9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 22, 2019

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Special kits to probe sexual assault cases

  1. The Union Ministry has distributed 3,100 Sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAECK) or rape investigation kits among the States and Union Territories.
  2. The kits have been procured with financial support under the Nirbhaya Fund. The Nirbhaya fund scheme seeks to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India. It was set up in 2013 in the aftermath of the gruesome gang-rape and murder in Delhi.
  3. Each kit contains essential items that will help to carry out immediate medico-legal investigation- collect blood and semen samples. The samples would be sent to the closest laboratory and the results of the tests would be out in two months. They also contain instructions on how to collect evidence from crime scenes
  4. The kits are expected to help law enforcement agencies to ensure effective investigation in a timely manner. This will in turn help in better prosecution and conviction in sexual assault cases.

205 railway projects report cost overrun of Rs 2.21 lakh cr

  1. According to the report of the Statistics and Programme Implementation Ministry (MOSPI), Indian Railways accounts for nearly three-fifths of the 344 central sector projects that are facing huge cost overrun due to delay in implementation.
  2. Cost overrun means spending more money on a project than that was planned in the budget or the actual extra amount that is spent.
  3. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) monitors central sector projects involving an expenditure of ₹150 crore and above.
  4. After the railways, the power sector reported the second highest incidence of overall cost overrun. Of the 95 projects monitored by the ministry in the power sector,40 projects reported cost overrun.
  5. Further, the third largest cost escalation was recorded in the road transport and highways sector where out of the 605 monitored projects, as many as 49 reported cost overrun

Serial blasts across Sri Lanka claim 200, several injured

  1. A series of coordinated bombings has ripped the churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killing almost 300 people during Easter Celebrations. Most of the blasts appeared to have been suicide bombings.
  2. Sri Lanka’s government has also declared an indefinite national curfew and blocked social media networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp in order to prevent the spread of rumors that might spark intercommunal violence.
  3. Easter 2019 was observed on April 21,2019. Easter is a Christian festival. The day marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after he rose from the dead.
  4. As per the Bible, Christ was crucified on the day of Good Friday and buried in a grave. However, on the third day, his disciples visited his grave only to find the stone rolled away and the grave to be empty. This day stands for the triumph of Christ over death.

Congress unveils national security plan

  1. The Congress has unveiled its report on national security.The report was made by a task force headed by Lt Gen(retd) DS Hooda.
  2. The report deals not only with external military threat and transnational terrorism but also with internal strife, Left-wing extremism and militancy, threats to data and privacy of citizens along with other concerns like economic, environmental and climate change.
  3. The five pillars of National Security Strategy have been identified as (a)assuming India’s rightful place in global affairs (b)achieving a secure neighbourhood (c)peaceful resolution of internal conflicts (d)protecting the people (Jan Suraksha) and (e)strengthening the country’s capabilities.
  4. The report points out that the defence budget had reached a 57-year low in 2019 in terms of percentage of the GDP. It also suggests the absence of critical initiatives to enhance defence capabilities coupled with short-sighted diplomacy had severely compromised national security.
  5. The report gives a detailed roadmap which says (a)to secure land & maritime borders it will adopt the principle of one border, one force (b)put in place a smart fence on the Myanmar border that combines technology with a physical barrier (c)operationalise a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System across all Indian borders (d) speed up infrastructure development across the border and (e)set up a National Maritime Authority to remove jurisdiction issues in coastal security.
  6. The report adds that It will provide a statutory basis to the National Security Council (NSC) and the office of (the) national security adviser (NSA). Their powers and functions will be defined under the law and both authorities and the agencies under them will be accountable to Parliament.

Ban orders clamped in Sabarimala as per Centre’s directive: Pinarayi

  1. Kerala chief Minister has said that the state government had issued prohibitory orders in Sabarimala as per the directives of the Central government.
  2. The Centre had instructed the state government to clamp appropriate prohibitory orders. It had further directed to carefully observe dissemination of adverse information through social media for ensuring that no breach of law and order takes place.
  3. The Sabarimala temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. It is situated on a hilltop named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
  4. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that women, irrespective of age, can enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. Previously, girls and women in the 10-50 age group were prohibited from entering the Sabarimala temple.
  5. The Supreme Court judgement had led to widespread unrest and protests. In January 2019, two women in the 10-50 age group had entered the temple amidst protests.

Medicine labels in regional language

  1. The Union Health Ministry has said Hindi and regional language will be used for drug names and expiry date during tendering process of polio drop and iron tablets used in government programmes.
  2. The move has been taken to curb fake, sub-standard and expired drugs and to ensure that those seeking drugs under government schemes have access to all the requisite information about them.
  3. The decision is based on the recommendations of Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) – highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs. DTAB’s recommendations specially focused on iron tablets and polio drops because they are the medicines most commonly administered to children at government health centres.
  4. DTAB had further constituted a sub-committee to examine and give recommendations to streamline the labelling requirements of drugs. The sub-committee had recommended that name of medicines shall be printed both in English and Hindi for open market. For medicines procured by any state government agencies regional language on label of drug products along with English shall be printed.

Indian, US Navies hold anti-submarine warfare exercise

  1. The Indian and U.S navies has held an anti-submarine warfare exercise. The exercise involved P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and its Indian variant which is the P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol aircraft near Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The aircraft were joined by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance.
  2. The military exercise focused on (a)anti-submarine warfare training, (b)information sharing and (c)coordination between maritime patrol aircraft and surface combatants.
  3. It was the first bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise since the signing of a Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between the two countries.
  4. COMCASA allows the U.S. military to transfer secure communications and data equipment to India. Prior to the conclusion of the agreement, the United States had to remove advanced communication equipment from all military platforms sold to India such as the P-8I Neptune.Additionally, the United States had to place less secure temporary systems on Indian units so the two sides could communicate during bilateral exercise.
  5. The P-8A/I is the military variant of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-800 commercial aircraft and is considered as one of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare aircraft currently in service. Further,the Indian version of the aircraft includes the Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar system and a cutting-edge magnetic anomaly detector which is not installed on U.S. Navy P-8A aircraft.

Afghanistan’s top court extends Ghani’s term till delayed elections

  1. Afghanistan’s Supreme Court has extended the term of President Ashraf Ghani until elections which have been delayed till September,2019.
  2. The delayed elections comes as the US tries to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. Further, it is said that the polls were being deliberately delayed to create more space for those talks.
  3. However, Opposition has called for an interim government to fill the gap between President Ashraf Ghani mandate and the presidential elections.
  4. Recently, Peace conference in Qatar that was intended to bring Taliban negotiators and Afghan government officials together was postponed indefinitely after Taliban has objected to the Afghan officials included in the country’s delegation.
  5. Further, U.S and Taliban negotiators are set to conclude discussions on a preliminary draft agreement about a timeline for foreign forces to exit Afghanistan in exchange for assurances from the Taliban that they would disallow terrorists from using the Afghan soil for attacks against other countries.

China draws up tighter rules on human gene and embryo trials

  1. China’s top legislature have decided to consider tougher rules on research involving human genes and embryos.
  2. Under the draft law sent to the top legislature, medical and human trials will face closer scrutiny and stricter requirements, such as ensuring human subjects are properly briefed. Further, the rules will also require all future trials to be approved by administrative authorities as well as ethical committees.
  3. This move comes after the Chinese scientist had sparked controversy by announcing he had created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies. He had said that he used CRISPR-9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born.
  4. Further, he also said that this gene editing would help protect the girls from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. However, Chinese authorities as well as international scientists condemned him and said that any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was against the law and medical ethics globally.
  5. Gene editing is the deliberate alteration of a selected DNA sequence in a living cell. It involves editing an organism’s DNA by altering, removing or adding nucleotides to the genome.
  6. CRISPR-Cas9 (‘Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats) is a tool used for gene editing. The technique involves a DNA cutting enzyme and a small tag which tells the enzyme where to cut. Cas9 stands for CRISPR-associated protein 9, and is the nuclease part that cuts the DNA.

US to end sanctions waivers to India,7 other nations for Iran Oil Import: Report

  1. According to a report, United States is expected to announce that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or face sanctions. This would increase the crude oil prices by about 3%
  2. In November 2018, US had re-imposed sanctions on exports of Iranian oil after US had unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers.
  3. However, the US had granted exemptions to (a)China (b)India (c)Italy (d)Greece (e)Japan (f)South Korea (g)Taiwan and (h)Turkey from sanctions on Iran. The exemptions were meant to last six months and were due to expire in March,2019. However, US had not ended the waiver provided to these eight countries.
  4. These countries were granted sanctions to give them time to find alternate energy sources but also to prevent a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude.
  5. Since November 2018, three of the eight which are Italy, Greece and Taiwan have stopped importing oil from Iran. However, the other five have not stopped and have lobbied for their waivers to be extended.
  6. The US has a campaign of maximum economic pressure on Iran and through sanctions, it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke its main source of revenue.

Happy Earth Day 2019: This year’s theme is ‘protect our species’

  1. On the occasion of Earth Day 2019, several events and campaigns are being held worldwide. The Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on 22nd April.
  2. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is ‘Protect Our Species’. It aims to draw attention to the rapid extinction of species across the world. The extinction of species is directly linked to human activity which causes climate change, deforestation and pollution.
  3. The Earth Day celebrates the earth’s environment and raises public awareness about pollution. It was first celebrated in the year 1970. The idea of commemorating such a day was propounded by Gaylord Nelson, a US senator from Wisconsin.
  4. The activities on Earth Day are led and coordinated by Earth Day Network. It is a US based international environmental NGO and has presence in 195 countries.
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