9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 8, 2019

5th National Handloom Day

  1. The 5th National Handloom Day has been celebrated on August 7,2019 across the country.
  2. The Union Government had declared the 7th of August as the National Handloom Day in July 2015.
  3. The objective of the day is to generate awareness about the importance of the handloom industry to the socio economic development of the country.
  4. The day also seeks to honour the handloom weavers in the country and also highlight India’s handloom industry.
  5. Further, August 7 was chosen as the National Handloom Day to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement.
  6. The swadeshi movement was launched on this day in 1905 in Calcutta Town Hall to protest against the partition of Bengal by the British Government. The movement had aimed at reviving domestic products and production processes.

India contributes USD 5 million to UN Palestine refugee agency

  1. India has contributed USD 5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees.India has also called for ensuring sustained fiscal support for the organisation’s work. 
  2. India has increased its annual financial assistance to the UNRWA by four fold from USD 1.25 million to USD 5 million when Indian Prime Minister visited Palestine in 2018.
  3. UNRWA is a relief and human development agency that was established in 8 December 1949.
  4. UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance across its five fields of operation in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1950.
  5. The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees which is 20% of the world’s refugees.
  6. Further,UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR).

Bangladesh signs uranium supply deal with Russia

  1. Bangladesh has signed a nuclear fuel supply agreement with Russia for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project.
  2. The deal was signed between the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and Russian Nuclear Fuel Supply Company(TVEL).
  3. Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is an under-construction 2.4 GWe nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.It will be the Bangladesh first nuclear power plant and the first of two units are expected to go into operation in 2023.
  4. According to the inter-governmental agreement signed with Russia in November 2011,Bangladesh is required to procure nuclear fuel from the Russian company for the entire lifespan of the power plant.
  5. In 2018,India,Bangladesh and Russia had signed tripartite memorandum of understanding(MoU) for cooperation in construction of Rooppur nuclear power plant. 
  6. Russia will build nuclear power plant.Since,India is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG),it will not participate directly in the construction of atomic power reactors.But,Indian companies will be involved in construction and installation works of non critical category.

Lok Sabha adjourned sine die

  1. The 1st session of the 17th Lok Sabha has been adjourned sine die. 
  2. The speaker termed this session as the most productive session since 1952.In this session,the Lok Sabha passed 36 Bills which is more than Bills passed in 1952.
  3. Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of house for an indefinite period.In other words,when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly,it is called adjournment sine die. 
  4. The power of adjournment as well as adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.
  5. He can also call a sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been adjourned or at any time after the House has been adjourned sine die.

Rajya Sabha passes bill on National Institutes of Design in four states

  1. Rajya Sabha has passed the National Institute of Design (Amendment) Bill,2019.The Bill seeks to amend the National Institute of Design Act, 2014. 
  2. The bill seeks to declare four National Institutes of Design in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Haryana as institutions of national importance. 
  3. Currently,these institutes are registered as Societies under the Societies Registration Act,1860 and do not have the power to grant degrees or diplomas. 
  4. On being declared institutions of national importance,the four institutes will be granted the power to grant degrees and diplomas.

RBI lowers repo rate by 35 basis points to 5.40%

  1. The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy committee (MPC) has lowered its repo rate by 35 basis points to 5.4%.Repo stands for ‘Repurchasing Option’.It refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI.
  2. RBI has also kept the door open for lowering rates further by retaining an accommodative policy stance.
  3. The RBI also revised its Gross Domestic Product(GDP) growth forecast for 2018-19 down to 6.9% from 7%.It has also flagged worries over weakening growth prospects due to sluggish consumption and low investment activity.
  4. The central bank has also noted that global economic activity has slowed down since the previous monetary policy meeting owing to trade tensions among leading economies.
  5. The committee has also projected the CPI inflation at 3.1% for the second quarter of the financial year 2019-20(FY20).CPI measures changes in the price level of a market basket of consumer goods and services purchased by households.
  6. RBI has adopted CPI as the key measure for determining inflation situation of Indian economy on the recommendation of Urjit Patel Committee.
  7. The Monetary Policy Committee(MPC) is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India.It is headed by its Governor which is entrusted with the task of fixing the benchmark policy interest rate (repo rate) to contain inflation within the specified target level i.e.inflation targeting.

Explained: Why RBI’s monetary policy matters

  1. The Monetary Policy Committee of the RBI has decided to cut the repo rate by 35 basis points to 5.4%.
  2. The monetary policy is important as any economic activity which is measured by GDP happens by (a) private individuals and households spend money on consumption (b)the government spends on its agenda (c)private sector investment and (d)net exports.
  3. However,any spending decision taken by any of these entities need to know the cost of money which is answered by monetary policy.
  4. Monetary policy is the process by which the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) manages money supply in the economy.The objectives of monetary policy include ensuring inflation targeting and price stability, full employment and stable economic growth.
  5. The monetary policy instruments used by RBI are Repo and Reverse repo.Repo rate is the rate at which the RBI lends money to commercial banks.On the other hand,Reverse repo rate is the rate at which the RBI borrows money from commercial banks within the country.
  6. Further,Investments also depends on the real interest rate.The real interest rate is the difference between the repo rate and retail inflation.
  7. However,real interest rates in India have been rising and that is one of the reasons why investments are not happening.But the RBI’s move would reduce the real interest rate and hopefully attracts more investment.

RBI allows round-the-clock fund transfers under NEFT from December

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has announced that the National Electronic Funds Transfer(NEFT) systems would be available on a 24×7 basis from December 2019.
  2. At present,the NEFT payment system operated by the Reserve Bank of India is available to customers from 8am to 7pm on all working days with the exception of second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
  3. In order to harness the full potential of Biller Categories for Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS),RBI has decided to permit all categories of billers (except prepaid recharges) who provide for recurring bill payments to participate in BBPS on a voluntary basis. 
  4. The BBPS is an interoperable platform for repetitive bill payments.It currently covers five segments that are direct-to-home, electricity, gas, telecom and water bills. 
  5. NEFT is a payment system which facilitates one-to-one funds transfer from one financial institution to another.
  6. Using NEFT,individuals,firms and corporates can electronically transfer funds from any bank branch to any individual,firm or corporate having an account with any other bank branch in the country participating in the system.Under NEFT the settlement takes place in batches rather than individually.The batches are settled in hourly time slots.
  7. The NEFT platform is primarily aimed for small value transactions.At one transaction the maximum value should be Rs 50,000.

Banks’ exposure limits, lending norms eased for stressed NBFCs

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced several measures to enhance credit flow to the cash-starved non-banking financial companies (NBFC) sector.
  2. The RBI has raised any bank’s exposure limit to a single NBFC from the existing 15% to 20% of tier-1 capital.This will ease liquidity pressure in the NBFCs.
  3. RBI has also allowed bank lending to registered non-banking financial companies(NBFC) for on-lending to (a)agriculture up to Rs 10 lakh (b)micro and small enterprises up to Rs 20 lakh and (c)housing up to Rs 20 lakh per borrower to be classified as priority sector lending.
  4. This decision was taken to increase the credit flow to sectors which contribute significantly to economic growth in terms of exports and employment and recognising the role played by NBFCs in providing credit to these sectors.
  5. NBFC has seen their source of funds dry up after a series of defaults by Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services(ILFS) that has triggered a liquidity crisis.
  6. The Reserve Bank has already indicated that it would review the regulatory framework for the financial sector.The government has also announced temporary support to NBFCs and housing finance firms through public sector banks (PSBs).

India signs UNISA; experts call for local laws supporting treaty

  1. Indian Government has signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements(UNISA).
  2. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation in 2018. 
  3. The UN has authorized that the Convention will be open for signature in Singapore and will be known as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation”.
  4. The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements.
  5. The Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion refuse to grant relief.Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
  6. The signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors and shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR).
  7. However,experts have called this as a base convention that will have to be translated into an effective law in India.The law supporting the convention should cover all government contracts with investors for mediation both in India and in a third country choice of disputing parties.
  8. India has taken steps such as establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre(NDIAC) as a statutory body to encourage international commercial arbitration in India and to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration.

Pakistan downgrades diplomatic ties, suspends trade with India

  1. Pakistan has decided to downgrade it diplomatic ties with India and suspend bilateral trade. 
  2. This decision comes after Indian Parliament adopted a resolution scrapping special status to J&K under Article 370 and passed a bill bifurcating the state into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  3. Pakistan has also decided to approach the United Nations, including the UN Security Council over India’s move on Kashmir.
  4. Pakistan has also closed a corridor in its airspace which will result in an additional up to 12 minutes of flying time for overseas flights.The flights will have to be diverted to other routes due to the closure.
  5. However,experts have said that Pakistan’s decision to suspend bilateral trade ties with India would hit the neighbouring country more as they import essential items like onions, tomatoes and chemicals.
  6. Earlier,India had revoked the Most Favoured Nation(MFN) status to Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Pulwama.
  7. Most Favoured Nation is a treatment accorded to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries vis-a-vis other trade partners.

Allow us to retain national party status till after 2024 Lok Sabha polls: TMC, CPI to EC

  1. Trinamool Congress(TMC) and Communist Party of India(CPI) have urged the Election Commission to allow them to retain the national party status till the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
  2. This came in the backdrop of EC serving show cause notices to TMC, CPI and Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) seeking explanation on why their national party status should not be withdrawn.
  3. A party is recognised as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled (a)If it secures 6% of valid votes polled in any four or more states at a general election to the Lok Sabha or to the legislative assembly and in addition if it wins four seats in the Lok Sabha from any state or states or (b)If it wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha at a general election and these candidates are elected from three states or (c)If it is recognised as a state party in four states.
  4. National party status allows a political party to retain a single and permanent election symbol across all states.It also qualifies them to be given free campaign slots on national broadcasters during elections besides the right to a party office in New Delhi.

Home Ministry pulls out original instrument of accession to support Article 370 move

  1. Home ministry officials has said that the Instrument of Accession signed with 562 princely states during the time of Independence was similar to the one signed with J&K.
  2. This statement was made to provide a legal basis for the amendment to Article 370 taking away the special status of Jammu & Kashmir.
  3. They said that the accession agreement was never an impediment for the merger of other States with India.Further,Article 370 could also be removed as it was not part of the original agreement.
  4. J&K acceded to the Dominion of India after the Instrument of Accession was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh,the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, on 26 October,1947.
  5. The accession agreement was to accede in respect of only the following subjects namely Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and ancillary that included matters related to courts and election.
  6. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution had provided that only Articles 1 and 370 itself would apply to J&K.The application of other Articles was to be determined by the President in consultation with the government of the state.

Rajya Sabha clears Bill for more judges in Supreme Court

  1. The Rajya Sabha has passed the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill,2019.The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill.
  2. The bill seeks to increase the number of Supreme Court judges in the country’s apex court from the present 30 to 33.
  3. This bill was introduced after Chief Justice of India had written to Prime Minister to increase the number of judges in the top court.
  4. CJI had written that due to paucity of judges,the required number of Constitution Benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed.
  5. The strength of the Supreme Court is fixed by law made by the Parliament as per Article 124(1) of the Constitution of India.Therefore, the strength can be increased by way of parliamentary legislation.
  6. The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act,1956 originally provided for a maximum of 11 judges.The act was last amended in 2009 to increase the judges strength from 25 to 30 excluding the CJI.

Centre unveils plan for coastal zone management

  1. The Environment Ministry has put forward draft Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF). It is a part of World Bank funded project called Enhancing Coastal and Ocean Resource Efficiency Program (ENCORE).
  2. ENCORE aims to strengthen integrated coastal zone management in all coastal States and Union Territories of India. It seeks to strengthen coastal resource efficiency and resilience, for adopting and implementing integrated coastal management approaches.
  3. The draft ESMF lays out guidelines out for coastal States to adopt when they approve and regulate projects in coastal zones. It also outlines how environmental and social aspects should be integrated into the planning, design, implementation of projects.
  4. The MoEFCC had launched an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project by establishing a Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM).
  5. Integrated Coastal Zone Management is a strategy for an integrated approach to planning and management for environmentally sustainable development in coastal areas.
  6. Among coastal states, Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal have prepared Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plans with support from the World Bank.

Ancient drop of seawater shows Earth’s tectonic activity began 3.3 bn years ago

  1. According to scientists, tectonic activity began on Earth 3.3 billion years ago. It was previously assumed that tectonic activity began about 2.7 billion years ago on Earth.
  2. The conclusion came from scientists after they studied a microscopic bead of cooled magma which was protected by it olivine crystal.
  3. The olivine crystal was found in a komatiite rock, named after the Komati River in South Africa.
  4. Komatite rocks were formed when extraordinarily hot plumes of magma rose from the mantle to Earth’s surface during the Archaean period (2.5 billion to 4 billion years ago).
  5. The scientists found that the microscopic bead of cooled magma contained a number of signatures of subducted oceanic crust. They concluded the magma originated in the melted remains of an ancient ocean seafloor indicating that plate tectonics started nearly 3.3 billion years ago.
  6. The theory of plate tectonics proposes that the earth’s lithosphere is divided into seven major and some minor plates which are floating over the asthenosphere. All tectonic activities occur along the margins of these plates e.g. seismic events, vulcanicity, mountain building, faulting etc.

Online content can’t be regulated under Cinematograph Act: HC

  1. The Karnataka High Court has held that the films, serials and other multimedia contents transmitted through online platforms like Youtube, Netflix cannot be regulated under Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  2. The court observed that going by the concept of internet and its operation, the act of exhibition of films, serials and other content perhaps amounts to transfer of files based on requests by users. Therefore, it does not come under the purview of Cinematograph Act.
  3. The verdict came in the backdrop of a petition which alleged that children were being affected due to unregulated content transmitted through online platforms. The petition sought a mechanism to regulate content from online platforms.
  4. Earlier a similar petition was filed in Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court which sought framing of guidelines by the government to regulate the functioning of online media streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
  5. Cinematograph Act, 1952 deals with provisions for the certification of cinematograph films for exhibition and for regulating exhibitions by means of cinematographs.

Meet the giant parrots that lived 19 mn years ago

  1. Researchers have discovered fossils of an extinct parrot species in near St. Bathans in southern New Zealand. The area has been a rich source of fossils from the Miocene period which extends from about five million to 23 million years ago
  2. According to researchers it is the heaviest known parrot to have ever lived. It lived 19 million years ago. The parrot has been named Heracles inexpectatus
  3. The birds were flightless. They were up to 1 m tall and weighed up to 7kgs.
  4. Heracles belongs to a group of ancient parrots native to New Zealand, which includes the kakapo.
  5. Kakapo is a critically endangered flightless bird which still exists in New Zealand. It is the heaviest parrot alive today

Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Bill deferred in Rajya Sabha

  1. The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has not been passed in the Raj Sabha due to lack of broad consensus on the bill.
  2. The bill seeks to amend the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951. The Act provides for the erection of a National Memorial in memory of those killed or wounded in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (13th April, 1919). It also creates a trust for managing the memorial.
  3. Currently, the trust comprises the Prime Minister, the Congress president, Culture Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Punjab Governor, and Punjab CM as its members.
  4. However, the Amendment Bill seeks to remove the Congress president from the trustees list. The bill has said that when there is no Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party will be the Trustee.
  5. The 1951 Act provides that the three trustees nominated by the central government will be trustees for a period of five years and will be eligible for renomination.
  6. However, the bill has provided that the central government can terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of the period of his term without assigning any reason. 

3 days before Ranbir Penal Code was replaced by IPC, SC struck down its adultery clause

  1. The Supreme Court on 2nd August had struck down Section 497 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) that dealt with adultery, holding it “unconstitutional”. RPC is the criminal code applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. In September 2018, the Supreme Court had struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized adultery.
  3. Section 497 of the IPC punished a married man for having sex with wife of another man. However, sexual intercourse is was exempted from punishment if it was done with the “consent or connivance” of other woman’s husband. It criminalised only the man and not the woman involved.
  4. The only difference between section 497 of IPC and Sec 497 of RPC is that RPC states that the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.
  5. Section 497 was declared unconstitutional down by SC on the grounds that it violated Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21 of the constitution.
  6. It violated Article 14 (Equality before Law) as it punished only men for adultery. It violated Article 15 (Right against discrimination) as it discriminated on the ground of sex -treats wife as husband’s property. It violated Article 21 (Right to Life) as it violated one’s right to privacy.

Mexico’s cactus offers alternative to plastics

  1. A Mexican researcher has invented a new form of biodegradable plastic made primarily from the juice of prickly pear cactus (opuntia).
  2. The pulp of the prickly pear is mixed with non-toxic additives to produce sheets that can be used for packaging.
  3. In March 2019, UN member states at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, pledged to significantly reduce single-use plastic products by 2030.
  4. Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are the ones which are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Example: plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery etc.

ISRO’s mini launcher SSLV is unborn but has 2 flights booked

  1. US-based satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight has signed a deal with New Space India Ltd (NSIL) for payload slot on the first commercial launch of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
  2. The SSLV has been developed by ISRO. Its first flight is expected to take place from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in late 2019.
  3. SSLV rockets are capable of putting a payload of 500 kg to mid-inclination Low Earth Orbit (LEO). It can also put a payload of 300 kg to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO)
  4. NSIL is a recently established commercial subsidiary of the ISRO. It is under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  5. The NSIL has been set up to meet the increasing demands of Indian space programmes and to commercially exploit the emerging global space market.
  6. The main functions of NSIL are: a) Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector, b) production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry, c) production and marketing of Space based products and services, including launch and application, d) Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS and e) Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad.
  7. NSIL is the second commercial entity of the Department of Space (DoS) after Antrix Corporation Limited which was set up in 1992. Antrix was established to market the products and services of the ISRO.

Which country has most number of languages? Not India

  1. According to Ethnologue, there are 7,111 living languages (languages that are still being used and spoken by people) worldwide. Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages worldwide when only first-languages are considered.
  2. Asia and Africa account for the highest number of indigenous languages (over 70% of the total)
  3. Papua New Guinea has the highest number of ‘living’ indigenous languages in the world (840). India has been ranked 4th (453).
  4. Ethnologue has also put forward a ‘Greenberg’s diversity index’. It is the probability that any two people of the country selected at random would have different mother tongues.
  5. The value ranges from 0 to 1, where 0 indicates no diversity (everyone has the same mother tongue) and 1 indicates total diversity (no two people will have the same mother tongue). India has a diversity value of 0.9
  6. According to UNESCO’s ‘Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger’, 228 languages have become extinct since 1950. About 10% of the languages are classified ‘vulnerable’. 10% are ‘critically endangered’.
  7. In India, 5 languages have become extinct since 1950. 42 languages are critically endangered.
  8. United Nations has announced 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
  9. It aims to promote indigenous languages in five key areas: a) Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation, b) Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices, c) Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting, d) Empowerment through capacity building and e) Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.
  10. Ethnologue is an annual publication that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It is published by US-based SIL International.

How Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh propose to check lynching

  1. The Rajasthan government has passed the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019.
  2. The Madhya Pradesh government has also introduced a Bill that seeks to curb cow vigilantism and mob lynching.
  3. State Law Commission in Uttar Pradesh has drafted the UP Combating of Mob Lynching Bill, 2019, and submitted it to Chief Minister.
  4. These developments follow 2018 Supreme Court verdict in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India where SC had recommended the central government should enact a legislation to create a separate offence for lynching
  5. Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 makes mob lynching a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence.
  6. It defines lynching as an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity.
  7. It provides for life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh to convicts in cases of mob lynching involving the victim’s death.
  8. It also provides for appointment of a nodal officer of the rank of Inspector-General of Police to prevent lynching and establishment of relief camps in safe zones for the victims.
  9. The Madhya Pradesh bill seeks to amend the Madhya Pradesh Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Act, 2004. It proposes a minimum jail term of six months that may be extended to one year for cow vigilantism and lynching. The minimum fine is Rs 5,000 and the maximum Rs 50,000.
  10. It also seeks to insert a provision which will specify who issues the transit permit of cow progeny, which will be pasted prominently on the vehicle.
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