New Ministers join NITI Aayog
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday approved the reconstitution of the NITI Aayog.
- Members of the re-constituted National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog are as following:
- Chairperson: Prime Minister
- Vice-Chairperson: Dr Rajiv Kumar
- Full-Time Members:VK Saraswat,Prof Ramesh Chand,Dr VK Paul
- Ex-officio Members:Raj Nath Singh, Minister of Defence,Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs,Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs,Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare;Minister of Rural Development; Minister of Panchayati Raj.
Russia willing to drop New START pact: Putin
Topic: GS –II: International relations
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia was prepared to drop a nuclear weapons agreement treaty with the U.S. and warned of “global catastrophe” if Washington keeps dismantling a global arms control regime.
- Speaking to heads of global news agencies at an economic forum, Mr. Putin said Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits.
- Putin said the potential implications of letting New START treaty expire would be huge, suggesting its demise could fuel a nuclear arms race.
|START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) :
· It was a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
· The treaty was signed on 31 July 1991 and entered into force on 5 December 1994.
· The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.
· START negotiated the largest and most complex arms control treaty in history, and its final implementation in late 2001 resulted in the removal of about 80 percent of all strategic nuclear weapons then in existence.
· Proposed by United States President Ronald Reagan, it was renamed START I after negotiations began on the second START treaty.
· The START I treaty expired 5 December 2009. On 8 April 2010, the replacement New START treaty was signed in Prague by United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
· Following ratification by the U.S. Senate and the Federal Assembly of Russia, it went into force on 26 January 2011. This Treaty was the first to provide tremendous reductions of American and Soviet/Russian strategic nuclear weapons.
RBI cuts interest rate by 25 bps
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
The benchmark interest rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) fell below 6% for the first time since 2010 as the central bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) cut repo rates by 25 basis points (bps) to 5.75% in order to address growth concerns.
More in news:
- The stance of the policy has also been changed from neutral to accommodative, which means a hike in interest rates is ruled out.
- The decision to cut interest rate was unanimous among the MPC members.
- The RBI has revised GDP growth projection for the current financial year from 7.2% to 7%. The headline inflation trajectory remains below the target even after taking into account the expected transmission of the past two policy rate cuts.
- The path of consumer price index based inflation has been revised downward to 3.4%-3.7% in the second half of the current fiscal.
Why has RBI cut repo rate
- The RBI was widely expected to go for an interest rate cut amid dismal gross domestic product (GDP) growth, subdued investment and slowdown in consumption space.
- Last week, government data showed GDP growth slowed to a five-year low of 5.8 per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of FY19. Weak growth amid benign CPI inflation had created room for the Monetary Policy Committee to cut the repo rate by 50-75 bps through FY20E, beginning in June 2019.
Concern over RBI’s repo rate cut
- The big concern is whether the transmission of the cut takes place adequately, in the sense of banks passing in the rate cut to customers. This has not happened sufficiently in the case of the previous cuts.
Located inside a varsity campus, it is facing a space crunch
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
The three-decade-old deer park on Berhampur University campus in Ganjam district is all set to be shut and its animals shifted to Gajapati district.
More in news:
- At present, there are 55 spotted deer in the park, which has become too small for their increased numbers. The deer park was opened in 1989 on an area of 2.2 acres. Initially it had only a pair of spotted deer, which increased in numbers over time.
Licence not renewed
- Due to lack of proper infrastructure, the Central Zoo Authority has not renewed the mini-zoo licence of the park. Berhampur University, too, wants the deer to be shifted to some other place for their better upkeep.
- The main issue related to relocation of these deer is finding a proper place to which they can easily adapt.
- The forest department is thinking about relocating them in the Lakhari Elephant Sanctuary in Gajapati district.
- The sanctuary is without any major predators and has large grass patches.
Centre to come up with policy on AI, cyber security soon
Topic: GS -III: Security
The NITI Aayog has come up with a policy on artificial intelligence and cyber security and it would be taken up by the Union Cabinet soon.
More in news:
- At a time when the government was promoting the digitisation programme and India had emerged the second country with most Internet access, the protection of data becomes crucial — be at home, workspace or institutions.
- Digitisation has brought in enormous data and like oil, it will impact the economies of the world. Thus, data protection becomes crucial. A global data protection and regulation Act is coming up and in this context, cyber security becomes important too.
RBI waives NEFT/RTGS fee, to review ATM fees
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
In a move to encourage digital transactions, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to waive off charges for fund transfer via Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) — which is meant for large-value, instantaneous fund transfers and the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) System for other fund transfers.
- While the charges are levied on banks, they, in turn, pass it to the customers.
- “In order to provide an impetus to digital fund movement, it has been decided to do away with the charges levied by the Reserve Bank for transactions processed in the RTGS and NEFT systems,” the RBI said. “Banks will be required, in turn, to pass these benefits to their customers,” it added.
ATM charges review
- Separately, the banking regulator would review the charges levied on customers while operating automated teller machines (ATMs).
- A committee will be set up, under the chairmanship of the chief executive officer, Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), ‘to examine the entire gamut of ATM charges and fees.
- At present, customers are charged for using other banks’ ATMs beyond a particular number of transactions.
- The Committee is expected to submit its recommendations within two months of its first meeting.
|Different payment and settlement systems in India:
· India currently has various methods to transfer money online such as digital wallets, UPI, and more. However, the most commonly used online fund transfer method has been:
1) National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)
2) Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS)
3) Immediate Mobile Payment Service (IMPS)
While NEFT and RTGS was introduced by RBI (Reserve Bank of India), IMPS was introduced by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
· National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is a payment system that facilitates one-to-one funds transfer. Using NEFT, people can electronically transfer money from any bank branch to a person holding an account with any other bank branch, which is participating in the payment system. The NEFT transactions can be carried out in bulk and repetitively.
· Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) is another payment system in which the money is credited in the beneficiary’s account in real time. This fund transfer method is typically used to transfer enormous sum of money.
· IMPS is an abbreviation for Immediate Mobile Payment Services, which is an instant inter-bank funds transfer system. This funds transfer method is more customer-centric than the other two as it allows the remitter to transfer funds using their smartphones.
New species of flora and fauna
Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity
Scientists and taxonomists have documented 596 new species of flora and fauna from India in the year 2018.
- The details of the discoveries made public by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in the publications Plant Discoveries 2018 and Animal Discoveries 2018.
- Of the 596 species, 372 come under fauna (311 invertebrates and 61 vertebrates). The newly identified 224 plant species include seed plants, pteridophytes, bryophytes, fungi and lichen.
- About 31% of the plant species were discovered in the Himayalas. In the case of animals, the Western Ghats remained a biological hotspot from where about 50% of the species were found.
- The plants discovered this year includes close wild relatives of many potential horticulture, agriculture, medicinal and ornamental plants. The discoveries include plants belonging to groups Amomum (wild cardamom), Cycads, Rubus (raspberry), Syzygium (wild jamun), Terminalia, Balsams, Zingibers and also seven trees and 10 orchids.
- Kerala recorded the highest number of discoveries with 59 species. West Bengal, a state with both Himalayan and coastal ecosystems, recorded 38 and Tamil Nadu recorded 26.
- With these new discoveries, the updated list of animal species in India has risen to 1,01,681 which is about 6.49% of all the species in the world.
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