9 PM Current Affairs Brief – May 8, 2019

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Purple frog, believed to have coexisted with dinosaurs, set to be crowned Kerala’s state amphibian

  1. According to researchers, Purple frog could soon be designated as Kerala’s state amphibian. This title would help in saving the species which is fast disappearing from its habitat in the western ghats.
  2. The purple frog was discovered in 2003.The scientific name of the species is Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis. It is also known as Maveli frog or Pignose Frog.
  3. It has also been listed as endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  4. The purple frogs are under threat due to the (a) rampant construction of unauthorised check dams which is leading to the submergence of the perennial breeding grounds of the frogs and (b) road networks lie close to their breeding grounds and hundreds of cases of road-kills go unreported every year.
  5. The Purple frog feeds mostly on soil-mites, ants and termites using its fluted tongue. The male and female frogs mate underground and once in a year, they come out on the surface to lay thousands of eggs near seasonal streams in the months of May-June.
  6. The researchers believe that the species should be rightly called a ‘living fossil’ as it’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.

GRIHA Council launches rating system to evaluate environmental performance of schools

  1. Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council has recently released a rating tool called as ‘GRIHA for Existing Day Schools’.
  2. The rating aims to evaluate the environmental performance of existing schools across India. The rating also familiarises the students with the concepts of sustainability by involving them in evaluating the environmental impact of schools on the environment.
  3. Further, It also seeks to help students and teachers in establishing contact with nature and with each other using the approach of co-creation and understanding.
  4. GRIHA Rating is developed by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) and adopted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) as the national rating system for green buildings in India.
  5. It is a rating tool that helps people to assess the performance of their building against certain nationally acceptable benchmarks.
  6. GRIHA evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle thereby providing a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building.

B2B tech start-ups tripled since 2014: Study

  1. According to a survey, the number of business-to-business (B2B) startups has jumped four times to 3,200 in 2018 from 800 in 2014.This has enabled faster growth of the ecosystem by attracting huge number of investments.
  2. B2B startups also referred to as enterprise startups are companies that sell a product or service to another company rather than to individual consumers. Essentially, B2B companies are businesses built to support other businesses.
  3. However, the B2B startup’s has been mostly centered around Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. The concentration of this ecosystem in to these three cities can largely be attributed to the spurt in the need for digital transformation of enterprises, financial institutions, hospitals and government services.
  4. Further, the report has also called for an intense growth of accelerators and incubators for the domestic startups to spread their wings encouraging small town to come up in the innovation space.
  5. Startup accelerators and incubators are organizations that seek to help startups attain success. They help new and startup companies to develop by providing services such as management training or office space

BRO celebrates 59th Raising Day

  1. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has celebrated its 59th Raising Day on 7th May,2019.
  2. The BRO was formed on 7 May 1960 to secure India’s borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country. It functions under the control of the Ministry of Defence since 2015.
  3. BRO executes road construction and maintenance works along the northern and western frontiers primarily to meet the strategic requirements of the army and is responsible for maintenance of over 53,000 km of roads.
  4. BRO is staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Military Police and army personnel on extra regimental employment.
  5. Further, Engineering Service and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  6. The organisation maintains operations in twenty-one states and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The BRO has also constructed roads in friendly foreign countries such as Bhutan, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Iran should not breach nuclear deal

  1. Europe has warned Iran that it would re-impose sanctions on Iran if it violates parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.
  2. This statement came after Iran President is expected to announce that Iran would restart part of its halted nuclear programme in response to the U.S withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. However, Iran does not plan to pull out of the agreement.
  3. Iran Nuclear deal which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was announced in 2015.The deal was signed between Iran and the P5+1 group (US,UK, France, Russia, China and Germany). It restricts Iran’s nuclear programme, in return for lifting most economic sanctions against it.
  4. The key provisions of the nuclear deal are (a)Limits on uranium enrichment (b) Limits on number of nuclear centrifuges (centrifuge is a device used to enrich uranium) (c) Restrictions on plutonium enrichment- Stopping Iran from operating at Arak nuclear site which was used to make plutonium (d) Allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for inspections.
  5. Further, the deal has also increased the breakout time to 1 year. Breakout time is the time it would take Iran to produce enough bomb-grade material for a single nuclear weapon. However, the deal does not cover Iran’s Ballistic Missile programme.
  6. USA had withdrawn from the deal in 2018 citing the following reasons:(a) The JCPOA failed to deal with the threat of Iran’s missile programme and (b) The deal does not include strong mechanisms for inspections and verification.

Centre asks Supreme Court to rethink elevation of two High Court judges

  1. The Centre has returned the proposals forwarded by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation of High court judges to the Supreme Court.
  2. The Government has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the recommendation to maintain the principle of proper regional representation.
  3. Collegium system in India is the system by which the judges are appointed by the judges only also referred to as Judges-selecting- Judges. It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  4. The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the court. A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  5. The collegium sends its recommendation to the Government for approval. The government can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the government, then it is bound by that recommendation.

Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar freed

  1. Reuters journalists have been freed after more than 500 days. They were charged by Myanmar under the country’s Official Secrets Act for reporting on a massacre of Rohingya civilians.
  2. They had also received this year’s Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. Pulitzer award was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher. It is awarded yearly in twenty-one categories.
  3. Rohingya is an ethnic group, largely comprising Muslims, who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine. They speak a dialect of Bengali as opposed to the commonly spoken Burmese language in Myanmar.
  4. They have not been granted full citizenship by Myanmar. They are classified as resident foreigners or associate citizens. Lakhs of Rohingyas have been displaced with majority of them seeking refuge in Bangladesh and India.
  5. In India, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees. According to Bangladesh and Indian security agencies, there has been a problem of growing Islamic radicalization among the Rohingyas.

India has overly restrictive market barriers

  1. US Commerce secretary has criticised India for its restrictive market access. He said that while U.S is India’s largest export destination but India is the 13th largest export market for the U.S.
  2. The US has raised objections on a range of issues which are (a)High tariffs on US Goods (b)Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally (c)Price controls on medical devices(Cardiac stents) (d)Multiple processes and discriminatory regulation towards US Companies (e)Intellectual Property rights violations (f) Trade imbalance between India and the US and (g)India’s rules on e-commerce that affected firms such as Amazon and Walmart.
  3. Further, he has also said that US technology and expertise can play an important role to meet India’s developmental needs but U.S. companies faces significant barriers and regulations that disadvantage foreign companies.
  4. Earlier, he had said that the U.S. would not be able to sell oil to India at lower rates because oil is owned by private players and the U.S. government would not be able to force them to offer at concessionary rates.
  5. This statement came after India had stopped importing crude oil from Iran following the US move to end sanction waivers.

Polavaram water only by next year, says AP CM

  1. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has said that there has been a delay in Polavaram irrigation project works due to the general elections and the model code of conduct. He said that the entire project would be completed by May 2020.
  2. Polavaram Project is an under construction multi-purpose irrigation project on the Godavari River in the West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh. Its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.
  3. The project has been declared a National Project by Government of India. The Polavaram Project Authority has also been constituted by the Union Cabinet in 2014.
  4. The project has been built for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

What is Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system?

  1. Israel has claimed that Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip has fired at least 90 rockets into southern Israel. It said that it’s Iron Dome aerial defence system had intercepted dozens of the incoming rockets and shot many of them.
  2. The Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defence system developed by Israel to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from short distances.
  3. The system detects rockets 4 to 70 km away and will engage with interceptors to destroy targets mid-air. Iron Dome operates day and night, under adverse weather conditions and can respond to multiple threats simultaneously.
  4. The Dome has three central components – detection and tracking radar, the weapon control system and missile firing unit. There are 10 Iron Dome batteries that protect Israel and each battery includes three to four stationary launchers with 20 Tamir missiles and a battlefield radar.
  5. Tamir missiles feature electro-optical sensors and steering fins with proximity fuze blast warheads that explode on contact with another missile.

Darbar move: secretariat reopens in Srinagar

  1. The Civil Secretariat and other move offices of Jammu & Kashmir government has been reopened in summer capital Srinagar as part of bi-annual Darbar Move.
  2. Darbar is the name for the bi-annual shift of the secretariat and all other government offices in J&K from Srinagar(state’s summer capital) to Jammu(state’s winter capital).This practice was started by Dogra King Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1872.
  3. However, the practice was continued even after Independence with the aim of providing governance benefits to both Kashmir and Jammu regions of the state for six months by turns.
  4. The secretariat is located in Srinagar from May to October and in Jammu from November to April. Along with the secretariat, the J&K High Court also moves.
  5. This is also done to escape extreme weather conditions in these places. It was a compulsion in the past because of poor means of transportation and communication.
  6. Recently, Jammu and Kashmir Government had approved the divisional status to Ladakh which was part of the Kashmir division till now. With a separate administrative division for Ladakh region, the state of Jammu & Kashmir now has three administrative divisions- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Crops worth Rs. 20 crore damaged in insect attack’

  1. The Mizoram government has informed the Centre about an estimated crop loss of Rs. 20 crore caused by an outbreak of the ‘Fall Army Worm’ (FAW).
  2. The Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda is an invasive agricultural pest. It was first reported in West Africa in 2016. A species is considered invasive when it reproduces and spreads successfully in a non-native area, where it may have harmful effects on native plants and animals. In India, its infection was first reported in Karnataka in 2018
  3. It is a lepidopteron pest that feeds in large numbers on the leaves and stems of more than 80 plant species, causing extensive damage to crops such as maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane. It also attacks vegetable crops and cotton.
  4. FAW can be controlled with a) Seed treatment and use of resistant varieties, b) intercropping- e.g. Growing inter crops like legumes will reduce infestation, c) bio control agents- Naturally existing enemies-e.g. Parasitoids

Rohingya trafficking: vigil up on Myanmar border

  1. Assam Rifles has increased vigil along the India-Myanmar border and asked the local people to travel with proper identity proof to and from Moreh – a trade town in Manipur. The decision to 9ncrease vigil comes after few cases of trafficking of Rohingya boys and girls detected in Manipur. Further, there have been reports of illegal camps being established by extremist groups such as the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.
  2. The border between Manipur and Myanmar remains sealed expect. However there are two international gates used by people on both sides for trade and social visits. As per a bilateral agreement, local residents of both countries are allowed to travel up to 16 km from the border without travel documents.
  3. Rohingya is an ethnic group, largely comprising Muslims, who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine. In Myanmar, they are they are classified as “resident foreigners” or as “associate citizens”
  4. Lakhs of Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and India after facing religious and ethnical persecution in Myanmar.  This has led to a historic migration crisis and a large humanitarian crisis.
  5. The Assam Rifles is one of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in India. It conducts counter-insurgency operations in the North East and guards the India-Myanmar border.

SC turns down Opposition plea for increased VVPAT verification

  1. The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea of 21 Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting 50% random physical verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
  2. The review plea had highlighted large-scale tampering and selective malfunctioning of EVMs in the present Lok Sabha polls and demanded at least 25% random physical verification of EVMs with VVPATs
  3. 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.
  4. Previously, under the ECI guideline 16.6, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification.
  5. 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.
  6. However, Supreme Court’s decision was far shot 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%.
  7. 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.

Road accidents still cause most deaths: WHO report

  1. World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Status report on Road Safety has stated that road accidents are the leading cause of death among people in the 5-29 age-group worldwide. According to the report, more than 1.35 million lives are lost each year and 50 million sustain injuries due to road accidents. The report has been released during the on going Road safety Week.
  2. According to the WHO report, India might be losing 2, 99,000 people each year due to road accidents. However, the government pegs the number of road accident deaths at nearly 1, 50,000 people each year.
  3. According to experts, the reasons for such a high number of road accidents and fatalities include: a) rapid urbanisation, b) poor safety, c) lack of enforcement, d) distracted, influence of drugs or alcohol, e) speeding and f) a failure to wear seat-belts or helmets.
  4. India is a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety which was adopted at the second global high-level conference on road safety held in Brazil in 2015. It lays down recommendations on strengthening existing legislations, adopting sustainable transport and strengthening post-crash response.
  5. It calls to reduce the deaths caused due to traffic accidents by 50% by the year 2020. SDG target 3.6 calls to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.
  6. Further UN has had announced 2011-2020 as the ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’ with an aim to reduce fatalities by 50% by focusing on five pillars: a) road safety management, b) safer roads and mobility, c) safer road users, d) post-crash response, and e) safer vehicles
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