9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 17, 2019

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In battle against spread of chikungunya and dengue, ICMR finds unlikely ally — bacteria

  1. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has developed a strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito into which Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacteria, is introduced.
  2. The mosquito variant has been named the Puducherry strain. It was developed by ICMR in collaboration with World Mosquito Program of Monash University, Australia.
  3. 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 mosquitoes.
  4. 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.
  5. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary vector that transmit the Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses.

Sewer deaths: Centre calls for quick response units

  1. The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has asked all States and Union Territories to set up emergency response sanitation units (ERSU).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Those trained, equipped and certified as sewer entry professionals would be the only ones allowed to enter sewers and septic tanks.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Google India’s ‘Internet Saathi’ programme to empower rural women

  1. The Internet Sathi Programme will be expanded in the villages of Punjab and Odisha.
  2. The Internet Sathi programme is an initiative by Google India and Tata Trusts. It was launched in 2015.
  3. The programme aims to facilitate digital literacy among women in rural India.
  4. Under the programme, women (Internet Sathis) are educated on how to use the internet. These women, in turn, impart training to other women in their community and neighbouring villages.
  5. The programme started as a pilot in Rajasthan. It has since then expanded to 2.6 lakh villages in 20 states.

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger:UN Report

  1. 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.
  2. The report was prepared by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO).
  3. 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.
  4. 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 and downturns.
  5. The report also says that after decades of decline, malnutrition has began to increase in 2015 mainly because of climate change and war. 
  6. 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%.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 power.

Centre, Assam move SC for sample re-verification of NRC

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The update is being carried out under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord, 1985.
  6. 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.

321 protected monuments, sites encroached upon, Rajya Sabha told

  1. According to the government, more than 300 Centrally-protected monuments and sites, including World Heritage Sites, across India are under encroachment.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 objects.
  5. The AMSAR Act, 1958 was amended in 2010. The AMASR (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 prescribes the limits of regulated and prohibited area.
  6. It states that no building activity is allowed in the ‘prohibited zone’ which is within 100 meters from the notified limits of the monument.
  7. 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 to begin construction of mega-telescope on July 15

  1. Hawaii is set to begin the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 observatory.
  6. 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.

Happiness UTSAV being celebrated by Delhi Govt from 16 to 30 July

  1. The Delhi government has decided to organise a 15-day “Happiness Utsav” across all government schools to celebrate completion of a year of introduction of its happiness curriculum.
  2. The Delhi government launched the Happiness Curriculum in state-run schools in 2018.
  3. The aim of the curriculum is to instil self-awareness, stimulate good mental health, character, and resilience in children and improve cognitive ability of the students.
  4. The curriculum includes meditation, moral values and mental exercises.
  5. The entire curriculum is purely activity-based and no formal examinations are conducted on it. However, a periodic assessment of children’s progress is made using a happiness index.

20 million children worldwide missed out on life-saving vaccines last year

  1. 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 in 2018.
  2. The report also showed that an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improved.
  3. The main factors which are hindering the spread of vaccination worldwide are war and under-investment in national immunisation programmes.
  4. 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 communities globally. 
  5. 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 million).
  6. The best regional performer for vaccine reach in 2018 was Europe with more than 90 % coverage rate. However, Africa was the lowest performing region.
  7. 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. 

Kan Sikul, Kan Huan – My School, my farm

  1. Kan Sikul, Kan Huan (My School, My Farm) is an initiative of District Administration of Lawngtlai, Mizoram.
  2. The aim of the initiative is to make every school, Anganwadi, Child care institution and hostel in Lawngtlai, self-sufficient in local variety of fruits and vegetables by March 2020.
  3. By doing so, the initiative seeks to reduce malnutrition among children. Lawngtlai has 35.3% stunted, 21.3% underweight and 5.9% severely wasted children under 5 — highest in Mizoram.
  4. The initiative is a convergence of Centre’s Poshan Abhiyan with regular activities of departments such as Agriculture and Horticulture.
  5. The Poshan Abhiyan is a multi-ministerial convergence mission with the vision to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.

Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Bill passed in Rajya Sabha

  1. The Rajya Sabha has passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  2. The bill amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008. The Act established the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA). 
  3. 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.
  4. The Bill increases the threshold of annual passenger traffic for major airports to over 35 lakh.
  5. The Bill allows AERA to bid out any new airport at a pre-determined tariff structure.
  6. 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.

Government of India is running Seva Bhoj Yojana

  1. The Minister of Culture has informed the Lok Sabha about the Seva Bhoj Yojana.
  2. 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 devotees.   
  3. 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 others.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Centre set to roll out rotavirus vaccination drive in all states by September this year

  1. Government is set to roll out rotavirus vaccine in the universal immunisation programme across all states by September 2019. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Ministry also plans to ban e-cigarettes. Nine states has already prohibited the sale, manufacture, distribution and import of e-cigarettes.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 route.

Over 30 lakh persons enrolled under PM Shram Yogi Maandhan Scheme till July 10

  1. Union Government has said that over 30 lakh persons have been enrolled under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Scheme (PM-SYM).
  2. Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan (PM-SYM) scheme was announced in the interim budget 2019.
  3. Under the scheme, an assured monthly pension of Rs.3000 rupees per month is provided to workers in the unorganised sector after 60 years of age.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 this scheme.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.

Supreme Court to rule today, says Speaker’s powers need relook

  1. The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on petitions filed by the rebel legislators of the ruling government in Karnataka.
  2. The plea seeks a directive to the speaker of the Karnataka state assembly to decide on their resignations from the Legislative assembly.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Brazil seeks WTO to set up dispute panel in case against India on sugar subsidy

  1. Brazil, Australia and Guatemala’s has requested World Trade Organization (WTO) to set up a Dispute settlement panel (DSB) against India’s sugar subsidies.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Moreover, the subsidies to exporters given for exports were for transportation and marketing purposes which are permitted by the WTO.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Explained: Jalyukta Shivar key for Maharashtra, but still has a long road ahead

  1. 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.
  2. The scheme targets drought-prone areas by improving water conservation measures in order to make them more water sustainable.
  3. The scheme envisaged to arrest maximum run-off water especially during the monsoon months in village areas known to receive less rainfall annually.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The scheme has helped in making 11,000 villages drought-free. The water storage capacity has been improved to 1.6 lakh Trillion Cubic Metre (TMC).
  7. 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.

UK marks India Day with new Fast-Track Start-Up Fund

  1. British Prime Minister has announced the creation of a new 40-million pound Fast-Track Start-up Fund.
  2. 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 Partnership.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. JETCO provides a forum to United Kingdom companies to enhance their links and develop new partnerships with India business and decision-makers.

Banks’ bad loans down at 9.34 lakh crore at FY19-end

  1. 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.
  2. Non-performing assets (NPA) is a loan or advance for which the principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days.
  3. The decline in number of bad loans is a result of government’s 4Rs strategy which is recognition, resolution, recapitalisation and reforms.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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