Current Affairs Current Affairs - 24 April 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 24 April 2018

General Affairs 

10 Reasons Why Venkaiah Naidu Felt The Impeachment Move Didn't Deserve Action
  • Vice President Venkaiah Naidu cited various reasons for blocking a move by the opposition parties, led by the Congress to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. One of the points raised by Mr Naidu as the Rajya Sabha Chiarman is the lack of substantial merit in the impeachment notice. "We cannot allow any of our pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action," the vice president said in his 10-page order. Sources said Mr Naidu consulted several top legal and constitutional experts, before he took the decision. Seven opposition parties led by the Congress had last Friday moved a notice before him for impeachment of the Chief Justice of India on five grounds of "misbehaviour".

    Here are the top 10 quotes from Venkaiah Naidu's 10-page order:
    "The phrases used by the Hon'ble Members of Parliament themselves indicate a mere suspicion, a conjecture or an assumption. The same certainly does not constitute proof 'beyond reasonable doubt', which is required to make out a case of 'proved misbehaviour'."

    "The allegations emerging from the present case have a serious tendency of undermining the independence of the judiciary which is the basic tenet of the Constitution of India. Considering the totality of facts, I am of the firm opinion that it is neither legal nor desirable or proper to admit the Notice of Motion on any of one of these grounds."

    "When the foundation itself is shaken by acts which tend to create disaffection and disrespect  for the authority of the court by creating distrust in its working, the edifice of the judicial system gets eroded."

    "If such confidence is shaken or broken, the confidence of the common man in the institution of judiciary and democratic set-up is likely to be eroded, which, if not checked, is sure to be disastrous for the society."

    "The Hon'ble Members of Parliament who have presented the petition are unsure of their own case. Page 1 of the petition uses phrases such as 'the facts and circumstances relating to the Prasad Education Trust case show prima facie evidence suggesting that the Chief Justice of India 'may have been' involved in a conspiracy of paying illegal gratification .... '  The motion further states with regard to 'the Chief Justice of India that 'he too was likely' to fall within the scope of investigation."

    "Conversations between third parties with dubious credentials, which have been extensively relied upon, cannot themselves constitute any material evidence against the holder of the office of the Chief Justice of India."
    "In the absence of credible and verifiable information placed before me which gives an indication of 'misbehaviour' or 'incapacity', it would be an inappropriate and irresponsible act to accept statements which have little empirical basis."

    "We cannot allow any of our pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action."

    "On a careful analysis and reflection, I find that there is virtually no concrete verifiable imputation."

    "I am of the firm opinion that the Notice of Motion does not deserve to be admitted."

"We Should Learn Each Other's Language", Says Sushma Swaraj In China
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today asked Indians and Chinese to learn each other's languages as it will help them overcome the communication barriers, which could further strengthen relations between the two neighbours.

    Ms Swaraj, who is on a four-day visit, made the remarks during a programme, titled 'Contribution of Hindi in India-China Friendship', organised by the Indian Embassy.

    "When two friends sit together, what do they want? They want to talk their hearts out to each other, share what they feel. And for that we need a language. I should be able to understand Chinese when you speak, and you should be able to understand Hindi when I talk," Ms Swaraj said.

    "If there is an interpreter sitting between two friends, he may be able to translate the words but not the feelings with which I say something. So, it is essential that we learn a language, and understand it," she said, a day after it was announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping would hold an informal summit from April 27 to 28 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

    "I want to say that the way India and China's relation are strengthening, trade is increasing, we are working together on international forums, it has become increasingly important that you learn Hindi and we learn Chinese. So that when Indians visit China they don't face difficulty, and when Chinese visit India, you don't require an interpreter," Ms Swaraj said.

    Ms Swaraj said during her meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday, she had told him that people are the biggest strength for any foreign minister and when people of two countries love each other, it only strengthens the governments.

    "And this, your love for Hindi... You may not be aware that two foreign ministers can't strengthen the relations between Indian and China as much as these students learning Hindi can. You (students) all are doing great service (to the two countries)," she said.

    The minister invoked the box-office success of Bollywood hits like "Dangal", "Secret Superstar" and "Hindi Medium" to stress that Hindi films are gaining popularity in China, but said an understanding of the language instead of subtitles could improve their experiences of watching such films.

    Noting that during the programme, a Chinese student learning Hindi had expressed that her dream was to visit India, Ms Swaraj instructed the Ambassador to make arrangements for a visit of such students to India

    "I want to tell her, that your dream would come true right here, right now. I am telling our Ambassador here to send a delegation of 25 Hindi students from here on India visit.

    "We will entertain you there and gift you Indian traditional clothes - Saree for girls and kurta pyjama for boys. I entrust our Ambassador here with the responsibility of sending a delegation of students learning Hindi here," she said.

    Interest in Hindi and some other Indian languages such as Tamil and Bengali has been increasing in China in recent years as Chinese investments are growing in various states of India.

    Currently around 400 students learn Hindi as a subject in about 16 universities across China, said Prof Jiang Jingkui, the Head of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Peking University in Beijing.

    Prof Jiang, who was a guest speaker at today's event attended by Ms Swaraj, is an ardent lover of Hindi and has previously coined a new slogan "Chindustan" (China-Hindustan) to highlight the need for friendship between the two nations.

    Hindi can be the dictionary for Chinese students aspiring to work in India, he said. "Chinese students are getting lot of jobs in India at present," Prof Jiang who teaches Hindi at the prestigious Peking University told PTI.

    He said the fact that Hindi is being taught in several Chinese universities shows its increasing popularity in the country.

    The Chinese universities are also teaching Tamil, Urdu and Bengali languages. Also plans are afoot to teach Assamese and Punjabi, he said.

    Currently Tamil and Bengali are taught at three universities and Urdu at 10, he said.

    Several students from different universities spoke in Hindi during the event, expressing their impressions, experiences about the language and its importance in the Indian-China relations.

    Besides the job opportunities in Chinese firms, a number of Chinese students work for the official media including China Radio International (CRI), which broadcasts in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and Urdu.

Controversial Law That Gives Army Sweeping Powers Removed From Meghalaya
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been removed from all areas in Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, people familiar with the matter in the Home Ministry said today.

    The AFSPA is meant to enhance the effectiveness of security forces while operating in a hostile environment by muting civilian legal implications. Rights activists in locations where the AFSPA has been imposed have criticised the law as too harsh to be used on the country's own civilians.

    The decision to remove AFSPA has been taken due to significant improvement of security situation in the two states, a person with direct knowledge of the matter in the Home Ministry said.

    In Arunachal Pradesh, the AFSPA will remain enforced under eight police station limits -- from 16 areas earlier -- near the border with Assam, and in three districts -- Tirap, Changlang and Longding -- near the border with Myanmar.

    The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir for several decades, and since the early 1990s in Assam.

    Rights groups in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA as they claim the law gives "sweeping powers" to the security forces to act against civilians.

    The AFSPA was not withdrawn from Nagaland even after a framework agreement on peace was signed in August 2015 by the Naga armed group NSCN-IM and the government.

    Since 1997, the intensity of insurgency in the north-east has been on the wane, and civilian and security forces' casualties were the lowest in 2017, government data shows.

    Military and intelligence assessments have strongly indicated that insurgency has been wiped out from Tripura and Mizoram, and there has been a marked improvement in the security situation in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, said the Home Ministry official who asked not to be identified.

9-Year-Old Chess Prodigy From India Caught In Battle To Stay In UK
  • A nine-year-old chess prodigy from India is caught up in a battle to stay in the UK after his father's work visa is set to expire.

    Shreyas Royal has won a series on chess championships and his parents, Jitendra and Anju Singh, are now appealing to the UK Home Office for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in Britain on the grounds that their son is a national asset.

    The family had moved to London from Bangalore in 2012 when Shreyas was three years old.

    "Shreyas's life is here. We are used to India, we spent a lot of our lives living there but it will be a massive shock for Shreyas. He will not be able to continue his chess, it really is a terrible situation," father Jitendra told 'The Times'.

    The 38-year-old IT project manager with the Tata Group was offered a fixed-term contract in the company's UK office and on September 10 his work visa will lapse permanently.

    With the backing of Julian Simpole, a trainer who has coached two of the English grandmasters, and Dominic Lawson, president of the English Chess Federation, the family have lodged their appeal with the Home Office.

    "He pretty much wins every competition he's in," Mr Simpole said, in reference to Shreyas who has been competing professionally for three years now.

    "I've been coaching Shreyas for nine weeks now. I am amazed. He is so advanced I set him Soviet-style toughness' lessons as in no concessions made for his age. He virtually always gets the right answer," he said.

    "This kid is like something I've never seen before. His talent is very highly pronounced. He's going to be a future world champion and we'd like it to be for Britain," the coach added.

    Shreyas, who attends Pointer School in Blackheath, south London, on a full scholarship, first learnt to play chess at an after-school club that his mother enrolled him in. "He was into swimming and tennis, but I wanted him to do something with his mind," his 37-year-old mother said.

    According to the newspaper, Shreyas now spends his weekends and summer holidays travelling across Britain and around the world competing against champions almost 10 years older than him.

    "I don't think the older kids like being beaten by me. The Russians are the hardest to play against," the nine-year-old said.

    "What I like about chess is that it's not about being physically aggressive, you have time to use your mind," added Shreyas, who has already won numerous trophies and medals.

    He had started playing the game when he got a chess board at the age of five and went on to be named the world's youngest candidate master within months.

Tata Signs Up Ex-Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar As Top Global Officer
  • Tata Group Monday announced the appointment of former Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar as its President, Global Corporate Affairs, within three months of his retirement from the government service.

    Mr Jaishankar will report to Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, Tata Sons said in a statement.

    "In his new role, he will be responsible for the Tata group's global corporate affairs and international strategy development and Tata Sons' international offices will report to him," it added.

    Tata Sons further said Mr Jaishankar, who was Indian foreign secretary from January 2015 to January 2018, will work with Tata companies to help them strengthen their business presence and positioning in their respective geographies globally. He had retired on January 28.

    Commenting on the appointment, Mr Chandrasekaran said, "His extensive experience and knowledge on international affairs will be very valuable to the group as we work to reinforce our brand and leadership globally."

    Mr Jaishankar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977 and held key roles during his career, including stints as High Commissioner to Singapore, Ambassador to China and the United States.

    He also played a key role in negotiating the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement, the statement said.

Business Affairs

RBI makes Aadhaar, PAN mandatory for bank accounts: All you need to know
  • Though the Supreme Court is still hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, the Reserve Bank of India updated its master circular on know-your-customer (KYC) norms on Friday making Aadhaar and PAN cards mandatory for bank accounts, new as well as existing ones.

    The timing of the exercise is questionable since the apex bank significantly added that "The revised Master Direction is in accordance with the changes carried out in the PML [Prevention of Money-Laundering] Rules..and is subject to the final judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court.." in the guidelines uploaded last Friday.

    Or perhaps it is confident about the Supreme Court's verdict. In any case, here's what you can expect with immediate effect:

    For opening new bank accounts

    Regulated entities (REs), as part of customer due diligence (CDD) while establishing an account-based relationship, will have to obtain Aadhaar number "from those eligible for it" along with the Permanent Account Number (PAN). If an individual does not have an Aadhaar card, "proof of application of enrolment for Aadhaar shall be obtained wherein the enrolment is not older than 6 months and in case PAN is not submitted, certified copy of an OVD [officially valid document] containing details of identity and address and one recent photograph shall be obtained," said the master direction.

    Residents of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya, who are not yet in the Aadhaar net, need to furnish OVD, which includes passport, driving licence and Voter Identity Card, among others.

    The guidelines add that should the Aadhaar number or PAN submitted by the customer not match the current address, documents like utility bills or municipal tax receipts will suffice as proof of address. But the catch is that "the customer shall submit Aadhaar or OVD updated with current address within a period of three months of submitting the above documents".

    Significantly, the updated guidelines make it clear that "In case the customer eligible to be enrolled for Aadhaar and obtain a Permanent Account Number" does not furnish the same "within a period of six months from the date of the commencement of the account based relationship", the account will "cease to be operational" till the time the above details are submitted. In the case of loan accounts, this will mean only credits will be allowed till Aadhaar and PAN details are furnished by the customers.

    Several banks now promise "super quick" new bank accounts using Aadhaar OTP E-KYC authentication. But the apex bank's new guidelines take a hard stand on them. To begin with biometric based e-KYC authentication has to be completed for all such accounts within one year, else they will be closed immediately. Moreover, the aggregate balance of all accounts that are opened in a "non-face-to-face" mode is now capped at Rs 1 lakh. In case the balance exceeds that threshold, it will cease to be operational till CDD is completed post haste.

    No Aadhaar and no PAN card?

    If you neither have an Aadhaar card (or an enrolment number) nor a PAN card, all you get to open is a "small account" in select bank branches - either at Core Banking Solution (CBS) linked branches or in a branch where it is possible to manually monitor and ensure that foreign remittances are not credited to the account.

    For the record, in a small account the aggregate of all credits in a financial year is capped at Rs 1 lakh while the aggregate of all withdrawals and transfers in a month is capped at Rs 10,000. In fact, the account balance at any point of time cannot exceed Rs 50,000.

    Such an account can "remain operational initially for a period of twelve months, which can be extended for a further period of twelve months, provided the account holder applies and furnishes evidence of having applied for any of the OVDs during the first year. Aadhaar/enrolment number, however, enters the picture should there be any suspicion of money laundering or financing of terrorism activities or other high risk scenarios.

    Feeling like the victimised aam aadmi already?

    Well, if it makes you feel better, the "don't-you-know-who-I-am" brigade has not been spared either. The new guidelines carry an entire sub-section focussed on accounts of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), like heads of states/governments, senior politicians, senior government/judicial/military officers, senior executives of state-owned corporations, important political party officials, et al. Apart from making it mandatory to take the decision to open an account for PEPs at a senior level, the guidelines specify that "all such accounts are subjected to enhanced monitoring on an on-going basis".

    For existing bank accounts

    Barring residents of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya, all existing banking customers have to "submit the Aadhaar number and Permanent Account Number/ form 60 by such date as may be notified by the Central Government". Failure to do so will lead to the account being frozen till the details are furnished but the REs will have to serve at least two notices for compliance before taking this stand.

    Furthermore, periodic updation of records shall be carried out at least once in every two years for high-risk customers, once in every eight years for medium-risk customers and once a decade for low-risk customers. In case identification information available with Aadhaar does not contain current address - or if a person is not eligible for Aadhaar - an OVD containing identity and current address will be required.

    RBI says no to cross-selling

    The RBI's KYC circular clearly states that the information collected from customers for the purpose of opening of account shall be treated as confidential and cannot be used for cross selling or for any other purpose "without the express permission of the customer".

    Senior bankers told The Business Standard that they were still trying to assess the changes and that there were some gaps in the interpretation and implementation of the revised rules. The Indian Banks' Association (IBA) is likely to convene a meeting to finalise issues that would be taken up with the RBI.

Flipkart, Walmart to finalise deal soon; Amazon India head says it's good for e-commerce
  • The world's largest retail giant Walmart is gearing up to buy a controlling stake in India's biggest e-tailer Flipkart. The deal, which is in its last leg, is likely to be finalised by the end of this month. It appears that the US-based brick-and-mortar behemoth will emerge as the largest shareholder in Indian e-commerce market leader.

    However, Seattle-based online retailer and Flipkart's biggest rival Amazon India thinks that the deal would be good for e-commerce in the country. In an interview to Livemint, Amazon India head Amit Agarwal said that there will always be players who will bring in money and that's good for e-commerce. "I would rather have two or three well-funded players going after than us doing it alone," Agarwal added.

    On Amazon's interest in acquiring Flipkart, rumours of which were doing rounds earlier, Agarwal said, "Maybe we should ask Alexa about it! I don't have any comment on that."

    Flipkart's early investors like New York-based Tiger Global, Accel and South African internet conglomerate Naspers are likely to sell their entire stakes in Flipkart to Walmart if a deal is reached.

    According to Reuters, the stalemate between Japanese internet behemoth SoftBank and Walmart has ended. Earlier, Masayoshi Son-led SoftBank Group, which owns about a fifth of Flipkart through its Vision Fund, was reportedly unwilling to sell a part of its stake as Walmart was offering to buy existing shares at a valuation of $12 billion, a price the Japanese tech investor considered low.

    Indian e-commerce sector is expected to grow to $200 billion in the next 10 years. Walmart's plan to buy majority stake is likely to value Flipkart at at least $18 billion, Reuters reported. Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the co-founders of the Bengaluru-based company, may also sell a part of their stake.

    Last August, Japan's SoftBank bought a 20 per cent stake in the country's leading etailer for $2.5 billion through its $100 billion technology-focused Vision Fund. It was the biggest ever private investment in an Indian tech firm at the time.

    Walmart had earlier completed its due diligence for the Flipkart deal. Both Walmart and India's homegrown e-commerce leader stand to gain much if this long-speculated deal goes through. To begin with, they get to pool resources to compete against a common enemy, Amazon, in online as well as offline retail channels. Walmart also gets to grab a foothold in India's booming e-commerce industry.

    Meanwhile, Flipkart stands to not only add financial muscle but also strengthen its supply chain and enhance efficiency in procurement, product assortment and retailing. India's leading e-tailer, besides, has been looking to open retail stores in India for a long time now but has been waiting for the right investment partner. As such, the partnership between Walmart and Flipkart already seems like a match made in heaven.

IT Dept saves Rs 977 crore in 5 years on postage cost after rise in online communication
  • A rise in online communications or e-mails in the last five years has enabled the Income Tax Department to save a whopping Rs 977.54 crore on postage cost. Online communication with the department has more than doubled since 2013-14. According to data released by the Finance Ministry, the IT department saved Rs 212.27 crore in 2017-18, a remarkable growth from Rs 177.36 crore in 2016-17. In 2017-18, 14.15 crore emails were sent to the department, while in 2016-17, 11.8 crore emails were sent.

    The postage cost was determined by taking Rs 15 as the average cost per post or ordinary post.

    Paperless assessment was rolled out by the tax department in 2015-16, which saw a sudden leap in the amount of emails sent and also a jump in the amount saved by the department on postage cost. That year, Rs 348.55 was saved by the department on postage and the department received 23.23 crore emails.

    The data showed that the Central Processing Centre (CPC) for Income Tax returns in Bengaluru has sent 73.73 crore digitally signed intimations by emails as well as 67.96 crore SMSes and 4.17 crore intimations by speed post across the country.

    In 2017-18, the CPC processed 5.62 crore tax returns, a jump from the previous year's 4.57 crore returns. They have also processed 1,25,978 wealth tax returns electronically.

    Last financial year the CPC also enabled taxpayers to log in the e-portal and file their grievances online. Up to December 31, 2016, 6.01 lakh grievances were received by the department out of which 5.98 lakh were addressed.

Four more states, Puducherry to rollout intra-state e-Way bill from April 25
  • The government has decided to rollout the e-Way bill for intra-state movements of goods in four more states and a union territory from April 25, taking the total number of states implementing the intra-state e-Way bill to 17. Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Meghalaya, and Puducherry will initiate the intra-state rollout from Wednesday. Concerned over the system collapsing like it happened when the e-Way bill was introduced on February 1, the centre had decided to rollout the e-Way bill in a phased manner.

    "Four more states - Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Meghalaya - and Union Territory of Puducherry will roll out intra-state eway bill from April 25," GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network) CEO Prakash Kumar told PTI in an interview.

    The government launched the electronic way (e-Way) bill system for inter-state movement of goods having value over Rs 50,000 from April 1, the intra (or within the state) service was launched from April 15.

    Karnataka was first state to implement both services on the same day on April 1. In the first phase, the states that implemented the e-way bill system for the intra-state movement of goods were Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. Thereafter, six more states - Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tripura - launched the service from April 20.


    Total 1.84 crore e-bills have been generated ever since the e-Way bill was launched on April 1 (inter-state) and April 15 (intra-state) till April 22. Talking about time during which maximum bills are generated, Kumar told PTI that around one-third of the total bills released during the day are generated between 4-7pm. The maximum number of e-Way bills (both inter-state as well as intra-state) generated was 12 lakh on April 21, he said.

    He said the system is capable for generating a lot more bills, about 75 lakh a day, and that the portal was working "smoothly".

    The government has said that all the states would have the system in place by June 1. A total of 11,18,292 taxpayers and over 20,057 transporters have registered themselves on the e-Way bill portal. 


    The e-Way bill is necessary for the movement of goods of value more than Rs 50,000. The idea behind the e-Way bill is to stop evasion of tax, which will boost collection and in turn help the economy. Besides, the bill ensures goods being transported comply with the GST law and can track movement of goods.

    The e-Way bill is an electronic document generated on the GST portal evidencing movement of goods. The details to be furnished while generating the e-Way bill include the GSTIN of recipient, place of delivery, invoice or challan number and date, value of goods, HSN code, transport document number (Goods Receipt Number or Railway Receipt Number or Airway Bill Number or Bill of Lading Number), and reasons for transportation and transporter details (vehicle number). Trade people and transporters in these states can now get registration done on e-Way bill portal -

Sensex closes 35 pts higher in choppy trade; TCS hits $100 bn market cap
  • The Sensex rose 35 points to close at an over two-month high of 34,450.77 in choppy trade on steady buying in realty, healthcare, consumer durables and IT sectors. Encouraging earnings from some blue-chip companies also supported the upmove, brokers said.

    Trading was volatile due to negative Asian cues, lower opening in Europe and a weak rupee, they added.

    Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) touched the USD 100 billion market capitalisation mark intra-day, but ended the session a tad lower.

    Meanwhile, the rupee closed at 66.4750, the currency's lowest level since March 10, 2017.

    IndusInd Bank (3.40%), M&M (2.74%) and Sun Pharma (1.74%) were the top gainers on Sensex.

    HDFC Bank (1.42%), Coal India (0.98%), Hindustan Unilever (0.97%) were the top Sensex losers. The 30-share Sensex resumed higher at 34,493.69 but quickly slipped to 34,259.27 on profit booking and weak Asian cues.

    It bounced back to touch a high of 34,663.95 as TCS saw heavy buying, before finally ending at 34,450.77, showing a gain of 35.19 points, or 0.10 per cent.

    This is its highest closing since February 5 when it had ended at 34,757.16.

    The broader NSE Nifty touched a high of 10,638.35 before settling at 10,584.70-up 20.65 points, or 0.20 per cent. Intra-day, it hit a low of 10,514.95.

    Market breadth was mildly positive with 1,384 stocks closing higher 1304 ending in the red on BSE.

    On a net basis, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth Rs 111.01 crore, while foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold to the tune of Rs 21.02 crore on Friday, provisional data showed. 

    Global markets 

    Britain's FTSE 100 was almost unchanged at 7,365.29. Germany's DAX edged 0.1 percent lower to 12,522.34 and the CAC 40 of France declined 0.2 percent to 5,404.24. The future for the S&P 500 lost 0.1 percent and the future for the Dow lost 0.2 percent.

    Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 22,088.04 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 2,474.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.5 percent to 30,254.40 and the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.1 percent to 3,068.01. Australia's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 5,886.00. Shares rose in India but fell in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

    Losses in technology, retailers, packaged foods and beverage makers weighed on U.S. stocks Friday, pulling the market lower for a second day in a row. The S&P 500 index fell 0.9 percent to 2,670.14. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 0.8 percent to 24,462.94. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.3 percent to 7,146.13 and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 0.6 percent, to 1,564.12. For every stock that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, two declined, though the indexes finished the week with gains.

General Awareness

Ramsar tag likely for Sunderbans
  • Context: The West Bengal government has given its approval to the State Forest Department to apply for recognition of Sunderban Reserve Forest under the Ramsar Convention.

    Significance of the move:

    Being conferred the status of a wetland of international importance will not only be a matter of pride for the Sunderbans but also bring a lot of international scientific attention and intervention to the area. Once conferred a Ramsar site status, it will be the largest protected wetland in the country. It will also help promote the Sunderbans as an eco-tourism hotspot.

    About Sunderbans:

    The Indian Sunderbans, with 2,114 sq. km. of mangrove forests, comprise almost 43% of the mangrove cover in the country according to a 2017 Forest Survey of India report. Other than the forests, home to about 100 Royal Bengal tigers, the creeks and river systems of the Sunderbans are also part of the reserve forest.

    Its significance:

    Apart from being the world’s largest tiger habitat, the mangrove forest in the Sunderbans is remarkable for the protection it provides to nearly 4.5 million people on the Indian side and another 3.5 million on the Bangladesh portion from tidal surge generated by cyclonic depression in the Bay of Bengal.
    About one-third of the total area is used as protected area for the conservation of biological diversity. In addition, the abundant fish and biomass resources – timber, fuelwood, pulpwood, leaves, shells, crabs, honey and fish – are harvested by local communities.
    The Sunderbans is also a major pathway for nutrient recycling and pollution abatement. The biodiversity of the Sunderbans is also diverse. The delta has the distinction of encompassing the world’s largest mangrove forest belt with 84 identified flora species, of which 34 are true mangroves.


    Sunderbans is a contiguous ecosystem spread across India and Bangladesh. Other than threats such as climate change, sea level rise, widespread construction and clearing of mangrove forests for fisheries is posing a danger to the Sunderbans.

    Ramsar convention:

    The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
    Adopted in 1971 in Ramsar, an Iranian city, the Convention came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.
    There are currently 26 sites in India recognised as Ramsar wetland sites of international importance, including the East Kolkata Wetlands also in West Bengal.

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