National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 7th January 2019

Liquidity Crunch at Banking System

1

Topic: Economy

IN NEWS: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scaled up its open market operations (OMO) due to the issue of liquidity crunch faced by the banking system. But this didn’t reap the adequate result. RBI’s move did ease liquidity temporarily but it (the shortage) again shot up. The tight liquidity has shown up in prices as well.

 Reasons for the crunch in Liquidity:

  • First, the growth in bank credit take-off has improved in last few months, however growth in bank deposits remain tepid.
  • Second, growth in currency in circulation has also accelerated during this period.
  • Third, and the most significant, the RBI had to draw down its foreign exchange reserves in excess of $32 billion, since the start of the current financial year, to smoothen exchange rate volatility.
  • Consequently, liquidity in excess of ₹2 lakh crore has been sucked out of the system. However, the OMOs so far have failed to provide requisite liquidity in the system. Liquidity deficit in the system continues to remain at high levels.

Way Forward:

  • RBI needs to resort to other methods of durable liquidity infusion given the ineffectiveness of OMO operations in solving the issue so far. One possible option could be to reduce the SLR and/or cash reserve ratio (CRR) requirements of banks.
  • A cumulative reduction in CRR and SLR by 1% would free up almost ₹1.2 lakh crore for the banks which will significantly improve liquidity issue that these banks are facing at the moment.

Source: The Hindu

Staff Selection Commission (SSC)

2

Topic: Polity and Governance

IN NEWS: A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) has recommended that the Centre accord statutory status to the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), one of the largest recruitment agencies in the country.

More on the Topic:

  • The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and all State Public Service Commissions either have constitutional or legal status. The SSC is the only such organisation that performs similar functions on a much larger scale, but does not enjoy statutory status.
  • The SSC was created to ease the burden of the UPSC by taking over the recruitment for posts below the Group ‘A’ level. There has been a phenomenal increase in the workload of the SSC, from 9.94 lakh candidates in 2008-09 to over 2 crore in 2016-17.
  • SSC is functioning with 75% of its sanctioned strength.
  • While the workload and responsibilities of the SSC have increased exponentially over the years, it has remained an “attached body” under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), and has to depend entirely on the government for all its needs, with no autonomy.
  • An expert group constituted by the government in 2014, for reviewing the examination system in the SSC, had recommended according statutory status to the Commission.

Source:The Hindu

West Bengal tribals battling food scarcity

Topic: Social Issues

In news: Two months after the West Bengal government denied any food scarcity as a possible cause of death of seven persons from a tribal community, a survey report has identified “food scarcity in varying degrees” in about 31% of tribal households in West Bengal.

 More on the Topic:

  • The survey was conducted in 1,000 tribal households to ascertain living conditions, health and education.
  • West Bengal is home to a over five million tribals, with 6% of the India’s tribal population of 100 million.
  • But in many areas, tribals of the State are “far behind” in terms of human development.
  • One area, which has been a matter of contention in recent months after the death of seven tribals in a span of 15 days in November, is scarcity of food.
  • The preliminary survey report claimed that “nearly one third [31%] of the surveyed households” reportedly faced “food scarcity in varying degrees” in the past year.
  • Most of the families surveyed could hardly afford animal protein or pulses.
  • Poverty-born vices like alcoholism [and] the fragility of the public health system seemed to have resulted in a much lower life chances among the Adivasis than their more privileged co-citizens.
  • Degradation of forest and environmental degradation are cited as two more reasons for “reduced availability of natural nutrients” resulting in early deaths.

Consequences of Poverty:

  • The work participation rate [WPR] is higher among the Adivasis in Bengal “forcing the children of school going age to discontinue their studies in order to fend [for] themselves and support the families.
  • However, a higher rate of work participation has not contributed to a better living standard.
  • In the area of health and education, too, tribal communities are far behind the rest of State’s population.

Source:The  Hindu

ISS crew could grow beans in 2021

7 4

Topic: Science and Technology

In news:  After cultivating lettuce in space three years ago, crew members aboard the International Space Station could be growing beans in 2021.

More on the Topic:

  • The beans could be planted in high-tech planters developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
  • The planters can regulate all the water, nutrients, gas and air the plants need. The food grown in space could be crucial to sustain the crew in future deep space missions.
  • The longest stays at the International Space Station have been six months, while people travelling to Mars will need to be prepared to stay in space for at least a year.
  • The European Space Agency plans to build a lunar base in 2030 as a stopover on the way to Mars. NASA plans to fly directly to the planet with a target landing date of 2030.
  • The researchers said that everything that can be tested on Earth has now been carried out. The next step is to grow beans in space to observe the effect of no gravity on plants’ ability to transport water and absorb nutrient Simulating the absence of gravity cannot be done on Earth.
  • The beans would be placed in a centrifuge to sprout and grow in the space station. The centrifuge would be rotated to create different amounts of gravity.

About International Space Station:

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, with the first long-term residents arriving in November 2000.
  • It has been inhabited continuously since that date.The last pressurised module was fitted in 2011, and an experimental inflatable space habitat was added in 2016.
  • The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars

Source:The Hindu

Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA)

Topic: Indian Economy

In News: Absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya  became the first person to be declared a fugitive economic offender by the special court hearing cases under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA).

More on the Topic:

  • The FEOA, which became a law on July 31, 2018, allows for declaring a person as an offender after an arrest warrant has been issued against the individual and the value of offences exceeds Rs. 100 crore.
  • Another condition for declaring a person a fugitive economic offender (FEO) is when the individual refuses to return to the country to face prosecution.
  • As per the new law, a special FEOA court can order the confiscation of a FEO’s properties, including those which are benami, and the proceeds of crime in and outside India.
  • Once properties are confiscated, the Union government has the right over them, and it can dispose them after 90 days.

Source: The Hindu

 Carbon microneedles

Topic: Science and Technology

In news: Tiny needles less than 1 mm in size have been developed by researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur. When arranged on a patch, the tiny hollow microneedles can be used for painless drug delivery.

 More on the Topic:

  • The needles showed no toxicity when tested on mice models.
  • The needles were arranged in a patch (10 X10) and tested for drug delivery. The patch was attached to a 5 ml syringe and flow rate studied. They found the flow corresponds to the inlet pressure suggesting that drug delivery can be controlled by managing the pressure.
  • When a needle is inserted into the skin, it experiences resistance from the skin. A good needle should be able to overcome the forces to penetrate the skin. Using compression and bending tests, the researchers found that the needles did not break or bend when force was applied.
  • And as the needles are only 400 micrometer long, it will be completely painless.
  • The new discovery will help the insulin dependent patients in terms of pain as well as cost.

 

Hindu

Detecting ultralow levels of mercury in water

Topic: Science and Technology

In news: A team at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, has found an innovative way to develop a sensor that operates using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy and has high sensitivity (60 X 10-18 M which is 0.01 parts per quadrillion), far better than other methods of detecting mercury in water.

More on the Topic:

  • Mercury is a heavy metal that is predominant in the environment. It mixes with the environment due to both natural (e.g. volcanic activity) and anthropogenic (e.g. electrical appliances such as mercury lamps) activity.
  • Studies have shown that industrial effluents can have higher mercury levels than that allowed by the WHO and Indian guidelines.
  • With allowed levels of mercury in drinking water and effluents being in the range of 1–10 microgram per litre, it becomes necessary to develop sensors that can measure mercury levels in water with high sensitivity and selectivity.
  • The small molecule — histidine conjugated perylene diimide (HPH) —when dissolved in water shows green fluorescence under laser light.
  • When water contaminated with mercury is added to this solution, the fluorescence is absent, and the molecules form a hydrogel. This method can detect only up to 5 nanomolar (0.1 parts per billion) of mercury in water.
  • However, the sensitivity drastically improves with a novel technique developed by the researchers.
  • In the new technology the small molecule is a bolamphiphile, because it has both hydrophilic (histidine) units on the surface and hydrophobic (perylene) core units.
  • The molecule has two arm-like projections on either side of the core, one of which binds to the gold surface and the other is free pointing outwards.
  • When mercury contaminated water is added to this mixture, the mercury ions bind to the free ends.
  • When subjected to Raman spectroscopy, the response after mercury has bound to the particles is highly enhanced as compared to before the binding of mercury. This gives a measurable optical response.
  • Although the technique has been demonstrated for water, it can come in useful for detecting mercury elsewhere too. “This technique can be used for any other sample, including biofluids or tissue extracts, wherein detection of such low concentration does matter.

About Raman Spectroscopy:

  • Raman spectroscopy is a spectroscopic technique based on inelastic scattering of monochromatic light, usually from a laser source. Inelastic scattering means that the frequency of photons in monochromatic light changes upon interaction with a sample.

Source: The Hindu

MGNREGA scheme

Topic: Government Policies

In news: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme is facing a severe fund crunch, with 99% of money allocated already exhausted three months before the end of the financial year, and 11 States and Union Territories having a negative net balance.

More on the Topic:

  • Studies analysing government data show that the scheme faces difficulties in meeting the demand for work and paying wages on time. These issues are likely to be exacerbated by the current fund crisis, according to worried economists, researchers and workers on the ground.
  • The employment provided is wilfully capped based on the funds available. On the ground, we are seeing that State governments and field functionaries are compelled not to register demand for work in order to contain the payment liabilities of the governments.

About MGNREGA:

  • National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (or, NREGA No 42, later renamed as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”, MGNREGA), is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’.
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells).
  • Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence, and minimum wages are to be paid. If work is not provided within 15 days of applying, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance. Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.
  • MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
  • Labour-intensive tasks like creating infrastructure for water harvesting, drought relief and flood control are preferred.
  • Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.
  • The law provides many safeguards to promote its effective management and implementation.
  • The act explicitly mentions the principles and agencies for implementation, list of allowed works, financing pattern, monitoring and evaluation, and most importantly the detailed measures to ensure transparency and accountability.
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