9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 3, 2019

President Kovind honoured with National order of Merit, highest award of Republic of Guinea

  1. Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has been awarded the National order of Merit by the President of Guinea. It is the highest award of Republic of Guinea.
  2. He has been awarded for his exceptional contribution to the advancement of overall relations and development of mutual cooperation between India and Guinea and for promoting friendship and partnership between the people of both the countries.
  3. Earlier, the President had extensive talks with the President of Guinea. Three MoUs were signed: a) Cooperation in the Field of Traditional System of Medicine, b) e- Vidhyabharati – e-Aarogya Bharati Network Project and c) Renewal Energy.
  4. Indian President had also announced a new Line of Credit of US$ 170 million for Water Supply Project of Conakry city, the capital of Republic of Guinea.

Parliament passes Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India, (Amendment) Bill – 2019

  1. The Parliament has passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India, (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  2. The bill amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008. The Act established the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).
  3. The AERA regulates tariffs and other charges for aeronautical services provided at civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh passengers.  It also monitors the performance standard of services across these airports.
  4. The bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports from 15 lakhs to over 35 lakh passengers.
  5. Earlier, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008 defines a major airport as one with annual passenger traffic over 15 lakhs, or any other airports as notified by the central government.
  6. The Bill allows AERA to bid out any new airport at a pre-determined tariff structure.
  7. The Bill adds that AERA will not determine: a) the tariff, b) tariff structures, or c) the development fees, in certain cases. These cases include those where such tariff amounts were a part of the bid document on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.

New mobile app launched to assist farmers

  1. The Ministries of Earth Sciences and Agriculture have launched a new mobile application called Meghdoot. The app has been developed by by experts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and Indian Institute of Tropical meteorology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research
  2. The mobile app will provide location, and crop and livestock-specific weather-based agro advisories to farmers in local languages. The information would be updated twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays
  3. It will provide forecast relating to temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind speed and direction. This information is critical for farmers. The app will also provide advisories to farmers on how to take care of their crops and livestock.
  4. The app would provide information in the form of images, maps and pictures. It has also been integrated with WhatsApp and Facebook to help farmers share advisories among themselves.
  5. The app would be available for 150 districts in different parts of the country. It will be extended to rest of the country in a phased manner over the next one year.
  6. Further, IMD has developed new website to disseminate weather and climate. The website has district-wise weather warnings in easy to view and read formats. It will also act as a centralized portal to all the meteorological offices in India to update the warnings, bulletins and other data in real-time.

Centre launches dedicated website to contain Fall Armyworm

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has launched a dedicated website (www.fallarmyworm.org.in) to help framers control and fight against Fall Armyworm (FAW) pest attacks.
  2. The website provides tips and useful information to prevent and control FAW. It also has information on pheromone traps and lures to detect FAW at a very early stage of infestation. Further, farmers can buy safety kits, masks and gloves for effective management of FAW.
  3. Project SAFFAL (Safeguarding Agriculture and Farmers against Fall Armyworm) is also being implemented. The project has been conceptualized by the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC) and supported by FMC India Pvt Limited.
  4. The project aims at safeguarding agriculture and farmers against fall armyworm in India. It seeks to address knowledge gaps, enhance farmers’ awareness, organize educational campaigns on prevention of Fall armyworm.
  5. The Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda is an invasive agricultural pest. It was first reported in West Africa in 2016. In India, its infection was first reported in Karnataka in 2018
  6. It has caused extensive damage to crops in India, especially Maize. In early 2019, Mizoram incurred an estimated crop loss of Rs. 20 crore caused by an outbreak of the FAW.

UGC recommends 20 Institutions for Institution of Eminence

  1. The University Grant Commission (UGC) has recommended the name of 20 institutions for the grant of the Institute of Eminence status.
  2. The Institute of Eminence scheme is a scheme of Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  3. It aims at developing 20 world-class teaching and research institutions. The regulatory architecture for the scheme has been provided through a) UGC (Declaration of Government Institutions as Institutions of Eminence) Guidelines, 2017 for public Institutions and b) UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017 for private Institutions.
  4. Those selected will be given greater autonomy and freedom to decide fees, course durations and governance structures.
  5. The public institutions will also receive a government grant of ₹1,000 crores over period of five years. However, the private institutions will not get any funding under the scheme.
  6. Previously, 3 public and 3 private institutions were selected under the scheme.

Kapil Mishra disqualified under anti-defection law

  1. An AAP MLA in Delhi has been disqualified under the anti-defection law which is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.
  2. The 10th Schedule was inserted to the Constitution through the 52nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1985. The anti-defection law is based on the recommendations of the Y B Chavan committee.
  3. The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  4. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  5. There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified: a) if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party and b) if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her action is not condoned by his party.
  6. There is an exception that has been provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification. The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.

Census 2021 may skip caste count

  1. Census 2021 is unlikely to collect “caste wise” data. This is because the Socio-Economic Caste Census had collected data on caste however, it was difficult to tabulate the data. The data is yet to be released by the Centre.
  2. The Census 2021 would restrict itself to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes data.
  3. A census of population is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing demographic, economic and social data of all the population, pertaining at a specific time.
  4. A systematic and modern population census, in its present form was conducted non -synchronously between 1865 and 1872 in different parts of India
  5. However, the first synchronous census in India was held in 1881. Since then, censuses have been undertaken uninterruptedly once every ten years.
  6. The Indian Census collects Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics at the individual level and data on Housing amenities, household goods at the household level
  7. Census 2011 was the 15th National Census of the country.
  8. The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) was conducted in 2011 by the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation in rural and urban areas respectively.
  9. SECC-2011 data are used for implementation of various programmes including Pradhan Mantri AwaasYojana-Gramin, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana etc.

Elected directors in PSBs will be appointed by board: RBI

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has come out with the ‘Fit and Proper’ Criteria for Elected Directors on the Boards of PSBs Directions, 2019.
  2. The directions mandates that banks are required to constitute a Nomination and Remuneration Committee (NRC) consisting of a minimum of three non-executive directors from amongst the board of directors.
  3. An elected director shall hold office for three years and shall be eligible for re-election provided that no director  hold office for a period exceeding six years whether served continuously or intermittently.
  4. The candidates for the post of directors should also not be a member of the board of any rival banks or the RBI or any financial institution.
  5. The candidates between the age of 35 to 67 years on the cut off date for the submission of nominations for election with graduate as a minimum education qualification will be considered.
  6. Further, the candidates should not be holding the position of a Member of Parliament or State Legislature or municipal corporation or municipality or other local bodies.

U.S. poised to formally abandon INF missile treaty

  1. The US has formally withdrawn from a Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty(INF) with Russia.
  2. Russia had also officially suspended it’s participation in the INF treaty after the US had announced to withdraw from the treaty claiming that Russia had secretly developed a missile that violated the INF.
  3. Further, the US military also plans to test a land-based cruise missile and ballistic missile previously banned under the INF treaty between August and November of 2019.
  4. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty came into force in 1988. It banned both the Soviet Union (Russia) and the US from developing and deploying land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. However, treaty did not apply to air-or sea-launched missiles.
  5. The agreement was signed to de-escalate tensions as both countries had dozens of such missiles deployed, posing a risk of an accidental nuclear exchange.
  6. Cruise missile is an unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path and whose primary mission is to place an ordnance or special payload on a target.
  7. Ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads to a predetermined target. These weapons are only guided during the relatively brief periods of flight—most of their trajectory is unpowered, being governed by gravity and air resistance if in the atmosphere.

India to conduct 1st National Time Release Study

  1. Department of Revenue under Union Ministry of Finance is conducting India’s 1st National Time Release Study(TRS).The exercise is being conducted as a part of its strategic commitment to improve global trade.
  2. The exercise will be conducted at the same time across 15 ports including sea, air, land and dry ports which cumulatively account for 81% of total Bills of Entries for import and 67% of Shipping Bills for export filed within India.
  3. This initiative will also help India in improving its Ease of Doing Business ranking on the Trading Across Borders indicator. In 2018,India’s ranking on the indicator improved from 146 to 80.
  4. TRS is an internationally recognized tool advocated by Brussels based World Customs Organization (WCO) to measure efficiency and effectiveness of international trade flows.
  5. TRS is an initiative for accountable governance that will measure rule based and procedural bottlenecks including physical touch points in clearance of goods from time of arrival until physical release of cargo.
  6. It also aims to identify and address bottlenecks in trade flow process. It will also take corresponding policy and operational measures required to improve effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures without compromising efficient trade control.

Nigeria becomes fourth African nation to join global coalition to protect pollinators

  1. Nigeria has become the fourth African country to join the Global Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators. Ethiopia was the first African nation to be part of this global coalition in 2017. 
  2. This Coalition was formed to follow up on the findings of IPBES assessment on Pollinators and Food Production. The coalition aims to foster policy measures and innovative action on protecting pollinators.
  3. The initiative to form a coalition was taken by the Netherlands in 2016 at the Conference of the Parties-Convention on Biological Diversity held in Mexico.
  4. The coalition now has 28 signatories including 17 European countries,5 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 4 from Africa.
  5. Pollination is one of the most important mechanisms in the maintenance and promotion of biodiversity.
  6. Pollinator-dependent species include several fruits, vegetables, oil crops which are major sources of nutrients to humans. The availability of pollinators helps in crop production in terms of both quantity and quality.
  7. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body.
  8. The objective is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Currently, it has over 130 member States.

UAPA Bill gets Rajya Sabha nod

  1. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 has been passed in the Parliament.
  2. The bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India.
  3. The bill empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists if (a)the person commits or participates in acts of terrorism (b)prepares for terrorism (c)promotes terrorism or (d)otherwise involved in terrorism.
  4. The bill also empowers the Director-General of National Investigation Agency(NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is being investigated by the agency.
  5. Under the existing Act, the investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police(DGP) to seize properties that bear any connection to terrorism.
  6. The bill also empowers the officers of the NIA of the rank of Inspector or above to investigate cases.
  7. The existing Act provides for investigation of cases to be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
  8. The International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism(2005) has also been added in the Second Schedule through the Amendment.

In letter to Law Minister, CEC Sunil Arora pushes for pending poll reforms

  1. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has written a letter to the Law Minister. He has highlighting eight pending reform proposals.
  2. CEC has sought the government’s intervention in limiting the number of seats from which a candidate can contest polls to one. At present one candidate can contest from two seats.
  3. He has also asked the government to amend the Representation of the People(RP) Act to bring the print media within the purview of the 48-hour silence period before voting and extending tax exemptions only to political parties that fight elections.
  4. He also highlighted the proposal on making paid news and filing of false affidavit a corrupt practice with punishment of two years imprisonment.
  5. He has also flagged the apprehension that political parties may merely be set up for availing provisions of income tax exemption. He has reiterated ECs demand for powers to de-register a party. 
  6. At present, the RP Act only provides for registration of political parties but the EC has no power to revoke that registration.
  7. CEC has also sought changes in the contribution form (Form 24A) meant for political parties to ensure that they disclose information even for donations that are less than Rs 20,000.Currently,parties are obligated to provide details of contributions of more than Rs 20,000.
  8. CEC has also proposed four cut-off dates for voter enrolment in a calendar year namely on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1. Currently, only those above 18 years as on January 1 are eligible to enrol themselves as voters in that particular year.

BIS to set up Pashmina testing centre in Leh

  1. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) would set up a Pashmina testing centre in Leh in partnership with the lab of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council(LAHDC), Leh.
  2. The pashmina products will also get a code from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certifying their genuineness and quality.
  3. Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool. Cashmere wool has strong, light, soft and fine texture. Pashmina translates to Soft Gold in Kashmiri.
  4. The cashmere wool is obtained from 4 distinct breeds of the Cashmere goat namely (a) Changthangi or Kashmir Pashmina goat from the Kashmir (b) Malra breed from Kargil area of Kashmir (c) Chegu breed from Himachal Pradesh and (d) Chyangra or Nepalese Pashmina breed from Nepal.
  5. Kashmir Pashmina has been assigned Geographical indication (GI) tag under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  6. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the National Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  7. BIS was established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986. The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.

New molecule promises to address drug resistance

  1. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science(IISc),Bangalore have designed an antimicrobial protein called Omega 76.
  2. This protein promises to kill multidrug-resistant bacterium called Acinetobacter baumannii.
  3. The bacterium is among those responsible for most of the infections in hospitals and other healthcare settings and is fast becoming resistant to available antibiotics.
  4. The protein was developed using bioinformatics approach. Experiments have shown that it killed the bacterium by breaking down its cell membrane.
  5. Usually, conventional drugs act by blocking specific pathways or processes in bacterial cells but bacteria evolve to gain resistance against such drugs.
  6. In recent times, a class of chemical molecules called antimicrobial peptides has emerged as an alternative. They promise to kill bacteria by breaking down their membranes. The new molecule belongs to this group.
  7. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. Bioinformatics has been used for analyses of biological queries using mathematical and statistical techniques.

World Breastfeeding Week

  1. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August. It aims to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
  2. This is organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), in association with WHO and UNICEF. The theme for 2019 is “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”.
  3. Breastfeeding is important because (a)It prevents infections like diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections in early infancy and thus reduce infant mortality and (b)It decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
  4. The correct norms of infant and young child feeding are (a) Initiation of Breastfeeding within an hour of birth (b) Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and (c) Continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.

Giving voice sample to police does not violate privacy, rules top court

  1. The Supreme Court has ruled that a judicial magistrate can order an accused to give his voice samples even against his consent in the course of a criminal investigation.
  2. The judgment came on an appeal filed by petitioner against a 2010 order of a magistrate court in Uttar Pradesh allowing police to get his voice sample.
  3. Article 20 (3) of the Constitution mandated that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
  4. However, the court said that giving voice sample by itself did not incriminate a person. Hence, judicial order to give such a sample does not infringe the fundamental rights to privacy or against self-incrimination.
  5. The 87th Report of the Law Commission of India in 1980 describes a voice print as a visual recording of voice. Voiceprints resemble fingerprints as each person has a distinctive voice with characteristic features dictated by vocal cavities and articulates.

Affordable housing gets a ₹10,000-crore booster

  1. The National Housing Bank (NHB) has decided to infuse an additional Rs 10,000 crore into housing finance companies(HFCs) to improve liquidity in the sector.
  2. This move would enable the HFCs to provide individual loans for affordable housing.
  3. The government has also approved the budget proposal on one-time partial credit guarantee to public sector banks for purchase of high-rated pooled assets of financially sound NBFCs.
  4. Further, the Finance Minister will also be holding an inter-ministerial meeting on issues related to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).The meeting will consider various recommendations given by Expert Committee headed by former SEBI Chief UK Sinha.
  5. The committee has suggested several measures including doubling of collateral-free loans for MSMEs, self help groups and borrowers falling under the Mudra Yojna to Rs 20 lakh.It has also suggested creating a stressed asset fund of Rs 5,000 crore to protect the sector from distress caused by external circumstances.
  6. The National Housing Bank (NHB) was set up in 1988 under the National Housing Bank Act,1987.NHB is an apex financial institution for housing.
  7. Its objective is to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels and to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

India seeks unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav

  1. India has sought an unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav. This comes after Indian Government had said that it was evaluating Pakistan’s proposal to grant consular access to him.
  2. There are a number of issues on which discussions are being held between Indian and Pakistan such as (a)will officials from Pakistan be present (b)will there be a glass partition between them and (c)will there be an audio-visual recording of the discussion.
  3. The consular access was granted to India after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ordered that Pakistan must undertake an effective review and reconsideration of Jadhav’s conviction and sentencing and grant consular access to India.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Depending on the response, the diplomat will report back to his/her government and the next steps will be initiated.
  6. 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.

China threatens to retaliate against Trump tariffs

  1. China has warned of retaliation against U.S. President announcement on imposing a fresh 10% tariff on another $300bn of Chinese goods.
  2. Tariffs are a tax on imports. They are typically charged as a percentage of the transaction price that a buyer pays to a foreign seller.
  3. The US had already applied tariffs of 25% on $250bn of Chinese goods. China had also retaliated with tariffs of up to 25% on US goods worth $113bn.
  4. The US is applying pressure on China to try to force it to narrow the trade deficit which is the gap between imports and exports between the two countries. 
  5. The US President has complained that China buys fewer US goods than the US buys from China. He has also accused Chinese firms of stealing US companies intellectual property.
  6. The International Monetary Fund has also said the US-China trade war is dragging on global growth. Recently, it said that the conflict would cut growth by 0.1% points in 2019 and 2020.

‘Slowdown evident, may be temporary’

  1. HDFC Chairman has said that the economic slowdown in India which has been due to weakness in consumption demand is temporary in nature and will pick up at the onset of the festive season.
  2. According to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), India’s quarterly GDP growth has declined to 5.8% in the January-March 2019 quarter dragging down the full year growth to a five-year low of 6.8%.
  3. He also said that the demand for affordable housing remains adequate as it has been supported by the government’s flagship credit-linked subsidy scheme and incentives provided to developers to increase the supply of affordable homes.
  4. However, he said that the challenge is re-instilling confidence in lenders to support growth since they have limited funding from non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) due to tight liquidity situation.
  5. Further, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also cut India’s growth rate projection for FY20 to 7% from 7.2%.Ratings agency CRISIL has also revised its growth estimate to 6.9% from 7.1%.

Too much of reforms has led to slowdown: NITI Aayog CEO

  1. NITI Aayog CEO has said that a huge set of reforms undertaken by the government has led to the current slowdown in the economy.
  2. He said that the reforms undertaken by government includes (a)GST (Goods and Services Tax) (b)IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) and (c)RERA(Real Estate Regulatory Authority).
  3. He has also advocated a series of policy decisions to revive the economy such as Firstly, the government needs to bring in greater levels of liquidity. Secondly, it needs to revive the private sector investment as we can never create wealth without the private sector. 
  4. Thirdly, the government needs to get out of business in a range of areas and it needs to recycle a lot of government assets such as roads. Fourthly, the government must push for major structural reforms.
  5. He has also suggested that gas grids, pipelines, transmission lines should be privately owned. He said that Niti Aayog had recommended a vast range of public sector units to be privatised.
  6. He also talked about the government’s push for electric vehicles (EV) in the country. He said that the government would work to develop India as a hub for manufacture and export of EVs.
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