Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 18 January 2018

Bank Exam Current Affairs

Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 18 January 2018


Rivers in West Bengal are extremely polluted

  • A dip in the Ganges is, generally speaking, synonymous with the idea of purification. But that shall no longer be so in Bengal, where the river is so polluted that it is now officially unfit for bathing.
  • According to the latest State of Environment Report, published by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), in 17 major rivers of the State, including the Ganges, the levels of coliform bacteria (found mainly in human faeces) are much higher than the permissible limit of MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml.
  • The permissible limit as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guideline is 500.
  • The report states that several stretches of the Ganges, known as Bhagirathi and Hooghly in the region (two tributaries of the Ganges), have a total coliform count (TCC) much higher than the permissible level of 500.
  • Near Baharampore in Murshidabad district, TCC in the Ganges was 1.10 lakh in October 2015. In Dakhineswar in North 24 Paraganas district, it was 4 lakh, and at Shivpur in Howrah district, 2.80 lakh. At Garden Reach in the southwestern part of Kolkata, the TCC in the Ganges was 2.40 lakh.
  • The condition of the rivers in north Bengal was not much different. While TCC in the Mahananda river near Siliguri was 14,000, the Teesta recorded a TCC of 7,000 in Siliguri. The Karola river near Jalpaiguri and the Kaljani river at Alipurdar both had a TCC of 14,000 per 100 ml.
  • According to the WBPCB, compared with 2014, all the four main rivers of north Bengal recorded a significant increase in TCC, while the ones in south Bengal had TCC levels much higher than the permissible limit.
  • These include the Damodar river at Assansol in Paschim Bardhaman district (90,000), the Barakar river at Tarapith in Birbhum district (17,000 TCC), the Kansai river in Paschim Medinipur district (17,000), and the Dwarka at Tarapith (3,400).

India has realised its future lies in Asia

  • India has “realised” that its future lies in Asia, said BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, making a distinction from the “American way” of conducting foreign policy, in comments seen as a rare departure from the government’s traditionally close ties with the U.S. and Western allies.
  • “The so-called ‘American Way’ will no longer be at work in the region. It is the play of the civilisations that will be at work. India has to make cultural and civilisational linkages an important part of its diplomacy,” said Mr. Madhav.
  • Mr. Madhav outlined “twelve realisations” about the Indo-Pacific region at the Ministry of External Affairs’ annual conference, the “Raisina Dialogue”.
  • Mr. Madhav said the “global power axis” had now moved from the Pacific-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific with almost half of the world’s population, half the container traffic, 40% of off-shore oil reserves, and most of the world’s defence spending coming from the Asian region.
  • The BJP leader also called for support for India’s “proactive role in the region”, saying New Delhi would not be a “spectator” as China pushed its Belt and Road initiative forward.
  • He called the project a “Neo-Marshall plan” in a veiled reference to the carving up of post-war Europe as akin to Chinese infrastructure projects in Asia and Africa.

Revised Make-II procedure in defence procurement procedure

  • Indian industry can suggest projects related to sub-systems for innovation and import substitution under the revised Make-II procedure in the Defence Procurement Procedure, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.
  • “The potential ‘Make-II’ projects will be approved by a collegiate comprising the DRDO, Headquarter Integrated Defence Staff and Department of Defence under a committee chaired by Secretary, Defence Production,” the Ministry said in a statement.
  • Even start-ups or individuals can propose projects. The Service Headquarters will soon come with a list of projects which can be undertaken under the new procedure.
  • Companies would get design and development time of 12 to 30 weeks to offer prototypes and there is no limit to the number of companies which can respond to the Expression of Interest (EoI).
  • Under the new proposal, the time taken to place orders from the proposal stage would be reduced by 50%. After the development period, the Request for Proposal would be issued to all qualifying companies.
  • He stated that even in the case of a single vendor situation, the tender would go through. The estimated time to finish the whole process has come down to 69 to 103 weeks. There would also be no negotiations under the Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC).
  • There are are already 40-50 projects which are being looked at including advanced gun barrels for T-72 tanks and chaff and flare systems, the official added.

MP’s panel of the opinion that proxy voting can be misused

  • If proxy voting is meant to make it easier for NRIs to exercise their franchise and save up on travel costs, then why shouldn’t the same facility be extended to a migrant worker within India?
  • This and many other questions were raised at a meeting of the parliamentary panel on External Affairs, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
  • The committee was briefed on “Voting Rights to NRIs” by Secretary (Economic Relations), External Affairs Ministry, Vijay Keshav Gokhale and Secretary, Legislative Department, G. Narayana Raju.
  • Last August, the Cabinet cleared an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, which allows NRIs to vote by proxy, a facility only available till now to armed forces personnel and certain offices notified by the Election Commission.
  • According to sources, except for one BJP MP, all others on the panel were unanimous in their opinion that proxy voting can be easily misused.
  • “Proxy voting is open to manipulation. The government should have explored a technically sounder way to get NRIs to vote. If money can be transferred online then why not votes. They need to find a more robust mechanism,” an Opposition MP said.
  • The panel members also asked how to have secret ballot in proxy voting.Data show that only 10,000 to 12,000 NRIs have voted because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India for this purpose.
  • The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was not referred to any standing committee. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the recently concluded winter session and has not yet been debated on.

Maharashtra has unveiled a public cloud policy

  • Maharashtra has unveiled a public cloud policy, virtually mandating its departments to shift their data storage onto the cloud, which intends to make them available for free to the general public.
  • “This will accelerate e-governance, and open an area for private sector investments, taking new technologies to all the departments as the government is the biggest data creator and consumer,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.
  • the policy, a first by any State, will create a $2 billion opportunity for the industry. “Every department uses data storage. Now, they will not have to buy boxes. We have made it sort of mandatory.”
  • The government produces 1.25 lakh documents every day. Most of them are being stored at 75 centralised data centres, resulting in a high maintenance cost.
  • A four-member committee under the secretary of the information technology department has been formed by the CM to oversee the implementation of the policy.
  • Once the policy is implemented and the data stored on the cloud, the access to the public cloud services will either be free or on a pay-per-usage model.
  • The policy is likely to be set in motion through a government resolution. In the next 20 days, five top cloud service providers like Amazon or Microsoft will be empanelled, officials said.
  • The State policy is compliant with the Union government’s National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, 2012, which mandates facilitation of access to government-owned shareable data in human readable and machine readable forms.
  • Under the framework, the government will make it mandatory for the data to be stored within the country.

Govt wants better utilisation of river water

  • Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari has asked officials to work on ways to “better utilise” water from non-Himalayan rivers that are emptying out into the sea.
  • He cited the Polavaram project as an example of where water was being transferred from the Godavari to the Krishna river and how parts of it going into the sea could be diverted to water-deficit regions.
  • “I have learnt that nearly 2,500 tmcft water from the Godavari is emptying out into the sea. If suitably used, it can go a long way to solve the water availability in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,” he told.
  • Polavaram is a major irrigation project being constructed on the Godavari River across Andhra, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
  • “While projects concerning Himalayan rivers such as the Ganga and the Brahmaputra ought to be first completed, we should look at other rivers too,” he said.

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UN agency for Palestine facing its worst financial crunch

  • The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned it faced its worst funding crisis ever after the White House froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions, a move Palestinian leaders decried as cruel and blatantly biased.
  •  The agency provides Palestinian refugees and their descendants across West Asia with services including schools and medical care, but Israel’s PM has long accused it of hostility toward Israel and called for its closure. Some five million Palestinians are eligible for its services.
  • U.S. held back $65 million that had been destined for the agency, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments.
  • The United States is the largest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA). The U.S. has announced it will contribute $60 million to the programme budget. There is for the moment no other indication of possible funding.
  • This dramatically reduced contribution results in the most severe funding crisis in the history of the agency.

::Business and Economy::

GST council to meet on host of issues

  • GST Council is expected to focus on key fiscal issues such as declining revenue collections and waning compliance, Council’s 25th meeting assumes significance, coming less than two weeks before the presentation of the Union Budget on February 1.
  • Revenue collections under GST have slowed down in the past few months and this is an area that would require extensive deliberations given that we are close to the Union Budget.
  • The government collected Rs. 92,283 crore in July, Rs. 90,669 crore in August, Rs. 92,150 crore in September, Rs. 83,346 crore in October and just Rs. 80,808 crore in November, the latest period for which data is available.
  • While a bulk of the indirect taxes would no longer be a part of the Budget announcements, having been subsumed by GST, analysts said that the Budget would still be used to announce policy changes to do with the new indirect tax.
  • A key change expected to be announced is the increase in the eligibility limit of the Composition Scheme — from the current Rs. 1 crore turnover a year to Rs. 2 crore.
  • The GST Council meeting is also expected to deal with some of the procedural issues, such as the number of forms to be filled, and centralised registration for financial services providers.
  • Another key concern was the waning compliance rate, according to Deloitte India’s Mr. Mani, who said the issue needed the Council’s immediate attention.
  • There has also been a reduction of 10% in the number returns filed compared to initial months. This is a worrying trend considering the fact that the objective of GST was to expand the tax base and thereby improve collections.
  • While some reduction in compliance in recent months can been attributed to the technology challenges faced by taxpayers and some amount of uncertainty due to the multiple extensions in the return filing timelines, arresting the trend of declining returns needs significant attention.
  • Several industry and services sectors have also raised demands for lowering the applicable GST rates. The Indian Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association sought a reduction in the rate on biscuits to 12% from 18%, contending that biscuits were a mass consumption product that was mostly consumed by the poor.
  • Similarly, the Biodiesel Association of India urged the GST Council to cut the GST rate on biodiesel from 18% to 5%, arguing that leaving the rate unchanged risked triggering thousands of job losses.
  • The National Real Estate Development Council asked the GST Council to bring housing under construction under the 12% rate, from the current 18%, with a 50% abatement for land, from the prevailing 33%.
  • This, the body said, would help ease the final tax rate to a level of about 6% of the cost of the property.

Govt fixed 20,000 crore additional borrowing

  • The government has upon reviewing its finances decided it needs to borrow only an additional Rs. 20,000 crore in the remaining months of this financial year, less than half the Rs. 50,000 crore it had estimated in December.
  • “Upon a review of trends of revenue receipts and expenditure pattern, it has been assessed that additional borrowing of only Rs. 20,000 crore of government securities would be adequate to meet financing needs,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
  • The government had on December 27, 2017, said that it would raise additional market borrowing of Rs. 50,000 crore through dated government securities in the current financial year 2017-18.
  • Direct tax collections have grown faster, but I don’t think that is enough to make up the shortfall. It is not clear where the government has found the additional revenue. Maybe it is from the dividend paid by the RBI.

Direct tax collection highest ever

  • Direct tax collections during the first nine-and-a-half months of the current fiscal have risen by 18.7% to Rs. 6.89 lakh crore, the tax department said.
  • The collections till January 15, 2018, represent over 70% of the Rs. 9.8 lakh crore revenue target from direct taxes, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a statement.
  • “The provisional figures of direct tax collections up to January 15, 2018, show that net collections are at Rs. 6.89 lakh crore, which is 18.7% higher than the net collections for the corresponding period last year,” it said.
  • Gross collections (before adjusting for refunds) have increased by 13.5% to Rs. 8.11 lakh crore during April 2017 to January 15, 2018.
  • Refunds amounting to Rs. 1.22 lakh crore have been issued during this period.
  • Stating that there has been “consistent and significant” improvement in the position of direct tax collections during the current fiscal, the CBDT said the growth rate of total gross collections has improved from 10% in Q1, to 10.3% in Q2, to 12.6% in Q3 and to 13.5% as on January 15, 2018.
  • Similarly, the growth rate of total net direct tax collections has climbed up from 14.8% in Q1, to 15.8% in Q2, to 18.2% in Q3 and to 18.7% as on January 15, 2018.

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