- The entire State of Nagaland has been declared ‘disturbed area’ for six more months under the AFSPA.
- AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior notice.
- The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades. It has not been withdrawn even after a framework agreement was signed in 2015, between NSCN-IM and government.
- The 125-year-old Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra, and two Mughal-era monuments in Agra — Haveli of Agha Khan and Hathi Khana — are among the six monuments declared protected and of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2018.
- The ancient Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district; the Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir; and the Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand, are the three other monuments that have been listed.
- In 2016 and 2017, no new monument was included in the list of sites of national importance.
- The last monument to be included in the list, in 2015, was the Vishnu Temple in Nadavayal in Kerala’s Wayanad district.
- There were 3,686 centrally protected monuments/sites under the ASI in the country; the number has now increased to 3,693.
- Uttar Pradesh (745 monuments/sites), Karnataka (506) and Tamil Nadu (413) have the highest number of ASI-maintained sites.
- Analysis of the balance sheets of the central banks of 10 comparable economies shows that the RBI’s reserves as a percentage of its balance sheet is among the highest.
- However, the bulk of these reserves are notional and thus their value can only be unlocked when the underlying assets are sold. This makes transferring the excess reserves to the government all the more difficult.
- RBI’s reserves IS about ₹10.5 lakh crore which forms 26.2% its balance sheet.
- Only two central banks — those of South Africa and Russia — have a reserve ratio higher than this.
- The other two BRICS nations, China and Brazil, have reserve ratios of 1.7% and 0.2%, respectively.
- A NASA spaceship, New Horizons, is zooming toward the farthest, and quite possibly the oldest, cosmic body ever photographed by humankind, a tiny, distant world called Ultima Thule 6.4 billion kilometres away.
- The mysterious object is in a dark and frigid region of space known as the Kuiper Belt.
- Real-time video of the actual flyby is impossible, since it takes more than six hours for a signal sent from Earth to reach the spaceship and another six hours for the response to arrive.
- It was discovered in 2014 with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is believed to be 20-30 km in size.
- Scientists decided to study it with New Horizons after the spaceship, which launched in 2006, completed its main mission of flying by Pluto in 2015.
- It is usually during the winter that a distinctly dark large bird – the Cinereous vulture, with a blacked-tipped pink beak – migrates from the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia to warmer places, including India.
- While earlier records of this migratory bird have revealed that it comes to northern parts of India up to Rajasthan, bird watchers and researchers were baffled to find it in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.
- Recognising the rising importance of small tea growers (STG) in the supply chain, tea estates in North India are testing a project called ‘Trinitea,’
- The project aims at providing support to the STG at the farm and market level such as customised farm management, access to real time information on climate, soil and markets, etc.
- A MoU was signed between the Indian Tea Association (ITA) the apex body of North Indian tea producers and Solidaridad for jointly implementing this project.
- Solidaridad is a network which works to promote sustainable production of 13 commodities across nine regions globally.
- The STG sector’s share in total Indian tea crop has been rising steadily and now constitutes 47% of the total production.
- The average lifespan of the turtle is 50.
- The conservation status of the animal is ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN.
- The breeding season normally commences in January.
- The prime reason for the rise in the deaths is the absence of the ‘Turtle Excluder Device’ in fishing operations.
- The RBI has appointed an eight-member expert committee headed by former SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha to comprehensively review and propose long-term solutions for revival of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.
- The MSME sector has been facing stress due to the demonetisation exercise and implementation of GST.
National Health Authority
- Govt cleared the constitution of a National Health Authority (NHA) through an executive order, thus taking the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) out of the ambit of the Ministry of Health.
- The ministry’s role will now be limited to acting as the nodal ministry for NHA in parliamentary matters, like the presentation of annual reports.
- The Cabinet also approved a proposal to upgrade the post of the NHA CEO to that of a Secretary to the Government of India with full financial powers.
- Till now, all funds released by the National Health Agency, which is implementing the PM-JAY, were done through the Ministry of Health.
- The NHA’s governing board will be chaired by the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, while its members will include NITI Aayog CEO and NHA CEO.
- The proposal envisages statutory backing for NHA eventually. Till then, it will be an adjunct office of the ministry — like the department of health research — with complete functional autonomy.
- A part of the overarching Ayushman Bharat scheme, it is currently administered by the National Health Agency, which is a registered society under the Ministry of Health. While the ministry is not responsible for the day-to-day running of the scheme, it does have a say in policy matters.
- Now, the NHA will be responsible for its operational guidelines, fixing the ceiling of premium amounts, and developing mechanisms for strategic purchase of healthcare from the private sector.
- The direct tax-to-GDP ratio of 5.98 per cent achieved during 2017-18 fiscal is the best in the last 10 years.
- It was 5.57 per cent in 2016-17 and 5.47 per cent in 2015-16.
- There is a constant growth in direct tax-GDP ratio over last three years.
- The number of individuals filing return of income has also increased by about 65 per cent during this period from 3.31 crore in 2013-14 to 5.44 crore in 2017-18.
- As conservationists and wildlife authorities grapple with the issue of man-animal conflict around sanctuaries and nature reserves, a tribal community in Arunachal Pradesh is championing a unique ‘brotherhood’ they say helps save the tiger.
- The Idu Mishmi community in Arunachal’s Dibang Valley considers tigers to be “big brothers” and holds that killing the big cat amounts to “homicide”. This, they believe is a “unique conservation strategy”, which helps the big cat population to thrive in the area.
- The report notes the presence of tigers at 3,630 metres – the highest in the eastern Himalayas — and says the Mishmi hills have more tigers than the designated tiger reserves of the north-eastern state.
- This has prompted the government to propose that the 4,149-sq.km Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS) be declared a tiger reserve.
- As part of New Delhi’s space diplomacy, a tool the foreign ministry has been trying to wield as part of its neighbourhood-first policy to counter China’s influence in the region, India will set up five large ground stations and more than 500 small terminals in five neighbouring countries — Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
- These stations and terminals will help put in place applications ranging from television broadcasting to telephony and internet, disaster management and tele-medicine.
- Isro meanwhile can use these ground stations to communicate with its own satellites.
- The first of the five ground stations is coming up in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.
- The Union Cabinet approved the merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda (BoB).
- This merger will create the country’s second largest public-sector lender after SBI.
- The amalgamation will be the first-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India.
Samwad with Students
- As part of the enhanced outreach programme of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.
- Through the SwS initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
- The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
Agri Export Zones
- The concept of Agri Export Zone (AEZ) was introduced in 2001 to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/product located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing the raw materials, their processing/packaging, leading to final exports.
- The concept hinged primarily on convergence of existing Central and State Government schemes to take care of financial interventions required at various stages of value chain, partnership among various stakeholders viz. Central Government, State Government, farmer, processor, exporter etc.; and focus on targeted products and areas to identify required policy interventions.
- In 2004, an review conducted by Department of Commerce concluded that the notified AEZs had not been able to achieve the intended objectives.
- It was decided that there will be no creation of new AEZs, unless there were strong and compelling reasons. No new AEZs have been set up after 2004.