9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 31, 2019

India’s large cities staring at water crisis: Water Stress Index

  1. Water Stress Index, formulated by London-based risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft, has listed India as the 46th highest risk country in the world.
  2. According to the index, 11 of India’s 20 largest cities face an ‘extreme risk’ of water stress and seven are in the ‘high risk’ category. Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Nashik, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Indore are among the cities facing ‘extreme risk’.
  3. According to the study, Bengaluru and Surat are experiencing the greatest surge in demand for water and are most at risk of facing scarcity. Further, Chennai and Delhi are also extremely vulnerable.
  4. The index measured the water consumption rates of households, industries and farm sectors and the available resources in rivers, lakes and streams. It then plotted the index with projected population growth trends to rank the cities facing the biggest threat to their water resources.
  5. Further, India is rated ‘high risk’ in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index. It indicates that effects of climate change like an ‘extended dry season’ would deteriorate water stress situation in Indian cities.  The study has noted that many Indian cities are projected to experience a higher number of consecutive drought days when precipitation is less than 1 mm

TOI 270 – NASA finds a new planetary system about 73 light years away from earth

  1. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has recently discovered a new planetary system. It has been named as TOI 270.
  2. TOI 270 is about 73 light years away from Earth, and is located in the constellation Pictor.
  3. The members of the planetary system include a dwarf star (TOI 270), which is 40% smaller than the Sun in size and mass, and the three planets or exoplanets (planets outside the solar system).
  4. The exoplanets have been named TOI 270 b, TOI 270 c, and TOI 270 d. TOI 270 b is the innermost planet.
  5. TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d are Neptune-like planets because their compositions are dominated by gases rather than rock.
  6. The three planets orbit the star every 3.4 days, 5.7 days, and 11.4 days respectively.
  7. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an all-sky survey mission that seeks to discover exoplanets around nearby bright stars. It was launched in April 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Bills against lynching, honour killing introduced in Rajasthan

  1. The Rajasthan government has introduced Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, and the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019.
  2. Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 seeks to protect the constitutional rights of vulnerable persons and punish the acts of lynching through trial in the designated courts, besides rehabilitating the victims and their families.
  3. The Bill provides for life imprisonment and fine up to ₹5 lakh for the offence of lynching. It also provides for appointment of a nodal officer of the rank of Inspector-General of Police to prevent lynchings and establishment of relief camps in safe zones for the victims.
  4. The bill defines lynching as an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity.
  5. The Supreme Court in 2018 in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India had recommended the central government to enact a legislation to create a separate offence for lynching
  6. The Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019 provides for death penalty or life sentence and fine up to ₹5 lakh for killing a couple or either of them on the basis that their marriage had dishonoured or brought disrepute to the caste, community or family

Efforts on to help Vembanad Lake breathe

  1. A group of fishermen have been conducting plastic collection drive to combat plastic pollution in the Vembanad Lake. Plastic bottles are the most prevalent form of plastic pollution in the lake.
  2. In June 2018, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) had issued a direction to hotels, resorts, houseboats and hospitals with more than 500 beds in the State to stop usage of plastic bottles for supply of drinking water.
  3. The Vembanad Lake is the longest lake in India. It is located in the district of Kerala. The lake is bordered by Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. It is situated at the sea level, and is separated from the Laccadive Sea by a narrow barrier island.
  4. Vembanad Lake is in List of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. There are 27 Ramsar Wetland Sites in India.
  5. Ramsar Convention on Wetland is an intergovernmental treaty, signed in 1971, which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Triple Talaq Bill sails through Rajya Sabha

  1. The Government has passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, also known as the Triple ‘talaq’ Bill.
  2. The bill will be now sent to the president for approval. Once granted assent, it will replace an ordinance promulgated in February 2018 to the same effect as the bill.
  3. The bill declares the practice of triple talaq as void and illegal and a cognisable offence.
  4. It also prescribes a penalty of up to three years imprisonment for an offence.
  5. It further provides for subsistence allowance to married Muslim women and their children. In August 2017, The Supreme Court of India had held Instant triple Talaq has unconstitutional.
  6. Triple Talaq (Talaq-e-biddat) refers to a practice of divorce under Muslim personal laws simply by pronouncing word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife.

Lok Sabha passes Consumer Protection Bill

  1. The Lok Sabha has passed the Consumer Protection Bill,2019.The bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act,1986.
  2. The bill defines a consumer as a person who buys any goods or avails a service for a consideration.It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purposes. 
  3. The bill covers transactions through all modes including offline and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.
  4. The bill provides the central government to set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority(CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
  5. CCPA will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.The CCPA will have an investigation wing headed by a Director-General which may conduct an inquiry or investigation into such violations.
  6. The bill provides for an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism. Mediation cells will be attached to Consumer Forum.The bill also ensures ease of approaching Consumer Commission and Simplification of Adjudication process.
  7. The bill provides for Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) to be set up at the district,state and national levels.
  8. The bill defines product liability as the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.

In a first, Maharashtra gets biometric database to list criminals

  1. Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to adopt automated multimodal biometric identification system(AMBIS).
  2. AMBIS unit comprises a computer terminal,a camera and iris,fingerprint, and palm scanners.It also includes a portable system to dust off and capture fingerprints from crime scenes.
  3. AMBIS system collates data and enables automated identification of criminal records using fingerprint, face and iris recognition.The system was developed in France and adapted to meet the state’s requirements with the help of Indian Institute of Technology professors,
  4. AMBIS helps investigators trace suspects and ascertain whether a suspect has a criminal record.The system has a capacity to store the data of 20 lakh criminals.It can go through its archives and give results in 0.45 milliseconds.
  5. Additionally,data from AMBIS can be shared with the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) and investigation agencies from other states and courts, including foreign agencies like Interpol.

Rajya Sabha Dy Chairman Harivansh calls for solutions to resolve MPLADS issues

  1. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman has written to MPs for seeking their suggestions on how to address various problems plaguing the MP Local Area Development Scheme(MPLADS).
  2. MPLADS is a centrally sponsored scheme fully funded by the government.The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation formulates the guidelines,releases funds and monitors implementation.
  3. MPLADS provides MPs five crore rupees per annum to identify and fund development projects in their constituencies as per the guidelines drawn up by Parliament.
  4. The role of MPs is limited to ‘recommending’ works as the actual implementation is done by local authorities.Therefore,the scheme does not violate separation of powers.The MPs may recommend projects in sectors such as infrastructure development, public health, sanitation, water among others.
  5. Elected members of the Lok Sabha can suggest developmental works in their constituency, while elected members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works in one or more districts of their State.Further,the nominated members of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha can recommend works in one or more districts anywhere in the country.
  6. The deputy chairman referred to a 1998 CAG which pointed at several instances of mismanagement,misuse of funds and lack of proper accounting of the scheme.
  7. Similarly,he also quoted a programme evaluation report of the erstwhile Planning Commission in 2001 that identified issues such as (a)improper maintenance of records (b)percentage utilisation of the fund being lower than officially reported (c)inflated reporting of expenditure and (d)poor maintenance of assets created. 
  8. The Deputy chairman also referred to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report which noted large gaps between the funds available to district authorities and the actual expenditure on the scheme.

Lok Sabha passes Wage Code Bill to ensure minimum wage for workers

  1. Lok Sabha has passed the Code on Wages Bill, 2019.The Bill seeks to subsume existing laws related to workers’ remuneration.
  2. The bill will replace the (a)Payment of Wages Act,1936, (b)Minimum Wages Act,1948 (c)Payment of Bonus Act,1965 and the (d)Equal Remuneration Act,1976.
  3. The bill provides that the Central Government will fix minimum wages for certain sectors including railways and mines while the states would be free to set minimum wages for other category of employment.
  4. The code also provides for setting up of a national minimum wage.The Central Government can set a separate minimum wage for different regions or states.The Bill also says that the minimum wage would be revised every five years.
  5. The bill has introduced many changes in the inspection regimes including web based randomised computerised inspection scheme, jurisdiction-free inspections,composition of fines among others.All these changes will be conducive for enforcement of labour laws with transparency and accountability.
  6. Further,the Code on Wages bill is one of the four codes that would subsume 44 labour laws.The four codes will deal with (a)wages (b)social security, (c)industrial safety and welfare and (d)industrial relations.

Too much quota may impact right to equal opportunity, remarks Supreme Court

  1. The Supreme Court has observed that excessive quota may impact the right to equal opportunity guaranteed under the Constitution.
  2. This observation was made while hearing several petitions which have asked for a Constitution Bench to examine the validity of 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act.
  3. The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker sections in the unreserved category
  4. The Act amends Article 15 and 16 to provide for reservation based on economic backwardness.
  5. The petitioners argued that the economic reservation violated the 50% reservation ceiling limit fixed by a nine-judge Bench in the Indra Sawhney case.Further,the 1992 judgment had barred reservation solely on economic criterion.
  6. The act has also been criticised on the grounds that it violates the basic Structure of the constitution as it is violative of the equality principle enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution as it excludes OBCs, SCs and STs from the scope of economic reservation.
  7. Further,it has also challenged the law on the ground that it provides for reservation in private unaided educational institutions which has been clearly barred by the SC in previous judgements.
  8. However,the government has justified to the apex court that the 10% economic quota law was a move towards a classless and casteless society.It said the law was meant to benefit a large section of the population who are mostly lower middle class and below the poverty line.

IRDAI to give green signal to sandbox experiment soon

  1. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) will soon allow the use of regulatory sandbox(RS) to promote new, innovative products and processes in the industry.
  2. Regulatory sandbox is an infrastructure that helps fintech players live test their products or solutions before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-up time and cost. 
  3. In February 2019,the IRDAI had recommended setting up a regulatory sandbox to test new digital and tech-based innovations before launching them in the market.A committee was also set up by the IRDAI.It has already submitted its final recommendations.
  4. For the IRDAI sandbox,an applicant should have a net worth of Rs 10 lakh and a proven financial record of at least one year.Companies will be allowed to test products for up to 12 months in five categories.
  5. The committee has suggested the setting up of a core sandbox committee with dedicated personnel to monitor and supervise the digital innovations and also facilitate the roll-out of experiments and to provide the ecosystem required for the experimentation.
  6. The committee has also recommended strict requirements of confidentiality to protect the data of policyholders and has also proposed defined entry and eligibility criteria, boundary conditions along with appropriate controls for protection and risk management.
  7. FinTech or financial technology is an industry comprising companies that use technology to offer financial services.These companies operate in insurance,asset management and payment and numerous other industries.

Central Waqf Council(CWC)

  1. Union Minority Affairs Minister has inaugurated a national conference of Central Wakf Council(CWC) in New Delhi. 
  2. The minister said here that the Central Government has set a target to achieve 100% digitisation of Waqf properties across the country in its first 100 days.There are more than 6 lakh registered Waqf properties across the country.
  3. The minister also awarded 8 Mutawalis under “Qaumi Waqf Board Taraqiati Scheme” for better management of Waqf properties in their respective state Waqf boards.Mutawalli are Custodian of the Waqf properties.
  4. The minister has also said that the report of a five-member committee, constituted to review Waqf properties lease rule headed by Justice (Retd) Zakiullah Khan has been submitted. 
  5. Central Wakf Council is a statutory body established in 1964 by the Government of India under Wakf Act,1954.The council advises the government on matters pertaining to working of the State Wakf Boards and proper administration of the Wakfs in the country. 
  6. Wakf is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists.

India, Myanmar sign MoU on defence co-operation

  1. India and Myanmar has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation.The MoU is aimed at enhancing military training, joint surveillance, and maritime security.
  2. Indian and Myanmar armies has also carried out two phases of ‘Operation Sunrise’ this year busting camps of insurgent groups in Myanmar.
  3. Further,India is also set to hand over Myanmar its first ever submarine. named INS Sindhuvir.
  4. INS Sindhuvir which was bought from Russia in the 1980s is currently being modernised by the Hindustan Shipyard Limited(HSL) in Vizag.
  5. The transfer of the submarine is likely to take place with a line of credit (LoC) that has been extended by India to Myanmar for enhancing military capability.
  6. Myanmar is a key pillar of India’s Act East Policy towards prioritising relations with its East Asian neighbours.India has steadily increased defence co-operation with Myanmar in recent years.

Anti-dumping duty imposed on PTA imports from South Korea,Thailand

  1. The Finance Ministry has imposed anti-dumping duty on all imports of purified terephthalic acid (PTA) from South Korea and Thailand.
  2. PTA is the primary raw material in the manufacture of polyester chips, which in turn are used in a number of applications in textile, packaging, furnishings, consumer goods, resins and coatings.
  3. Dumping is the practice whereby the exporting nation sells its goods and services at a price lower than the price at which the importing nation sells the same goods and services within its domestic market.
  4. The objective of dumping is to increase market share in a foreign market by driving out competition and thereby create a monopoly situation where the exporter will be able to unilaterally dictate price and quality of the product.
  5. An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value.

Govt. did not try out GST system before rollout: CAG

  1. Government has tabled the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) audit report on the Goods and Services Tax(GST) in the Parliament.
  2. The report has said that the government had failed to try out the GST system before its rollout leading to inadequate compliance mechanisms, and lower tax revenues.
  3. The report has also pointed out that the complexity of the return mechanism and the technical glitches in invoice-matching has rendered the system prone to Input Tax Credit(ITC) frauds.
  4. The report said that post-implementation,the Centre’s revenue from GST has registered a decline of 10% in 2017-18 compared to revenue of subsumed taxes in 2016-17.
  5. The audit report has also said that the Central government has not been following the rules set out regarding the transfer of revenue to the States.
  6. GST (Goods and Services Tax) is an indirect tax that has replaced many Central and State taxes like excise duty, VAT and service tax.It is a single comprehensive tax levied on all goods and services produced in India as well as those imported from other countries.
  7. Input tax credit is the tax that a business pays on a purchase and that it can use to reduce its tax liability when it makes a sale.In other words, businesses can reduce their tax liability by claiming credit to the extent of GST paid on purchases.
  8. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is an authority established by Article 148 of the Constitution of India.The CAG is appointed by the President of India following a recommendation by the Prime Minister.

RBI eases foreign borrowing norms for NBFCs, defaulters

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has decided to relax the end-use restrictions relating to external commercial borrowings(ECB).
  2. RBI has allowed ECBs with minimum average maturity period of 10 years for working capital purposes and general corporate purposes.It has also permitted borrowing for on-lending by non-banking financial companies(NBFCs) for the 10 year maturity.
  3. Further,RBI has also allowed ECBs with a minimum average maturity period of 7 years for repayment of rupee loans availed domestically for capital expenditure.
  4. This move is aimed at providing access to cheaper and longer term funds for the corporate sector,especially liquidity-starved non-banking finance companies(NBFCs).
  5. The defaults by IL&FS had affected the entire NBFC sector.Several NBFCs have also been struggling to raise funds.Liquidity woes has also led to payment delays by housing mortgage firm DHFL.
  6. ECB is basically a loan availed by an Indian entity from a nonresident lender.Most of these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions.
  7. The borrowings are in the form of bank loans, buyers credit, suppliers credit and securitized instruments with a minimum average maturity of three years.
  8. ECBs availed of by residents are governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 along with the Foreign Exchange Management (Borrowing or Lending in Foreign Exchange) Regulations,2000 as amended from time to time.

India’s fertilizer sector among most energy efficient in world: Report

  1. Centre for Science and Environment(CSE) has released a report titled – ‘Grain by Grain’.The report is the complete assessment of the environmental performance of fertilizer industry in India. 
  2. The project was undertaken by CSE along with its Green rating project(GRP).The Project had earlier rated the pulp and paper, automobile,chloro-alkali,cement,iron and steel and thermal power sectors.
  3. The report has found that the country’s fertilizer sector is among the best in the world in energy use and greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions.
  4. However,the fertiliser industries staggering records on water use,water pollution and plant safety is a cause of concern.
  5. The report has also found that the areas surrounding at least one-third of the fertiliser plants found to have very high levels of nitrogen in groundwater.
  6. This was mainly because as part of their mandate to recycle used-water, the plants were using it for watering horticulture and other crops in their premises.This has lead to nitrogen seeping into the water table.
  7. Further,another major concern was the age of the India’s fertiliser plants.The report has said that most plants need to upgrade their on-site and off-site disaster management plans and communicate them to the concerned authorities and the local community.
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