9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 19, 2019

PSU banks kick off nationwide exercise to boost credit demand across sectors

  1. Public sector banks(PSBs) has held a consultative process with their branch heads across the country to identify the issues and challenges faced by branches.
  2. This exercise was undertaken as part of a bottom-up approach to shape policies so that PSBs can act as a catalyst in making India a $5-trillion economy.
  3. The consultative process has been divided into three stages with the first being at the branch or regional level followed by the state level.It will culminate with a national-level two-day brainstorming in Delhi.
  4. The consultation covers eight thematic papers on issues such as digital payments, corporate governance in PSBs, MSME credit, technology usage and retail lending. 
  5. This consultation comes in the backdrop of PSBs ceding market share to their private sector bank counterparts over the last few years.
  6. This exercise also comes at a time when credit demand remains subdued and banks have been facing the charge of not passing on the full extent of the easing of the policy rates. 
  7. The RBI had cut the repo rate by 75 basis points between February and June but banks have reduced their interest rates on fresh rupee loans by only 29 basis points.

India, Bhutan natural partners: Modi

  1. Indian Prime Minister is on a visit to Bhutan.During his visit,he held wide talks with Bhutanese PM to further expand the bilateral partnership.
  2. Prime Minister has inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant.Most of the electricity generated by it will meet the energy requirements of Bhutan and the surplus electricity will be exported to India. 
  3. He has launched the RuPay Card in Bhutan by making a purchase at Simtokha Dzong.
  4. Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Shabdrung Namgyal which functions as a monastic and administrative centre and is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan. 
  5. India also announced an additional $100 million will be available to Bhutan under the SAARC currency swap framework to meet the foreign exchange requirement. 
  6. Indian Prime Minister has also inaugurated the Ground Earth Station of the South Asian Satellite(SAS) constructed with the support of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  7. The two countries have also agreed to collaborate on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan and form a joint working group to implement the project and other related activities.
  8. Further,the two countries have also signed 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education. 

Jaishankar to visit Dhaka to discuss bilateral ties

  1. India’s External Affairs Minister will be on a two day visit to Bangladesh. The two countries are expected to review the status of all the issues and projects between the two sides.
  2. The visit is being viewed as important due to the upcoming publication of the National Register of Citizens in Assam which has drawn attention of the Bangladesh.
  3. However,experts have said that Bangladesh considers NRC to be an internal issue of India and therefore it is unlikely to raise the issue with India.
  4. Bangladesh is also expected to take up the Rohingya issue with India.It wants India to exert more pressure on the Government of Myanmar which is an emerging strategic partner of India in the Southeast Asian region.
  5. Further,India and Bangladesh have been in dialogue to sign the Teesta water agreement since 2011 though the final deal has remained elusive due to differences within India.
  6. Teesta is a river which originates in the Himalayas and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal to merge with the Brahmaputra in Assam and (Jamuna in Bangladesh).The water sharing agreement has not been signed due to opposition from West Bengal as water is a State subject.

PM to visit UAE, Bahrain from 23 Aug in bid to boost ties

  1. Indian Prime Minister(PM) will be on a three day visit to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates(UAE).
  2. During the UAE visit,Indian PM will be honoured with the “Order of Zayed” which is the highest UAE civilian award.It is conferred due to distinguished leadership of Prime Minister for giving a big boost to bilateral relations between the two countries.
  3. UAE-India relations got momentum after Prime Minister paid a visit to the nation in 2015.The Crown Prince visited India in 2017 as the Chief Guest for Republic Day celebrations.In 2018,Indian Prime minister had again visited UAE.
  4. The annual bilateral trade between India and the UAE stood at about $60 billion and the UAE was India’s third-largest trade partner.The UAE is also a key source of energy for India as it is the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India.
  5. The Prime Minister would also visit the Kingdom of Bahrain.This will be the first ever Prime Ministerial visit from India to Bahrain.
  6. India enjoys close and friendly relations with Bahrain rooted in ancient trade and cultural links and people to people contacts and underpinned by regular exchange of high level visits.
  7. India-Bahrain bilateral trade has been on the rise for the last few years, reaching about US$ 1.3 billion in 2018-19.Further,about 350,000 Indian nationals,the largest expatriate community in Bahrain has been contributing to the development of Bahrain.

Explained: How states are split into seats

  1. The Parliament has passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill,2019.The bill bifurcates the State into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir(with legislature) and Ladakh (without legislature).
  2. According to the act,the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the UT of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114.The Act also specifies that delimitation will be based on the 2011 census till 2026.
  3. Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population so that the population of all seats so far as practicable is the same.
  4. The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population and fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
  5. Under Article 82,the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.
  6. Once the Delimitation Act is in force,the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission made up of (a)retired Supreme Court judge, (b)Chief Election Commissioner and (c)respective State Election Commissioners.
  7. The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.
  8. Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
  9. The delimitation did not take place as the Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is as far as practicable,the same for all states. 
  10. The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.To allay these fears,the Constitution was amended during 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.Further,another amendment postponed this until 2026.

PM Economic Advisory Council: Need to set up GST Council-like body for public spending

  1. The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM) has recommended a GST Council-like mechanism for the Centre and states to oversee public expenditure.
  2. EAC has said that fiscal consolidation issue as a reason behind this recommendation.The Centre’s fiscal deficit for 2019-20 is 3.3% of GDP. 
  3. Hence,there are limits to public expenditure as there is a fiscal deficit issues.But focused and strategic expenditure by the Centre and states together could yield efficiency gains.
  4. EAC has also suggested the government to streamline and harmonise the Goods and Services tax(GST) rates.
  5. They have also recommended a reduction in direct tax rates.But this can be done only when both corporate and income tax exemptions are removed.
  6. PM-EAC is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to give economic advice to the Government of India, specifically the Prime Minister.
  7. The council serves to highlight key economic issues facing the country to the government of India from a neutral viewpoint.It advises the Prime Minister on economic issues like inflation, microfinance, and industrial output.

5th Meeting of India-Nepal Joint Commission to be held in Kathmandu

  1. The 5th Meeting of India-Nepal Joint Commission will be held in Kathmandu,Nepal.The meeting will be chaired by foreign ministers of both countries.
  2. India-Nepal Joint Commission was established in June 1987.The meetings are held alternately in Nepal and India.The last meeting of the Commission was held in New Delhi in 2016.
  3. The meeting will review the overall state of bilateral relations and various areas of cooperation such as (a)connectivity and economic partnership, (b)trade and transit (c)power and water resources (d)culture (e)education and (f)other matters of mutual interest.
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