saw it as more closely related to another species, the jungle
For the first time, a team of scientists obtained permits to carefully
take some feathers from forest, spotted and jungle owlets in the states of
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
From the feathers, they extracted DNA (of five genes, both mitochondrial
and nuclear) and built a genetic tree to reveal the relationship between the
Their results show that the forest owlet belongs to the same genus (Athene)
as the spotted owlet, thus settling a century-old debate about its taxonomy.
According to their paper published inPLoS ONE, the bird can now be known
as Athene blewetti.
Using dated fossil records of ancient owls on this genetic tree, the
team estimated the time at which the forest owlet diverged from its nearest
relatives, the process by which new species evolve.
Their results show that the forest and spotted owlets split as different
species between 4.3 and 5.7 million years ago, when drastic climatic changes
occurred in the Indian subcontinent.
“Multiple cycles of wet and dry climes characterised the Indian
subcontinent then,” says lead author Pankaj Koparde (Salim Ali Centre for
Ornithology and Natural History). “Independent research shows that this
period, the Plio-Pleistocene, also saw the speciation of several other
high-altitude birds in the Western Ghats.”
This means that climate played a major role in the speciation of the
owlets, says Koparde. With climate change being a concern now, it would be
important to study how new weather events affect the forest owlet, he adds.
This would be crucial to conserve the species, which is rare and found
in a severely fragmented habitat threatened by the activities of humans, a
species that came into being a few million years after they did.
Air Pollution from Petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes
The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are
fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as
emissions from today’s cars and trucks.
That’s the surprising finding of a study published last week in the
Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes,
paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air
pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, as motor
The VOCs interact with other particles in the air to create the building
blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar
the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that
are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.
Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators
have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially
reduced VOC emissions from automobiles.
So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides
and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner.
But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible
pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.
The researchers said their study was inspired by earlier measurements of
VOCs in Los Angeles that showed concentrations of petroleum-based compounds
at levels higher than could be predicted from fossil-fuel sources alone.
Concentrations of ethanol, for example, were some five times higher than
expected. And those levels were increasing over time.
Those carbon dioxide emissions are not smog-forming VOCs, though they
are a major driver of human-caused climate change.
Forty per cent of the chemicals added to consumer products wind up in
the air, the researchers found.
To make their calculations, the study’s authors constructed a computer
model that simulated air quality in Los Angeles, weaving in data from the
chemical composition of consumer goods and tailpipe emissions.
Using the model, they could see the fingerprints of the chemical
compounds coming from personal care products and also estimate how many VOCs
from paints and finishes inside buildings were being released to the outside
Roughly half of the VOCs in Los Angeles air could be attributed to
consumer products, the authors found.
Concerned consumers may be tempted to turn to “natural” products, though
the researchers say that isn’t a cure-all. For example, one class of
compounds called terpenes gives many cleaning products a pine or citrus
These terpenes can be produced synthetically, or naturally from oranges.
Galina Churkina, a research fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and
Environmental Studies who was not involved in the study, noted that the
study did not consider emissions related to biological sources like trees
But the authors said their study was not the end of this line of
There are tens of thousands of chemicals in consumer products, and
researchers have not yet pinpointed which chemicals are most likely to form
ozone or PM2.5 particles.
Notably, some of the VOCs used in consumer products were replacements
for chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.
Those chemicals were phased out beginning in the 1980s because they
thinned the Earth’s ozone layer.
For consumers looking for a greener solution, McDonald offered some
advice. “Use as little of the product as you can to get the job done,” he