9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 7th, 2020

Cabinet approves to give status of Institution of National Importance to 5 IIITs

News: The Union cabinet has approved introduction of the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020


Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • It amends Indian Institutes of Information Technology Act of 2014 and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public-Private Partnership) Act, 2017


  • Grants statutory status to five IIITs in Public Private Partnership mode at Surat, Bhopal, Bhagalpur, Agarwal and Raichur
  • Declares them as Institutions of National Importance along with already existing 15 IIITs


  • The five IIITs will have the powers to award degrees and use the nomenclature of B.Tech or M.Tech or Ph.D degree as issued by a University or Institution of National Importance
  • Will enable the Institutes to attract enough students required to develop a strong research base in the country in the field of information technology.

Finance Minister introduces Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill in Lok Sabha

News: Finance Minister introduced Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020, in the Lok Sabha


Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020

Aim: Settle pending cases on direct taxes involving Rs 9.32 lakh crore


  • Two main components:
  • Dispute resolution: Reducing tax litigations pending at various forums.
  • Amnesty Component: taxpayers given the opportunity to pay the disputed tax and be free from any other consequence under the law.
  • Taxpayers whose tax demands are locked in dispute in multiple forums can pay due taxes by March 31, 2020, and get complete waiver of interest and penalty.
  • Those who avail this scheme after that will have to pay 10% more tax. The scheme will remain open till June 30, 2020.

Additional Information:

Indirect Tax, Sabka Vishwas Scheme: Introduced in 2019, it sought to resolve all disputes relating to the erstwhile Service Tax and Central Excise Acts (now subsumed under GST), as well as 26 other Indirect Tax enactments.

7 projects worth Rs. 594 Crores sanctioned for J&K and Ladakh under Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD Schemes

News: The Ministry of Tourism, under its schemes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD has sanctioned 7 projects worth Rs. 594 Crores for J&K and Ladakh


Swadesh Darshan Scheme

  • Launch: 2014-2015
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Tourism
  • Aim: Integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits
  • Thematic Circuits under Scheme: North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit, Heritage Circuit, Sufi Circuit and Tirthankar Circuit.
Image result for swadesh darshan scheme map

Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) Scheme:

  • Launch: 2015
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Tourism
  • Aim: identifying and developing pilgrim sites across India.
  • Objectives:
  • Harness pilgrimage tourism for its direct and multiplier effect upon employment generation and economic development.
  • Enhance tourist attractiveness in sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in the religious destinations.
  • promote local art, culture, handicraft, cuisine

DRDO Signs Technology Development Contract with Rosoboronexport Russia

News: High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) signed contract with Rosoboronexport for development of Advanced Pyrotechnic Ignition Systems.


High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)

  • It is a lab involved in basic and applied research in the area of high energy materials required for missiles, rockets and guns.
  • Objectives:
  • Develop expertise and technologies relating to High Explosives, Propellants and Pyrotechnics
  • Transfer the technologies to industry, enhance the infrastructure and scientific understanding to meet the future challenges.
  • Parent Organization: Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)

District Export Plan (DEP)

News: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry through Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has initiated a process to prepare and implement of a District Export Plan (DEP).


District Export Plan

  • Will include the support required by the local industry in boosting their manufacturing and exports
  • Will include strategy to enhance logistics and infrastructure at the district level and better utilization of the Market Access Initiative (MAI) Scheme for inviting foreign buyers
  • The institutional structure set up at the district level for implementation of the District Export Plan will be headed by the Chief/ District Development Officer

Additional Information:

Market Access Initiative (MAI) scheme:


  • To promote India’s Export on sustained basis;
  • Focus Product-Focus country approach;
  • To evolve specific strategy for enhancement of export accessing new market or increasing share in existing market.

Nodal Agency: Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Directorate General of Foreign Trade

  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and is headed by Director General of Foreign Trade.
  • It is responsible for implementing the Foreign Trade Policy with the main objective of promoting India’s exports.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after record mission

News: NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth from the International Space Station, where she set the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman (328 Days)


International Space Station

  • It is a space station or a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit.
  • It is a joint project among five participating space agencies namely NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Union) and CSA (Canada).

Significance of Christina Koch’s spaceflight

  • Will provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman
  • Vertebral Strength investigation: It defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae. This is expected to provide insight into the development of future countermeasures, such as preventative medicine or exercise
  • Microgravity Crystal’s investigation: It crystallises a membrane protein that is integral to tumour growth and cancer survival. Results may support the development of cancer treatments

Lucknow Declaration adopted at India-Africa Defence Conclave

News:India and 50 African countries have adopted the Lucknow Declaration at the first India – Africa Defence Minister’s Conclave.


About Lucknow Declaration:

  • Peace and Security:The countries have committed to continue their collaboration in the fields of peace and security including conflict prevention, resolution, management and peacebuilding.
  • Terrorism:It condemned the growing threat of terrorism and acknowledge that it constitutes a major threat to peace and security in the region.
  • Maritime security:It acknowledged the African Union(AU) vision for peace and security in Africa that coincides with India’s vision of Security and Growth for all in the Region(SAGAR).
  • Defence:It recalled India’s contribution to defence and security in Africa through setting up of various Defence Academies in African countries.
  • AFINDEX:It also appreciated the initiation of Africa India Field Training Exercises and agreed to further strengthen cooperation in defence preparedness and security.The first-ever AFINDEX was held in March 2019.

Additional information:

About African Union:

  • The African Union(AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent.
  • It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity.It is headquartered in Addis Ababa,Ethiopia.
  • The objective of union is to achieve greater unity and solidarity between and defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States.
  • The African Union’s theme for 2020 is “Silence The Guns: Creating conducive conditions for African Development”.

Brihadeshwara Temple

News:The consecration(Kumbhabhishekam) ceremony was recently held at the Brihadisvara Temple after 23 years in Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu.



  • The ceremony was held after the Madras High Court settled argument over the ritual purification process by addressing the struggle for supremacy between the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions.
  • The court allowed the consecration to be performed in both Tamil and Sanskrit.

About Brihadisvara Temple:

  • Brihadeshwara Temple (Raja Rajeswara Temple) is dedicated to Shiva and is located in Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu.
  • The temple is an example of Dravidian architecture built during the Chola period by emperor Raja Raja Chola I.
  • The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Great Living Chola Temples with the other two being the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavatesvara temple.

Characteristics of the temple:

  • The temple consists of a pyramidal spire and is adorned with sculptures and paintings inside as well as outside.
  • The entire temple structure is made out of granite.The Vimanam(temple tower) is 216 ft high and is said to be the tallest in the world.
  • The Kumbam(the apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is carved out of a single rock.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation(FGM)

News:International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) is observed everyday year on February 6.


About Female Genital Mutilation(FGM):

  • Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) is the name given to procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons.It is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
  • It is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women.
  • According to WHO, more than 200 million girls and women alive are estimated to have undergone the practice across 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.

Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) in India:

  • In India, FGM is practised predominantly within the Bohra Muslim community which are a subsect of Shia Muslims.
  • It is practised as an old traditional practice adhering to religious edicts, controlling women’s sexuality and abiding by the rules stated by the religious clergy.
  • In 2017, a Petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on FGM as it violates a woman’s right to life and dignity.This has been referred to a nine-judge bench headed by CJI.
  • However,the Dawoodi Bohra community still maintains that the practice should be allowed since the Constitution grants religious freedom under Article 25.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism to hold 3-day cultural festival ”Namaste Orchha”

News:The Madhya Pradesh government is organizing a multi-cultural festival to promote tourism in the heritage city of Orchha,Madhya Pradesh.


About Namaste Orchha:

  • Namaste Orchha aims to celebrate the cultural diversity, natural beauty and the architectural heritage of the Orchha town by showcasing music, dance, heritage walks, local cuisine, arts and handicrafts.

About Orchha:

  • Orchha is located in Niwari district of Madhya Pradesh situated on the banks of the Betwa River.It was built by King Rudra Pratap Singh of Bundela dynasty in the 16th century.
  • Orchha architecture has a blend of Bundelkhandi and Mughal influences. The structures are not only appreciated for their mesmerizing beauty but also for their intelligent engineering.
  • The ancient town is famous for its Orchha Fort Complex.The Complex is divided into three mesmeric sections namely Jahangir Mahal, Raj Mahal and Sheesh Mahal.It is also known for chaturbhuj temple.
  • The town is also the only place in India where Lord Ram is being worshipped as a king with a dedicated temple in his name called Sri Ram Raja Mandir.

US announces launch of International Religious Freedom Alliance

News:The United States has announced the launch of the International Religious Freedom Alliance(IRF Alliance).


About the alliance:

  • Aim:To bring together senior government representatives to discuss actions countries can take together to promote respect for freedom of religion or belief and protect members of religious minority groups worldwide.
  • Around 26 Countries from around the world have joined the alliance. Some of the prominent countries are Austria, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Israel, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Greece.
  • The members of the alliance have pledged to uphold the Declaration of Principles which commits countries to object and oppose, publicly and privately, all abuses or violations of religious freedom.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is illegal:India 

News:Indian Government has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),a flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative(BRI) is illegal as it impinges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.


About CPEC:

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),a pet project of Chinese President.
  • It aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways.
  • The corridor also seeks to expand and upgrade infrastructure across the length and breadth of Pakistan.

India’s Objections on CPEC:

  • CPEC passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir(Gilgit-Baltistan). This undermines India’s strategic interests and territorial integrity.
  • India also shares a great deal of trust deficit with China and Pakistan and has a history of conflict with both.
  • China’s increasing footprints in the South Asian region is detrimental to India’s strategic hold in Indian Ocean.

Additional information:

About Belt and Road Initiative(BRI):

  • One Belt One Road(OBOR) or Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) is an ambitious project announced in 2013 by the Chinese President.
  • It aims to connect the East Asian economic region with the European economic circle and runs across the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.
  • The project consists of two parts namely the Silk Road Economic Belt which is land based and is expected to connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe.
  • The second part is the Maritime Silk Road which is sea-based and is expected to connect China’s southern coast to the Mediterranean, Africa, South-East Asia and Central Asia.

International Gandhi Awards for Leprosy

News:The President has conferred the International Gandhi Awards for Leprosy to Dr NS Dharmashaktu in the individual category and the Leprosy Mission Trust under the institutional category.


About the Prize:

  • The International Gandhi Award for Leprosy was constituted by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation in 1950. 
  • Since then, it has been leading the efforts to completely eradicate the disease and erase the stigma surrounding it.

About Leprosy:

  • Leprosy also known as Hansen’s disease(HD) is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.
  • Leprosy is not highly infectious.It is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
  • Leprosy is curable with the combination of drugs known as Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).

World Health Organisation’s Global Leprosy Strategy(2016):The key interventions as provided in the Strategy include:

  • Detecting cases early before visible disabilities occur with a special focus on children as a way to reduce disabilities and reduce transmission;
  • Targeting detection among higher risk groups through campaigns in highly endemic areas or communities; and
  • Improving health care coverage and access for marginalized populations among others.

Initiatives by India:

SPARSH Leprosy Awareness Campaign:

  • In 2017,the Indian Government had launched the Campaign to promote awareness and address the issues of stigma and discrimination against Leprosy.

National leprosy elimination Programme:

  • Launched in 1983 to eliminate leprosy through early detection, effective treatment and increased awareness.
  • In 2005,India achieved the goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem defined as less than 1 case per 10,000 population.

RBI releases bi-monthly policy

News:TheReserve Bank of India released its bi-monthly monetary policy committee(MPC) report.


Key Highlights from the report:

  • Repo Rate:It is the rate at which the RBI lends money to the banks for a short term.It remains unchanged at 5.15%.
  • Reverse Repo Rate:It is the short term borrowing rate at which RBI borrows money from banks.It also remained unchanged at 4.9%.
  • Marginal Standing facility:It is a window for banks to borrow from the Reserve Bank of India in an emergency situation when interbank liquidity dries up completely.It has been kept at 5.4%.
  • Growth:The GDP growth for the financial year 2020-21 is projected at 6%.
  • Inflation:The estimation for the consumer price index-based inflation has been kept at 5.0-5.4% for the first half of 2020-21.

Additional information:

About Monetary Policy Committee(MPC):

  • The Monetary Policy Committee(MPC) is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India.
  • The MPC is made up of six members with three nominated by the Union government and three representing the RBI.
  • The MPC is mandated by law to ensure that retail inflation stays within a band of two percentage points of the target inflation rate of 4%

Navy to get third Scorpene submarine- INS Karanj

News:The third Scorpene submarine, INS Karanj will be delivered to the Indian Navy by December 2020.


About INS Karanj:

  • INS Karanj is a part of Project-75I.It is the third submarine of the first batch of six Kalvari-class submarines for the Indian Navy.
  • The submarine has been designed by French naval defence and energy group and manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited,an Indian shipyard in Mumbai.

About Project 75I:

  • The Project 75 is a programme by the Indian Navy that entails building six Scorpene-Class attack submarines
  • The six submarines are (a)INS Kalvari (b)INS Khanderi (c)INS Karanj (d)INS Vela (e)INS Vagir and (f)INS Vagsheer.
  • These submarines have advanced Air-independent propulsion(AIP) systems to enable them to stay submerged for longer duration and substantially increase their operational range. 
  • They also feature advanced stealth capabilities such as a greater ability to suppress noise and acoustic signatures.

National Conference on e-Governance (NCeG),2020

News:The 23rd National Conference on e-Governance (NCeG), 2020 is being held in Mumbai


About the conference:

  • The conference is being organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances(DARPG) and Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology(MeitY) in association with the State Government of Maharashtra.
  • Theme:India 2020: Digital Transformation.

Themes:During the conference,the discussion will be held on the following themes: 

  • Digital Platforms and Digital Economy
  • Improving Service Delivery
  • Building Digital Trust- Transparency, Security and Privacy
  • Digital Payments and Fintech
  • National e-Governance Service Delivery Assessment (NeSDA)/ Digital Service Standard (DSS)
  • Skilling and Capacity Building.
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