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Spice of the Month


Neo Middle Class• Those earning up to ₹5 lakh a year exempt from income tax. This effectively means that those earning ₹6.5 lakh a year would not need to pay tax if they made full use of the ₹1.5 lakh exemption available u/S 80C of the Income Tax Act.
Farmer's Income• Under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme, vulnerable landholding farmers, (cultivable land < 2 ha), will be provided direct income support @ ₹6,000 per year.
1. This is lower than what is being given in similar schemes by two States — Telangana and Odisha. Telengana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme (10k) and Odisha’s KALIA scheme (25k) offer more than the Central scheme.
Informal Sector Workers• PM Shram Yogi Maandhan Scheme designed to ensure a fixed monthly pension of ₹3,000 per month for informal sector workers (> 60).
1. The contribution would be ₹100 per month for those joining at the age of 29, while it would be just ₹55 a month for those joining at the age of 18.
2. Government will match the monthly contributions with an equal contribution of its own.
Last Mile• Centre will form a welfare panel (and later, a Board) for nomadic, semi-nomadic and de-notified communities. These communities are hard to reach, less visible, and therefore, frequently left out.
1. It follows up on the work of Renke Commission and Idate Commission.
Coffee cultivation expansion• Coffee has largely remained a South Indian phenomenon, with most of the plantations located in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But there is a silent coffee storm brewing in the NE India, thanks to a handful of cafes, government-backed guilds and organic farmers, who are betting big on locally-grown coffee.
1. Beans grown by roasters such as Meghalaya’s Smoky Falls Tribe Coffee, Nagaland’s Été Coffee and Darjeeling Altura are being exported to countries like Singapore.
Climate-smart agriculture• Under Millet Village scheme, the department had harvested ragi (finger millet), thina (foxtail millet), cholam (sorghum) and kuthiravaali (barnyard millet).
1. Additionally there is a pilot scheme for cultivating Chia, a Central American plant, which is gaining popularity in India as yet another superfood.
• A combination of factors such as high protein content, short growing season, climate change resilience and low water requirement make millets an ideal crop for the State.
Farmer suicides• Maharashtra govt. has said over 90,000 farmers in 14 “suicide-prone” districts have been provided “counseling” under its project ‘Prerna’.
1. An official release from the govt. identified these districts as:
a. Marathwada => Aurangabad, Beed, Jalna, Hingoli, Nanded, Latur, Osmanabad and Parbhani
b. Vidarbha => Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Washim, Yavatmal and Wardha
• Prerna, underway since 2015 to stop farm suicides, comprises social workers, psychiatrists and ASHA workers who counsel farmers suffering from depression.
IT• Union Cabinet has approved the National Policy on Software Products 2019 that aims to help the industry grow at CAGR of 40% to reach $70-80 billion by 2025, while creating employment opportunities for 3.5 million people.
• The policy, which aims to increase share of Indian software products in global market by tenfold, pitches for nurturing of 10,000 technology start-ups in software product industry, including 1,000 such start-ups in tier-II and tier-III towns.
• It also proposes up-skilling of 10 lakh IT professionals as well specialise 10,000 professionals to “provide leadership.”
Textile Industry• Textiles ministry has launched a comprehensive programme for the the development of knitting and knitwear sector in the country under the PowerTex India scheme.
Pharmaceutical Industry• Earlier this year, Kerala became the first State to set up a Price Monitoring and Research Unit to track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).
1. After Kerala, it is now the turn of Punjab and Gujarat to have PMRU, set up by the NPPA in collaboration with the Dept. of Health and State Drug Controller.
Startups • Govt. has launched ‘Start-up Runway’, an initiative of government’s online procurement portal, Government e-Marketplace (GeM), which will allow startups registered with Start-up India to access GeM platform and sell innovative products and services to government buyers.
• A draft student start-up up policy has been prepared in Rajasthan to support innovations by the students and create an environment to facilitate their creative pursuits.
Tourism• Four islands in the Andamans and three in Lakshadweep have been identified for seaplane operations, while private sector participation has been invited for tourism-based projects.
1. Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep, Hutbay and Long Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kavaratti, Agatti and Minicoy in Lakshadweep have been identified for seaplane operations.
NPA Crisis• RBI has decided to allow three PSBs — Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra and Oriental Bank of Commerce — to exit the PCA framework following capital infusion by the government and a decline in net non-performing asset ratio.
1. PCA framework is triggered when a bank breaches one of the three risk thresholds, and crossing 6% net NPAs is one of them.
Railways• Kerala to get country’s 2nd longest rail tunnel. A 10.7-km railway line, including a 9.02-km tunnel, has been proposed to connect the upcoming Vizhinjam International Multipurpose Deepwater Seaport to the railway network.
1. 11.26-km Pir Panjal rail tunnel, connecting Banihal and Hillar Shahabad, is longest.
Transportation• India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat Express, is a self-propelled train set that will ply between Delhi and Varanasi. It will reduce the journey by 3 hours. This is India’s fastest train to date, capable of commercial speeds up to 160 kmph. On Delhi-Varanasi route, however, its top speed would be restricted to 130 kmph.
Regional Aviation• SpiceJet announced the launch of daily direct flights to the newly built Veer Surendra Sai Airport in Jharsuguda in Odisha from Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata under regional connectivity scheme UDAN. This will be the airline’s tenth destination under UDAN.
Clean Transportation• Union Cabinet approved the implementation of 2nd phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles or FAME with an outlay of ₹10,000 crore for three years, with effect from April 1, 2019.
• The main objective is to encourage faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles by way of offering upfront incentives on purchase of such vehicles as well as by establishing necessary charging Infrastructure.
Minimum Wage• An expert panel has recommended that a need-based national minimum wage for workers across the country be set at ₹375 per day, or ₹9,750 per month.
• It has also recommended different national minimum wages for “different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities and as per socio-economic and labor market contexts.”
1. These regional wage recommendations range from ₹342 per day in some States including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to ₹447/day for States such as Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
Unemployment• Joining together under the banner of Yuva Halla Bol, over 60 youth groups representing the educated unemployed and government job aspirants have demanded that the Centre declare unemployment a national disaster.
Ponzi Schemes• Cabinet approved the promulgation of an ordinance with regard to the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, to protect investors from Ponzi schemes.