Insights Daily Current Affairs, 31 March 2017
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Hills sizzle at 8°C above normal
So far, this summer, the maximum temperature surges were recorded in hill-station favourites Kullu in Himachal Pradesh and Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand according to IMD. According to figures on the India Meteorological Department (IMD) website, these towns recorded 32°C and 27.2°C — a searing eight degrees above normal for the last week of March.
- Other summer getaways in north India, such as Shimla also in Himachal Pradesh, Pahalgam in Jammu & Kashmir and Dehradun in Uttarakhand have all registered temperatures seven degrees above their historical normals.
The IMD had already warned of summer temperatures being higher than normal in February and “above normal” temperatures in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir.
Factors behind the high temperature in the North:
The high temperatures in the north are due to a confluence of weather conditions such dry south-westerly winds from Gujarat blowing to the north and approaching Western Disturbances (a storm from the Mediterranean that brings rain to north and northwest India). These are coupled with an anticyclone, a clockwise spiraling of air that pulls in more warm air flowing in from the south-west.
North India apart, several states — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Rajasthan — recorded severe-heat wave conditions because of the meteorological confluence.
Historical data, until 2010, on the IMD website says that Shimla’s highest-ever maximum temperature in March was 25.8°C in 2010 and Mukteshwar, 28.5°C in 2004.
The stamp of global warming is evident in this year’s searing March. When the average temperatures are rising every year, there will be more incidents of extreme temperature. The IMD is already in the process of informing States to put in place comprehensive heat action plans to prepare for the summer.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Govt.,NDB ink $350 mn. loan pact
India has signed its first loan agreement with the New Development Bank (NDB) for $350 million to be used in the development and upgradation of district roads in Madhya Pradesh.
- The objective of the project is the upgradation of major district roads in the state of Madhya Pradesh to improve connectivity of the interior areas of the state with the national and state highway networks.
- The project would include upgradation, rehabilitation or reconstruction of approximately 1,500 km of district roads to intermediate lane, all-weather standards, with road safety features and improved road asset maintenance and management.
The project is to be implemented over five years with the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation acting as the implementing agencies.
It is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It is seen as an alternative to the existing US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
- The New Development Bank was agreed to by BRICS leaders at the 5th BRICS summit held in Durban, South Africa in 2013.
- The bank is set up to foster greater financial and development cooperation among the five emerging markets.
- The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, China.
- Voting: Unlike the World Bank, which assigns votes based on capital share, in the New Development Bank each participant country will be assigned one vote, and none of the countries will have veto power.
What it does?
The New Development Bank will mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Centre picks five airlines to connect 43 regional airports
The Centre has announced a list of routes awarded to five airlines which will operate flights under its regional connectivity scheme, named UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).
- Low-cost airline SpiceJet, Air India subsidiary Alliance Air along with regional airlines Turbo Megha Airways, Air Deccan and Air Odisha Aviation won the rights to operate flights under the regional connectivity scheme under which half of the seats on the plane will be capped at ₹2,500 per hour’s flight.
- Some of the inactive airports that will soon witness regional flights include Shimla, Agra, Bikaner, Gwalior, Kadapa, Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Vidyanagar, Burnpur, Diu, Shillong, Kullu, Mysore, Jagdalpur, Salem, Utkela, and Hosur.
- The regional airlines will connect these destinations with their nearest bigger airports such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Jaipur, among others.
Significance of this move:
With this, the passengers will be able to fly on as many as 128 routes connecting 70 big and small airports across the country by paying ₹2,500 for an hour’s flight.
Subsidy on losses:
As per the scheme, the Centre will subsidise the losses incurred by airlines flying out of dormant airports to help airlines charge ₹2,500 for an hour’s flight to passengers.
80% of the subsidy will be collected by charging a levy of up to ₹8,500 on each departing flight of domestic airlines and the rest 20% will come from the respective State governments.
Government will provide subsidy to airlines for first three years of operations when they will have exclusive flying rights on the selected routes. Once the market gets jump started, it will operate on a commercial basis as per market forces of supply and demand.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 1 Topic: Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
‘Significant incidences’ of gold found in Uttarakhand
Scientists at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered, for the first time, “significant incidences” of gold associated with copper mineralisation in parts of Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand.
- This is the first record of in-situ gold incidence from the Rudraprayag area.
Occurrence of Gold: Gold occurs as coarse, liberated particles and fine particles locked in pyrite and copper sulphide.
Regions where the gold has been found:
According to the report, the regions bearing gold are best exposed around Rudraprayag town in the Mandakini river valley. Panning of stream sediments of Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers in Sumerpur-Ratura, Sari and Jugtoli areas also revealed a few visible gold flakes.
This part of Uttarakhand where significant incidences of gold has been discovered is in what is known as the “Lesser Himalaya” that is sandwiched, in the north, by the Main Central Thrust — the major geological fault where the Indian Plate has been pushed under the Eurasian Plate along the Himalaya — and in the south by North Almora Thrust.
Significance of this discovery:
This finding on the occurrence of gold in alluvial deposits — also called placer gold — around Rudraprayag is indicative “of some probable potential auriferous (gold-bearing) zone” towards the northern part of the region.
According to the GSI, gold is currently produced from three mines — Hutti, Uti and Hirabuddni in Karnataka — and, as a by-product, from the base metal sulphide deposits of Khetri in Rajasthan and Mosabani, Singhbhum, and Kundrekocha in Jharkhand.
Apart from the gold mines in the above-mentioned areas, some gold, although very small in quantity, is collected by “panning” from the sand and gravel of several rivers, including the Subarnarekha in Jharkhand and the Ambankadava Puzha and Chabiyar Puzha in Kerala.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
CAG protests refusal of access to GSTN data
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has protested with the finance ministry against the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a special purpose vehicle majority owned by private companies, refusing to give access to taxpayers data on its network for scrutiny and audit.
What is GSTN?
The GSTN is a private limited company floated to aid the rollout of the new indirect tax regime. The company will provide information technology support to all stakeholders for smooth implementation of the new taxation regime across the country and will be the repository of all information related to taxation and entities registered under GST.
The majority (51%) shareholding in the firm is with private entities including HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and LIC among others. The central government, jointly with state governments and Union Territories, own 49% in the company.
Why GSTN has refused to give information?
GSTN has refused to allow the CAG on the ground that it was a non-government company and the auditor could not exercise the same rights as applicable for public enterprises.
The GSTN also argued that it was just a “pass through portal” and that the CAG must approach the Central Board of Excise and Customs and states which would have original data filed by taxpayers.
Rejecting GSTN’s contention, CAG has said the source of all taxpayers’ data in the GST regime would be with GSTN, ‘being the primary location’ where the data is created. It is from here that the data is selectively pushed to CBEC and states. It is therefore essential for the CAG to access the data lying at the primary source for performing its constitutional mandate.
The CAG also contended that the government had “strategic control” in GSTN irrespective of the shareholding pattern. The SPV is performing a part of the statutory function pertaining to revenue collection on behalf of the Centre and states and it could not refuse to give access to information to the auditor.
CAG has requested the Finance ministry to ensure that it gets access to data maintained on the GSTN portal as well as to its application software, the modalities of which could be worked out later.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Kanha tiger reserve becomes first in India get official mascot:
- Kanha has become the first tiger reserve in India to officially introduce a mascot — Bhoorsingh the Barasingha — to present the hard ground swamp deer as the spirit of the reserve and spread awareness to save it from possible extinction.
- Barasingha, or swamp deer, is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh. The Kanha tiger reserve, spread over Mandla and Balaghat districts, is the only place in the world where the species exists.