9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 26, 2019

Lok Sabha passes Bill to set up single tribunal to settle inter-state water disputes

  1. Lok Sabha has passed the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  2. The bill seeks to amend the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.  The Act provides for the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers and river valleys.
  3. The Bill requires the central government to set up a dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably. The DRC will get a period of one year extendable by six months to submit its report to the central government.
  4. The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication of water disputes if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC.
  5. This tribunal can have multiple benches. All existing tribunals will be dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing tribunals will be transferred to this newly formed tribunal.
  6. The Tribunal will consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members and three expert members.
  7. Under the Act, the central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin. The Bill provides that the central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.

Release of India’s R&D expenditure eco-system report

  1. The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) has released a report titled ‘R&D Expenditure Ecosystem’.
  2. The report has said that the growth in research and development (R&D) expenditure should be commensurate with the economy’s growth and should be targeted to reach at least 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022.
  3. The report has pointed out that India’s public investment in R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant over the last two decades.
  4. It has remained constant at around 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP and this is well below the major countries such as the United States (US) (2.8%), China (2.1%), Israel (4.3%) and Korea (4.2%).
  5. The report has said that government expenditure on R&D is undertaken almost entirely by the central government. It has called for greater participation of state government and the private sector in overall R&D spending.
  6. To stimulate the private sector’s investment in R&D from current 0.35% of GDP, it has suggested that a minimum percentage of turn-over of the company may be invested in R&D by medium and large enterprises registered in India.
  7. The report has recommended that states can partner with Centre to jointly fund research and innovation programmes through socially designed Central Sponsored Schemes (CSS).
  8. The report also pitched for creating 30 dedicated R&D Exports Hub and a corpus of Rs 5,000 crore for funding mega projects with cross cutting themes which are of national interest.
  9. PMEAC is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to give economic advice to the Government of India, specifically the Prime Minister.
  10. The council serves to highlight key economic issues facing the country to the government of India from a neutral viewpoint. It advises the Prime Minister on economic issues like inflation, microfinance, and industrial output.

India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree

  1. Researchers from Assam have discovered Dracaena cambodiana. It is a dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong.
  2. This is for the first time that a dragon tree species has been reported from India.
  3. This plant yields dragon’s blood which is a bright red resin used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye. 
  4. Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, have also been extracted from various parts of the plant.
  5. Researchers have said that in India, the Dracaena genus belongs to the family Asparagaceae. It is represented by nine species and two varieties in the Himalayan region, the northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species.
  6. However, ecent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant. For this reason, the species is already listed in the inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of China.

Cabinet approves Determination of ‘Fair and Remunerative Price’ of sugarcane payable by sugar mills for 2019-20 sugar season

  1. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the proposal in respect of Determination of ‘Fair and Remunerative Price’ of sugarcane payable by sugar mills for 2019-20 sugar season.
  2. The Cabinet has also approved the creation of buffer stock of 40 lakh Metric Tonnes of sugar for one year from the 1st of next month. This will lead to an improvement in the liquidity in sugar inventories and stabilization in sugar prices
  3. The Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) is the minimum price that sugar mills have to pay to sugarcane farmers.
  4. FRP is determined by the Central Government on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
  5. The final FRP is arrived by taking into account various factors such as cost of production, domestic and international prices, overall demand supply situation, inter-crop price parity among others.
  6. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is one of the standing committees of cabinet constituted by government of India. The committee is headed by the Prime Minister.
  7. The major function of the CCEA is to review economic trends on a continuous basis as also the problems and prospects with a view to evolve a consistent and integrated economic policy framework for the country.
  8. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. It came into existence in January 1965.It is an advisory body whose recommendations are not binding on Government.

Global meet on shark fisheries

  1. International shark meet was held in Kochi, Kerala on July 24, 2019.
  2. The global conference was jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).
  3. The meeting aimed to bring together the scientific community in the spectrum to describe various methodologies being transpired and adopted in research works and to develop a set of common guidelines for all the shark fishing countries.
  4. The meeting stressed on the need for mapping and understanding the full value chain of shark species to secure sustainability of commercial fishery and markets which would benefit both the stakeholders and the resources.
  5. The CMFRI was established by the Government of India in 1947 under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and later it joined the Indian Council of Agricultural research (ICAR) in 1967.The institute is headquartered at kochi.
  6. The FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It is headquartered in Rome, Italy. The goal of FAO is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

Govt readies compensation plan for patients affected by faulty devices

  1. Government had set up a nine-member medical devices sub-committee headed by former director general of health services (DGHS), Dr B.D. Athani.
  2. The subcommittee was set up to recommend compensation plan for patients suffering from adverse effects of a faulty medical device. The compensation will be given by the manufacturers and importers of such devices.
  3. The committee is in the final stages of coming up with a legally binding compensation formula.
  4. The Compensation has been determined on the basis of parameters such as the base amount, loss of wages and the degree of disability. Further, new provisions will be added to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to introduce a compensation plan.
  5. Currently, India does not have any legal provisions to compensate patients facing health problems due to implants or use of faulty medical devices. Under the law, companies are liable to pay compensation only when something goes wrong during a clinical trial.

ICMR launches forum to improve data collection and use

  1. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has launched the National Data Quality Forum (NDQF) to improve data collection and use.
  2. The NDQF was launched in collaboration between the National Institute for Medical Statistics (NIMS) and global non-profit organisation Population Council.
  3. NDQF will integrate learnings from scientific and evidence-based initiatives and guide actions through periodic workshops and conferences.
  4. The activities of the NDQF will help towards establishing protocols and good practices when dealing with data collection, storage, use and dissemination which can be applied to health and demographic data as well as replicated across industries and sectors.
  5. The ICMR is the apex and premier medical research organization in the country which spearheads planning, formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. It works under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  6. NIMS is one of the permanent institutes of Institutes of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).It is India’s only institute to coordinate and standardize the collection of medical and health statistics in the country.
  7. The Institute came into existence in the year 1977 with the mandate to provide technical expertise on research methodology, programme evaluation, mathematical modeling, data analysis etc.

5G, data localisation to dominate BRICS meeting

  1. The two-day BRICS foreign ministers is set to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This meeting is being held in preparation for the 11th BRICS summit in November, 2019.
  2. The meeting is expected to call for a united stand on issues surrounding 5G networks and data storage.
  3. The BRICS countries may also search for common ground on data localisation after the Reserve Bank of India had passed guidelines ensuring that financial data pertaining to Indians is stored only in Indian servers.
  4. The meeting will also make a special mention of the U.S. opposition to Chinese telecom major Huawei.
  5. India is yet to clarify whether it will include Huawei in its trials of 5G equipment due to start in September, 2019.The issue had been raised on the sidelines of the Osaka G-20 summit but no decision has been announced.
  6. BRICS is an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the five fastest emerging nations. The BRICS Leaders Summit is convened annually.
  7. Together, BRICS accounts for about 40% of the world’s population and about 30% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) making it a critical economic engine.
  8. The 10th BRICS summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme of 10th BRICS Summit was “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.

Need to respond to China’s growing might in Indian Ocean: Navy chief

  1. Indian Navy Chief has said that the Indian armed forces will need to respond to China’s rapidly-expanding military might, especially its growing naval footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  2. This statement comes after China had released its defence white paper, which mentioned Chinese military’s increased global focus.
  3. China is also in the process of constructing warships including aircraft carriers and submarines on war footing.
  4. However, the Navy chief has highlighted the Indian Navy’s current budgetary constraints. He said that Indian Navy requires long-term fiscal support for major acquisitions in the next few years as part of its modernisation plans.
  5. The Navy currently has around 140 warships and 220 aircraft but many of them are slated for progressive retirement. With proper funding, the Navy hopes to become a 212-warship and 458-aircraft force by around 2030.

China plans to build more military facilities abroad

  1. China has released a white paper titled “China’s National Defence in the New Era”.
  2. The paper has touched upon various aspects of its military development comparing with India, US, Russia and other countries.
  3. The white paper has tried to justify China building military facilities in foreign locations and signalled that it would continue with efforts in this direction.
  4. China has already established a military support base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
  5. Further, experts have said that China may establish military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests such as Pakistan and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries.
  6. India has also been worried that China’s People’s Liberation Army would use the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) to extend its military reach.
  7. CPEC refers to a number of major infrastructure works currently under way in Pakistan intended to link Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province to Gwadar deep sea port close to Pakistan’s border with Iran. The project seeks to expand and upgrade infrastructure across the length and breadth of Pakistan.
  8. The CPEC passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan). As both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, the area is considered a disputed territory by India. According to India, it undermines India’s strategic interests and territorial integrity.

PMO asks FinMin to study overseas bond issue

  1. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the finance ministry to reconsider the idea of issuing foreign currency overseas sovereign bonds.
  2. Finance Minister in her budget speech had said that India would look to issue overseas foreign currency sovereign bonds.
  3. However, the idea has been criticised by economists as they argued that it could create long-term economic risks by exposing the government’s liabilities to currency fluctuations.
  4. 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.
  5. However, overseas sovereign bonds 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.
  6. Further, experts have said that overseas borrowings would lead to a quicker increase in India’s foreign exchange reserves which would lead to a stronger rupee. A stronger rupee would encourage imports at a time when the government is trying to curb them.

Karnataka speaker disqualifies 3 MLAs, case may go to Supreme Court today

  1. Karnataka Assembly Speaker has disqualified three rebel MLAs as they have violated the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law).
  2. The speaker has said that the rebel lawmakers would now no longer be MLAs with immediate effect and are barred from contesting elections till 2023.However, the disqualification is open to judicial review.
  3. The Anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.
  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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

SC orders setting up of special courts in districts with over 100 pending POCSO cases

  1. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to set up special courts in those districts where more than 100 cases of sexual offences against children are pending.
  2. The special court will be set up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act. The court will only hear sexual assault cases against children and will ensure speedy trial.
  3. The Supreme Court has given the Centre 30 days’ time to arrange the funds needed for infrastructure, and appointment of judges, support staff and prosecutors. The court has also directed solicitor general to furnish a progress report on 26th September.
  4. The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect the children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.
  5. Recently, the government has introduced Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019.
  6. The amendment bill provides for gender neutral application of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for aggravated penetrative sexual assault of both girl and boy below 16 years of age.
  7. For the first time, the bill carries a definition of child pornography and provide for levy of fines and imprisonment of up to 5years to curb child pornography.
  8. Amendments are also proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities.

ECI sets up teams to probe VVPAT mismatch in Lok Sabha election

  1. The Election Commission of India has set up a panel to examine VVPAT mismatch in Lok sabha election 2019. 
  2. This comes in the backdrop of reports of mismatches between the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips and the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) count in eight cases during the Lok Sabha election
  3. Under the electoral rules, if there is any discrepancy in the match, the VVPAT count prevails.
  4. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It helps to detect any possible election fraud or malfunction of EVMs
  5. Before the 2019 Loka Sabha election, the Supreme Court had order the EC to counter-check the VVPAT and EVM tallies in five randomly selected polling stations in an Assembly segment.
  6. Previously, under the ECI guideline 16.6, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification.

RTI Amendment Bill passed amid protests in Rajya Sabha

  1. The Rajya Sabha has passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill amends the RTI Act 2005.
  2. According to the RTI Act of 2005, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC) at the central and state level will hold office for a term of five years.  However, the amendments specify that the Centre will in fact notify the terms of both the CIC and the IC.
  3. The Bill also removes provisions of the salary of the CIC and IC being equivalent to those of the CEC and election commissioners at the central level and to those of the election commissioners and the chief secretary at the state level. The bill states that it should be specified by the government.
  4. According to the government, the rationale behind the amendment is that the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions should be rationalised. Central Information Commission was a statutory body and it was an anomaly to equate it to a constitutional body like Election Commission
  5. However, 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.
  6. 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.

Earth is warming at faster pace than in last 2,000 years: study

  1. According to studies published in the journals Nature and Nature Geoscience, world temperatures rose faster in the late 20th century than at any other time in the last 2,000 years.
  2. The paper published in Nature examined regional temperature trends over time. While, the paper published in Nature Geoscience examined rates of surface warming, averaged over sub-periods each a few decades long.
  3. The researchers had used data compiled from nearly 700 temperature indicators such as tree rings, sediment cores, coral reefs, modern thermometer readings etc.
  4. The findings of the study suggest that in modern human history temperatures rose the fastest and most consistently in the late 20th century marked by unprecedented anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The study also found that pre-industrial temperature fluctuations were largely driven by volcanic activity.
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