9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 23, 2019

Sabka Vishwas – Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme

  1. In Budget 2019-20,Government had announced the Sabka Vishwas legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme,2019.The Scheme has now been notified and will be operationalized from 1st September 2019.
  2. The objective of the scheme is to free the large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the tax administration.
  3. The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  4. The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums. 
  5. The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequences under the law.
  6. For all the cases pending in adjudication or appeal in any forum – this Scheme offers a relief of 70% from the duty demand if it is Rs.50 lakhs or less and 50% if it is more than Rs. 50 lakhs.
  7. The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine, penalty.There is also a complete amnesty from prosecution 

NISHTHA

  1. The Union Human Resource Development Minister has launched ‘National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA)’.
  2. NISHTHA is the world’s largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world. 
  3. The objective of the programme is to motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.
  4. Under it,teachers will develop their skills on various aspects related to (a)Learning Outcomes (b)School Safety and Security (c)ICT in teaching and learning including Artificial Intelligence (d)Environmental Concerns and (e)School Based Assessment in a joyful learning manner.
  5. The programme will aim to build the capacities of around 42 lakh participants covering (a)all teachers and heads of elementary Government schools (b)faculty members of State Councils of Educational Research and Training(SCERTs) and District Institutes of Education and Training(DIETs) and (c)Block Resource Coordinators and Cluster Resource Coordinators in all States and UTs.
  6. The training will be conducted by Key Resource Persons (KRPs) and State Resource Persons (SRP) identified by the State and UTs.KRPs will in turn be trained by 120 National Resource Persons identified from National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

SARAL – ‘State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index’

  1. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE) has launched the State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index–SARAL.
  2. It is the first of its kind index to provide a comprehensive overview of state-level measures adopted to facilitate rooftop solar deployment.
  3. The index has been designed by MNRE, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India and Ernst & Young.
  4. The index evaluates states based on their attractiveness for rooftop development. 
  5. The index captures five key aspects namely (a)Robustness of policy framework (b)Implementation environment (c)Investment climate (d)Consumer experience and (e)Business ecosystem.
  6. The index has ranked Karnataka at first followed by Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
  7. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, of which 100 GW solar power is to be operational by March 2022.Under which, 40 GW is expected to come from grid connected solar rooftops.

Explained: What is Oxytocin and why does the govt want to ban its commercial use?

  1. The Supreme Court has referred the matter to a larger bench to decide on whether to impose a ban on private companies to manufacture the drug Oxytocin and restrict its manufacture to a single public sector undertaking.
  2. This decision comes after a petition was filed against government ban on private drug manufacturers from producing Oxytocin.
  3. Oxytocin also known as the ‘love hormone’ is a hormone secreted by the pituitary glands during sex, childbirth, lactation or social bonding. 
  4. However,it can also be chemically manufactured and sold by pharma companies for use during childbirth.It is administered either as an injection or a nasal solution.
  5. Oxytocin helps contract the uterus and induce delivery, control bleeding, and promote the release of breast milk.Its use is especially crucial to prevent new mothers from excessively bleeding after giving birth which is  a common cause of maternal deaths.
  6. However,the drug has been misused in the dairy industry where livestock is injected with Oxytocin to make them release milk at a time convenient to farmers.

Explained: Report on illegal global tiger trade counts 2,359; highest in India

  1. A recent report titled ‘Skin and Bones Unresolved:An Analysis of Tiger Seizures from 2000-2018’ has quantified the illegal global trade in tigers and tiger parts between 2000 and 2018.
  2. The report has been compiled by TRAFFIC in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund(WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN).
  3. The report says that tigers are listed in Appendix I of CITES,which bans all commercial international trade for member countries.
  4. However,data have revealed an increase in tiger captive breeding to fuel demand for various tiger products.
  5. The report provides that overall 2,359 tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories globally.Apart from live tigers and whole carcasses,tiger parts were seized in various forms such as skin,bones or claws.
  6. The top three countries with the highest number of seizure incidents were India followed by China and Indonesia.India is the country with the highest number of seizure incidents at 463 or 40% of all seizures.
  7. TRAFFIC was founded in 1976 as a strategic alliance of the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).It works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

Russia sends its first humanoid robot Fedor into space

  1. Russia has sent its first life sized Humanoid robot known as Fedor into the International Space Station(ISS).
  2. Fedor stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (Skybot F-850).It is the first humanoid robot to be sent to space by Russia.
  3. Fedor is the size of an adult and can emulate movements of the human body.The main purpose of robot is to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans on board spacecraft and in outer space.
  4. However,it is not the first robot to visit the ISS.The US had sent a robot into space in 2011 with the aim of working in high-risk environments.It was flown back to Earth after suffering technical problems.Further,Japan had also sent a robot to the ISS in 2013.
  5. The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station or a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit.The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies namely NASA(USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA(Japan), ESA (European Union) and CSA(Canada).

India-U.S. 2+2 meeting

  1. Indian and U.S. officials will hold a 2+2 intersessional and the Maritime Security Dialogue in California,USA.
  2. 2+2 is a format of dialogue where the defense and foreign ministers or secretaries meet with their counterparts from another country.
  3. The 2+2 Dialogue between India and US aims to enhance strategic coordination between both countries and maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
  4. The 4th US-India Maritime Security Dialogue will also be held where two sides will exchange views on maritime developments in the Indo-Pacific region and consider steps to further strengthen bilateral maritime security cooperation.
  5. These interactions will lay the groundwork for the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister and Defense Minister to the U.S.

Worsening water quality reducing economic growth by a third in some countries: World Bank

  1. The World Bank has released a report on the relation between water pollution and economic growth.
  2. The report relied on the biggest-ever database assembled on global water quality using monitoring stations, satellite data and machine learning models.
  3. According to the report,poor water quality is affecting economic growth and worsening health conditions.It says that a lack of clean water limits economic growth by one-third.
  4. The report says that Biological Oxygen Demand(BOD) which is  a measure of organic pollution in water and a proxy measure of overall water quality has passed a certain threshold.
  5. The report also says that nitrogen is a key contributor to poor water quality.Nitrogen is generally applied as fertilizer in agriculture.It eventually enters into the rivers where it transforms into nitrates.
  6. However,when children come into the contact of nitrate,it affects their growth and brain development impacting their health and adult earning potential.
  7. The report also says that salinity in water has reduced the agricultural yields.This has led to enough food being lost each year to feed 170 million people every day.
  8. The report has suggested various measures to reduce water pollution such as (a)Information campaigns to raise awareness (b)Prevention efforts to stem some of the worst problems (c)Legislation and enforcement and (d)Investments to treat pollution once it has occurred.

India, Mauritius close to sewing up FTA

  1. India and Mauritius are close to finalising the proposed bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
  2. The agreement had got delayed due to apprehensions amongst domestic players in both countries about providing unlimited market access for some items.
  3. The two countries have now decided to go for tariff rate quotas(TRQs) for items where limited preferential access is to be given to protect local interests.
  4. TRQs are import quotas that allows a limited quantity of a specific item into a country.By putting in place TRQs on sensitive items,the FTA partners can make sure that even if import duties are brought down to zero,imports won’t exceed an agreed quantity.
  5. Further,experts have said that once India-Mauritius FTA is in place,it will provide an opportunity to Indian manufacturers to get into the African market through the Mauritius route.
  6. The decision to go for an FTA with Mauritius is also strategic as China has already concluded its negotiations for a free trade pact with the Mauritius and India does not want to be left out.
  7. India’s exports to Mauritius in 2018-19 was worth $1.16 billion while its imports from the country was about $78.64 million.
  8. FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.

R K Singh approves proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy

  1. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE) has approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as renewable energy.
  2. This means that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave and ocean thermal energy conversion will now be considered as Renewable Energy.
  3. This decision will help the sector to grow as it will enable states to buy electricity generated from ocean energy route to meet their Renewable Purchase Obligations(RPOs). 
  4. RPO is a mechanism by which the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions are obliged to purchase a certain percentage of power from renewable energy sources.
  5. The deployment of Ocean energy is currently limited but the sector has the potential to grow which may (a)fuel economic growth (b)reduce carbon footprint and (c)create jobs not only along the coasts but also inland along its supply chains.
  6. According to MNRE,Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast show potential for tidal energy production.However,the capital cost for tidal energy is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariffs.

Centre signs pact to digitise all gram panchayats

  1. The Common Service Centre Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) has signed a pact with the Panchayati Raj Ministry to turn gram panchayats into ‘digital panchayats’
  2. This move is aimed at providing speedy delivery of government services to people in rural areas and promoting rural BPO across all 2.5 lakh panchayats in the country.
  3. According to the pact,Gram Panchayat Bhawans will host common service centres(CSCs) to provide easy access to government services and social schemes in rural areas.
  4. Common Services Centre (CSC) programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY).It was launched in 2006.CSCs act as access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India.
  5. CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act,1956 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to monitor the implementation of the Common Services Centres Scheme.

IIT Hyderabad scientists convert fly ash into waterproofing material

  1. Researchers from the IIT Hyderabad have found a method that can convert fly ash into a waterproofing material.
  2. They have converted fly ash by treating it with stearic acid which is commonly used in soaps and shampoos.
  3. Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain and has the IUPAC name octadecanoic acid.
  4. Fly ash is the end product of combustion during the process of power generation in the coal-based thermal power plants.
  5. Fly ash contains heavy metals such as large amount of PM 2.5 and black carbon.
  6. Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 (respirable pollution particles) in summer.It becomes airborne and gets transported to a radius of 10 to 20 kms.It can settle on water and other surfaces.Hence,proper disposal of fly ash is required at many places.
  7. Fly Ash can be used as a resource material for many applications of construction industries such as in manufacturing of Cement, bricks, road embankment among others.At present,63% of the fly ash is being utilised in India but the target is for 100% utilisation of the fly ash.

Explained: What Henley Passport Index tells us about mobility of an Indian passport

  1. Henley Passport Index 2019 has been released.The Index is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA).
  2. The index has ranked India at 86 down five places from 81 in 2018. India’s mobility score is 58 which means that Indian passport holders can access 58 countries around the world without a prior visa.
  3. As per the Index,Japan and Singapore have the world’s most powerful passports as their passports allow visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 189 places.
  4. Further,the index provides that Afghanistan holds the weakest passport, with a score and ranking of 25 and 109 respectively.
  5. The Henley Passport Index (HPI) is a global ranking of countries according to travel freedom for their citizens.It was started in 2006 as Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index(HVRI) and was modified and renamed in January 2018.
  6. The index ranks passports based on the number of countries a holder can go to without a visa or the number of countries a holder can go to where they can obtain a visa,visitor’s permit, or electronic travel authority upon arrival.

FATF Asia-Pacific Group may blacklist Pakistan

  1. The Asia Pacific Group(APG) may put Pakistan on an enhanced blacklist as the country has failed to meet global standards on money laundering and terror financing.
  2. In June 2018,Financial Action Task Force(FATF) had already greylisted Pakistan for failing to curb anti-terror financing.
  3. However,the two processes are separate as APG blacklisting status would impair Pakistan’s chances at removing itself from the FATF greylist.
  4. According to the APG’s report,Pakistan has failed in enforcing safeguards against terror-financing and money-laundering by UN-sanctioned entities and other non-government outfits.
  5. 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.
  6. The Asia Pacific Group currently consists of 41 members including India.It is focused on ensuring that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering,terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.
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