Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has developed a
strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito into which Wolbachia, a naturally
occurring bacteria, is introduced.
The mosquito variant has been named the Puducherry strain. It
was developed by ICMR in collaboration with World Mosquito Program of
Monash University, Australia.
Wolbachia bacteria is introduced into male and female Aedes
aegypti mosquitoes in the laboratory and released into the wild. Once
Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes are released, they breed with wild
Over time, the majority of mosquitoes carry Wolbachia. These
mosquitoes have a reduced ability to transmit viruses to people. Thus, it
reduces the risk of Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever outbreaks.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary vector that transmit
the Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses.
The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has asked all
States and Union Territories to set up emergency response sanitation units
The ERSUs are to set up in capital cities of each State/UT and
in all major cities having a municipal corporation and/or water and
sewerage board with population of more than one lakh.
The ERSUs would include trained cleaners wearing protective
gear. The district Magistrate or municipal commissioner would be
designated as the Responsible Sanitation Authority, which would organise
the staff for the ERSU.
Those trained, equipped and certified as sewer entry
professionals would be the only ones allowed to enter sewers and septic
The decision to set up ERSUs comes in the backdrop of recent
incidents of workers dying while cleaning sewers and septic tanks as
private individuals, local bodies and contractors force people to enter
sewers and tanks.
Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their
Rehabilitation Act 2013 prohibit employment as manual scavengers. It also
prohibits hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
According to a UN report titled “The State of Food Security and
Nutrition in the World”, more than 820 million people had suffered from
hunger worldwide in 2018.
The report was prepared by the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) and other United Nations agencies including the World
Health Organization (WHO).
The report said that globally hunger is increasing in many
countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income
countries and those that rely heavily on commodity trade.
The report also found that income inequality is rising in many
of the countries where hunger is on the rise making it even more difficult
for the poor, vulnerable or marginalised to cope with economic slowdowns
The report also says that after decades of decline,
malnutrition has began to increase in 2015 mainly because of climate
change and war.
In Asia, despite great progress in the last five years, South
Asia is still the subregion where the prevalence of undernourishment is highest
at almost 15%.
The report has also noted that poverty rates have declined
between 3% and 6% per year in countries such as El Salvador, Ghana, India,
Tunisia and Uganda.
The report says that the prevalence of undernourishment in
India has declined from 22.2% in 2004-06 to 14.5% between 2016 and 2018. However,
the number of adults (18 years and older) who are obese in India has grown
from 24.1 million in 2012 to 32.8 million in 2016.
Further, it says that in the Indian Himalayas, economic
slowdown coupled with natural resource depletion and climate change has
negatively impacted on food production and employment opportunities. This
resulted in increased threats to food security due to lower purchasing
The Centre and the Assam government has moved to the Supreme
Court urging an extension of the July 31st 2019 deadline
for submission of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The Centre has also sought a 20 % sample re-verification of
names included in the final draft of the NRC in the districts bordering
Bangladesh and a 10% sample re-verification in the remaining districts.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which
contains the name of all citizens of India residing in Assam. It was first
prepared in 1951.
Currently, the NRC is being updated in Assam to address the
issue of illegal migrants. It seeks to identify illegal migrants in Assam
who had entered the state on or after 25th March 1971.
The update is being carried out under the Citizenship Act,
1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord, 1985.
The draft Assam NRC was published on July 30, 2018 in which the
names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included.
According to the government, more than 300 Centrally-protected
monuments and sites, including World Heritage Sites, across India are
Among the monuments that have encroachments are Purana Qila in
Delhi, Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, Sun Temple in Konark in Odisha and
Brahma Temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan.
However, the government has assured that proactive steps have
been taken by the Archaeological Survey of India under the provisions of
the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMSAR) Act,
1958 and Rules, 1959 to curb encroachment.
The AMSAR Act provides for the preservation of ancient and
historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national
importance. It also provides for the regulation of archaeological
excavations and for the protection of sculptures, carvings and other like
The AMSAR Act, 1958 was amended in 2010. The AMASR (Amendment
and Validation) Act, 2010 prescribes the limits of regulated and prohibited
It states that no building activity is allowed in the
‘prohibited zone’ which is within 100 meters from the notified limits of
200 meters further from the borders of the 100 meter prohibited
zone is the ‘regulated area’. Here some building, repair and restoration
activity is allowed with permission from the Competent Authority.
Hawaii is set to begin the construction of the Thirty Meter
The project was first launched in 2015 but the construction was
halted as protesters claimed damage to the mountain. However, Hawaii’s top
court has ruled that observatory’s construction permit is valid paving the
way for work to restart on Mauna Kea.
Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is
a proposed astronomical observatory with an extremely large telescope
(ELT).It has a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 30 meters.
It is getting built at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA.
TMT will enable astronomers to study the Universe with
exceptional detail right up to the first formation of stars and galaxies.
It will also give finer details of not-so-far-away objects such as
undiscovered planets and other objects in the Solar System and planets
around other stars.
The telescope will be built and operated by a consortium of
institutions from the USA, Japan, China, India and Canada. India will
contribute about 10% of the cost of building the telescope and
The Indian participation will be funded by the Department of
Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).The
DST will be the coordinating department for the project.
According to data by the WHO and UNICEF, One in 10 children
which is almost 20 million globally has missed out on life saving vaccines
The report also showed that an additional 1.5 million deaths
could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improved.
The main factors which are hindering the spread of vaccination
worldwide are war and under-investment in national immunisation
The report says that the global protection against four
diseases namely diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles has stalled at
around 86 % since 2010.Ideally,it should be 95 % across countries and
Further, the data provides that ten countries accounted for
11.7 of the 19.4 million under and non-vaccinated children in the world in
particular Nigeria (three million), India (2.6 million) and Pakistan (1.4
The best regional performer for vaccine reach in 2018 was
Europe with more than 90 % coverage rate. However, Africa was the lowest
The data also provides that some 350,000 measles cases were
reported globally last year which is more than double the 2017 number.
Ukraine has been identified as the country with the highest measles
incidence rate in 2018.
The Rajya Sabha has passed the Airports Economic Regulatory
Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
The bill amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of
India Act, 2008. The Act established the Airports Economic Regulatory
Authority of India (AERA).
The AERA regulates tariffs and other charges for aeronautical
services provided at civilian airports with annual traffic above 15 lakh
passengers. It also monitors the performance standard of services
across these airports.
The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic
for major airports to over 35 lakh.
The Bill allows AERA to bid out any new airport at a
pre-determined tariff structure.
The Bill adds that AERA will not determine: a) the tariff, b)
tariff structures, or c) the development fees, in certain cases. These
cases include those where such tariff amounts were a part of the bid document
on the basis of which the airport operations were awarded.
The Minister of Culture has informed the Lok Sabha about the
Seva Bhoj Yojana.
Seva Bhoj Yojna is a Central
Sector Scheme to provide reimbursement of CGST and Central Government’s
share of IGST paid by charitable and religious institutions on purchase of
specific raw food items for serving free food to public or
Under the scheme,the financial assistance will be provided for
free food offered by charitable/religious institutions like Gurudwara,
Temples, Dharmik Ashram, Mosques, Dargah, Church, Math, Monasteries among
The specific raw food items covered under the Scheme are: (i)
Ghee (ii) Edible Oil (iii) Sugar/Burra/Jaggery (iv) Rice (v)
Atta/Maida/Rava/Flour and (vi) Pulses.
These Charitable Religious Institutions should have been
distributing free food in the form of ‘prasad’, ‘langar’/bhandara
(community kitchen) to at least 5000 persons in a calendar month for at
least the past 3 years.
Further, Financial Assistance under the scheme shall be given
only to those institutions which are not in receipt of any Financial
Assistance from the Central /State Government for the purpose of
distributing free food.
The Institution/Organization blacklisted under the provisions
of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) or under the provisions of
any Act/Rules of the Central/State Government shall also not be eligible
for Financial Assistance under the Scheme.
Government is set to roll out rotavirus vaccine in
the universal immunisation programme across all states by September
As part of the exercise, all 2.6 crore children born annually
in India will be eligible to receive free of cost the vaccine that will
protect them from diarrhoea.
The vaccine is currently being administered in Himachal
Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Rajasthan,
Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. By September, all remaining 25 states and
Union Territories will be covered under the programme.
This initiative is one of the three 100-day targets identified
by the Union Health Ministry. The other targets are to start a programme
for setting up of at least one medical college or postgraduate medical
institute public or private in every district in the country.
The Ministry also plans to ban e-cigarettes. Nine
states has already prohibited the sale, manufacture, distribution and
import of e-cigarettes.
According to a report prepared by WHO, e-cigarettes emit nicotine which
is the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition, nicotine can
have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and
may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Rotavirus is the most common
cause of severe diarrhea among infants and children throughout the world.
Rotavirus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route via contact with
contaminated hands, surfaces and objects and possibly by the respiratory
Union Government has said that over 30 lakh persons have been
enrolled under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Scheme (PM-SYM).
Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan (PM-SYM) scheme was announced in the interim budget 2019.
Under the scheme, an assured monthly pension of Rs.3000 rupees
per month is provided to workers in the unorganised sector after 60 years
An unorganized sector worker whose monthly income is Rs 15,000/
per month or less and belong to the age group of 18-40 years are eligible
for the scheme.
To avail the scheme, workers have to contribute an amount
ranging from ₹55 to ₹100 each month depending on their age at the time of
joining the scheme. Government will also deposit equal matching share in
the account of the worker every month.
The pension scheme comes with certain conditions such as
Informal workers already covered under the National Pension Scheme, the
Employees’ State Insurance Corporation Scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund
Scheme are not eligible and income tax payers are also not eligible under
During the receipt of pension, if the beneficiary dies, the
spouse of the beneficiary will be entitled to receive 50% of the pension
received by the beneficiary as family pension. This family pension is
applicable only to the spouse of the beneficiary.
In case, the beneficiary dies before the age of 60, his/her
spouse will be entitled to join and continue or exit/withdraw from the
scheme provided the beneficiary had given regular contribution.
The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on petitions filed
by the rebel legislators of the ruling government in Karnataka.
The plea seeks a directive to the speaker of the Karnataka
state assembly to decide on their resignations from the Legislative
During the hearing, Supreme Court said that the position and
powers of the Speaker after the enactment of the anti-defection law in
1985 may require a re-look.
The anti-defection law is contained in the
10th Schedule of the Constitution. It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.
It came into effect on 1st March 1985.
The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political
defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state
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.
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.
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
Brazil, Australia and Guatemala’s has requested World Trade
Organization (WTO) to set up a Dispute settlement panel (DSB) against
India’s sugar subsidies.
The countries have said that most subsidies to sugar producers
in India violate WTO rules. Several subsidies such as the State-level
export subsidies for sugar, Central assistance and export incentives were
inconsistent with the WTO rules.
The countries have also complained that India has almost
doubled the Fair and Remunerative Price for sugarcane and pointed out that
mandating the mills to export 5 million tonnes of sugar in 2018-19 had led
to substantial pricing pressures on world market prices.
However, India is likely to point out that most of its
subsidies to sugar producers were in the form of production subsidies that
were permissible under the WTO.
Moreover, the subsidies to exporters given for exports were for
transportation and marketing purposes which are permitted by the WTO.
Further, India is likely to block the request for a panel when
it is taken up by the DSB in its meeting as India believes that it has not
violated WTO rules.
WTO allows panel requests to be blocked by the affected member
once and if the complainants persist and the same request is given for a
second time, then the dispute settlement panels are set up.
Jalyukta Shivar is the
flagship programme of the Maharashtra government. It was launched in
December 2014.It aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity.
The scheme targets drought-prone areas by improving water
conservation measures in order to make them more water sustainable.
The scheme envisaged to arrest maximum run-off water especially
during the monsoon months in village areas known to receive less rainfall
Under the scheme, decentralised water bodies were installed at
various locations within villages to enhance groundwater recharge. Besides,
it has also proposed to strengthen and rejuvenate water storage capacity
and percolation of tanks and other sources of storage.
The scheme also provides for dedicated committees to assist in
the construction of watersheds like farm ponds, cement nullah bunds
alongside rejuvenating the existing water bodies in the villages.
The scheme has helped in making 11,000 villages drought-free.
The water storage capacity has been improved to 1.6 lakh Trillion Cubic
Further, the overall agriculture productivity has also jumped
up 30 to 50% from areas where the intervention measures reached. Importantly,
the water tanker dependency in these areas has also dropped.
British Prime Minister has announced the creation of a new
40-million pound Fast-Track Start-up Fund.
The fund will invest in Indian start-ups which focuses on
India’s emerging technology enterprises. The fund will be supported by
both the UK and Indian governments as part of the wider UK India-Tech
The two countries has also launched three new bilateral working
groups to tackle remaining barriers to trade in (a) food and drink (b) life
sciences and (c) healthcare, digital and data services.
The three groups will identify solutions to the key issues in
each sector, making recommendations directly to the UK and Indian ministers.
These groups were launched as part of the 13th Joint Economic and Trade Committee
(JETCO) meeting in UK.
The India – UK JETCO was established on 13th January, 2005 to
further develop a strategic economic relationship and nurture business led
vehicles to enhance bilateral trade and investment.
JETCO provides a forum to
United Kingdom companies to enhance their links and develop new
partnerships with India business and decision-makers.
Finance minister has informed the Parliament that Gross non-performing
assets(NPA) of scheduled commercial banks has declined by Rs 1.02 lakh
crore to Rs 9.34 lakh crore in 2018-19.
Non-performing assets (NPA) is a loan or advance for which the
principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days.
The decline in number of bad loans is a result of government’s
4Rs strategy which is recognition, resolution, recapitalisation and
The other measures taken the government includes (a) directions
to banks to examine all NPA accounts above Rs 50 crore from the angle of
possible fraud (b) enactment of Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018 (c) creation
of Central Fraud Registry (d) empowering heads of Public Sector Banks to
request for issue of Look Out Circular.
The minister also informed that other steps under the banking
reform process such as a board-approved loan policies in public sector
banks, and use of third party data sources for comprehensive due diligence
across data sources have been put in place to check frauds.
Further, strict monitoring in cases of high-value loans,
deployment of specialised monitoring agencies for loans above Rs 250 crore
have been set up to ensure timely and better realisation of settlements.