18
Current Affairs Analysis

18th May Current Affairs Analysis

Urban Local Bodies; gender pay gap; SBI merger; 'e-nivaran'; Himalayan Brown Bears; Buddhist site; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
May 18, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • States asked to convert 3,784 urban areas into statutory Urban Local Bodies

Social Issues

  • India suffers from huge gender pay gap, says report

Economy

  • SBI begins merger with associate banks
  • IT dept. launches e-portal to fast track taxpayers’ grievances

Environment & Ecology

  • Himalayan Brown Bears sighted for first time in Kargil after 1999 War

Art & Culture

  • Ancient Buddhist site found in Amaravati

Science & Technology

  • Now, a ‘tatkal’ system to expedite patent examination

Also in News

  • Sykes-Picot Agreement

 

Polity & Governance

States asked to convert 3,784 urban areas into statutory Urban Local Bodies

Ministry of Urban Development has asked 28 States to take immediate and necessary action to convert 3,784 Census Towns into statutory Urban Local Bodies to promote planned urban development.

Why immediate action is needed?

  • The opportunity of planned urban development might get lost if unplanned construction and ad hoc provisioning of infrastructure is allowed to take place over a long time.

Why this is necessary?

  • This is necessary for planned and coordinated infrastructure development, enhancement of revenues and efficient delivery of services to citizens leading to overall growth of economic activities.

What is a census town?

  • A Census Town is an area with urban characteristics like a minimum population of 5,000, at least 75% of the male main working force engaged in non-agricultural activities and population density of at least 400 persons per sq.km.
  • As per 2011 Census, there are 3,784 Census Towns as against 1,362 in 2001.
  • State with highest number of census towns is West Bengal with 780 towns followed by Kerala and Tamilnadu. Mizoram has no census towns. Arunachal Pradesh has one census town.

What is a statutory town?

  • A Statutory Town is one with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee.
  • As per 2011 Census, there are 4,041 such towns as against 3,799 in 2001.

Advantages:

  • Conversion of Census towns into statutory ULBs entitle states to Central assistance as per the guidelines of 14th Finance Commission.
  • Under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), 50% weightage is given to the number of statutory towns in any State/UT in allocation of funds among States/UTs.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Social Issues

India suffers from huge gender pay gap, says report

As per the latest Monster Salary Index, with regard to gender pay gap, the figure for India stands as high as 27%, where men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs. 288.68, while women earned Rs. 207.85 per hour.

About the index:

  • The Monster Salary Index is prepared by online career and recruitment solutions provider Monster India.
  • The index is aimed at empowering jobseekers by establishing a benchmark to compare their salaries with other anonymous profiles across a broad spectrum of industry domains, experience, functional groups both in India and other global markets.

Key points of the report:

  • According to the report, the highest gender pay gap was recorded in the manufacturing sector at 34.9%. The lowest gender pay gap was recorded in the BFSI and transport, logistics, communication, equally standing at 17.7%.
  • Some of the reasons behind gender pay gap could be:
  1. the preference for male employees over female employees,
  2. preference for promotion of male employees to supervisory positions and
  3. career breaks of women due to parenthood duties and other socio-cultural factors.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Economy

SBI begins merger with associate banks

The State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, has kick-started the process of merging its five associate banks with itself at one go.

  • The five associate banks are State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.
  • The merger is expected to be completed by the end of the current financial year.

Background:

  • The merger move comes after the government announced a road map for bank consolidation during the budget.
  • SBI first merged associate State Bank of Saurashtra with itself in 2008. Two years later in 2010, State Bank of Indore was merged.

Implications of the merging:

  • The merged entity will have one-fourth of the deposit and loan market, as the SBI’s market share will increase from 17% to 22.5-23%.
  • Also, SBI’s staff strength will increase by 35-49% while branch network will increase by 6,000. At present, the SBI alone has more than 15,000 branches in the country.

Advantages of the merging:

  • The merger will make SBI a bigger bank and will bring in a lot of efficiencies.
  • If the merger goes through, the combined entity will be ranked as the 45th largest bank globally in terms of assets, up 7 ranks from its current 52nd position.
  • Now there are a lot of overlaps among associates. Merging is expected to end these overlaps.
  • This might also be helpful in funding the huge infrastructure financing needs of the country.
  • Post the merger, the cost-to-income ratio will come down by 100 basis points a year. The cost-to-income ratio is nothing but the company’s costs in relation to its income. To get the ratio, operating cost of a company has to be divided by its operating income.

Opposition of the merging:

The All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) has called for a strike opposing the merger. AIBEA wants the five associate entities to be merged into a separate, single large bank, instead of all of them being merged individually with SBI. 

[Ref: Hindu, BS]

 

IT dept. launches e-portal to fast track taxpayers’ grievances

The Income Tax department has launched a special electronic grievance redressal system called ‘e-nivaran’ in order to fast track taxpayer grievances and ensure early resolution of their complaints.

Key facts:

  • The new system is called unified grievance management system and is acronymed ‘e-nivaran’. 
  • The system not only records the origin of the grievance on the electronic platform it works on, but it also keeps tracking it till it reaches its logical conclusion for final resolution.
  • The e-portal will also ensure that grievances related to any section or domain of the tax department is transferred quickly to the department concerned like that of refunds issue or any other IT matter concerning an assessee.

Background:

  • The decision to launch ‘e-nivaran’ was taken in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi few months back asking the IT department to pull up its socks and ensure that taxpayers grievances are resolved in the shortest possible time.
  • Modi had also asked all such departments which have a public interface to reduce this time to one month from the existing two months’ time.
[Ref: BS]

 

Environment & Ecology

Himalayan Brown Bears sighted for first time in Kargil after 1999 War

The J&K Wildlife Department has recorded its first ever sighting of a group of eight Himalayan brown bears in Kargil’s Drass Sector, where the 1999 war had wreaked havoc with their habitats.

  • The sighting is a rare record. No such sighting has ever been reported from J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where these animals are distributed.
  • The sighting of such relatively large numbers of Himalayan brown bears in just one wildlife zone out of four major areas of Suru, Zanskar, Drass and Kargil in the Ladakh region is a positive indication.
  • The Wildlife Department is upbeat as the increasing numbers are testimony to the fact that the negative impact of the 1999 Kargil war, with heavy artillery shelling for almost three months that devastated the bear habitat, seems to be waning.

About Brown Bear:

IASToppers-18th May 2016

  • The brown bear(scientific name is Ursus arctos) is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America and is the largest terrestrial carnivore.
  • While the brown bear’s range has shrunk and it has faced local extinctions, it remains listed as a least concern species by the IUCN.
  • There are several recognized subspecies within the brown bear species. The smallest subspecies, the Himalayan brown bear, is critically endangered, occupying only 2% of its former range and threatened by uncontrolled poaching for its parts.
  • A brown bear requires about 100 square kilometer as its territory to survive and any human intervention disturbs its ecology.

Background:

  • In 2010, an extensive survey, ‘Carnivore-human conflict in Kargil and Drass’, carried by the Rufford Small Grant and the State Wildlife Department in the district did not record a single Himalayan brown bear sighting.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]

 

Art & Culture

Ancient Buddhist site found in Amaravati

In an archaeological excavation, Archaeologists have identified Buddhist remains dating back to the 1st century BC on the hilltop at Vaikunthapuram, a Village in the capital region of Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh.

  • Few years ago, a relic casket with a gold leaf was also found at the same site.

Key facts:

  • Three mounds studded with brickbats and pottery in red colour, huge fragments of terracotta and brick tiles used to cover chaityas and viharas are among the list of findings.
  • The bricks used in the construction of the Stupas and Viharas measure 60X30X8cm and 58X28X7cm invariability belonging to the Satavahana times i.e., 1st century BC. 
  • The Siva Lingas according to him are dating back to the 5th century AD of the Vishnukundin era based on the Stylistic grounds art.
  • The explanations further revealed that the Buddhist monks relied on two tanks spread in an extent of half an acre and two rock cut cisterns for drinking water.
  • The hill at Vaikuntapuram which yielded the remains of Buddhist Stupas, Chaityas, and Viharas survived from 1st century BC to the 5th century AD.
  • It was occupied by Saivism during the Vishnukundin times and by the Vaishnavites in between 13th -17th centuries AD as the temples of Venkateswara, one at the foot hill and the another one the at the top of the hill.
[Ref: ToI]

 

Science & Technology

Now, a ‘tatkal’ system to expedite patent examination

The government has amended rules and introduced several measures including a system similar to ‘tatkal’, to expedite examination of patent applications by start-ups as well as entities choosing India for the first filing of patent.

Key facts:

  • Under the ‘tatkal’-like system applicants can opt for the ‘expedited examination’- route on the grounds that they have chosen India as the competent International Searching Authority or International Preliminary Examining Authority in the corresponding international application, and file their applications first in India.
  • The ‘expedited examination’-route is also available to all entities that qualify as a start-up as per the definition for start-up provided in the Patent Rules. The applications for this route have to be filed only electronically.
  • The move is to popularise India as a patent filing hub so that more companies file applications in India.

Background:

  • This move comes in the backdrop of 2.37 lakh patent applications pending in the country.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Also in News

Sykes-Picot Agreement

On May 16, 2016, the 100 years of the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement was completed.

About the agreement:

Also known as the Asia Minor agreement, the Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret Anglo-French pact reached during the First World War that proposed splitting the Middle East up into zones of foreign control.

  • The Sykes-Picot, named for its British and French authors and the map it produced, defined the borders of the modern states of Syria and Iraq, handing the former over to the French and the latter over to the UK.
  • The agreement was concluded in secret partly because it represented a betrayal of promises the British government had already made to Hussein bin Ali, the sharif of Mecca.

The impact of the agreement is still being felt today. Most recently, the Islamic State militant group has made the elimination of the borders defined by Sykes-Picot a crucial part of its propaganda.

 [Ref: Hindu]

 

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