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9 PM Current Affairs Brief – January 16th, 2020

India 117th among 190 countries in empowering women

News: World Bank released Women Business and the Law (WBL) 2020 index which measures economic empowerment of women

Facts:

About the Index:

  • It uses 8 indicators to measure legal differences between men and women as they transition through different stages of working life.

Key takeaways from Women Business and the Law (WBL) 2020 index

  • Countries that score 100 on the Women, Business and the Law index: Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden.
  • The economies that improved the most are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, and South Sudan.
  • India scored 74.4 and ranked 117th among 190 countries.

UN: 2019 was second-hottest year in recorded history

News: The United Nations has confirmed that 2019 was the second hottest year ever. The hottest year ever recorded was 2016.

Facts:

Key Takeaways State of Global Climate 2019 released by WMO

  1. High Temperatures in 2019: The global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.
  2. Record greenhouse gas concentrations: Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019.
  3. Acceleration of global mean sea-level rise: In October 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value since the beginning of the high-precision altimetry record (January 1993). This is because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Additional Information

World Meteorological Organization (WMO):

  • It is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 192 Member States and Territories. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) for meteorology, operational hydrology, and related geophysical sciences. 
  • Other than the annual State of Climate report, WMO releases Greenhouse Gas Bulletin annually.
  • WMO was established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

State of the Climate Report-2019 by IMD

  • The past decade was the hottest on record for India.
  • 2019 was the seventh warmest year since 1901.
  • Extreme weather events killed about 1,630 persons in 2019.

What is a sinkhole, which swallowed a bus and pedestrians in China?

News: An enormous sinkhole swallowed a bus and pedestrians in northwest China

Facts:

Sinkholes: Sinkholes are cavities in the ground that form when water erodes an underlying rock layer.

Types:

  1. One forms when the roof of a cave collapses and exposes the underground cavern. 
  2. Second type forms when water dissolves the rock underneath soil and creates an underground fissure. The soil layer collapses in absence of a rock to support it, and creates a hole on the surface.

Causes:

  1. Natural: Form in areas of karst terrains, where the rock below the surface of the Earth can be easily dissolved by groundwater. Such terrains are most commonly found in areas with limestone, gypsum or carbonate rocks. Example: Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire.
  2. Man-made: Sinkholes form due to broken land drains, water mains and sewerage pipes, increased rainfall, storm events, underlying limestone and diverted surface water. Example: In China, the mining of coal, zinc, lead and iron ore deposits in karst areas have been associated with the formation of sinkholes due to human activity

Additional Information:

Karst: It is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is named after the typical topography developed in limestone rocks of Karsts region in the Balkans adjacent to Adriatic Sea.

Essential Conditions for development of Karst Topography:

  • Presence of soluble rocks, preferably limestone at the surface or sub-surface level
  • These rocks should be dense, highly jointed and thinly bedded.

Erosional Features:

Swallow holes or Sink holes, Dolines, Uvalas, Poljes

  • Swallow holes are small depressions carved out by depressions carved out by solution where rainwater sinks into the limestone at a point of weakness. Example: Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire.
  • A doline is formed when a number of swallow holes coalesce to form a large hollow
  • Several dolines may merge as a result of subsidence to form an even larger depression called uvala
  • Poljes are very large depressions, formed partially due to faulting

Caves:

  • Caves formations are prominent in areas where there are alternating beds of rocks (shale, sandstones, quartzite) with limestone or dolomites in between ,or in areas where limestone are dense, massive and occurring as thick beds

Depositional Features:

  • Stalactites hang as icicles of different diameters. Normally they are broad at their bases and taper towards the free ends showing up in a variety of forms.
  • Stalagmites rise up from the floor of the caves.

Forest panel bats for pvt plantations as compensation

News: Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has recommended Green Credit Scheme

Facts:

About Green Credit Scheme:

  • It will allow private agencies to create tree plantations on private / non-forest land, to be used as Compensatory Afforestation for projects involving forest diversion.

Significance:

  • It will encourage plantation by individuals outside the traditional forest area
  • It will help in contributing towards meeting the international commitments of the country such as Sustainable Development Goals and Nationally Determined Contributions

Background: It was first developed by the Gujarat state government and was pending for approval from the MoEF&CC since 2013.

Additional Information:

Compensatory afforestation:

  • It refers to afforestation and regeneration activities carried out as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest purposes.
  • According to Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, whenever a forest land is to be diverted for non-forestry purposes, the equivalent non forest land has to be identified for compensatory afforestation and funds for raising compensatory afforestation are to be collected from the user agency.
  • Net Present Value: the law also requires that the Net Present Value (NPV) of the diverted forest is calculated for a period of 50 years, and recovered from the user agency that is diverting the forests.

Forest Advisory Committee (FAC)

  • The FAC is a body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and is responsible for regulating forest diversion.

Private property is a human right: Supreme Court

News: In Vidaya Devi vs. The State of Himachal Pradesh case, the Supreme Court has held that in a welfare state, right to property is a human right

Facts:

Highlights of SC Judgement

  • The state cannot trespass into the private property of a citizen and then claim ownership of the land in the name of ‘adverse possession’
  • Grabbing private land and then claiming it as its own makes the state an encroacher.
  • State cannot dispossess a citizen of his property except in accordance with the procedure established by law.

Additional Information:

Right to Property in the Constitution

  • Article 19(1) (f) guaranteed to every citizen the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property. 
  • Article 31 guaranteed every person, both citizens and non-citizens, the right against deprivation of his/her property. It provided that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of the law. 
  • Article 31 empowered the State to acquire or requisite the property of a person for public purpose and after providing adequate compensation.
  • The Constitution (forty fourth amendment) Act, 1978 abolished the right to property as a fundamental right. 
    • It repealed article 19(1) (f) and article 31. 
    • It inserted a new article 300A in part XII with the label ‘Right to property’. Now article 300A provides that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of the law
    • Right to property is only a legal and constitutional right and not a fundamental right
  • Though the fundamental right to property under part III has been abolished, part III still contains provisions which guarantees the right to compensation when the State acquires private property
    • Article 30: when the State acquires the property of a minority educational institution
    • Article 31A: It provides that the State should pay adequate compensation at market value when the State acquires any land held by a person while the land held by the person is used for personal cultivation and the size of the land is within statutory ceiling limit

WEF:Global Risks Report,2020

News:The World Economic Forum has released the ‘Global Risks Report 2020’.

Facts:

About Global Risks report:

  • The report describes changes occurring in the global risks landscape from year to year and identifies global catastrophic risks.
  • This is the first time in the report’s 10-year-history that all of the top five issues that are likely to impact the world this year are environmental.

Top 10 risks:The report has listed top 10 risks over the next 10 years which are:

  • Extreme weather
  • Climate action failure
  • Natural Disaster
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Humans made environmental disasters
  • Data fraud or theft
  • Cyberattacks
  • Water crisis
  • Global governance failure
  • Asset Bubble

Other takeaways from the report:

  • It reports that Climate-related risks had the greatest likelihood of severe impacts.
  • It foresees a year of increased domestic and international political instability.The retreat from multilateralism has threatened the ability of the world to deal with global risks.
  • It also forecasts a year of economic slowdown.The International Monetary Fund had expected growth to be at 3% in 2019, which is the lowest since the economic crisis of 2008-09.
  • The Digital Technology is in its peak of evolution.However,the unequal access of the technology across the globe will increase.
  • The social demographic, environmental and technological pressure on health systems is growing.

Additional information:

About World Economic Forum(WEF)

  • WEF was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva,Switzerland.
  • The objective of WEF is to improve the state of the world by engaging business,political,academic and other leaders of society to shape global,regional and industry agendas.
  • The reports published by the WEF are (a)Global Competitiveness Report (b)Global Gender Gap Report (c)Global Risks Report and (d)Global Travel and Tourism Report among others.

Explained:About India’s fiscal deficit

News:Recently,the former Economic Affairs secretary has claimed that the actual fiscal deficit for the last financial year and the current one is more than a full percentage point higher than the official data.

Facts:

What is Fiscal Deficit?

  • Fiscal Deficit is the difference between the Revenue Receipts plus Non-debt Capital Receipts (NDCR) and the total expenditure.
  • In other words, fiscal deficit is reflective of the total borrowing requirements of Government.

Significance of fiscal deficit:

  • The significance of fiscal deficit is that if the deficit is too high,it implies that there is a lesser amount of money left in the market for private entrepreneurs and businesses to borrow. 
  • The lesser amount of this money will in turn leads to higher rates of interest charged on such lending.Hence,a higher fiscal deficit means higher borrowing by the government which in turn mean higher interest rates in the economy.
  • Currently,the high fiscal deficit and higher interest rates in India means that the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to reduce interest rates are undone.

Acceptable level of fiscal deficit:

  • There is no set universal level of fiscal deficit that is considered good.In a developing economy,where private enterprises may be weak and governments may be in a better state to invest, fiscal deficit could be higher than in a developed economy.
  • In India,the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management(FRBM) Act requires the central government to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3 percent of GDP.
  • In Union Budget 2019,India has set a fiscal deficit target of 3.3% of the Gross domestic product(GDP) for 2019-20.

Controversy around fiscal deficit:

  • Former Economic affairs secretary has said that the true fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is 4.7% which is more than a full percentage point than the number claimed by Finance Minister in Budget 2019.
  • This is because the government has been financing the expenditure through off-budget financing which are are not recorded through the Consolidated Fund of India(CFI).

Rojgaar Sangi- app to connect trained candidates with jobs

News:Recently, the Chhattisgarh State Skill Development Authority (CSSDA) has launched a mobile phone app – ‘Rojgaar Sangi’.

Facts:

About Rojgaar Sangi:

  • The mobile application aims to connect trained candidates with the jobs.It will also help start-up companies to hire an office staff.
  • The app has been developed with the help of National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • It will increase accessibility for skilled and trained candidates which in turn will increase job opportunities.
  • The app is expected to benefit 7 lakh students who were trained under the courses offered by CSSDA.

Additional information:

About National Informatics Centre(NIC):

  • The National Informatics Centre (NIC) is an institute set up by the Indian government in 1976 to drive its technology and e-governance initiatives in the country.
  • The institute is part of the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s Department.
  • NIC has the mandate to set up, implement and support all the information technology led-programs of the central and state governments and other government organizations in India.

IT rules to separate social media firms, other online platforms

News:Government has said that Draft Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018 are under process of revision in the wake of instances of violence and lynchings affiliated with content posted on social media platforms.

Facts:

Internet Intermediary:

  • Internet intermediary refers to a company that facilitates the use of the Internet.Such companies include internet service providers(ISPs), search engines and social media platforms.

Features of the Draft IT Intermediaries Rules 2018:

Incorporation:

  • The online intermediaries with more than 50 lakh users will be required to have a registered entity in India under the Companies Act.
  • They should also appoint a nodal person of contact for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and ensure compliance with their orders.

Reporting:

  • They should also provide information or assistance within 72 hours when asked by any government agency for reasons of State security, cyber security, investigation, detection, prosecution or prevention of offenses.
  • The intermediary should also report cybersecurity incidents with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team.

Rules:

  • The social media intermediaries should publish rules, privacy policy to stop users from engaging in online material which is paedophilic, pornographic, hateful, racially and ethnically objectionable.

Grievance redressal:

  • The intermediary should publish the name of the Grievance Officer and his/her contact details on its website.
  • It should also lay down a mechanism by which it redresses the concerns of users who suffer as a result of access or usage of computer resources by any person in violation of rules.

Technology:

  • The intermediary should also deploy technology based automated tools for identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or contents.

US removes designation of China as currency manipulator 

News:The US has removed China as a  currency manipulator as the two countries are preparing to sign a trade deal.

Facts:

About Currency manipulator:

  • Currency manipulation happens when governments try to artificially tweak the exchange rate to gain an unfair advantage in trade.
  • US defines currency manipulation as when countries deliberately influence the exchange rate between their currency and the US dollar to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade.

Criteria for designation as a currency manipulator:The US Treasury has established three criteria for currency manipulator which are:

  • A significant bilateral trade surplus with the US is one that is at least $20 billion.
  • A material current account surplus is one that is at least 3% of GDP.
  • A persistent, one-sided intervention reflected in repeated net purchases of foreign currency and total at least 2% of an economy’s GDP over a year.

Implications for destination as a currency manipulator:

  • Once a country is designated as a currency manipulator by the U.S., the next step taken by the US government is to seek negotiations with the government accused of manipulation.

Note:United States had removed India from its currency monitoring list of major trading partners in May,2019.

CARA celebrates 5th Annual Day

News:Central Adoption Resource Authority(CARA) has celebrated its 5th Annual Day in New Delhi.

Facts:

About CARA:

  • Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development,Government of India. 
  • It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions. 
  • It also deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.
  • It is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption,1993 ratified by the Government of India in 2003. 

About Hague Convention:

  • The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law(HCCH).
  • The convention was concluded in 1993 and adopted in the year 1995.As of July 2019,101 states are party to the convention.The Convention applies to children aged under 16 years.
  • The convention protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.
  • It also puts safeguards in place to make sure that all intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the child and respects their human rights.
  • It also ensures cooperation among countries to guarantee that these safeguards are respected and to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.

Centre eases CRZ rules of beaches aspiring for Blue Flag tag: What is this certification?

News:Recently, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has relaxed Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) rules for Blue flag beaches.

Facts:

About the relaxation of CRZ rules:

  • India’s Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) rules do not allow the construction of infrastructure on beaches and islands.
  • But the Blue Flag certification requires the beaches to create infrastructures like portable toilet blocks, greywater treatment plants, a solar power plant, seating facilities, CCTV surveillance.
  • Hence,the government has notified that construction activities and facilities shall be permitted in the CRZs including Islands for the purpose of Blue Flag Certification in beaches.
  • However,these activities are subject to maintaining a minimum distance of 10 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL).

About Blue flag certification:

  • The Blue flag certification is an international recognition conferred on beaches that meet certain criteria of cleanliness and environmental propriety.
  • The certification programme is run by international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).
  • The certification is based on 33 stringent criteria in four major heads (i) Environmental Education and Information (ii) Bathing Water Quality, (iii) Environment Management and Conservation and (iv) Safety and Services in the beaches.
  • The Union Environment Ministry has selected 13 beaches in India to compete for the ‘Blue Flag’ certification.
  • Further,Spain has the highest number of Blue Flag beaches followed by, Greece and France.Japan and South Korea are the only countries in Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
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