9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 7, 2019

‘Raising time limit for abortion under study’

  1. The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that it has initiated the process for an inter-ministerial consultation on raising the time period to terminate pregnancy
  2. The response has come on backdrop of a PIL filed in the Delhi High Court for extending the time period to terminate pregnancy to 24 to 26 weeks in case of health risks to the mother or foetus.
  3. The petitioner had sought amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. The Act currently prohibits abortion post 20 weeks.
  4. Permission of a High Court is required beyond 20 weeks and courts can make exceptions if abnormalities are detected and if there is substantial risk to the mother’s life and health.
  5. A pending bill in Parliament proposes to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to extend the legally permissible period to end a pregnancy to 24 weeks.

1/4 of world’s population faces huge water stress, bulk in India

  1. The World Resource Institute (WRI) has released Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. It has ranked water stress, drought risk and riverine flood risk countries.
  2. According to the atlas, 1/4 of world’s population is facing huge water stress.
  3. WRI has provided a list of 17 most water stress countries. Qatar has been ranked as the most water stress country followed by Israel, Lebanon, Iran, and Jordan.
  4. India has been ranked 13th. The WRI has noted that India has more than three times the population of the other 16 water stressed countries.
  5. The WRI report has also highlighted that agriculture, industry, and municipalities are using 80% of available surface and groundwater in an average year in these 17 countries.
  6. 12 out of the 17 most water-stressed countries are in the Middle East and North Africa and climate change will worsen water scarcity in the region.
  7. The World Bank has had noted that this region has the greatest expected economic losses from climate-related water scarcity, estimated at 6%-14% of GDP by 2050.

‘India’s cancer burden will double to 20 lakh cases in 20 years’

  1. According to a new study published in the Journal of Global Oncology, the cancer burden in India will double to 20 lakh cases in 20 years.
  2. The increase in cancer burden has been attributed to demographic changes and improvement in and increased use of cancer diagnostics.
  3. According to GLOBOCAN, India registered 11.6 lakh cancer cases in 2018. GLOBOCAN is a project of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under WHO. The project collects and publishes surveillance data regarding the occurrence of cancer worldwide.
  4. The study has highlighted the need to focus on cancer diagnosis and treatment in India. It has called for establishing and investing in more public cancer care centres.

Museum on PMs likely to be ready by March 2021

  1. The “Museum on Prime Ministers of India” is likely to be constructed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) by March 2020
  2. The museum is being built in the Teen Murti Estate in New Delhi. The Teen Murti Estate also hosts the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India
  3. The museum will have interactive features for visitors to learn about the contribution of former Prime Ministers of India.
  4. The CPWD is the largest construction agency of the government. It executes public works and is entrusted with the maintenance of central government buildings.

No tinkering with Article 371, Amit Shah assures states

  1. Union Home Minister has assured states that Article 371 of the Indian Constitution will not be altered or interfered with.
  2. Article 371 of the Indian Constitution grants some temporary, transition and special provisions to some states in India.
  3. Article 371 provides special powers to the governors of Gujarat and Maharashtra to create independent development boards in regions such as Vidarbha, Marathwada, Kutch etc.
  4. Article 371A is for Nagaland. It states that the state’s religious or social practices or customary law will be decided by the state assembly.
  5. Article 371 (B) is for Assam. Article 371 (C) is for Manipur
  6. Article 371 (D) and (E) provides for special provisions for Andhra Pradesh
  7. Articles 371 (F), talk about special provisions with respect to Sikkim. Article 371 (G) is for Mizoram
  8. 371 (H) talks about special provisions for Arunachal Pradesh. Article 371 (I) deals with special provisions for Goa.
  9. Article 371 (J) grants special status to six backward districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region

Ahead of Jaishankar’s Beijing visit, India tells China to avoid commenting on Ladakh

  1. Ministry of External Affairs has asserted that Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 is an internal matter of India.
  2. This statement came after China had objected to the creation of the Union Territory of Ladakh and said it undermined its sovereignty.
  3. The Central Government has revoked provisions of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. It has also bifurcated the state into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir (with legislature) and Ladakh (without legislature).
  4. India and China have 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between them. The two countries have held 21 rounds of Special Representatives talks so far to resolve the boundary dispute.
  5. China has claims over Ladakh due to the continuing dispute over Aksai China which began when Pakistan ceded it to China in 1963.There have been several intrusions in Ladakh by China to the non-demarcation of the Line of Actual Control. 
  6. The most serious stand-off was in 2013 when Indian and Chinese troops camped in front of each other at Daulat Beg Oldi for three weeks. In 2017, China had protested when India was constructing a road near the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

Japan urged to sign UN nuke ban on Hiroshima anniversary

  1. The mayor of Hiroshima has urged Japan to sign the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons(TPNW).This statement came as the city marked the 74 years since being targeted in the world’s first atomic attack.
  2. Japan is the only country to have experienced atomic attack against Hiroshima and Nagasaki days ahead of the country’s surrender in 1945 to end World War II.
  3. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. The treaty was passed by in 2017.
  4. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 countries. Currently, 24 countries have ratified the treaty. 
  5. The treaty prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
  6. Further, for nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.
  7. However, eight nuclear weapon states namely the US, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan and North Korea along with Israel had not participated in the negotiations of the treaty.

China vows to counter U.S. deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Asia

  1. China has warned the United States that it would take countermeasures if the US goes ahead with its plans to deploy ground-based missiles in the Asia Pacific region.
  2. This statement came after US Defense Secretary has said that the US was now free to deploy the weapons following its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
  3. The rise of an assertive China in the region has worried traditional US allies such as Australia and New Zealand. Further, China’s actions in the South China Sea have also alarmed neighbours who are competing for territorial claims to this strategic waterway.
  4. However, experts have said that the most likely location for deployment of missiles by the US will be the island of Guam which hosts significant US military facilities.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Rajasthan launches new higher education model

  1. Rajasthan government has launched a new higher education model called as Resource Assistance for Colleges with Excellence (RACE).
  2. This new higher education model will help in distribution of faculties and movable assets among the government colleges at the district level to rationalise the availability of resources.
  3. The model will also create a pool for sharing of facilities. The colleges in need will submit their requirements to the nodal college in the district, which will send the teachers on deputation, if needed, and provide the facilities such as projectors, digital libraries, equipment and technicians.
  4. The model will help the colleges situated in small towns facing shortage of faculties and infrastructure. The model will also give autonomy to small colleges and help them find solutions to their problems at the local level.

Rajya Sabha passes Consumer Protection Bill

  1. Rajya Sabha has passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019.The bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
  2. The bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.The bill seeks to strengthen the rights of consumers and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services.
  3. The bill defines a consumer as a person who buys any goods or avails a service for a consideration. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purposes. 
  4. The bill covers transactions through all modes including offline and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.
  5. The bill provides the central government to set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
  6. CCPA will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. The CCPA will have an investigation wing headed by a Director-General which may conduct an inquiry or investigation into such violations.
  7. The bill provides for an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism. Mediation cells will be attached to Consumer Forum. The bill also ensures ease of approaching Consumer Commission and Simplification of Adjudication process.
  8. The bill provides for Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) to be set up at the district, state and national levels.
  9. The bill defines product liability as the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.

US says China manipulates yuan. What does that mean, how is it done?

  1. The US Treasury Department has declared China as a currency manipulator. This move comes after China allowed the yuan to suddenly depreciate or lose value relative to the dollar.
  2. In retaliation, the US has also announced that it would approach the International Monetary Fund(IMF) to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.
  3. Foreign Exchange Rate is the amount of domestic currency that must be paid in order to get a unit of foreign currency. According to Purchasing Power Parity theory, the foreign exchange rate is determined by the relative purchasing power of the two currencies.
  4. In an ideal world, exchange rate for any currency would be determined by the interplay of its demand and supply.
  5. However, most governments and central banks are bothered about generating more growth and employment at home. A weaker domestic currency comes in very handy when governments are trying to attract foreign demand and boost exports.
  6. Further. China’s economic growth has been essentially fuelled by exporting to the world.
  7. The US Treasury department defines currency manipulation as when countries deliberately influence the exchange rate between their currency and the US dollar to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade.
  8. Further, this is the first time that the US has labeled a country a manipulator since the 1990s when China was also the target. Officially, the designation requires the US government to seek negotiations with the government accused of manipulation.

China warns India of ‘reverse sanctions’ if Huawei is blocked

  1. China has warned India not to stop its Huawei Technologies from doing business in the country otherwise Indian firms operating in China may face trouble.
  2. This statement came after India has planned to establish 5G cellular network in the country but has not decided whether to open the trials to Huawei.
  3. The US administration has barred use or installation of Huawei 5G technology equipped devices in critical infrastructure and offices related to security establishment.
  4. The US has also been persuading other nations to boycott Huawei 5G rollout in those countries. Japan and Australia have already barred Huawei from rolling out 5G technology there.
  5. Recently, a high-level group of officials led by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Indian government has found no evidence to suggest Huawei has used back-door programmes or malware to collect data in its current operations in India.
  6. Further, one of the options that the government’s National Security Advisory Board(NSAB) official has suggested is to ensure the hardware and software for the proposed fifth-generation network are not both sourced from Huawei.

Taliban says differences resolved on U.S. troop withdrawal

  1. The U.S and Taliban officials has held productive negotiations in Doha, Qatar aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.
  2. During talks, U.S and Taliban appear to be closing in on an agreement under which U.S. forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other terrorist groups.
  3. However, even if the US and the Taliban reached an agreement, the Afghans will still need to sort out a number of key internal issues such as (a) ceasefire (b) dialogue between the Taliban and the government and (c) formation of a new government and political system.
  4. The Taliban now control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since 2001 when the U.S.-led invasion had toppled their government after it gave protection to al-Qaeda.
  5. The U.S and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014 but the US and allied troops continue to train and build the Afghan military. However, US President has often expressed his wish to end the war in Afghanistan and bring back US troops.

Bihar: Centre approves Rs 4,900-crore project to link Kosi, Mechi rivers

  1. Cabinet has approved Rs. 4,900 crore for Kosi-Mechi interlinking project in Bihar. This is the second river interlinking project after the Ken-Betwa project in Madhya Pradesh. 
  2. This decision was taken as every year floods had become a major reason for destruction. Hence, interlinking of Kosi and Mechi can provide a little relief to Bihar.
  3. This project will provide a diversion to the surplus water of Kosi River through existing Hanuman Nagar barrage to Mechi River of Mahananda basin. 
  4. Further, Mechi River will also get water from another source and it will become a vast natural resource of irrigation.
  5. This project has a possibility to escort the next green revolution in Seemanchal region. The project also does not involve displacement of population and there is no diversion of any forest land.
  6. Ken-Betwa Interlinking is country’s first river interlinking project that will connect two rivers in Madhya Pradesh.
  7. The project aims to transfer surplus water of Ken River to the Betwa basin through a concrete canal to irrigate India’s worst drought-prone Bundelkhand region.

With J&K status change, 15th Finance Commission will have to redo math

  1. The Centre has revoked the provisions of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. It has also proposed bifurcation of the state into two Union territories Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  2. However, due to the change in status of J&K statehood, the Fifteenth Finance Commission will have to rework its calculations for distribution of central resources among different states.
  3. The 15th Finance Commission (FC) would have to decide devolution for 28 states instead of 29 states now. The funds for Union territories are decided by the Central government in the Union Budget and voted by the Parliament.
  4. The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution.
  5. The commission recommends how tax revenues collected by the Central government should be shared between the Centre and the states. Further, it also recommends inter se distribution of these resources among states.
  6. The Commission is appointed every five years. It consists of a Chairman and four other members. The 15th finance commission chairman is N.K. Singh. Its recommendations will cover the five year period commencing from 1st April, 2020.

Article 370: Petition filed in Supreme Court against Centre’s notification on J&K

  1. A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Presidential order on Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019.
  2. The order effectively abrogates the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under the provision of Article 370 whereby provisions of the Constitution which were applicable to other states were not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  3. The Presidential Order has also extended all provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. This order has also superseded the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954.
  4. The petitioner has claimed that the Presidential order was illegal as it was passed without taking consent from the J&K state Assembly.
  5. The petitioner said that the amendments made to Article 367 are illegal and unconstitutional. The government has amended Article 367 to replace the reference to Constituent Assembly under Article 370(3) to mean Legislative Assembly
  6. The amendment was necessary to enable the President to pass any order on Article 370.Article 370(3) empowers the President to repeal or amend any part of Article 370 but he needs to have the concurrence of the Constituent Assembly.
  7. But in this case, the concurrence was not possible as the Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 1956.To overcome this legal challenge, the government brought the amendment.
  8. Since the state is under Governor’s rule, the President needed to have governor’s concurrence to pass the order for revoking all the special powers accorded to the Jammu and Kashmir.

Explained: J&K Assembly — like, unlike Delhi

  1. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 has paved the way for the formation of the Union Territory of J&K. It will join two other Union Territories with legislature namely Delhi and Puducherry.
  2. Article 239 A of the Constitution provides for a Legislative Assembly to enact laws on certain subjects and a Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister to aid and advise the Lieutenant-Governor(LG) on subjects related to such legislation. 
  3. For subjects outside the purview of the Assembly, the LG does not need the aid and advice of the Chief Minister.
  4. The J&K bill states that the provisions contained in Article 239 A of the Constitution that are applicable to Union Territory of Puducherry shall also apply to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 
  5. The J&K Bill proposes that the Assembly can make laws on any subject in the State and Concurrent lists except on state subjects relating to public order and police. Therefore, all laws on these two subjects will be directly under the Centre. This is the case in Delhi too.
  6. However, in Delhi under Article 239AA and by the 69th Constitutional Amendment, the Assembly cannot legislate on matters in entry 18 of the State List which is land. In J&K, the Assembly can do so.
  7. The Control of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was a contentious issue between Delhi government and the Centre. In 2019, Supreme Court had held that the ACB will be under the control of the L-G and the Delhi government has no police powers.
  8. For the proposed UT of Jammu & Kashmir, the Bill is very clear. It states that all appointments and other administrative matters related to the ACB will be directly under the Lieutenant-Governor.
  9. In Delhi, another bone of contention has been services. A Supreme Court Bench has differed on the issue of transfer of officers posted in Delhi, and referred the matter to a three-judge Bench.
  10. For J&K, the Bill make it clear that the Lieutenant-Governor will have discretionary powers relating to composition, strength and allocation of officers.

Lok Sabha endorses Centre’s decisions on Kashmir

  1. Parliament has approved the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019. The order effectively abrogates the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under the provision of Article 370.
  2. The Parliament has also passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019.The bill bifurcates the State into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir (with legislature) and Ladakh (without legislature).
  3. The Presidential Order has extended all provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. This order will also supersede the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954.
  4. Further, Article 35A also ceases to exist on effective abrogation of special status. The reason being that this was inserted through a presidential proclamation of 1954 drawing powers from Article 370.
  5. The Bill proposes wide powers to the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and makes it the duty of the Chief Minister of the Union Territory to communicate all administrative decisions and proposals of legislation with the LG.
  6. The bill states that the Legislative Assembly may make laws for the whole or any part of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the state list except on subjects public order and police which will remain in the domain of the Centre vis-a-vis the LG.
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