9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 13, 2019

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IRSDC enters into tripartite pact with French Railways, agency

  1. The Indian Railway Station Development Corp (IRSDC)has  entered into a tripartite agreement with French Railways and French Development Agency(AFD).
  2. Under this pact, AFD will provide in-kind grant of up to 7 lakh euros through French National Railways-Hubs as a technical partner to IRSDC to support the railway station development programme in India.
  3. India and France have a strong and long standing prosperous partnership in the railway sector.
  4. French Railways in the past has been associated with Indian Railways in conducting speed upgradation study for Delhi-Chandigarh section and station development of Ludhiana and Ambala station.
  5. The IRSDC is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) of the Government of India that has been designed to develop new stations and redevelop existing Indian railway station.
  6. The core purpose of IRSDC as envisioned is to build a world class railway stations that apply state of the art sustainable technologies in delivering delight to the users.

DRDO conducts maiden test of hypersonic technology demonstrator

  1. India has successfully conducted the first test flight of the indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle(HSTDV) from a base off the Odisha coast.
  2. The only other countries that possess this technology are the US, Russia and China.
  3. The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration vehicle that can cruise up to a speed of mach 6 (or six times the speed of sound) and rise up to an altitude of 32 km in 20 seconds.
  4. The HSTDV vehicle is mounted on a solid rocket motor which will take it to a required altitude and once it attains certain Mach numbers for speed, the cruise vehicle will be ejected out of the launch vehicle. Subsequently, the scramjet engine will be ignited automatically.
  5. Apart from being used as a vehicle for hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles, the HSTDV is a dual-use technology that will have multiple civilian applications including the launching of small satellites at low cost.
  6. A hypersonic missile is a quick reaction missile which makes it invaluable in offensive as well as defensive uses. In case of defence, it can be used to intercept incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere or in the inner atmosphere.
  7. In scram-jet technology, combustion of fuel takes place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds. This is different from a ram jet system where the system collects the air it needs from the atmosphere during the flight at subsonic speeds and the propellants burn in the combustion chamber.

Jalan panel report on RBI reserves by June end

  1. RBI had constituted a panel on economic capital framework to address the issue of RBI reserves. It is headed by Bimal Jalan. The panel will meet one more time before finalising its report.
  2. The panel was formed after the government has said that the RBI should hand over its surplus reserves amid a shortfall in revenue collections.
  3. Access to these funds will allow the government to meet deficit targets, infuse capital into weak banks to boost lending and fund welfare programmes.
  4. The panel was formed to decide (a)whether RBI is holding provisions, reserves and buffers in surplus of the required levels (b)It would propose a suitable profit distribution policy taking into account all the likely situations of the RBI and (c)ECF committee will also suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain.
  5. Economic capital framework refers to the risk capital required by the central bank while taking into account different risks. It reflects the capital that an institution requires or needs to hold as a counter against unforeseen risks or events or losses in the future.
  6. The central bank transfers its surplus to the government in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the RBI Act. The act says that the amount will be arrived at after making provision for (a) bad and doubtful debts (b) depreciation in assets, (c) contributions to staff and (d) superannuation fund.
  7. The government believes that RBI is sitting on much higher reserves than it actually needs to tide over financial emergencies that India may face. Some central banks around the world like the US and UK keep 13% to 14% of their assets as a reserve compared to RBI’s 27%.

Easy money can’t revive economy: SBI report

  1. According to State Bank of India report, easy money policy will be ineffective to push the slow growth engine.
  2. An easy money policy is a monetary policy that increases the money supply usually by lowering interest rates. It occurs when a country’s central bank decides to allow new cash flows into the banking system.
  3. Recently, the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) had cut the repo rate by 25 basis points from 6% to 5.75%.Repo rate refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI.
  4. However, SBI report has said that easy monetary policy with a reasonable tight fiscal deficit will be ineffective in addressing the existing demand slowdown.
  5. The report suggested that government should use the forthcoming budget for more direct and quicker fiscal measures as financial system is in need of some serious reforms.
  6. Further, the SBI report also referred to India’s quarterly GDP growth which has declined to a five-year low of 5.8% for the March quarter pulling down the full-year GDP for FY19 to a low 6.8%.
  7. SBI report has also suggested that the ongoing crisis in the non-banking finance companies which constitute up to a fifth of the overall lending in the economy needs immediate attention to revive the fortunes of the financial system.

Senior IPS officer V S Kaumudi appointed as BPR&D DG

  1. Government has appointed IPS officer V S Kaumudi as the Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).
  2. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet(ACC) has approved the appointment by temporarily downgrading the post to the level of Additional Director General for a period of two years.
  3. BPR&D was established in 1970 with the objective of the modernisation of police forces.It is nodal national police organisation to study, research and develop on subjects and issues related to policing.
  4. BPR&D functions under the aegis of Union Home Ministry. It is headquartered in New Delhi. Since its  formation, it has evolved as a multifaceted, consultancy organisation.
  5. At present it has 4 divisions which are (a)Research (b)Development, (c)Training and (d)Correctional Administration.
  6. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) decides appointments to several top posts under the Government of India. The committee is composed of the Prime Minister of India (who is the Chairman) and the Minister of Home Affairs.

PIO-led team develops early version vaccine for Alzheimer’s

  1. Researchers at the University of New Mexico are working on a vaccine they hope could prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Researchers have tested the vaccine on mice and found the animals were able to develop antibodies that combated tau tangles.
  3. Tau is a protein that when it occurs in tangled formations in the brain of Alzheimer patients disrupts the ability of neurons to communicate with one another in the brain.
  4. Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease. It is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour.
  5. It is caused by the aggregation of the toxic protein. Neurons in the human brain make a protein called amyloid beta. Such proteins on their own, called monomers of amyloid beta, perform important tasks for neurons.
  6. The early signs of the disease may be forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
  7. There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the disease process in the brain. Current Alzheimer’s disease medications may temporarily improve symptoms or slow the rate of decline.

Noted English writer Amitav Ghosh conferred 54th Jnanpith award

  1. Recently, Amitav Ghosh was conferred the 54th Jnanpith award for the year 2018.
  2. The award was given for his outstanding contribution in English.Amitav Ghosh is the first English writer to get this award.
  3. The Jnanpith Award is an Indian literary award presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith to an author for their outstanding contribution towards literature.
  4. The award was Instituted in 1961.It is bestowed only on Indian writers writing in Indian languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and English with no posthumous conferral.

Cabinet nod for Aadhaar as ID proof at banks, telcos

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019.
  2. The Bill seeks to give effect to the changes in the Aadhaar Act such as giving a child an option to exit from the Aadhar programme on turning 18.
  3. The bill says that for the convenience of the general public in the opening of bank accounts,it will allow the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on a voluntary basis as an acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,2002.
  4. Further, the bill provides for stiff penalties upon violation of norms pertaining to Aadhaar and violation of privacy. It proposes civil penalty of up to ₹1 crore on entities that violate the provisions of the Aadhaar Act, with an additional fine of up to ₹10 lakh per day in case of continuous non compliance.
  5. The bill also proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to the use of the biometric identifier by private entities. The amendment will also prevent denial of services for refusing to or being unable to undergo authentication.
  6. Besides this, the proposed amendments provide for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.  It also confers enhanced regulator-like power on the UIDAI to give directions as it may consider necessary to any entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  7. The bill is in pursuance to the Supreme Court judgement in 2018.The Supreme Court had upheld that the Aadhaar is constitutionally valid but struck down section 57 of the Aadhaar Act.
  8. The SC had ruled that Aadhaar is mandatory for filing of income tax returns (ITR) and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN). However, Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for opening of a bank account and for getting mobile connections.
  9. The Aadhaar number is a verifiable twelve-digit unique identity number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to the residents of India. It is linked with the resident’s demographic and biometric information. The Aadhaar project was conceptualised in the year 2006 and launched in the year 2009 with the creation of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
  10. The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 provides legislative backing to the project.

Union Cabinet clears fresh bill to ban instant triple talaq

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill,2019 replacing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance,2019.
  2. The bill proposes to declare the practice of triple talaq as void and illegal. It also prescribes a penalty of up to three years imprisonment for an offence and provides for subsistence allowance to married Muslim women and their children.
  3. The Centre had first promulgated the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance in September 2018.A bill to replace it was passed in the Lok Sabha but remained pending in the Rajya Sabha.
  4. The government again promulgated the Ordinance after the Winter Session of Parliament but could not pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget session.The Ordinance lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
  5. Further, the Opposition has demanded that the bill be sent to a select joint parliamentary committee before being passed into law. However, the government has rejected this demand.

Indian Medical Council Amendment Bill cleared

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill,2019 which will be introduced in the forthcoming session of the Parliament.
  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. 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.
  5. Further, the Oversight Committee constituted by the Supreme Court to oversee the functioning of the MCI had also cited instances of non-compliance of their instructions.
  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.

Cabinet approves “The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019″

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill,2019.
  2. The Bill will replace The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Ordinance, 2019.
  3. The bill provides for a 200-point roster that defines college or university as the unit for faculty reservation rather than a department or subject.
  4. This bill was introduced after the University Grants Commission (UGC) had announced that a 13-point roster would be followed. Accordingly, individual department was considered as the base unit to calculate the number of teaching posts to be reserved for SC and STs candidates. It was framed after an order by the Allahabad High Court
  5. The Allahabad High Court had ruled that the reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SCs),Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) for faculty positions in state universities should be implemented in such a manner that each department of a university has to be considered as a unit.
  6. Prior to that Order, the reservation in universities was implemented by 200-point roster which considered the whole university as a single unit. The order was seen as a major setback as the department wise reservation would have led to decline in SC, ST representation.
  7. Further, the bill will also ensure providing 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  8. Recently, the central government had passed 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act. It provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category. It also provides for reservation in private unaided educational institutions.

Amendments in the Dentists Act Cabinet approves the Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2019.The Bill amends the Dentists Act,1948.
  2. The amendment says that the representation of Central government members and elected members would no longer be made mandatory in dental councils and this process will reduce redundancy.
  3. The Dental Council of India was incorporated under The Dentists Act, 1948 to regulate dental education and the profession throughout India. It is financed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and through the local state dental councils.
  4. The Union Cabinet has also approved the draft Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  5. The Bill seeks to extend the period for reconstitution of the Central Council from one year to two years so that the tenure of the Board of Governors may be extended for a further period of one year.
  6. This will help the Board of Governors in exercising the powers and performing the functions of the Council. The affairs of the Central Homoeopathy Council have been entrusted to a Board of Governors consisting of eminent and qualified Homoeopathy Doctors and eminent administrators till the time the council is reconstituted.

Cabinet approves “The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019″

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill, 2019.
  2. The Bill will replace The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Ordinance, 2019.
  3. The bill provides for a 200-point roster that defines college or university as the unit for faculty reservation rather than a department or subject.
  4. This bill was introduced after the University Grants Commission (UGC) had announced that a 13-point roster would be followed. Accordingly, individual department was considered as the base unit to calculate the number of teaching posts to be reserved for SC and STs candidates. It was framed after an order by the Allahabad High Court
  5. The Allahabad High Court had ruled that the reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SCs),Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) for faculty positions in state universities should be implemented in such a manner that each department of a university has to be considered as a unit.
  6. Prior to that Order, the reservation in universities was implemented by 200-point roster which considered the whole university as a single unit. The order was seen as a major setback as the department wise reservation would have led to decline in SC, ST representation.
  7. Further, the bill will also ensure providing 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  8. Recently, the central government had passed 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act. It provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category. It also provides for reservation in private unaided educational institutions.

Amendments in the Dentists Act Cabinet approves the Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2019.The Bill amends the Dentists Act,1948.
  2. The amendment says that the representation of Central government members and elected members would no longer be made mandatory in dental councils and this process will reduce redundancy.
  3. The Dental Council of India was incorporated under The Dentists Act, 1948 to regulate dental education and the profession throughout India. It is financed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and through the local state dental councils.
  4. The Union Cabinet has also approved the draft Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  5. The Bill seeks to extend the period for reconstitution of the Central Council from one year to two years so that the tenure of the Board of Governors may be extended for a further period of one year.
  6. This will help the Board of Governors in exercising the powers and performing the functions of the Council. The affairs of the Central Homoeopathy Council have been entrusted to a Board of Governors consisting of eminent and qualified Homoeopathy Doctors and eminent administrators till the time the council is reconstituted.

How much plastic is in your diet?

  1. According to The New Plastics Economy report, people worldwide could be ingesting 5 g of microscopic plastic particles every week, equivalent in weight to a credit card.
  2. It is the first study to estimate the weight of plastics consumed by individual humans. According to the study, an individual consumes about 250 g annually.
  3. The study also noted that on current trends, the ocean will contain one metric tonne of plastic for every three metric tonnes of fish by 2025.
  4. Recently, a separate study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has noted humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 micro plastic particles a year.
  5. Microplastics are plastics which are less than five mm in diameter in size. Sources of micro plastic include clothing, cosmetics, industrial processes etc.
  6. Microplastics pollution has become a major environmental concern. Scientists have discovered micro plastics in a remote area of the Pyrenees Mountains, which runs between France and Spain. Other recent studies have found micro plastics in farmland soils near Shanghai, China, in the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO world heritage site, and in rivers in the Czech Republic
  7. According to a 2017 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report, microplastics are estimated to constitute up to 30% of marine litter polluting the oceans.

China launches Internet cleanup campaign

  1. China has launched Internet cleanup campaign.
  2. The campaign will punish and expose websites for “illegal and criminal actions”. It will also punish them for failing to “fulfil their obligation” to take safety measures or the theft of personal information.
  3. Recently, Internet censorship researchers had found that China has blocked Wikipedia. China had previously banned the Chinese language version of the site as well as the pages for sensitive search terms such as Dalai Lama and the Tiananmen massacre.
  4. China has long been enforcing mechanisms to deter criticism and spread of propaganda against the government. Reporters without Border’s 2019 World Press Freedom index ranks China at 177 on a list of 180 countries analysed.

Cyclone Vayu to be very severe: IMD

  1. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has classified Cyclone Vayu as a “very severe” Cyclonic storm and predicted wind speeds of up to 175 km per hour when it makes landfall on the Saurashtra coast, Gujarat.
  2. The IMD ranks cyclones on a 5-point scale- a) Cyclonic storm, b) Severe cyclonic storm, c) Very severe cyclonic storm, d) Extremely Severe cyclonic storm and e) Super cyclonic storm.
  3. If a Deep Depression develops gale force wind speeds of between 62–88 km/h, it is called a Cyclonic storm. Severe Cyclonic Storms have storm force wind speeds of between 89–117 km/h.
  4. Very Severe Cyclonic Storms have hurricane-force winds of 118–166 km/h. Super Cyclonic Storms have hurricane-force winds of above 222 km/h.

Central teams arrive to fight encephalitis surge in Bihar

  1. In the backdrop of a number of death this year in Bihar due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), the Union government has deployed a multi-speciality team in the State.
  2. Bihar has registered a rise in cases of AES in Muzaffarpur and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Gaya district.
  3. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) including Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a group of clinically similar neurologic manifestation caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemical/ toxins etc.
  4. Japanese encephalitis is caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). JEV is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, and belongs to the same genus as dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses.
  5. The first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease (JE) was documented in 1871 in Japan.

Chandrayaan 2 to be launched on July 15 from Sriharikota: ISRO

  1. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has announced that Chandrayaan-2, India’s second Moon mission, will be launched on July 15, 2019
  2. Chandrayaan-2 includes a Chandrayaan 2 will comprise of an Orbiter, Lander named ‘Vikram’ and Rover named ‘Pragyan’ for the first time in an Indian space mission. The moon landing is planned for September 6 or 7.
  3. The orbiter will circle the moon and provide information about its surface, while the lander will make a soft landing on the surface and send out the rover. The rover will be used mostly for in situ experiments.
  4. Chandrayaan-2 will launch aboard a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III, (GSLV -MK III) rocket. The GSLV-Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle that has been designed to carry four-tonne class satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  5. In October 2008, ISRO had launched its orbiter mission Chandrayaan-1 on its PSLV booster. The spacecraft had 11 payloads. One of the U.S. payloads shares credit with Chandrayaan-1 for confirming the presence of water ice on the moon. Before that, the Moon Impacter Probe carrying the Indian tricolour image was made to hard-land on the lunar South Pole.

Retail inflation spikes to 7-month high of 3.05% in May on costlier food articles

  1. According to the data released from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), retail inflation for the month of May has increased to a seven-month high of 3.05%.
  2. This is mainly due to costlier food items. As per the data, inflation in the food basket rose to 1.83% in May, higher than 1.1% in April.
  3. Retail inflation is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It reflects changes in the retail prices of specified goods and services over a time period which are traded by particular consumer group. CPI data is released monthly by the Central Statistics Office which functions under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  4. There are four types of CPI: a) CPI-IW (Industrial Worker), b) CPI-UNME (Urban Non-Manual Employees), c) CPI-AL (Agricultural Labourers) and d) CPI-RL (Rural Labourers)
  5. RBI has adopted CPI as the key measure for determining inflation situation of Indian economy, on recommendation of Urjit Patel Committee.
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