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9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 15th, 2020

Finance Commission constitutes Group on Defence and Internal Security

News: The Fifteenth Finance Commission has constituted a Group on Defence and Internal Security

Facts:

  • Composition: representatives of the ministries of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance, chaired by N.K. Singh, Chairman, Fifteenth finance Commission
  • Mandate: examine if India needs a separate mechanism to fund defence and internal security.

Additional Information:

The Finance Commission is a constitutional body constituted by the President under Article 280 of the India Constitution. The Commission is appointed every five years.

Bottled drinking water in Kerala to cost Rs 13 a litre
News: Kerala government has brought packaged drinking water under the ambit of Essential Commodities Act with a view to regulate its price. The price has been capped at Rs.13/litre.

Facts:

Essential Commodities Act, 1955

  • It is used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of certain commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
  • The list of items under the Act include drugs, fertilisers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises

Where NASA could go next — Venus, moons of Jupiter, Neptune

News: NASA announced it has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for possible new missions.

Facts:

  • DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus): It will analyse Venus’s atmosphere to understand how it was formed and evolved, and if it ever had an ocean. This will advance understanding of the formation of terrestrial planets.
  • IVO (Io Volcano Observer): It will explore Jupiter’s moon Io, which is extremely volcanically active. This will try to find out how tidal forces shape planetary bodies.
  • TRIDENT: It aims to explore Neptune’s icy moon, Triton. This will help understand the development of habitable worlds in the Solar System.
  • VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy): It aims to map Venus’s surface to find out why Venus developed so differently from Earth.

Why this study by Indian scientists in Antarctic matters

News: South African oceanographic research vessel SA Agulhas set off from Port Louise in Mauritius, on a two-month Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020.

Facts:

Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020

  • It has been launched by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCOPR) in Goa, which works under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • It has six core projects:
  • Study hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean (Antarctic Ocean) to understand the formation of Antarctic bottom water.
  • Observations of trace gases in the atmosphere, such as halogens and dimethyl sulphur from the ocean to the atmosphere to help improve parameterisations that are used in global models.
  • Study of organisms called coccolithophores that have existed in the oceans for several million years; their concentrations in sediments to create a picture of past climate.
  • Investigate atmospheric aerosols and their optical and radiative properties to quantify impact on Earth’s climate
  • Study the Southern Ocean’s impact on Indian monsoons. 
  • Dynamics of the food web in the Southern Ocean; important for safeguarding catch and planning sustainable fishing.

Additional Information:

India’s Research Stations at Antarctica: Bharti (active), Maitri (active), Dakshin Gangotri (used as a supply base)

File:India in Antartica.jpg

Munich Security Conference

News:  External Affairs Minister Jaishankar represented India at the Munich Security Conference being held in Munich, Germany, from 14th to 16th February 2020

Facts:

Munich Security Conference

  • It is an annual conference on international security policy being held since 1963
  • Objective: To address the topical main security issues and to debate and analyse the main security challenges
  • The conference is organized privately and therefore not an official government event
  • 2020 Theme: ‘Westlessness’

Scientists radio-tag Indian pangolin

News: For the first time, the Madhya Pradesh Forest department in collaboration with NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust, has radio-tagged Indian Pangolin.

Facts:

  • Pangolins or scaly anteaters are mammals of the order Pholidota. Only mammal with scales.
  • Asian species: Sunda Pangolin, Philippine Pangolin, Chinese Pangolin and ‘Indian Pangolin’.
  • African species: Long-tailed Pangolin, Tree Pangolin, Giant Pangolin and the Ground Pangolin.
  • Conservation Status:
  • Chinese pangolin – Critically Endangered, Schedule I Part I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Sunda pangolin – Critically Endangered
  • Indian pangolin – Endangered, Schedule I Part I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Philippine pangolin – Endangered
  • World Pangolin Day:  Celebrated annually on the third Saturday in February. The ninth World Pangolin Day is being celebrated on February 15, 2020.

NITI readies social protection framework 

News:Government has formed a technical committee headed by NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar to prepare policy prescriptions for an integrated social protection framework.

Facts:

About Social Protection:

  • Social protection is defined as the set of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption or loss of income. 

About the committee:

  • The committee  will include senior officials of nodal central ministries delivering social benefits.
  • It will also identify top five priority areas for the government, which could range from employment and old-age security to health, agriculture and introduction of specific interventions.

Ministry of Earth Sciences may go in for decadal forecast system

News:During the 6th International Conference on Climate Services,the Ministry of Earth Sciences(MoES) has announced that India is planning a ‘decadal forecast’ system along the lines of the United Kingdom’s Met Office to ensure better predictability in the climate time scale.

Facts:

About Decadal forecasts system:

  • Decadal forecasts system is the Climate forecasts that extend existing seasonal forecasts to the multi-year and decadal timescales.
  • The World Meteorological Organization has set up global producing centres coordinated by the U.K. Met Office for annual to decadal projections that are already providing global-scale information.

Decadal forecasts system in India:

  • The system would be explored as a research programme by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology(IITM),Pune along with the India Meteorological Department(IMD) and other entities.
  • The programme will be using a coupled climate model by utilising signals emanating from deep oceans to predict decadal climate changes
  • Once the system is established,it would initially function for long-range forecasting at the national level and the model would later be applied to the state or even district-level.

Additional information:

About International Conference on Climate Services(ICCS):

  • ICCS is the world’s premiere climate services event organized jointly by the Global Framework for Climate Services,an international effort coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization and the Climate Services Partnership.
  • The 6th ICCS conference was held at the Institute of Tropical Meteorology(IITM),Pune.

India, Portugal ink seven pacts 

News:Indian and Portugal Prime Ministers have signed seven agreements to boost cooperation in a range of areas.

Facts:

About the agreements:

  • The pacts provide for cooperation in areas of investment, transport, ports, culture and industrial and intellectual property rights. 
  • They have also signed cooperation to promote Maritime Transport between the two countries for better operation of their merchant fleets.

India-Portugal Relations:

  • The relations between India and Portugal began in 1947 after India’s independence and diplomatic relations were established in 1949.
  • In 1974,India and Portugal signed a treaty recognising sovereignty of India over Goa, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.With this, the diplomatic relations were again re-established.
  • The India-Portugal Joint Commission on Economic Matters was instituted in 1977 and has met four times so far.
  • In 2017-18, bilateral trade reached a total value of USD 937 million. Indian exports stood at USD 747 million and Portuguese exports at USD 190 million.The trade balance has consistently been in India’s favour.
  • Further,Portugal has a large Indian origin diaspora with the community in Portugal estimated at around 70,000 individuals.

International Search and Rescue Advisory Group(INSARAG)

News:The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has organized the second BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise as per the International Search & Rescue Advisory Group(INSARAG) guidelines for familiarization & exercise purposes.

Facts:

About INSARAG:

  • The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group(INSARAG) was established in 1991.
  • It is a network of disaster-prone and disaster-responding countries and organizations dedicated to urban search and rescue(USAR) and operational field coordination.
  • It aims to establish standards and classification for international USAR teams as well as methodology for international response coordination in the aftermath of earthquakes and collapsed structure disasters.
  • The Secretariat is located in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA).

Additional information:

About ICCROM:

  • The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property(ICCROM) is an intergovernmental organization formed at the UNESCO General Conference in New Delhi in 1956.
  • It aims to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage in every region of the world.
  • It is headquartered in Rome,Italy.Currently,it consists of 136 member states.

Union Home minister chairs high-level meet to review status of ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ 

News:Union Home minister has chaired a high-level meeting to review the status of ‘Bharat Ke Veer’.

Facts:

About Bharat ke Veer:

  • Launched by the Union Home Ministry in 2017.
  • It is an IT based platform to enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a braveheart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty.
  • It is managed by a committee consisting of Director Generals of Central Armed Police Forces(CAPFs) under aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of 15 lakh rupees is imposed so that donors can choose to divert part of the donation.
  • It has also been granted the status of a registered trust to ‘Bharat ke Veer’ by making it exempt from income tax under form 80(g).

MCA rolls out web form SPICe+ for incorporation of companies

News:The Ministry of Corporate Affairs(MCA) has launched a new web form called SPICe+ for incorporation of companies.

Facts:

About SPICe+:

  • SPICe+ (Simplified Proforma for Incorporating a Company Electronically plus) is an integrated web form offering multiple services related to Company incorporation such as mandatory issue of PAN, Opening of Bank Account, allotment of GSTIN among others.
  • It would offer services for 3 Central Govt Ministries & Departments. (Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Labour & Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance) and One State Govt.(Maharashtra).
  • It was launched as a Part of Ease of Doing Business(EODB) initiative.

Maharashtra loses top slot as attractive investment destination to Andhra in FY’19: RBI study

News: Reserve Bank of India has released the data on the top attractive investment destination states.

Facts:

Key Highlights from the study:

  • In 2018-19,Andhra Pradesh accounted for the highest share in total cost of projects sanctioned by banks and financial institutions.
  • It was followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana , Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • However,for the five year period between 2014-15 to 2018-19, Maharashtra has topped the list followed by Gujarat.
  • The study noted that 56% of the projects were taken up in six states- Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu indicating their locational advantages over other states.

Factors for attractive investment destination:The deciding factors for a project getting sanctioned in a particular state are:

  • location of a project 
  • accessibility of raw materials
  • availability of skilled labour
  • adequate infrastructure
  • market size and 
  • growth prospects,

Explained:Hubei Province

News:Hubei province has been the epicentre of the outbreak of COVID-2019 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus).

Facts:

About Hubei Province:

  • Hubei is a landlocked province in Central China.
  • The name of the province means north of the lake referring to its position north of Dongting Lake.
  • The capital of the province is Wuhan which serves as a major transportation hub in Central China.
  • The province is also known for the Three Gorges, a popular destination for Yangtze River cruises and home to the massive Three Gorges Dam.

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi erupts 

News:Indonesia’s most active volcano,Mount Merapi has erupted again sending ash and smoke more than three miles into the sky.

Facts:

About Mount Merapi:

  • Mount Merapi is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces,Indonesia. 
  • It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548.

Biggest jump in world defence spending in 10 years:Study

News:The International Institute of Strategic Studies(IISS) has released its report on Defence Spending titled “Military Balance”.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The global spending on defence has increased by 4% in 2019.This is the largest growth in the last 10 years.
  • The United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India retained their positions as the world’s top five defence spenders in 2019.

Additional information:

About IISS:

  • International Institute for Strategic Studies(IISS) is a British Research Institute that was established in 1997. 
  • It provides objective information on military, geopolitical and geo-economic developments that could lead to conflict.
  • The IISS was ranked the 10th best institute in the Global Go To Think Tank Index.
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