Government Schemes & Policies
- Govt set to expand Buddhist tourism circuit to 21 more states
- RBI puts Dena Bank under prompt corrective action
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- World Migratory Bird Day 2018
Bilateral & International Relations
- Negotiators fail to reach NAFTA deal, Trump launches new attack
- UN General Assembly sets up team for negotiations on global environment compact
- OIC Countries to Enter Russian Market
- India, Peru signs agreement in field of Renewable Energy
Science & Technology
- Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission
- Trump administration cancels NASA plan to track greenhouse gases
Key Facts for Prelims
- Mount Merapi
- Janakpur-Ayodhya direct bus service
- 12 May: International Nurse Day
World’s second oldest rock is from Odisha
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Government Schemes & Policies
Govt set to expand Buddhist tourism circuit to 21 more states
Ministry of Tourism has decided to expand Buddhist tourism circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme to 21 more states to make it India’s first trans-national tourist circuit.
- Earlier it was envisaged only to seven major Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- Now, Ministry of Tourism has identified stupas and viharas in these 21 states, around which small intra-state Buddhist zones will be developed.
- The states now that will be covered includes Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, West Bengal, Goa, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir.
Aim of this move:
- The expansion of Buddhist tourism circuit aims to catch new-age Buddhist tourists from the West, besides those from traditional markets in South East Asia.
- The ministry is in talks with World Bank and Japanese government for funding of infrastructure projects connected with Buddhist tourism circuit.
- It also plans to involve the private sector in building tourism infrastructure pertaining to the circuit.
About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
The Union Ministry of Tourism had launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 2014-15 with an aim to develop theme based tourist circuits in the country.
- These tourist circuits will be developed on principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.
- They will be developed by synergizing efforts to focus on concerns and needs of all stakeholders to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities.
- Under this scheme, 13 thematic circuits have been identified for development.
- They are Buddhist Circuit, North-East India Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.
RBI puts Dena Bank under prompt corrective action
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put state-run lender Dena Bank under prompt corrective action (PCA) framework.
- It has barred Dena Bank from extending fresh credit in view of deteriorating financial health due to mounting non-performing assets (NPAs) and mounting losses.
- It makes Dena Bank first lender to face curbs on lending under PCA framework.
Implications of the move:
- This means Dena bank can disburse loans for credit facilities already sanctioned, but cannot sanction fresh loans.
- In addition, RBI also has barred from recruiting more staff. RBI may lift these restrictions in case the bank improves profitability and reduces the ratio of bad loans.
What is Prompt Corrective Action (PCA)?
- PCA norms allow the regulator to place certain restrictions such as halting branch expansion and stopping dividend payment.
- It can even cap a bank’s lending limit to one entity or sector.
- Other corrective action that can be imposed on banks include special audit, restructuring operations and activation of recovery plan.
- Banks’ promoters can be asked to bring in new management, too.
- Under PCA, the RBI can also supersede the bank’s board.
When is PCA invoked?
- The PCA is invoked when certain risk thresholds are breached.
- There are three risk thresholds which are based on certain levels of asset quality, profitability, capital and the like.
- The third such threshold, which is maximum tolerance limit, sets net NPA at over 12% and negative return on assets for four consecutive years.
What are the types of sanctions?
- There are two types of restrictions, mandatory and discretionary.
- Restrictions on dividend, branch expansion, directors compensation, are mandatory while discretionary restrictions could include curbs on lending and deposit.
- In the cases of two banks where PCA was invoked after the revised guidelines were issued — IDBI Bank and UCO Bank — only mandatory restrictions were imposed. Both the banks breached risk threshold 2.
What will a bank do if PCA is triggered?
- Banks are not allowed to renew or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income.
- Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs.
- They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business.
- RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from interbank market.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
World Migratory Bird Day 2018
World Migratory Bird Day 2018 is being celebrated on May 12th this year.
- The theme for the World Migratory Bird Day 2018 is: “Unifying Our Voices for Bird Conservation”.
About World Migratory Bird Day:
- World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated each year to highlight the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.
Threats to migratory species:
- Forty percent of all migratory birds are seeing their number in decline, with one in eight being threatened with global extinction.
- Major threats include habitat loss and degradation, collision with badly placed wind turbines and power lines, unsustainable harvesting and the illegal killing and taking of birds.
Conservation efforts for migratory species:
Efforts to conserve migratory birds both globally and regionally are internationally coordinated by
- The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention) and
- The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).
The two UN Environment-administered treaties have been spearheading World Migratory Bird Day since 2006.
About the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS):
- The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
- It is under aegis of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- CMS and its related Agreements on migratory birds bring together governments and other stakeholders to coordinate and further develop conservation policies, to ensure that all flyways in the world benefit from coordination mechanisms that promote cooperation at ground level among the countries involved.
About the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA):
- The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is an intergovernmental treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds that migrate along the African-Eurasian Flyway.
- The Agreement covers 254 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle.
Bilateral & International Relations
Negotiators fail to reach NAFTA deal, Trump launches new attack
Senior American, Canadian and Mexican officials ended a week of talks without a deal to modernize NAFTA, agreeing instead to resume negotiations soon, ahead of a deadline next week issued by U.S House of Representatives.
- The failure to secure a quick deal underscores uncertainty over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
- President Donald Trump has pledged to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in upcoming talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
- Trump has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal in history,” and blames it for the loss of manufacturing jobs in America’s Rust Belt.
- He has pledged to negotiate “tough and fair” trade agreements with the goal of creating more U.S. jobs as a top goal.
What is NAFTA?
NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
- It is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)
- Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.
Objectives of NAFTA:
- In 1993 the European Union (EU) created a “single market”—one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. This allowed every country and business in the EU to have access to more than 500 million consumers.
- NAFTA, which was approved that same year, was designed to have a similar effect, providing a way to allow the exchange of goods and services to flow more freely across national borders without the artificial restrictions.
- NAFTA provided for progressive elimination of all tariffs on any goods qualifying as North American. The deal also sought to protect intellectual property, establish dispute-resolution mechanisms, and, through corollary agreements, implement labor and environmental safeguards.
Why is NAFTA controversial?
- NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first [free trade agreement] involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country. Some people felt that allowing free trade with a developing country provides an incentive for U.S-based business to move their operations to that country.
- Since its implementation NAFTA has remained a prime target of trade protectionists (those who advocate taking measures such as taxing imports to “protect” domestic industries from foreign competition).
UN General Assembly sets up team for negotiations on global environment compact
The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution to set up a working group for negotiations aimed at creating a Global Pact for the Environment, a legally binding international instrument.
Key features of the resolution:
- The resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit to the General Assembly a report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.
- It decides to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to consider the report, and if deemed necessary, to consider the scope, parameters and feasibility of a Global Pact for the Environment.
- The resolution requests the current president of the General Assembly to appoint two co-chairs of the working group — one from a developing country and one from a developed country — to oversee its consultations.
OIC Countries to Enter Russian Market
Russia has come in support of Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries (OIC) in their effort to enter the Russian market.
- Russia’s trade turnover with OIC countries stands at about $75 billion, with exports accounting for about $58 billion. Imports from OIC countries total about $17 billion.
- Turkey, Kazakhstan and Egypt are Russia’s main trade partners.
About the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC):
- OIC is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states. It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
- The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.
- The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
Kazan has been hosting the International Economic Summit Russia-Islamic World: Kazan Summit since 2009.
- The forum aims to strengthen trade, economic, scientific, technological, social and cultural ties between Russia and OIC countries.
- This year’s Kazan Summit is being held on May 10-12, including about 3,000 representatives of international organizations, government agencies, financial institutions, embassies, parliaments and business circles from over 50 countries.
- The 2018 summit focuses on the halal lifestyle.
Key facts about Kazan:
- Kazan is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.
- Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia.
- The Kazan Kremlin is a World Heritage Site.
- In April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the right to brand itself as the “Third Capital” of Russia.
- In 2009 it was chosen as the “Sports capital of Russia” and it still is referred to as such.
India, Peru signs agreement in field of Renewable Energy
During the very important visit of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, India and Peru signed agreement in field of Renewable Energy.
- During the meeting, India and Peru discussed various bilateral and international issues of mutual interest.
- They also discussed possibility of collaboration in Quinoa cultivation and processing with Peru.
Location of Peru:
- Peru is a country in western South America.
- It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean.
- Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.
Science & Technology
Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission
NASA is planning to send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the space agency’s 2020 mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface, marking the first time such an aircraft will be used on another world.
About the Mars Helicopter:
- The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.
- The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights. But before the helicopter can fly at Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.
- As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.
About Mars 2020 rover mission:
- Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.
- The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.
- Scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission.
[Ref: Economic Times]
Trump administration cancels NASA plan to track greenhouse gases
US President Donald Trump’s administration has cancelled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) programme citing reasons of budget constraints and higher priorities within science budget.
What is Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) Programme?
- NASA’s CMS Programme costing $10 million per year was meant to track carbon and methane, key greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
- It also tracked sources and sinks for carbon and made high-resolution models of planet’s flows of carbon.
- It was designed to make significant contributions in characterizing, quantifying, understanding and predicting evolution of global carbon sources and sinks through improved monitoring of carbon stocks and fluxes.
- The System uses full range of NASA satellite observations, modelling and analysis capabilities to establish accuracy, quantitative uncertainties and utility of products for supporting national and international policy, regulatory and management activities.
- CMS also maintains global emphasis while providing finer scale regional information, utilizing space-based and surface-based data. It had initiated generation and distribution of products both for user evaluation and to inform near-term policy development and planning.
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces, Indonesia.
- It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548.
Janakpur-Ayodhya direct bus service
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli jointly inaugurated direct bus service between Janakpur in Nepal and Ayodhya in India.
- Both are sacred cities for Hindus and bus service was launched as part of India’s Ramayan Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme to promote religious tourism in Nepal and India.
- The bus service was flagged off after PM Modi visited famed 20th century Janaki temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Sita. Janakpur is known as birth place of Sita, the wife of Lord Rama.
12 May: International Nurse Day
- The International Nurse Day (IND) is observed every year on May 12 across world to mark the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, and also mark contribution of nurses towards the society.
- The theme chosen by International Council of Nurses (ICN) for 2018 IND was ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Health is a Human Right’.
- On this occasion, President of India conferred National Florence Nightingale Awards to nursing personnel from across the country for selfless services rendered by nurses with devotion, sincerity, dedication and compassion.
World’s second oldest rock is from Odisha
- Scientists have discovered world’s second oldest grain of magmatic zircon (a mineral that contains traces of radioactive isotopes) from Champua from Singhbhum rock sample in Odisha’s Kendujhar district.
- It is an estimated 4,240 million years old, making it world’s second oldest rock ever to be discovered.
- It is oldest magmatic zircon on earth.
- The isotopic analysis of Singhbhum rock sample with magmatic zircon was done used Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe (SHRIMP) at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing, China.
- The oldest zircon older than this discovery was found in Jack Hill, Western Australia. It is 4,400 million years old and is the oldest known rock sample. It is metamorphosed sedimentary rock.