National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 2nd January 2019

U.S., Israel officially quit UNESCO


Topic: International Relations

IN NEWS: The U.S. and Israel officially quit the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural agency (UNESCO) at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organisation fosters anti-Israel bias.

 More on the Topic:

  • The withdrawal is mainly procedural, yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after the Second World War to foster peace.
  • The Donald Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.
  • The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the United States stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state of the organisation.


  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
  • Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
  • It is the successor of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
  • UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information.
  • Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programs, international science programs, the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press, regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity, translations of world literature, international cooperation agreements to secure the world’s cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage sites) and to preserve human rights, and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide.
  • It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

Source: The Hindu

States’ insensitivity to Western Ghats


Topic: Environment and Ecology

IN NEWS: According to a parliamentary committee Over 56,000 kilometres of ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats could not be earmarked as ‘no-go’ zones due to State governments’ ‘insensitivity’.

More on the Topic:

  • The panel, which keeps track of assurances given by ministers on the floor of the Upper House, presented its latest report recently.
  • The panel had examined issues regarding the categorisation of the Western Ghats as ESA as per the recommendations of two committees led by Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan.
  • The Committee on Government Assurances in the Rajya Sabha has said that the recent monsoon floods in Kerala and parts of Karnataka should serve as alarm bells for the administrations in the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which have failed to mark ESA in the Western Ghats.
  • The panel has urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to constitute a committee to address the issues and grievances of local people.

Findings of the committee:

  • The committee has observed that despite three draft notifications issued over four years for earmarking ESA, the six States could not be brought on board for action.
  • Resultantly, over 56,000 square km of ESA could not be earmarked as ‘no-go’ zones for polluting activities and deforestation, and large-scale deforestation, mining, and construction are continuing unabated, hurting the ecology of the Western Ghats.”
  • Insensitivity towards ecology of the Western Ghats is making the six States vulnerable to floods and landslides.

Way Forward:

  • The committee is of the view that implementation of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report is only possible with active support of local population. It also requires consultation with the State government at micro level to achieve the objectives of saving the Western Ghats.

Source:The Hindu

Cinereous vulture


Topic: Environment and Ecology

In news: While earlier records of the Cinereous vulture, a migratory bird have revealed that it comes to northern parts of India up to Rajasthan, bird watchers and researchers were baffled to find it in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.

More on the Topic:

  • It is usually during the winter that a distinctly dark large bird – the Cinereous vulture, with a blacked-tipped pink beak – migrates from the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia to warmer places, including India.
  • Underlining the concern over the decline in the population of vultures across the world, researchers at Bombay Natural History Society welcomed the sighting.
  • Experts said the Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) draws its name from “monachus”, which means hooded (like a monk) in Latin.
  • India is home to nine species of vultures and with the population of these birds dwindling, the country has launched a species-recovery plan through conservation breeding centres in different parts of the country.
  • IUCN Status: Classified as Near Threatened under the IUCN Red List
  • Himalyan Griffon, White-rumped vulture and the Long-billed vulture are having Endangered status in IUCN Red List.

Source: PIB

Reserve Bank relaxes debt recast norms for MSME

Topic: Indian Economy

In news: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)  allowed lenders to recast loans of stressed micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), provided the total fund and non-fund based exposure to such a borrower does not exceed ₹25 crore. Such a debt restructuring, the central bank said, would not lead to a downgrade in asset classification.

More on the Topic:

  • According to the guidelines released , the RBI has allowed one-time restructuring of existing loans to MSMEs that are in default but ‘standard’ as on January 1, 2019.
  • The government has been asking for such a package for a long time for the MSME sector which was severely hit due to demonetisation exercise and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • A provision of 5%, in addition to the provisions already held, shall be made in respect of accounts restructured under this scheme.
  • Each bank or non-bank should formulate a policy for this scheme with the board’s approval.

Classification of NPAs:

  • In March 2016, RBI had notified a mechanism for resolving stressed MSME loans of up to ₹25 crore. The guidelines said banks should classify stress in such loans into three categories—special mention account (SMA) 0, SMA 1 and SMA 2—depending on the delay in repayment of loans.
  • While borrowers delaying repayments by up to 30 days should be classified as SMA 0, those delaying by 31-60 days and 61-90 days will be classified as SMA 1 and SMA 2, respectively. The loans still remain standard even in these categories and turn bad only after a delay in payment of more than 90 days.

Source: The Hindu

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)

Topic: e-Governance

In News: Union Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Chemical & Fertilizers Shri Mansukh Mandaviya has said that the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has inventorized 1,72,517 bridges/structures under Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS).

More on the Topic:

  • The IBM System has been established to develop the data in digital form, to identify the number of bridges and other structures on National Highways, to carry out the condition survey and inventorization of bridges/structures and to identify the distressed bridges which need immediate attention and to sensitize the concerned implementation agency for taking corrective measures such as repair, rehabilitation reconstruction/ new construction etc.
  • The bridges /structure condition data will be collected twice a year during ‘Pre-Monsoon’ and ‘Post-Monsoon’ period for 3 years by using Mobile Bridge Inspection Units (MBIU).
  • Eleven consultancy firms have been appointed for this purpose.
  • The condition survey report and recommendation submitted by consultant will be used as input for granting permission for movement of over-dimension and overweight Vehicles(ODC/OWC) consignments on National Highways which has been made online by the Ministry as well as help in future management/repair/rehabilitation of the assets.

Source: PIB                                                          

Survey to capture retail payment habits

Topic: Indian Economy

In news: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will capture payment habits of individuals in six cities, including four metropolitan towns.For the purpose, the central bank has launched a ‘Survey on Retail Payment Habits of Individuals (SRPHi)’.

More on the Topic:

  • The survey will cover a sample of 6,000 individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds across six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Guwahati.
  • The survey seeks qualitative responses from individuals on their payment habits.
  • The findings may provide some idea about awareness and usage habits of digital payment products.

Source: The Hindu

National Legal Service Authority

Topic: Polity and Governance

In news: Justice AK Sikri was nominated as the Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

More on NALSA:

  • National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 5 December 1995 under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates , and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
  • The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second seniormost judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
  • There is a provision for similar mechanism at state and district level also headed by Chief Justice of High Courts and Chief Judges of District courts respectively.
  • The prime objective of NALSA is speedy disposal of cases and reducing the burden of judiciary.

Source: Live Mint


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