9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 21, 2019

Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news Articles here

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down U.S. drone amid tensions

  1. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has shot down a US drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, Iran.
  2. The drone was unmanned and unarmed. The RQ-4A Global Hawk drone is essentially a high-altitude robot used for surveillance over the ocean and coastal areas.
  3. This comes after US had blamed Iran for recent attacks on foreign shipping tankers that took place near the Strait of Hormuz.
  4. Further, Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 nuclear deal.
  5. The United States has also deployment additional troops in the West Asia against the backdrop of increasing tensions with Iran.
  6. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.
  7. The Revolutionary Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests. The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force which supports forces allied with Iran around the region including Syrian President and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
  8. The United States has recently designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

Council may consider GST cut on EVs

  1. GST Council may cut the goods and services tax(GST) on electric vehicles to 5% from 12% to provide a stimulus to the sector.
  2. The lower rate are expected to encourage global manufacturers to invest in India’s planned shift to electric vehicles in order to try and bring down pollution levels.
  3. The Niti Aayog has prepared a roadmap that envisages all vehicles sold after 2030 being electric. The roadmap lays down that all two-and three wheelers should go electric from 2023 and all commercial vehicles from 2026.
  4. 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.
  5. Goods & Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax. GST Council is a joint forum of the Centre and the States.
  6. It consists of the following members: (a) The Union Finance Minister is the Chairperson (b) The Union Minister of State, in-charge of Revenue of finance and (c) The Minister In-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government.

Japan’s ‘washi’ paper torn by modern life; struggles to attract customers

  1. Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper, has been struggling to attract consumers and the market value has dropped by more than 50% in the last 20 years. Washi
  2. The paper is made from the fibres of the kozo or mulberry plant. The fibres of the plant are much longer than materials used for paper in the west such as wood and cotton.
  3. The traditional craft of Washi, is practised in three communities in Japan: a) Misumi-cho in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture,  b) Mino City in Gifu Prefecture and c) Ogawa Town/Higashi-chichibu Village in Saitama Prefecture.
  4. Washi has been included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  5. UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage is a list of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide. It aims at better protection of these intangible cultural heritages and raise awareness about their significance.
  6. The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage came into effect.
  7. Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills –as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces that communities, groups or individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.

A water clinic for elephants opens on the banks of the Yamuna

  1. India has opened its first specialised hydrotherapy treatment for elephants suffering from arthritis, joint pain and foot ailments.
  2. Hydrotherapy is a form of physical therapy that uses the therapeutic benefits of water to perform physical rehabilitation in animals.
  3. The treatment centre is situated on the banks of the Yamuna in Mathura near the Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC).
  4. It currently houses rescued elephants and is run in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the NGO Wildlife SOS.
  5. The new hydrotherapy jumbo pool is 11-foot-deep and has 21 high pressure jet sprays that create water pressure that massage the elephants feet and body and help in increasing blood circulation.
  6. The hospital started in 2018 already offers state-of-the-art modern facilities including (a) wireless digital X-ray (b) laser treatment (c) dental X-ray (d) thermal imaging and (e) ultrasonography to treat injured, sick and geriatric elephants.

No H1B Visa caps in retaliation for data localisation: U.S State Department

  1. The US state department has said the US has no plans to restrict H-1B work visas for countries that force international firms to store data locally.
  2. This statement came in the backdrop of a report which had said that the U.S. was considering capping H1Bs at 10-15% of all H1Bs for countries that had a data localisation policy.
  3. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  4. Dependents of H-1B visa holders get H-4 visas. The H1B is a temporary visa but is a pathway to permanent residency which is Green Card in the U.S.
  5. There is a mandated cap of 65,000 H1B visas under the general category and a further 20,000 for advanced degree holders. However, there are no country-wise caps for H1B visas.
  6. The US administration has taken several steps to tighten the rules on the H1B programme since U.S. President had signed the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ order in 2017.
  7. Some of these changes have focussed on combating fraud, such as through site visits and ensuring that the probability of higher qualified workers getting visas is increased.
  8. Other changes have made the H1B programme less attractive. For instance, an attempt to prevent H1B spouses from getting H-4 visa has severely alter family dynamics and the ability of foreign worker families in the U.S. to support themselves.

President Ram Nath Kovind addresses joint session of Parliament: Highlights

  1. President has addressed a joint session of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at the central hall.
  2. Article 87 of the constitution provides two instances when the President specially addresses both Houses of Parliament (a)President of India addresses both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha at the beginning of the first Session after each general election when the reconstituted lower house meets for the first time (b) President also addresses both the houses at the beginning of the first session of each year.
  3. Addressing the Parliament for the first time after the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, President touched upon the issues that the country faces and how government plans to counter it.
  4. The president said that ‘One Nation One Poll’ is need of the hour and all parties should come together to take a positive step towards this initiative.
  5. President said that the campaign against black money will be carried forward at a faster pace. In the last 2 years, more than 4 lakh directors have been disqualified.
  6. Telling about the water crisis, Climate Change and to Save water, the President has said that saving water is important otherwise coming generation has to pay for it.
  7. The President also said that Masood Azhar has been declared as a global terrorist by the UN. It is a big victory for India at the global front.
  8. President said that investment is being made to strengthen rural India, increase the productivity of the agricultural sector. Another Rs 25 lakh crore will be invested in the coming years.
  9. He also said that in tribal areas Eklavya residential model schools are being established. Also, women safety initiatives have been taken. Sex ration has been improved in many states with ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission.
  10. Further, the President said that Atal incubation centers have been established in 102 universities. India has improved in ease of doing index that indicates our progress in business area.

Crop insurance claims surge, delay in disbursals falls

  1. The government’s crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has witnessed a rise in claims ratio from farmers across the country in fiscal 2018-19.
  2. The higher claims ratio means farmers have claimed a larger amount of the crop insurance portfolio under the scheme as against portfolio in the previous year.
  3. Most of the claims have come from states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka given that crop insurance penetration was lower in heartland states like Bihar and UP.
  4. In overall terms, India has become the third largest crop insurance market in the world after the US and China.
  5. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme) was launched in 2016.The scheme has replaced the two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) as well as the Modified NAIS.
  6. PMFBY envisages a uniform premium of 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.
  7. The PMFBY mandates compulsory coverage for all loanee farmers and non-loanee farmers too are encouraged.
  8. The scheme is open to all food and oilseeds crops and annual commercial horticultural crops for which past yield data is available and for which the requisite number of Crop Cutting Experiments are conducted as part of the General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).

Nasscom and global Internet body join hands for global research in IoT

  1. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) have joined hands for developing standards that will feed into the global consultation for managing Internet-of-Things devices.
  2. ICANN is a non-profit body that administers domain names and Internet protocol addresses (IPs) globally. It was formed in 1988 by the US department of commerce. It has become independent of US control since October 1st, 2016.
  3. ICANN is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet ensuring the networks stable and secure operation.
  4. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
  5. The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) is a trade association of Indian Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. Established in 1988, NASSCOM is a non-profit organisation.

Indian scientists develop more potent Anthrax vaccine

  1. Recently, a group of Indian scientists have developed a new vaccine against anthrax.
  2. The vaccine is claimed to be superior over existing vaccines as it can generate an immune response to anthrax toxin as well as its spores rather than the toxin alone.
  3. Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The bacteria live in soil and usually infect wild and domestic animals such as goats, cattle and sheep.
  4. However, humans, pigs and dogs are comparatively less susceptible and only get infected if exposed to copious amount of spores.
  5. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another as it spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes.
  6. In 2001, these spores were used as agents of bio-terrorism when letters containing anthrax spores were sent to some people in America leading to widespread panic.
  7. Anthrax responds well to antibiotic treatment but vaccines are necessary as the infection can cause death within two-three days leaving no scope for diagnosis and treatment.

Centre begins groundwork for 100 innovation centres

  1. The Centre has begun groundwork to deliver a major poll promise of 100 innovation zones across India.
  2. The innovation centres would be linked to Smart City Mission. The first 100 cities chosen through a competitive process would house one innovation centre each.
  3. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has entrusted the work to Niti Aayog, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
  4. The innovation centres would be used as tinkering laboratories to solve urban issues including traffic congestion, mosquito breeding, stray dog menace or pollution due to local industries.
  5. Each urban local body would flag an issue and the idea would be thrown open to entrepreneurs to come and suggest a solution. This would be done through the innovation zone or centre.
  6. The government also wants the innovation centres to act as lighthouse projects. If an experiment is successful in one centre, it could be shared on a common platform for replication in other cities with similar issues.

Shri RK Singh approves Dispute Resolution Mechanism for solar/wind sector

  1. Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy(IC) has approved a proposal to set up a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) for solar/wind sector.
  2. This move will give further fillip to the smooth implementation of solar/wind energy projects in India.
  3. It fulfils a long pending demand of the industry to resolve expeditiously, unforeseen disputes that may arise beyond the scope of Contractual Agreements.
  4. A three member Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) will be set up with the approval of Hon’ble Minister (NRE) consisting of eminent persons of impeccable integrity.
  5. The upper age for the DRC members shall be 70 years. The Committee members of DRC shall be chosen from the eminent persons located in NCR of Delhi so as to avoid expenditure on Air Travel & accommodation.
  6. The mechanism of DRC will be applicable for all solar/ wind Schemes/ Programmes/ Projects being implemented through Solar Energy Corporation of India(SECI) or NTPC.
  7. The DRC will consider following kinds of cases (a)all cases of appeal against decisions given by SECI on Extension of Time requests based on terms of contract and (b)all requests of Extension of Time not covered under the terms of the contract.
  8. The recommendations of the DRC along with Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) observations will be placed before Minister (NRE) for final decision.

International Yoga Day

  1. The International Yoga Day is celebrated on 21st June since its inception in 2015. The International Yoga day is celebrated to promote yoga and spread awareness about its benefits. The theme for 2019 Yoga Day is Yoga for Climate Action.
  2. The idea of International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the India Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2014.
  3. The resolution on ‘International Day of Yoga’ was introduced by India’s Ambassador to UN Asoke Mukerji. It was cosponsored by 177 nations, the highest number ever for any General Assembly resolution.
  4. 21st June has been chosen as International Yoga day is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. 21 June is the day of the Summer Solstice when the tilt of a planet’s axis in the northern hemisphere is most inclined toward the sun
  5. Further, the summer solstice is also considered important in Indian mythology as it marks an event that is considered the start of Yogic science.
  6. Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India.
  7. Yoga has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.

Navy plans to build 6 submarines

  1. The defence ministry has issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) to shortlist Indian strategic partners for the construction of six conventional submarines under Project 75 (I).
  2. Leading international submarine manufacturers interested in the project will work with an Indian Strategic Partner, which will construct six conventional submarines in India.
  3. This is the second project being undertaken under the Strategic Partnership (SP) Model. Previously, the government had cleared the procurement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) under the SP Model.
  4. In 2017, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the Strategic Partnership model for the Indian private sector. The concept of the model was first suggested by the Dhirendra Singh Committee in 2015.
  5. The strategic partnership model seeks to identify a few Indian private companies as Strategic Partners who would initially tie up with a few shortlisted foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to manufacture defence platforms and equipment.
  6. Four segments have been identified for acquisition under Strategic Partnership (SP) route: a) Fighter Aircraft, b) Helicopters, c) Submarines and d) Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) / Main Battle Tanks (MBTs).
  7. Project 75 (I) is a step towards opening a second production line for diesel electric submarines in India. The first was French designed Scorpene class submarines being constructed at Mazagon docks in Mumbai under Project-75. The first Scorpene class submarine, INS Kalvari, was commissioned into the navy in December 2017
  8. In 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a ‘30-Year Plan for Indigenous Submarine Construction’, which was to develop two production lines on which six submarines each viz. a) Project 75 and b) Project 75 (I).

India’s first solar-powered cruise vessel

  1. Kerala’ State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has decided to launch India’s first premier solar-powered cruise boat in Alappuzha by December 2019.
  2. The cruise boat will be powered by a motor that can source energy from solar panels, battery, and generator. Its battery will have 80 KWh (kilowatt hour) power backup.
  3. It will be able to carry 100 passengers. The vessel will have an air-conditioned lower deck and pushback seats. The upper deck, which is non-air conditioned, can be used for dining and to get a better view of the backwaters.
  4. Kerala had launched India’s first solar-powered ferry, named Aditya, in 2016. It operates between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu, connecting Kottayam and Alappuzha districts of Kerala. Aditya is also the largest solar-powered boat in India with 75 seats capacity.
  5. It was built with the financial aid in the form of subsidy from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy by the Kerala State Water Transport Department.
  6. Conventional ferries releases huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Further, the oil spill from such boats is harmful to aquatic ecosystem and to the water body.
  7. However, solar ferry boats neither create pollution in atmosphere nor aquatic environment. Further, noise pollution is not created.

Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast since 2000: study

  1. According to a new study published in Science Advances, that rate of ice loss in the Himalayan glaciers from 2000 to 2016 is double that from the period 1975 to 2000.
  2. The researchers constructed a 40-year record with 3D modelling, using declassified Cold War-era spy satellite images and more recent satellite photos
  3. According to the study, the annual glacial melt has accelerated from an average 10 inches to 20 inches. The fast rate of ice loss has been linked to rising average temperatures.
  4. Though temperatures vary from place to place, the average temperature in the region, between 2000 and 2016, was 1 degree Celsius higher than it was from 1975 to 2000.
  5. The region that encompasses the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is widely known as the Third Pole. This is because its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the Polar Regions. The region is the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water to over a billion of people in Asia.

First “song” recorded from rare, lovelorn, right whale off Alaska

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers have announced that they have documented vocalisations made by eastern North Pacific right whales (Eubalaena japonica) in the Bering Sea. It is the first confirmed “song” from any right whale population.
  2. Right whales are known make gunshot sounds. The newly-recorded noise sounded like a song because of the timing in between gunshots and the number of gunshots.
  3. North Pacific right whales are the rarest of all large whale species and among the rarest of all marine mammal species.
  4. North Pacific right whales are baleen whales. These whales feed by straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates that trap shrimp-like krill and small fish.
  5. They are found in temperate and sub-arctic waters in the Pacific Ocean between 20 and 60 degrees latitude. They range from Japan and Russia in the west to Alaska and the west coast of North America in the east.
  6. North Pacific Right Whale Northeast Pacific Subpopulation is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List.

Japan’s ‘washi’ paper torn by modern life; struggles to attract customers

  1. Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper, has been struggling to attract consumers and the market value has dropped by more than 50% in the last 20 years. Washi
  2. The paper is made from the fibres of the kozo or mulberry plant. The fibres of the plant are much longer than materials used for paper in the west such as wood and cotton.
  3. The traditional craft of Washi, is practised in three communities in Japan: a) Misumi-cho in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture,  b) Mino City in Gifu Prefecture and c) Ogawa Town/Higashi-chichibu Village in Saitama Prefecture.
  4. Washi has been included in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  5. UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage is a list of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide. It aims at better protection of these intangible cultural heritages and raise awareness about their significance.
  6. The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage came into effect.
  7. Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills –as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces that communities, groups or individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.

J&K ‘back to the village’ outreach programme

  1. Jammu and Kashmir government has launched an ambitious initiative to reach out to the people at the grassroots level through a programme named as ‘Back to the Village’.
  2. The programme is primarily aimed at energizing the panchayats and directing development efforts in rural areas through community participation and to create in the rural masses an earnest desire for a decent standard of living.
  3. The programme has four main goals (a) energising panchayats, (b) collecting feedback on the delivery of government schemes and programmes (c) capturing specific economic potential and (d) undertaking assessment of needs of villages.
  4. The programme will involve the people of the state and government officials in a joint effort to deliver the mission of equitable development across all our rural areas.
  5. As part of the programme, each gazetted officer will be assigned a gram panchayat where he/she will stay for at least two days including a night halt in the village to interact and obtain feedback from the panchayat representatives, elders and other local people about their concerns, developmental needs and economic potential of the area.
  6. The feedback obtained will help the government in needs assessment and subsequently to tailor the various central and state government schemes/programmes in improving delivery of village-specific services and making the village life better in terms improved amenities and economic upliftment.

India grants $ 15 mn first time ever for African Union Summit

  1. India has extended $15 million grant assistance to Niger in support of organising of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled from July 7-8, 2019 in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
  2. India sees the grant assistance as a reiteration of India’s firm commitment to its developmental partnership with Africa, the continent where it is competing for influence with China.
  3. India is also establishing in Niamey the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre under grant assistance. The Centre honours the memory of Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary is in 2019.
  4. African Union is a pan-Africa continental union consisting of 55 countries .Its structure is loosely modelled on that of European Union. It is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  5. It was founded in May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and launched in July 2002 in South Africa. It had replaced Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
  6. The objective of AU is to (a )achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and Africans (b) to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States and (c) To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent.
  7. The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.
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