28 March Current Affairs
March 28, 2019
30 March Current Affairs
March 30, 2019
Show all

29 March Current Affairs

Island protection zone (IPZ) 2019 for Andaman and Nicobar

In News:

The union environment ministry has notified island protection zone (IPZ) 2019 for Andaman and Nicobar.


The legal changes in the IPZ are aligned with the Niti Ayog’s proposal for holistic development in the Islands which is being taken forward under the guidance of the Island Development Agency.

Key highlights:

It allows eco-tourism projects 20 metres from the high tide line (HTL) in smaller islands like Baratang, Havelock and Car Nicobar, and at 50 metres in larger ones.

It allows for eco-tourism activities like mangrove walks, tree huts and nature trails in island coastal regulation zone IA (classified as the most eco-sensitive region of the islands which includes turtle nesting grounds, marshes, coral reefs etc).

The notification also allows for construction of roads, roads on stilts by reclaiming land in exceptional cases for defence installations, public utilities or strategic purposes in eco-sensitive zones.

It states that in case construction of such roads pass through mangroves, a minimum three times the mangrove area destroyed during the construction process shall be taken up for compensatory plantation of mangroves elsewhere.

It also allows a number of new activities in the inter-tidal zone between low tide line and HTL. This includes land reclamation and bunding for foreshore facilities like ports, harbours, jetties, wharves, quays, sea links etc, transfer of hazardous substances from ships to ports, manual mining of atomic minerals, and mining of sand for construction purposes with permission from local authorities in non-eco-sensitive sites.


The notification relaxes development norms in the islands compared to the IPZ notification of 2011, which stipulated a no-development zone (NDZ) of 200 metres from the HTL for all islands.

This brings the norms for Andaman and Nicobar at par with coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms for other islands close to the mainland and backwater islands where an NDZ only 20 metres from HTL has been stipulated.


The Union cabinet had approved the CRZ notification 2018 in December, which relaxed a number of provisions in the CRZ 2011 to facilitate infrastructure development and construction on the coast, including easing floor area ratio (FAR) in coastal urban areas and slashing the NDZ in densely populated coastal rural areas to 50 metres from HTL as compared to 200 metres earlier.

Source: The Hindu

Indian economy slowing down

Signs to suggest that the Indian economy slowing down:

Sales of Maruti Suzuki, the largest carmaker, and Tractor sales for Mahindra have declined in December 2018. Two-wheeler sales too started crawling since December.

There are signs of a consumption slowdown spreading to non-discretionary items such as food items. Thus far, it was feared to have impacted only discretionary expenditure – in products such as cars and consumer durables.

Macro indicators too aren’t presenting any encouraging signs either. First, eight core segments — steel, cement, fertilisers, coal, electricity, crude oil, natural gas and refinery products, which together make up about 40% of industrial production – grew at 1.8 per cent in January this year, compared with 2.8 per cent in the previous month.

The growth in industrial output itself dropped to 1.7% in January 2019 against a growth of 2.6% in December 2018. In the corresponding month i.e. January 2018, it had grown 7.5%.

The GDP growth rate in the first three quarters (April-June 2018, July-September 2018 and October-December 2018) of the current financial year ending March 2019, the Central Statistics Office estimates, was 8 per cent, 7 per cent and 6.6 per cent, respectively. This clearly shows a trend of sequential slowing down and these numbers corroborate the signals that have been visible on the ground.

Why is it slowing down?

The demand for passenger vehicles slowed down during the second half (beginning September 2018) of this financial year because of many reasons — high interest rates, higher fuel prices and lack of credit. However, many in the industry say consumers have only postponed the decision to purchase vehicles, suggesting that there is no permanent destruction of this demand.

At a very broad level, demonetisation — a radical policy decision — and introduction of Goods and Services Tax — a structural reform — naturally had an adverse impact on the economy.

Over the last two years, bank credit slowed down dramatically because banks had to make higher provisions for bad loans. With six public sector banks under the central bank’s prompt corrective action framework, and some others voluntarily having pressed the pause button on lending, retail and businesses found it quite difficult to access credit.

Poor bank credit, liquidity crisis and high interest rates all created a huge drag on the economy.


A slowing economy always hurts. It affects income of people, and does not create jobs.

Source: The Hindu

Oxfam report on Women’s labour force participation

In News:

Oxfam, an international non-profit organisation, has released a report on women’s labour force participation.


The report based its estimates on employment unemployment survey (EUS) 2011-12, done by the National Sample Survey Oganisation (NSSO), International Labour Organization (ILO) studies, and also builds on the first inequality report launched by Oxfam in 2018.

Key observations:

Irrespective of employment category (casual and regular/salaried), organised or unorganised sector, and location (urban and rural), women workers in India are paid a lower wage rate.

The gender pay gap was 34 per cent in India, that is, women get 34 per cent less compared to men for performing the same job with same qualifications.

In the organised sector, women professionals even in the highest ranks of labour (legislators, senior officials, and managers) are also paid less compared to their male counterparts. However, these women constitute only one per cent of the total female work force and the gap is lowest as they are aware of their rights.

The wage difference is lesser for more skilled workers and more for semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Across enterprise type, wage difference is less for government/public sector and public/private limited company.

Large pay gaps in terms of average daily wages exist in male and female wage rates of casual and regular workers in rural and urban areas and the gap is narrower for regular workers in urban areas. On the other hand, for casual workers, wage gap is narrower in rural areas.

While inequality in jobs has increased, inequality in education has decreased between boys and girls. But this situation further exacerbates the crisis in jobs when it comes to women. Even as girls frequently outperform boys in school examinations, they are not finding suitable jobs for the skills that they have.

While both men and women are diversifying out of agriculture, almost 75 per cent of rural women are still engaged in it. A patriarchal ideology and local socio-cultural traditions confine women to the village where agriculture continues to be their most important (but insufficient) source of food and income. Male outmigration has also pushed women into taking on more responsibility of own cultivation and to perform wage labour to ensure households’ daily survival.


Women’s labour force participation in India is one of the lowest in the world. Women comprise half of the Indian population but make up less than a quarter of the labour force. Three in four Indian women do not work in the country.

Looking at the extremely low levels of participation of women in the labour market makes one wonder whether the phenomenal success of India’s economic transition forgot about its women and left them behind.

Source: Down to Earth

African Union (AU)

In News:

India and the African Union have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish an India-Africa health sciences collaborative platform.

Key facts:

The ICMR had taken up the mandate to initiate and strengthen the cooperation in the health sector in a structured and organised manner by establishing an India-Africa Health Sciences Collaborative Platform.

The agreement aims to formalise this partnership by establishing a framework. It will pave the way for cooperation in research and development, capacity building, health services, pharmaceutical trade and manufacturing capabilities for drugs and diagnostics.

The programme would focus on training and strengthening capacity of health professionals, researchers, regulators and industry staff, support research collaborations for developing preventive tools and improved diagnostics for diseases which are regional priorities in India and Africa.

About AU:

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 countries of the continent of Africa, with exception of various territories of European possessions located in Africa.

The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa.

The intention of the AU is to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa by 32 signatory governments.

The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.

The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa.

Key objectives: To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and Africans.

To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States.

To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent.

Biomedical Research Career Programme

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of the Biomedical Research Career Programme (BRCP).

Key facts:

It is an Alliance between the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Wellcome Trust (WT).

The Programme will fulfil the objectives of building and nurturing talent of highest global standards in cutting-edge biomedical research in India, which has led to important scientific breakthroughs and applications to meet societal needs.

BRCP will make it attractive for high quality Indian scientists working abroad to return to India, and has increased the number of locations geographically within India where world-class biomedical research is undertaken.

The Programme would continue to build this capacity as also strengthen clinical research and work towards addressing important health challenges for India.


The Wellcome Trust is an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. Established in 1936 and with an endowment of around £15 billion, it is the largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research in the United Kingdom.

Block Chain Technology

In News:

Coffee Board Activates Blockchain Based Marketplace in India.


Blockchain based market place app for trading of Indian coffees is intended to bring in transparency in the trade of Indian coffee, maintain the traceability of Indian coffee from bean to cup so as the consumer tastes real Indian coffee and the grower is paid fairly for his coffee produced.

What are Blockchains?

Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset.

Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions. The present blockchain ecosystem is like the early Internet, a permissionless innovation environment in which email, the World Wide Web, Napster, Skype, and Uber were built.

How it operates?

The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless. It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.

A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.

Benefits of blockchain technology:

As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.

All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.

Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.

It allows decentralization of the technology.

PFC becomes India’s second largest state-owned Financial Firm

With the acquisition of majority stake in REC Ltd, State-owned Power Finance Corporation (PFC) has become the second-largest government-owned financial player in the country based on the current market capital after State Bank of India (SBI) and also PFC will be the third-highest profit-making financial player in India.

Dhanush Howitzers Inducted Into Indian Army

In News:

Four indigenous Dhanush Howitzer guns were inducted to the Indian Army.

Key facts:

Dhanush Long Range Artillery Guns are the first ever indigenous 155 mm x 45 calibre long-range artillery guns.

They are equipped with inertial navigation-based sighting system, auto-laying facility, on-board ballistic computation and an advanced day and night direct firing system.

They are improved version of Bofors guns acquired by India between 1987 and 1991.

It has a new maximum effective range of 38 kilometers in salvo mode.

Turing Award

In News:

Three pioneers in artificial intelligence — a senior Google executive, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, and an academic — were announced as the winners for this year’s A M Turing Award.

About Turing award:

It is often described as the “Nobel Prize for computing”.

Given by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the A M Turing Award carries $1 million as prize money.

It is for major contributions of lasting importance to computing.

First awarded in 1966, it has been awarded annually for 53 years so far to 70 recipients.


The award is named after British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Mathison Turing, whose work in code breaking is credited with having played a decisive role in World War II. He led a British team that worked out a way to decrypt intercepted messages, which had been encrypted on Enigma machines developed by the Germans. Apart from the award, the Turing machine, used in computing, is named after the pioneer who is considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

Dhole (Asiatic wild dog)

In News:

A new study has found that expansion of protected areas in the Western Ghats has not helped the lot of Dhole, commonly known as the Asiatic wild dog, even while enabling the recovery of populations of tigers and other big carnivores.

Key facts:

Dhole is an apex social carnivore in the tropical forests of South and South East Asia.

Endangered –IUCN.

CITES – Appendix II.

Shedule II of wildlife act.

The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.

Habitat: Dhole is a habitat generalist, and can occur in a wide variety of vegetation types, including: primary, secondary and degraded forms of tropical dry and moist deciduous forests; evergreen and semi-evergreen forests; temperate deciduous forests; boreal forests; dry thorn forests; grassland–scrub–forest mosaics; temperate steppe; and alpine steppe

Disease and pathogens: Dholes are susceptible to rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus and sarcoptic mange among others which are usually contracted from domestic village dogs that act as reservoirs.

Longest salt cave in Israel

In News:

An area near the Dead Sea is home to the world’s longest salt cave, a title previously held by Iran for the Cave of the Three Nudes on Qeshm Island.


The Malham salt cave in Mount Sedom sits 170 meters below sea level at the southwestern tip of the Dead Sea.

At 10 kilometers long, the Malham salt cave is now the world’s longest salt cave, besting Iran’s 6.4 km cave, and the first to reach a length in the double-digits.

The Malham Salt Cave is a river cave. Water from a surface stream flowed underground and dissolved the salt, creating caves – a process that is still going on when there is strong rain over Mount Sedom about once a year.