Daily Current Affairs – 19 May, 2017


National News:-

1) India ranks below Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, in healthcare index: Report:-

  • A report published on 18th may 2017 by Global Burden of Disease in The Lancet has revealed that India has recorded a poor health care index than several neighbouring Asian nations, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and China in last 25 years.
  • The data, in the report, takes a look at 195 countries, between the years 1990-2015, and assesses the measuring mortality rates from 32 diseases which should not be fatal in presence of effective medical care.

Report says:-

  • India landed in the last quarter of the index ranking 154th among 195 countries.
    India’s health care index has seen an increase of 14.1 in last 25 years, going up from 30.7 in 1990 to 44.8 in 2015, but the numbers are much lesser than Sri Lanka (72.8), Bangladesh (51.7), Bhutan (52.7) and Nepal (50.8).
  • The report shows that India has performed the worst in preventing deaths by Neonatal disorders, with an index rate of 14.
    Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only SAARC nations to have a lower ranking than India, with a healthcare index of 43.1 and 32.5 respectively.

2)PM, Shri Narendra Modi, reviews progress of the Namaami Gange Programme:-

  • The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, on 18th may 2017 reviewed the progress of the Namaami Gange programme.

Progress reviewed:-
1. Sewage Treatment Capacity in towns along the river is being enhanced substantially.
2. Considerable focus is being placed on large cities along the Ganga main stem, including Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Bhagalpur, Howrah and Kolkata.
3. Intensive monitoring and inspection of Grossly Polluting Industries has been taken up this has led to considerable improvement in the water quality of some of the tributaries of the River Ganga.
4. Parameters such as “Dissolved Oxygen” and “Biochemical Oxygen Demand” have been studied as part of this assessment.
5. Considerable progress made in Rural Sanitation in villages along the banks of the River Ganga.

About Namaami Gange Programme:-

  • ‘Namami Gange Programme’, is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014 with budget outlay of Rs.20,000 Crore to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
  • Dept of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation proposes to make 1,632 gram panchayats by the Ganga open defecation-free by 2022, at a cost of Rs 1,700 cr (central share).

International News:-

1) Sharing Teesta’s a murky business:-

  • Relations between Bangladesh and India have taken a contentious turn on the issue of sharing water from the Teesta river that flows through Sikkim and the northern parts of West Bengal to Bangladesh. Bangladesh wants 50 per cent of the Teesta’s waters during the dry season between December and May to satisfy its irrigation and fishery needs.

The Teesta river dispute:-

  • The Teesta River originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengalas well as Bangladesh. India claims a share of 55 percent of the river’s water.
  • Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983. A 2011 interim deal – that was supposed to last 15 years – gave India 42.5 percent of the Teesta’s waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 percent. Banerjee opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned.
  • The river is Bangladesh’s fourth largest transboundary river for irrigation and fishing. The Teesta’s floodplain covers 2,750sq km in Bangladesh. Of the river’s catchment – an area of land where water collects – 83 percent is in India and 17 percent is in Bangladesh.

Alternative offer:-

  • West Bengal’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, offered an alternative: water from three different North Bengal Rivers, namely, the Torsa, the Raidak and the Jaldhaka. Recently, she mentioned another rivulet known as the Aatreyi.

Problems with interlinking:-

  • While there is the notion that interlinking Manas-Sankosh-Teesta under the national water transfer project can provide the necessary water to Bangladesh this idea may not stand scientific scrutiny considering long-run implications.Manas and Sankosh are significant tributaries of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna river system in India and Bangladesh; diverting water from these two rivers will reduce flow in the mainstream of the river, thereby significantly affecting downstream river-bed agriculture, the ecosystem and aquatic biodiversity.
  • The Manas-Sankosh link canal may pass through protected areas, creating significant problems for species movement and terrestrial breeding behaviour.
    The issue of techno-ecological-economic feasibility is not yet clear.
    The possible reduction in flows through the Jamuna channel in Bangladesh is likely to result in another trans-boundary water dispute, about which Bangladesh has already expressed apprehension.

2) China, ASEAN agree on framework for South China Sea code of conduct:-

  • China and Southeast Asian countries have agreed to a draft framework for a long-mooted code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea.
    China and the ASEAN had been hoping to agree on the framework this year, 15 years after committing to draft it.

The South China Sea dispute:-

  • The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC), Malaysia,Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. An estimated US$5 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea; there are many non-claimant states that want the South China Sea to remain as international waters. Several states (e.g. the United States of America) are conducting “freedom of navigation” operations to promote this situation.

ASEAN’s Code of Conduct:-

  • The genesis of ASEAN’s 2012 draft COC may be traced back to 1995 when China occupied Mischief Reef, a maritime feature claimed by the Philippines. The Mischief Reef incident marked a turning point. ASEAN foreign ministers issued a statement expressing their “serious concern” and urged the concerned parties “to refrain from taking actions that de-stabilize the situation.”
  • The Philippines, as the aggrieved party, sought the backing from its fellow ASEAN members for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that would constrain China from further encroachments on Philippines sovereignty. In late 1999 ASEAN members finally reached agreement on a COC.

South China Sea:-

  • South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean spreading an area of some 35 lakh square km with eight littoral countries / territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • It is strategically located in the international shipping route that sees the passage of world’s half of the merchant ships. The sea is rich in energy reserves including petroleum, mineral and fishing resources. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, shoals, sandbanks etc.

Economic News:-


1) 25% of new bank branches to be in villages: Highlights of RBI’s new policy:-

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 18th may 2017 mandated that 25 per cent of the total number of ‘banking outlets’ opened during a financial year should be located in unbanked rural centres.
  • The RBI mandated this in its notification — “Rationalisation of Branch Authorisation Policy- Revision of Guidelines” — issued on 18th may 2017.

Highlights of RBI’s Policy:-
1. RBI has widened the role of bank boards, making them responsible for complying with the new guidelines
2. The RBI removed the restriction on tier-I branches, which was earlier linked to the number of branches opened in the unbanked areas.
3. RBI has also changed the definition of what constitutes a branch. As against the earlier definition of considering all the outlets including extension counters and ATMs as a ‘branch’, the new provisions have changed the nomenclature to calling it as a ‘banking outlet’.
4. There will be a ‘banking outlet’ which will be open for minimum four hours a day and five day a week
5. There is scope for a part-time banking outlet which will be a fixed point service unit but not comply with working hours requirement.
6. The RBI had constituted an internal working group before coming out with the draft guidelines.

About RBI:-

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is India’s central banking institution, which controls the monetary policy of the Indian rupee.
  • It commenced its operations on 1 April 1935 during the British Rule in accordance with the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
    It is a member bank of the Asian Clearing Union.
  • A Central Bank is an independent apex monetary authority which regulates banks and provides important financial services like storing of foreign exchange reserves, control of inflation, monetary policy report.
  • The bank is also active in promoting financial inclusion policy and is a leading member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI).
    The bank is often referred to by the name Mint Street.


2) Healthcare, education exempted from GST:-

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has exempted healthcare and education from the tax, which is scheduled to kick-start from July 1. The tax rate on gold has not been finalised yet. The Council will meet again on June 3.
    While the cinema entertainment tax has been fixed at 28%, 18% tax will be levied on mobile and financial services.
  • Most services exempted from the tax will continue to be exempted under the GST.
    Travelling on the metro and local train will be exempted. Also on the exemption list is religious travel like Haj.
  • The Council agreed on the fitment of almost all commodities in the various tax slabs under the new indirect regime.
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect taxation in India merging most of the existing into single system of taxation.
  • It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2016, following the passage of Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill.
  • The GST is governed by GST Council and its Chairman is Union Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley.
  • GST is a comprehensive indirect tax on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services throughout India (Except state of Jammu and Kashmir) , to replace taxes levied by the central and state governments.
  • Introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a significant step in the reform of indirect taxation in India.
  • Amalgamating several Central and State taxes into a single tax would mitigate cascading or double taxation, facilitating a common national market.
  • The simplicity of the tax should lead to easier administration and enforcement.
  • From the consumer point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of a reduction in the overall tax burden on goods, which is currently estimated at 25%-30%, free movement of goods from one state to another without stopping at state borders for hours for payment of state tax or entry tax and reduction in paperwork to a large extent.
    GST is expected to be applicable from 1 July 2017.