9 PM Current Affairs Brief – May 13, 2019


QR code option may be must for shops

  1. The Central government is looking to mandate a QR code-based payment option using Unified Payments Interface (UPI) at all shops.
  2. This measure is intended to promote digital payments as the preferred option. The details are being worked by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  3. QR code or Quick Response code is a two-dimensional machine readable code that is made up of black and white squares and are used for storing URLs or other information. These can be read by the camera of a smartphone.
  4. The QR code system was invented in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave. Its purpose was to track vehicles during manufacturing. It was designed to allow high-speed component scanning.
  5. QR codes are now used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile-phone users (termed mobile tagging).
  6. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India. It is an initiative of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).
  7. NPCI has been incorporated as a “Not for Profit” Company under the provisions of Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013), with an intention to provide infrastructure to the entire Banking system in India for physical as well as electronic payment and settlement systems.

Guaidó seeks Pentagon’s help

  1. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said that he has asked his envoy to the United States to meet with US Pentagon officials to cooperate on a solution to the Venezuela political crisis. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense
  2. Venezuela has been governed for the past 20 years by the socialist PSUV party. From 1999 to his death in 2013, Hugo Chávez was president. He was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, who narrowly defeated the opposition candidate in elections.
  3. In May 2018, Mr Maduro was re-elected to a second term in elections which have widely been dismissed as rigged. However, with the economy in crisis,the head of the National Assembly,Juan Guaidó had declared himself interim president on 23 January.
  4. Mr Guaidó argued that Mr Maduro has won illegally and that the presidency is therefore vacant,in which case the constitution calls for the head of the National Assembly to step in.
  5. The US and more than 50 other countries have recognised Mr Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela but Mr Maduro’s key allies, Russia and China, have stuck by the latter.
  6. India has refused to go along with the US and said that it is for the people of Venezuela to find political solutions to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and discussion without resorting to violence.

Post Cyclone Fani, CM Naveen Patnaik demands special category status for Odisha

  1. Odisha chief minister has demanded special category status from Central Government for his disaster-prone state.He said that Odisha faces natural calamities almost every year.
  2. There is no provision of special category status in the Constitution,the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others.The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.
  3. The guidelines for getting SCS status includes:(a) hilly and difficult terrain (b)low population density or the presence of sizeable tribal population (c)strategic location along international borders,(d)economic and infrastructural backwardness and (e)non-viable nature of State finances.
  4. Initially, three states namely (a)Assam (b)Nagaland and (c)Jammu & Kashmir were accorded special category status. And later on eight other states were also given special category status namely:(d) Arunachal Pradesh (e)Meghalaya (f)Mizoram (g)Uttarakhand (h)Tripura (I)Himachal Pradesh(j)Sikkim and (h)Manipur. However, Manipur lost the special category status owing to the Fourteenth Finance Commission recommendations.
  5. Following the constitution of the NITI Aayog and the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission (FFC), Central planned assistance to SCS States has been subsumed in an increased devolution of the divisible pool to States (from 32% in the 13th FC recommendations to 42%).
  6. SCS states enjoy concessions in excise and customs duties and income tax rates. Besides, assistance to Centrally Sponsored Schemes for SCS States is given with 90% Central share and 10% State share.

Trump could meet Xi on sidelines of G20 meet in June: aide

  1. US President and China’s leader could possibly meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit to talk out their differences on trade.The G20 summit is scheduled to take place in Osaka,Japan on June 28-29,2019.
  2. Recently,US and Chinese negotiators ended their 11th round of talks after failing to reach an agreement to end the trade war that began in 2018.
  3. The US has demanded China to make concrete changes to Chinese law.However, China has been reluctant to put into law the changes that had been agreed upon as it would harm its own interests.
  4. G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies formed in 1999.The group accounts for 85% of world GDP and two-thirds of the population.They have no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.
  5. The members of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada,China,France,Germany,India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia,Saudi Arabia,South Africa,South Korea,Turkey,United Kingdom and the United States.
  6. The objectives of the G20 are:(a) Policy coordination between its members in order to achieve global economic stability, sustainable growth (b) To promote financial regulations that reduce risks and prevent future financial crises and (c)To create a new international financial architecture.


Islanders complain to UN over Australia’s climate change inaction

  1. A group of Torres Strait Islanders have decided to lodge a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee against the Australian government, alleging climate inaction. The Torres Strait Islands are a group of small islands which lie in Torres Strait. Torres Strait is the waterway separating northern continental Australia’s Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea.
  2. The complainants have alleged that the Australian government has violated article 27- the right to culture; article 17- the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home; and article 6- the right to life of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  3. According to the complaint, these rights have been violated by Australia’s insufficient greenhouse gas mitigation targets and plans, and by its failure to fund adequate coastal defence and resilience measures on the islands, such as seawalls.
  4. Torres Strait Islanders have demanded a commitment from the Australian government to reduce emissions by at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions before 2050. They have also demanded a phase out of thermal coal, both for domestic electricity generation and export markets.
  5. Further, the islanders have demanded the government to commit at least $20m for emergency measures such as seawalls, as requested by local authorities. They have also demanded a sustained investment in long-term adaptation measures to ensure the islands can continue to be inhabited.
  6. The United Nations Human Rights Committee is a United Nations body of 18 experts established by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The committee monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  7. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1966. It is one of the two treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the other being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR).

Explained: Human body mapping— how cells, tissues react when in a disease stage

  1. Department of Biotechnology(DBT) has launched ‘MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’ towards improving knowledge on human physiology.
  2. It is a project for mapping every tissue of the human body to help better understand the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.The project will create a database network of all tissues in the human body from the available scientific literature.
  3. The student community will be the backbone on assimilating the information.They will be trained and imparted with skills to perform annotation and curation of information that will ultimately form the online network.
  4. The programme will involve (a)gaining better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping (b)develop disease models through predictive computing and (c)have a holistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
  5. The collected data can be useful for future researchers and clinicians and drug developers who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.
  6. The database will also come in handy in tracing causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decoding how the body’s disease stage is linked to tissues and cells.

Do ‘Russian poplar’ seeds cause May illness in Kashmir? The fears, the science

  1. In May every year, doctors in the Kashmir Valley treats a high number of patients, especially children with respiratory diseases.
  2. The rise in illness has often been attributed to a phenomenon during this season which is the shedding of fluffy cotton-covered seeds by poplar trees commonly known as “Russian poplars”.
  3. The name “Russian poplar” is a misnomer and has nothing to do with Russia. The tree is a Western American species known as Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) in the US. The species is locally called as Russi Frass.
  4. The Russian poplar trees was introduced in Kashmir in 1982 from the US under a Word Bank-aided social forestry scheme.
  5. The species takes less time (10-15 years) to grow, as compared to the Kashmir poplar that takes 30-40 years. Due to their high yield, poplars are intensively used in the timber and construction industry.
  6. However, during summers, female poplar sheds a cotton-like material carrying seeds that cause allergies and aggravate respiratory disorders. This cotton has become an irritant in the recent past for the locals as well as tourists.
  7. In 2015, Jammu & Kashmir High Court had ordered chopping of all Russian poplars in the Valley. However, Some scientists has said that the seeds from these trees do not cause allergy.

Vedanta gets nod to conduct impact assessment for 274 hydrocarbon wells in T.N., Puducherry

  1. he Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has granted the Terms of Reference (ToR) to Vedanta Ltd’s Cairn Oil & Gas, to carry out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). It is to be carried out for drilling a total of 274 offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration wells in the Bay of Bengal, Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Villupuram and Puducherry.
  2. EIA is a process which studies all aspects of the environment and seeks to anticipate the impact (positive and/or negative) of a proposed project or development on the environment. EIA is mandatory under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
  3. Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 categorised projects into two categories: Category A and Category B based on potential impacts over an area and on human health and natural and man-made resources.
  4. The Ministry of Petroleum had granted Vedanta Ltd. licences of hydrocarbon exploration and production for two blocks in 2017. The policy which deals with the award of hydrocarbon acreages towards exploration and production is called Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).
  5. HELP has brought all hydrocarbons such as oil, gas, coal bed methane etc. under a single licensing framework. It introduced Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP). Under OALP, exploration companies can select their operation blocks without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.

New protocols for managing disasters

  1. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has updated standard operating procedures (SOP) and adopted new protocols for disaster management in the State.
  2. The updated SOP is known as ‘Orange book of disaster management — Kerala — SOP and emergency support functions plan.  It was previously known as the ‘Handbook on disaster management — Volume 2 — emergency operations centres and emergency support functions plan.’
  3. The Orange Book contains information and describes incidence response mechanisms to be adopted at the State, district and taluk level. It explains the SOP for rainfall, flood, cyclone, tsunami, high waves, landslip, petrochemical accidents and even mishaps caused by space debris.
  4. KSDMA has also put forward ‘Monsoon preparedness and emergency response plan.’ It is a season specific plan. It is meant to be strictly complied with during the south-west and north-east monsoon seasons (June to December). Earlier, directives on monsoon preparedness were issued in the form of government circulars.
  5. It has been published in Malayalam. It lists the roles of the State emergency operations centre, central agencies, district disaster management authorities, and 29 departments. The plan will be updated every year after receiving the first Long Range Forecast of the India Meteorological Department.

Assam produces an orchid link to the Orient

  1. A forest officer has spotted new species orchid in Assam’s forests. The orchid is a variant of a Japanese orchid. It is India’s one of the smallest orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom to be recorded botanically.
  2. The orchid is known as Lecanorchis taiwaniana. It is a mycoheterotroph- a plant which gets all or part of its food from parasitism upon fungi rather than from photosynthesis.
  3. The orchid had been earlier discovered earlier in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos. It is found to have a maximum height of 40 cm and a blossoming period of five-six days.
  4. India has around 1300 species of orchids. About 800 species of orchids are found in North-east India, 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in the northwestern Himalayas.
  5. The forest official has also published the two-volume Medicinal Plants and Mushrooms of India with special reference to Assam. It contains information on 1,400 medicinal plants and mushrooms, including Costus pictus and Ophiorrhiza mungos.
  6. Costus pictus is the insulin plant used in treating diabetes mellitus. Ophiorrhiza mungos or Indian snake root is used in treating cancer because of the alkaloid Camptothecin present in it.
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