9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 26th, 2020

Two-thirds of most polluted cities are in India: global report

News: Pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace released the 2019 World Air Quality Report. The ranking in the report is based on a comparison of PM2.5 levels.

Facts:

Key Takeaways:

  • 90% of the global population breathe unsafe air
  • Most polluted countries (accounting for population): Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and India.
  • India accounts for t 21 of the most polluted 30 cities; 14 of the highest 20; and 6 of the highest 10.
  • Most Polluted Cities: Ghaziabad (India), Hotan (China), Gujranwala (Pakistan), Faisalabad (Pak), Delhi (India)

IoEs to invite Nobel laureates to campus, develop model villages as part of Unnat Bharat scheme

News: The Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) will invite Nobel laureates to their campuses and develop model villages as part of the Unnat Bharat scheme for sustainable development in rural India.

Facts:

Unnat Bharat scheme

  • Launched in 2014
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Human Resource Development
  • Aim: To connect institutions of higher education with local communities in rural India to address the development challenges through appropriate technologies.
  • Objectives: 
    • Building institutional capacity in Institutes of higher education in research & training relevant to the needs of rural India.
    • Provide rural India with professional resource support from institutes of higher education

Institutions of Eminence Scheme

  • Announced in 2016 Budget speech
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Human Resource Development
  • Aim: To develop 20 world-class teaching and research institutions
  • Objectives:
  • To bring higher education institutions selected as IoEs in top 500 of the world ranking in the next 10 years and in top 100 eventually overtime
  • To provide world-class teaching and research facilities to Indian students within the country and enhance the general level of education.
  • To pay special attention to teaching and research in unique and emerging areas of knowledge          

The dolphin population in Odisha’s Gahirmatha halves: Annual census

News: According to the January 2020 census conducted by the Forest Department of the Odisha State Government, the state’s total dolphin count was pegged at 233, down from 259 in 2019. The dolphin population in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary halved to 62 from 126 in 2019.

Facts:

Gahirmatha marine sanctuary

  • It is located within Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district.
  • It is known as the world’s largest Olive Ridley (IUCN status: Vulnerable) rookery.

Bhitarkanika National Park

  • It is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Pathsala.
  • It is the second-largest mangrove ecosystem in India, the first being Sundarbans (West Bengal).
  •  It has been designated as a Ramsar Site.

Dolphin:

Irrawaddy dolphins:

  • Range: Ayeyarwady (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) the Mekong river, Chilka lake (India).
  • IUCN Status: Endangered

Bottle-nose dolphins

  •  Range: Indo-Pacific region
  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened

Humpback dolphins

  • Range: coast of Africa and India south to Australia
  • IUCN Status: Endangered

Additional information:

Gangetic Dolphin:

  • Range: Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • The only dolphin sanctuary in India is the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary located in the Bhagalpur district of Bihar.

Microsoft launches new program for B2B startups

News: Microsoft has launched the 100X100X100 program for B2B Software as a service (SaaS) startups in India.

Facts:

  • It will bring together 100 committed companies and 100 early and growth startups that have enterprise-ready solutions to offer. 
  • Each participating company will commit to spending $100K over a course of 18 months on solutions provided by the SaaS startups.

BHU team unearths 4,000-yr-old crafts village in Varanasi

News: A 4000-year-old urban settlement has been unearthed by a team of the Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi

Facts:

  • The site is located at Babhaniyav village, about 13 km from Varanasi
  • The surface material indicates the structure is anywhere between 3,500 and 4,000-year-old
  • The site at Babhaniyav could be a small sub-center of Varanasi that grew as an urban town

The committee submits report on Clause 6 of Assam Accord

News: high-level committee, headed by Justice (retd) B K Sharma, on Assam Accord’s Clause 6 submitted its report to Assam Chief Minister.

Facts:

  • Assam Accord: It was a Memorandum of Settlement(MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in 1985.
  • Clause 6: It talks about providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

Additional Information:

Clause 5:

  • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship including the right to vote.
  • The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25,1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.

Rajya Sabha Elections 

News:The Election Commission has said that polling for 55 Rajya Sabha seats spread over 17 States would be held on March 26,2020.

Facts:

About Rajya Sabha:

  • The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of India.
  • The Vice-President is the ex-officio chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
  • It is a Permanent House and is not subject to dissolution as per Article 83(1) of the Constitution of India.

Composition of House:

  • Article 80 of the Constitution lays down the maximum strength of Rajya Sabha as 250 out of which 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives of the States and of the two Union Territories.
  • However,the present strength of Rajya Sabha is 245, out of which 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry and 12 are nominated by the President. 
  • The members nominated by the President are persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.

Allocation of Seats:

  • The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha.The allocation of seats is made on the basis of the population of each State. 

Tenure of Rajya Sabha:

  • Every Rajya Sabha MP has a tenure of six years and elections to one-third seats are held every two years.

Electoral Process:

  • Article 80(4) of the Constitution of India provides that members of Rajya Sabha shall be elected by the elected members of State Legislative Assemblies through the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.Each MLAs vote is counted only once.
  • In order to win a Rajya Sabha seat, a candidate should get a required number of votes.The number is found out using the formula: Required vote = Total number of votes / (Number of Rajya Sabha seats + 1 ) + 1.

US President’s Visit to India

News:The US President is on a visit to India.During his visit,several agreements were signed between India and the United States.

Facts:

  • India and the United States have decided to upgrade their bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership(CGSP).
  • The CGSP will include issues such as defence, security cooperation and revitalisation of the Indo-Pacific with quadrilateral dialogue.

Key Highlights of the visit:

  • Agreed upon a defence deal that was worth $3 billion.The deal would include the procurement of 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters six AH-64E Apache helicopters by India.
  • The US has proposed Free Trade Agreement(FTA) with India that will include the restoration of benefits of low or zero duty to certain Indian exports under the Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) and market access for each other’s agricultural products.
  • Permanent presence of US International Development Finance Corporation(USIDFC) in India.
  • To come up with a comprehensive agreement on intellectual property rights(IPR).
  • To start discussions on a totalisation agreement that would exempt short term workers from contributing to social security in each others countries.

Additional information:

About US IDFC:

  • U.S. International Development Finance Corporation(DFC) is an independent agency of the U.S Government established in 2018.
  • It is headquartered in Washington,United States.
  • It offers innovative financial solutions to support private investors through debt financing, political risk insurance, equity investment and supporting private equity investment funds.

About GSP:

  • Generalized System of Preferences(GSP) is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries. 
  • It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  • In 2019,the US had terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary under GSP highlighting concerns over India not allowing equitable and reasonable access to its markets.

Incois launches three ocean-based services

News:The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services(INCOIS) has launched three ocean-based specialised products/services.

Facts:

Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System(SVAS):

  • It is an innovative impact-based advisory and forecast service system for small vessels operating in Indian coastal waters.
  • It will warn users about potential zones where vessel overturning can take place,10 days in advance.The advisories are valid for small vessels of beam width up to 7 metres.
  • The warning system is based on the Boat Safety Index(BSI) derived from wave model forecast outputs such as significant wave height, wave steepness, directional spread and the rapid development of wind at sea, which is boat-specific.

Swell Surge Forecast System(SSFS):

  • It will provide forewarnings for the coastal population of India’s vast shoreline which experiences a slew of damages caused by swell waves that actually originate from the distant southern ocean.
  • Swell surges are flash flood events that take place without any noticeable advance change in local winds or any other apparent signature in the coastal environment.It is known as Kallakkadal in Kerala.

Algal Bloom Information Service(ABIS):

  • It provides information on harmful algal blooms that are detrimental to coastal fisheries and also tend to cause respiratory problems in the coastal population.

Additional information:

Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services(INCOIS):

  • INCOIS is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
  • It is located in Hyderabad & was established in 1999 under the MoES and is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO).
  • It is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community.

Rural Infrastructure Development Fund(RIDF)

News:National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(NABARD) has sanctioned Rs 400 crore to UT of J&K under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund(RIDF).

Facts:

About RIDF:

  • The Rural Infrastructure Development Fund(RIDF) was set up by the Government of India in 1995-96 for financing ongoing rural Infrastructure projects. 
  • The Fund is maintained by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(NABARD).
  • The main objective of the Fund is to provide loans to State Governments and State-owned corporations to enable them to complete ongoing rural infrastructure projects.
  • The activities to be financed under RIDF as classified under three broad categories namely a) Agriculture and related sector b) Social sector and c) Rural connectivity.

Global clinical trial for drug to treat Kala Azar to take place in 2021

News:Pharma major Novartis and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) have signed a collaboration and licence agreement to jointly develop LXE408, as a potential new oral treatment for Kala Azar.

Facts:

About Kala Azar:

  • Kala-azar also known as Visceral leishmaniasis(VL) is caused by the protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • It is spread to humans through bites from female phlebotomine sandflies – the vector(or transmitter) of the leishmania parasite.
  • The signs and symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia and substantial swelling of the liver and spleen.
  • The disease primarily infects internal organs such as the liver,spleen (hence “visceral”) and bone marrow.It has been associated with high fatality without any proper diagnosis and treatment.

About Kala-azar Elimination Programme:

  • The Government of India(GOI) launched a centrally sponsored Kala-azar Control Programme in the endemic states in 1990-91.
  • Aim:To improve the health status of vulnerable groups and at-risk population living in Kala-azar endemic areas by the elimination of Kala-azar so that it no longer remains a public health problem.

Additional information:

About Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative(DNDi):

  • Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative(DNDi) was founded in 2003.It is a collaborative non-profit drug research and development(R&D) organization that is developing new treatments for neglected diseases.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva,Switzerland.

Conference on Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience(CDRR&R)

News:Union Minister of State for Home Affairs has presided over the session of the 1st ‘National Conference on Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience – 2020’.

Facts:

About the conference:

  • Organized by the National Institute of Disaster Management(NIDM).
  • Aim:To explore and debate the most recent advances in the discipline, to enhance the understanding of the issues and solutions on various facets for coastal disaster risk reduction and resilience.
  • It also focussed on enhancing human capacity about coastal disaster risks and effective collaborative actions by implementing Prime Minister’s 10-point agenda and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Additional information:

Prime minister 10 Point agenda on Disaster reduction:It was outlined at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2016:

  • All development sectors must imbibe the principles of disaster risk management. 
  • Work towards risk coverage for all – starting from poor households to SMEs to multinational corporations to nation states. 
  • Encourage greater involvement and leadership of women in disaster risk management. 
  • Invest in risk mapping globally. 
  • Leverage technology to enhance the efficiency of disaster risk management efforts.
  • Develop a network of universities to work on disaster issues as they have social responsibilities too. 
  • Utilise the opportunities provided by social media and mobile technologies and recognise the potential of social media and develop applications for all aspects of disaster risk management.
  • Build on local capacity and initiative.  
  • Ensure that the opportunity to learn from a disaster must not be wasted. 
  • Bring about greater cohesion in international response to disasters.

About Sendai Framework:

  • Adopted in 2015 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.
  • It is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement on disaster risk reduction.

About NIDM:

  • NIDM is a premier institute of the Government of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs.It was constituted under the Disaster Management Act 2005.
  • It has the responsibility for human resource development, capacity building, training, research, documentation and policy advocacy in the field of disaster management.

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