9 PM Current Affairs Brief – July 4, 2019

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Centre has no plans to scrap sedition law, Minister tells Rajya Sabha

  1. The Union Home Ministry has clarified that section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code known as the sedition law will not be scrapped.
  2. The minister said that the section was needed to effectively combat anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
  3. Section 124-A deal with the offence of sedition. The concept of sedition was introduced in the penal code in 1870.It was a colonial law directed against strong criticism of the British administration.
  4. The term sedition covers speech or writing or any form of visible representation which brings the government into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection towards the government or attempts to do so. It is punishable with three years in prison or a life term.
  5. It further states expressing disapproval of government measures or actions with a view to getting them changed by lawful means without promoting hatred or disaffection or contempt towards the government will not come under this section.
  6. The activists have been demanding the scrapping of Section 124A on the grounds that the provision under the section is overbroad which means it defines the offence in wide terms threatening the liberty of citizens.

Cabinet approves New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) Bill, 2019.
  2. The Bill provides for setting up of an independent autonomous body for institutional arbitration and to acquire and transfer the undertakings of International Centre For Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) to New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC).
  3. The proposed New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) will be headed by a chairperson who has been a judge of the Supreme Court or a judge of a high court or an eminent person having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration.
  4. The salient features of the bill are speedy appointment of arbitrators through designated arbitral tribunals set up by the Supreme Court and high courts without having to reach court in any matter.
  5. The NDIAC will also provide (a) facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation, mediation and arbitral proceedings (b) maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators (c) provide timely services for the conduct of arbitrations and (d) promote studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution.
  6. Arbitration is one of the methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR is the procedure for settling disputes without litigation. Arbitration is a procedure in which the dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision on the dispute that is binding on the parties.

RBI sets up panel to review CICs

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up a working group to review the regulatory and supervisory framework for core investment companies (CIC).
  2. The working group will examine (a) regulatory framework (b) enhance onsite and offsite surveillance of these companies (c) suggest changes in registration criteria including the practice of multiple CIC within a group and (d) other such assessment to strengthen the corporate governance framework.
  3. The working group has also been tasked with recommending appropriate measures to enhance RBI’s surveillance and supervision over CICs.
  4. CICs are Non-Banking financial companies (NBFC) with asset size of ₹100 crore and above which carry on the business of acquisition of shares and securities subject to certain conditions.
  5. CICs are allowed to accept public funds. They can hold not less than 90% of their net assets in the form of investment in equity shares, preference shares, bonds,  debentures, debt or loans in group companies.

Cabinet approves Code on Wages Bill

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the Code on Wages Bill which seeks to subsume existing laws related to workers’ remuneration.
  2. The Code on Wages 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.
  3. The Code on Wages 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 draft law also says that the minimum wage would be revised every five years.

Rajya Sabha to debate poll reforms on July 3

  1. The Rajya Sabha is set to debate electoral reforms following notices given by Opposition parties.
  2. The ruling party is pushing for the simultaneous elections idea whereas the Opposition wants to raise discrepancies in the Electronic voting machines (EVM).
  3. The Opposition parties have been demanding that at least 50% of the voter verified paper trail (VVPAT) entries should be tallied with the EVM counts in every constituency. And the VVPATs should be counted first instead of the EVMs.
  4. Other than the EVMs, the parties are expected to ask for state funding for polls as recommended by the Indrajit Gupta report of 1998.They will also raise the issue of misuse of social media such as Facebook during the elections.
  5. EVMs are electronic voting machines which enable the voter with a button for each choice. It is attached by a cable to an electronic ballot box. It comprises of two units – control unit and balloting unit.
  6. The control unit is with the Election Commission selected polling officer while the Balloting Unit is in the voting section into which the voter enters to cast their vote.
  7. 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

Do not alter existing definition of rape, Centre tells High Court

  1. The Central Government has informed the Delhi High Court that it is opposed to making the existing definition of rape under Section 375 (rape) gender-neutral.
  2. The centre has said that this decision was taken in view of the fact that victims of sexual harassment in the country are predominantly women.
  3. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 only covers instances of rape of a woman by a man. While, Section 376 lists out the punishment for the offence.
  4. The petitioner has said that Section 375 violates Articles 14(right to equality),15(prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution as it does not account for rape of men and transgender persons.
  5. Further, the petitioner said that sexual crimes against boys under 18 years are covered under the POCSO Act but once they become adults, they do not have any legal recourse.
  6. Even Law Commission of India, in its 172th report had recommended changes for widening the scope of rape law to make it gender neutral by substituting the definition of ‘rape’ with that of ‘sexual assault’.

Paramilitary forces to get Group ‘A’ benefits

  1. The central government has accorded the Organised Group A Service status to senior officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) that will ensure better service benefits for them.
  2. The cabinet has also approved extension of benefit of Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) status to Group A officers of the CAPF.
  3. NFFU basically makes an officer eligible for higher salary in case he is not promoted due to lack of vacancies despite being eligible for promotion.
  4. The move will benefit thousands of serving officers and many others who have retired since 2006 from the five primary CAPFs or paramilitary forces namely CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP and SSB.
  5. The officers will now get better deputation chances as they will be eligible to get empanelled under the central staffing scheme, get enhanced facilities of transportation, house rent allowance, travelling and dearness allowance.
  6. This decision was taken by the Government after the Supreme Court had upheld the Delhi High Court judgment granting the status of organised group ‘A’ services to CAPF officers.

First Ever India International Cooperatives Trade Fair (IICTF)

  1. Government has announced the first ever ‘India International Cooperatives Trade Fair’ (IICTF) which will be held in New Delhi.
  2. The fair is being conducted with the support of Network for Development of Agricultural Cooperatives (NEDAC), ministries, four state governments and several apex levels Indian cooperative organizations.
  3. The Trade Fair is aimed at promoting cooperative to cooperative trade within India and abroad leading to enhanced rural and farm prosperity.
  4. This trade fair is conducted as Cooperative sector has a big role to play in doubling agriculture exports from present US $ 30 billion to US$ 60 billion+ by 2022 as envisaged in the Agriculture Export Policy.
  5. Towards this end a Cooperative Sector Exports Promotion Forum has also been set up. An estimated 94% of the Indian farmers are members of at least one cooperative institution.
  6. Further, IICTF would be major platform to promote exports by cooperatives with direct benefits to their members who are mainly farmers, artisans, women, SC /ST among others.

Marginal hike in MSP for 14 kharif crops

  1. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for 14 kharif crops for 2019-20 season.
  2. The increase in MSP for Kharif crops is in line with the principle of fixing the MSPs at a level of at least 1.5 times of the all India weighted average cost of production which was announced in the Union Budget for 2018-19.
  3. Cost of production varies in different states on account of differences in levels of irrigation, resource endowment, farm mechanization, land holding size, yield of crops. The highest percentage return to farmers over their cost of production is for Bajra (85%) followed by urad (64%) and tur (60%).
  4. MSP is the minimum price paid to the farmers for procuring food crops. It is announced by the Government at the beginning of the sowing season.
  5. There are two objectives of the Minimum Support Price system (a) To prevent distress sale by the farmers in case of a bumper crop and (b) To procure the grains for public distribution by fair price shops.
  6. They are recommended by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. Food Corporation of India(FCI) is the nodal agency for procurement along with State agencies.
  7. In India, there are two major cropping seasons: a) Kharif and b) Rabi. Another cropping season Zaid i.e. summer season (March to June). Examples of Zaid cops are watermelon, bitter gourd etc.
  8. The kharif cropping season is from July –October during the south-west monsoon. Major Kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, groundnut etc. Rabi cropping season extends from October-March (winter).Major Rabi crops are wheat, barley, oats etc.

India says Iran oil imports not stopped

  1. Indian Government has said that India’s bilateral relations with Iran stand on their own and are not influenced by India’s relations with any third country.
  2. This statement came after an MP had asked whether there is any pressure on the Indian Government from the United States on stopping oil imports from Iran.
  3. The government has said that it will deal with the issue of US sanctions to buy oil from Iran based on three factors which are (a) the country’s energy security (b)commercial consideration and (c) economic interests.
  4. However, during his bilateral meeting with US President on the sidelines of G-20 in Japan, Indian Prime Minister had said India had reduced the import of crude from Iran.
  5. On this, Indian officials have said that India has reduced imports but has not stopped oil imports completely.
  6. Further, Iranian envoy has also alluded to the possibility of using barter, rupee and European mechanisms for trade in oil with India and other countries to circumvent the US sanctions.

Govt to enhance import limit on Tur Dal

  1. Government has decided to enhance the import limit on Tur Dal from two lakh metric tonne to four lakh metric tonne for the year 2019 – 20.
  2. The government has also decided to release two lakh metric tonne of Tur Dal available in the buffer stock of pulses to States and Union Territories under the Price Stabilization Fund.
  3. Further, the Centre had also signed an MoU with Mozambique 2016 to improve domestic availability and facilitate price stability of Tur and other pulses.
  4. The Price Stabilization Fund was set up to help regulate the price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities like onions, potatoes and pulses were also added subsequently.
  5. The fund primarily focuses on supporting farmers during hard times arising due to excessive fall in the domestic price.
  6. The Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) was initially set up under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare. But it was later transferred to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DOCA) in 2016.
  7. Further, the Government has also informed that the country’s pulses output is estimated to be down at 232 lakh tonne in the 2018-19 crop year (July-June) from 254.2 lakh tonne in the previous year.

The Chariot Festival: Jagannath Rath Yatra 2019

  1. The Jagannath Rath Yatra festival will begin from Puri in Odisha. The festival is popularly known as the ‘Festival of Chariots’,
  2. The festival is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, his sister Goddess Subhadra and elder brother Balabhadra.
  3. The three deities make an annual Journey to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha Temple) from Lord Jagannath temple.
  4. All the three deities travel in three different chariots during this festival. The chariots are called Nandighosha, Taladhwaja and Devadalana respectively.
  5. Further, the three deities remain at the Gundicha Temple for a span of 9 days. Later, they are back to their home. This return journey is called the ‘Bahuda Yatra’.

Cattle traders move Supreme Court against rules that allow seizure, forfeiture of livestock

  1. The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central government on a petition which has challenged the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules,2017. The rules were framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  2. The petitioner has said that the rules notified in 2017 are being used as a tool to seize and forfeit their cattle.
  3. The 2017 rules allow a magistrate to forfeit the cattle of an owner facing trial under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The animals are then sent to infirmaries, gaushalas.
  4. The authorities can further give such animals for adoption. In short, a farmer or a traders loses his cattle even before he is adjudged guilty of cruelty under the 1960 Act.
  5. The petitioner has said that that the 2017 rules have travelled beyond the boundaries of the 1960 Act.
  6. Under Section 29 of the 1960 Act, private cattle can be forfeited only after the owner is convicted and had faced a previous conviction. The other situations include the probability of further cruelty from the owner if the cattle is left with him.
  7. Besides, Section 38A of the PCA Act required any rule made under the 1960 Act to be laid before the Parliament. This has not been done with the 2017 Rules.

Invest India

  1. Invest India’ is India’s official agency dedicated to investment promotion and facilitation. It is under Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  2. It was formed in 2009 under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956
  3. Invest India is set up as a joint venture company between the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and State Governments of India.
  4. Invest India provides sector-specific and state-specific information to a foreign investor, assists in expediting regulatory approvals, and offers hand-holding services.
  5. It also assists Indian investors to make informed choices about investment opportunities overseas.
  6. Invest India also looks after India Investment Grid (IIG). IIG is an online platform to showcase investment opportunities in India to global investors.
  7. It also handles a project called Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi). AGNIi aims to support the ongoing efforts to boost the innovation ecosystem in India. It connects innovators across industry, individuals and the grassroots to the market and help commercialise their innovative solutions.

NCCR’s idea of using ‘plastic rocks’ to grow corals draws flak

  1. The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park authorities have rejected the National Centre for Coastal Research’s (NCCR) proposal of using the Gulf of Mannar region for field tests.
  2. NCCR had proposed dropping ‘melted plastic rocks or slabs’ on the seabed for growing coral reefs and address the problem of disposal of plastic waste.
  3. The proposal has been rejected on the grounds that corals in the GoM were already stressed and bleached under climate change and field testing would further destroy the existing coral reef colonies.
  4. The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area consisting of 21 small islands and adjacent coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean. It lies off the east coast of Tamil Nadu. It is the core area of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.
  5. In India, coral rehabilitation was first initiated in Tuticorin coast of Gulf of Mannar in 2002 by Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) with the support from Ministry of Environment and Forests and Coral reef Degradation in Indian Ocean (CORDIO).
  6. In India, coral reefs are located in 7 regions: Goa coast, Kerala coast, Palk Bay, Gulf of Kucch, Gulf of Mannar, Lakshadweep islands, Andaman and Nicobar islands.

27% of children with disabilities have never been to school: UNESCO

  1. According to a report by UNESCO and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), only 61% children with disabilities between ages 5 and 19 attend any educational institution. The report is based on 2011 Census data.
  2. Report states that 12% of disabled children had dropped out. 27% of the disabled children had never attended any educational institution at all.
  3. The report has also noted that there are fewer girls with disabilities in school than boys.
  4. Further, there are variations among various types of disabilities. Only 20% of children with visual and hearing impairments had never been in school. However, 50% of children with multiple disabilities or mental illness never attended school
  5. Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates that every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
  6. It further states that Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities.
  7. The report notes that there is incoherence between RTE Act, 2009 and Disability Act 2016. The Right to Education Act mandates enrolment, but not the provision of resources needed for the actual education of a child with disabilities.
  8. Thus, the report has recommended that there should be amendments to the RTE Act, 2009 to make it align with the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

NASA tests launch-abort system for its moon mission

  1. NASA has successfully demonstrated the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system.
  2. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is a US-European spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to space.
  3. The Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system test was a part of NASA’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon.
  4. The exercise aimed to test in almost real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the Orion capsule in the event of an explosion or other problem shortly after launch of the rocket.
  5. ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. It will be a manned moon mission, originally scheduled to be launched in June 2020.

Cabinet clears Bill that bars commercial surrogacy

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019. The Bill had been passed by the last Lok Sabha but lapsed after dissolution of the House.
  2. The objectives of the bill are to: a) ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, b) prohibit commercial surrogacy and c) allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the needy infertile Indian couples on fulfilment of conditions
  3. The bill also prohibits exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.
  4. The Bill proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories
  5. The 228th report of the Commission of India has recommended prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing altruistic surrogacy by enacting suitable legislation.
  6. Surrogacy is the practice whereby one woman carries the child for another with the intention that the child should be handed over after birth
  7. Altruistic surrogacy involves an arrangement where the couple does not pay the surrogate mother any compensation other than the medical and insurance expenses related to the pregnancy
  8. Commercial surrogacy includes compensation (in cash or kind) paid to the surrogate mother, which exceeds the reasonable medical expenses associated with the pregnancy

Soon, read Supreme Court judgments in your language

  1. The Supreme Court has decided to make its judgments available in regional languages on its official website.
  2. Under the existing practice, judgements are written in English and subsequently uploaded on the SC website
  3. The Supreme Court’s verdicts will be made available on its website in Hindi, Telugu, Assamese, Marathi, Kannada, Odia and Tamil
  4. However, unlike orders written in English that are posted on the website on the day they are passed, the translated versions would be uploaded a week later.
  5. The rationale behind uploading judgements in regional languages is to enable non-English speaking litigants to check out the status of their cases without having to depend on lawyers.
  6. To this end, the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi have formally cleared a software indigenously developed for the purpose by the Supreme Court’s “in-house” electronic software wing. The app is similar to Google’s text translation.
  7. The move to make Supreme Court judgments multi-lingual is credited to President Ram Nath Kovind who in a 2017 conference held in Kochi, highlighted the need to render judgments in regional languages for the benefit of non-English speakers.
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