9 PM Current Affairs Brief – January 17th, 2020

India to invite Imran Khan for Shanghai Council meet

News: Prime Minister of Pakistan will be invited to participate in the Heads of Government Council meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that will be hosted in India in 2020


About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation
  • It was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • The Secretariat of SCO is based in Beijing, China.


  • The members of the SCO are China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted to the SCO as permanent members in 2017.
  • The SCO has four observer states, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
  • It has six dialogue partners, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.


  • strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
  • promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology, culture, education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection,
  • making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region;
  • Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Organizational Structure:

  • The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
  • The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues. It also approves the organisation’s annual budget.
  • SCO has two permanent bodies
    • SCO Secretariat based in Beijing, China and
    • Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. RATS serves to promote cooperation of member states against the terrorism, separatism and extremism.

World Bank and Government of India Sign $88 million loan agreement for the implementation of Assam Inland Water Transport Project

News: The Government of India, the Government of Assam and the World Bank signed a loan agreement of $88 million for the implementation of Assam Inland Water Transport Project.


Significance of Assam Inland Water Transport Project

  • Will help Assam improve the passenger ferry infrastructure and its services
  • Strengthen the capacity of the institutions running the inland water transport

Additional Information:

Inland Waterways in India: Number and Extent: 

  • As per the National Waterways Act, 2016, 111 have been declared as National Waterways (NW)
  • These waterways pass through 24 states and two union territories, with an approximate total length of 20274 km

Legal and Policy regime for Inland Waterways in India

  1. National Waterways Act 2016
  • The Act declared 111 rivers or river stretches, creeks, estuaries as National (inland) Waterways.
  • It enables the Central Government to regulate these waterways for development with regard to shipping, navigation and transport through mechanically propelled vessels.
  • Jal Marg Vikas Project: Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) aims at capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1).The project is being implemented by GOI with technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank.
  • Sagarmala Project: Along with development of coast shipping routes, the project seeks to inland waterways to drive industrial development. It aims to reduce the logistics costs by doubling the share of domestic waterways in the modal mix from current 6 per cent (PIB)
  • Interlinking of Rivers Programme: The project is expected to offer potential benefits to the transport sector through navigation.

Inland Waterways Authority of India: It was formed in 1986. It undertakes projects for development and maintenance of IWT infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping.

Environment-related offences fell in 2018; 8 states buck trend

News: National Crime Records Bureau released data on environmental crimes in Annual Crime in India report 2018


Key takeaways

  • Environmental crimes dropped 17% in 2018
  • Tamil Nadu topped the list, followed by Rajasthan and Kerala
  • almost two-thirds of such violations were that of the cigarette and tobacco-related law

Additional Information:

Environmental Crimes:

The offences related to eight acts:

  • The Forest Act, 1927: It consolidates the law related to forest, the transit of forest produce, and the duty liable on timber and other forest produce
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: It provides for protection of plants and animal species.
  • The Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986: It relates to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property.
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981: It provides for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974: It is a comprehensive legislation that regulates agencies responsible for checking on water pollution
  • The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003: It prohibits advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India. Smoking in public places (including indoor workplaces) is prohibited
  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010: It established NGT to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues
  • Central and state noise pollution acts

Agreement to settle Bru refugees in Tripura inked

News:The Centre, the governments of Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of Bru tribe has signed a new agreement to settle the Bru refugees in Tripura.


About Bru Refugees:

  • Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India living mostly across Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
  • Brus speak the Reang dialect of Bru language which is Tibeto Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.
  • The Hojagiri folk dance of Reang sub tribe is well known all over the world.The most popular festival of reang tribes is Buisu.

About the conflict:

  • In Mizoram,the Bru community have been targeted by the groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state. 
  • In 1997,following ethic clashes, Brus fled from Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura.Since then,thousands of Bru refugees are living in the six relief camps in North Tripura.

About the agreement:

  • According to the agreement, the Bru tribals will now be settled in the state of Tripura.
  • The Centre has also sanctioned  600-crore rupee package for the rehabilitation of the people from this community.
  • The Bru refugees will also get a 40 x 30 feet plot along with a fixed deposit of four lakh rupees, cash assistance of  five thousand rupees per month for two years and free ration.

Indo-Japanese joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ begins off Chennai Coast

News:The Coast Guards of India and Japan took part in a joint exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ off the Chennai coast.


About Sahyog-kaijin:

  • Exercise Sahyog-Kaijin is a joint exercise between India and Japanese Coast Guards.
  • The exercise is aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties and mutual understanding between the two coast guards. 
  • It also aims to enhance interoperability in communication, search and rescue procedures and sharing of best practices. 

Additional information:

Other exercises between India and Japan:

  • JIMEX- It is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Japan naval forces,
  • Exercise Malabar– It is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Exercise DHARMA GUARDIAN-It is an annual joint military exercise between Indian and Japan since 2018.
  • Exercise MINEX– The exercise is an annual Mine Countermeasure Exercise between Indian and Japan naval forces.

Explained: What is NIA Act, and why is Chhattisgarh challenging it?

News:The Chhattisgarh state government has moved the Supreme Court against the 2008 National Investigative Agency(NIA) Actnstating it is violative of the Constitution.


About the NIA Act,2008:

  • National Investigation Agency(NIA) is a central counter terrorism agency established by the Indian Government under the National Investigative Agency (NIA) Act,2008.
  • The Act makes the NIA the only truly federal agency in the country along the lines of the FBI in the United States and more powerful than the CBI.
  • It gives the NIA powers to take suo motu cognizance of terror activities in any part of India and register a case to enter any state without permission from the state government and to investigate and arrest people.

Chhattisgarh Government objections:

  • The Chhattisgarh government has said that the Act is ultra vires of the Constitution and beyond the legislative competence of the Parliament.
  • The Act allows the Centre to create an agency for investigation which is a function of the state police.‘Police’ is an entry in the State List of the Constitution’s 7th Schedule.
  • The act also leave no room of coordination and pre-condition of consent, in any form whatsoever by the Centre from the State govt. which clearly repudiates the idea of state sovereignty as envisaged under the Constitution.

Additional information:

About NIA Amendment Bill,2019:

  • Parliament has passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill,2019.
  • The bill enable NIA to additionally investigate offences related to (a)human trafficking (b)counterfeit currency (c)manufacture or sale of prohibited arms (d)cyber-terrorism and (e)offences under the Explosive Substances Act,1908.
  • It also gives NIA officers the power to investigate offences committed outside India.But the NIA’s jurisdiction will be subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.
  • Further,the bill also enables the Central government to designate sessions courts as special courts for such trials.

Defence minister flags off 51st K9 VAJRA-T Gun

News:Defence Minister has flagged off the 51st K-9 Vajra-T gun at the Larsen and Toubro Armoured Systems Complex at Hazira, Surat. 


About K-9 Vajra:

  • The K9 Vajra has been developed by Larsen and Toubro(L&T) Armoured Systems.
  • It has been developed under the Buy Global programme of Defence Procurement Procedure(DPP) where foreign companies are allowed to participate.In this case Hanwha Techwin of South Korea is the technology partner of L&T.

Features of K-9 Vajra:

  • The K9 Vajra is a tracked self-propelled howitzer which has its roots in the K9 Thunder which is the mainstay of the South Korean Army.
  • It weighs 50 tonnes and can fire 47kg bombs at 43-kilometre distant targets.It can also turn around at zero radius. 
  • The gun offers a high rate of fire at a long range and is compatible with Indian and standard NATO ammunition.

Additional information:

About Defence Procurement Procedure,2016:

  • The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP-2016) had replaced the DPP-2013 based on the recommendations of the Dhirendra Singh Committee.
  • The procedure aims to develop world-class domestic defence and aerospace industry by promoting indigenous design, development and manufacturing of defence equipment, platforms, systems and subsystems.

Explained: Why a virus detected in Australian mosquitoes has been named Yada Yada

News:Recently,a virus detected in Australian mosquitoes has been provisionally named the Yada Yada virus(YYV).


About Yada Yada Virus:

  • Yada Yada Virus belongs to the group alphavirus.The virus has been detected in Australian mosquitoes.
  • The virus poses no threat to human beings because it is a part of a group of viruses that only infect mosquitoes.
  • The other viruses which are part of the group alphaviruses includes Tai forest alphavirus and the Agua Salud alphavirus.

DESMI Waste Water management project

News:Foreign Minister of Denmark has visited the Barapullah DESMI Waste Water Management Project Site in New Delhi.


About DESMI Waste Water Management Project:

  • It is a holistic clean up project between Department of Biotechnology (DBT).Ministry of Science & Technology and DESMI EnviRO-CLEAN, Denmark.
  • The aim of the project is to trap the floating debris from the drain and convert it into value added products. 
  • The purpose of this project is also to prove the sustainability of the process with suitable gasification/ carbonisation technology to mitigate waste of mixed feedstock, collected from rivers or lakes besides reducing the damage to the local environment.
  • The Barapullah drain was chosen for this project because of the high population density, water scarcity and size of the waste water flow which makes it an excellent location for research in the area of wastewater management.

Key Features of the project:

  • Percentage of floating debris will reduce in Barapullah drain
  • Sustainable source of energy can be produced on site
  • Benefitting local environment and community
  • Local employment
  • Clean Indian Rivers
  • Project leads and Research benefits the water, energy and waste sector of India
  • Supporting local manufacturing Industry – Make in India.

Harmonised System of Nomenclature(HSN) code

News:Union Minister of Commerce & Industry has said that no imports will be allowed into the country without HSN code.


Why stricter regulations?

  • The minister said that the free trade agreements(FTA) of India with other countries has not led to the growth of India’s trade because of the poor quality of the products and services that get restricted with non-tariff barriers.
  • He further elaborated on this point with the number of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) in countries like US (8000), Brazil (3879), China (2872) and India with only 439 TBTs.
  • Hence,he said that the manner in which India and rest of the world are looking at the concept of quality in products and services are completely different.

About HSN Code:

  • The Harmonized System is a six-digit identification code.It was introduced in 1988 by World Customs Organization(WCO).
  • The code is used by various countries as a basis for their Customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics.
  • The code is also called as the universal economic language for goods.It is a multipurpose international product nomenclature.

Significance of the code:

  • Around 200 countries use the system as a basis for their customs tariffs, gathering international trade statistics, making trade policies and for monitoring goods.
  • The system helps in harmonising of customs and trade procedures thus reducing costs in international trade.
  • It also helps in the better reach of the product and increases its global popularity.

1st Session of India-Norway Dialogue on Trade & Investment

News:The first Session of India-Norway Dialogue on Trade & Investment (DTI) was convened in New Delhi on 15-16 January, 2020.


About the Dialogue:

  • India and Norway signed Dialogue of Trade and Investment when Norway Prime Minister visited India in 2019.
  • Based on the agreement,the countries held their first meeting to discuss trade and investment.
  • The discussions included on various areas such as renewable energy, ICT, fisheries, MSME, maritime, shipping among others.

India-Norway Relations:

  • India and Norway have been enjoying a cordial and friendly relationship since the establishment of relations in 1947.
  • The total bilateral trade between India and Norway stands around $1.1 billion in 2015-16.
  • Further,the cumulative FDI equity inflows to India from Norway during April, 2000 to September, 2019 were around USD257 million.
  • Apart from trade, diplomatic ties with Norway is important for India for its Arctic research.India has two important research stations in Norway, namely the Himadri and IndARC.

About Himadri:

  • Himadri is India’s first permanent Arctic research station located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.It was inaugurated in 2008 by the Minister of Earth Sciences.
  • The primary aim of research includes research on aerosol radiation, space weather, food-web dynamics, microbial communities, glaciers, sedimentology and carbon recycling.

About IndARC:

  • IndARC is India’s first underwater moored observatory in the Arctic region. 
  • It was deployed in 2014 at Kongsfjorden fjord, Svalbard, Norway which is midway between Norway and the North Pole.
  • Its research goal is to study the Arctic climate and its influence on the monsoon.

Suspension of the Internet: What the Rules say, what the SC underlined

News:In Kashmir communication lockdown case,the Supreme Court has ruled that suspending Internet services indefinitely is impermissible under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules,2017.


About Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules,2017:

  • The rules have been framed by the government on the basis of the powers conferred by section 7 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
  • The rules are to be followed if the government intends to temporarily suspend telecom services in any part of the country during a public emergency or for public safety.
  • According to these rules, only the Home Secretary of the country and a secretary of a state’s home department can pass such an order.
  • These rules also state that any such order should be taken up by a review committee within five days.

What did the petitioner argued?

  • The petitioner argued that the internet shutdown in Kashmir was not compliant with the Rules as the (a)rules require the suspension to be temporary and (b)order claims a law-and-order danger as opposed to a public order danger specified in the Rules.

About the Supreme Court ruling:

  • The court said that the rules require the order to be in accordance with The Telegraph Act as the order must be during a public emergency or in the interest of public safety.
  • The court also said that suspending Internet services indefinitely is impermissible under the rules.It could be done for temporary duration only and the same is subject to judicial review.
  • Hence,the court ordered the government to review its order ruling that the freedom of speech and trade on the Internet is a fundamental right.
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