9 PM Current Affairs Brief – March 12th, 2020

In four years of a national mission, total supercomputers built: three

News: India has produced just three supercomputers since 2015 under the National Supercomputer Mission (NSM).


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National Supercomputing Mission:

Launched: 2015

Aim: Empower national academic and R&D institutions by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.


  • To make India one of the world leaders in Supercomputing and to enhance India’s capability in solving grand challenge problems of national and global relevance
  • To empower our scientists and researchers with state-of-the-art supercomputing facilities and enable them to carry out cutting-edge research in their respective domains
  • To minimize redundancies and duplication of efforts, and optimize investments in supercomputing
  • To attain global competitiveness and ensure self-reliance in the strategic area of supercomputing technology

Implementing Agency:Department of Science and Technology and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), through the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Supercomputers Built under NSM:

  1. PARAM Shivay installed in IIT-BHU, Varanasi
  2. Second Supercomputer installed in IIT-Kharagpur 
  3. PARAM Brahma, installed in  IISER-Pune


Amazon rainforest may collapse within decades if critical point is reached: Study

News: According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, large ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest, may collapse and disappear quickly, once a critical point in their destruction is reached.


Key takeaways:

  • An ecosystem the size of the Amazon could collapse in approximately 50 years once a tipping point had been reached. 
  • For a system the size of the Caribbean coral reefs, collapse could occur in 15 years once triggered.

Additional information:

Amazon rainforest

  • It is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
  • The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil (60%), followed by Peru Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Caribbean Coral reefs:

  • Most Caribbean coral reefs are fringing reefs.However, other important coral reefs are present in the Caribbean- Example:The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, stretching from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to the Bay Islands of Honduras, is the second-largest barrier reef system in the world.


Govt plans to create 75 lakh SHGs by 2022

News:The government is planning to create a total of 75 lakh Self Help Groups by 2022 to enable more women to get a livelihood.


Self Help Groups (SHGs):

  • NABARD defines SHGs as “small economical homogenous affinity groups of rural poor, voluntarily formed to save and mutually contribute a common fund to be lent to its members as per group decision”
  • The concept of Self-Help Groups was introduced in 1992 under the guidelines of RBI and NABARD.

NABARD guidelines on SHG

  • The ideal size of an SHG is 10 to 20 members.
  • The group need not be registered
  • From one family, only one member is allowed.
  • Members have the same social and financial background

New Hub Under National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical Systems

News:Department of Science and Technology (DST) has decided to establish a Technology Innovation Hub(TIH) at IIT Mandi under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS).




About the Hub:

  • Aim:To focus on human-computer interaction(HCI) research where projects will focus on design and development of computer technology (interfaces) and the study of interaction between humans(users) and computers.


About Cyber Physical Systems(CPS):

  • Cyber Physical Systems(CPS) are a new class of engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment.
  • It encompasses technology areas of Cybernetics, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) among others.
  • The potential applications are a) Driverless cars that communicate securely with each other on smart roads b) Sensors in the home to detect changing health conditions among others.


About NM-ICPS:

    • Launched in 2018 by the Department of Science & Technology for a period of five years.


  • Aim:To create a seamless ecosystem for CPS by coordinating and integrating nationwide efforts encompassing knowledge generation, human resource development, research, technology, innovation and commercialization.


  • Under this, Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), Application Innovation Hubs(AIH) and Technology Translation Research Parks(TTRP) will be established.
  • These hubs will connect to Academics, Industry, Central Ministries and State Government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.


Epidemic Disease Act,1897

News:Cabinet Secretary has advised all states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of Epidemic Diseases Act,1897 so that Health Ministry advisories are enforceable.




About Epidemic Disease Act:

  • Epidemic Diseases Act,1897 aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
  • The Act was introduced by the British in 1897 to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then state of Bombay. 


Key Provisions of the Act:

    • Section 2: It empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.


  • Section 2A: It empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic.
  • Section 3: Any person disobeying any regulation or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.


  • Section 4: It gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.


Explained:AT-1 bonds

News:The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) reconstruction plan for Yes Bank has put at risk nearly Rs 9,000 crore worth of AT-1 bonds.




About AT-1 Bonds:

  • Additional tier-1 bonds also called AT1 are a type of unsecured, perpetual bonds that banks issue to shore up their core capital base to meet the Basel-III norms.
  • The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) is the regulator of AT-1 bonds.


Key Features of AT-1 bonds:

  • Bonds are perpetual and carry no maturity date.Instead,they carry call options that allow banks to redeem them after five or 10 years.However, banks are not obliged to use this call option and can opt to pay only interest on these bonds for eternity.
  • Investors cannot return these bonds to the issuing bank and get the money.This means there is no put option available to its holders.
  • Banks issuing AT-1 bonds can skip interest payouts for a particular year or even reduce the bonds face value provided their capital ratios fall below certain threshold levels.
  • If the RBI feels that a bank is on the brink of collapse and needs a rescue, it can simply ask the bank to cancel its outstanding AT-1 bonds without consulting its investors. 


Additional information:


About Basel Norms:

  • Basel norms refer to broad supervisory standards formulated by a group of central banks- called the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS).
  • The norms aim to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.
  • Basel-III norms were introduced in response to the financial crisis of 2007-09.The measures aim to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of banks.


Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana(PMUY)

News:Recently,the Parliamentary committee’s has released a report on the performance of the PM Ujjwala Yojana.




Key takeaways from the Report:

  • In September, 2019 Government has met the target of eight crore LPG connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • However,only three States have become kerosene free namely Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.
  • On the other hand,the Union Territories that have become kerosene-free are Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Andaman & Nicobar Island and Puducherry.


About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

  • Launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • Aim:To replace unclean cooking fuels used in the most underprivileged households with clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas).
  • Objective of the scheme: a) Empower women and protect their health b) Reduce the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel c) Reduce the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel and d) To prevent young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution.
  • Beneficiaries:Under the scheme,an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.


World Climate and Security report

News:The International Military Council on Climate and Security(IMCCS) has released the World Climate and Security report.




Key takeaways from the report:

  • Climate change-exacerbated water insecurity is a significant driver of instability and will pose a significant or higher risk to global security by 2030.
  • The forced displacement and scale of natural disasters would increase by 2040.Hence, as a result the projected conflicts within nations would also increase.


About International Military Council on Climate and Security(IMCCS):

  • The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) was launched at The Hague, Netherlands in 2019.
  • It is an umbrella network of senior military leaders across the globe that meets regularly to drive policies in support of international actions on the security implications of a changing climate.
  • It is administered by the Center for Climate and Security, a non-profit organization.


Shared economy at $2 bn by end-2020

News:According to a recent report by Maple Capital Advisors, the Shared economy in India is estimated to be about $2 billion industry by the end of 2020.




About Shared Economy:

  • The sharing economy is an economic model defined as a peer-to-peer (P2P) based activity of acquiring, providing or sharing access to goods and services that is often facilitated by a Online platform.
  • It includes segments such as co-working (Awfis, WeWork India), co-living (Stanza Living, OYO Life), shared mobility (Uber, Ola) and furniture rental (Furlenco, Rentomojo).


Long Term Repo Operation(LTRO)

News:The Reserve Bank of India has received ₹1.71 trillion in the third long-term repo operation(LTRO) conducted for an amount of Rs 25,000 crore.




About LTRO:

  • Long Term Repo Operation(LTRO) is a mechanism to facilitate the transmission of monetary policy actions and to inject liquidity into the banking system to boost credit growth.
  • Under this,the central bank provides one-year to three-year money to banks at the prevailing repo rate accepting government securities with matching or higher tenure as the collateral.
  • Usually,loans with higher maturity periods (here like 1 year and 3 year) will have higher interest rates compared to short term (repo) loans.
  • The operations are being conducted on Core Banking Solution (E-KUBER) platform.


Significance of LTRO:

  • Enhance liquidity in the banking system by Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • It is expected to bring down short-term rates and also boost investment in corporate bonds.
  • Bring down the cost of funds for banks without effectively cutting deposit rates.
  • Encourage banks to push transmission of already announced interest rate cuts.


Additional information:


About Repo and Reverse Repo:

  • Repo Rate is the rate at which the RBI lends money to the banks for a short term.
  • Reverse Repo Rate is the short term borrowing rate at which RBI borrows money from banks.


About E-Kuber:

  • E-Kuber is the Core Banking Solution(CBS) of Reserve Bank of India introduced in 2012.
  • It provides a high degree of access to commercial banks and other institutions to their current account with the RBI.


Integrated Project for Source Sustainability and Climate Resilient Rain-Fed Agriculture

News:The Government of India, Himachal Pradesh and World Bank has signed a US$80 million loan agreement to implement Integrated Project for Source Sustainability and Climate Resilient Rain-Fed Agriculture in Himachal Pradesh.




About the Project:


  • Aim:To improve water management practices and increase agricultural productivity in selected Gram Panchayats in Himachal Pradesh.



Additional information:


Other World Bank Assisted Projects:


About Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP):

  • Launched in 2012 by the Central Water Commission(CWC) under the Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • It is an externally-aided project with 80% of the cost is provided by the World Bank as loan/credit and remaining 20% is borne by the States / Central Government.
  • Aim: a) improve the safety and operational performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner and b) improve institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels.
  • The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation.


About Integrated Irrigation Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture:

    • Launched by the Government of Odisha with the assistance of the World Bank and Government of India.


  • Aim:To support small landholding farmers in order to strengthen the resilience of their production systems against adverse climatic conditions by improving access to climate resilient seed varieties and production technologies.



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