9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 12th, 2020

Explained: What is the Thanatotheristes, reaper of death?

News: Scientists at the University of Calgary and Royal Tyrrell Museum have found that a dinosaur fossil, found in Alberta in Canada in 2010, belongs to a new species of tyrannosaur

Facts:

  • The scientists named the genus and species Thanatotheristes degrootorum
  • The fossil is 79 million year old and is the oldest tyrannosaur known from northern North America.

WHO names the new Corona Virus: “COVID-19”

News: WHO has announced that “COVID-19” will be the official name of the deadly Coronavirus from China. “Co” stands for “corona”, “vi” for “virus” and “d” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31.

Facts:

Coronavirus:

  • These are viruses belonging to a family known as Coronaviridae. They are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people
  • They cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
  •  COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It has been designated SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

Humans altered Himalayan glacier long before people arrived: Study

News: According to a study published in the journal PNAS, the byproducts of burning coal in Europe in the late 18th century made their way to the Dasuopu glacier. It is the highest-altitude site in the world where scientists have obtained a climate record from an ice core.

Facts:

Dasuopu glacier

  • Location: Mt. Shishapangma, Central Himalayas, Tibet
  • Altitude: 7,200 meters or 23,600 feet above sea level
Location of Dasuopu glacier, Lhasa and Xining meteorology station. The shaded part is Tibetan Plateau.

Chindu Bhagavatam

Facts:

  • It is a theatre art form popular in north Telangana. Chindu is derived from the artistes’ caste Chindu Madiga, a sub-caste of Madiga among SCs.
  • The art form dates back to second century BC.
  • Chindu Bhagavatam is also called Chindu Yakshaganam as it is similar to Yakshaganam, a traditional theatre form particular to Karnataka State.
  • Most of the stories narrated in the art form are from ‘Bhagavatam’.

Medical devices now under Drugs and Cosmetics Act

News: Ministry of health and family welfare said in a notification, that from 1st April 2020, all medical devices sold in the country would be treated as drugs and would be regulated under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940. The decision was taken after consultation with the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB)

Facts:

Significance:

  • Regulation of prices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO)
  • Will make companies, in case of violations, liable to be penalised in a court of law
  • Companies have to seek approval from the drug controller to manufacture, import and sell any medical device in the country.

Additional Information:

Drugs Technical Advisory Board

  • It is highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in the country. It was constituted as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • It is part of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO):

  • It is the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical device. Currently, the government regulates 37 notified medical devices under the law.
  • It functions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. CDSCO comes under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Tamil Nadu CM declares Cauvery Delta as Protected Special Agriculture Zone

News: Tamil Nadu government has announced to make the Cauvery Delta region a Protected Special Agriculture Zone (PSAZ)

Facts:

Cauvery Delta

  • Location: It lies in the eastern part of Tamil Nadu. It is bounded by the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Palk straight on the south
  • It has a total geographic land area of 14.47 lakh ha.
  • Rice is the principal crop in the area.

Protected Special Agriculture Zone:

  • It will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai
  • It cannot be used for any non-agricultural activities.
  • It recognises farmer concerns about hydrocarbon exploration and accords primacy to food security.

Background: In 2019, Centre had awarded oil and gas exploration contracts in the Cauvery basin. Tamil Nadu has witnessed protests over the projects amid the ongoing water crisis in the state

Additional Information:

  • The Cauvery River originates in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, flows into Tamil Nadu, and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar.
  • Parts of three Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka – and the Union Territory of Pondicherry lie in the Cauvery basin.

BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise

News:National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) will host the second Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Disaster Management Exercise(BIMSTEC- DMEx) in Odisha.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • The aim of the exercise is to test the existing emergency procedures for notification, preparedness and emergency response, during a major natural disaster.
  • Theme:A cultural heritage site that suffers severe damage in the earthquake and flooding or storm.
  • The countries namely India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal are participating while the other two member countries Bhutan and Thailand are not participating in the exercise.

Additional information:

About BIMSTEC:

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization founded in 1997.It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • It comprises seven Member states namely Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.

About NDRF:

  • The National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) is a specialised force constituted for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Indian economy will be hit hard by rising heat: Global report

News:McKinsey Global Institutehas released a report titled “Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts”.

Facts:

About the report:

  • The report analyses the physical risks and socio-economic impacts of climate change across the world in the next three decades under a business-as-usual scenario.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • Countries and regions with lower per capita GDP levels are the most vulnerable and will be hit the worst with the economic shocks of climate change in coming decades.
  • Around 90% of the excess heat due to global warming is actually stored in the oceans which will affect the livelihoods of around 650-800 million people in the fisheries industry.
  • However,climate change may also provide an economic boost to some colder, richer countries.Tourism in areas of northern Europe and agriculture in Canada may see some benefits of rising temperatures.

Report on India:

  • Extreme heat will significantly lower the outdoor working capacity of India’s labour workforce in the next three decades putting at risk the country’s economic growth.
  • By 2030,rising heat and humidity levels will expose between 160 million and 200 million Indians to a higher risk of lethal heat which could put between 2.5 and 4.5% of the GDP at risk annually.

Industry and Investors’ Facilitation Centre

News:The Government has opened a Renewable Energy(RE) Industry and Investors’ Facilitation Centre under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Facts:

About the Centre:

  • The Centre will be headed by a Joint Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE).
  • It will be a single window system to provide information on policies and programmes of the government and also resolve the issues of the renewable energy (RE) investors and industry in the country.

RBI issues notification on CRR leeway for new retail, MSME loans

News:RBI has exempted banks from maintaining cash reserve ratio(CRR) for loans to retail and micro, small and medium enterprises for five years if these loans are extended between January 31 and July 31,2020.

Facts:

About CRR:

  • The Cash Reserve Ratio refers to a certain percentage of total deposits the commercial banks are required to maintain in the form of cash reserve with the central bank.
  • The cash reserve is either stored in the bank’s vault or is sent to the RBI. Banks do not get any interest on the money that is with the RBI under the CRR requirements.
  • The CRR in India is decided by RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee in the periodic Monetary and Credit Policy.At present, CRR is 4% of net demand and time liabilities.

Significance of CRR:

  • Since a part of the bank’s deposits is with the Reserve Bank of India,it ensures the security of the amount.It makes it readily available when customers want their deposits back.
  • CRR also helps in keeping inflation under control.At the time of high inflation in the economy,the RBI increases the CRR so that banks need to keep more money in reserves so that they have less money to lend further.

Chindu Yakshaganam

News:The traditional theatre Chindu Yakshaganam is being performed in the state of Telangana.

Facts:

About Chindu Yakshaganam:

  • Chindu Yakshaganam also called Chindu Bhagavatam is a traditional theatre art form performed in Telangana.The art is mainly performed by the Chindu Madiga community,
  • The artform is very similar to Yakshaganam, a traditional theatre form particular to Karnataka.
  • It combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

News:The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is being observed by the United Nations on February 11,2020.

Facts:

About the Day:

  • The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was started in 2015.It is mainly implemented by UNESCO along with UN Women and several other organisations.
  • Aim:To recognize and promote the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.
  • Theme:Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.

Women and Girls in Science:

  • Research:The UNESCO paper on women in science paper has found that just 28.8% of researchers are women.In India,this drops to 13.9%.
  • Nobel Prize:Between 1901 and 2019,out of 334 Nobel Prizes only 20 have been won by 19 women.The double Laureate is Marie Curie.
  • Abel Prize:In 2019, the American mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize following 16 male mathematicians.
  • STEM:UNESCO data from 2014-16 show that only around 30% of female students select STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related fields in higher education.
  • India:A 2016-17 NITI Aayog report found that only 9.3% of female students in undergraduate courses were enrolled in engineering, compared to 15.6% across genders over the period of five years.

Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre(GCTC)

News:Recently,four Indian pilots chosen as candidate-astronauts for Gaganyaan mission began their training at the Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre(GCTC).

Facts:

About the Programme:

  • The programme includes basic or generic astronaut training followed by activities specific to the first Indian human space mission, Gaganyaan.
  • At the end of all training modules in India and Russia,one or two of the four will be named to circle the earth in the first crewed Gaganyaan, which is planned around 2022.

About GCTC:

  • The Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre(GCTC) is a training facility responsible for training cosmonauts for their space missions.It is located in Moscow,Russia.

About Gaganyaan:

  • Gaganyaan is India’s first Human Space Flight Programme to be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by 2022.

US approves sale of Integrated Air Defence Weapon System to India

News:The US has approved the sale of an Integrated Air Defence Weapon System(IADWS) to India.

Facts:

About Integrated Air Defence Weapon System(IADWS):

  • The Integrated Air Defence Weapon System(IADWS) is also called the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System(NASAMS-II).
  • It is an upgraded version of the NASAMS developed by the US firm Raytheon in partnership with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace of Norway.
  • It is armed with a combination of weapons such as Stinger surface-to-air missiles, AMRAAMS (advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles) backed by three-dimensional Sentinel radars, fire-distribution centres and command-and-control units.
  • It is part of the air defence network guarding US capital city Washington DC and has also been deployed in several NATO countries.
  • In India,it will be deployed as a part of a multi-tiered air defence shield to fully secure the airspace of Delhi from Aerial threat.

Additional information:

About Multi-Layered Air Defence Shield for NCT of Delhi:

  • Indian Government has planned to create an ambitious multi-layered missile shield over Delhi to safeguard the capital against aerial threats, ranging from drones to ballistic missiles.
  • The innermost layer of protection will be through the NASAM-II.The indigenous Akash defence missile systems will form the layer over the NASAMS-II.
  • The second layer will be through the highly automated and mobile S-400 systems.
  • Then will come the Barak-8 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems jointly developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and DRDO which have a 70-100 km interception range.
  • The outermost layer of shield will be provided by the indigenous two-tier Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System being developed by DRDO.

“Hunar Haat” to be organised at India Gate Lawn in New Delhi

News:The next Hunar Haat will be organised by the Ministry of Minority Affairs at India Gate, New Delhi.It will be based on the theme of “Kaushal Ko Kaam”.

Facts:

About Hunar Haat:

  • Hunar Haat is an exhibition of handicrafts and traditional products made by artisans from the minority communities.
  • Organized by: Ministry of Minority Affairs under USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) scheme.
  • Aim:To provide market exposure and employment opportunities to artisans, craftsmen and traditional culinary experts.

Additional information:

About USTAAD:

  • USTAAD stands for Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development.
  • It was launched in 2015 by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  • Aim:To promote and preserve the rich heritage of the traditional arts & crafts of the minority communities.

Special Category Status(SCS)

News:Andhra Pradesh has again reiterated its demand for Special Category Status (SCS).

Facts:

About Special Category Status(SCS):

  • A Special Category Status(SCS) is a classification given by Centre to assist in the development of those states that face geographical and socio-economic disadvantage.
  • However, there is no provision of special category status in the Constitution.The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.

Criteria for special category status:

  • Hilly and difficult terrain
  • Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population
  • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries
  • Economic and infrastructural backwardness
  • Non-viable nature of state finances

Benefits states confer with special category status:

  • The central government bears 90% of the state expenditure on all centrally-sponsored schemes and external aid while rest 10% is given as loan to state at zero percent rate of interest.
  • Preferential treatment in getting central funds and Concession on excise duty to attract industries to the state.
  • 30 percent of the Centre’s gross budget also goes to special category states.
  • These states can avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
  • States with special category status are exempted from customs duty, corporate tax, income tax and other taxes to attract investment.

States under Special Category status:

  • The Special Category Status(SCS) was first accorded in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland. 
  • Since then eight more states have been included (Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand).
  • However,the 14th Finance Commission has effectively done away with the distinction of general and special category status for states except for the Northeastern and hill states.
  • Instead,it suggested that the resource gap of each state be filled through tax devolution urging the Centre to increase the states’ share of tax revenues from 32% to 42% which has been implemented since 2015.
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