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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

04 Jul 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

IMF Approves $6 Billion Loan for Pakistan

  •  The IMF approved a USD 6 billion loan over a period of three years for cash-strapped Pakistan, aimed at returning sustainable growth to the country's fragile economy and improve the standards of living.
  • Pakistan's finance ministry had approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in August 2018 for a bailout package when the Imran Khan government took over.
  • The USD 6 billion financial aid includes an immediate disbursement of USD 1 billion to help Pakistan address its balance of payment crisis.
  • The remaining amount will be phased over the duration of the programme, subject to four quarterly reviews and four semi-annual reviews.
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ENVIRONMENT

Declare Panje a Bird Sanctuary

  •  Nature conservation group Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) questioned the Maharashtra government's delay in declaring three wetlands in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) as wildlife sanctuaries, even after the state wildlife board directed conservation of these areas.
  • In December 2015, the state wildlife board, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, said that the Panje-Funde zone in Uran; Mahul-Sewri in Mumbai; and the Training Ship Chanakya (TSC) - NRI Complex wetland in Navi Mumbai, would be declared as bird sanctuaries.
  • These sites were meant to provide shelter for migratory birds that were likely to be dislocated from other wetlands by the construction of 22.5-km-long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project.
  • The forest department, however, said that it was awaiting a proposal of the site co-ordinates. Once the forest department receives the proposal, future course of action would be considered.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Govt. Nod for Leasing out 3 Airports to Adani

  •  The government approved leasing out of three State-owned airports — Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru — to Adani Enterprises Limited through a public- private partnership.
  • In February 2019, Adani Enterprises emerged as the winning bidder for six airports bid out by the Airports Authority of India.
  • With the Union Cabinet approving leasing of only three of them, uncertainty hangs over the Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Jaipur airports.
  • It is learnt that the Ministry of Civil Aviation had sent a proposal for all the six airports to the Cabinet.
  • The bids expires on July 30, 2019, though a senior AAI official said that their validity could be extended.

MSP for Kharif Crops

  •  The Union cabinet approved increase in federally fixed minimum support prices (MSPs) of 16 kharif or summer-sown crops, setting these at a minimum of 1.5 times the cost of production so that farmers can hope to get 50% returns on their output.
  • The increase came as good news for farmers in the backdrop of a delayed monsoon and a potential shortfall in farm output in a country where half of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture for a livelihood.
  • MSP is a benchmark price that is meant to act as a floor rate, thereby helping avoid distress sales of farm produce.
  • MSP for paddy, the main summer crop sown during the four-month south-west monsoon, was raised by Rs. 65 per quintal, while that of jowar was increased by Rs. 120 per quintal. MSP for ragi was hiked by Rs. 253 per quintal.

Welspun India Receives Approval for Litigation Settlement

  •  Textile firm Welspun India  received preliminary court approval for settlement of its litigation in the US with regards to labelling and marketing of Egyptian cotton products.
  • In May, 2019 Welspun India had announced that company and its subsidiaries, which have been facing litigation in the US surrounding its premium cotton home textile products, have entered into a settlement agreement in the US. 
  • The settlement agreement provides monetary payments to settlement class members not exceeding USD 36 million (about Rs. 250 crore). 
  • The company received preliminary court approval for its settlement agreement, which is intended to resolve all pending legal claims in the United States concerning past marketing and labelling of the company's premium cotton home textile products. 
  • The plaintiffs in other pending litigations involving these issues have also agreed not to object to the settlement agreement. 
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SPORTS

Ambati Rayudu Announces Retirement

  •  Indian middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket. Rayudu wrote a letter to the Board of Control for cricket in India (BCCI) to inform about his decision.
  • The sudden move by the Indian batsman comes after he was overlooked by the BCCI despite two key players - Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar - suffering injuries during ICC World Cup 2019. Notably, Rayudu featured in the list of reserves for the Indian squad ahead of the World Cup.
  • Rayudu is a right handed batsman and a right arm offbreak bowler. Born in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Rayudu went on to become the captain of the India Under-19 team and under his captaincy, the team had reached the semi finals of the 2004 U-19 world cup.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Rahul Gandhi Formally Resigns

  •  Ending speculation about his continuance in office as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi formally resigned, holding himself responsible for the party's Lok Sabha poll debacle and maintained that accountability would be critical for the party's future growth.
  • Mr. Gandhi's decision to make his resignation public sent senior Congress leaders into a huddle.
  • In a four-page open letter, Mr. Gandhi said he had empowered the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to constitute a group of people that could find his successor and distanced himself from the process of selecting the next chief.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

B.K. Birla Passes Away

  •  Basant Kumar Birla, chairman of the BK Birla Group and grandfather of industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, died in Mumbai. He was 98.
  • B. K. Birla, or Basant babu as he was fondly called in business circles, was born on January 12, 1921.
  • He was industrialist and philanthropist Ghanshyam Das Birla's youngest son.
  • Soon after completing his matriculation exam from Kolkata's legendary Hare School in 1936, BK Birla was inducted into the family business, specifically in Kesoram Industries Ltd.
  • In fact, B. K. Birla once mentioned in an interview that his first assignment was as a cashier at Kesoram.

Sassoli to be President of EU Parliament

  •  Italian socialist David-Maria Sassoli was elected to head the European parliament, completing the bloc's drawn-out and at times acrimonious appointment process for its top jobs.
  • In the second round of voting at the Strasbourg-based legislature, Sassoli received 345 votes, well over the absolute majority required of the 667 available.
  • Conservative Jan Zahradil from the Czech Republic got 160 votes, while the German Greens leader Ska Keller received 119 and the Spanish left-wing candidate Sira Rego trailed with 43.
  • Sassoli succeeded fellow Italian Antonio Tajani, an Italian EPP Christian Democrat who stepped down.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

Indo-Americans bag White House Honours

  •  Some 24 Indian-Americans, including alumni of leading Indian universities, were named by the White House as winners of the highest US award for rising stars of science and technology.
  • Some of the names are: Padmini Rangamani, Sanjay Basu, Shafali Jeste, Suveen Mathaudhu, Piya Pal and others.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Code on Wages Bill

  •  In its first step towards reviving the labour law reform process, the Union Cabinet approved a draft legislation, which seeks to mandate minimum wages fixed by the central government.
  • The Code on Wages Bill was tabled in Lok Sabha during the previous tenure of the government in August 2017, and it was referred to the standing committee that had given its comments to the labour ministry, but the Bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill had proposed empowering the states to fix different minimum wages based on geography, skill and occupation, along with a national-level minimum wage which would act as a floor.
  • At present, the Centre fixes a National Floor-Level Minimum Wage – a non-statutory measure to ensure that states fix their minimum wages beyond this floor level.
  • The Code on Wages Bill will combine four labour laws — Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Teachers' Reservation Bill

  •  Rajya Sabha members supported the bill that seeks to replace an Ordinance passed to provide reservation to scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and economically weaker sections for teachers post' in central educational institutions.
  • However, some members blamed the government for delay in bringing the Central Educational Institutions (reservation in teachers' cadre) Bill.
  • Some others said the government should have given at least a day's notice before introducing the bill in the House to enable them bring amendments to the proposed legislation.
  • While supporting the bill, Sushil Gupta of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said that it was being presented in a hurry.
  • He told the House that there are 3.14 lakh vacancies for professors in the country including 2,500 in Delhi alone. He asked the government to fill these.
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