9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 2, 2019

Cabinet approves signing of the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA).
  2. The signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors and shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
  3. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation in 2018. 
  4. The UN has authorized that the Convention will open for signature in Singapore and will be known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”.
  5. The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements.
  6. The Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion refuse to grant relief. Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
  7. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) includes dispute resolution process and techniques that act as a means for disagreeing parties to come to an agreement short of litigation. It is a collective term for the ways that parties can settle disputes, with the help of a third party.

Explained: Significance of US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on India

  1. United States Federal Reserve has announced a quarter percentage point cut in interest rates. It is the first rate cut since the global financial crisis broke in 2008.
  2. The Fed has cited concerns about the global economy and lower US inflation among the key reasons for the decision to cut rates and signalled a readiness to lower interest rates further if needed.
  3. A rate cut in the US is good for emerging market economies and is projected to catalyse a debt and equity market rally in countries such as India.
  4. Further, emerging economies such as India tend to have higher inflation and thereby higher interest rates than those in developed countries such as the US and Europe.
  5. As a result, Foreign institutional investors(FIIs) would want to borrow money in the US at low-interest rates in dollar terms and then invest that money in bonds of emerging countries such as India in Rupee terms to earn a higher rate of interest.
  6. When the US Fed cuts its interest rates, the difference between the interest rates of the two countries increases, thus making India more attractive for the currency carry trade.
  7. A rate cut by the Fed would also mean a greater impetus to growth in the US which could be positive news for global growth. But this could also translate into more equity investments in the US which could temper investor enthusiasm for emerging market economies in a proportionate manner.

Explained: What’s at stake in India’s biggest ever trial of tuberculosis vaccines

  1. Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) has launched India’s first large-scale trial for two new tuberculosis(TB) vaccines.
  2. The two vaccines being tested in the trial are (a) Immuvac which is also known as mycobacterium indicus pranii or MIP and (b)VPM1002.
  3. Currently, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is used in the routine Expanded Programme of Immunisation(EPI) in countries across the world.
  4. However, the vaccine is over 100 years old and has been partially effective in protecting infants and young children particularly from the most severe forms of TB.It also provides poor protection against pulmonary disease in adolescents and adults.
  5. Further, depending on the results, the recommendations would be sent to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  6. TB is an infectious airborne bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As per the 2018 annual report of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the incidence of TB in India was nearly 2.8 million annually and the total number of deaths by TB was over 5 lakhs.
  7. India contributes 27% of the global TB burden which is the highest share globally. In this background, the central government had committed itself to eliminating TB by 2025.

Army Launches E Car to Combat Pollution

  1. The Indian Army has launched e-cars for use of its officials. The e-car initiative has been launched in partnership with Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) in a joint venture of the Central PSUs under the Ministry of Power.
  2. The Indian Army has planned to operate 10 e-cars as a pilot project and develop further such e-cars in Delhi to ensure minimal emissions and efficiency.
  3. The e-car initiative is expected to boost further development of electric vehicle technology and its adoption by the general public in the near future.
  4. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a joint venture of four National Public Sector Enterprises– NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC), REC and POWERGRID. It was set up under the Ministry of Power.
  5. EESL is a Super Energy Service Company (ESCO) and leads the market-related activities of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), one of the eight national missions under the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Flipkart launches initiative to bring indigenous artisans products on its platform

  1. E-commerce Company Flipkart has launched an initiative called Samarth. This initiative aims to bring weavers, artisans and makers of handicrafts to its platform.
  2. Samarth will support artisans, weavers by on-boarding them and helping them in the process of selling on the internet.
  3. This includes support for cataloguing, account management, seller support and warehousing support.
  4. This move will open up national market access for these underserved communities giving them access to a constantly growing pan-India customer base and empowering them to leverage the benefits of the e-commerce model.
  5. Recently, Amazon has also partnered with the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) to sell products made by tribal communities. The company also recently announced the availability of these products on its global marketplace.

ICMR launches India Hypertension Control Initiative

  1. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in collaboration with World Health Organization and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to expand its India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI) across the country.
  2. IHCI was launched in 2017.The initiative has enrolled more than three lakh patients with high blood pressure in government health facilities in 25 selected districts in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, and Maharashtra.
  3. This will now be expanded to cover 100 districts across all states. The expansion is expected to accelerate the implementation of quality hypertension treatment for over 15 crore population over the next four years.
  4. The key features of the Initiative include (a) treatment protocols that simplify quality patient care in primary care facilities (b) provision of adequate supply of quality medicines and blood pressure monitors (c) comprehensive training for healthcare workers at all levels on the latest practices in hypertension treatment and (d) team-based care for counseling and follow up of the patients.
  5. This initiative was launched as in India, one in four adults has high blood pressure. Among them, only half have been diagnosed and only 10% have their blood pressure under control. As a result, a large number of people develop heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure while in their productive years of life.

Japan approves growing human organs in animals for first time

  1. Scientists in Japan has received government permission to grow human organs in animals for the first study of its kind in the country.
  2. The research involves genetically modifying sheep or pig embryos so they cannot grow a specific organ. Human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are then injected into the embryo in the hope that the DNA will fill in the missing code.
  3. The hybrid embryos would then be implanted back into the original animal or a surrogate and the baby animal would be born with a human organ.
  4. This is the first step towards a future where human organs for transplant could be grown inside animals.
  5. However, critics have argued that the human cells could stray beyond the targeted organs into other areas of the animal effectively creating a creature that is part animal, part person.
  6. Further, many animals such as pigs have a shorter lifespan than humans, meaning that their tissues age at a quicker rate. Disease transmission and permanent alteration to the genetic code of animals are also causes for concern.

India received proposal of consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav from Pakistan: MEA

  1. Pakistan has offered India consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been in jail in Pakistan on charges of espionage and terrorism. India has said that it was evaluating the Pakistani proposal.
  2. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ordered on July 17 that Pakistan must undertake an effective review and reconsideration of Jadhav’s conviction and sentencing and grant consular access to India.
  3. Consular access simply means that a diplomat or an official will have a meeting with the prisoner who is in the custody of another country. Usually, during the meeting, the diplomat will first confirm the identity of the person and will then ask some basic questions on how he/she is being treated in custody and what he/she wants.
  4. Depending on the response, the diplomat will report back to his/her government and the next steps will be initiated.
  5. The principle of consular access was agreed to in the 1950s and 60s. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) was framed in 1963 at the height of the Cold War.
  6. All countries have agreed to the principle and more than 170 have ratified the Vienna Convention, making it one of the most universally recognised treaties in the world.
  7. The Vienna Convention of 1961 is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. Article 36 of this treaty states that foreign nationals who are arrested should have the right to inform about their arrest at its consulate.
  8. The ICJ was established in 1945 at Hague, Netherlands. It is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. Its objective is to settle legal disputes submitted to it by (a) states (b) duly authorized international branches and (c) UN General Assembly

Crisil cuts FY20 GDP growth forecast to 6.9% from 7.1%

  1. Credit rating agency Crisil has cut the gross domestic product (GDP) estimate for India to 6.9% from 7.1% in 2019-20.
  2. Crisil has said that revision in growth forecast was due to inadequate monsoon, slowing global growth and sluggish high-frequency data for the first quarter.
  3. However, the report said that the second half should find support from expected monetary easing, consumption and statistical low-base effect.
  4. The report noted that India’s GDP had grown at an impressive 8.2% in fiscal 2017.But it was derailed by disruptions stemming from policy initiatives, reforms and rising global uncertainty including from trade disputes.
  5. Further, agricultural growth is also expected to improve with a pick-up in food inflation. In addition, farmers would benefit from income transfer of ₹6,000 per year announced by the Centre and farm loan waivers in a few states.
  6. The report also said that the banking sector stressed assets are expected to come down to about 8% by the end of financial year 2019-20 based on lower additional NPAs and increased recoveries.
  7. The report also expects corporate sector growth to slow to 8% in 2019-20 lower than the double-digit growth trend of the last two financial years.

Cabinet approves Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS)

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers for the year 2019-20.
  2. This decision will help manufacturers and importers formalise supply contracts for fertilisers and fertiliser inputs and make them available to farmers during the current year.
  3. Government provides fertilizers, Urea and 21 grades of P&K fertilizers to farmers at subsidized prices through fertilizer manufacturers/importers.
  4. In 2010, the government had launched the NBS programme under which a fixed amount of subsidy decided on an annual basis is provided on each grade of subsidised P&K fertilisers. This is except for urea based on the nutrient content present in them.
  5. Additional subsidy is also provided on the fertilizers fortified with secondary and micronutrients as per the Fertilizer Control Order such as Boron and Zinc.
  6. Under this scheme, Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of fertilizers has been left open and manufacturers/marketers are allowed to fix the MRP at reasonable level.

India’s manufacturing sector growth inches up to 52.5 in July: PMI

  1. According to Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data, manufacturing activity increased to 52.5 in July, 2019 from 52.1 in June, 2019.
  2. PMI has improved as new work orders and output strengthened leading to moderate increase in employment. Apart from this, a key factor that is aiding sentiment among Indian manufacturers is the expectation of further monetary easing.
  3. PMI or Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity both in the manufacturing and services sectors. It is a survey based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before.
  4. PMI is derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample, running into hundreds of firms are asked whether key indicators such as (a) output (b) new orders (c) business expectations and (d) employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them.
  5. The headline PMI is a number from 0 to 100.The figure above 50 denotes expansion in business activity. Anything below 50 denotes contraction.
  6. The rate of expansion can also be judged by comparing the PMI with that of the previous month data. If the figure is higher than the previous month’s then the economy is expanding at a faster rate. If it is lower than the previous month then it is growing at a lower rate

Highly gratified by cooperation from ‘great friend’ India on Iran: U.S.

  1. The United States has praised India for cooperating in enforcing the oil sanctions on Iran.
  2. This statement came after India has brought down the import of oil from Iran to almost zero.
  3. The tensions between the US and Iran have started after US had withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear deal that aimed to curb Iranian nuclear activities.US has since reimposed crippling sanctions affecting the Iranian economy.
  4. The US had announced sanctions to put maximum economic pressure on Iran and through sanctions it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke its main source of revenue.
  5. India is the world’s third-largest consumer of oil with 85% of its crude oil and 34% of its natural gas requirements being fulfilled by imports. Further, India was the second biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil after China.

Rajya Sabha Passes National Medical commission Bill

  1. The Rajya Sabha has passed the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 which seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
  2. If enacted, the current Medical Council of India would be replaced by a National Medical Commission.
  3. The Commission will have four autonomous boards: a) Undergraduate Medical Education Board, b) Post-Graduate Medical Education Board, c) Medical Assessment and Rating Board, and d) Ethics and Medical Registration Board.
  4. The commission will also be responsible for regulating fees and all other charges for half the seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.
  5. The bill proposes a common final year MBBS exam called National Exit Test (NEXT) to start medical practice. It will also be used for entrance into postgraduate medical courses, and act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates.
  6. The Bill proposes to unify all entrance procedures for medical courses. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and NEXT will be applicable to Institutes of National Importance (INIs) such as the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to ensure uniform standards.
  7. The bill also proposes to set up a Medical Advisory Council as a separate entity. It will serve as the primary platform through which the states will put forward their views and concerns before the NMC.
  8. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with two new amendments introduced by the Upper House. Therefore, the bill will be referred to the Lok Sabha again before going to the President of India for his assent.

With district-wise data, Assam govt. pushes for NRC

  1. The Assam government has released the district-wise break-up of the 40.07 lakh people who had been excluded in final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  2. The data suggested that most people in areas bordering Bangladesh have been included in the citizenship list, while many in districts dominated by the indigenous people have been left out. Assam’s Parliamentary Affairs highlighted this data in the state assembly to make a case for verification.
  3. Earlier, Centre and Assam had urged the Supreme Court for a 20% sample reverification of names included in the draft in the districts bordering Bangladesh and a 10% sample reverification in the remaining districts of the State. However, the SC had rejected the plea.
  4. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which contains the name of all citizens of India residing in Assam. It was prepared in 1951.
  5. Currently, the NRC is being updated in Assam. It seeks to identify illegal migrants in Assam who had entered the state on or after 25th March 1971.
  6. The update is being carried out under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord, 1985.

India slips to 7th largest economy in 2018: WB

  1. According to World Bank data, India has slipped to the 7th position in the global GDP rankings in 2018. As per earlier data, India was on the 6th position in 2017. India in 2018 had a GDP of $2.5 trillion.
  2. US was the largest economy with a GDP of $20.5 trillion in 2018, followed by China, Japan and Germany. UK and France have secured rank 5th and 6th respectively.
  3. According to experts, the movement of the Indian rupee against the dollar was the reason for India slipping to 7th position.
  4. Recently, CRISIL has cut India’s GDP growth forecast to 6.9% for the financial year 2019-20.
  5. United Nations (UN) in its World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report has also lowered India’s GDP growth in 2019-20 to 7.1% from its estimate of 7.5%.

Ayodhya land dispute: Supreme Court to consider mediation panel’s report

  1. The Supreme Court is likely to consider the “outcome” of mediation proceedings conducted by a panel set up to resolve the Ayodhya Dispute. The Ayodhya case pertains to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute.
  2. The Supreme Court had referred the Ayodhya case for mediation. The court had invoked Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to propose mediation as an “effective utilisation of time”. Section 89 enables civil courts to refer parties to alternative dispute resolution so that the disputes may get resolved earlier.
  3. The Supreme Court had formed a three-member panel for mediation. The panel of mediators comprises former apex court judge Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman; and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, as members.
  4. Mediation is one of the methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR is the procedure for settling disputes without litigation.
  5. Mediation is a procedure in which the parties discuss their disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person(s) who assists them in reaching a settlement.

One tribunal for all river water disputes: why the proposal, how it will work

  1. Recently, the Lok Sabha has passed the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill seeks to amend the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
  2. The Bill requires the central government to set up a dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably. The DRC will get a period of one year extendable by six months to submit its report to the central government.
  3. The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication of water disputes if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC.
  4. The bill seeks to make the adjudication of inter-state water disputes more efficient and effective.
  5. Under the present Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, there has been multiplicity of tribunals. This has led to an increase in bureaucracy, delays, and possible duplication of work.
  6. The replacement of existing tribunals with a permanent tribunal is expected to result in a 25% reduction in staff strength and also save a saving Rs 4.27 crore per year.

Maharashtra hyperloop gets Infrastructure project tag

  1. The Maharashtra state cabinet has approved a proposal to declare the Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop a public infrastructure project to streamline the permissions required.
  2. It also approved the consortium of DP World FZE and Hyperloop Technologies Inc as project proponents. It will be executed Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority.
  3. The hyperloop is an ultra-high-speed ground transport system. It will comprise of a network of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects from one point to another. The hyperloop is still untested.
  4. When commissioned, the hyperloop will cover 117.5km distance from Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in suburban Mumbai to Wakad in Pune in 23 minutes.

‘Hope Probe’ Arab world first mars mission in 2020: UAE

  1. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced that it will launch the ‘Hope Probe’, also known as the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), in July 2020. It will be the Arab world’s first spacecraft to Mars.
  2. The mission aims at collecting information on Mars and meteorological layers. It also seeks to study the causes of loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases from the upper layer of the Martian atmosphere.
  3. If successful, the will become the first space exploration programme to take a picture of Mar’s atmosphere.
  4. The ‘Hope Probe’ will be launched from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan.
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