9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 24, 2019

IMF cuts India’s growth forecast for 2019-20 to 7%

  1. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected a slower growth rate for India in 2019 and 2020.It has projected that Indian economy will grow at 7.0% in 2019 and 7.2% in 2020.
  2. The downward revision of 0.3 percentage point for both years reflects a weaker-than expected outlook for domestic demand. However, India will still be the fastest growing major economy of the world and much ahead of China.
  3. IMF has said that the slowdown in growth in India was partly a reflection of the uncertainties associated with the just concluded general elections in India as well as tightening of borrowing conditions for small and medium enterprises.
  4. The IMF has also revised downward its growth projections for China as well as for the world to 6.2% and 3.2% respectively for 2019.
  5. IMF has said that the global growth is being affected by prolonged policy uncertainty as (a) trade tensions remain high despite the recent US-China trade truce (b) technology tensions have erupted threatening global technology supply chains and (c) the prospects of a no-deal Brexit have increased.

Pencil Portal

  1. Union Minister for Labour has informed Lok Sabha that 361 Complaints of Child Labour have been resolved Through Pencil Portal.
  2. PENCIL portal stands for Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour (PENCIL).The portal is administered by the Ministry of Labour & Employment.
  3. It is an electronic platform to ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour Act and smooth implementation of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme.
  4. The portal has five components namely (a) Child Tracking System, (b) Complaint Corner, (c) State Government, (d) National Child Labour Project and (e) Convergence.
  5. Since the subject of labour is in the concurrent list, the enforcement of the policy depends on respective state governments.
  6. This online portal aims to connect the Centre to the state government, district and to all project societies for effective implementation of NCLP.
  7. NCLP is a Central Sector Scheme for the rehabilitation of child labour. The Scheme seeks to adopt a sequential approach with focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance.

Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme

  1. Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD) has informed Lok sabha about the Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme.
  2. The PMRF scheme is aimed at attracting the talent pool of the country to doctoral (Ph.D) programs of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for carrying out research in cutting edge science and technology domains with focus on national priorities.
  3. Under it, students who have completed or are in final year of B.Tech /Integrated M.Tech/ M.Sc courses in Science and Technology streams from IISc/IITs/IISERs/ NITs/IIITs will be offered direct admission in PhD programme in IITs/IISc.
  4. Further, selected students will be offered monthly fellowship of Rs.70, 000 for first two years, Rs.75, 000 for 3rd year and Rs.80, 000 in 4th and 5th years.
  5. Each selected fellow student will also be provided research grant of Rs.2.00 lakh for a period of 5 years to cover their foreign travel expenses for presenting research papers in international conferences and seminars.
  6. The scheme will help tapping talent pool of country for carrying out research indigenously in cutting edge science and technology domains.

Trauma Care Centres for Road Accident Victims

  1. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has informed Rajya Sabha about the setting up of Trauma Care Facilities along National Highways under the scheme “Capacity Building for Developing Trauma Care Facilities on National Highways”.
  2. The overall objective of the scheme is to bring down preventable deaths due to road accidents by developing a pan-India trauma care network.
  3. The scheme provides for setting up a designated trauma center at every 100 km on National Highways (NHs).
  4. Further, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Status report on Road Safety has also stated that road accidents are the leading cause of death among people in the 5-29 age-group worldwide.
  5. According to the report, India might be losing 2, 99,000 people each year due to road accidents. However, the government pegs the number of road accident deaths at nearly 1, 50,000 people each year.

PCI recommended to make paid news incidence a punishable electoral malpractice: I&B Minister

  1. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister has said the Press Council of India (PCI) has recommended amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in order to make the incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice.
  2. The PCI defines paid news as any news or analysis appearing in print or electronic media for consideration in cash or kind. Paid news is not an electoral offence yet but there is a case to make it one.
  3. Further, the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in its 47th report had said that the government should formulate a comprehensive legal definition of paid news.
  4. The reasons for the rise in paid news includes (a) corporatisation of media (b) desegregation of ownership and editorial roles and (c) decline in autonomy of editors/journalists due to emergence of contract system and poor wage levels of journalists.
  5. The Committee had recommended establishment of either a single regulatory body for both print and electronic media or enhancing punitive powers of the PCI. Such regulator should have the power to take strong action against offenders and should not include media owners/interested parties as members.
  6. The Committee has also recommended that the ECI should have the authority to take punitive action against electoral candidates in cases of paid news.
  7. The Press Council of India was first established in the year 1966 by the Parliament on recommendation of first Press Commission. Presently, the function of the council is governed under the Press Council Act, 1978. It is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press.

Government aims to cut patent examination time to six months

  1. Department for Promotion of Internal Industry and Trade (DPIIT) aims to reduce the time taken to examine patents to six months as part of its five year plan from 18 months currently.
  2. A patent is a form of intellectual property. A patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, selling and importing an invention for a limited period of time usually twenty years. The patent rights are granted in exchange for an enabling public disclosure of the invention.
  3. India also hopes that it will improve its position further in the global innovation index (GII), 2019 based on its improvement in areas such as ease of doing business.
  4. The GII has been jointly developed by the WIPO, Cornell University and Paris-based business school Insead. It includes more than 80 indicators exploring a broad vision of innovation including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.
  5. In 2018, India has improved its ranking to the 57th position from the 60th in 2017 while China’s ranking went up to 17th from 22nd a year ago. Further, Switzerland has been on top of the index for the last eight years.
  6. The global launch of the GII 2019 which would rank 130 countries will be released in New Delhi. It is co-organised by WIPO, DPIIT and CII.
  7. The GII 2019 will also analyse the medical innovation landscape of the next decade looking at how technological and non-technological medical innovation will transform the delivery of healthcare worldwide.

PayPal mulls data localisation for India

  1. American digital payments player PayPal has said that it is working with its partners on data localisation as mandated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  2. Data localisation is the act of storing data on any device physically present within the borders of a country. Localisation mandates that companies collecting critical data about consumers must store and process them within the borders of the country.
  3. In April 2018, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had asked payment firms to ensure their data are stored exclusively on local servers. RBI had also set a deadline of six months for compliance which some foreign firms such as MasterCard and Visa had missed.
  4. The main intent behind data localisation is to protect the personal and financial information of the country’s citizens and residents from foreign surveillance and give local governments and regulators the jurisdiction to call for the data when required.
  5. Further, data localisation is essential to national security. Storing of data locally is expected to help law-enforcement agencies to access information that is needed for the detection of a crime or to gather evidence.

Digitization of Archaeological Museum is being done through a special software in a phased manner: Culture Minister

  1. Minister of State of Culture and Tourism has informed the Lok Sabha about JATAN which is a Virtual Museum software.
  2. The objective of the software is to make digital imprint of all objects preserved in museums.
  3. The portal works through the website wherein all the digitised data on museums have been up-loaded for online viewing. 
  4. The digital imprints of preserved objects and monuments created using the software are integrated in the national digital repository and portal for making them accessible to the public.
  5. The software has been developed by a team of experts of human centred design & computing team of Centre for Development for Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
  6. There are 48 Archaeological Site Museums under Archaeological Survey of India. Two Archaeological Site Museums namely Velha Goa and Nagarjunakondam have been digitised during the first phase.
  7. The C-DAC is an Autonomous Scientific Society of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India.

Indian Navy Commissions Dornier Squadron INAS 313 at Chennai

  1. Indian Navy has commissioned the navy’s fifth Dornier squadron named as Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 313.
  2. INAS 313 derives its name ‘Sea Eagle’ from the bird of prey family Accipitridae.
  3. The Squadron will be operating from Chennai International Airport. With commissioning of INAS 313, the State of Tamil Nadu will have three naval air bases which is the highest number for any Coastal State.
  4. The squadron will operate Dornier aircraft.It is a multi-role Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  5. The aircraft will be used for (a) maritime surveillance (b) Search and Rescue Operations and (c) to provide targeting data to weapon platforms.

Labour Bills meets with protest

  1. The government has introduced the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019 and the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.
  2. The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 aims to simplify the wage and bonus payments rules besides mandating a national minimum wage.
  3. The code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 aims to improve the working conditions of workers across all establishments with 10 or more employees.
  4. The wage code will subsume four existing laws while the occupational health code will merge 13 related laws.
  5. However, Opposition parties have asked the government to send the bill on occupational safety to a parliamentary standing committee as it has a vast ambit including trade unions, tribunals, employers and employees.
  6. Further, trade unions have said that the government has ignored their demands to fix minimum wages under Wage Code as per the International Labour Organisation guidelines.
  7. The trade unions have also said that Industries are already flouting labour regulations and any dilution of the existing laws will compromise employee’s welfare. They believe that the government is insisting on changing labour laws without realizing that it is not a shortcut for job creation.

Rise in government borrowings might have triggered NBFC crisis

  1. RBI Deputy Governor has expressed the possibility that the rise in government borrowings might have led to the asset-liability mismatch in the non-banking financial companies (NBFC) sector.
  2. In the case of NBFCs, the ability to borrow long-term comes down when government borrowing rises increasing the risk of financial stability.
  3. This has led to the crisis in finance companies DHFL and IL&FS where the companies depended on short-term commercial paper to fund long-term loans.
  4. He has also warned on the consequences of elevated government borrowings which are (a) lesser availability of resources for private sector, (b) poor transmission of lower policy rates into market rates and (c) pressure on non-banking financial companies.
  5. The deputy governor has said that the borrowing could be reduced by government increasing its share of capital expenditure which stands at a low rate of 14% and divesting stake in public sector enterprises to bring in efficiencies and reduce debt.

Madhya Pradesh passes Bill to raise OBC quota to 27%, overall 73%

  1. The Madhya Pradesh Assembly has passed the Madhya Pradesh Public Service (Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Bill 2019.
  2. The bill raises the reservation in government jobs and education for Other Backward Classes (OBC) to 27% from the present 14%.
  3. The 13% more reservation for OBCs along with the 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) in government jobs takes the total reservation in Madhya Pradesh to 73%.This has breached the 50% cap on reservation imposed by the Supreme Court in 1992.
  4. The Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case (1992), had held that the power conferred to the State by Clause (4) of Article 16 should be exercised in a fair manner and within reasonable limits. The court upheld that reservation under Clause (4) shall not exceed 50% of the appointments or posts, barring certain extraordinary situations
  5. Article 16 (4) empowers the State to make provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is inadequately represented in public employment.

What are India’s challenges as its fertility rate falls?

  1. The recent Sample Registration System data of 22 states has revealed that the total Fertility Rate (TFR) for India has declined to 2.2 in 2017 after being stable at 2.3 between 2013 and 2016.
  2. TFR indicates the average number of children expected to be born to a woman during her reproductive span of 15-49 years.
  3. TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called Replacement-level fertility. This represents the level at which a population can replace itself from one generation to other without growing or declining.
  4. The TFR for rural areas, varies from 1.6 in Delhi and Tamil Nadu to 3.3 in Bihar. For urban areas, the variation is from 1.1 in Himachal Pradesh to 2.4 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  5. The 25-29 age is the most fertile, except in Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where it peaked between 20 and 24. Only in Jammu and Kashmir, the TFR is highest after 30.
  6. The factors that have contributed to declining TFR are: a) Higher education, b) increased mobility, c) late marriage, d) financial independence among women and e) overall prosperity.
  7. India has entered a 37 year period of demographic dividend since 2018. 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.

Assam NRC final publication deadline extended to August 31

  1. The Supreme Court has extended the deadline for publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam from July 31 to August 31, 2019.
  2. However, the plea for sample reverification has been rejected. The Centre and Assam had urged the court for a 20% sample reverification of names included in the draft in the districts bordering Bangladesh and a 10% sample reverification in the remaining districts of the State.
  3. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which contains the name of all citizens of India residing in Assam. It was prepared in 1951.
  4. Currently, the NRC is being updated in Assam. 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.

Scrutinise RTI bill: Opposition

  1. Opposition parties have criticised the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and moved a resolution to send it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for further discussion.
  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. Opposition parties have criticised the amendment bill on the grounds that it would dilute the Act and curtail the independence of the CIC and other information officers.
  8. They have opined 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.
  9. The RTI Act 2005 aims to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities. 
  10. The Act 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.

What is Tiangong-2?

  1. Tiangong-2, a Chinese space station has burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere as part of a planned deorbit. The space station’s planned deorbit was executed by putting it into a controlled descent into the atmosphere, where it broke up into small pieces.
  2. It was launched in 2016 as a space lab for testing space technologies. The space station weighed 8 tons thus making it very small by space station standards.
  3. Tiangong-2 was the successor to Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011. Tiangong-1 had an unplanned deorbit in 2018.
  4. China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has announced that Tiangong-2 is planned to be replaced by a new Chinese space station called Tianhe, which will be able to host three astronauts for long durations, around 2022.
  5. A space station is a habitable artificial satellite. It is capable of hosting crew members for an extended period of time, and provides facilities for experiments and support vehicles to dock.
  6. Currently, there is only one fully functional space station in the Earth’s lower orbit, the International Space Station. The ISS is a partnership between European Union (European Space Agency), the United States (NASA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and Russia (Roscosmos).

UN climate envoy meets Javadekar

  1. Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2019 Climate Action Summit has met India’s Union Environment Minister in New Delhi.
  2. 2019 Climate Action Summit is scheduled to be held in New York in September 2019. The summit has asked national governments to come up with concrete plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 in in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% in next 10 years, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
  3. The Summit seeks to develop ambitious solutions in six areas: a) a global transition to renewable energy; b) sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities; c) sustainable agriculture, d) management of forests and oceans; e) resilience and adaptation to climate impacts; and f) alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.
  4. The UN has also announced a ‘Clean Air Initiative’. It calls on governments to achieve air quality that is safe for citizens and to align climate change and air pollution policies by 2030.
  5. As a commitment to the Paris Agreement (2015), nations have to put forward national climate actions they intend to take to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. These are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
  6. India’s INDCs include a) reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level, b)increase total cumulative electricity generation from fossil free energy sources to 40% by 2030, c) create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.
  7. The Paris agreement (2015) is an international agreement with the framework of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It seeks to combat climate change and accelerate the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill: Centre usurping States’ rights, say MPs

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to provide for road safety.
  2. The Bill proposes a National Transportation Policy for ushering in guidelines on the transportation of goods and passengers. The Policy will envision a) establishing a planning framework for road transport, b) developing a framework for grant of permits, and c) specifying priorities for the transport system, among other things.
  3. The Bill has proposed that the central government should develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour. It defines golden hour as the time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury. During this time, the likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care is the highest.
  4. The Bill also requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.
  5. The Bill provides for increasing the minimum compensation in case of death in hit and run cases from the current Rs. 25,000 to Rs 2 lakh and in case of grievous injury from current Rs.12500 to Rs 50000.
  6. Further, the bill states that new vehicles should be registered at the dealer level and it will eventually remove buyers’ interface with registration authorities.
  7. The Bill also provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government. The board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  8. The Bill also call for issuance of licenses to taxi aggregators by state. Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000. It defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services)
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