Latest Current Affairs – February 07 2019
1.Macedonia signs Nato accession agreement
Macedonia has taken a big step toward joining NATO after allies signed a key document that could see the tiny Balkans country become the 30th member of the world’s biggest military alliance over the next year.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov led the “accession protocol” signing ceremony at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.
Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO membership for a decade over a name dispute. Athens sees the former Yugoslav republic’s name as a threat to its own administrative region of Macedonia.The accession protocol must be ratified by all 29 NATO members. Macedonia will then start calling itself North Macedonia and will join under that name, possibly late this year or in early 2020.
2.Facebook launches digital skilling initiative for girls
Focussing on its mission to empower women, social networking giant Facebook launched a digital skilling and mentorship initiative across five states in India that would encourage tribal girls to become village-level digital young leaders for their communities.
Named GOAL (Going Online As Leaders), the initiative will train young girls from West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh in digital literacy, life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship for an year. The programme will see on-ground trainers impart digital literacy to the identified girls through a dedicated digital skilling curriculum. Also, a set of 25 women leaders would mentor them via Facebook or WhatsApp on a fortnightly basis.
3.Mobile application ‘MoooFarm’ launched to cater to small dairy farmers
Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat launched a mobile application developed by Australia-based agri-tech company MoooFarm to provide advisory services to dairy farmers.
MoooFarm, founded by Param Singh, is a mobile application that provides end-to-end last-mile connectivity solution offering extension and technology to the smallholder dairy farmers. It has announced a tie-up with Prabhat Dairy to held farmers. Through this application, MoooFarm aims to build a self-sustained dairy farming community by leveraging information and communications technology (ICT) applications and creating employment opportunities for the youth and financial empowerment for women. As India is the world’s largest milk producer and consumer of milk products, the dairy sector has huge growth potential.
The application generates need-based alerts and allows farmers to map the entire life cycle of each cattle. Apart from that, it manages farmer’s dairy accounts and encourages them with rewards and incentivise.
4.Air India CMD Pradeep Singh Kharola appointed civil aviation secretary
Air India Ltd’s chairman and managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola will be the new civil aviation secretary. Kharola’s appointmentfollows the superannuation of former aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey in January.He will take charge of a sector mired in the financial troubles of Jet Airways (India) Ltd, issues with airport infrastructure and a potential revival plan to privatize the national carrier.
Kharola, a 1985 batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre, was appointed the head of the loss-making Air India in November 2017. It was during Kharola’s tenure that the government had failed in its maiden attempt to privatize the national carrier.
5.RBI changes threshold for bulk deposit to Rs 2 crore
Reserve Bank of India has chosen to alter the definition of bulk deposits in the recent monetary policy review. The threshold for bulk deposit has been revised as single deposits of Rs 2 crore and above.The banks are also asked to maintain their bulk deposit card rates in the core banking system for supervisory review. RBI will issue final guidelines regarding this by end of February 2019.
CRISIL estimates bank credit to grow at 13% to 14% over fiscal years 2019 and 2020 as compared to 8% in fiscal year 2018. This will force bank to mobilise more deposits. According to CRISIL banks will need to raise at least Rs 19-20 lakh crore of fresh deposits until March 2020 to keep the credit-deposit ratio near 80%, which in itself would be highest in a decade.
6.RBI increases limit on collateral-free agriculture loans to Rs 1.6 lakh
To boost liquidity in the farming sector, particularly among small and marginal farmers, the RBI on Thursday announced increasing the limit on collateral-free agriculture loans to Rs 1.6 lakh from Rs 1 lakh. In 2010, the collateral-free limit for crop loans and term loans was hiked from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
That move has been taken “keeping in view the overall inflation and rise in agriculture input costs” since 2010. “This will enhance coverage of small and marginal farmers in the formal credit system. It also decided to set up an internal working group to review agricultural credit and address issues such as regional disparity, and extent of coverage, among others.
The government has also decided to launch a campaign to bring more farmers under the fold of the KCC with the help of banks.The country has around 6.95 crore KCCs, while the total number of farmer households are estimated to be around 14 crore.
7.RBI cuts repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.25%
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered the repo rate—its key lending rate—by 0.25 percentage points to 6.25 percent and changed its stance to “neutral” from “calibrated tightening”, signalling higher chances of more cuts in the coming months if inflation persisted within tolerable limits.
The central bank also sounded bullish about the prospects in the real sector, only marginally reducing its 2019-20 GDP growth forecast to 7.4 percent from 7.5 percent earlier, amid sprouting investment revival signs.
The lower repo rate—the rate at which banks borrow from the RBI— has raised hopes of bringing down EMIs for the millions of home loan borrowers as well cut capital raising costs for corporates, with banks expected to pass on the reduced rates to its customers.
The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), headed by RBI governor Shaktikanta Das, noted that large part of the current investment recovery has been driven by government spending and it was necessary to broad base the revival with a private sector boost.
8.India jumps 8 places to 36th on International IP Index
Acknowledging the improvement in India’s innovation ecosystem, the US Chamber of Commerce has moved India up eight places in its international intellectual property (IP) index by ranking it 36th amongst 50 countries in 2019.
The index, which analyses the IP climate in 50 global economies, is brought out by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC). “The improvement reflects important reforms implemented by Indian policymakers towards building and sustaining an innovation ecosystem for domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors alike,” it said in a statement. The index ranks countries based on 45 indicators.
India’s overall score has also increased substantially from 30.07% (12.03 out of 40) in the previous edition to 36.04% (16.22 out of 45) in the present edition.
United States has topped the index followed by UK on second.
9.Delhi government launches bike ambulance services
To ensure timely health assistance in traffic-congested areas and small lanes, the Delhi government launched bike ambulance services. The bikes, to be known as the First Responder Vehicles, will have a portable oxygen cylinder, glucometer, a portable manual suction machine, first aid kit and dressing materials, air-splints, GPS and communication device, among others.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched the fleet of 16 bikes at Delhi Secretariat along with Health Minister Satyendar Jain. This will reduce the ambulance response time in congested areas and J.J. clusters in East Delhi (East, North East and Shahdara).
The project was approved by the Cabinet in 2018. “Against the sanctioned funds of Rs 40 lakh, the project was completed at Rs 23 lakh only,” .
10.Cabinet Approves Amendments To Banning Of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to move official amendments to the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018, pursuant to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF). The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 was introduced in Parliament on July 18, 2018 and was referred to the SCF, which submitted its Seventieth Report on the said Bill to Parliament on January 3, 2019. The official amendments will further strengthen the Bill in its objective to effectively tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, and prevent such schemes from duping poor and gullible people of their hard earned savings.
The Bill contains a substantive banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme. The principle is that the Bill would ban unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence ex-ante rather than the existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework which only comes into effect ex-post with considerable time lags.
The Bill creates three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
11.Union Cabinet approves amendment to Cinematograph Act to tackle film piracy
The Union Cabinet approved the proposal of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to introduce the Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2019 and amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The Bill aims to tackle film piracy by instituting penal provisions for unauthorized camcording and duplication of films by making it a legal offence and punishing the offender with a three-year jail term and a fine of Rs. 10 lakh. The Cinematograph Act, 1952 deals with provisions for the certification of cinematograph films for exhibition and for regulating exhibitions by means of cinematographs.
The Bill requires the insertion of a new Section 6AA in the Cinematograph Act to ensure the prohibition of unauthorized recording. The proposed amendments would increase industry revenues, boost job creation, fulfill important objectives of India’s National IP policy and give relief against piracy and infringing content online.
12.CCEA approves creation of Agri-Market infrastructure fund
The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today gave its approval for the creation of a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore for Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund (AMIF) to be created with NABARD for development and up-gradation of agricultural marketing infrastructure in Gramin Agricultural Markets and Regulated Wholesale Markets.
AMIF will provide the State/UT Governments subsidized loan for their proposal for developing marketing infrastructure in 585 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and 10,000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs). States may also access AMIF for innovative integrated market infrastructure projects including Hub and Spoke mode and in Public Private Partnership mode. In these GrAMs, physical and basic infrastructure will be strengthened using MGNREGA and other Government Schemes.
After approval of AMIF Scheme, the interest subsidy will be provided by DAC&FW to NABARD in alignment with annual budget releases during 2018-19 and 2019-20 as well as upto 2024-25. The Scheme being demand driven, its progress is subject to the demands from the States and proposals received from them.