9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 29, 2019

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India’s Agreement with the World Bank to Eliminate TB

  1. India has signed a Loan Agreement worth US$ 400 Million with the World Bank to help treat and Eliminate Tuberculosis from India. The program will cover nine states in the country.
  2. The World Bank supported program will support the government’s National Strategic Plan to end TB in India by 2025.
  3. It will do so by helping to improve and strengthen diagnostics and management of drug-resistant tuberculosis and increase the capacity of public institutions engaged in monitoring and treating TB in the country.
  4. The loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 19-year maturity which includes a 5-year grace period.
  5. The program will provide financial incentives to private sector care providers for reporting cases of TB and ensuring that their patients complete the treatment regimen.
  6. It will also provide Direct Benefit Transfers to patients for acquiring the critical nutrition needed during treatment.
  7. The Program will even help the government strengthen the monitoring and implementation of Nikshay which is a web-based TB case monitoring system introduced by the government.
  8. National Strategic Plan (NSP), 2017-2025 is a framework to provide guidance for the activities of various stakeholders to reduce the burden of TB mortality and morbidity. It aims to work towards the elimination of TB in India by 2025.

High sugar, salt content: FSSAI sticks to its stance on labelling norms

  1. Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) has announced the new draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations.
  2. The new draft regulation has been brought to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices and inform them about what the product actually contains.
  3. These regulations would be implemented in phased manner over a period of three years.
  4. The draft proposal makes it mandatory for food products that are high on fat, sugar and salt content levels to display red-colour coding on their labels.
  5. The front of all packaged food items will have to display the total number of calories, saturated and Tran’s fats, salt and added sugar content as well as the proportion of the daily energy needs fulfilled by food item.
  6. The draft regulations also propose labelling requirements for food products sold on e-commerce platforms and restaurants and stricter norms for products that claim to be gluten-free.
  7. The other features of the new labelling norms are (a) mandatory labelling regarding allergens, vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods (b) New logos for vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods (c) Food not meant for human consumption shall bear an [X] mark and (d) manufacturing and expiry dates have to be printed together at one place.

Shri Nitin Gadkari expresses commitment to raise MSME’s contribution to GDP to 50 percent

  1. The Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has organised an international SME convention in New Delhi to observe International MSME Day.
  2. The theme of the convention is “Indian MSMEs, Global Aspirations”. The first convention was held in April 2018.The convention is organised in association with India SME Forum.
  3. The objectives of the Convention were (a) To boost the international competitiveness of the Indian MSMEs (b) Provide MSMEs a platform to understand the opportunities in the international market (c) Disseminate information on global market demand, ease of export financing for exports and developing strategies to penetrate new markets.
  4. During the convention, Union Minister for MSME has said that the government has set the targets such as raising the contribution of MSME sector to the country’s GDP to 50 % from the present 29 %.
  5. The government will also ensure that MSME sector gave employment to at least 15 Crore people against the 11.1 Crore at present.

Modi, Trump discuss Iran, trade and defence ahead of G20 Summit

  1. Indian Prime Minister has held bilateral talks with US President ahead of the formal inauguration of the G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.
  2. The two leaders discussed various bilateral and global issues such as (a) Iran (b) 5G communications networks (c) trade and (d) defence ahead of the G-20 Summit.
  3. The two leaders agreed that trade issues need to be discussed and trade ministers of both countries will be meeting soon to resolve issues.
  4. The US administration has barred use or installation of Huawei 5G technology equipped devices in critical infrastructure and offices related to security establishment.
  5. The US has been lobbying with friendly nations to boycott Huawei 5G rollout in those countries. Japan and Australia have already barred Huawei from rolling out 5G technology there.
  6. India has not yet committed to US administration’s call for a ban on Huawei plan to rollout 5G in the country. India maintains the decision will be taken considering its own business and security interests.
  7. On Iran, Indian PM has pressed for the need to maintain stability in the gulf region. He said that nearly 8 lakh Indians work in the region and their presence makes India an important stakeholder in peace there. He also conveyed India’s energy concerns if situation remains volatile in gulf region.
  8. The two countries also discussed defence ties where the US president has said that defence deals between the two countries should go forward. But US did not raise the issue of S-400 missile system that India is buying from Russia.

L 98-59b: A new planet discovered by NASA mission

  1. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s(NASA) Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite(TESS) has discovered the smallest planet called L 98-59b.
  2. The planet is between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby stars. It is the tiniest of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) finds so far.
  3. L 98-59b is around 80% of Earth’s size and about 10% smaller than the previous smallest planet discovered by TESS.
  4. The two other planets in the system namely L 98-59c and L 98-59d are around 1.4 and 1.6 times Earth’s size respectively.
  5. Further, the L 98-59b is a record for TESS but even smaller planets have been discovered in data collected by NASA’s Kepler satellite including Kepler-37b which is only 20% larger than the Moon.
  6. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an all-sky survey mission that seeks to discover exoplanets around nearby bright stars. It was launched in April 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Terrorism biggest threat to humanity: Narendra Modi at informal BRICS leaders’ meeting in Osaka

  1. An informal meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) nations was conducted on the side lines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.
  2. During the meeting, Indian PM has said that terrorism is the biggest threat to humanity which not only kills innocents but also severely affects the economic development and social stability.
  3. The BRICS nations has pledged to combat terrorism and illicit financial flow and called on to prevent the financing of terrorist networks.   
  4. Further, they reiterated that it is the responsibility of all states to prevent the financing of terrorist networks and terrorist actions from their territories.
  5. They also called on the technology companies to cooperate with governments in accordance with applicable law to eliminate the ability of terrorists to use digital platforms to encourage, recruit, facilitate or commit terrorist acts.
  6. The leaders of the BRICS pledged to strive to promote international anti-corruption cooperation and strengthening of legal frameworks.
  7. They said that corruption including illicit money and financial flows and ill-gotten wealth stashed in foreign jurisdictions is a global challenge which may impact negatively on economic growth and sustainable development.

Current account deficit tapers

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said that India’s current account deficit (CAD) has increased to $57.2 billion or 2.1% of GDP in FY19 from 1.8% a year ago.
  2. Current account deficit is one of the key indicators of an economy’s health and measures the difference between the value of the goods and services a country imports and the value of its exports.
  3. The CAD has increased due to increase in India’s trade deficit to $180.3 billion in 2018-’19 from $160.0 billion in 2017-’18.
  4. A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceed its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets.
  5. Meanwhile, the RBI data showed that Net Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) inflows into India were $30.7 billion in 2018-’19 which is marginally higher than $30.3 billion in 2017-18.
  6. Further, the data from RBI has also showed that the country’s foreign exchange reserves has hit a record high of $426.41 billion for the week ending June 21, 2019.

Trade war makes India a haven for aluminium scrap dumping

  1. India has overtaken China as the preferred destination for aluminium scrap with imports growing 18.8% in the January-March 2019 quarter compared with the same quarter of the previous year.
  2. The imports has increased due to a trade war between China and the U.S. Trade war is a situation where countries restrict each other’s trade by imposing tariffs or quotas on imports.
  3. The U.S. had imposed an import duty of 10% on aluminium in March 2018 and in response China too had implemented a 25% duty on the import of aluminium scrap.
  4. Further, China has not only put the duty on U.S. scrap but they are also classifying aluminium scrap as a restricted import which will be implemented from July 1, 2019.
  5. This has led to the aluminium scrap being diverted and dumped in India. The surge in import of scrap has also led to the Indian domestic industry losing its market share.
  6. In this situation, the Aluminium Association of India has requested the government to increase customs duty on imports to up to 12.5%.At present, the duty varies from 2.5% to 10%, on products such as primary aluminium, scrap and downstream products.

Policy on electric vehicles well-thought-out: Rajiv Kumar

  1. NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman has said that the proposal for transition to electric vehicles (EVs) was a well-thought-out policy to capitalise on the sunrise industry.
  2. The NITI Aayog has proposed that only electric three-wheelers be sold in the country post March 31, 2023. Additionally, all new two-wheelers below 150cc sold after March 31, 2025 should be electric.
  3. The industry has strongly opposed the recommendation terming it impractical and cautioning that such a move would disrupt the automotive sector which is already reeling under stress.
  4. The industry has said that they are currently facing multiple challenges including shifting to BS-VI emission norms in the shortest time-frame ever with investments of close to Rs. 80,000 crore.
  5. However, the Niti Aayog has said that the figure of Rs. 80,000crore cited by the industry as investment to move to BS-VI was primarily by the four-wheeler industry.
  6. The automotive industry rather than going to the BS VI route can switch to this electric vehicles route as it is a sunrise industry.
  7. Further, if we don’t have a policy, no targets for electric vehicles then there will be no domestic capacity and India will see massive imports as in the case of the electronics sector.

Need to push up savings rate to achieve new growth trajectory: Former RBI deputy governor

  1. Former Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor has said that there is a need to increase savings and investment rate to move India to a new growth trajectory in the future.
  2. He said that Indian growth accelerations since Independence is clearly associated with consistent trends of increasing domestic savings and investment over the decades.
  3. But the savings rate has fallen in recent years and the reasons are not very clear. He said that this is a major issue and needs to be tackled urgently,
  4. He also said that household savings which was about 21% of GDP during 1997-2003 has reached around 7% in recent years. The household savings need to be restored to the 10% level in the near future and then increased gradually to around 13% by 2030-35.
  5. Further, he said that urgent policy attention is required to push growth to 8-7% on a sustained basis. He also stressed on the need to relook the structure and functions of the think tank NITI Aayog as well as giving it fund allocation powers analogous to that of the Planning Commission.

RBI allows ARCs to buy financial assets from peers

  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) to acquire financial assets from other ARCs in a bid to accelerate timely resolution of stressed assets.
  2. Earlier, ARCs could acquire financial assets from other ARCs only when they had some exposure to the asset that was being bought.
  3. However, the transfer of assets by one ARC to another would depend on certain conditions. For example, the transaction has to be settled on cash basis between the ARCs.
  4. The selling ARC will utilise the proceeds so received for the redemption of underlying security receipts. Further, the price discovery for such transaction shall not be prejudicial to the interest of Security Receipt holders
  5. An Asset Reconstruction Company is a specialized financial institution that buys the Non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad assets from banks and financial institutions so that the latter can clean up their balance sheet.
  6. The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002 enacted in December 2002 provides the legal basis for the setting up ARCs in India.
  7. Section 2 (1) of the Act explains the meaning of Asset Securitization. Similarly, ARCs are also elaborated under Section 3 of the Act.

State divide in unemployment: Nagaland 21.4%, Meghalaya 1.5%

  1. The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2017-18 reflects huge variations among the states in terms of the unemployment rate. The survey reflects the overall unemployment rate in India at 6.1%.
  2. Unemployment rate is a measure of the prevalence of unemployment and it is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all individuals currently in the labor force.
  3. The report has said that Nagaland has the highest unemployment rate among the states at 21.4%.Besides Nagaland, states with high unemployment are Goa and Manipur.
  4. Meghalaya has the lowest unemployment rate among the states at 1.5%. Chhattisgarh and Sikkim are among those with the lowest rates.
  5. If Union Territories are included in the comparison, Nagaland still tops the list while Dadra and Nagar Haveli replaces Meghalaya with a low of 0.6%.
  6. The unemployment rate among females has been observed lower than the males with 5.7% and 6.2% respectively. Goa and Kerala are high in female unemployment with a rate of 26% and 23.3% respectively. Meghalaya is at the bottom with 1.9%.
  7. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme and Implementation had launched Periodic Labour Force Survey in 2017.The data was collected by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
  8. The survey seeks to generate quarterly reports on Labour Force Indicators such as Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR),Worker Population Ratio (WPR) and Unemployment Rate (UR) in urban areas and an annual report for rural India
  9. Labour force participation rate is defined as the section of the working population in the age group of 16-64 in the economy currently employed or seeking employment.

China tests new ballistic missile

  1. China has successfully tested its latest submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the JL-3
  2. The JL-3 is expected to have a range of around 14,000 kilometres, with a capacity to carry 10 independent guided nuclear warheads.
  3. A submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a ballistic missile capable of being launched from submarines.
  4. Ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads on a predetermined target. These weapons are guided during relatively brief periods of flight and most of their trajectory is unpowered, being governed by gravity and air resistance if in the atmosphere

Nasa to send ‘Dragonfly’ drone to Saturn moon Titan

  1. NASA has announced that it will send a multi-rotor vehicle called Dragonfly to Titan. This will be the first time that NASA will fly a multi- rotor vehicle for science on other planet.
  2. The Dragonfly will fly to different locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common to both Earth and Titan.
  3. The Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the solar system’s second largest moon; the first largest moon being Jupiter’s Ganymede.
  4. Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth.  However, unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane.
  5. The surface temperature at Titan is -179 degrees Celsius. Further, its surface pressure is 50% higher than that of Earth’s
  6. The Dragonfly mission the 4th mission of NASA’s New Frontiers Programme. It is a series of space exploration missions being conducted by NASA with the purpose of researching several of the Solar System bodies
  7. The three prior New Frontiers missions are a) New Horizons, which flew past Pluto in 2015, b) Juno which is a Jupiter exploration mission, and c) OSIRIS-REx, which is circling the asteroid Bennu.

Statistics Day being celebrated today

  1. Statistics Day is celebrated 29th June every year.
  2. June 29, which is the birth date of Professor P C Mahalanobis, was selected to celebrate Statistics Day in recognition of his invaluable contribution in establishing the National Statistical System.
  3. Statistics Day is aimed at sensitizing the public about how Statistics helps in shaping and framing policies.
  4. The theme of Statistics Day, 2019 is “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. The theme has been chosen for intensive and focused discussions towards filling the data gaps and improvement of timelines/quality in SDGs.
  5. On 2019 Statistics Day the handbook of National Indicator Framework (NIF) will also be released. NIF has been prepared by Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI).
  6. NIF is a set of national indicators which forms the backbone of monitoring progress towards Sustainable Development Goals.

Desert-dwelling carnivorous dinosaur’s bones found in Brazil

  1. Researchers have found fossil remains of Vespersaurus paranaensis in Cruzeiro do Oeste municipality of Parana state in Brazil. It was a desert based carnivorous dinosaur.
  2. The Vespersaurus was a theropod, a group of two-footed carnivorous dinosaurs. It belongs to the same group as tyrannosaurus and velociraptor. It lived 90 million years ago.
  3. According to the researchers, the discovery of fossils in north-eastern region of Parana which was once a desert indicate that the Vespersaurus was well adapted to that type of climate.

Centre releases action plan on higher education

  1. The Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development has finalized and released a five-year vision plan named Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP)
  2. Key Focus of the EQUIP includes a) to improve access to higher education, especially for underserved communities; b) improve the gross enrolment ration; c) improve teaching and learning processes; d) build educational infrastructure; e) improve the quality of research and innovation; f) use technology and online learning tools; and g) work on accreditation systems, governance structures and financing.
  3. It would be funded through extra-budgetary resources and by mobilising money from the marketplace through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  4. HEFA is a joint venture between the HRD Ministry and Canara Bank, set up as an SPV in 2017, with an aim to raise ₹1 lakh crore to finance infrastructure improvements in higher education by 2022

‘SHE Team’ on the patrol in Odisha

  1. Odisha’s Gajapati district police in Paralakhemundi has started a pilot project called the ‘SHE Team’.
  2. SHE stands for ‘Safety, Health and Environment’. This project is modelled on the lines of Hyderabad ‘SHE Team’.
  3. The project seeks to ensure safety and security of young girls and women.
  4. The SHE Team is headed by a lady sub-inspector and includes mobile patrolling teams. The police personnel will patrol schools, colleges, other local institutions and public places, where young girls and women are allegedly subjected to eve teasing, stalking and harassment.
  5. ‘SHE Team’ also seeks to prevent harassment of working women at workplaces and public places where they move for their job.
  6. It will also self-defence and cyber space safety to young girls and children.
  7. Further, a website of ‘SHE Team’ has been launched and a mobile app is under construction.
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