9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 22, 2019

World Bank study on PMGSY: ‘Rural roads scheme triggered shift from farm to non-farm employment’

  1. A recent independent World Bank assessment of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has noted that the scheme led to a shift from farm to non-farm employment particularly among men in the habitations studied between 2009 and 2017.
  2. The report also noted that due to improved connectivity there has been a positive impact on child immunisation, childbirths in hospitals, and schooling of both boys and girls in rural areas
  3. PMGSY was launched in 2000. The scheme is under the aegis of Ministry of Rural Development.
  4. 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).
  5. Recently, the government has approved the launch of Phase-3 of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
  6. Under the PMGSY-III Scheme, the government has proposed to consolidate roads measuring 1.25 lakh km in length in the states.
  7. Further, construction of bridges of up to 150m in plain areas and 200 m in Himalayan and north eastern states have been proposed.

Govt bans use of antibiotic Colistin in animal feed, poultry, aqua farms

  1. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an order prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food producing animals, poultry and aqua farms.
  2. Colistin is a polypeptide antibiotic from the group of polymyxins. It is predominantly used in veterinary medicine in the treatment of intestinal diseases as well as other infections. The drug has been highly misused in India’s poultry industry.
  3. In humans, it is used as a last line therapy to treat infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Colistin is a “reserve” antibiotic.
  4. The prohibition comes as an effort to curb the growing menace of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). One of the major cause of AMR is the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock animals and poultry.
  5. A 2017 global study on antibiotic use in farm animals projected the consumption of antibiotics through animal sources to nearly double during 2013-2030.
  6. The study had ranked India the fourth largest consumer of antibiotics in food animals globally after China, the United States and Brazil.
  7. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antimalarial) from working against it.
  8. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises AMR as a serious threat to global public health.

India China to have Joint Military Exercise in Meghalaya

  1. India and China will hold the 8th edition of the annual military exercise Hand in Hand in December 2019.
  2. The exercise will take place at Umroi, Meghalaya.
  3. It is at the company level, meaning around 100-120 infantry troops from both sides will be participating.
  4. It will be based on counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  5. Hand-in-Hand military exercises are tactical-level operations that aims to build closer relations between Indian and Chinese armies. The first Hand in Hand exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007.
  6. The 6th edition of the exercise was held in Pune in 2016. The 7th edition was held in Chengdu region of China in 2018.
  7. The India-China Hand-in-Hand military exercise was cancelled in 2017 amid the heightened tensions between the two countries following the Doklam standoff.

Thirty Meter Telescope

  1. There have been protests in Hawaii over Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) – a proposed astronomical observatory with an extremely large telescope (ELT). It is proposed to be built on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii.
  2. The protests are taking place as Mauna Kea is considered to be a sacred ground by native Hawaiians. Spain’s Canary Islands is a backup site, if the TMT cannot be built on Mauna Kea.
  3. The Thirty Meter Telescope is called so because of its 30 m prime mirror diameter.
  4. The TMT is being designed and developed by the TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO) – a non-profit international partnership of institutions from the USA, Japan, China, India and Canada. India will contribute about 10% of the cost of building the telescope and observatory.
  5. The TMT will provide information about the nature of “first-light” objects and their effects on the universe’s evolution. It will also observe the formation and development of the large-scale structures by looking at faint distant galaxies and the intergalactic medium, providing information the nature of dark matter that are inaccessible using any other techniques.
  6. It will also help detect and investigate black holes that reside in the center of many distant galaxies, and study in detail the black hole in the center of Milky Way. 
  7. TMT will also help in advancing knowledge of the physical processes that lead to star and planet formation.

Lucknow to host DefExpo next year

  1. The Defence Ministry has announced that Lucknow will host the 11th edition of DefExpo from February 5 to 8, 2020. It is the first time that the exhibition will take place in Uttar Pradesh.
  2. The theme of the DefExpo 2020 will be “India: the emerging defence manufacturing hub” and it will be focussed on “digital transformation of defence”
  3. The DefExpo will provide an opportunity to the major foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to collaborate with the Indian defence industry and help promote ‘Make in India’ initiative
  4. It will also provide a platform for Defence industry OEMs, exhibitors and private industry to display their latest innovations and capabilities.
  5. The DefExpo is a biennial event. It offers Indian defence industry the opportunity to showcase its capabilities and promote its export potential. The last DefExpo was held in Chennai in 2018.

Not even 1 in 5 Indian rural households gets piped water, govt tells Parliament

  1. The Jal Shakti Ministry has told the Parliament that only 18% of India’s rural households have access to piped water.
  2. The Ministry has also reiterated that it aims to supply piped water to all rural households under its Jal Jeevan Mission.
  3. Jal Jeevan Mission seeks to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections (HarGharJal) to all rural households by 2024
  4. The Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level. It seeks to implement source sustainability measures recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, rain water harvesting.
  5. The Jal Jeevan Mission seeks to converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across India.

World celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing

  1. July 20th marked the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing. Apollo 11 was the fifth crewed mission of NASA’s Apollo program.
  2. On 20 July 1969, the Eagle module from Apollo 11 landed at Tranquility Base, a site on Moon.
  3. Neil Armstrong, one of the astronaut aboard the Apollo 11, made history by becoming the first person to walk on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin, another astronaut, became the second person to walk on moon.
  4. NASA has recently announced its new manned mission to the moon -Artemis. ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.

Moon mission to try landing on Sept 7

  1. ISRO has announced that Chandrayaan-2’s targeted landing date on the lunar South Pole is September 7th. The launch of Chandrayaan-2, which was scheduled to be launched on July 15th, was aborted after a technical snag in the launch vehicle system- GSLV Mk-III rocket.
  2. The moon landing has been planned during the particular period as the landing site will remain well illuminated by sunlight over the next one month while the Lander and Rover could work and collect data. Also, there is no lunar eclipse during this period.
  3. The Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second lunar mission. It is a fully indigenous mission. Chandrayaan-2 will comprise of an Orbiter, Lander named ‘Vikram’ and Rover named ‘Pragyan’
  4. The orbiter will circle the moon and provide information about its surface, while the lander will make a soft landing on the surface and send out the rover. The rover will be used mostly for in situ experiments.
  5. The lunar mission will carry out extensive three-dimensional mapping of the topography of the lunar South Pole region. It will also determine its elemental composition and seismic activity.
  6. The mission would also try to assess the abundance and distribution of water on the lunar surface.

New panel to discuss cultural safeguards for Assam on July 24

  1. The Home ministry has constituted a high-level panel to suggest ways to implement Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord.The panel is headed by former Gauhati high court judge Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma.
  2. The ministry had to reconstitute the panel after four of the nine members named on the earlier panel had refused to be a part of it.
  3. Assam Accord is a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement – a movement against illegal immigrants in Assam. It was signed in 1985.
  4. Clause 6 of the Assam Accord envisages that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards should be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the people of Assam.
  5. The panel will examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement the clause and to assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in Assam’s legislative assembly and local bodies for the indigenous people.

What has changed in RTI Act?

  1. The government has introduced Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill seeks to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005
  2. RTI Act 2005 sets the term of the Chief Information Commissioner (CICs) and Information Commissioners (ICs) at the Centre and state levels at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier).
  3. The amendment bill 2019 proposes that the appointment will be for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
  4. RTI ACT 2005 states that salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner, and those of an Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of an Election Commissioner.
  5. At the state level, CIC and IC salary shall be equivalent to election commissioner and Chief Secretary respectively.
  6. The amendment proposes that the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners at Centre and state level should be prescribed by the Central Government.
  7.  The RTI Act 2005 provides that Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning. This includes: a) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, b) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and c) financial information.
  8.  The aim of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.   
  9.  Under the Act, ‘Public Authorities’ include bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.

India enters 37-year period of demographic dividend

  1. According to studies, India has entered a 37 year period of demographic dividend since 2018.
  2. The period of demographic dividend will last till 2055. This has been created as India’s working-age population (people between 15 and 64 years of age) has grown larger than the dependant population (children aged 14 or below plus people above 65 years of age)
  3. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines demographic dividend as the growth potential that results from shifts in a population’s age structure. The transition happens largely because of a decrease in the Total fertility rate (TFR) (the number of births per woman), after the increase in life expectancy gets stabilised.
  4. However, it is important to note that Demographic dividend provided by the increasing share of working age adults is a temporary phase. To reap the benefits of demographic dividend, India should invest in the education and health of the workforce and provide employment opportunities to the youth.
  5. Examples of countries who successfully reaped the benefits of demographic dividend and experienced rapid growth because of changing population structure include Japan, China and Singapore.

India warns WTO’s appeals body may collapse

  1. India has warned of the collapse of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body.
  2. This statement came as the US has repeatedly blocked the selection complaining the Appellate Body failed to follow the rules in the Dispute Settlement Understanding.
  3. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  4. The WTO officially commenced in 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement signed by 124 nations replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Currently, it has 164 members and 22 observer governments with Afghanistan and Liberia being the latest to join.
  5. The Appellate Body of the WTO was established in 1995 with its seat in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a standing body of seven persons. It hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by WTO Members.
  6. The Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel. The Appellate Body Reports once adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) must be accepted by the parties to the dispute.

Kerala to set up nation’s first Space Systems Park

  1. The Kerala government will set up the country’s first Space Systems Park at the upcoming Knowledge City in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The project will be implemented by the State Government’s Electronics and IT Department.
  2. The facility will seek to attract global start-ups working in the space sector and also make it as a major manufacturing hub for space-related technology, research and development.
  3. The Space Park will also house Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Knowledge Centre and Space Museum being developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) as a memorial to the former President and top space scientist.
  4. Further, other major centers of ISRO located in the city will help create a robust ecosystem for space technology applications and research.

Government to roll out big push for infrastructure

  1. India has decided to organize an annual global investor’s meet in the country similar to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
  2. The idea for holding a summit is being mooted at a time the government is looking to attract more investments from overseas. This will spur economic growth and generate more jobs.
  3. India also wants to tap investors who can help fund ₹100 crore to build infrastructure over the next five years.
  4. The summit will be anchored by the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
  5. NIIF was set up in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable Greenfield, brownfield and stalled projects in the infrastructure sector.
  6. NIIF invests in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.

Revamp of Army Headquarters to get under way by the end of July

  1. The Defence Ministry has approved the proposal to restructure the Army Headquarters.
  2. The aim of the restructuring of army headquarters is (a) to enhance the operational and functional efficiency (b) optimize budget expenditure (c) facilitate force modernisation and (d) address aspirations.
  3. The army has decided to create a new Deputy Chief (Sustenance) who is going to look after all procurements. The Master-General Ordnance will report to the Deputy Chief to bring all ammunition under one head.
  4. Currently, the Army has two Deputy Chiefs, one for information systems and training and the other for planning and systems. These functions are being brought under one authority to avoid overlapping.
  5. A new post of Additional Director-General (ADG), Vigilance is being created who will report directly to the Army chief. There will be a new position of ADG (Human Resources) who shall take proactive action on HR violations.
  6. The entire training function will move under the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) which will be shifted from Shimla to Meerut. 
  7. Further, the Director-General, Rashtriya Rifles (RR) now based in Delhi, will be moved to Udhampur under an Additional Director-General where the Northern Command is located.

Overseas bonds: Major advantages in raising long term funds, says NITI VC Rajiv Kumar

  1. Finance Minister has announced in the Budget that it plans to raise a portion of its gross borrowing from overseas markets using sovereign bonds.
  2. A government bond or sovereign bond is a form of debt that the government undertakes wherein it issues bonds with the promise to pay periodic interest payments and also repay the entire face value of the bond on the maturity date.
  3. The Centre plans to raise around $10 billion from global markets in the second half of FY20.However,when the government raises funds in foreign currency, it has to bear the risk of currency movements.
  4. NITI Aayog Vice chairman has said that the government has taken the decision being cognisant of all the associated risks. He has said that the government will be prudent in raising funds abroad and provision will be made in accounts to account for currency volatility.
  5. Further, he said that there can be major advantages in raising long term funds because many interested players in these will be long term pension funds, retirement funds. So government can launch 20-year papers which will help in private investments.
  6. This proposal along with the government’s asset monetisation plan and the move to give up majority equity shareholding in state-owned companies are aimed at freeing up resources for private investments.

Railway roadmap: Govt to invite private players to run routes

  1. The government has laid out a blueprint for a substantial boost in India’s infrastructure. A key element of that is the upgrade of Indian Railways.
  2. However, the Finance Minister has accepted that the government did not have the fiscal space to make the kind of heavy investments that are required to modernise the Railways.
  3. As modernising railways requires an investment of Rs 50 lakh crore between now and 2030.The capital outlays for Railways is just about Rs 1.6 lakh crore per annum and even completing sanctioned projects would take decades.
  4. Hence, the government will be inviting private companies to own and operate trains on select routes. Further, it is also planning to corporatise the seven production units that build coaches, engines and wheels.
  5. A holding company called the Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company (IRRC) will also be established.It will control and independently manage all these factories.

Centre’s decision to bring amendments to RTI Act draws criticism from activists

  1. Activists and former information commissioners have opposed the Centre’s move to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  2. The amendment proposes to empower the government to fix the term of service of information commissioners. It also proposes to change the salaries and allowances of CIC and IC as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
  3. However, activists have said that the amendments would dilute the Act and curtail the independence of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and other information officers.
  4. The activists has said that the amendment would also allow Centre to simply transfer any authority be it the CIC or any of the SICs in the event a case is directed against the interests of the government.
  5. Further, former CIC have said that fixed tenure of five years for Information Commissioners are part of basic structure of the existing law and any amendment to these provisions undermines the basic structure of the RTI.
  6. Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information. The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to (a)empower the citizens (b)promote transparency, accountability in the Government (c)contain corruption and (d)make our democracy work for the people in real sense.
  7. The CIC is an 11 member commission set up under the Right to Information Act, 2005 as a quasi-judicial body. It is the highest appeal body available to applicants seeking information under the RTI Act.

Modi 2.0 sets fast pace in 1st 50 days: Report card

  1. The government has underlined its priorities in the first 50 days of its second term. It has aimed towards making India a $5 trillion economy and hitting the ground running on spurring growth.
  2. The Union Budget has outlined the roadmap for the $5trillion economy and doubling the farmer’s income.
  3. The budget talked of (a) electric vehicles (b) mission of taking electricity and cooking gas to every home (c) end of angel tax and (d) beginning of a faceless, seamless tax assessment interface.
  4. The government has shown zero tolerance towards terrorism with a cleanup of J&K Bank. It has also removal tainted bureaucrats across many departments.
  5. Government has also announced the labour reforms that will benefit 49 crore workers. It will make business smoother and less encumbered with red tape. The registration process for businesses has been considerably simplified.
  6. Further, Unregulated financial schemes have also been banned to protect honest people with the poor often falling victim to such frauds. The government has offered more incentives for the middle class on affordable housing by way of tax breaks. 
  7. The budget has also proposed the corporate tax slab at 25% for companies with turnover of less than Rs 400 crore. An amount of Rs 350 crore has been marked for GST subvention for MSMEs.
  8. Government has also taken up water conservation with the creation of the Jal Shakti ministry. The department will urgently frame policy for improving water security and considering measures to mitigate climate change.
  9. There were several initiatives for farmers with hiked MSP for Kharif crops and the proposed implementation of PM Kisan to all farmers. The government will also spend over Rs 10,000 crore over three years on social security cover for farmers.

Final index score of NITI Aayog report on States adversely impacted

  1. The NITI Aayog had released the second edition of its State Health Index 2019 in a report titled “Healthy States, Progressive India: Report on Rank of States and UTs”.
  2. The index has used estimated figures in place of reported numbers to calculate certain health indicators. This has adversely impacted the final index score of certain States while boosting that of others.
  3. The index takes into account 23 health indicators such as neonatal mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, proportion of low birth weight among new-borns, proportion of districts with functional Cardiac Care Units, full immunisation coverage among others.
  4. The report had used an estimated number of births and deliveries to calculate two key health outcome indicators namely full immunisation coverage and proportion of institutional deliveries. The use of estimated numbers instead of the reported figures resulted in a misrepresentation.
  5. However, NITI Aayog officials has said that the reported number of births can vary from the actual figures as there are some inherent problems with the Civil Registration System and experts have also expressed reservations about using them.
  6. The report has ranked states and UTs in three categories — larger States, smaller States and Union Territories to ensure comparison among similar entities.
  7. The report has ranked Kerala as the best performing State in the health sector among the 21 large States. Among the large states, Uttar Pradesh was the worst performing state. 
  8. Among the smaller states, Mizoram ranked first in overall performance. Further, Among UTs, Chandigarh ranked first in overall performance while Dadra and Nagar Haveli improved the most.
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