9 PM Current Affairs Brief – May 15, 2019

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India to co-chair Consultative Group (CG) of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

  1. India has been selected as co-chair of the Consultative Group (CG) of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery(GFDRR) for the fiscal year 2020.This is the first time that India will be co-chairing the CG meeting of GFDRR.
  2. This decision was taken during the meeting of GFDRR held in Geneva, Switzerland on the margins of the 6th Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
  3. GFDRR is a global partnership that helps developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.It is a grant-funding mechanism managed by the World Bank that supports disaster risk management projects worldwide.
  4. The Consultative Group(CG) is GFDRR primary decision-making and advisory body.It consists of members and observers who sets GFDRR long-term strategic objectives and oversees expected results.
  5. India had become a member of CG of GFDRR in 2015.India had expressed its interest to co-chair during the last meeting of the group held in October 2018.
  6. This co-chairing will give India an opportunity to work with the member countries and organizations with a focused contribution towards advancing the disaster risk reduction agenda during the course of the year

India finds OECD index for services trade faulty

  1. India has approached several developing countries during the World Trade Organization(WTO) talks in New Delhi to try to build consensus around the new method of measuring Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI).
  2. India has said that the current method under which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) ranks countries based on their services trade policies are biased and counter-intuitive.
  3. Launched in 2014,the OECD Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI) is a unique, evidence-based tool that provides information on regulations affecting trade in services in 22 sectors across OECD member countries and non-OECD.These countries and sectors represent over 80% of global trade in services.
  4. However,the study commissioned by Commerce Ministry has found a large number of problems associated with OECD index including some significant design issues that render it impractical for use.
  5. The study has found that the index ranks Indian services sector as one of the most restrictive particularly in policy areas like foreign entry.But the one sector that has seen maximum liberalisation in India since 1991 is Foreign direct investment(FDI).
  6. Further,manufacturing trade has a well-documented system of classification of commodities through which we can see how restrictive any country’s policies are.But in services trade there is no way to know whether a country’s policies are restrictive as services trade is usually regulated by domestic regulations and not border tariffs.

Project to use technology to study crop yield estimates

  1. Government has decided to use technology under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY) to determine yield estimates at the panchayat level.This will reduce the delay of crop insurance claim settlements and increase the accuracy of compensation due to farmers.
  2. The project will use technologies such as (a)satellite and remote sensing data (b)unmanned aerial vehicles and (c)artificial intelligence.
  3. The current methodology of yield estimation is affected by the lack of current year information at the time of planning of Crop Cutting Experiments(CCEs) which affects the precision of estimates.
  4. Crop Cutting Experiments(CCE) refers to an assessment method employed by governments and agricultural bodies to accurately estimate the yield of a crop or region during a given cultivation cycle.
  5. The traditional method of CCE is based on the yield component method where specific locations are selected based on a random sampling of the total area under study.Once the plots are selected,the produce from a section of these plots is harvested and analysed for a number of parameters such as biomass weight, grain weight, moisture and other indicative factors.
  6. 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.
  7. 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%.
  8. PMFBY focuses on ensuring the sustainable production in Agriculture Sector by (a)monetary support to farmers in case of crop losses (b) adopting modern Technologies and (c)ensuring credit to Agriculture Sector.

WPI inflation slips to 3.07% in April, food prices still high

  1. The Wholesale price inflation has decreased to 3.07% in April,2019.The reduction has been attributed to cheaper fuel and manufactured items. However,food prices have increased to 33-month high of 7.37%.
  2. Wholesale Price Inflation tracks changes in the price of goods in stages before the retail level i.e. goods that are sold in bulk and traded between organizations instead of consumers.
  3. It is measured by the Wholesale Price Index. The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products. It is important to note that WPI does not cover services.
  4. Wholesale Price Index is computed by the Office of the Economic Advisor (OEA),Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT),Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

ED questions Kochhars again in loan case

  1. The Enforcement Directorate(ED) has again questioned former ICICI Bank CEO and her husband in an ongoing probe under Prevention of Money Laundering Act(PMLA).
  2. ED had registered the case against former ICICI Bank CEO under financial provisions of the PMLA.They are investigating whether she made any personal gains by alleged irregularities in the release of loans sanctioned by ICICI bank to Videocon in 2012.
  3. Money laundering is the process by which large amounts of illegally received money is given the appearance of having originated from a legitimate source.
  4. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002(PMLA) came into force in 2005.It defines money laundering offence and provides for the freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.The provisions of this act are applicable to all financial institutions like banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, and their financial intermediaries.
  5. The act was amended thrice, first in 2005, then in 2009 and 2012. PMLA(Amendment) Act, 2012 has enlarged the definition of money laundering by including activities such as concealment, acquisition, possession and use of proceeds of crime as criminal activities.
  6. ED is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.It is part of the Department of Revenue,Ministry of Finance.
  7. The prime objective of the Enforcement Directorate is the enforcement of two key Acts- (a)Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA) and (b)Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA).Other objectives are primarily linked to checking money laundering in India.

Ban on LTTE extended for another five years

  1. The Central Government has extended the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) for another five years under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967.
  2. The ban was extended due to LTTE’s objective for a separate homeland (Tamil Eelam) for all Tamils that threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India and amounted to secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union.
  3. The UAPA is a legislation to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities.The Act defines unlawful activity as any action by an individual or association which is intended to bring about cession/secession or such action as to disrupt or question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
  4. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended in 2004 to criminalise the raising of funds for a terrorist act, holding of the proceeds of terrorism, membership of a terrorist organisation, support to a terrorist organisation, and the raising of funds for a terrorist organisation.
  5. It was amended in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. It was again amended in 2012 to comply with the guidelines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).The definition of “terrorist act” was expanded to include offences that threaten economic security, counterfeiting Indian currency, and procurement of weapons, etc.
  6. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental organisation set up in 1989 to develop policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. India got FATF membership in 2010 on the assurance that it would make suitable amendments in the Act by March 2012.

Nabard announces ₹ 700-cr venture capital fund for agri, rural startups

  1. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has announced a Rs 700-crore venture capital fund for equity investments in agriculture and rural-focused startups.
  2. The fund has been launched by Nabventures.It is a subsidiary of NABARD and has a proposed corpus of Rs 500 crore.
  3. The fund will have a high impact as it will provide a boost to investment ecosystem in the core areas of agriculture, food and improvement of rural livelihood.
  4. Venture capital funds are investment funds that manage the money of investors who seek private equity stakes in startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises with strong growth potential.These investments are generally characterized as high-risk/high-return opportunities.
  5. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development financial institution in India.NABARD was established in 1982 to implement the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act 1981.
  6. NABARD was entrusted with matters concerning policy,planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India.
  7. Recently,the Reserve Bank had divested its stake in National Housing Bank (NHB) and National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (Nabard), by making them fully government-owned.

Explained: Why Gujarat conducts a census of herbivores in Gir forest

  1. The forest department of Gujarat will be conducting a census of herbivores in Gir forest and other protected areas.This Census comes ahead of next year’s Asiatic Lion Census which is conducted once-in-five-year.
  2. The census is conducted during summer as foliage is reduced to its minimum levels in dry and deciduous tropical forests like Gir.Such a forest affords the best opportunity to spot maximum number of wild animals in the forest.
  3. The census covers wild ungulates like spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars.Further,the forest department will also count Indian langurs as well as peafowl.
  4. Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions.A count of ungulates gives the forest department an idea of the availability of prey-base for the top predator lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas, wolves.
  5. Such a count also helps the forest department to notice any changes in the food availability for lions and also indicates the health of the forest in general and of fauna in particular.
  6. Since 1974,the population of herbivorous in Gir forest has been on the rise.In 2013,the population of ungulates was estimated to be 1,26,893 or 76.49 animals per square kilometre.

Can a beluga whale be trained as a military spy?

  1. Recently,a beluga whale swimming in the Arctic off Norway has given rise to speculation that it is a spy being used by the Russians.
  2. The reason it is being described as a spy is a harness it was wearing, with the words “Equipment St. Petersburg” in English along with a GoPro camera holder.
  3. Other marine mammals are known to have been used for military use, including bottlenose dolphins by the US Navy since the 1960s.A dolphin can identify objects underwater that would be invisible to human divers.
  4. The beluga whale is the Arctic and sub-Arctic aquatic mammal.It is also known as the white whale, as it is the only marine mammal of this colour.
  5. It possesses a distinctive protuberance at the front of its head which houses an echolocation organ called the melon which in this species is large and deformable.
  6. Its sense of hearing is highly developed and its echolocation allows it to move about and find breathing holes under sheet ice.

India delays levying retaliatory tariff on U.S. goods to June 16

  1. Indian government has decided to extend the deadline to impose retaliatory import tariffs on 29 US products till June 16,2019.
  2. These deadlines were extended several times since June 2018 when India decided to impose these duties in retaliation to a move by the US to impose high customs duties on certain steel and aluminium products.
  3. Further,this extension comes in the backdrop of the US decision to withdraw export incentives being provided to Indian exporters under Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) programme.
  4. However,India may go ahead with its decision to impose retaliatory tariffs if the US withdraws the GSP benefits.GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries which allows zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  5. The US wants India to (a)address the price cap issue for medical devices (b)provide greater market access for dairy and agricultural products and (c)reduce high import tariffs for mobile phones.
  6. In 2018, bilateral trade in goods and services registered a growth of 12.6% to $142 billion from $126 billion in 2017.

Brain death certification to be mandatory

  1. The Kerala government has decided to make certification of brain death at intensive care units in all medical facilities in the State mandatory.
  2. Under the new rules, once brain death is diagnosed as per the existing legal and clinical requirements and the certification process is completed, ICU care will be continued only if organs are to be retrieved for possible donation. Brain dead persons are kept on ventilators (artificial support) to ensure all organs remain oxygenated and healthy until they are harvested.
  3. However, if organ donation is not a possibility, then all care will be stopped. This would ensure that valuable ICU resources are not wasted and may be utilised for a person who can be saved.
  4. In India, the definition of brain death is contained only in the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) of 1994. However, the act does not specify whether ventilation and ICU care may be withdrawn if a patient is brain-dead but relatives refuse organ donation.

Odisha govt. to use drones to spot deer

  1. The Odisha government has decided to use drones to locate about 4,000 spotted deer who are missing from Balukhand-Konark sanctuary following the extremely severe cyclone Fani. Drones are unmanned aircrafts piloted from a remote pilot station
  2. The Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary is located along the Bay of Bengal coast, between the towns of Puri and Konark. The sanctuary includes sandy beaches, coastal dunes, groves of introduced Casuarina trees and cashew plantations. The sanctuary acts as a buffer for the coastal areas from the high-velocity winds
  3. The spotted deer, also known as chital, is listed by the IUCN as being of least concern.

Quick, cheap diagnostic test for Haemophilia A

  1. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s National Institute of Immunohematology, Mumbai, has developed a cost-effective Point-of-Care (POC) rapid diagnostic test for severe Haemophilia A and Von Willebrand Disease (VWD). This is the first in the world POC test for specific diagnosis of any common bleeding disorder.
  2. The POC test is cost and time efficient. Working cost of these kits is less than ₹50 whereas existing conventional test for the diseases that costs around ₹4,000 to ₹10,000,
  3. Von Willebrand disease (VWD) and haemophilia A are both bleeding disorders that prevent the blood from clotting. Haemophilia A, also called factor VIII (FVIII) deficiency or classic haemophilia, is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective factor VIII, a clotting protein
  4. Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective von Willebrand factor (VWF), a clotting protein. VWF binds factor VIII, a key clotting protein, and platelets in blood vessel walls, which help form a platelet plug during the clotting process.
  5. Haemophilia A or VWD can cause life-threatening spontaneous or post-traumatic bleeding like brain haemorrhage and gastrointestinal bleed bleeding into joints or superficial bleeding from the nose or gums.

Southwest monsoon likely to set in over Kerala on June 4

  1. Private weather forecaster Skymet has said that it expects the 2019 monsoon to arrive in Kerala on June 4 and make a sluggish progress thereafter. It has warned that the monsoon would begin under the influence of the El Niño, which is likely to have its impact on the rainfall.
  2. According to the agency, all the four regions viz. central India, east and north-eastern states, southern peninsula and north-west India will witness less than normal rainfall. Central India is expected to see the lowest rainfall in the region with seasonal rains at 91% of its Long Period Average.
  3. Normal’ rainfall is defined as 96%-104% of the long period average (LPA), with a model error of plus or minus 5%. The LPA is the weighted average of rainfall that India received in June-September from 1951 to 2000 and is pegged at 89 cm.
  4. El Nino refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific. It is the periodic development of a warm ocean current along the coast of Peru as a temporary replacement of the cold Peruvian current.
  5. A strong El Nino results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the Indian sub-continent. This is because the trade winds coming from South America which normally blow westward towards Asia during Southwest Monsoon gets weakened due to the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and this leads to poor rainfall in the region.

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is tiger kingdom of the State

  1. A recent study has found that the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) holds the largest tiger population in Kerala. Of the total 176 tigers in Kerala, 75 were identified from WWS. Periyar and Parambikulam tiger reserves have recorded 25 tiger each.
  2. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1973. It was notified as an Elephant Reserve under Project elephant in 1991-92. The Project Elephant scheme was launched by the Government of India in 1991 for better conservation of elephant through protection and management of their habitat.
  3. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park, Mukurthi National Park and Silent Valley are part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was the first biosphere reserve in India established in the year 1986. It is located in the Western Ghats and spreads over parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
  4. The Periyar Tiger Reserve lies in the Western Ghats in the Idukki District, Kerala. The reserve lies along the watershed of the Periyar and Pamba rivers. In 1978, the Periyar sanctuary was declared as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger.
  5. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is an ecological portion in the Nelliampathy – Anamalai landscape of the Southern Western Ghats in India. It is located in the Palakkad District of Kerala. It was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2009

Floods result of rampant construction: SC

  1. The Supreme Court has highlighted that rampant construction activities in eco-sensitive areas with natural water flow have a devastating effect and can lead to natural calamities such as those seen in the recent floods in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Uttarakhand.
  2. The observations are a part of a recent judgement where the SC has directed the Kerala government to demolish five high-rise apartments in Ernakulam’s Maradu municipality near Kochi for violating the provisions of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.
  3. The Indian government issued Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification in 1991 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The main aim of the Rules is to protect the coastal environment. In 2018, the government approved Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 2018 which has been widely criticised.
  4. According to the notification, all the coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and backwaters which are influenced by tidal action (in the landward side) up to 500 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) and the land between the Low Tide Line (LTL) and the HTL are defined as Coastal Regulation Zone.
  5. Further, coastal areas are classified into four categories depending on the importance of the area. Category I covers areas that are ecologically sensitive and important, such as national parks marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests, wildlife habitats, mangroves, corals/coral reefs, etc. No new construction is permitted within 500 metres of the HTL in this area.
  6. Category II deals with areas that have already been developed up to or close to the shore-line. No building is permitted on the seaward side of the existing road.
  7. Areas that are relatively undisturbed and those that do not belong to either Category-I or II are classified as Category III. The areas up to 200 metres from the High Tide Line are earmarked as ‘No Development Zone’.
  8. Coastal stretches in the Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep and small islands except those designated as CRZ-I, CRZ-II or CRZ-III are designated as Category IV.
  9. Further, Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) are prepared to check developmental/construction activities of all types in the notified areas. Under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the authority is empowered to deal with environmental issues relating to the notified CRZ areas. Any developmental activities in the notified CRZ areas can be permitted only in consultation with and concurrence of the authority.
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