Current Affairs – September 13, 2018

/Current Affairs – September 13, 2018
Current Affairs – September 13, 2018 2018-10-26T19:53:57+00:00

Current Affairs for NDA/CDS/AFCAT/Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (September 13, 2018)


1. Cabinet clears new procurement policy

The Centre has announced a ?15,053 crore scheme to ensure that farmers growing oilseeds, pulses and copra actually get the minimum support price (MSP) they are promised for their crops every year.

The umbrella policy — Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) — was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday.

According to an official statement, it clubs together an existing procurement scheme with newly introduced options — meant for oilseeds only — of additional procurement by private traders or a cash payment scheme.

Credit guarantee

Apart from the ?15,053 crore to be spent over a two-year period to implement the scheme, the Cabinet approved an additional government credit guarantee of ?16,550 crore for agencies undertaking procurement. “The government is working with a holistic approach… Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers get the full benefit of the announced MSP,” said the statement.

The government announces minimum support prices for 23 crops every year. This year, these rates were set at 50% higher than the farmers’ production costs, including that for labour. The rates are meant to give remunerative prices to the farmers and assure them of some profits. About one-third of the harvest of the two major foodgrains, rice and wheat, are procured by the Centre at the MSP for sale in ration shops.


2. J&J implant: govt. sets up panel on damages

The Centre has constituted a central expert committee headed by Dr. R.K. Arya, director, Sports Injury Centre, Safdarjung Hospital to determine the quantum of compensation as admissible under appropriate law and medical management for patients who received faulty ASR hip implants.

The Union Health Ministry has issued a public notice on the constitution of the central and State level committees to determine the compensation with respect to the ASR hip implant manufactured by Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit.

As many as 4,700 patients received the ‘faulty hip implants’ in India with more than 3,600 of them being untraceable.


3. Curbs on 328 fixed dose combinations

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has prohibited the manufacture for sale, sale or distribution for human use of 328 fixed dose combinations (FDCs) with immediate effect, according to a direction issued here on Wednesday. It also restricted the manufacture, sale or distribution of six FDCs subject to certain conditions.

“Earlier, the Central government had, through its notifications published on the 10th March, 2016, in the Gazette of India, prohibited the manufacture for sale, sale and distribution for human use of 344 FDCs under Section 26 A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. Subsequently, the government had prohibited five more FDCs in addition to the 344 under the same provisions,” said a Ministry release. However, the matter was contested by manufacturers in various High Courts and the Supreme Court. In compliance with the Supreme Court judgment dated December 15, 2017, the matter was examined by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board which gave its report to the Central government.


4. Economist Vijay Shankar Vyas passes away

Vijay Shankar Vyas, an agricultural economist who had worked with former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh as a member of their Economic Advisory Councils, passed away after a brief illness here on Wednesday. He was 87.


5. ‘Kolkata-Kunming bullet train feasible’

The day may not be too far when the bullet train runs, on a daily basis, between Kolkata and Kunming in southwest China, covering the distance of about 1,500 km in two hours, Chinese Consul General Ma Zhanwu said at a function on Wednesday.


6. The concept of general education and specialised education proceeding together needs to be widely adopted in India

Higher education in India has grown exponentially in recent years. A survey by the All India Survey on Higher Education published in July this year shows that the gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 25.8% in 2017-18, up from 10% in 2004-05. GER is the ratio (expressed as percentage), of the total enrolment within a country in a specific level of education, regardless of age, to the population in the official age group corresponding to this level of education.

For higher education, the survey calculates the ratio for the age group 18 to 23 years. Internationally, the age group 18 to 22 is also used. For India, the Survey gives the corresponding figure as 30%. Though the GER for higher education in India is still less than what it is in developed countries, the growth rate is still quite impressive. The next step is to ensure that the outcome of academic programmes by higher education institutes (HEIs) is acceptable.

A template

The RCR recommended a well-balanced education with ‘general’, ‘liberal’ and ‘occupational’ components. Without all-round general (including liberal) education, one could not be expected to play roles expected of a citizen outside one’s immediate professional sphere. The report advocated that general education and specialised/professional education should proceed together. The study of languages should be given equal importance as one communicated to the outside world only through the medium of language. Therefore, a lack of communication skills could be a handicap.


7. The American parallel

Recently this year, the National Academies Press (NAP) of the U.S. which represents the national academies of sciences, engineering and medicine published the report, “The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree”. One is immediately struck by the importance attached to the integration of Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine and humanities in university teaching in both the RCR and NAP reports.

As in the NAP’s report, the purpose of higher education is to prepare graduates for work and life, as well as active and engaged citizenship — achieved only through the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies related to the profession they chose to specialise in and also written and oral communication skills, ability to work as a team, ethical decision making, critical thinking, and ability to apply knowledge in real world settings. The RCR, in turn, talked about including general education as an essential element. But the NAP report goes much beyond what the RCR states and advocates integrating the teaching of humanities in STEM. It says that surveys show that employers now seek graduates with more than just technical capabilities or in-depth knowledge in a particular subject.


8. Why are petrol and diesel prices continuing to rise?

In June 2017, India’s state-run oil marketing companies switched to a dynamic pricing approach to set pump prices of petrol and diesel on a daily basis. The move was aimed at helping ensure a market-driven approach to fuel pricing by enabling oil firms to factor in day-to-day fluctuations in crude oil prices as well as movements in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the rupee. As a result, with both crude oil and the dollar becoming significantly dearer over the last six months, petrol and diesel prices have remained on a steady upward trajectory countrywide since April 1. According to the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), petrol hit a record high of ?88.26 per litre on September 11 in Mumbai, where fuel prices are the highest among India’s four major metros. At that level, the cost of petrol to consumers had climbed 8.4% in this fiscal year.

Besides the cost of crude oil and the exchange rate, the incidence of Excise Duty (levied by the Centre) and VAT (charged by the respective States), along with a nominal dealer commission that the oil companies pay to fuel pump owners, ends up approximately doubling the final price consumers pay. To illustrate: the ‘price buildup’ information posted on IOC’s website shows that on September 3, a consumer in Delhi paid ?79.15 for a litre of petrol that was delivered to the dealers in the city at a cost of ?39.21.


9. Arbitrage


This refers to the process of purchasing an asset from one market and selling it in another market. Commodities and financial securities are the most common assets which are targeted by swift speculators looking for profits. There is usually at least some risk involved in the process of arbitrage as the price of the asset could change drastically during the time when the speculator holds the asset, imposing huge losses on him. It has been argued that arbitrage helps to allocate assets to their most urgent needs of society, thus improving economic efficiency. Competition between speculators usually lowers the profits from arbitrage over time.


10. Copra, pulses will still get price support

Under the umbrella policy — Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) — approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday, the existing Price Support Scheme (PSS) will continue for pulses and copra, with Central agencies — including the NAFED and the Food Corporation of India — physically procuring the produce whenever the market rates fall below MSP, up to a maximum limit of 25% of the total harvest.

The Centre will bear the costs, as per existing guidelines. However, for oilseeds alone, the States will be allowed to choose between the PSS or two new schemes, an official statement said.

The cash payment will be deposited in their bank accounts. When this scheme was proposed by the NITI Aayog to the States in April 2018, a 60:40 split in costs between the Centre and the States was suggested; it is unclear how the burden will now be shared.

The other option is a pilot scheme where selected private agencies will procure the commodity at the MSP, instead of the government. Maximum service charges up to 15% of the notified MSP will be payable, said the statement.


11. Advani to head LS Ethics Committee again

Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani has been renominated as the Chairman of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The Committee examines complaints on unethical conduct by MPs and can also take up suo motu enquiry. P. Karunakaran has also been renominated as Chairman of the Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House.


12. All railway tracks to be electrified

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved the proposal for electrification of the remaining 13,675 km of railway tracks at an estimated cost of over ?12,134 crore, converting the entire railway network into electric. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal made the announcement after the meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The electrification is likely to be completed by 2021-22, an official release said.


13. UN gets access to Rakhine for the first time since Aug. 2017

The UN began work on Wednesday inside Myanmar’s violence-torn northern Rakhine State, the first time its agencies have been granted permission to operate there since more than 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the area last year.

The UN has been waiting for access to the epicentre of the military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya minority since June when its refugee and development agencies signed a deal with the government.

The task is complicated further as the UN’s rights arm is expected to heavily censure Myanmar again in the coming days when it publishes in full the findings of its investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya.

On Friday, specialists from the UNHCR and the UNDP were finally given permission to enter northern Rakhine before work began on Wednesday to assess local conditions. “The team is on the ground and commenced with the first assessments today,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Aoife McDonnell. This first step of the UN’s “confidence-building measures” is expected to take two weeks and will cover 23 villages and three additional clusters of hamlets.


14. EU Parliament backs copyright reform

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial EU copyright law that hands more power to news and record companies against Internet giants like Google and Facebook.

Backing the copyright draft were traditional media. European lawmakers were sharply divided on the copyright issue, with both sides engaging in some of the most intense lobbying the EU has ever seen.

The text MEPs settled on compromised on ways news organisations will charge companies for links to content, with platforms free to use “a few words” of text, according to a key amendment. It also spared small companies from so-called upload filters that will make platforms — such as YouTube or Facebook — liable for copyright breaches and force them to automatically delete content by violators.


15. ‘Iran has 3,000-4,000 active centrifuges’

Iran has between 3,000 and 4,000 active centrifuges, still within the limit allowed under the nuclear deal, said the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Ali Larijani on Wednesday. The rare announcement, reported by the Tasnim news agency, came days after Iran’s nuclear chief said it had completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges.


16. ‘Iran has 3,000-4,000 active centrifuges’

Iran has between 3,000 and 4,000 active centrifuges, still within the limit allowed under the nuclear deal, said the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Ali Larijani on Wednesday. The rare announcement, reported by the Tasnim news agency, came days after Iran’s nuclear chief said it had completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges.


17. Centre hikes ethanol prices

The Centre has hiked ethanol prices, with a special incentive for ethanol directly produced from 100% sugarcane juice, in a dual bid to reduce both surplus sugar production and the fuel import bill. The ethanol produced from sugar is blended with petrol.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs at its meeting on Wednesday.

The price of ethanol derived from 100% sugarcane juice is raised from ?47.13 to ?59.13. The rate for ethanol produced from B-heavy — or intermediary — molasses has been raised to ?52.43. The rate of ethanol produced from C-heavy molasses (which has no sugar left), however, has been marginally reduced to ?43.46.

By increasing the price difference between ethanol with no sugar left and that of fully made up of sugar to almost 35%, the Centre has given sugar mills a clear incentive to increase ethanol production from sugar. In fact, oil marketing companies have been told to prioritise ethanol from 100% sugarcane juice followed by B-heavy molasses, said a statement. The companies will also pay GST and transportation charges, it added.


18. Abbreviations:

Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC)


19. Things to Remember:

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa
Chief Minister of Jharkhand – Raghubar Das
Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – Edappadi K. Palaniswami
Agriculture Minister – Radha Mohan Singh
Ugandan President – Yoweri Museveni


20. Improve your Vocabulary:


Meaning – Elevate to, or as if to, the rank of a god; idolize.

Example – ‘we had the feeling that Roosevelt had not so much died as been apotheosized’
Synonyms: ennoble, exalt, elevate, lift up, add dignity to, dignify, add lustre to, add distinction to, enhance, increase, augment, promote, boost


Current Affairs is an important GK topic for UPSC, NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Air force X & Y Groups, SSC, and other competitive exams. Every year in UPSC, SSC and Bank there are few questions from Current Affairs.

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