9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 12, 2019

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India urges Commonwealth to readmit Maldives as member

  1. India has called for fast-tracking the process of readmitting Maldives into the Commonwealth.
  2. Maldives had left the Commonwealth in 2016 at the height of political turmoil in the country. However, the situation in Maldives changed in 2018 when a new president came to power.
  3. Commonwealth of Nations is an international intergovernmental organization of countries that were mostly former territories of the British Empire and dependencies.
  4. Commonwealth was established by the London Declaration in 1949. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Commonwealth.
  5. The current membership includes 53 Countries. The membership is based on free and equal voluntary cooperation.
  6. The member states of the commonwealth are not legally liable or bound to each other. They are rather united by language, history, culture, likeness of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Study in India’ programme to encourage flow of inbound international students in India

  1. Government has announced a programme called ‘Study in India’. The  programme aims to attract foreign students to pursue higher education in the country.
  2. The objectives of the programme includes (a) to make India a preferred education destination/hub for foreign students (b) improve the soft power of India with a focus on the neighbouring countries and use it as a tool in diplomacy (c) to increase India’s market share of global education exports (e) improvement in overall quality of higher education and (f) increase in global ranking of India.
  3. The programme will focus on attracting International students from select 30 plus countries across South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa. 
  4. The programme envisages participation of select reputed Indian institutes/universities by way of offering seats for the International students at affordable rates.
  5. Moreover, the programme also envisages (a) setting up of call centres for support (b) algorithm for allocation of seats to the meritorious candidates (c) selection of top 100 partner institutions on the basis of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grading and National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranking (d) branding activities in the target countries and (e) close coordination with Indian missions abroad and foreign missions in India
  6. The programme will also help domestic students to be exposed to a more diverse peer group and will also help to get greater International exposure culminating in enhanced interest of Indian students to study in the country.

Lifting 271 mn out of poverty in 10 yrs,India fastest,Jharkhand No.1 area: UN

  1. According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), India has lifted 271 million out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16.
  2. This has significantly helped in reducing deprivations in many of the ten indicators particularly in assets, cooking fuel, sanitation and nutrition.
  3. The report has stated that among the selected countries with a significant reduction in MPI value, India has reduced the multidimensional poverty the fastest in absolute terms.
  4. The report cites Jharkhand which has reduced multidimensional poverty from 74.9% to 46.5% in the ten years since 2005-06 as an example of the poorest region improving the fastest.
  5. The index says that India was among the countries where poverty reduction in rural areas outpaced that in urban areas which is an indicator of pro-poor development.
  6. As per Index, 1.3 billion people in the world are still multidimensionally poor. It says that level of Inequality and poverty is very high in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  7. Further, the index says that one in every three children under the age of 10 and every second child below the age of 18 years is still multi dimensionally poor in the world.
  8. The Global MPI Report is prepared by the United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.
  9. The report measures multidimensional poverty index (MPI) which can be broken down to show (a) Who is poor: Poverty rate as a percentage of the population and (b) How they are poor: Intensity as the average share of deprivations that poor people experience. The product of these two is MPI.
  10. The criterion for someone to be declared as deprived as per MPI are as follows :(a) Education (year of schooling, child enrollment) (b) Health (child mortality, nutrition) and (c) Standard of living (electricity, drinking water, sanitation, flooring, cooking fuel, assets). A person is multidimensionally poor if she/he is deprived in one third or more (means 33% or more) of the weighted indicators (out of the ten indicators).

Payment service providers fear shutdown,ask govt to pay MDR

  1. Payment Council of India (PCI) has said that the budget proposal to remove the merchant discount rate (MDR) will lead to the collapse of the payment acquiring industry.
  2. MDR is a fee charged from a merchant by a bank for accepting payments from customers through credit and debit cards in their establishments.
  3. Currently, there is a provision to get a merchant discount rate of up to two percent on every digital transaction which helps the intermediaries recover the cost of setting up the infrastructure.
  4. However, the budget has proposed that zero MDR will be applicable to businesses with a turnover of ₹50 crore that facilitate low-cost digital payment modes such as BHIM, UPI, QR code among others.
  5. Further, experts have said that this proposal will affect non-bank payment service providers (PSPs) like aggregators/processors who will be forced to shut down if there is no commercial model.
  6. Payment providers have also said that multiple digital payments reports over decades have also never recommended zero MDR. They have said various reports have recommended market-based pricing with support and focus to drive merchant acquiring. 
  7. The recent RBI Vision 2019-21 document has also recommended creating some additional efficiency wherever possible in costs and not eliminating the MDR.
  8. The Payments Council of India (PCI) was formed under the aegis of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in the year 2013 catering to the needs of the digital payment industry.
  9. The Council was formed for the purposes of representing the various regulated non-banking payment industry players, to address and help resolve various industry level issues and barriers which require discussion and action.

Maritime Anti-Corruption Network starts port integrity campaign in India

  1. Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) has announced the launch of a Port Integrity Campaign in India.
  2. The campaign aims to reduce and in the long term eliminate integrity issues and bottlenecks to trade during operations in Indian ports.
  3. The campaign is a collective action of MACN, the Government of India, international organizations and local industry stakeholders.
  4. The pilot project of the campaign will take place in Mumbai ports and will run until October, 2019.Following the pilot, MACN plans to expand the program to other Indian ports.
  5. The main activities of the campaign include implementation of integrity training for port officials and the establishment of clear escalation and reporting processes.
  6. MACN is a global business network of over 110 companies working to tackle corruption in the maritime industry. It was established in 2011 by a small group of committed maritime companies.

Indian scientists develop wonder material ‘black gold’

  1. Indian scientists from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have developed a new material called “Black gold”.
  2. This material was developed using gold nanoparticles. This material can potentially be used for applications ranging from solar energy harvesting to desalinating seawater.
  3. The new material has unique properties such as capacity to absorb light and carbon dioxide (CO2).Gold does not have these properties.
  4. Black gold has the ability to absorb the entire visible and near-infrared region of solar light. It does so because of inter-particle plasmonic coupling as well as heterogeneity in nanoparticle size.
  5. Black gold could also act as a catalyst and could convert CO2 into methane at atmospheric pressure and temperature using solar energy.
  6. The material can also be used as a nano-heater to convert seawater into potable water with good efficiency.

U.S., India to begin formal talks on trade on July 12

  1. Indian and United States Trade Representative (USTR) will meet to discuss various trade, economic issues and also to strengthen bilateral relations.
  2. This meeting comes after US President and Indian PM had agreed that trade issues need to be discussed and trade ministers of both countries should meet to resolve issues.
  3. The talks between the two countries had come to a standstill when both countries initiated trade measures against each other.
  4. India had imposed long pending retaliatory tariffs on 29 US products after US had withdrawn Generalized system of preferences (GSP) for Indian exporters.
  5. 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.
  6. The trade between India and the US was worth $142.1 billion in 2018, with India having a surplus of $24.2 billion.
  7. Further, the US and India has issues that needs to be resolved such as (a)India’s Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally (b)Price controls on medical devices(Cardiac stents) (c)Tariff on ICT products (d)Lack of greater market access for the US dairy industry and (e)India’s e-commerce policy.

Kerala to set up investment firm for NRIs

  1. Kerala has announced its plan to set up a diaspora investment company known as NRK Investment and Holding Company.
  2. The company will have a 74% stake of non-resident Keralites and a 26% government stake.
  3. This objective of the company will be fund infrastructure projects and NRI townships in the state. The projects planned under ‘Rebuild Kerala’ initiative will also be a priority for the new company.
  4. Rebuild Kerala is a Kerala State Government initiative for crowd funding of projects envisaged for rebuilding Kerala. The virtual platform provides an opportunity for all willing individuals and institutions to contribute to the rebuilding measures.
  5. This initiative has been launched after the unprecedented flood havoc in 2019 that had left Kerala in immeasurable misery and devastation.

Agent Smith’ malware infected 15 million Android devices in India

  1. According to cyber security firm, it has discovered a dangerous malware dubbed as ‘Agent Smith’.
  2. The Malware has affected 25 million devices around the world. India was one of the worst affected nations with 15 million devices.
  3. The malware exploits vulnerabilities within the Android operating system to automatically replace installed apps with a malicious version without the user realising.
  4. The new version then displays fraudulent ads for financial gain, though it could be used for more dangerous purposes such as stealing bank details or spying on someone through their camera or microphone.
  5. Malware which means malicious software refers to any kind of software that is designed to cause damage to a single computer, server or computer network
  6. It is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive malicious software including computer viruses,  worms,  trojan horses,  spyware, ransomware among others.

Bengal port records country’s highest sea level rise in 50 years

  1. According to data by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Diamond Harbour in West Bengal has recorded the maximum sea level increase out of the major ports in India.
  2. The data says that sea level rise in the country has been estimated to be 1.3 mm/year along India’s coasts during the last 40-50 years. On the other hand, Diamond Harbour rise was almost five times higher at 5.16 mm per year.
  3. The data also says that the four ports in India namely (a) Diamond Harbour, (b) Kandla port (c) Haldia port and (d) Port Blair Port has recorded a higher sea level rise than the global average of 1.8 mm per year during the last 40-50 years.
  4. Further, the experts have said that the sea-level rise is higher in West Bengal particularly in the Sunderbans delta because of the deltaic sediment deposition as a result of the mixing of freshwater and saline water.
  5. According to the fifth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the reason for sea level rise is said to be linked with global warming.
  6. The studies over Indian region have also shown a warming trend of 0.6°C on all India average basis mainly contributed by maximum temperatures.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe makes touchdown on asteroid

  1. Hayabusa2 spacecraft has successfully touched down for the second time on the asteroid Ryugu. The successful touch down is the second for the space probe.
  2. In February, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft had successfully touched down on the asteroid Ryugu. It had then collected some surface fragments.
  3. Hayabusa 2 is a Japanese spacecraft launched in December 2014 on a six-year mission. It seeks to study the asteroid Ryugu and to collect samples to bring to Earth for analysis. It will bring the asteroid sample to Earth in 2020.
  4. Asteroid Ryugu is a near-Earth object and a potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group. A near-Earth object (NEO) is any small Solar System body whose orbit brings it to proximity with Earth.
  5. The Apollo asteroids are a group of near-Earth asteroids named after 1862 Apollo. 1862 Apollo is an asteroid discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in 1930s.
  6. The Hayabusa2 mission is a follow-up to Japan’s original Hayabusa mission which took samples from asteroid Itokawa. It was the first spacecraft to take samples from an asteroid and also the first mission to successfully land and take off from an asteroid.

Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana

  1. Delhi government’s Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana has been launched. It is a fully-funded pilgrimage trip for senior citizens by the state government.
  2. Under the scheme, the government will bear the entire expenditure for all ‘yatris’, including air conditioned train travel, accommodation, meals, boarding and lodging and other arrangements.
  3. 1,100 senior citizens from each Assembly Constituency per year will be able to undertake free pilgrimages.
  4. It is estimated that on an average the scheme will incur a cost of Rs 7,000 per pilgrim. The pilgrimage duration will be of three days and two nights.
  5. Any resident of Delhi above 60 years of age will be eligible for the scheme. The applicant should not have an income of above Rs 3 lakh/ annum and should not be an employee of Central/state/local government or autonomous bodies.
  6. The pilgrimage can be undertaken on the circuits of a) Delhi-Mathura-Vrindavan-Agra-Fatehpur Sikri-Delhi; b) Delhi-Haridwar-Rishikesh-Neelkanth-Delhi; c) Delhi-Ajmer-Pushkar-Delhi; d) Delhi-Amritsar-Wagah border-Anandpur Sahib-Delhi; and e) Delhi-Vaishno Devi-Jammu-Delhi.

Government approves launch of third phase of rural road programme

  1. The government has approved the launch of Phase-3 of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The scheme is under the aegis of Ministry of Rural Development.
  2. Under the PMGSY-III Scheme, the government has proposed to consolidate roads measuring 1.25 lakh km in length in the states.
  3. Further, construction of bridges of up to 150m in plain areas and 200 m in Himalayan and north eastern states have been proposed
  4. It involves consolidation of through routes and major rural links connecting habitations to Gramin agricultural markets (GrAMs), higher secondary schools and hospitals
  5. The duration of the 3rd phase will be of five years till 2024-25.
  6. PMGSY was launched in 2000. It aims to provide connectivity, by way of an All-weather Road to the eligible unconnected habitations of designated population size (500+ in plain areas and 250+ in North-East, hill, tribal and desert areas). By providing connectivity, the scheme seeks to boost socio-economic development of the areas.

Cabinet approves Grant of Organized Group ‘A’ Status to Indian Railway Protection Force (RPF) Service

  1. The Central government has accorded Group A Service status to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) that will ensure better service benefits for them.
  2. The Cabinet has also approved the extension of benefit under Non-Functional Financial Up gradation (NFFU) and Non-Functional Selection Grade (NFSG) to them.
  3. NFFU basically makes an officer eligible for higher salary in case he is not promoted due to lack of vacancies despite being eligible for promotion.
  4. The RPF is a security force established by the Railway Protection Force Act, 1957.It was established for the better protection and security of railway property.
  5. RPF has the power to search, arrest, investigate and prosecute but the ultimate power rests in the hands of the Government Railway Police. The force is under the authority of the Indian Ministry of Railways.

Anti-defection Law: What can disqualify a legislator

  1. The anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
  2. It was enacted by Parliament in 1985. It came into effect on 1st March 1985.
  3. The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  4. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  5. There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified: a) if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party and b) if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her action is not condoned by his party.
  6. There is an exception that has been provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification. The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.

Nagaland to frame RIIN norms after consultation

  1. The Nagaland government has said that the guidelines for implementing the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland would be framed in consultation with civil society groups and traditional tribal bodies.
  2. The RIIN is aimed at preparing a master list of all indigenous peoples. It is being prepared to stop the issuance of fake indigenous inhabitant certificates.
  3. December 1, 1963, the date on which Nagaland attained statehood is the base year for determining an indigenous inhabitant of the State.
  4. The exercise will be conducted through an extensive survey of residents in every village and ward in the state and will be based on existing official records. The list will be prepared under the supervision of each district administration.
  5. The exercise to prepare RIIN will begin on July 10 and will be completed within 60 days.

Draft model tenancy law proposes cap on security deposit, appointment of rent authority

  1. The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has put the draft of ‘The Model Tenancy Act, 2019’ in public domain.
  2. It must be noted that this is only a model act because since land is a state subject, states have the right to either adopt it or reject it.
  3. The aim of the Act is to balance the interest and rights of both the owners and tenants. It seeks to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises
  4. The draft law proposes to set up Rent authority in every state for the registration of all tenancy agreements. It has also proposed to set up a separate Rent court and Rent Tribunal for resolving tenancy-related disputes.
  5. The rent authority will be headed by a deputy collector-rank officer, and will be set up by district collectors with the approval of the respective state governments.
  6. The law states that both landlord and tenant will have to submit a copy of rent agreement to the district Rent Authority.
  7. The draft law has also proposed hefty penalty for tenants who fail to vacate the rented property after their tenancy has been terminated by order, notice or as per agreement.
  8. The law also states that the landowner has to give a notice in writing three months before revising rent.
  9. The model law has also fixed the security deposit to be paid by the tenant in advance, which will be a maximum of two months’ rent in case of residential property, and a minimum of one month’s rent in case of a non-residential property.
  10. According to the proposed law, a landowner cannot cut power and water supply in case of a dispute with the tenant.
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