9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 22, 2019

National Conference of Tourism Ministers

  1. The National Conference of Tourism Ministers organized by the Union Ministry of Tourism was concluded successfully in New Delhi.
  2. The conference was inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Tourism and was attended by State Tourism Ministers of States and Union Territories (UTs). 
  3. The conference was aimed at deliberation on various issues related to development and promotion of Tourism.
  4. During the conference,the tourism minister has launched the Hindi version of the new Incredible India portal at the conference.He also announced that the Arabic, Chinese and Spanish versions of the new Incredible India website will be launched in September,2019.
  5. Incredible India is the name of an international tourism campaign started by the Government of India since 2002 to promote tourism in India.
  6. Further,the Tourism Minister also launched the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator Certification(IITFC) portal during the conference. 
  7. IITFC Programme is a digital initiative of the Ministry of Tourism.It is an online programme where one can learn about tourism at their own time, space,path and pace.
  8. The successful completion of this programme would enable the learner to become a Certified Tourist Facilitator of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.


  1. Union Minister for Health has asked the Ministers of Law, Minister of Social Justice and Chief Ministers for amending 108 discriminatory laws against persons affected by Leprosy.
  2. He stated that the National Leprosy Eradication Programme(NLEP) has achieved enormous success in leprosy control particularly in the last four decades.
  3. He also stated that India is committed for justice and equality of all individuals including persons with disabilities as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). 
  4. He has also mentioned about the WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy 2016 – 2020.The strategy aims at (a)zero children with leprosy-affected disabilities by 2020 and (b)reduction of new patients diagnosed with leprosy-related deformities to >1 per million population.
  5. Leprosy also known as Hansen’s disease is a chronic neuro-muscular disorder.It is caused by several strains of Mycobacterium leprae.It has a long incubation period which makes detection difficult.Leprosy can be cured with Multi-Drug Therapy(MDT).
  6. India had launched the National Leprosy Eradication Programme in 1983 to eliminate leprosy through early detection, effective treatment and increased awareness.
  7. In 2005,India achieved the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 population.

Tirur Vettila obtains GI tag

  1. Geographical Indication Registry of India has accorded Geographical Indication(GI) tag to Tirur Vettila.
  2. Tirur Vettila is a betel leaf.It is produced in Tirur and nearby areas of Malappuram district,Kerala.
  3. Tirur Vettila is unique for its significantly high content of total chlorophyll and protein in fresh leaves.The leaf also has several medicinal properties.
  4. Eugenol is the major essential oil in Tirur betel leaf contributing to its pungency.It’s shelf period is also more compared to other betel leaves.
  5. A geographical indication(GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.GI tags are given on the basis of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act,1999.
  6. GI tag secures the quality and authenticity of a product to a particular geographical origin.It provides legal protection from duplication.The first product to get GI tag was Darjeeling Tea.

Nepal bans single use plastics on Everest region

  1. Nepal authorities have announced a ban on single-use plastics in Mount Everest region.The new rule will come into effect from January 1, 2020.
  2. This decision is aimed at reducing the vast amounts of waste left by trekkers and mountaineers.
  3. Single-use plastics,often referred to as disposable plastics are commonly used for plastic packaging.It includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
  4. The ban covers plastic items fewer than 30 microns thickness.These include items such as plastic bags, straws, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.
  5. Recently,Nepal government had also conducted a clean-up initiative of Mount Everest.It collected nearly 11 tons of trash that had piled up for decades.
  6. Mount Everest known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibetan as Chomolungma is Earth’s highest mountain above sea level.It is located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas.The international border between Nepal and China(Tibet Autonomous Region) runs across its summit point.

What an inverted yield curve means

  1. Recently,United States and UK yield curves had inverted for the first time since 2007 and 2008 respectively.This has led to the fear of global recession in the coming future.
  2. The yield curve is a graph showing the relationship between interest rates earned on lending money for different durations.
  3. A normal yield curve is one in which longer maturity bonds have a higher yield compared to shorter-term bonds due to the risks associated with time.
  4. However,inverted yield curve is one in which the shorter-term yields are higher than the longer-term yields which can be a sign of an upcoming recession.
  5. Recession is a slowdown or a massive contraction in economic activities, wherein economic indicators such as GDP, profits, employment tend to fall.

Govt to make FASTag mandatory for all vehicles from Dec 2019

  1. Government has has announced that FASTags will become mandatory for all vehicles from December,2019.
  2. This decision has been taken in order to promote faster payment of fees through the digital mode so that vehicles can move through seamlessly, and traffic jams at the toll plazas can be prevented.
  3. However, among all lanes,one ‘hybrid lane’ will be allowed at every toll plaza to facilitate and monitor over-dimensional or oversized vehicles, where FASTag and other modes of payment will be accepted.
  4. FASTag is an electronic toll collection device which is installed in vehicle mostly attached to the windscreen to help drivers drive through toll plazas without having to stop. 
  5. FASTag uses radio frequency identification(RFID) technology to enable direct toll payments while vehicle is moving.The toll fare is deducted directly from prepaid of saving bank account linked to FASTag.

Delhi: 90% batteries ending up in informal sector

  1. According to a report titled ‘Loaded batteries:Mapping the toxic waste trail”,more than 90% of the lead-acid batteries disposed off are ending up with the informal sector. 
  2. This means they are not only being unscientifically disposed and dismantled but are also polluting the environment in a major way. 
  3. The reasons for shops giving away lead-acid batteries to informal sector workers were (a)convenience of pick-up (b)lack of storage space (c)billing issues as it involves time consuming paperwork.
  4. Further,the E-Waste management Rules,2016 also specifies extended producer responsibility(EPR).Under EPR,responsibility of collection of used batteries is entrusted upon producers,importers and brand owners.
  5. The report also revealed that most workers in the informal sector were operating without protective equipment like gloves, masks, aprons and and shoes which leaves them at risk of lead poisoning. 
  6. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and young children are particularly vulnerable to it.However,consumer awareness in general is poor regarding disposal and processing concerns of used lead acid batteries as well as about the rules.

Soon, QR codes for Haryana buildings

  1. The Haryana government will implement an ambitious project of installing an 18-digit Quick Response(QR) code carrying metal plates outside all built-up structures across the state.
  2. The metal plates will be affixed to the buildings.It will contain a Unique Property Identification and QR code(Digital Door Number).
  3. This move is aimed at enhancing the property-based tax revenues.It will also increase funds for the Urban Local Bodies for future development through a real-time property tax collection mechanism.
  4. Apart from tax collection,the digitisation of records will also enable the government to link other government schemes and transfer of benefits to citizens using the same QR codes.
  5. QR code or Quick Response code is a two-dimensional machine readable code that is made up of black and white squares and are used for storing URLs or other information.These can be read by the camera of a smartphone.

Policy for M-sand to be put in place soon

  1. The Tamil Nadu government will put in place an M-sand policy.The policy aims to promote the use of M-sand as an alternative building material.
  2. The policy will also help to eliminate the pervasion of sub-standard products in the market through the regulation of trade.
  3. M sand stands for Manufactured sand.It is a substitute of river sand for concrete construction.It is produced from hard granite stone by crushing.
  4. Due to fast growing construction industry,the demand for sand has increased tremendously causing deficiency of suitable river sand in most parts of the world.
  5. This has led to the use of manufactured sand in the construction sector. Another reason for use of M-Sand is its availability and transportation cost.
  6. The other advantage of using M-Sand is that it can be dust free and the sizes of m-sand can be controlled easily so that it meets the required grading for the given construction.

Mobile Metallic Rampto

  1. Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has handed over the design of Mobile Metallic Ramp(MMR) to the Indian Army.
  2. MMR has been designed and developed by DRDO’s premier research laboratory called Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES).
  3. MMR has a load bearing capacity of 70 metric ton(MT).It has been designed and developed on requirements projected by Army.
  4. Further,it is also portable and modular in design which can be easily assembled or disassembled.This will provide the strategic mobility for Armoured and Mechanized units and formations of the Army.
  5. DRDO was established in 1958 by the government of India.It is under the administrative control of Union Ministry of Defence.
  6. DRDO aims to enhance India’s self-reliance in Defence Systems.It undertakes design & development leading to the production of a world-class weapon system.

Govt to set up a committee to study corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board

  1. The government has decided to set up a high-level committee to recommend restructuring of the Ordnance Factory Board(OFB).
  2. The committee will recommend changes required at making the (a)OFB accountable and efficient (b)increase their production capacity and (c)ensure timely supply of products.
  3. This committee was formed as OFB with 41 factories functions under the Department of Defence Production.Due to this every decision and action needs the approval of the Cabinet.
  4. On the other hand,the Defence Public Sector Undertakings(DPSU) do not have such requirements and have been establishing joint ventures and partnerships for technology development and other things.
  5. Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories is a defense contractor owned by the Indian government.It is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation.
  6. OFB predates all the other organisations like the Indian Army and the Indian Railways by over a century.The first Indian ordnance factory can trace its origins back to the year 1712 when the Dutch Company established a GunPowder Factory in Ichapur,West Bengal.

Pakistan submits compliance report to FATF

  1. Pakistan has submitted compliance report on its 27-point action plan to the Financial Action Task Force(FATF).
  2. This action plan comes in the backdrop of Pakistan being grey listed by FATF.The greylisting meant downgrading of the country by institutions like IMF, World Bank and also reduction in risk rating by Moody’s and Fitch.
  3. Further,the Asia-Pacific Group(APG) which is the regional affiliate of the FATF is also conducting separate evaluation of Pakistan’s progress on upgrading its systems in all areas of financial and insurance services and sectors.
  4. These evaluations will determine the Pakistan’s possible exit from the grey list of the FATF by October,2019.
  5. The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris,France.
  6. The objectives of the FATF are to (a) set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures (b) for combating money laundering (c)terrorist financing and (d) other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  7. The APG is the FATF-style regional body for the Asia-Pacific region.APG was founded in Bangkok,Thailand in 1997 as an autonomous regional anti-money laundering body by unanimous agreement among 13 original founding members.

Economy shows further weakening, needs larger push: Shaktikanta Das at MPC meet

  1. The RBI has released the minutes of the monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting.
  2. During the meeting,RBI governor said that RBI had to cut the repo rate by an unconventional 35 basis points to 5.4% in view of weakening of domestic growth and unstable global macroeconomic environment.
  3. Further,the governor said that the rate cut was given the utmost priority as inflation is projected to remain within the target over the next one-year.
  4. The governor has also said that the transmission of repo rate cut by the banks has been inadequate.However,it is expected to improve in the coming months. 
  5. The Monetary Policy Committee(MPC) is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India.It is headed by its Governor which is entrusted with the task of fixing the benchmark policy interest rate (repo rate) to contain inflation within the specified target level i.e.inflation targeting.

IMF warns against rate cuts, currency intervention to improve trade balance

  1. The International Monetary Fund(IMF) has warned the United States and China that higher bilateral tariffs are unlikely to reduce aggregate trade imbalances as they mainly divert trade to other countries.
  2. Instead,they are likely to harm both domestic and global growth by affecting business confidence and investment and disrupting global supply chains.
  3. The IMF has also cautioned countries against focusing on weakening a country’s currency exchange rate.It said that this would hurt the functioning of the international monetary system and will affect all countries.
  4. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington,US.It consists of 189 countries.It was formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference.
  5. IMF has been established to (a)foster global monetary cooperation (b)secure financial stability, (c)facilitate international trade (d)promote high employment (e) sustainable economic growth and (f)reduce poverty around the world.
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