9 PM Current Affairs Brief – May 4, 2019

Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news Articles here


India extends retaliatory tariff deadline on US products

  1. Indian government has extended its deadline to impose retaliatory import duties on 29 US products till May 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 would withdraw 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. India’s exports to the US in 2017-18 stood at $47.9 billion while imports were at $26.7 billion. The trade balance is in favour of India.

 China expanding PLA’s reach around world: US

  1. According to a report titled ‘2019 China Military Power’ released by the US Pentagon, China may create more military bases across the world to protect its investments in its ambitious Belt and road initiative(BRI).
  2. Currently, China has one overseas military base in Africa’s Djibouti. The report said that China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a long-standing friendly relationship and similar strategic interests such as in Pakistan.
  3. The report has also added that China has rapidly modernised its war-fighting capabilities ranging from nuclear-capable missiles and submarines to cyber warfare and anti-satellite weapons. It has developed hypersonic missiles which can travel more than five times the speed of sound.
  4. The report said that China has continued to use coercive measures with both its economic and military tools to advance its interests and to mitigate opposition from other countries. The report cited the example where China had recently used economic coercion by reducing overseas trade and tourism in an effort to influence domestic politics and political institutions in countries such as Australia and Palau.
  5. Further, the report has also said that deepening Chinese activities in the Arctic region could pave the way for a strengthened military presence in Arctic region including the deployment of submarines to act as deterrents against nuclear attacks.

 Don’t terminate GSP benefits to India

  1. A group of 25 influential US lawmakers has urged the US Trade Representative (USTR) not to terminate the Generalized System of Preferences(GSP) programme with India.
  2. They argued that terminating GSP for India would hurt American companies seeking to expand their exports to India.
  3. Recently, US had decided to terminate India’s designation as a beneficiary of its GSP.GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries which allows zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  4. The objective of GSP is to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries. The GSP of US provides preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated countries. According to World Bank data, India is currently the largest beneficiary of the GSP programme.
  5. US had taken this decision due to(a)India’s new rules on e-commerce that affected firms such as Amazon and Walmart (b)Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally (c)Price controls on medical devices(Cardiac stents) (d)Tariff on ICT products such as smart watches and high end mobile phones (e)Lack of greater market access for the US dairy industry and (f) Trade imbalance between India and the US

Not keeping record of pre-natal tests is criminal: SC

  1. In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has upheld the Sections 23(1) and 23(2) of the Pre­conception and Pre­natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCN-PNDT) Act, 1994. It criminalises non-maintenance of medical records by obstetricians and gynaecologists and suspend their medical licence indefinitely.
  2. The judgement came in the backdrop of a petition filed by Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) which said that Section 23 equated anomalies in paperwork/record keeping/clerical errors on the same footing with the actual offence of sex determination.
  3. The Supreme Court has observed that any dilution of any provisions of the Act would defeat the purpose of the Act and relegate the right to life of the girl child under Article 21 of the Constitution, to a mere formality.
  4. The PC-PNDT Act was enacted in 1994 with the intent to prohibit prenatal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the foetus leading to female feticide.
  5. Female foeticide is the process of finding out the sex of the foetus and undergoing abortion if it is a female.
  6. Sex-selected abortions is a grave concern in India. In a publication of United Nations population Fund (UNFPA), it was published that 0.46 million girls were missing at birth on an average annually during the period 2001­2012 as a result of sex­selective abortions.

Commercial flights yet to take off at Hindon

  1. Commercial flights under the UDAN scheme are yet to take off at the civil terminal at Indian Air Force’s Hindon airbase in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.
  2. In March 2019, Indian Prime minister had inaugurated the civil enclave terminal built by Airports Authority of India (AAI) at Hindon airbase.
  3. The civil enclave terminal at Hindon airbase has been built as an alternative to the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi which has been unable to accommodate new regional flights under UDAN scheme, due to capacity constraints.
  4. Launched in 2017, Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) is a regional connectivity scheme. It seeks to connect under-served and un-served airports in India through revival of existing air-strips and airports. The scheme is being implemented by Airport Authority of India.
  5. Under the scheme, airlines have to cap airfares for 50% of the total seats at Rs. 2,500 per hour of flight.
  6. The losses for the price cap is compensated by a mechanism called Viability Gap Funding- A government grant provided to the airlines to bridge the gap between the cost of operations and expected revenue.
  7. The scheme is a component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), 2016. It aims at making flying affordable to the masses and strengthening the regional air connectivity.

 Commercial flights yet to take off at Hindon

  1. Commercial flights under the UDAN scheme are yet to take off at the civil terminal at Indian Air Force’s Hindon airbase in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.
  2. In March 2019, Indian Prime minister had inaugurated the civil enclave terminal built by Airports Authority of India (AAI) at Hindon airbase.
  3. The civil enclave terminal at Hindon airbase has been built as an alternative to the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi which has been unable to accommodate new regional flights under UDAN scheme, due to capacity constraints.
  4. Launched in 2017, Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) is a regional connectivity scheme. It seeks to connect under-served and un-served airports in India through revival of existing air-strips and airports. The scheme is being implemented by Airport Authority of India.
  5. Under the scheme, airlines have to cap airfares for 50% of the total seats at Rs. 2,500 per hour of flight.
  6. The losses for the price cap is compensated by a mechanism called Viability Gap Funding- A government grant provided to the airlines to bridge the gap between the cost of operations and expected revenue.
  7. The scheme is a component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), 2016. It aims at making flying affordable to the masses and strengthening the regional air connectivity.

AIDS drugs prevent sexual transmission of HIV in gay men

  1. A European study published in the Lancet medical journal has concluded that transmission to sexual partners does not occur when someone with HIV is on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and their virus is suppressed.
  2. The study was conducted 1,000 gay male couples who had sex without condoms where one partner had HIV and was taking anti-retroviral drugs to suppress it.
  3. An earlier phase of the study which looked at HIV transmission risk for serodifferent (one person is living with HIV and the other person is HIV-negative) heterosexual couples in the same circumstances also found zero risk.
  4. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), if not treated. There are two main types of the virus: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-2.
  5. At present there is no effective cure for HIV, but HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART.
  6. According to estimates by WHO and United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 36.7 million people were living with HIV globally at the end of 2016. That same year, some 1.8 million people became newly infected, and 1 million died of HIV-related causes.
  7. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS. It works towards a) stopping new HIV infections, b) ensure that everyone living with HIV has access to HIV treatment, c) protect and promote human rights, and d) produce data for decision making.

 Pakistan to observe its retaliatory action against India on Feb 27 as ‘Operation Swift Retort’

  1. Pakistan has decided to observe the Pakistan Air Force(PAF)’s retaliatory action that it had taken on 27th February 2019 against India as ‘Operation Swift Retort’.
  2. According to PAF,swift response demonstrates their firm resolve,capacity and capability in thwarting opposing successfully in their criminal designs.
  3. Tensions between India and Pakistan had escalated after Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) suicide bomber had attacked CRPF convoy in Pulwama killing 40 CRPF soldiers
  4. Later,Indian Air Force(IAF) had carried Balakot Air Strike hitting what it claimed was a JeM training camp in Balakot deep inside Pakistan.
  5. Further,the PAF had retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was later released and handed over to India.

Jail sentence given to Assange disproportionate, says UN group

  1. The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) has said that the 50-week jail sentence given to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is disproportionate. Further, it has slammed the UK government for breaching his human rights.
  2. Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for violating bail conditions in 2012 when he sought political asylum in the London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.
  3. This sentence comes ahead of a hearing due to take place in the UK Court as part of efforts to extradite him to the U.S. The USA wants his extradition and trial him over charges of computer hacking and espionage.
  4. Julian Assange is a controversial figure who founded anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks in 2006.Wikileaks aims at obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.
  5. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a body of independent human rights experts that investigate cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. It was established in 1991.
  6. Arbitrary arrest and detention is the imprisonment or detainment of an individual, by a State, without respect for due process

Court to hear VVPAT review plea next week

  1. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition filed by 21 Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting 50% random physical verification of electronic voting machines using the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).
  2. Earlier the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency or Assembly consistency.
  3. The Court had observed that the move would ensure greater degree of accuracy and increase satisfaction in the election process of not just the political parties but of the entire electorate.
  4. However, Supreme Court’s decision was far short from what the Opposition had demanded- at least 50% of paper trails be verified with EVMs. The physical scrutiny of slips in five EVMs has increased the VVPAT verification percentage from the previous 0.44% to less than 2%.
  5. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It helps to detect any possible election fraud or malfunction of EVMs.
  6. Earlier, under the ECI guideline 16.6, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification.

Payment service will be launched only after complying with RBI norms, WhatsApp tells Supreme Court

  1. WhatsApp has assured the Supreme Court that only a trial run of its payments service is underway at present and that it would comply with Reserve Bank of India(RBI) norms before launching the full version.
  2. This assurance came when the Supreme Court was hearing a petition seeking directions for the messaging platform to comply with RBI data localisation norms for its payments service.
  3. Data localisation is the act of storing data on any device physically present within the borders of a country. Localisation mandates that companies collecting critical data about consumers must store and process them within the borders of the country.
  4. The RBI circular has said that to run a payment service in India, a company must have its offices and payments in India. This rule appears to be violated by Whatsapp considering that it is a foreign company having no offices or servers in India.
  5. The main intent behind data localisation is to protect the personal and financial information of the country’s citizens and residents from foreign surveillance and give local governments and regulators the jurisdiction to call for the data when required.
  6. Further, data localisation is essential to national security. Storing of data locally is expected to help law-enforcement agencies to access information that is needed for the detection of a crime or to gather evidence.

Chief economic advisor included in finance commission’s advisory council

  1. The Chief Economic Advisor of India, Dr. Krishnamurthy Subramanian has been included as a Member of the Advisory Council of the Fifteenth Finance Commission. In April,2018 the Fifteenth Finance Commission had constituted an Advisory Council.
  2. The role of the council is to (a)advise the Commission on any relevant issue related to the Terms of Reference(ToR) of the Commission (b)To assist in the preparation of any research study which would enhance the Commission’s understanding on the issue contained in its ToR and (c)To help in broadening the Commission’s understanding to seek best national and international practices on matters pertaining to fiscal devolution.
  3. The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.
  4. The Commission is appointed every five years. It consists of a Chairman and four other members.The Chairman of the 15th finance commission is chaired by N. K. Singh. Its recommendations will cover the five year period commencing from 1st April,2020.
  5. The Chief Economic Adviser(CEA) is a post in Government of India and is equivalent to the rank of Secretary to the Government of India. The CEA is the ex-officio cadre controlling authority of the Indian Economic Service. The office of Economic Adviser is attached to the Minister of Commerce and Industry (India).

Government and IIT-Delhi to set up a Centre of Excellence for Waste to Wealth Technologies

  1. Government of India and IIT-Delhi has signed a MoU to set up a Centre of Excellence for Waste to Wealth Technologies. The centre will be set up to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  2. The aim of the centre is to implement a sustainable, scientific and technological solutions for waste management through validation and deployment of available technologies for transformation of waste to wealth.
  3. The waste to wealth mission project had been approved under the Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
  4. Government had constituted a new 21-member advisory panel on science, technology and innovation called Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council(PM-STIAC).
  5. The 21 member panel consists of both permanent members and special invitees. The special invitees includes secretaries of all science & technology related ministries.
  6. The committee will advise the Prime Minister on all matters related to S&T, innovation and monitor the implementation of PM’s vision on the same.It will also facilitate the (a) formulation and implementation of policies and decisions (b)provide action-oriented and future preparedness advice and (c)assist in directing S&T to solve the socio economic problems in the country.

 RBI imposes fines on PPIs for violating norms

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has imposed penalties on five prepaid payment instrument (PPI) issuers under Section 30 of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 for violation of regulatory guidelines.
  2. Prepaid payment instruments (PPIs) come with a pre-loaded value and in some cases a pre-defined purpose of payment. They facilitate the purchase of goods and services as well as inter-personal remittance transactions such as sending money to a friend or a family member.
  3. These are generally issued in the form of smart cards, mobile wallets, paper vouchers, internet accounts/wallets. These payment instruments are licensed and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. There are three types of PPIs (a)closed system PPIs (b)semi-closed system PPIs and (c)open system PPIs.
  4. The most common example of a closed system PPI is a brand-specific gift card. Such cards, physical or otherwise can be used only at specific locations and cannot be used to transfer funds from one account to another.
  5. Among semi-closed PPIs,e-wallets like Oxygen and Mobikwik are a common example. These are not restricted to a single entity. Instead, these can be used for purchase of any kind of goods and services from a merchant as well as to transfer money to someone.
  6. The open system PPIs can be issued only by banks and can be used at any merchant outlet for any purchase or even cash withdrawal. A travel card is a type of open system PPI. It can be used for all types of spending and for cash withdrawal from ATMs.
  7. The Payment and Settlement Systems Act,2007 provides for the regulation and supervision of payment systems in India and designates the Reserve Bank of India as the authority for that purpose and all related matters. A payment system refers to a system that enables payment to be effected between a payer and a beneficiary, involving clearing, payment or settlement service or all of them.

 Only 10 of 100 Ganga sewage projects completed

  1. According to a report on the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) website, only 10 of the 100 sewage infrastructure projects commissioned after 2015 under the Namami Gange mission have been finished.
  2. The report has noted that the majority of the projects completed were those commissioned before the Namami Gange. The projects were under programmes such as the Ganga Action Plan-1 and Ganga Action Plan-2 which began in 1987 and 1996 respectively. The core objective of GAP was to abate pollution and improve water quality of River Ganga
  3. Further, out of the total 28000 crore sanction for the Mission, only about ₹6,700 crore (about 25%) has been spent. Poor spending and incomplete projects are reflected in the river quality.
  4. Launched in 2015, the Namami Gange programme is an Integrated Conservation Mission which seeks to achieve effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
  5. The main pillars of Namami Gange Programme are a) Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, b) River-Surface Cleaning,  c) Afforestation, d) Industrial Effluent Monitoring, e) River-Front Development, f) Bio-Diversity, g) Ganga Gram and h) Public Awareness
  6. Under the Namami gange Mission Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) is followed in awarding tenders to sewage treatment plants (STP) and infrastructure developers. It is inspired from the prevalent practice of developing highways in India.
  7. Under HAM, 40% of the capital cost of the project is paid by the government during the construction phase of the project. The remaining capital investment on the project, the cost of operations and maintenance of STP are paid over a period of 15 years as quarterly installments, subject to achieving performance standards.
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