9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 18, 2019

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India to host COP-14 of the UNCCD

  1. India for the first time will host the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
  2. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It was established in 1994. It has 197 parties.
  3. UNCCD seeks to work towards maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity and mitigating the effects of drought.
  4. The COP is the supreme decision-making body of a Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention.
  5. India is reeling under severe problem of land degradation. A 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organisation found that about 29% of India’s land (in 2011-13) was degraded.
  6. Recently, the Environment Ministry has launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India. There will be a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka.
  7. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has partnered with The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the project.
  8. It aims to develop and adapt best practices and monitoring protocols for the Indian states and build capacity within the five pilot states on FLR and Bonn Challenge.
  9. Launched in 2015, the Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  10. India has joined the Bonn Challenge and pledged to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

Niti’s new road map: Only electric vehicles to be sold after 2030

  1. NITI Aayog has proposed that only electric vehicles should be sold after 2030. It has moved a cabinet note proposing that the road transport and highways ministry should prepare a framework to phase out the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030.
  2. The ministry has also been asked to pilot an e-highways programme. In electric highways, overhead electric cable is laid to allow trucks to operate as electric vehicles when on the electrified road and as regular hybrid vehicles at other times.
  3. Further, NITI Aayog has proposed radio cab services, such as Ola and Uber, should go completely electric by 2030.
  4. Earlier, NITI Aayog had suggested that only electric-powered three-wheelers and two-wheelers with engine capacity of up to 150 cc should be sold from 2025.
  5. According to the Niti Aayog, as transport remains the most demanding sector for oil, about 100% electric vehicle sale by 2030 may reduce India’s import dependence by a substantial margin.
  6. Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for implementation of ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II)’. The scheme will be implemented over the period of three years with effect from 1st April 2019.
  7. The main objectives of the scheme are a) encourage faster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and b) establish necessary charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles.
  8. The FAME II is an expanded version of FAME I, launched in 2015 which aimed to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing ecosystem. FAME scheme is under Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises.
  9. The FAME scheme is part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP). It aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country.

By 2027, India population to cross China’s: UN

  1. According to ‘The World Population Prospects 2019’ published by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2027.
  2. India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050 and will remain the most populated country through the end of the current century.
  3. China, with 1.43 billion people in 2019, and India, with 1.37 billion, are the two most populous countries of the world, comprising 19% and 18%, respectively, of the global total in 2019.
  4. The report further states that the world’s population is expected to increase by two billion people in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050.
  5. Half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just nine countries.
  6. India is expected to remain the world’s most populous country with nearly 1.5 billion inhabitants, followed by China (1.1 billion), Nigeria (733 million), the United States (434 million), and Pakistan (403 million).
  7. The report has further said that in 2019, around 40% of the world’s population lives in intermediate-fertility countries, where women have on average between 2.1 and four births over a lifetime. Examples: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, the Philippines and Egypt
  8. The report has confirmed that the world’s population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels. It has projected that by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 11 in 2019 (9%)

For better governance, government to rank police stations now

  1. The Ministry of Home Affairs has launched an exercise to rank India’s best police stations based on various parameters. The exercise seeks to promote competition for better governance at the grassroots level
  2. The Home Ministry has suggested at least seven dimensions for assessment which include crime prevention, proactive measures adopted, Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems and other technology, citizen perception and feedback etc.
  3. The evaluation will be a two-stage process- a) Objective short-listing of police stations based on crime data available with National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) and b) Detailed evaluation based on valuation across seven parameters.
  4. In 2017, MHA had conducted a similar exercise and released “Ranking of Police Stations for the Year 2017”. RS Puram police station, Coimbatore was designated as the best police station in India.
  5. The criteria for ranking were a) people’s feedback, b) quality of investigation, c) Response time (crime control), d) hygiene at police station, e) behaviour and attitude of cops, f) community policing, g) record keeping, h) surveillance on criminals.
  6. There are 15, 579 sanctioned police stations in India with 10, 052 located in rural areas and 4998 located in urban areas. Further, there are 529 railway police stations.
  7. In 2014, Indian Prime Minister announced the concept of SMART Police (S-Sensitive and Strict; M-Modern with mobility; A- Alert and Accountable; R- Reliable and Responsive; T- Trained and Techno-savvy)

World Food India to be held from 1st to 4th November 2019 in New Delhi

  1. The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has announced that the World Food India 2019 will be held from 1-4th November 2019 in New Delhi.
  2. The event seeks to position India as Food Processing Destination of the World. The tagline of the event will be “Forging Partnerships for Growth”.
  3. The event will consist of several top level seminars, investment opportunities, exhibitions, high level CEO roundtables, country sessions, B2B and B2G networking etc.
  4. The World Food India is a biennial event which aims to promote India’s food processing sector at global level. The first event was conducted in 2017.
  5. According to the Ministry, Indian Food Processing Industry has grown at 11% growth rate, which is twice the pace of Global Industry. The sector has recorded significant growth rate across all major sub-segments of the sectors both in terms of value and volume.
  6. However, exports remain low, with India’s share in global exports of processed food being only 2%.  
  7. Besides, India also has a high share of harvest and post-harvest losses from major agricultural produces on account of poor storage, transportation and logistics

Facebook to unveil new cryptocurrency

  1. Facebook has decided to launch a crypt currency called Libra. The currency is designed not to be a speculative asset, like Bitcoin, but a form of digital money backed by a reserve of assets.
  2. Facebook has also formed the non-profit Libra Association with 27 other partners to oversee Libra and its development. The partnership includes venture capital firms, non-profit organizations, crypto firms, and massive corporate financial, telecommunications, and technology service providers.
  3. In 2018, Venezuela launched Petro, becoming the first country to officially launch its own crypto currency. The petro is intended to supplement Venezuela’s bolivar fuerte (VEF) currency and help overcome US sanctions. Petros are “pre-mined”, meaning the government produces and controls it.
  4. The Marshall Islands has also decided to launch “Sovereign” (SOV), a cryptocurrency which can be used as a legal tender.
  5. Crypto currency, is a digital currency. It uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets. E.g. Bitcoins, ethereum etc.

Modi likely to meet bank chiefs to discuss roadmap for PSBs

  1. Prime Minister is likely to meet chief executives of Indian banks to chalk out a strategy for the banking sector for the next five years.
  2. The meeting assumes significance as the country’s GDP growth slowed to 5.8% in the January-March 2019 quarter dragging down the full-year growth to a 5-year low of 6.8%.
  3. Further, the NBFC sector has also slowed down due to which credit flow to productive sectors of the economy has been impacted.
  4. Recently, the finance ministry has also held discussions with banks on the on going crisis in non-banking financial sectors as NBFCs are facing liquidity crunch following the debt default by IL&FS.
  5. IL&FS is an infrastructure finance company registered with the Reserve Bank of India as a ‘Systemically Important Non-Deposit Accepting Core Investment Company’. IL&FS has run out of money and therefore was unable to service its repayment obligations which led to a series of defaults on loans, debentures and commercial papers.
  6. Further, the government had recently seen the merger of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda and also the merger of associate banks of State Bank of India.

DoT panel approves levy of penalty on Airtel, Vodafone Idea

  1. The Digital Communications Commission has given its approval for imposing penalty on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for denial of interconnection to Reliance Jio when the latter had entered the market.
  2. However, the commission has asked the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) to review the penalty amount of ₹3,050 crore given the financial stress in the telecom sector.
  3. In 2016,Reliance Jio had complained to TRAI that due to inadequate interconnection points its subscribers were unable to make calls to other networks.
  4. TRAI held that Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had violated licence norms by denying adequate interconnection points to Reliance Jio.
  5. TRAI had stated that the act of these operators was against public interest and in violation of their licence agreement.
  6. TRAI is a statutory body set up by the Government of India under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  7. It is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India. It consists of a Chairperson and not more than two full-time members and not more than two part-time members.
  8. The Digital Communications Commission was earlier known as Telecom Commission. It was set up by the Government of India through a Resolution in 1989 to deal with various aspects of Telecommunications.

Bitcoin use causing huge CO2 emissions: Study

  1. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has revealed that Bitcoin system has a carbon footprint of between 22 and 22.9 megatonnes per year. This is comparable to the footprint of cities such as Hamburg, Vienna or Las Vegas.
  2. Bitcoin mining is very energy-intensive and the process has increased rapidly in recent years. The annual electricity consumption by Bitcoin, as of November 2018, is about 46 TWh.
  3. The researchers have recommended that crypto currency mining should be regulated in regions where power generation is especially carbon-intensive. Also, to improve the ecological balance, more mining farms can be linked to additional renewable generating capacity.

Will take fresh look at framework to supervise NBFCs: RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor has said that the RBI is giving a fresh look at the regulatory and supervisory framework of the Non-banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
  2. The RBI Governor said that the Reserve Bank will continue to monitor the activity and performance of NBFC sector with a focus on major entities and their inter-linkages with other sectors.
  3. The RBI has recently released the draft guidelines for a robust liquidity framework for the NBFCs.
  4. This framework was issued as NBFCs have come under severe liquidity pressure ever since the IL&FS crisis erupted compelling them to stop deposit renewals and resort to high cost borrowings. There are concerns that NBFCs may run out of money which will lead to defaults.
  5. Further, the RBI has also asked NBFCs with asset size of more than Rs 5,000 crore to appoint a Chief Risk Officer (CRO) with clearly specified roles and responsibilities amid growing worries over a crisis in the NBFC sector.
  6. The RBI has also created a specialised supervisory and regulatory cadre within the RBI in order to strengthen the supervision and regulation of commercial banks, urban cooperative banks and non-banking financial companies.

‘Financial stability is a key theme for monetary policy’

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) governor has highlighted the importance of the central bank’s role in maintaining financial stability.
  2. Financial stability can be defined as a condition in which the financial system is not unstable. It can also mean a condition in which the three components of the financial system which are financial institutions, financial markets and financial infrastructure are stable.
  3. RBI Governor has referred to the RBI Act according to which the primary objective of monetary policy is to maintain price stability while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
  4. However, after the global financial crisis in 2008, it has been recognized that price stability may not be sufficient for financial stability. Hence, financial stability has emerged as another key consideration for monetary policy.
  5. These comments came amid a non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) sector crisis which accounts for a fifth of the credit market.
  6. The RBI Governor also said that RBI is taking a fresh look at NBFC regulation and supervision. It is also monitoring the activities of large NBFCs with a view to ensure financial stability.
  7. Further, he said that the endeavour of RBI is to ensure price stability under the flexible inflation targeting regime and simultaneously focus on growth when inflation is under control.
  8. In 2019, RBI had reduced the Repo rate by 75 bps to 5.75% to boost economic growth which had fallen to 5.8% in the January-March 2019 quarter dragging down the full year growth to a five-year low of 6.8%.

Government rules out bringing oil products under GST for now

  1. The Central Government has ruled out including petroleum products within the ambit of GST immediately by turning down repeated demands from the aviation sector and oil companies.
  2. The petroleum ministry has also asked for the inclusion as the benefit of GST is not helping oil companies as they cannot claim an input tax credit. The credit can only be claimed if the entire chain from inputs to the final product pays GST.
  3. However, the Central government is of the view that the inclusion of petroleum products will not be supported by the states in GST Council as states wants to retain flexibility in taxing a few items.
  4. Stamp duty on real estate, excise on alcohol and petroleum products are among the handful of items on which states still have control after the introduction of GST.
  5. Besides, the Government is also not keen on moving to GST for products such as aviation turbine fuel (ATF) or jet fuel. The government argues that the taxes on ATF which airlines say is among the highest in the world is already passed on to consumers.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

India to actively curb ‘conflict’ diamonds

  1. The Intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process (KP) has started in Mumbai.
  2. During the meeting, India has committed to play an active role to curb the circulation of ‘conflict diamonds’ or ‘blood diamonds’ in the international market by further strengthening the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
  3. India has said that the 4Cs (Cut, Clarity, Colour & Carat) of diamonds may soon be expanded to 5Cs with the fifth being Conflict-Free.
  4. Similarly, in the 5Ps of diamond marketing (Precious, Popular, Prestige, Priceless) will also be expanded with the fifth would represent Peace Diamond.
  5. The Kimberley Process (KP) is an international certification scheme that came into force in 2003.It regulates trade in rough diamonds. It aims to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds.
  6. Conflict diamonds also known as blood diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance armed conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.
  7. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) outlines the rules that govern the trade in rough diamonds.
  8. The KP is not an international organisation as it has no permanent offices or permanent staff. It relies on the contributions under the principle of burden sharing of participants supported by industry and civil society observers.

Congress moves SC against EC’s decision to hold separate by polls for 2 RS seats in Gujarat

  1. The Gujarat Congress has decided to move the Supreme Court against the Election Commission (EC) decision to conduct separate by polls for two Rajya Sabha seats in the state.
  2. The petitioner has sought a direction to the Election Commission for holding the election for the two seats simultaneously.
  3. The EC has termed the vacancies as casual vacancies. The petitioner said the term is a complete and direct violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act as such vacancies fall under the category of statutory vacancies under Section 69 of the RP Act.
  4. The petitioner argued that both the Constitution and Representation of the People Act 1951 says that if regular vacancies are existing at the time when the election is held, it should be held together so that the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote can be applied to those elections.
  5. However, the EC has cited two Delhi High Court rulings of 1994 and 2009 which had supported the system of holding separate by-polls in the same state under provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
  6. Section 69 in The Representation of the People Act, 1951 talks about the vacation of seats by persons already members of one House on election to other House of Parliament.
  7. Section 69 (1) says that If a person who is already a member of the Lok Sabha is chosen a member of the Rajya Sabha, his seat in the Lok Sabha shall on the date on which he is so chosen become vacant.
  8. Further, section 69 (2) says that If a person who is already a member of the Rajya Sabha is chosen a member of the Lok Sabha, his seat in the Rajya Sabha shall on the date on which he is so chosen become vacant.

20TH Anniversary of The Victory at Kargil

  1. The country will celebrate this year the 20th anniversary of victory in Kargil war with the theme ‘Remember, Rejoice and Renew’.
  2. The objective of these celebrations is to evoke feelings of nationalism and patriotism through nationwide campaigns especially amongst youth and to pay homage to the valiant soldiers.
  3. India had launched Operation Vijay in 1999 to clear the Kargil sector of infiltration by Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
  4. The war took place between May and July of 1999 in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil district. It began with the infiltration of both Pakistani troops and terrorists into Indian territory.
  5. The infiltrators positioned themselves in key locations that gave them a strategic advantage during the start of the conflict.
  6. Operation Safed Sagar which was launched by the Indian Air Force’s was a major part of the Kargil war. It used air power at the height of 32,000 feet for the first time.
  7. The Kargil War will always be remembered for its strategic and tactical surprises, the self-imposed national strategy of restraint in keeping the war limited to Kargil – Siachen Sectors and swiftly executed tri-services military strategy and plans.

World’s Highest Operating Weather Stations Installed On Mount Everest

  1. The National Geographic Society has announced the successful installation of the world’s highest operating weather stations on Mount Everest.
  2. The successful installation aims to break new ground in our monitoring and understanding of climate change as the stations will help continuously monitor the upper reaches of the atmosphere which is critical to tracking and predicting weather patterns around the globe.
  3. The weather station will record data on temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction.
  4. Besides, the new weather stations will also give scientists direct observations to understand jet stream and will also help understand how climate change is affecting the Himalayas.
  5. Further, the data from the weather stations will also help communities respond to climate risks that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the more than one billion people in the region.
  6. The analysis from this stations will also reveal how monsoon patterns will change in India. Indian scientists have indicated that monsoon is weakening over the years but this data may give more clues to what time of the year moisture comes in compared to earlier.
  7. Mount Everest known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibetan as Chomolungma is Earth’s highest mountain above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. The international border between Nepal and China (Tibet Autonomous Region) runs across its summit point.

Assam temple bids adieu to turtle hatchlings

  1. Recently, the Ugratara Temple in Assam had organised a special darshan of 34 hatchlings of the rare black soft shell turtle as these hatchlings will be reintroduced into the wild.
  2. The black soft shell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) is a species of freshwater turtle found in India (Assam) and Bangladesh.
  3. The black soft shell turtle figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as “extinct in the wild” since 2002.
  4. These turtles are called “soft shell” because their shell is light and flexible. This allows them to move more easily in open water, or in muddy lake bottoms. Having a soft shell also allows them to move much faster on land than most turtles.
  5. The major threats to the black soft shell turtle are (a) consumption of turtle meat and eggs (b) silt mining (c) encroachment of wetlands and (d) changes in flooding patterns.

16th Asia media summit kicks off in Cambodia; deliberates on issues pertaining to media & broadcasting industry

  1. The 16th Asia media summit has started in Cambodia. The summit has deliberated on many issues pertaining to the media and broadcasting industry.
  2. The summit was held under the topic Media Digitization Focusing on Developing Markets. The summit called for regulation-making to fight against fake news and cyber-crimes.
  3. The summit was organized by the Cambodian Ministry of Information in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD).
  4. An information ministerial meeting held on the sidelines of the summit has agreed to launch Angkor Fake News Initiative. It a year-long research project to find out appropriate measures to counter fake news.
  5. Asia Media Summit is the annual conference organized by Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in collaboration with its partners and international organizations.
  6. Asia Media Summit provides a unique opportunity for broadcasters in the region to share their thoughts on Broadcasting and Information and is supported by all regional and International Broadcasting Unions and Associations.
  7. The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) was established in 1977 under the auspices of UNESCO. It is hosted by the Government of Malaysia and the secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur.

Iran says it will break uranium stockpile limit in 10 days

  1. Iran has announced it will breach the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium that was set under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
  2. Enriched uranium is produced by feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235.
  3. Under the nuclear deal, Iran is only permitted to produce low-enriched uranium which has a 3-4% concentration of U-235 and can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. While the weapon grade uranium is 90% enriched or more.
  4. Iran has complained that European powers have failed to abide by their commitments to mitigate the effects on Iran economy of the sanctions that US President reinstated after abandoning the nuclear deal last year.
  5. Recently, US had stepped up pressure on Iran by ending exemptions from secondary sanctions for countries still buying Iranian oil. The move was intended to deny the Iranian government its principal source of revenue.
  6. Further, the Europeans have set up a mechanism that would allow goods to be bartered between Iranian and foreign companies without direct financial transactions. But the mechanism known as Instex is not yet operational.
  7. These developments come at a time of high tension in the Middle East, with the US accusing Iran of being behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied any involvement.
  8. Iran Nuclear deal which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was announced in 2015.
  9. The deal was signed between Iran and the P5+1 group (US,UK, France, Russia, China and Germany).It restricts Iran’s nuclear programme in return for lifting most economic sanctions against it.

China’s President Xi to visit North Korea this week

  1. Chinese President will be travelling to North Korea for a two-day visit. The visit will be the first by any Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years.
  2. North Korean leader has visited China four times but no Chinese president has visited North Korea since Hu Jintao in 2005.
  3. The visit is intended to help the relations between the two countries after China had backed a series of UN sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear activities.
  4. This visit comes after talks between the US and North Korea had stalled over the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programme.
  5. On the other hand, the US and China are locked in an escalating trade war with both countries announcing new tariffs on each other’s goods.
  6. Further, the Chinese President will also visit the Sino-Korean Friendship Tower in Pyongyang. It is a monument commemorating China’s assistance to North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
  7. North Korea and South Korea have been locked in an armed standoff since their 1950-53 war which had ended in an Armistice Agreement and not a peace treaty.
  8. The agreement divided the Korean peninsula into two along the 38th Parallel and also provided for neutral international peace patrol.
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