9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 26, 2019

G-7 summit

  1. Indian Prime Minister (PM) will be attending the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France.
  2. Although India is not a member of the G7 group, Indian PM would be attending the Summit as a special guest on the invitation of French President.
  3. The G-7 was created in 1975 as an annual gathering of political leaders to discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues including the global economy, security and energy.
  4. The Group of 7(G7) consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union is also represented within the G7.
  5. Russia was also a part of the group and it was known as G-8.However, Russia was removed after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which was seen as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  6. Further, the G7 has also been criticised as G-20 is seen as more representative body when compared to G7 as emerging economies like India and China are not part of the G7.

Donald Trump reportedly wants Greenland. Can you really buy a foreign territory

  1. U.S. President has said that he wants to buy Greenland. However, the Denmark government dismissed his statement and said that Greenland was not for sale.
  2. Greenland is the world’s largest island. It is an autonomous Denmark dependent territory with limited self-government and its own parliament.
  3. Denmark contributes two thirds of Greenland’s budget revenue while the rest comes mainly from fishing.
  4. The USA has long seen Greenland as strategically important and had established a radar base at Thule at the start of the Cold War.
  5. The potential oil, gas and rare earth mineral reserves have also attracted prospecting firms.
  6. Further, there have been several instances in the history of nations and especially the US acquiring foreign territory against payment.
  7. One famous example is the purchase of Alaska which Russia transferred to the US in 1867 for $7.2 million. In 1819, the US had also bought Florida from Spain.

Over 2 lakh bio-toilets installed in 60,906 train coaches of Indian Railways

  1. Ministry of Railways has said that over 2 lakh bio-toilets have been installed in train coaches of Indian Railways.
  2. “Bio-Toilet project” of Indian Railways is an innovative & indigenous development of technology. The project is aligned with ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’.
  3. The technology for Bio-toilets has been designed and ‘Made in India’. It has been developed jointly by Indian Railways’ Engineers & DRDO’s scientists
  4. Bio-toilet is a decomposition mechanized toilet system which decomposes human excretory waste in the digester tank using specific high graded aerobic bacteria which further converts it into methane gas, Carbon dioxide gas and water.

Centre takes steps to control onion prices in national capital

  1. Government has planned to substantially increase the daily supply of onions from its buffer stock held with NAFED.
  2. This decision was taken in the backdrop of heavy rains in key onion growing States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka which may increase the prices of onion.
  3. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) was established in 1958.It is registered under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act.
  4. NAFED was set up to promote cooperative marketing of agricultural produce to benefit farmers.
  5. The objectives of the NAFED are (a)To organize, promote and develop marketing, processing and storage of agricultural, horticultural and forest produce (b)To distribute agricultural machinery, implements and other inputs (c)To undertake inter-state, import and export trade, wholesale or retail and (d)To act and assist for technical advice in agricultural production.
  6. Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of NAFED.

Manmohan Singh set to lose SPG cover

  1. The Central Government has withdrawn Special Protection Group (SPG) cover for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
  2. The Special protection group (SPG) was set up in 1985 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  3. Later on it became a statutory body under Special Protection Group Act, 1988.It was formed to protect the Prime Ministers of India. At the time, the Act did not include former Prime Ministers.
  4. However, after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 the SPG Act was amended offering SPG protection to all former Prime Ministers and their families.
  5. The act was amended again in 2002 to make provision for an annual review. The review is based on threat perception that is conducted by security agencies.

IMF report flags several delays in India’s data reporting

  1. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “Annual Observance Report of the Special Data Dissemination Standard for 2018”, India has failed to comply with multiple requirements prescribed in the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS).
  2. The IMF launched the SDDS initiative in 1996 to guide members to enhance data transparency and help financial market participants with adequate information to assess the economic situations of individual countries. India had subscribed to the SDDS in 1996.
  3. There are over 20 data categories which IMF considers for this report to capture a nation’s economic health including national accounts (GDP, GNI), production indices, employment, and central government operations.
  4. The IMF has acknowledged India’s deviations in the SDDS but termed them non serious. However, India has said that its non-compliance with IMF standards is a one-off event due to technical glitches in the National Summary Data Page (NSDP).
  5. National Summary Data Page (NSDP) provides quick access to a single comprehensive source of economic and financial data. The IMF requires that these data should be available at regular intervals in public domain.

Modi, Johnson agree to step up bilateral cooperation

  1. Indian Prime Minister has met the UK Prime minister at the sidelines of G-7 summit being held in Biarritz, France. 
  2. The two leaders discussed ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade, defence and security.
  3. This meeting came against the backdrop of the Indian government revoking the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.
  4. During the discussion, UK Prime minister said that the issue of Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan which needs to be resolved through dialogue.
  5. The trade issues were also discussed between the two countries.UK is the third largest Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India and is among India’s main trading partners.
  6. The trade between the two countries is around Euro 13.6 billion in 2018. Moreover, trade had increased at an average rate of 8.8% per year between 2002 and 2018.

IIT-Guwahati researchers develop ‘meat of the future

  1. Researchers at IIT-Guwahati have developed cell based meat. This will be a step towards cruelty-free food thereby saving the environment as well as the animals.
  2. Cell based meat or cellular agriculture aims at creating clean meat. Cell based meat is a process in which a small sample of cells is taken from an animal painlessly and then used to grow meat in a manufacturing facility.
  3. Currently, there are many environmental concerns arising out of livestock industry and meat consumption such as (a)increased use of water, food and energy to raise livestock (b) large-scale animal husbandry contributing to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions and (c)antibiotic resistance.
  1. Further, due to rapid increase in population, the meat industry has been facing immense pressure in keeping up with the food requirements.
  2. Researchers have also cited the predictions from the UN population prospects which said that the current meat industry will not be able to meet the global needs by 2050.

CVC sets up panel to probe bank fraud

  1. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has constituted Advisory Board for Banking Frauds (ABBF).The four-member board will be headed by former Vigilance Commissioner T M Bhasin.
  2. The board will function as the first level of examination of all large fraud cases before recommendations or references are made to the investigative agencies by the respective Public Sector Banks.  
  3. The board’s jurisdiction will be confined to those cases involving officers of General Manager level and above in the PSBs in respect of an allegation of fraud in a borrowal account. 
  4. The banks would refer all large fraud cases above ₹50 crore to the board and on receipt of its recommendation or advice, the bank concerned would take further action in such matter.
  5. The CVC was set up by the Government in 1964 on the recommendation of the Santhanam Committee. In 2003, the Parliament enacted CVC Act conferring statutory status on the CVC.
  6. The CVC is not controlled by any Ministry or Department. It is an independent body which is only responsible to the Parliament. CVC receives complaints on corruption or misuse of office and recommend appropriate action.

FM’s announcement may help revive investor confidence, boost markets

  1. Finance minister had announced a number of economic measures to revive economic growth through fiscal stimulus.
  2. These measures were announced in the backdrop of (a) domestic and global growth concerns (b) weakening demand for India companies and (c) the threat of escalation of tariff war between US and China.
  3. The steps announced were such as (a) removing enhanced surcharge on foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) (b) capital infusion of ₹70,000 crore in public sector banks (c) addressing delayed GST payments (d) securing transmission of lower repo rates among others.
  4. These steps are expected to infuse liquidity into the market and thereby reduce pressure from several companies. It may also revive the investors’ confidence.

Modi, Trump to meet: Kashmir and trade will be on table

  1. Indian Prime Minister will meet US President on the side-lines of the G-7 Summit in France.
  2. The two leaders are expected to hold talks to resolve the differences over trade and investment.
  3. India and the United States has differences over issues such as trade imbalance between India and the US. India’s exports to the U.S. in 2017-18 stood at $47.9 billion while imports were at $26.7 billion. The trade balance is in favour of India.
  4. India has also imposed long pending retaliatory tariffs on 29 US products after US had withdrawn Generalized system of preferences (GSP) for Indian exporters.
  5. GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries. It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  6. India has also dragged the U.S. to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism over the imposition of import duties on steel and aluminium.
  7. Further, there are other issues such as (a) India’s new rules on e-commerce that affected firms such as Amazon and Walmart and (b) Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally.

India hoping for Iran deal, Russia’s inclusion in G7

  1. The Group of Seven (G7) summit is being held in Biarritz, France.
  2. The summit will discuss issues such as (a) global free trade (b) environment (c) climate change (d) digital economy among others.
  3. However, India would be interested in two other issues which are (a) Relations between Iran and US and (b) Inclusion of Russia in the G7 group.
  4. The relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated since US had withdrawn from a 2015 Iran nuclear deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities.
  5. However, the other five nations including France has remained committed to the deal but Iran has started to increase its nuclear activity in response to the US reinstating and tightening economic sanctions.
  6. Hence, France has urged US President to offer some sort of relief to Iran such as lifting sanctions on oil sales to China and India or establishing a new credit line to enable exports.
  7. Further, US President is also expected to urge G7 leaders to readmit Russia to the G7 group.
  8. Earlier, Russia was also a part of the group However, Russia was removed after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which was seen as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity

TEMPLATES

  1. NASA will study the formation of new stars under a program called Targeting Extremely Magnified Panchromatic Lensed Arcs and Their Extended Star Formation, or TEMPLATES.
  2. The program has four main goals: a) Measure how many new stars are forming, to determine how rapidly galaxies form stars, b) Map the star-formation rate in four selected galaxies, c) Compare the young and old stellar populations and d) Measure the conditions of the gas within these galaxies
  3. The study will be conducted using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Scientists would take help of a natural phenomenon call gravitational lensing which would magnify the light from distant galaxies that are at or near the peak of star formation.
  4. Gravitational lenses are considered to be natural, cosmic telescopes. The phenomenon occurs when a huge amount of matter, such as a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies, creates a gravitational field that distorts and magnifies the light from objects behind it.
  5. The effect allows researchers to study the details of early galaxies too far away to be seen otherwise with even the most powerful space telescopes.

NASA says 49 debris from A-Sat test still in space, Indian missile expert slams report

  1. According to NASA’s latest orbital debris quarterly news, 49 debris from India’s Mission Shakti remain on orbit as of July 15th. The report has however been rejected by India’s missile experts.
  2. Mission Shakti was an Anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test conducted by India in March 2019. The Mission was carried out by shooting down Microsat-R with a modified exo-atmospheric missile of the ballistic missile defence at an altitude of 300 km. Microsat-R is a imaging satellite which was launched by ISRO using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in January 2019.
  3. Space debris are artificial material that is orbiting Earth but is no longer functional. They consists of dead satellites, spent rocket motors, nuts and bolts etc. Space debris is a threat to active satellites and spaceships as they pose risk of collisions.
  4. According to Space-track website, in total, 14,520 debris and 5165 functional and non-functional satellites are currently in space. India currently has 96 functional and non-functional satellites in space and 173 species of trackable debris. USA has 4,804 debris and 1791 functional and non-functional satellites.

PM to address UN conference in September to combat desertification

  1. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019. India, for the first time will be hosting UNCCD COP at Greater Noida from September 2-13.
  2. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It was established in 1994. It has 197 parties.
  3. UNCCD seeks to work towards maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity and mitigating the effects of drought.
  4. The COP is the supreme decision-making body of a Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention.
  5. COP 14 of the UNCCD will focus on how to restore 2 billion hectares of degraded land and assess the progress made in this direction since COP13 held in 2017.
  6. India is reeling under severe problem of land degradation. A 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organisation found that about 29% of India’s land (in 2011-13) was degraded.
  7. Recently, the Environment Ministry has launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India. There will be a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka.
  8. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has partnered with The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the project.
  9. It aims to develop and adapt best practices and monitoring protocols for the Indian states and build capacity within the five pilot states on FLR and Bonn Challenge.
  10. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It was launched in 2011 by the Government of Germany and IUCN, and later endorsed and extended by the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.
  11. Under the challenge, India has pledged to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

PM Modi launches $4.2 mn redevelopment project of Hindu temple in Bahrain

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched the $4.2 million redevelopment project of the 200-year-old Sreenathji (Sri Krishna) temple in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. PM Narendra Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Bahrain.
  2. The Sri Krishna temple is estimated to have been established around 1817 and was built by Thathai Bhatia Hindu community. It is considered to be one of the oldest temple in the Gulf countries.
  3. The redevelopment project will be on a piece of land measuring 16,500 square feet. As part of the renovated structure, the temple will have a knowledge centre and a museum.
  4. It will also have special facility to host Hindu weddings. This comes to light after the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority initiated to make the Bahrain a hub for wedding destination and boost tourism.

CSIR to certify air quality monitoring sensors

  1. The Environment Ministry has designated Council of Scientific and Industrial Research—National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) as the national verification agency for certifying air quality monitoring instruments.
  2. CSR NPL will develop necessary infrastructure, testing and certification facilities conforming to ISO standards for both automatic and manual samplers.
  3. Currently, the air quality monitoring instruments employed by State and Central Pollution Control Boards (SPCB and CPCB) are imported.
  4. The decision to certify the instruments has come in the backdrop of anticipation of rising demand of air quality monitoring instruments by states against the backdrop of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  5. 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.
  6. It aims at 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5and PM10 concentration by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
  7. 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.Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
  8. The NCAP requires cities to come up with city-specific plans that include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and strengthening enforcement.
  9. The cities are required to implement specific measures in a time-bound manner. Example: ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust (within 60 days).

Launch revolution against plastic on Gandhi Jayanti, says PM Modi

  1. In the monthly radio address, “Man ki baat”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged people to start a new revolution against plastic from 2 October, 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  2. He has also urged municipalities, NGOs and the corporate sector to take measures for safe disposal of accumulated plastic waste before 2019 Diwali.
  3. The Prime Minister has further urged people participate in the annual “Swachhta Hi Seva” campaign, which will begin on September 11.
  4. ‘Swachhta Hi Sewa’ (Cleanliness is service) is a campaign launched in 2018 as a part of Swachh Bharat Mission. The campaign aims at generating greater public participation towards Swachhta (cleanliness)
  5. Swachh Bharat Mission is a cleanliness campaign initiated by Govt. of India in 2014. It seeks to achieve a Clean India by 2019, as a fitting tribute to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  6. Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) aims to improve the levels of cleanliness in rural areas through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities and making villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) and clean.
  7. Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) aims at elimination of open defecation, conversion of unsanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradication of manual scavenging, municipal solid waste management and bringing about a behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices.

Give specific timelines for cleaning of Yamuna: NGT

  1. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed stakeholders to give specific schedule for cleaning the Yamuna. The NGT has also noted that repeated timelines have not been adhered to in the last 30 years and pollution of the river continues unabated.
  2. Earlier, the NGT had expressed dissatisfaction over the cleaning of the Yamuna River and directed Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments to submit a performance guarantee of ₹10 crore each within a month.
  3. The NGT had noted that almost 67% of the pollutants that enter the Yamuna would be treated by two sewage treatment plants at Delhi Gate and Najafgarh under the first phase of the Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project 2017. The project aims to bring down pollution levels in the Yamuna River in Delhi.
  4. The Yamuna is the longest right bank tributary of River Ganga. It originates from the Yamunotri Glacier on the south western slopes of Banderpooch peak in the Lower Himalayas, Uttarakhand. It joins river Ganga at Triveni Sangam, Prayagraj

Telling numbers: Counting Amazon fires, assessing forest lost

  1. The Amazon rainforest has been reeling under fires prompting global concerns.
  2. According to Brazilian Space Research Agency (INPE), more than 74,000 fires have been recorded in the Amazon region between January and August 2019. There has been an 84% increase in the number of fires compared with the same period in 2018
  3. According to scientists from the University of Maryland, most of the fires are on agricultural land where the forest had already been cleared.
  4. The Amazon rainforest is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
  5. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil (60%), followed by Peru Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
  6. The Amazon is often referred to as the ‘lungs of the planet’ due to its vital role in oxygen production.

CITES CoP 2019: 18 endangered sharks and rays afforded protection

  1. 18 species of sharks and rays, were included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These sharks and rays species are threatened by the scale of international trade in their fins and meat.
  2. The decision was taken at the ongoing CoP 18 of CITES being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
  3. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  4. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  5. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  6. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.

CITES CoP 2019: Conservationist Vivek Menon wins Clark Bavin Award

  1. Conservationist Vivek Menon, head of Wildlife Trust of India was awarded the prestigious Clark R Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award for the year 2019. The award was presented at the ongoing CoP 18 of CITES being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
  2. The Bavin Awards recognise the extraordinary efforts that law enforcement officers and other field-based individuals are willing to make in order to protect wildlife.
  3. The US-based Species Survival Network, in cooperation with the Animal Welfare Institute, coordinates the presentation of the awards. The award is named in memory of Bavin, who was the Chief of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Law Enforcement.
  4. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
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