9 PM Current Affairs Brief – March 14th, 2020

ExoMars mission

News: The launch of ExoMars mission has been postponed until 2022 as the Rosalind Franklin rover will not be ready in time for the scheduled launch in 2020.


About the ExoMars Programme

  • ExoMars program (Exobiology on Mars) is a series of missions designed to understand if life ever existed on Mars. 
  • It is being undertaken by the European Space Agency.
  • It comprises two missions: one consisting of the Trace Gas Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and landing demonstrator Module (EDM), known as Schiaparelli, launched in 2016, and the other, featuring Rosalind Franklin rover, with a launch date of 2022.
  • Both missions are carried out in cooperation with Roscosmos.
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The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020

News: Parliament gave its approval to the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020


About Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill:

  • It amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 (CMSP Act).

Key Features:

  1. Currently, companies acquiring Schedule II and Schedule III coal mines through auctions can use the coal produced only for specific end-uses such as power generation and steel production. The bill allows companies to carry on coal mining operation for own consumption, sale or for any other purposes, as may be specified by the central government. 
  2. It states that the companies need not possess any prior coal mining experience in India in order to participate in the auction of coal and lignite blocks.
  3. Currently, separate licenses are provided for prospecting and mining of coal and lignite called prospecting license and mining lease respectively. The bill provides for a composite type of license called prospecting license-cum-mining lease.
  4. The bill provides that prior approval of the central government will not be required granting reconnaissance permit, prospecting license, or mining lease for coal and lignite in certain cases such as- a) where the allocation has been done by the central government, and b) the mining block has been reserved to conserve a mineral.

Additional Information:

  • The MMDR Act regulates the overall mining sector in India. 
  • The CMSP Act provides for the auction and allocation of mines whose allocation was cancelled by the Supreme Court in 2014.


News: The Centre has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 which enables the implementation of recent amendments to the Act.


Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020

  • The rules state that any person who has received any pornographic material involving a child or any information regarding such pornographic material shall report the contents to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) or police, or the cybercrime portal.
  • It empowers the Special Court to pass an order for interim compensation to meet the needs of the child for relief or rehabilitation at any stage after registration of the First Information Report.
  • the State Governments have been asked to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children.
  • The Centre and State Governments have been asked to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety.
  • It states that any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children, including schools, crèches, sports academies or any other facility for children must ensure a police verification and background check on a periodic basis of every staff.

Additional Information:


  • It was enacted in 2012. It provides a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process.

MSME Sambandh and Udyam Sakhi Portal

News: Union minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises(MSME) has urged all the female entrepreneurs to take maximum benefits from the MSME Sambandh and Udyam Sakhi Portal.


About MSME Sambandh:

  • The portal aims to to help in monitoring the implementation of public procurement policy for micro and small enterprises.

About Udyam Sakhi:

  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Micro,Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME).
  • It aims to encourage women entrepreneurs by creating business models revolving around low-cost products and services to resolve social inequities.

Additional information:

Other Portals related to MSME:

  • MSME Samadhan: It empowers micro and small entrepreneurs across the country to directly register their cases relating to delayed payments.
  • MSME Sampark: It is a digital platform wherein jobseekers (passed out trainees/students of MSME Technology Centres) and recruiters get connected.
  • Udyami Mitra Portal: It was launched by Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to improve the accessibility of credit and handholding services to MSMEs.

Explained: Status of White Giraffe

News: Recently, Poachers have killed two extremely rare white giraffes in northeast Kenya leaving just one such animal in the world.


About Giraffe:

  • Giraffes are most often found in savanna/woodland habitats and range widely throughout Africa.
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Threats: Habitat loss, civil unrest, poaching and ecological issues.

Note: The white appearance of the giraffe is due to leucism, a genetic condition that causes skin cells to have no pigmentation. It is different from albinism where no melanin is produced at all.

Oculudentavis khaungraae

News: Recently, Scientists have identified a fossilised skull of a flying dinosaur named Oculudentavis khaungrae which may be the smallest Dinosaur yet discovered.



  • It was discovered in a  99-million-year-old amber in northern Myanmar.
  • The Skull is only 7.1 mm in length which indicates the dinosaur was similar in size than the bee hummingbird, the smallest living bird.
  • The fossil is said to be from the Mesozoic era which is about 250 million to 65 million years ago.

Pyramid of Djoser

News: Recently, Egypt reopened the Pyramid of Djoser, the first pyramid ever built after a 14-year restoration. 


About the Pyramid of Djoser:

  • The structure is 4,700 year old, constructed during the era of Pharaoh Djoser, the second king of Ancient Egypt’s Third Dynasty (2650 BC– 2575 BC).
  • It is believed to have been designed by Imhotep,described by some as the first architect of the world.
  • It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Bhoomi Rashi Portal

News: Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways has said that Bhoomi Rashi Portal has expedited the process of land acquisition for National Highways by making it error-free & more transparent.


About the Portal:

  • Launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways with the help of National informatics Centre(NIC).
  • It acts as a single point platform for online processing of land acquisition projects to accelerate highway infrastructure development in India.
  • The portal has been integrated with the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) for depositing the compensation in the account of affected/ interested persons on a real-time basis.

Additional information:

About PFMS:

  • It is a web-based online software application developed and implemented by the Office of Controller General of Accounts(CGA).
  • Aim: To facilitate a sound Public Financial Management System for the Government of India(GoI) by establishing an efficient fund flow system as well as a payment cum accounting network.
  • Its coverage includes a) Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes b) Direct Benefit transfer among others.

National Biopharma Mission

News: Union Minister of Science & Technology has informed Lok Sabha about the National Biopharma Mission.


About the National Biopharma Mission:

  • The National Biopharma Mission(NBM) is an industry-academia collaborative mission for accelerating biopharmaceutical development in the country.
  • It was launched in 2017 by the Department of Biotechnology(DBT) with 50% co-funding by World Bank loan.
  • Implementation:Biotechnology Research Assistance Council(BIRAC)-a Public Sector Undertaking of DBT.
  • Under this Mission, Government has launched Innovate in India(i3) programme to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the biopharma sector.

Essential Commodities Act,1955

News: The Centre has brought masks and hand sanitisers under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to make sure that these products help in preventing the spread of Covid-19 infection.


About the Act:

  • Essential Commodities Act,1955 aims to ensure smooth and easy availability of essential items to consumers.
  • Under the act, the Government regulates the production, supply and distribution of certain commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
  • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilisers, pulses and edible oils and petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises and take them off the list once the situation improves.
  • The State Governments are the implementing agencies to implement the EC Act,1955 along with the Prevention of Black marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act,1980.

Cabinet approves“Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP)” Scheme

News: Union Cabinet has given its approval for introducing the Scheme for Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products(RoDTEP).


About the Scheme:

  • Aim: To reimburse taxes and duties paid by exporters such as value-added tax, coal cess, transportation cost among others which are not getting exempted or refunded under any other existing mechanism. 
  • It will replace the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS) that was found to violate the World Trade Organization rules as it was export-focused. 

Additional information:

About Merchandise Exports From India Scheme(MEIS):

  • MEIS was introduced in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20.
  • Objective: To offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in exporting goods which are manufactured in India including products manufactured by the MSME Sector.


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