9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 17, 2019

Aadi Mahotsav to kick off in Ladakh

  1. Aadi Mahotsav or National Tribal Festival will be organised in Ladakh.
  2. The festival is a joint initiative of Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India(TRIFED).
  3. The theme of the festival is “A celebration of the spirit of Tribal Craft, Culture and Commerce”.
  4. The objective of the festival is to celebrate, cherish and promote the spirit of tribal craft, culture, cuisine and commerce.
  5. The Mahotsav will comprise display and sale of items of tribal art and craft, tribal medicine & healers, tribal cuisine in which tribal artisans from different States of the country shall participate and provide a glimpse of their rich traditional culture.
  6. The event will have two reputed local cultural troupes presenting Ladakhi folk dances namely (a)Jabro Dance which is a nomadic dance and song of people inhabiting eastern Ladakh and (b)Spawo dance which is a heroic song and dance associated with a legendary hero of Himalayan region called K’sar. 
  7. The TRIFED was established in 1987.It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  8. The objective of TRIFED is socio-economic development of tribal people in the country by way of marketing development of the tribal products. It acts as a facilitator and service provider.

Scientific and Useful Profound Research Advancement(SUPRA)

  1. The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has proposed a new scheme named Scientific and Useful Profound Research Advancement (SUPRA).
  2. The objective of the scheme is to fund exploration of new scientific and engineering breakthroughs with global impact.
  3. The scheme will fund disruptive ideas that can lead to new areas of study, new scientific concepts, new products and technologies.
  4. The scheme is also designed to attract high quality research proposals consisting of new hypotheses or challenge existing ones and provide ‘out-of-box’ solutions.
  5. SERB is a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology.It was established by an Act of the Parliament of India in 2009.
  6. The Board was set up for promoting basic research in science and engineering and to provide financial assistance to scientists, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, industrial concerns and other agencies for such research.

‘No First Use’ nuclear policy depends on circumstances: Rajnath Singh

  1. Defence Minister has said that India has strictly adhered to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’(NFU) policy of nuclear weapons.But what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.
  2. A No First Use(NFU) policy refers to any authoritative statement by a nuclear weapon state to never be the first to use these weapons in a conflict.
  3. It will be reserved strictly only to retaliate in the aftermath of a nuclear attack against its territory or military personnel.
  4. India adopted No first use policy after its second nuclear tests,Pokhran-II in 1998 and articulated the policy in 2003.However,the policy made it clear that India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  5. In contrast,Pakistan has openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions beginning from the time the two nations were not even acknowledged nuclear powers.
  6. The Indian nuclear doctrine also provides that nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council.The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  7. Further,India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  8. India would also continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.

BRICS countries to work to fix environmental issues faced by their cities

  1. Union minister of environment has attended the 5th BRICS Minister of Environment Meeting held in Sao Paulo,Brazil.
  2. The meeting acknowledged the importance of urban environmental management for improving the quality of life in cities.They agreed to work together to resolve the multifaceted environmental issues faced by cities in the five-nation association.
  3. The key themes of urban environmental management such as (a) contaminated areas and soil remediation (b)water quality (c)circular economy in context of sustainable consumption and production (d) marine litter and biodiversity were agreed to be integrated into BRICS cooperation initiatives.
  4. The declaration highlighted key initiatives taken by BRICS such as (a)Partnership on Urban Environmental Sustainability Initiative to share knowledge on issues such as waste management, sanitation, urban air quality among others (b)BRICS Environmentally Sound Technology Cooperation Platform for innovations, knowledge sharing and (c)Clean River of BRICS program for improvement of river ecology and combating marine litter.
  5. Addressing the meeting,Union minister has said that India has reduced energy intensity by 25% and 78GW of renewable energy has also been achieved.Further,the forest cover has also increased by nearly 15,000 sq km.
  6. BRICS is an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the five fastest emerging nations.The BRICS Leaders Summit is convened annually.

Odisha govt. nod to set up maritime board

  1. Odisha government has approved the formation of the Odisha Maritime Board in the state.
  2. The board will deal with the administration, control and management of non-major ports and non-nationalised inland waterways.
  3. The Board will be constituted with 12 members with Chief Secretary as the chairperson along with representatives of stakeholders departments as well as representatives of the Central government.
  4. The board will function as a single window facilitator for the overall maritime development of the State.
  5. It will also provide policy, guidelines and directions for the integrated development of ports and inland water transport keeping in view of the country’s security and defence related concerns.
  6. Odisha is endowed with a vast coastline of 480 km having rich,unique and natural port locations and perennial rivers.

End of special status to Jammu and Kashmir an internal matter

  1. United Nations Security Council has met for a closed-door informal consultation on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the request of China.
  2. India and Pakistan did not attend the UNSC meeting which was open only to the five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members.
  3. However,except China,no other UNSC member commented on the meeting after it ended given that it was an informal consultation.
  4. Indian Ambassador to the UN countered China.He reiterated that issues around special status to Jammu & Kashmir were an internal matter of India.
  5. The ambassador has also said that the abrogation of Article 370 was done to enhance good governance and socio-economic development in Jammu and Kashmir and that the UNSC consultations had taken note of this.
  6. The ambassador has also said that India was committed to all the agreements it had signed on the Kashmir issue.It informed UN of 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan which had turned Kashmir into a bilateral subject.

Explained: What fertility rate data show

  1. During his Independence Day speech,Prime Minister has underlined challenges posed by population growth in the country.
  2. According to the data,the Total fertility rate(TFR) has dropped to 2.2. This is only marginally higher than the fertility rate (2.1) required for replacement of the existing population.
  3. Total fertility rate(TFR) is defined as the number of children born to a woman until the end of her child-bearing age.It is a key indicator for population trends.
  4. Even the states that have a higher TFR such as Uttar Pradesh(3.0), Bihar (3.2), MP(2.7), Rajasthan(2.6), Assam(2.3), Chhattisgarh(2.4) and Jharkhand(2.5) have been witnessing a declining trend in fertility rates. These seven states account for about 45 % of the total population in the 2011 Census.
  5. Further,two more states namely Gujarat and Haryana has recorded a TFR of 2.2 which is above the replacement rate but is equal to the national average.Taken together,these nine major states account for 52 % of the 2011 population.
  6. This means that barring these nine states which accounts for almost half the population,the replacement level is either 2.1 or has gone below it.
  7. The states with a lower TFR include states such as Kerala (1.7), Tamil Nadu (1.6), Karnataka (1.7), Maharashtra (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.6), Telangana (1.7), West Bengal (1.6), Jammu and Kashmir (1.6) and Odisha (1.9).

Forex reserves at a new high of $430.57 bn

  1. According to the latest RBI data,India’s foreign exchange reserves has reached a new high at USD 430 billion due to rise in foreign currency assets.
  2. Foreign exchange reserves are assets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies.These reserves are used to back liabilities and influence monetary policy.
  3. These assets serve many purposes but are most significantly held to ensure that a central government agency has backup funds if their national currency rapidly devalues or becomes altogether insolvent.
  4. The Foreign exchange reserves of India consists of four categories which are (a)Foreign Currency Assets (b)Gold (c)Special Drawing Rights(SDRs) and (d)Reserve Tranche Position.
  5. A reserve tranche is a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund(IMF) that can be withdrawn at any time without any interest during critical situations of a country.
  6. The Special drawing rights(SDR) is an international reserve asset created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries official reserves.The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.
  7. The SDR basket Includes five currencies namely the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen and the British pound sterling.

India contributes 1 million to UN Fund

  1. India has contributed 1 million US Dollars to the United Nations Special Purpose Trust Fund(SPTF).
  2. SPTF is a specific fund housed within United Nation(UN) Secretariat.It was established to receive, consolidate, manage and account for all contributions as well as financial transactions of new Resident Coordinator(RC) system.
  3. SPTF web portal displays in real time all commitments, contributions and expenditures recorded for the fund.
  4. The portal aims to enhance effective coordination of UN’s work in more than 160 countries in support of UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and is part of a wider UN reform efforts on development, management, peace and security.
  5. Resident Coordinator(RC) system aims to bring together different United Nations(UN) agencies that deals with operational activities for development irrespective of their formal presence in the country.

Golden Butterfly Tea

  1. The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre(GTAC) has created international history by selling 1 kg of the Golden Butterfly tea at ₹75,000.
  2. Golden Butterfly is produced by Dikom Tea Estate near eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh town.The tea is made of tea buds and not tea leaves. 
  3. The tea is named because only the soft golden tips go into making of this exceptionally rare and special tea.
  4. The tea is judged by its aroma,taste and colour.The Golden Butterfly tea is extremely mellow and has a sweet caramel flavor.

India’s tax administration needs a mindset change: Nirmala Sitharaman

  1. Union Finance Minister has held a meeting with the tax officials.The meeting was aimed to interact with tax officials and taxpayers.
  2. Addressing the meeting,she called for inculcating technology-driven approach in dealing with the matters of tax administration.
  3. She said that in order to prevent the tax-terrorism,we need to promote faceless assessment and curb the interaction between taxpayers and tax authorities.
  4. She has also stressed on creating an environment of tax-friendliness  where taxpayers are not harassed.She has also asked the officials to respect the wealth creators.
  5. Further,she said that the government would soon come out with a solution to the problem of delayed reflection of tribunal judgment in favour of the tax assessee in his or her I-T returns.

NASA scientists fly over Greenland to track melting ice

  1. NASA scientists will study how global warming is melting Greenland’s ice. Specifically, Scientists would study whether melting is being caused more by warm air or warm seawater. The project is known as Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG).
  2. To study the melting of ice, NASA scientists will fly over Greenland for 5 years in a Douglas DC-3 aircraft.
  3. A 2019 study looked at 28 glaciers in Greenland with long-term data and found that nearly all are melting. Further, a NASA satellite found that Greenland’s ice sheet lost about 255 billion metric tons a year between 2003 and 2016.
  4. According to scientists, along with warm air, warm sea water might play a crucial role in melting of ice. This is because warm, salty water weakens coastal glaciers from below and causes them to break way and finally melt.

FDA approves new oral three-drug regimen for extensively drug-resistant TB

  1. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new oral three-drug regimen for the extensively-drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
  2. The treatment involves Pretomanid tablets in combination with bedaquiline and linezolid, collectively referred to as the BPaL regimen. It has an efficacy rate of 90%. Pretomanid was developed by TB Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation.
  3. Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious airborne bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It most commonly affects the lungs but can also damage other parts of the body.
  4. There are two TB-related conditions: a) Latent TB – the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state. They cause no symptoms and are not contagious, but they can become active and b) Active TB – the bacteria do cause symptoms and can be transmitted to others.
  5. When TB infection becomes resistant to the first line of treatment — isoniazid and rifampicin, it is called Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). Two major reasons for prevalence of MDR TB are: a) mismanagement of TB treatment (incomplete and incorrect treatment) and b) person to person transmission.
  6. Extensively-drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR TB. It happens when the infection becomes resistant even to the second-line treatment. It has a mortality rate of 60%.
  7. According to 2018 WHO TB update, there are 1, 14,237 MDR-TB patients globally, of which more than 8,000 are XDR-TB. India has 26,966 MDR-TB patients, the highest in the world, while there are 2,130 XDR-TB patients.

More than half of forest wildlife declined since 1970: WWF

  1. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released the “Below the Canopy report”. It is the world’s first-ever global assessment of forest-living species populations.
  2. The report uses the methodology of WWF’s Living Planet Report (Living Planet Index) and developed a Forest Specialist Index that tracks wildlife that lives only in forests. In total, the report took into account 268 species (455 populations) of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
  3. According to the report, there has been a 53% decline in the number of forest wildlife populations since 1970. Of the 455 monitored populations, more than half declined at an annual rate of 1.7%, on average between 1970 and 2014.
  4. The report has noted that along with deforestation there were other major threats that has led to decline in wildlife populations. These include: Habitat loss and habitat degradation/change, overexploitation and climate change.
  5. Loss of habitat due to logging, agricultural expansion, mining, hunting, conflicts and spread of diseases accounted for almost 60% of threats. Nearly 20% of threats were due to overexploitation.
  6. Climate change threatened to 43% of amphibian populations, 37% of reptile populations, 21% of bird populations but only 3% of mammal populations.
  7. In October 2018 WWF published the Living Planet Report. The report highlighted that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have decreased by an average of 60% between 1970 and 2014.
  8. In an effort to conserve nature, world leaders have agreed to launch a New Deal for Nature and People at 15th Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) COP in 2020 in China.

India gets first national essential diagnostics list

  1. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has finalised India’s first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL). With this, India has become the first country to have such a list.
  2. The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a first edition of its essential diagnostics list (EDL) in May, 2018. This has acted as a reference for ICMR’s NEDL.
  3. The NEDL is on the lines of the essential drugs list, the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) which was first released in 1996. It was last updated in 2015.
  4. The NEDL has recommended that at least 159 tests should be made available for patients in even primary government health facilities.
  5. The diagnostics list mentions 105 general laboratory tests for a broad range of common conditions. It also mentions 30 disease-specific tests such as for HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and 24 imaging tests including X-rays, CT and MRI scans and ultrasound sonography.
  6. The NEDL has been based on the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system.
  7. The NEDL is expected to improve healthcare service delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure. It is also expected to lead to effective utilisation of public health facilities; effective assessment of disease burden, identify outbreaks and curb antimicrobial resistance.
  8. In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945. Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.
  9. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

ISRO arm begins search for PSLV makers

  1. NewSpace India Ltd has invited expressions of interest from one or more experienced companies to produce PSLV satellite launch vehicles.
  2. Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is an indigenously-developed expendable launch system of the ISRO. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.
  3. It comes in the category of medium-lift launchers with a reach up to various orbits, including the Geo Synchronous Transfer Orbit, Lower Earth Orbit, and Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit.
  4. New Space India Limited (NSIL) was set up in March 2019. It is a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  5. The NSIL has been set up to meet the increasing demands of Indian space programmes and to commercially exploit the emerging global space market.
  6. The main functions of NSIL are: a) Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector, b) production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry, c) production and marketing of Space based products and services, including launch and application, d) Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS and e) Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad.
  7. NSIL is the second commercial entity of the Department of Space (DoS) after Antrix Corporation Limited which was set up in 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
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