9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 25, 2019

Centre notifies pension scheme for small traders

  1. The Union Labour and Employment Ministry has notified the Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana 2019. It is a pension scheme for retailers and small traders.
  2. The pension scheme assures a minimum monthly pension of ₹3000 per month to small shopkeepers, retail traders and the self-employed people after attaining the age of 60 years once they have contributed to the scheme every month from the time of enrolment and till that age.
  3. Further, the Government of India will make matching contribution in the subscribers’ account
  4. The scheme is available to all small shopkeepers and self-employed persons as well as the retail traders with Goods and Services tax (GST) turnover below Rs. 1.5 crore and age between 18-40 years.
  5. To be eligible, the applicants should not be covered under the National Pension Scheme, Employees’ State Insurance Scheme and the Employees’ Provident Fund or be an Income Tax assessee.
  6. The scheme is based on self-declaration as no documents are required except Aadhaar and bank account.
  7. Interested persons can enrol themselves through Common Service Centres (CSC) spread across the country

India rises in global innovation ranking

  1. The Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 has been released. Switzerland has been ranked first in the index.
  2. India has improved its ranking by five places to 52nd in 2019 from 57th position in 2018. India has also outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita for nine consecutive years.
  3. India has improved its ranking in four out of seven pillars of GII viz. knowledge and technology outputs, market sophistication, human capital and research and institutions.
  4. However, India has deteriorated in other three pillars viz. business sophistication, infrastructure and creative outputs.
  5. The global innovation index (GII) is an annual ranking that quantifies the state of national innovation ecosystem across countries. In 2019, it has ranked 129 countries based on 80 indicators.
  6. The GII is co-published by World intellectual property organisation (WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD

Milky Way’s violent birth decoded

  1. According to scientists, Milky Way was shaped in its present form as a result of collision with another smaller galaxy called Gaia-Enceladus, 10 billion years ago.
  2. The study has been based on data from the Gaia space observatory- a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA). Gaia seeks to map the positions of more than 1 billion stars to the highest precision
  3. The merger of the Milky Way and Gaia-Enceladus increased Milky Way’s mass by about a quarter and triggered a period of accelerated star formation which lasted for 2 to 4 billion years.
  4. Galaxies of all types began to form relatively soon after the Big Bang explosion. The Big Bang explosion marked the beginning of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago.
  5. However, the galaxies were relatively smaller that time and subsequent galactic mergers have given galaxies their present configuration.

This Indian Ocean snail species may be first victim of deep-sea mining

  1. The scaly-foot snail or Sea Pangolin is the first marine species to be assessed as officially endangered due to the potential threat of deep sea mining.
  2. The scaly foot snail is found at three hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. The three vents include Longqi vent field, Kairei vent field and the Solitaire vent
  3. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed it as ‘Endangered’ in the Red List.
  4. Seabed mining is the process which involves extracting submerged minerals and resources from the sea floor, either by dredging sand or lifting material in any other manner.
  5.  The International Seabed Authority, an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is currently formulating guidelines on how to conduct sea-bed mining.
  6. There are growing concerns among environmentalists that seabed mining would harm marine organisms, disrupt marine ecosystem, thereby impact the rich biodiversity of oceans

New Space India Limited

  1. The Central had set up New Space India Limited (NSIL) in March 2019. It is a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  2. The NSIL has been set up to meet the increasing demands of Indian space programmes and to commercially exploit the emerging global space market.
  3. The main functions of NSIL are: a) Manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) in collaboration with Private Sector, b) production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through Indian Industry, c) production and marketing of Space based products and services, including launch and application, d) Transfer of technology developed by ISRO Centres and constituent units of DOS and e) Marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad.
  4. NSIL is the second commercial entity of the Department of Space (DoS) after Antrix Corporation Limited which was set up in 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

ISRO now looks to solar mission Aditya-L1

  1. Following the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now focussing on launching the Aditya L-1 mission.
  2. The Aditya L-1 mission is a satellite designed to study the sun. It will be India’s first satellite to do so.
  3. The mission is aimed at studying the Sun from a halo orbit around the Sun-Earth Lagrangian point 1, henceforth the name Aditya-L1
  4. The Aditya L-1 mission will study the Sun’s corona -the outer layer.
  5. The major objectives of the mission are: a) Realization and launch of a satellite in a Halo orbit around L1, b) Understanding solar upper atmospheric (chromosphere and corona) dynamics, c) Study of chromospheric and coronal heating and d) Observe the in-situ particle and plasma environment to provide data for the study of particle dynamics from the Sun.
  6. Lagrangian points are the positions in the orbits of two large celestial bodies, where the smaller object or satellite will be affected by the combined gravitational pull of the two large bodies (e.g. the Sun and the Earth).
  7. There are 5 such points out of which, only at L1, the gravitational attraction of one of the larger bodies is cancelled by the other.

The Limits of Anti-Defection

  1. The recent political crisis in Karnataka has demonstrated the ways in which the anti-defection law can be used and abused.
  2. The anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. The 10th Schedule was inserted to the Constitution through the 52nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1985. The anti-defection law is based on the recommendations of the Y B Chavan committee.
  3. The amendment by which the Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution did 3 things: it made legislators liable to be penalised for their conduct both inside and outside (speeches etc.) the legislature, b) it protected legislators from disqualification in cases where there was a split (with 1/3rd of members splitting) or merger (with 2/3rds of members merging) of a legislature party with another political party and c) it made the Presiding Officer of the concerned legislature the sole arbiter of defection proceedings.
  4. The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators. The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection.
  5. There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified: a) if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party and b) if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her action is not condoned by his party.
  6. In 2003 the anti-defection law was amended to delete the one-third split provision which offered protection to defectors was deleted.
  7.  The anti-defection law has had its loopholes and has been abused. For example, the n law does not specify a timeframe for Speakers to decide on defection proceedings. When the politics demanded, Speakers were either quick to pass judgment on defection proceedings or delayed acting on them for years on end.

Lok Sabha clears changes to UAPA, nod to term persons as terrorists

  1. Lok Sabha has passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019.
  2. The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967 providing special procedures to deal with terrorist activities and individuals and groups that foster terrorism in India.
  3. Under the Act,the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it (a)commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (b)prepares for terrorism (c) promotes terrorism or (d) is otherwise involved in terrorism.The bill additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds. 
  4. Under the Act,an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.  
  5. The Bill adds that if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency(NIA),the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property. 
  6. Under the Act,investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA of the rank of Inspector or above to investigate cases.
  7. The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.The Bill adds another treaty to the list.This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism(2005).  

Govt approves merger of NIMH with ICMR-NIOH

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the merger of National Institute of Miners Health(NIMH) with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health(NIOH).
  2. The merger will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in terms of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money.
  3. Further,experts have welcomed the move as NIMH dedicated to miners health will now officially come under the Ministry of Health and Family welfare.
  4. National Institute of Miners’ Health(NIMH) is an autonomous Institute under Ministry of Mines,Government of India.It was set up by the in 1990 and was registered as a Society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act,1960.
  5. NIMH conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral based Industry.
  6. The NIOH is the premier institute under the aegis of the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) under the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.It was established in 1966 by the government of India. 
  7. The objectives of NIOH is to support the national policy makers for adopting an appropriate policy in the field of occupational health which includes occupational medicine and occupational hygiene.

Rashtriya Aajeevika Mission

  1. Union Minister for Rural Development has informed Lok Sabha about the Rashtriya Aajeevika Mission.
  2. The mission is known as Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission(DAY-NRLM). 
  3. The mission aims to organize the rural poor women into Self Help Groups (SHGs) and continuously nurture and support them to take economic activities till they attain appreciable increase in income over a period of time to improve their quality of life and come out of abject poverty.
  4. Apart from this,DAY-NRLM also facilitates credit mobilisation for SHGs in the form of bank loans.In order to reduce the effective cost of bank credit to women SHGs,DAY-NRLM is providing interest subvention to SHGs on loans from banks from financial year 2013-14.
  5. The Sub-schemes under DAY-NRLM includes Rural Self Employment Training Institutes(RSETIs) which enables a trainee to take bank credit and start his/her own Micro-enterprise.
  6. Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme(SVEP) which facilitates the rural poor for setting up of micro Enterprises.
  7. Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana (AGEY) which facilitates transport facilities in the rural areas which in turn will provide self employment opportunities to the rural poor.

Steps taken to combat Terror Financing and circulation of Fake Indian Currency in the country

  1. Minister of State for Home Affairs has informed Lok sabha about the steps taken by the government to combat terror financing and circulation of fake Indian Currency in the country.
  2. The minister has said that the government has strengthened the provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967 by criminalizing the production or smuggling or circulation of high quality counterfeit Indian currency. 
  3. Further,a terror funding and Fake Currency(TFFC) cell has been constituted in National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct focused investigation of terror funding and fake currency cases. 
  4. The government has also created FICN Coordination Group (FCORD) to share intelligence information among the security agencies of the states/centre to counter the problem of circulation of fake currency notes. 
  5. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between India and Bangladesh to prevent and counter smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes. 
  6. Lastly,security at the international borders has been strengthened by using (a)new surveillance technology (b)deploying additional manpower for round the clock surveillance (c)establishing observation posts along the international border (d)erection of border fencing and (e)intensive patrolling.

China says it wants security & stability along India border

  1. China has released a white paper titled “China’s National Defence in the New Era”.The paper has touched upon various aspects of its military development comparing with India, US, Russia and other countries.
  2. The Chinese military has said that it is striving to promote security and stability along the India-China border and has created favourable conditions to resolve the Doklam standoff in 2017.
  3. The Doklam standoff began when Indian troops objected to the China building a road close to the narrow Chicken Neck corridor connecting with the North-Eastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan.
  4. The standoff which led to severe disruption of relations between the two countries was finally resolved after China stopped the road construction, following which India withdrew its troops.
  5. The white paper has also highlighted the intensification of competition between the two million strong Chinese military with that of its counterparts in India,US,Russia and other countries.
  6. The white paper also noted that the international military competition is undergoing historic changes.New and high-tech military technologies based on IT are developing rapidly.
  7. The white paper also sought to play down heavy military expenditure, saying that China is spending less on defence budgets in terms of GDP in comparison to India,US and other countries.
  8. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),China is the second-largest spender of defence in the world.It increased its military expenditure by 5% to USD 250 billion in 2018 against India’s USD 66.5 billion.The US which is the largest spender of defence had spent USD 649 billion in 2018.

Opposition wants select panel scrutiny of key Bills

  1. Opposition parties have asked the government to send seven Bills in Rajya Sabha to Parliamentary Standing Committee or Select Committees for scrutiny.
  2. This decision was taken as eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament have been passed without any scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees.
  3. The Parliamentary committees are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume.They also monitor the functioning of the executive branch.
  4. The Parliamentary committees are of two kinds.The Standing committees are elected or appointed periodically and they work on a continuous basis.
  5. On the other hand,Ad hoc or select committees are created on a temporary basis as the need arises and they are dissolved after they complete the task assigned to them.
  6. Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118(on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
  7. The Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance.The bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.

CBDT celebrates Aaykar Diwas

  1. Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is celebrating the 159th Income Tax Day which is also called as Aaykar Diwas.
  2. Income Tax was introduced for the first time in India by Sir James Wilson on 24th July,1860 to compensate for the losses incurred by the British regime during the first war of independence against British Rule. 
  3. The event will include release of departmental publications, e-journal, publicity kit for outreach programmes among other things.
  4. CBDT has also launched a “Kardaata e-Sahyog Abhiyan” which will endeavour to assist and support taxpayers and other stakeholders in enabling them to e-file their returns and discharge other tax related obligations.
  5. CBDT is a statutory authority that functions under the Central Board of Revenue Act,1963.It is a part of the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance.
  6. CBDT provides inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes in India and is also responsible for the administration of direct tax laws through the Income Tax Department.

Gujarat tops in solar rooftop installations

  1. According to the government data,Gujarat has emerged as the state with the most rooftop solar panels installed.
  2. Gujarat has installed rooftop solar power capacity of 261 MW against 1,700 MW for all of India.Gujarat is followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in terms of installed rooftop capacity.
  3. The government has also provided financial assistance and incentives under the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar programme.
  4. The Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme aims to achieve a cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from rooftop solar projects by 2022. The program encourages installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic power generation plant for self-consumption as well as supply/sale of electricity to the grid.
  5. The programme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emission.
  6. The programme will also have direct employment potential.Besides increasing self-employment it is likely to generate employment opportunity equivalent to 9.39 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.
  7. The Indian government has set a growth target of installation of 175 GW aggregate capacity of renewable energy by 2022.Out of total 175 GW, target of 100 GW has been set for Solar Power.

Bangladesh: Scientists develop method to convert Jute fibre into low-cost bio-degradable cellulose sheets

  1. Scientists in Bangladesh have developed a method to convert Jute fibre into low-cost biodegradable cellulose sheets named as Sonali.
  2. These can be used as wrapping material and carrying bag.The physical qualities of the invented jute fibre and plastic are quite similar.
  3. The Eco-friendly jute poly bags made up of Sonali can also be used in garments and food packaging work and they are not harmful for human health.
  4. However,the main challenge in the large scale adoption of Sonali sheet is the relatively high cost of production which is almost double that of polythene.But,the production on a large scale is expected to bring down the cost.

New India-UK scheme to fund students from UK to visit India

  1. A new India-UK bilateral pilot scheme known as “UKEIRI Mobility Programme:Study in India” has been launched.
  2. The scheme aims to support Britain’s universities to collaborate with Indian partners in order to send UK students to India during their studies.
  3. The program is an initiative of Universities UK International (UUKi) and British Council India.
  4. The program will also support the internationalisation of Indian higher education through the diversification of the student body and the consolidation of inter-institutional partnerships
  5. The program will try to generate upto 200 opportunities for undergraduate students at UK universities to visit India by March 2021.Under the program,priority will be given to the students who are from under-represented groups.

Explained: What are sovereign bonds, and what are their risks and rewards?

  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. However,the current controversy relates to India’s sovereign bonds that will be floated in foreign countries and will be denominated in foreign currencies.In other words,both the initial loan amount and the final payment will be in either US dollars or some other comparable currency.
  4. This would differentiate these proposed bonds from either government securities wherein the Indian government raises loans within India and in Indian rupee or Masala bonds wherein Indian entities and not the government raises money overseas in rupee terms.
  5. The difference between issuing a bond denominated in rupees and issuing it in a foreign currency such as US dollars is the incidence of exchange rate risk.
  6. If the loan is in terms of dollars and the rupee weakens against the dollar during the bond’s tenure,the government would have to return more rupees to pay back the same amount of dollars.However,if the initial loan is denominated in rupee terms,then the negative fallout would be on the foreign investor.
  7. Further,the Indian Government is borrowing from overseas markets as Indian government’s domestic borrowing is crowding out private investment and preventing interest rates from falling even when inflation has cooled off and the RBI is cutting policy rates.
  8. Moreover,at less than 5%,India’s sovereign external debt to GDP is among the lowest globally.In other words,there is scope for the Indian government to raise funds this way without worrying too much about the possible negative effects.
  9. The sovereign bond issue will also provide a yield curve a benchmark for Indian corporates who wish to raise loans in foreign markets.This will help Indian businesses that have increasingly looked towards foreign economies to borrow money.

Lok Sabha passes Bill to tackle illicit deposit schemes

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Scheme Bill, 2019.
  2. The bill provides for a comprehensive mechanism to ban unregulated deposit schemes and to protect the interests of depositors.
  3. The bill has amended three legislations namely (a)Reserve Bank of India Act,1934 (b)Securities and Exchange Board of India Act,1992 and (c)Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act,2002.
  4. The bill defines regulated deposits as all deposit-taking schemes which are overseen and regulated by regulators like (a)Reserve Bank of India (RBI) (b)Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) (c)Ministry of Corporate Affairs and (d)state and union territory governments.
  5. On the other hand,deposit-taking scheme is defined as unregulated if it is not registered with the regulators listed in the Bill.
  6. The bill completely bans the promoting,operating,issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme.
  7. The Bill define three types of offences:(a)running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes (b)fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes and (c)wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
  8. The bill also provides for severe punishment and heavy fines to act as a deterrent.It also has a provision for repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes manage to raise deposits illegally.
  9. Further,the bill provides clear cut timelines for attachment of property and reimbursement to depositors.It also provides for designation of Courts to oversee repayment of depositors and to try offenses under the bill.
  10. The bill also provides for the creation of an online central database for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country.
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