Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 7, 2018)
1. Cabinet clears policy to double agri exports
The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the Agriculture Export Policy, aimed at increasing India’s exports to $60 billion by 2022 from the current $37 billion, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu announced.
“We have managed to increase agriculture exports to $37 billion from $30 billion in just one year,” Mr. Prabhu said at a press conference. “With this policy, we aim to increase that to $60 billion by 2022. This is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of doubling farmers’ income.”
The objectives of the policy are, apart from doubling farmers’ income, to diversify the export basket and destinations, and to boost high-value and value-added exports, with a focus on perishables.
The policy also aims to promote the export of “novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional” products, according to a press release. The objective also is to provide an institutional mechanism for market access, tackling barriers, and dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary issues.
In order to do this, the Centre will work with the State governments to create clusters that can focus on particular crops.
2. The French government rolls back a planned fuel tax hike, but the protests are widening
French President Emmanuel Macron’s reforms programme could be at risk of losing steam in the wake of weeks of violent countrywide protests triggered by a proposed increase in the fuel tax. Paradoxically, as head of the centrist La République En Marche party, he had swept to power on a pledge of modernising the economy and restoring popular trust in politicians. Public anger against the fuel tax has escalated into a broad-based opposition to the government’s overall policies. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe initially said the duty hike would be deferred for six months. But on Wednesday the government cancelled the tax proposal altogether, arguing that a levy that was meant to induce motorists to go green was not worth the price if it undermined social cohesion. Mr. Philippe has also suggested that the introduction of additional safety checks on cars due to take effect next year could be delayed. The U-turn on measures to reduce CO2 emissions suggested that the government was on the back foot. The government has also said that it was open to reinstating the wealth tax, which was revised last year to narrow its scope. The measure was intended to improve the investment climate and boost growth and employment. But the accompanying flat tax rate on capital gains and dividends, besides limits on trade unions to negotiate wages, only served to reinforce Mr. Macron’s image as a President of the rich.
The yellow-vest protests have shone the light on France’s tax system, its rates said to be the highest in the European Union, and buttressed the demand for improvements in the standard of living. The government is committed to increasing the minimum wage from next year but could now face pressure for further concessions on social welfare. Conversely, Paris would also be constrained to demonstrate compliance with EU rules that set an annual fiscal deficit target of below 3% of GDP on member-states. Adherence to common norms would especially be on Brussels’s radar after the recent stand-off involving the Italian government. A concern linked to the withdrawal of the tax increase is the rise in France’s carbon emissions. The mass protests have, unwittingly, pitted the majority who would have been hit by the higher levy against the imperative to meet the Paris climate agreement targets. Mr. Macron, who has fashioned himself as a champion of the green cause, can realise the mission to combat global warming only by rallying his people. His ability to regain lost ground will determine the prospects of warding off the populist threat in the 2019 European Parliament elections. His handling of the challenges at home will crucially define his ambitions on the EU stage.
3. Asymmetric warfare
Also known as asymmetric engagement, this refers to a form of unconventional warfare where there is a significant difference in the powers of the warring sides. The term is generally used to refer to conflicts between the armed forces of large nation-states and significantly smaller insurgent groups that possess relatively little firepower. Insurgent groups which cannot match the power of larger armies generally try to employ guerrilla tactics to frustrate and cause significant damage to their adversaries rather than try to completely eliminate them. The term was coined by Andrew J.R. Mack in his 1975 article “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars”.
4. Kerala to get ₹3,048 crore as flood relief
A High Level Committee, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Thursday approved the additional assistance of ₹3,048.39 crore to Kerala, ₹131.16 crore to Nagaland and ₹539.52 crore to Andhra Pradesh, a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
The Kerala government had sought ₹4,700 crore as compensation from the Central government for the damage caused by the floods, which was termed as the worst in a century.
5. Policy to double agri exports approved
The State clusters will promote value-added exports, market “Brand India”, attract private investments in production and processing, establish a strong quality regimen, and improve research and development.
Separately, the Cabinet also gave its ‘in-principle’ approval for the strategic sale of the government’s existing 52.63% total paid-up equity shareholding in Rural Electrification Corporation to the Power Finance Corporation, along with the transfer of management control.
In a third decision, the Union Cabinet approved the launching of the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to be implemented by the Department of Science &Technology at a total outlay of ₹3,660 crore over five years. The Mission targets the establishment of 15 Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), six Application Innovation Hubs and four Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).
6. Nod for change to Act on Jallianwala Bagh Trust
The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the amendment to a 1951 Act concerning Jalianwala Bagh Trust, substituting Congress president with leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha as a member of the Trust. The amendment will ensure there is a provision for representation of a single national political party.
7. High security registration plates from April 2019
New vehicles in India will be sold with pre-fitted high security registration plates from April 1 next year, the government said on Thursday. An official announcement is being made after months of public consultations. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a notification introducing amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
8. OPEC agrees to cut oil production
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) tentatively agreed an oil-output cut on Thursday but was waiting to hear from non-OPEC heavyweight Russia before deciding the exact volumes for a production reduction aimed at propping up crude prices, two sources from the group said.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak flew home from Vienna earlier for talks with President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Mr. Novak will return to the Austrian capital on Friday for discussions among Saudi-led OPEC and the group’s allies.
The price of crude has fallen almost a third since October, but U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded OPEC make oil even cheaper by refraining from output cuts.
Brent oil futures fell as much as 5% to below $59 per barrel on fears that there could be no deal but later recovered somewhat, trading down 2% by 1325 GMT.
OPEC delegates have said the group and its allies could cut by one million bpd if Russia contributed 1,50,000 bpd of that reduction. If Russia contributed around 2,50,000 bpd, the overall cut could exceed 1.3 million bpd. Oil prices have crashed as Saudi Arabia, Russia and the UAE raised output since June after Mr. Trump called for higher production to offset lower exports from Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer.
Russia, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have been vying for the position of top crude producer in recent years. The U.S. is not part of any output-limiting initiative due to its anti-trust legislation and fragmented oil industry.
9. U.K. suspends fast-track visa scheme for wealthy investors
The scheme, which is open to those who invest at least £2 million in U.K. government, shares or businesses, offers a faster route to settlement in the country. Those who invest over £10 million can apply to settle after two years, while those who invest over £5 million can do so in three years.
While the U.K. government had sought to position the visa scheme as part of its strategy to attract the “brightest and the best”, campaigners have long warned that it provided a means for the super wealthy internationally to launder money in the U.K.
In 2015, Transparency International identified over 3,000 individuals and their families — the “vast majority” of whom were from Russia and China — who had been granted these so-called “golden” visas with “little to no checks done” on the source of the wealth. In some cases, applicants were awarded visas even before opening a U.K. bank account.
10. Nasheed to lead Maldives delegation at climate summit
Former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, widely regarded as a climate champion, will lead Male’s official delegation at the UN climate change conference in Poland. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih nominated Mr. Nasheed to head the Maldivian team, according to a statement.
Mr. Nasheed’s participation signals a potential shift in the Maldives’s policy. “At the COP 15 summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the Maldives unilaterally announced a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100% over 10 years. However, subsequent administrations abandoned this progressive stance,” said Mr. Nasheed’s office in a statement.
11. My deal, no deal or no Brexit at all: May
Parliament’s vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal will go ahead on December 11, her office said on Thursday, despite a newspaper report that Ministers had sought a delay to prevent a defeat.
The British Parliament is mid-way through a five-day debate on the Brexit deal, ahead of the vote which will define Britain’s departure from the EU and could determine Ms. May’s future as leader. She looks set to lose that vote. Ms. May used an interview on BBC radio to press on with her bid to persuade the lawmakers to back her deal. “There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal… the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all,” she said.
In one potential concession, she said she recognised that there were concerns among the MPs about the ‘Northern Irish backstop’ and she was looking at whether Parliament could be given a greater role in deciding whether to trigger it.
12. China sounds optimistic on U.S. trade deal
China said on Thursday that it would “immediately” implement measures agreed under a trade truce with the U.S., and was confident that it could reach a deal within 90 days.
The Commerce Ministry’s remarks came days after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to give negotiators 90 days to resolve their trade spat.
“China will immediately implement the consensus both sides already reached on agricultural products, energy, autos and other specific items,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng.
The two sides will also discuss intellectual property protection, market access and balanced trade, and “work hard to reach a consensus”, said Mr. Gao.
13. Pope Francis to visit UAE in February
Pope Francis, who has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, will visit Abu Dhabi in February, the Vatican said on Thursday. He will become the first ever Pope to visit the Arabian peninsula.
14. Alstom to double metro rail volume at Sri City
Alstom India has drawn up plans to double its metro rail production capacity at its plant in Sri City, according to a top official.
Currently, the Indian arm of the French major has orders for the delivery of 248 cars for Mumbai Metro Line III, 212 cars for Montreal Metro and 10 more train sets for Chennai Metro Rail.
The Mumbai Metro Line order alone is worth about ₹2,500 crore
“Our focus is to double our footprint in India,” said Alain Spohr, managing director, India and South Asia, Alstom.
It had already completed the delivery of rolling stock for metro rail at Sydney and Lucknow.
15. Former champion swimmer passes away
Seven-time former national champion swimmer Arun Kumar Shaw passed away following a prolonged illness, an official of the Bengal Amateur Swimming Association said. He was 82 and survived by wife.
Shaw was the first swimmer from Bengal to receive the Arjuna Award in 1967.
16. Viceleads Golden Globe nominations.
Vice, a biopic about Dick Cheney starring Christian Bale as the former U.S. Vice-President, on Thursday picked up the most Golden Globe nominations with six, including best comedy film, as the race to the Oscars begins.
The announcements, which came a week before the influential Screen Actors Guild nominations, are the first major bellwether of momentum going into the Academy Awards, which take place in February.
Vice bucked some predictions, earning one more nomination than popular music romance reboot A Star Is Born.
Tied with ‘Star’ — a hit with both critics and at the box office, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper — at five nominations were bawdy royal tale The Favourite and offbeat civil rights dramedy Green Book. Right behind them were Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white partner, and Disney sequel Mary Poppins Returns.
Beyond its best comedy film nod, Vice picked up a trio of acting nominations for a nearly unrecognisable Bale, co-star Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell. Filmmaker Adam McKay picked up a pair of nominations for best director and screenplay.
17. China to build 20,000 forest villages
China will increase its green cover by building 20,000 national forest villages by 2020 in the country.
Faced with a problem of severe pollution, China has spent over $100 billion on trees and its total forest cover area is almost 22%.
China will continue to enhance the ecological environment in villages across the country, bring the green coverage rate in rural areas to 30% and build 20,000 national forest villages by 2020, said Liu Dongsheng, Deputy Director of the China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
18. Extinction warning for Australia’s ‘rat kangaroo’
A truffle-eating Australian marsupial known as the rat kangaroo has suffered a dramatic population decline and could become extinct without urgent action to save the species, a report warned on Thursday. The World Wildlife Fund said only two populations of the northern bettong remained in the wet coastal tropics of northern Queensland, numbering at most 2,500 individuals, down 70% in the past 30 years.
Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP)
Current Account Deficit (CAD)
20. Things to Remember:
French President Emmanuel Macron
21. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Showing or feeling opposition or dislike; unfriendly.
Example – ‘a hostile audience’
Synonyms – antagonistic, aggressive, confrontational, belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, militant, truculent, combative, warlike