Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 April 2017

 


Insights Daily Current Affairs, 19 April 2017


 

Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

 

Met dept. expects a ‘normal’ monsoon

 

In its first official forecast of the season, the IMD expects India to have normal monsoons this year.

normal monsoon

Key facts:

  • Rains are likely to be 96% of the 50-year average of 89cm for the monsoon season of June to September. They are expected to fan out favourably and “help agriculture.” This estimate falls at the bottom edge of what it considers ‘normal’ monsoon rains. However, due to the looming threat of El Nino and adoption of new weather model, the IMD says there is significant element of uncertainty in this forecast.
  • The El Nino — characterised by surface waters of the equatorial Pacific warming up more than half a degree — is known to dry up monsoon rains every six out of 10 years. This year, international weather models as well as the IMD’s own dynamical global climate forecasting system model indicate that El Nino conditions might set in during the “latter part of the monsoon.”
  • Another climate phenomenon, called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which refers to a swing in the sea surface temperatures in the western and eastern Indian oceans, is also known to influence the Indian monsoon. A ‘positive’ IOD can counter an ominous El Nino. In its assessment, the IMD expects “weak positive IOD” to develop in the latter half of the monsoon, which means that it’s unlikely to be a potent ally this year.

 

Background:

India saw drought years in 2014 and 2015. As for 2016, it received 3% less than the 89 cm average, despite an IMD forecast of ‘above normal’ rains.

Given the deficient pre-monsoon rains over large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, good rains are essential this year to trap enough soil moisture for a healthy kharif crop, which is vital to keep inflation down and rural consumption up.

 

About IMD:

The India Meteorological Department (IMD), also referred to as the Met Department, is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India.

  • It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology.
  • IMD is also one of the six Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres of the World Meteorological Organization.
  • It has the responsibility for forecasting, naming and distribution of warnings for tropical cyclones in the Northern Indian Ocean region, including the Malacca Straits, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

 

Sources: pib.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. 

 

Australia visa cut to hit Indian IT workers

 

The Australian government has scrapped the Australian “457” visa programme that allowed Australian companies to hire foreign workers in a number of skilled jobs for a period up to four years. The programme will be replaced with a more stringent system, making it difficult to hire non-Australian citizens. This is aimed at giving priority for Australian workers for Australian jobs.

  • According to the notification, the new visa programme will cut more than 200 eligible jobs for skilled migrants — from 651 to 435, visa fees are set to increase, and the visas will be restricted to filling “critical skills shortages”.

visa

New regime:

  • The new Australian visa will have two streams: one for the short term, allowing entry for up to two years, and a medium-term option granting up to four years access, which will similar to the current 457 visa, the Australian government said. “The occupation list for the four-year visa includes IT professionals, so there continues to be visa options for skilled Indian nationals.”
  • But both streams will come with several riders such as mandatory labour market testing with limited exemptions, a new non-discriminatory workforce test, criminal history checks, a market salary rate assessment and a new two-year work experience requirement. Further, English language requirements will be tightened for the medium-term stream.
  • The new visa will also include a strengthened training obligation for employers sponsoring foreign skilled workers to provide enhanced training outcomes for Australians in high-need industries and occupations.

 

How would this affect Indians?

The move is expected to impact Indian IT and other companies. India provides the highest number of temporary skilled workers to Australia of any country; eight out of the top 10 occupations for Indian 457 visa holders (as at December 2016) were IT professionals. According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Indians constituted 76% of the total ‘457’ visas issued in the three IT streams, and 57% of permanent migrant visas issued in the skilled stream of workers last year.

 

Way ahead:

The Centre is studying the implications of the Australian government’s decision to scrap a visa programme that benefited Indians. It has warned that the move could have an impact on negotiations on the free trade agreement — Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements (CECA) — between both countries.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Railways seek aid for unviable routes

 

The Railway Ministry has sought compensation for operating railway lines of strategic and national importance — a practice discontinued following the merger of Railway and Union Budgets.

railway

What’s the issue?

Every year, the Indian Railways used to get subsidy from the Finance Ministry for losses incurred on railway operations on strategic lines. After the Budget merger, the Finance Ministry had discontinued the practice of providing annual subsidy to the Railways for operating loss-making strategic routes as the Railways was no longer required to pay an annual dividend.

 

However, recently, two Parliamentary bodies — Standing Committee on Railways and Estimates Committee — recommended that the Finance Ministry should continue compensating the Railways for losses in operating strategic lines for the following reasons:

  • Considering the role of Railways in nation building, reimbursement to Railways on their operating losses on strategic lines is justifiable.
  • Also, these lines mainly cater to defence movements on border areas and development of social and backward region.
  • The compensation also helps the Railways in providing relief towards “socially desirable projects” which are usually loss-making projects.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

RBI raises red flag over banks’ telecom exposure

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised a red flag over banks’ loans to telecom players and asked the lenders to increase their standard asset provisioning more than what is prescribed so that they can built ‘necessary resilience.’

  • RBI has asked the banks to make provisions for standard assets in this sector at higher rates so that necessary resilience is built in the balance sheets should the stress reflect on the quality of exposure to the sector at a future date.

 

What’s the concern?

Telecom players are reeling under a huge debt — estimated to be about ₹4.2 lakh crore — amid a tariff war and a consolidation among some of the players. The telecom sector is reporting stressed financial conditions, and presently interest coverage ratio for the sector is less than one.

Interest coverage ratio of less than one means the company’s EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) is not sufficient to repay interest, let alone principal.

 

Background:

Debt accumulation and potential NPAs have been on the rise across a range of sectors including telecom. Alarming debt levels in the backdrop of recent declining revenues increase debt serviceability risks for the telecom sector. Five sectors, including telecom, contribute to 61% of the stress in the banking system.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 1 Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

 

Channakeshava temple turns 900

 

The Channakeshava temple in Belur — a masterpiece of Hoysala architecture — turned 900 this year. Belur, along with Halebid, is proposed as a UNESCO heritage site.

chennakeshawa

About the temple:

The temple, constructed by Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala dynasty, is a monument recognised by the ASI. Considered to be the first temple of Hoysala style, it was built between 1106 and 1117. The temple is regarded a marvel of architecture in typical Hoysala style. It commemorates the king’s victory in 1104.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

 

The Battle of Adyar: distant drum

 

History lovers, curious onlookers, veterans and NCC cadets gathered recently in Chennai to commemorate The Battle of Adyar, a turning point in modern Indian history.

adyar battle

About Battle of Adyar:

The Battle of Adyar took place on 24 October 1746. The battle was between the French East India Company men and Nawab of Arcot forces over the St. George Fort, which was held by the French. It was part of the First Carnatic War between the English and the French.

  • The French captured Fort St. George from the British East Indian Company. Nawab of Arcot, a close ally of the British, set out to regain it by sending troops, led by his son Mahfuz Khan, to Madras. While leading an army of 10,000, he was dispersed by French forces, forcing him to move south. Khan seized San Thomé and formed a battle line on the north bank of the Adyar River on October 22 to prevent the French from moving up reinforcements from Pondicherry.
  • 200 French and French-trained Indian troops led by Captain Paradis, force marched from Pondicherry, crossed Quibble Island and took positions on the south bank of the Adyar River and faced ineffective artillery fire from Khan’s forces.
  • On 24 October, Paradis was informed that a similar sized army led by de le Tour was on its way from St. George Fort. He decided to ford the Adayar river to attack the rear of Mahfuz Khan’s battle line. de la Tour arrived too late to support Paradis, who with disciplined firing and then charging with bayonets, broke the Nawab’s line. Mahfuz Khan’s troops fled and the Battle of the Adyar River ended with the French retaining control over Fort St. George.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. 

 

Trump’s order targets H-1B programme

 

President Trump has signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to review employment immigration laws to promote “Hire American” policies.

 

Key facts:

  • The order makes no immediate changes to work visa programs but tells the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to study existing laws and procedures and recommend changes.
  • In the case of one program, H-1B temporary visas, the order directs the agencies to suggest changes to help ensure that the visas are awarded to the most skilled, best-paid immigrant workers.
  • The order also calls for a crackdown on fraud and abuse in the current system of work visas — which the agencies had already signaled they would do.

 

What is the H-1B program, and why is the president focused on it?

The H-1B program grants 65,000 work visas a year to foreigners, with 20,000 more visas granted to foreigners with advanced degrees and an unlimited number of extra visas available for universities, teaching hospitals and other nonprofit organizations. The program is aimed at highly skilled workers, and most of the visas are awarded to technology companies, although other specialty industries such as fashion also use the visas.

  • Under federal law, employers that use a large number of H-1B workers are supposed to document that they tried to hire Americans for the jobs. All H-1B employers are also required to pay prevailing wages to the immigrant workers who receive the visas.
  • Labor Department data shows that about 40% of the visas go to entry-level workers and another 40% go to people with limited experience and skills. The Trump administration says that more of the jobs performed by those people could and should be filled by Americans.

 

How are the visas allocated?

Visa applications must be sponsored by employers. Every April 1, the government begins accepting applications for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. This year, the government received 199,000 H-1B applications in the first five days and then stopped accepting them.

Because there are more applicants than visas, the visas are awarded by lottery. Each visa is good for three years and can be renewed for three more years. Immigrants who are applying for a permanent residency visa, known as a green card, can typically stay longer while waiting for approval.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

Textiles India 2017:

  • It is the first ever global B2B Textile and handicrafts event in India. Hosted by the Ministry of Textiles, the event was inaugurated recently.
  • Textiles India 2017 is a landmark global trade event for the Indian Textile and handicraft Sector that will showcase the entire range of textile products from ‘Fibre to Fashion’.
  • The aim of the event is to make it one of the key annual destinations for International Buyers.

 

Buzz over photograph of ‘Indian wolf’ in Sunderbans:

  • An Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) has reportedly been sighted for the first time in the Sunderbans. the forest department is yet to verify the veracity of the claim.
  • The sighting is significant since wolves in Bengal are mostly found in the western parts bordering Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
  • The Indian wolf is a Schedule I animal in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.
  • It prefers to live in scrub lands, grasslands and semi-arid pastoral/ agricultural landscape. Less than 2,000 wolves are currently found in the forests of India.
  • It is categorised as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Less than 2,000 wolves are there in the Indian forests.