9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 30, 2019

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Lawyer fighting palm oil industry wins ecology prize

  1. Goldman Environmental Prize,2019 has been announced.Six people from around the world have been selected for the award.
  2. Among them,Alfred Brownell from Liberia has also been awarded.He was awarded for his successful campaign to protect more than 500,000 acres of tropical forest from palm oil development in Liberia after which he was forced to flee the country in fear for his life.
  3. The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prize awarded annually to grassroots environmental activists.The award is given by the Goldman Environmental Foundation headquartered in San Francisco,California.It is also called the Green Nobel.
  4. The objective of the award is to honour those grassroots environmentalists who risk their lives to protect the environment and empower those people who have the most to lose from industrial projects.
  5. The Goldman Environmental Prize is awarded to one from each of the world’s six geographic regions which are Africa,Asia,Europe,Islands and Island Nations,North America and South and Central America.

EVM, VVPATs’ ‘deviant behaviour’: respond to plea,SC tells ECI

  1. The Supreme Court has sought the Election Commission’s response on a plea which has asked the apex court to strike down Section 49MA under Conduct of Elections Rules,1961.
  2. The Election Commission(EC) in his response has defended strict punishment and penalty for questioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).It said that Section 49MA is necessary to ensure that mischievous elements do not make false complaints that may hinder the electoral process.
  3. According to Section 49MA of the Code of Election Rules,1961 if a person files a complaint regarding discrepancy in the EVM and if after investigation it is found to be false or incorrect,then the complainant can be prosecuted under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code for furnishing false information.This section invites six months in jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both.
  4. The petitioner in its plea had said that Section 49MA was unconstitutional as it criminalised reporting of malfunctioning of EVM or VVPATs.The plea contended that the onus of proving an allegation cannot be on a voter when machines used for voting showed deviant behaviour.
  5. Further,the petitioner had also said that Section 49 MA deters people from coming forth to complain.The rule infringes upon a citizen’s right to freedom of expression which is a fundamental right of free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  6. EVM or Electronic Voting Machines are used to cast vote without revealing voter’s identity. It is attached by a cable to an electronic ballot box. It comprises of two units – control unit and balloting unit. The control unit is with the Election Commission selected polling officer while the Balloting Unit is in the voting section into which the voter enters to cast their vote.
  7. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It helps to detect any possible election fraud or malfunction of EVMs.

SC restrains HC from appointing civil judges

  1. The Supreme Court has directed the Punjab and Haryana High Court Registry not to appoint any civil judge in Haryana without its nod.The court has also summoned the Registrar General with all the selection records pertaining to the exams held to fill 107 posts in lower judiciary.
  2. This direction came on a plea filed by 92 aspirants to the post of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Haryana.They have alleged that out of 1,282 examinees, who had qualified the preliminary tests and had appeared for the mains,only 9 were selected for the interview against a total 107 vacancies.
  3. The petitioners have alleged that if the examination selection process was not stayed,it would cause irreparable damage to the petitioners and other unsuccessful candidates.Further,they said that there was a serious problem with the evaluation method being conducted for selecting judicial officers in Haryana.
  4. The petitioners have also told the apex court that the Punjab and Haryana high court had earlier scrapped the entire preliminary examination on account of paper leak and had issued direction for an enquiry in to the entire issue.

China spends 4 times more than India on defence:Sipri

  1. According to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute(SIPRI),India was the world’s fourth biggest military spender in 2018 behind the United States,China and Saudi Arabia.
  2. The report has said that the global military spending is 2.1% of the world Gross Domestic Product(GDP).However,in India,the defence budget has remained less than 2% of the GDP.
  3. The report adds that the United States has remained the world’s largest spender on defense in 2018 deploying more money for weapons than the next eight countries combined.However,Russia’s defense spending has fallen for the second year in a row.
  4. Further,the report shows that China’s expenditure is much greater than the collective expenditure of India,Japan,South Korea,and Australia.The report said that China’s military expenditure has increased for the 24th consecutive year and its spending in 2018 was almost 10 times higher than that in 1994.
  5. According to Defence experts,Indian armed forces drastically needs to slash their non-operational expenditure and manpower.It also needs to build a strong defence-industrial base shedding it strategically vulnerable position of being the world’s second largest arms importer.

Ban on veils in Sri Lanka sparks concern

  1. which prevents anyone from being identified.
  2. The President has used his emergency powers to ban any form of covering of the face in public.This move came days after local Muslim clerics urged Muslim women not to cover their faces amid escalating fears of a backlash after the Easter blasts.
  3. Muslims account for 10% of the population of the Sri Lanka.Most Sri Lankan Muslims practice a liberal form of the religion, with only a small  percentage of women wearing a full face veil known as the niqab.
  4. The niqab is currently banned in France and Belgium (since 2011), Austria (since 2017),Denmark (since 2018).The Netherlands also has a partial ban on wearing any kind of face cover in public transport,schools and hospitals.In Germany,the niqab is banned while driving.The full face veil is banned in Quebec in Canada and in Barcelona in Spain.
  5. In October 2018,the UN Human Rights Committee had declared that France’s ban disproportionately harmed the right of women to manifest their religious beliefs and could have the effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalising them.

GRSE to build anti-submarine craft for Navy

  1. Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited(GRSE) and India’s defence ministry has signed a contract for construction and supply of eight anti-submarine warfare shallow water crafts (ASW SWCs) for Indian Navy.
  2. The anti-submarine warfare shallow water craft(ASW SWC) will have a displacement of 750 tonnes and a top speed of 25 knots.The vessels will have the capability to interdict/destroy sub-surface targets in coastal waters.
  3. These warships will conform to latest Marine Pollution Standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  4. These ships will be designed for combating the threats posed by submarines and special underwater craft operating in relatively shallow waters.It will also incorporate advanced sensors,including sonars and anti-submarine weapon systems.Further,the platforms will also be equipped with modern automation systems.
  5. In addition,these ships can also be deployed for search and rescue operations during day and night in coastal areas.In their secondary role,they will be capable to prosecute intruding aircraft and lay mines in the sea bed.
  6. Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd is one of India’s leading shipyards located in Kolkata,West Bengal.It builds and repairs commercial and naval vessels.It is first Indian shipyard to build 100 warships.

Socialist Party wins Spanish election

  1. In the snap general election held in Spain,the Socialist Party (PSOE) of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has won the highest number of seats but has fallen short of an absolute majority.
  2. A snap election refers to a swift and often unforeseen decision by the party in power to initiate a general election sooner than the fixed-term deadline.
  3. The snap elections are usually used as a tactic by party in power to exploit the opposition’s perceived weakness in any given political moment and to bolster their majority in parliament.
  4. However,snap election can also backfire on the incumbent by resulting in a decreased majority or even the opposition winning or gaining power.
  5. Further,Snap election differs from a recall election and by-election.A recall election is a procedure by which in certain countries,voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his term has ended.On the other hand,By-elections are used to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections.

Drug resistant diseases could kill 10 million a year by 2050

  1. A Report released by the UN Ad Hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, has said that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050.
  2. The report has further added that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
  3. It has also noted that antimicrobial resistance has adverse impacts such as a) more and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections becoming untreatable; b) lifesaving medical procedures are becoming riskier, and c) food systems are getting increasingly unsafe and uncertain.
  4. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises AMR as a serious threat to global public health.
  5. The report has provided a number of recommendations to combat AMR. These include a) governments should prioritise national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts, b) put in place stronger regulatory systems, c) launch awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health, d) invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat AMR.

Rafale review pleas: govt seeks time to file response

  1. Government has asked the Supreme Court to defer the hearing of the review petitions in the Rafale case.The Government has said that it needed more time to file a fresh affidavit.
  2. However,the apex court allowed the Central government to circulate the letter for adjournment among parties which include petitioners who have filed review pleas.
  3. Recently,the Supreme Court had dismissed the central government’s plea that the documents related to the purchase of Rafale fighter jets should not be part of the review petition moved in the case.
  4. The government had argued that documents linked to the Rafale deal were stolen from the defence ministry and newspapers that published these files may have violated the Official Secrets Act.The government has also said that the documents are protected by privilege under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.
  5. However,the Supreme court had said that the newspaper has the right to publish those documents as the right of such publication is part of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.Further,there was no law enacted by Parliament that specifically prohibited the publication of these documents.
  6. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
  7. In 2016,Indian government had inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets.However,Opposition parties have alleged that the government bought 36 Rafale fighter aircraft at a much higher price than the one that was being negotiated for 126 aircraft by the previous government.

Committee constituted to oversee clean air programme

  1. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  2. The committee will be chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The other members would include a) Joint Secretary (Thermal), Ministry of Power; b) Director-General, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), a Delhi-based think-tank; and c) Professor Sachidananda Tripathi, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K).
  3. The major functions of the committee would be a) inter-ministerial organisation and cooperation, b) sharing information and resolving issues that could arise between ministries, c) give overall guidance and directions to effectively implement the programmes.
  4. In 2019, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) has been launched for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in India. It is a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.
  5. It aims at 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5and PM10 concentration by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
  6. The programme targets 102 non-attainment cities which were identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
  7. Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Example: Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Noida etc. NAAQS are the standards for ambient air quality set by CPCB. Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of outdoor air.
  8. The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures; however; it doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations would start. Thus, the programme have been criticised by experts on the grounds that it lacks mandatory targets and proper enforcement mechanisms.

HC adjourns plea challenging NGT order on sand mining

  1. The petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on sand mining in the state has been adjourned.
  2. Recently, the NGT had directed the Andhra Pradesh government to deposit ₹100 crore environment compensation for illegal sand mining.
  3. NGT’s direction came in the backdrop of a plea which had alleged illegal sand mining was causing damage to the Krishna and Godavari rivers and their tributaries in the state.
  4. However, the petition against the NGT order has argued that that sand was being excavated following the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016. The guidelines had been issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  5. The guidelines provide for a detailed programme for ensuring that mining of river sand is done in a sustainable manner.
  6. Sand is a minor mineral, as defined under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act). Section 15 of the MMDR Act empowers state governments to make rules for regulating the grant of mineral concessions in respect of minor minerals and for purposes connected therewith.

Afghan ‘grand assembly’ begins

  1. Afghan President has opened a four-day Loya Jirga or grand assembly with a large number of delegates seeking to agree on a common approach to peace talks with the Taliban.
  2. A Loya Jirga is an ancient Afghan tradition that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle major disputes.The loya jirga is being held now as U.S. and Taliban are discussing a possible foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for a permanent ceasefire and various Taliban pledges.
  3. However,opposition political leaders and government critics are boycotting the assembly accusing Afghan President of using it as a platform to boost his status as leader in an election year.
  4. Afghan President had also invited the Taliban to the Loya Jirga but they have urged people to boycott it,denouncing it as an attempt by the US backed government to deceive the country and extend what the Taliban see as an illegitimate rule.
  5. Further,U.S and Taliban officials had also held several rounds of talks aimed at ensuring a safe exit for U.S. forces in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the rest of the world.

NGT direct U.P. govt. to take remedial action

  1. curbing water pollution around industrial areas in the state.
  2. The order has come in the backdrop of a report furnished by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board stating that industrial effluents are contaminating the Hindon river.
  3. Hindon River is a tributary of Yamuna River. It originates in the Saharanpur District, from Upper Shivalik in Lower Himalayan Range. The river is entirely rain-fed.
  4. It passes through 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh-Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Saharanpur, Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad and Gautambudhnagar.
  5. It receives pollutants comprising of untreated sewage and effluents from the paper industry in the city of Saharanpur. Further, large quantities of sewage and industrial effluents are dumped into it from the towns of Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautambuddh Nagar.

India-China team on pharma to meet next month

  1. India has decided to send a high-level delegation to China under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue(SED) Mechanism.The meeting is scheduled to be held in Beijing in May 2019
  2. This meeting comes in the backdrop of increasing efforts by India to increase pharmaceuticals exports to China.India has been requesting China to make the drug registration process easier for Indian pharma companies.
  3. In 2018-19,China figured in the 17th spot in the list of India’s top pharma export destinations.However,the growth potential with China is much higher considering the fact that the exports has grown by 52% in 2017-18.
  4. The working group meeting will be followed by the Indian delegation visiting Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) plants and interacting with API manufacturers and trade associations.
  5. Active pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs can be defined as the chemicals used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs.The active ingredient(AI) is the substance or substances that are biologically active within the drug and is the specific component responsible for the desired effect it has on the individual taking it.

Manipur tense over ‘unauthorised’ NSCN(IM) camp

  1. Manipur has been under tension after Assam Rifles has issued warning against the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) for allegedly setting up unauthorized camps in Ukhrul district near the India-Myanmar border.
  2. Assam Rifles has accused the NSCN-IM of gross violation of existing ceasefire ground rules.The NSCN-IM had signed a peace accord with the Centre in 1997.According to the ceasefire,the NSCN-IM cannot move outside their designated camps located in Nagaland.
  3. The NSCN-IM is an insurgent group of Nagas operating in Nagaland, Assam,Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.Its objective is to establish Greater Nagaland (Nagalim) consisting of all Naga inhabited areas in Northeast India and it has spearheaded a rebellion for the same.
  4. The Naga Peace Accord was signed between the Government of India and the Naga armed groups headed by the NSCN-IM in 2015.The accord seeks to end the Naga insurgency.
  5. The Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force of India.Assam Rifles operates in the North Eastern part of India and complements the Indian Army in countering the insurgency and guarding the borders.

Cyclone Fani gathers force, to hit Odisha

  1. The India Meteorological Department has said that Cyclone ‘Fani’ has intensified into a ‘severe cyclonic storm’ and is headed towards the Odisha coast.
  2. Further, it could also develop into ‘extremely severe cyclone’. In an ‘extremely severe cyclonic storm’, the wind speed goes up to 170-180 kmph and could touch 195 kmph.
  3. This has prompted the government to put the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Indian Coast Guard on high alert.
  4. The NDRF is a specialised force constituted for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  5. The Indian Coast Guard is a multi-mission organization entrusted with superintendence and policing of India’s maritime areas including the Exclusive Economic Zone. The Indian Coast Guard was established in 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 of as an independent armed force of India.
  6. Cyclones are named by various warning centres for ease of communication between forecasters and the public. Fani was named by Bangladesh.

Army invokes emergency powers for missiles deal

  1. The Indian Army has approved the emergency purchase of 240 Spike anti-tank guided missiles made by Israel and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems(VSHORAD) from Russia to meet immediate operational requirements.
  2. The procurement was approved under new financial powers for emergency procurements sanctioned by the Defence Ministry.The emergency power gives the Army vice chief of staff the authorization to purchase goods and material worth up to 300 crore without having to get prior approval from the Defence Ministry.
  3. Spike is an Israeli fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charge high-explosive anti-tank(HEAT) warhead,currently in its fourth-generation.It has been developed and designed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.It is available in man-portable,vehicle-launched and helicopter-launched variants.
  4. IGLA-S (SA-24) is the latest model of Russian man-portable air-defense systems(MANPADS) technology offered to the Indian Army.Igla-S system is designed for use against visible targets as tactical aircraft,helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles,cruise missile,head-on or receding in the presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures.

BCCI recommends Bumrah, Shami, Jadeja and Poonam Yadav for Arjuna award

  1. The BCCI has recommended cricketers Mohammad Shami,Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Poonam Yadav for the Arjuna award.These nominees will now be considered by the Ministry of Youth affairs.
  2. The Arjuna Awards were established by the government of India in 1961. It is given by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.The honour recognizes outstanding achievement in sports and games. The award carries a bronze statuette of Arjuna, a scroll and a monetary award of 5 lakh rupees.
  3. The Indian government confers Arjuna Award on selected athletes who take part in the Olympic Games,Asian Games,Commonwealth Games, World Cup Championships and sports for the physically challenged.
  4. As per guidelines to be eligible for the Award,a sportsperson should not only have had good performance consistently for the previous four years at the international level with excellence for the year for which the Award is recommended.They should also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.

 Passenger traffic at Indian airports grows 11.6% to 34.4 crore

  1. According to the Airports Authority of India(AAI),airports in the country has witnessed a total of 34.4 crore passengers during financial year 2018-2019 registering a growth of 11.6%.These include domestic, international as well as those passengers who take chartered planes.
  2. However,overall growth rate of 11.6% is the slowest in the last three years.Earlier,Indian airports had seen a growth of 16.5% in financial year 2017-18 and 18.3% in financial year 2016-2017.
  3. Further,domestic passengers witnessed 27.5 crore passengers recording a growth of 13.1%.International passengers were around 6.9 crore which is a rise of 6.1% as compared to financial year 2018.
  4. However,domestic passenger are counted twice once at departure airport and a second time at the arrival airport.But,International passengers are counted only once.
  5. The Airports Authority of India or AAI is a statutory body (created through the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994) working under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  6. It is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India.It provides Communication Navigation Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) services over Indian airspace and adjoining oceanic areas.
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