9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 3, 2019

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Ist ever International Cloud Computing challenge being held in India

  1. First ever International Cloud computing challenge called the “World Skills India”-International Cloud Computing Challenge, 2019 is being held in India.
  2. Ten countries- India along with New Zealand, Belgium, Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, Russia, Oman and Ireland are participating the cloud computing competition.
  3. The finalists would further compete in the 45th “World Skills International Competition 2019”, to be held in Kazan, Russia in August
  4. The completion is being hosted under the aegis of NASSCOM and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
  5. “World Skills India” is an NSDC initiative launched in 2011. It seeks to provide a platform to the youth, along with industries and educators to compete, experience, learn and develop key professional skill sets required for Industry 4.0
  6. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) is a not-for-profit public limited company. NSDC was set up by Ministry of Finance as Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) holds 49% of the share capital of NSDC, while the private sector has the balance 51% of the share capital.
  7. NSDC aims to promote skill development by catalysing creation of large, quality and for-profit vocational institutions.
  8. According to NASSCOM, in the Asia-Pacific region, India stands second only to China, as the largest and fastest-growing cloud services market.
  9. Cloud computing is the delivery of different services through the Internet. The services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

The proposal of Classical language status for Marathi is under active consideration: Shri Prahlad Singh Patel

  1. Minister of State of Culture and Tourism has said that granting of classical language status to Marathi is under “active consideration” of the Ministry of Culture.
  2. The criteria evolved by Government to determine declaration of a language as a Classical language is a) High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years, b) A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers, c) The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community and d) The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
  3. Till date, Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Odia have been given the status of classical languages.
  4. Article 343 of the Indian Constitution gives Hindi in Devanagari script, the official language status of the Union.

Fifteen destinations have been identified by the Government for development of tourism under the Ramayana Circuit

  1. The Ministry of Tourism has identified 15 destinations for the Ramayana Circuit.
  2. Ramayana Circuit is one of the thematic circuits identified for development under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.
  3. The Swadesh Darshan scheme was launched in 2014-15 by the Ministry of Tourism. It aims at integrated development of theme based tourist circuits.
  4. It aims at integrated development of theme based tourist circuits.
  5. Under the scheme, 15 thematic circuits have been identified, for development namely: North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit, Heritage Circuit, Sufi Circuit and Tirthankar Circuit.

Govt adopts multi-pronged approach to check infiltration of illegal migrants

  1. Minister of State for Home Affairs has said that the Centre has adopted a multi-pronged approach to ensure effective surveillance along the international borders to check infiltration of illegal migrants.
  2. Several steps have been taken like enhancement of physical infrastructure which includes border fencing, floodlighting, and construction of border roads and establishment of border outposts.
  3. Further vulnerable border outposts are regularly reviewed and strengthened by deploying additional manpower, special surveillance equipment and other force multipliers.
  4. The government has also implemented technological solution in the form of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) in some vulnerable border areas.
  5. CIBMS is an integration of a number of high tech surveillance equipment, technologies and trained human resource to ensure robust surveillance across borders. It is designed to guard stretches where physical surveillance is not possible either due to inhospitable terrain or riverine borders.
  6. The implementation of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS), was formulated in 2016 after the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station.
  7. Two smart border fencing pilot projects are in place along International Border in Jammu. In March 2019, BOLD-QIT (Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique) was inaugurated on India-Bangladesh border in Dhubri District of Assam.

‘June was hottest ever recorded on Earth’

  1. According to the data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Union, June 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded worldwide.
  2. Globally Earth was 0.1 degree Celsius hotter than the previous June record in 2016.
  3. European temperatures were around 2 degrees Celsius hotter than normal. France recorded the hottest temperature in the country’s history (45.9C). Germany, Poland and Czech Republic also recorded their highest temperatures for June last week and experienced record breaking heat waves.
  4. According to experts, it is difficult to directly link the European heat wave to climate change but noted that such extreme weather events are expected to become more common due to global warming.
  5. A recent University of Hawaii study published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that by 2100, 75% of the world’s population will face deadly heat waves.

How global warming could impact jobs in India

  1. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has released a report titled ‘Working on a Warmer Planet: The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work’.
  2. The report highlights how working hours will be lost because it is too hot to work or because workers work at a slower pace. 
  3. The projections are based on a global temperature rise of 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century, and labour force trends.
  4. The report defines heat stress as heat in excess of what the body can tolerate without suffering physiological impairment. It generally occurs at temperatures above 35°C, in high humidity.
  5. According to the report, in 2030, 2.2 per cent of total working hours worldwide will be lost to high temperatures. It will be a productivity loss equivalent to 80 million full-time job.
  6. The report has said that the accumulated global financial loss due to heat stress is expected to reach USD 2,400 billion by 2030.
  7. Globally, the two sectors projected to be hit worst are agriculture and construction, with agriculture worse affected.
  8. The report notes that the impact of heat stress on labour productivity will be pronounced in countries and Southern Asia and up to 5.3% of total working hours (the equivalent of 43 million full-time jobs) are projected to be lost.
  9. The report has said that the country most affected by heat stress is India. India lost 4.3% of working hours in 1995 and is projected to lose 5.8% of working hours in 2030.
  10. It further said that because of its large population, in absolute terms, India is expected to lose the equivalent of 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 in productivity.
  11. Most of the impact in India will be felt in the agriculture sector. But, increasing working hours are expected to be lost in the construction sector, where heat stress affects both male and female workers.

Bengal introduces 10% quota in jobs, education

  1. The West Bengal government has announced 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to people belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS).
  2. West Bengal was one of the states that had not implemented the 10% reservation for the EWS introduced by the Centre in January 2019. Gujarat was the first state to implement 10% reservation for EWS category.
  3. The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category
  4. The Act amends Article 15 and 16 to provide for reservation based on economic backwardness.
  5. The criteria for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) includes a) annual income below Rs 8 lakh; b) agriculture land below 5 acres; c) residential house below 1,000 sq.ft; d) residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality and residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area.

Union Minister opposes UP move to shift 17 OBCs to SC List

  1. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment has said that the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to relist OBCs (Other Backward Classes) in the Schedule Caste list is unconstitutional and it is a transgression of Parliament’s jurisdiction.
  2. Recently, UP government had directed district magistrates and commissioners to issue caste certificates to 17 OBCs.
  3. Article 341(1) of the Indian Constitution gives the president the power to notify which castes in the country, and in specific states come under the category of Scheduled Castes.
  4. According to Article 341 (2), the Parliament by law can include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Castes.
  5. Scheduled   Castes   are   those   castes   named   in   the   Scheduled   Castes   order   of   the Government of India, promulgated in August 1950.
  6. The criteria for inclusion of a community/ caste in the Scheduled caste is extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of traditional practice of untouchability.

Mekedatu project to claim 52.5 sq. km of core forest area

  1. According to the pre-feasibility report of Mekedatu project, nearly 52.5 sq. km of land in the core area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, will be submerged or built over for the project.
  2. The Mekedatu project is a balancing reservoir and drinking water project to be built at the confluence of Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers, near Mekedatu, Kanakapura taluk in Ramnagar district of Karnataka.
  3. The project is aimed at solving the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramnagar district. It would also generate 400 MW of hydroelectric power.
  4. Tamil Nadu has protest against the Mekedatu project. It has argued that Cauvery was already a deficit basin and the construction of the project would drastically affect the lower riparian State (Tamil Nadu) in getting their due share of waters as per the order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal.
  5. Service or balancing reservoirs are those which receive water supplies that are pumped or channelled into them artificially.

Work on Kondapochamma reservoir nearing completion

  1. The construction of Kondapochamma reservoir is nearing completion. The Kondapochamma reservoir is a part of Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project.
  2. Kondapochamma reservoir is being constructed in the Medak district of Telanagana.
  3. Kaleshwaram Multipurpose Lift Irrigation Project of Telanagna is on River Godavari. It is touted as world’s largest multi-stage, multi-purpose lift irrigation project.
  4. The project will support crop cultivation on 45 lakh acres of land. It will also meet the drinking water requirement of 70% of the state and also cater to the needs of the industry.
  5. The total length of Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 kms. It has 20 reservoirs spread across 13 districts with a total capacity to store 145 TMC.
  6. Lift irrigation is a method of irrigation in which water is not transported by natural flow but is lifted with pumps or surge pools etc.

Centre ratifies convention to curb company profit shifting

  1. The Central Government has ratified the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI).
  2. The Multilateral Convention is an outcome of the OECD and G20 Project to tackle Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS Project).
  3. The BEPS Project objective is to tackle base erosion and profit shifting where companies shift their profits to other tax jurisdictions which usually have lower rates, thereby eroding the tax base in India.
  4. The BEPS Project identified 15 actions to address base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) in a comprehensive manner.
  5. The Convention enables countries to implement the tax treaty related changes to achieve anti-abuse BEPS outcomes through the multilateral route without the need to bilaterally re-negotiate each such agreement which is burdensome and time consuming.
  6. The Convention will modify India’s treaties in order to curb revenue loss through treaty abuse and base erosion and profit shifting strategies by ensuring that profits are taxed where substantive economic activities generating the profits are carried out and where value is created.
  7. Further, the US is not a signatory of this Multilateral Convention as it believes that it has a robust tax treaty network that prevents treaty abuse.

US Senate passes legislative provision to give India NATO ally-like status

  1. The United States Senate has passed a legislative provision that brings India at par with US NATO allies and countries like Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation.
  2. This legislative provision was part of the National Defence Authorisation Act for the fiscal year 2020.
  3. The legislation provides for increased US-India defence cooperation in the Indian Ocean in the areas of maritime security, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and humanitarian assistance.
  4. The amendment would also require the US Secretary of Defence to report to Congress on US-India defence cooperation and to conduct regular joint military activities with India in the Western Indian Ocean.
  5. The legislation will also smoothen the passage of sales to India of high end US military hardware with India signing foundational compatibility, logistical and security and secrecy agreements required by US for such transactions.
  6. India was already recognised as a major defence partner by the US for the first time in 2016.It allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from the US on par with other close allies and partners of the US.

Lok Sabha passes Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  2. The Bill seeks to ensure transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education in the country. It provides for the supersession of the Medical Council of India(MCI) for two years.
  3. During this period, the Board of Governors shall exercise the powers and functions of the MCI. The number of members in the Board of Governors will also be increased from the existing 7 to 12.
  4. Meanwhile, the government will soon come up with a National Medical Commission(NMC) Bill to usher in comprehensive reforms in the medical education sector.
  5. This bill was introduced after the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had come across certain arbitrary action by the MCI in disregard to the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
  6. In view of these developments and to put an alternative mechanism in place of MCI, it was decided to supersede the MCI and entrust its affairs on a Board of Governors (BoG) consisting of eminent doctors.
  7. The Medical Council of India (MCI) was established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. The Act was repealed and replaced by the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
  8. The functions of MCI include (a) Maintenance of uniform standards of medical education (b) Recognition/derecognition of medical qualifications and medical colleges and (c)registration of doctors.

US declares Pakistan’s separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army as terrorist group

  1. The United States has designated the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a terrorist organisation.
  2. The terrorist designation allows the US administration to seek criminal penalties against elements of the BLA and foreign officials deemed to be aiding it. It will also allow US to ban travel to the United States for individuals associated with BLA.
  3. The US has called Balochistan Liberation Army as an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians mainly in southwest Pakistan.
  4. It says the group carried out a suicide attack in August 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Baluchistan and a May 2019 attack on a in the port town of Gwadar.
  5. Balochistan is the largest but least developed mineral rich province in Pakistan.It is situated on the western side of Pakistan.
  6. Balochistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources.

AYUSH, MeitY ministries to collaborate for digitisation of AYUSH sector

  1. The Ministries of AYUSH and Electronics and Information Technology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the digitization of the AYUSH sector.
  2. In pursuance to the National Health Policy 2017,the project aims to digitize the entire AYUSH leading to transformation in the field of health care delivery at all levels along with greater research, education, delivery of various health care programmes and better drug regulations.
  3. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has also taken various Health initiatives such as e-Hospital, e-Aushadhi, e-Rakt Kosh, Online Registration System (ORS) and e-Sushrut for digitizing the internal workflows and processes of hospitals across the country.
  4. MeitY has also sponsored a number of R&D projects for development of Medical Electronics Devices and Systems such as Medical and Imaging equipment and establishing a centre of excellence in medical electronics.
  5. MeitY has also launched an online information guide called Vikaspedia, a portal for the various social sectors including Health and it offers information in 23 languages.

82-member rhino protection force deployed in Kaziranga

  1. A special force will soon be appointed for the protection of rhinos in Kaziranga National Park (KNP),Assam.
  2. The force will be known as the ‘Special Rhino Protection Force’ and the members of the force will be specially trained to protect the rhinos across the state.
  3. The Assam government would be paying the salaries of the SRPF members and the amount would be reimbursed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which recommended setting up of special force.
  4. Kaziranga National Park (KNP) houses the largest population of One Horned Rhinoceros in the world and has about 68% of the entire world population of One-horned Rhinoceros.
  5. There are three species of rhino in Asia namely (a) Greater one-horned, (b) Javan and (c) Sumatran. Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered and the Greater one-horned or Indian rhino is vulnerable In IUCN Red List.
  6. The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. NTCA was constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation.

OPEC agrees to extend output cuts into 2020 as demand falters

  1. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has won the support of other major oil producing nations to extend a production cut in a bid to shore up prices at a time of decreasing demand.
  2. The 10 non-OPEC nations present at the meeting included countries such as Mexico, Bahrain, Kazakhstan and Russia among others.
  3. The United States which has become the world’s biggest oil producer and a significant exporter was not involved in the discussions and won’t be bound by any agreement.
  4. OPEC is an intergovernmental organisation of 14 nations, founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria.
  5. The current OPEC members are the following: (a) Algeria (b) Angola, (c) Ecuador (d) Equatorial Guinea (e) Gabon (f) Iran (g) Iraq (h) Kuwait, (I) Libya (j) Nigeria (k) the Republic of the Congo (l) Saudi Arabia (j) United Arab Emirates and (k) Venezuela.Further,Indonesia and Qatar are former members.
  6. OPEC’s objective is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers and an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.

Bangladesh seeks to synergise ties with India

  1. Bangladesh High Commissioner to India has called for greater cooperation between the two countries to accelerate the growth for the benefits of their people.
  2. He pointed out trade, investment, connectivity and energy as the three key areas of immediate focus.
  3. Referring to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, he said that Bangladesh seeks continuous support of India and international community to put pressure on Myanmar for taking back their citizens.
  4. He said that the ultimate solution to the crisis can come only when Myanmar recognizes Rohingyas as their citizens and takes over a million of refugees back home.
  5. Rohingya is an ethnic group largely comprising Muslims who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine. In Myanmar, they are they are classified as “resident foreigners” or as “associate citizens”
  6. Lakhs of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and India after facing religious and ethnical persecution in Myanmar.  This has led to a historic migration crisis and a large humanitarian crisis.

High trading costs impact liquidity of Indian equities: study

  1. According to a study by the World Bank, the turnover ratio of the Indian stock market had fallen from 143 in 2008 to 58 in 2018.
  2. The turnover ratio which is a universally accepted parameter to gauge trading volumes, is the total value of the shares traded in a specific period divided by the average market capitalisation of that period.
  3. The fall had been the highest among most leading markets of the world, barring the U.S. and the European Union.
  4. Separately, as part of their pre-budget recommendations to the government, capital market participants had sought rationalisation of the securities transaction tax (STT) apart from bringing back certain exemption benefits that were available earlier.
  5. In 2007-08, the government had stopped treating STT as tax paid and treated it as an expense that led to double taxation for the gains assessed under business income.
  6. Further, while long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax was made nil while introducing STT in 2004, the transaction tax was not done away with when LTCG was reintroduced in 2018.
  7. Securities transaction tax (STT) is a tax levied at the time of purchase and sale of securities listed on stock exchanges in India.
  8. Securities are tradable investment instruments such as shares, bonds, debentures, equity-oriented mutual funds (MFs) and so on and are issued either by companies or by the Indian government.
  9. LTCG is the tax paid on profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held for a particular time-frame.

Hong Kong protests undermine rule of law, social order: China

  1. The Chinese government has issued a strong condemnation of protesters who stormed and vandalised Hong Kong’s legislature calling the act totally intolerable.
  2. Hong Kong enjoys a “one country, two systems” deal that guarantees it a level of autonomy, and rights not seen on mainland China.
  3. However, it does not have full democracy and pro-democracy events are held every year to mark the handover.
  4. But, this year the annual event follows weeks of protests which have seen millions take to the streets over the planned extradition bill.
  5. The changes made in the extradition bill would had allowed suspects accused of crimes such as murder and rape to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.
  6. Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 until it was returned to China in 1997.Central to the handover was the agreement of the Basic Law, a mini constitution that gives Hong Kong broad autonomy and sets out certain rights.
  7. Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong has kept its judicial independence, its own legislature, its economic system and the Hong Kong dollar. Beijing retains control of foreign and defence affairs, and visas or permits are required for travel between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Fund-starved NBFCs seek dedicated liquidity window

  1. Non-banking finance companies (NBFC) who are under liquidity crunch and high cost of borrowings has asked for short-term and long-term measures from the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  2. They have asked for a dedicated refinance window for NBFCs’ on the lines of National Housing Bank which provides refinance to housing finance companies.
  3. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in their 45th report had also recommended setting up of a new refinance institution for NBFCs.
  4. NBFCs have said that liquidity window for them will not only help the sector come out of the crisis, it will also infuse confidence among lenders and borrowers thereby pushing consumption demand in the economy.
  5. Since 1999, the RBI had allowed all banks lending to NBFCs for on-lending to the priority sector to be treated as priority sector lending by banks.
  6. This gave a huge incentive to banks to lend to NBFCs. While it ensured sufficient bank funding to NBFCs at a reasonable cost, it also facilitated banks to meet their PSL targets. However, this was withdrawn in 2011.NBFCs have asked the same arrangement may be restored urgently.
  7. Further, they have also asked the government to allow RBI registered small & medium sized NBFCs to avail refinance from MUDRA.

Money in Swiss banks: India ranked 74

  1. According to the data released by the Swiss National Bank (SNB),India has moved down one place to 74th rank in terms of money parked by its citizens and enterprises with Swiss banks.
  2. Among the top-ranked jurisdictions, the UK is followed by the US, West Indies, France and Hong Kong in the top five.
  3. The top-five countries alone account for more than 50% of the aggregate foreign funds parked with the Swiss banks.
  4. The report said that India accounts for just about 0.07% of the aggregate funds parked by all foreign clients of Switzerland-based banks.
  5. Among the five-nation BRICS block of emerging economies, India is ranked the lowest while Russia is ranked the highest at 20th place, followed by China, South Africa and Brazil.
  6. Further, India was ranked in the top-50 continuously between 1996 and 2007 but its rank started declining after that continuously.

Government proposes Rs 74,000 crore bailout for BSNL, MTNL

  1. The government has proposed Rs 74,000 crore bailout package for state-run telecommunication companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL).
  2. The scheme involves an attractive exit package of an additional five percent compensation (ex-gratia) and provisions for 4G spectrum and capital expenditure.
  3. BSNL is India’s largest loss-making state-run entity. MTNL comes third with. Only national carrier Air India has a higher loss than MTNL.
  4. BSNL and MTNL have been struggling to compete with private players in the sector due to high costs and poor management. Neither company has rolled out 4G services.
  5. Further, average revenue per user(ARPU) of these two telcos stands at Rs 38 compared to Rs 70 for private players.
  6. The government is considering lowering the retirement age to 58 from 60 and offering a decent exit package which will lower the cost at the loss-making companies.
  7. The government is also evaluating the option of monetising assets such as towers, land bank and optical fibre of BSNL and MTNL.
  8. The government has also said that the bailout is a better option than closing the two PSUs. This is because strategic divestment might not find too many buyers given the financial pressure in the telecom sector.
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