Current Affairs for Engineering Service Exam
- National and International Issues on
- Economic Development
- Social Development
- Industrial Development
- Energy and Environment
- Information and Communication Technology
- The Key Initiatives of Government
Topic 1:Economic development
Monetary Policy Reforms
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) monetary policy committee (MPC) has decided to increase the key repo rate the rate at which the central bank infuses liquidity in the banking system by 25 basis points to 6.25%.
Key highlights of RBI’s monetary policy announcement:
- RBI raises the key repo rate the rate at which the central bank infuses liquidity in the banking system by 25 basis points to 6.25%
- The reverse repo rate adjusted to 6.0%, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.50%.
- The RBI allowed 2 per cent more SLR (statutory liquidity ratio) carve out to meet liquidity coverage ratio. The banks can now use SLR carve out of 13 per cent to meet liquidity cover ratio.
- CPI inflation forecast for 2018-19 revised to 4.8-4.9% in the first half and 4.7% in the second half, including the HRA impact.
- Projection for GDP growth for 2018-19 was maintained at 7.4%. GDP growth is projected in the range of 7.5-7.6% in first half and 7.3-7.4% in second half.
- Geo-political risks, global financial market volatility and the threat of trade protectionism pose headwinds to the domestic recovery
- Investment activity is recovering well and could receive a further boost from swift resolution of distressed sectors of the economy under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
- Crude oil prices and uncertain global financial markets development risk to inflation outlook.
- Adherence to budgetary targets by the centre and the states will ease upside risks to the inflation outlook considerably.
- Normal and well distributed monsoon temporally and spatially may help keep food inflation benign.
- Repo rate is the rate at which the central bank of a country (Reserve Bank of India in case of India) lends money to commercial banks in the event of any shortfall of funds.
- Repo rate is used by monetary authorities to control inflation.
Reverse Repo Rate:
- Reverse repo rate is the rate at which the central bank of a country (Reserve Bank of India in case of India) borrows money from commercial banks within the country.
- It is a monetary policy instrument which can be used to control the money supply in the country.
Marginal Standing Facility (MSF):
- Marginal standing facility (MSF) is a window for banks to borrow from the Reserve Bank of India in an emergency situation when inter-bank liquidity dries up completely.
- Banks borrow from the central bank by pledging government securities at a rate higher than the repo rate under liquidity adjustment facility or LAF in short.
- The MSF rate is pegged 100 basis points or a percentage point above the repo rate.
- Under MSF, banks can borrow funds up to one percentage of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL).
Statutory Liquidity Ratio:
- The ratio of liquid assets to net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) is called statutory liquidity ratio (SLR).
- Apart from Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), banks have to maintain a stipulated proportion of their net demand and time liabilities in the form of liquid assets like cash, gold and unencumbered securities.
- Treasury bills, dated securities issued under market borrowing programme and market stabilisation schemes (MSS), etc also form part of the SLR.
- Banks have to report to the RBI every alternate Friday their SLR maintenance, and pay penalties for failing to maintain SLR as mandated.
Cash Reserve Ratio:
- Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) is a specified minimum fraction of the total deposits of customers, which commercial banks have to hold as reserves either in cash or as deposits with the central bank.
- CRR is set according to the guidelines of the central bank of a country
Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.
Monetary Policy Committee (MPC):
- The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is a committee of the Central Bank in India (Reserve Bank of India), headed by its Governor, which is entrusted with the task of fixing the benchmark policy interest rate (repo rate) to contain inflation within the specified target level.
- The MPC replaced the current system where the RBI governor, with the aid and advice of his internal team and a technical advisory committee, has complete control over monetary policy decisions.
- A Committee-based approach will add lot of value and transparency to monetary policy decisions.
- Constitution of the MPC: The Central Government constitutes the MPC through a notification in the Official Gazette. Altogether, the MPC will have six members, – the RBI Governor (Chairperson), the RBI Deputy Governor in charge of monetary policy, one official nominated by the RBI Board and the remaining three members would represent the Government of India.
- Decision Making at MPC:The proceedings of MPC are confidential and the quorum for a meeting shall be four Members, at least one of whom shall be the Governor and in his absence, the Deputy Governor who is the Member of the MPC. The MPC takes decisions based on majority vote (by those who are present and voting). In case of a tie, the RBI governor will have the second or casting vote. The decision of the Committee would be binding on the RBI.
Read more at: Livemint
Co-op banks can become small finance banks
The Reserve Bank of India has decided to allow urban co-operative banks (UCB) to convert into small finance banks (SFB), a move aimed at bringing these entities into mainstream banking.
- UCBs currently face regulation by both the RBI and the respective State governments. By turning into SFBs, they will be regulated only by the RBI.
- The regulator has also allowed all banks to spread their mark-to-market losses for the April-June quarter, equally over four quarters.
- Bond yields may harden further as the RBI raised inflation forecast for this year in latest policy review, and cited rising crude prices as a source of uncertainty.
- The term Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) refers to primary cooperative banks located in urban and semi-urban areas.
- These banks, till 1996, were allowed to lend money only for non-agricultural purposes.
- They essentially lent to small borrowers and businesses. Today, their scope of operations has widened considerably.
Read more at: The Hindu
Priority sector lending reforms
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has increased the eligibility limit for a loan to classify as priority sector lending in a bid to boost affordable housing.
- For metropolitan areas, loan limits have been raised from ₹28 lakh to ₹35 lakh
- For other areas, it has been increased from ₹20 lakh to ₹25 lakh, provided the overall cost of the home does not exceed ₹45 lakh and ₹30 lakh respectively.
- The move was aimed at giving a fillip to low-cost housing for the economically weaker sections and lower income groups.
- RBI may also tighten loan to value ratio (amount of loan to the total cost of a house) or increase the risk weight if there is a need.
- The RBI has also allowed banks and NBFCs to classify their exposure, as per the 180-day past-due criterion, to all MSMEs with aggregate credit facilities up to the ₹25 crore, including those not registered under GST.
- The benefits arising from the increasing formalisation of the economy for financial stability, the 180-day past-due criterion, in respect of dues payable by GST-registered MSMEs from January 1, 2019 onwards, will be aligned to the extant norm of 90-day past-due in a phased manner.
- For entities that do not get registered under GST by December 31, 2018, the asset classification in respect of dues payable from January 1, 2019 onwards will immediately revert to the 90- day norm.
Read more at: The Hindu
Topic 1:Social development
Reduction of Maternal Mortality
According to the SRS bulletin (2016), India has shown impressive gains in reduction of Maternal Mortality with 22% reduction in since 2013.
- Maternal Mortality Ratio of India has declined from 167 in 2011-2013 to 130 in 2014-2016.
- The decline has been most significant in EAG States and Assam from 246 to 188.
- Among the Southern States, the decline has been from 93 to 77 and in the Other States from 115 to 93.
- Uttar Pradesh with 30% decline has topped the chart in the reduction of Maternal Deaths.
- Three states have already met the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target for MMR of 70 per 100,000. These are Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
- According to the SRS Bulletin, there were nearly 12,000 fewer maternal deaths in 2016 as compared to 2013, with total number of maternal deaths for the first time reducing to 32,000
- The initiatives like Mission Indradhanush and Intensified Mission Indradhanush with their focused approach are significantly turning the tide in favour of India
- Other major initiatives under the umbrella of National Health Mission (NHM) like augmentation of infrastructure and HR, Capacity Building, JSSK which provides for free transport and care for pregnant women have also contributed to the success.
About Mission Indradhanush:
- The mission aims to cover all those children by 2020 who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine preventable diseases.
- It includes diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B and others.
- It aims to fully immunize children under the age of two years and pregnant women with all available vaccines.
- The Mission is being implemented in 201 high focus districts in the country in the first phase which has nearly 50% of all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children.
- The campaign is part of the Universal Immunisation Programme by 2020.
- The Ministry will be technically supported by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and other donor partners.
About Intensified Mission Indradhanush:
- Through this programme, Government of India aims to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme.
- The special drive will focus on improving immunization coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunization to more than 90% by December 2018.
Read more at: PIB
Global Peacefulness Index
India’s rank has marginally improved in “global peacefulness”, at a time when there is an overall decline of global peace owing to escalation of violence in West Asia and and North Africa.
- Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). world’s leading think tank that develops metrics to analyse peace and quantify its economic value, released the 12th edition of the GPI, or measure of global peacefulness.
- India’s GPI rank was 137 out of 163 countries in 2017, when the year 2016 was assessed. In 2018, when the year 2017 is assessed, India’s rank moved up to 136. This is in line with the performance of some of the South Asian countries.
- Nepal moved up from 93 to 84, while Sri Lanka moved up too, from position 80 to 67. Pakistan moved from 152 to 151.
- South Asia experienced the largest regional improvement in peacefulness
- The best performer of South Asia, Bhutan, has slipped from 13 to 19, while Bangladesh’ peace index deteriorated sharply. Bangladesh moved from 84 to 93.
- Peace continues to record a “gradual, sustained fall” across the world
- Iceland continues to remain the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008.
Read more at: The Hindu
Topic 1:Industrial development
Sugar Sector Reforms
The Union Cabinet has approved a Rs 7,000 crore package for the beleaguered sugar industry to help pay dues of Rs 22,000 crore to farmers and approved new norms to speed up the closure of sick public sector companies, making sure that affordable housing would get top priority in using their land.
- The government has fixed the minimum price of sugar sold by mills at Rs 29/kg.
- To augment capacity through up-gradation of existing distilleries attached to sugar mills by installing incineration boilers and setting up new distilleries in sugar mills
- The government will bear interest subvention of maximum Rs.1332 crore over a period of five years including moratorium period of one year on estimated bank loan amounting to Rs.4440 crore to be sanctioned to the sugar mills by the banks over a period of three years.
- The government will put in place a mechanism to control retail prices of sugar by imposing stock holding limits on sugar mills, drawing protests from the industry. It will build a buffer stock of 3 million tonnes.
- A new category of ‘weak CPSEs’ was introduced to identify at an early stage entities that are at risk of turning sick.
- In order to stabilize sugar production at reasonable level with a view to improve the liquidity position of the mills thereby enabling them to clear the cane price arrears of farmers, Central Government has taken the following steps
- Increased custom duty on import of sugar from 50% to 100% to check any import to the country.
- Imposed stock holding limits on producers of sugar for the months of February and March, 2018 to stabilise the domestic sugar price.
- Withdrawn custom duty on export of sugar to encourage sugar industry to start exploring possibility of export of sugar.
- Allocated mill-wise Minimum Indicative Export Quotas (MIEQ) of 20 LMT of sugar for export during Sugar Season 2017-18.
- Re-introduced Duty Free Import Authorization (DFIA) Scheme in respect of sugar to facilitate and incentivize export of surplus sugar by sugar mills.
- Extended financial assistance to sugar mills @ Rs.5.50/qtl of cane crushed during 2017-18 Sugar Season to offset the cost of cane.
Read more at: The Hindu
Topic 2 : Environment
Atal Bhujal Yojana
The World Bank has approved Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), a Rs.6000 crore Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
- The scheme is to be implemented over a period of five years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with World Bank assistance.
- The scheme will address the criticality of ground water resources in a major part of the country.
- The scheme aims to improve ground water management in priority areas in the country through community participation.
- The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India.
- They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.
- The scheme will facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.
- It will facilitate a focused and integrated community based approach for addressing issues related to ground water depletion, sustainable ground water management through convergence of on-going and new schemes, adoption of efficient water use practices to reduce ground water use for irrigation and augmentation of ground water resources in targeted areas.
Read more at: PIB
Topic 3 : ICT
Indigenous device set to track-and-kill enemy drones
A working prototype of India’s first indigenous technology to search, track and kill enemy drones is ready.
- Defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which has the prototype, is now in talks with user agencies for demonstrations
- The first potential users of this ground-based sys tem that can be deployed at airstrips, border areas and hilly regions could be the armed forces, it could also be deployed in airports and strategic places like the Parliament.
- The portable prototype uses a radar, and electro-optical and electromagnetic sensors and its a low-range product that works in the range of 3-5 km.
- While it can search and track drones, killing or disabling them is a challenge. Bringing down a drone using fire power isn’t an option as it can be launched even in cities or densely populated areas.
- The soft-kill option has a jammer that can interfere with the drone’s electronics and radio frequency. As these are piloted remotely, they rely on signals from the pilot and jamming prevents her from communicating with the drone
- The technology can disable a drone in the range of 50 metre to 3km.
- This can be enhanced based on user needs.
Read more at: TOI
Scientists have developed a security system that identifies a person by reading their brainwaves in response to a series of pictures – an advance that could better protect devices from hackers.
- Many smartphones include facial recognition, fingerprint scans and other biometric systems. However, the trouble with these easy-to-use tools is that once compromised they can not be reset.
- A new type of password – one that measures your brainwaves in response to a series of pictures. Like a password, it’s easy to reset; and like a biometric, it’s easy to use.
- The “brain password,” which would require users to wear a headset, could have implications in banking, law enforcement, airport security and other areas.
- The original brain password can be reset without divulging the user’s identity
- The most accessible way to record brain activity is through electroencephalography, which uses electrodes to measure the brain’s unique patterns of electrical activity.
- The researchers reconfigured a virtual reality headset, reducing the number of electrodes to six. Three record brain activity, two serve as grounds and the last acts as a reference point. Typically, these headsets have 32 to 64 electrodes.
- The electrodes recording brain activity measure three areas of the organ: the intraparietal sulcus (controls declarative memory), the inferior parietal lobule (processes face recognition) and the temporo parietal junction (reading comprehension).
- Overall, brain passwords were more than 95 per cent effective.
Read more at: India Today
Topic 4: The Key Initiatives of Government
Mission Parivar Vikas
- The mission was launched on the occasion of World Population Day.
- The aim of the mission is to accelerate access to high quality family planning
- The mission focuses on family planning initiatives and targeted approaches for population stabilisation through better services delivery approach.
- It will focus on 146 high fertility districts in 7 states with high TFR (Total Fertility Rate).
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL)
- TKDL is an Indian initiative to prevent exploitation and to protect Indian traditional knowledge from wrongful patents mainly at International Patent Offices.
- TKDL contains Indian traditional medicine knowledge in a digitized format and is available in five international languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese).
- Indian traditional medicine knowledge in TKDL pertains to traditional books related to Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha.
- CSIR is the implementing agency for TKDL. Funds under the scheme are provided only to CSIR and no funds have been allocated to any state.