9 PM Current Affairs Brief – November 14th, 2019

Global supply chains major user of child labour: UN report

News: A report titled “Ending child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains”, for the first time, has examined child labour in global supply chains.

Facts:

About the Report:

  • It was conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • The report was compiled in response to a call by the Group of Twenty (G20) Labour and Employment Ministers to assess violations of core labour rights in global supply chains.

Key Takeaways from the Report:

  • According to the latest global estimates, 152 million children are in child labour and 25 million adults and children are in forced labour, including in global supply chains.
  • The level of child labour in global supply chains differ region to region. Eastern and south-eastern Asia has been found to be the worst with 26% of child labour in supply chains.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean followed with 22%. Elsewhere, the figures are 12% for central and southern Asia and 9% for northern Africa and western Asia.

Additional Information:

  • Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls to end child labour by 2030.

Geochemical Baseline Atlas of India’ released

News: CSIR- National Geophysical Research Institute has released the Geochemical Baseline Atlas of India for environment management purpose.

Facts:

About the Atlas:

  • The atlas aims to document the concentration and distribution of the chemical elements in the soils of India.
  • The work of atlas was started in 2007.It consists of 45 maps of metals, oxides and elements present in top and bottom soils across India.
  • The atlas traces elements from top soil i.e top 25 cm depth and bottom soil at 100 cm depth from the year 2006 to 2011.Across India,over 545 samples were collected.

Significance of Atlas:

  • Soil is a vulnerable geological medium which sustains the human activities.Hence,it is important to determine the present abundance and spatial distribution of the chemical elements across the earth’s surface.
  • The atlas will serve as a reference against which future generations of the country who would be able to assess the chemical compositional changes on Earth’s surface.
  • These maps will also help in finding out future contamination caused by industries or other bodies which cause pollution.
  • This map will also form the backbone for environment management.It will help in finding out future contaminations due to industries across the country.
  • Further, the map will also support in choosing the right soil that’s rich in certain micronutrient elements required for each plant growth.

Additional information:

About CSIR-NGRI:

  • The National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) is a geoscientific research organization established in 1961 under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • It is supported by more than 200 scientists and other technical staff whose research activities are published in several journals of national and international interest.

Karnataka: Supreme Court upholds disqualification of 17 rebel MLAs, can contest bypolls

News:The Supreme Court(SC) has upheld an order by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker disqualifying 17 Karnataka MLAs.However,the court has allowed all the disqualified MLAs to contest in the upcoming bypolls.

Facts:

Background:

  • Karnataka Assembly Speaker had disqualified 17 MLAs under the tenth schedule of the Constitution(anti defection law).
  • The disqualification had barred the legislators from contesting Assembly polls for the term of the current Assembly which ends in 2023.
  • However,the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of the dissident legislators but it also held that their ouster does not put any bar upon them from contesting by-polls.
  • The court said that the speaker acts as a quasi-judicial authority and that the scope of the assembly speaker’s inquiry is limited to examine whether the resignation of MLAs was voluntary or not.
  • It said that even the 91st Amendment Act,2003 which did not allow a disqualified member to be appointed as a minister,did not give Speaker the power to put a ban upon them to contest elections till the end of the term.

Additional information:

About Anti-Defection law:

  • The Anti-defection law is contained in the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.
  • The purpose of the anti-defection law is to curb political defection by the legislators.The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • However,the law does not specify a timeframe for Speakers to decide on defection proceedings.

Grounds for Disqualification:The grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified are:

  • if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of his/her party 
  • if a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his/her party and his/her actions are not condoned by his party.
  • If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election. 
  • If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

Exception:

  • There is an exception that has been provided in the law to protect the legislators from disqualification.
  • The 10th Schedule says that if there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.

Judicial Review:

  • In Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu and Others (1991),the Supreme Court Constitution Bench had declared that the Speaker’s decision was subject to judicial review.
  • The Speaker of the House also does not have the power to review his own decisions to disqualify a candidate.Such power is not provided for under the Schedule and is not implicit in the provisions either.

Over ₹5,000 cr dues declared so far under Sabka Vishwas Scheme

News: More than Rs 5,000 crore worth dues have been declared so far under the government’s ‘Sabka Vishwas Scheme’.

Facts:

About Sabka Vishwas Scheme:

  • Government had announced the Sabka Vishwas legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme,2019 during Budget,2019.
  • The objective of the scheme is to free the large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the tax administration.
  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums. 
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequences under the law.
  • The most attractive aspect of the Scheme is that it provides substantial relief in the tax dues for all categories of cases as well as full waiver of interest, fine, penalty.There is also a complete amnesty from prosecution

Explained: What are negative interest rates and how do they work?

News:US President has criticized the US Federal Reserve for having increased the interest rates in the US economy thus undermining the competitiveness of the US firms and has called for introducing Negative interest rates.

Facts:

What are negative interest rates?

  • Negative interest means instead of the bank paying you money to keep in a savings account,you pay the bank to do so. 
  • It also means that anyone can borrow money from the bank and pay back less than what he borrowed.

Benefits of Negative interest rates:

  • Negative interest rates are expected to make consumers save less and spend more.
  • They are also expected to make banks lend more.In essence,negative interest rates are expected to boost economic activity when all other efforts fail.
  • It also weakens a country’s currency rate which gives a country’s export a competitive advantage and boosts inflation by pushing up import costs.

Disadvantages of Negative interest rates:

  • Negative interest rates completely alter the way normal investment and savings behaviour function because now a saver is paying for parting with cash and a borrower is being perversely incentivised to borrow more.
  • The financial viability of banks may also come under strain if the loans they extend lose money by design.
  • There are also limits to how deep central banks can push rates into negative territory by depositors can avoid being charged negative rates on their bank deposits by choosing to hold physical cash instead.

Have negative interest rates work?

  • Sweden did it first in 2009 but now European Central Bank rates are also negative as are Japanese rates. 
  • The data shows that European economies and Japan which has a negative interest rates continue to struggle with growth. 
  • For the most part, people have not spent the cash and because of that, businesses haven’t taken new loans to set up more production capacities.

New signal fish discovered off Kerala coast

News: Scientists have discovered a new species of signal fish named Pteropsaron indicum off Kerala coast.

Facts:

About the species:

  • The Pteropsaron indicum species was collected by trawlers at a depth of 70 metres during a marine biodiversity survey.
  • This is the first species of the genus signal fish to be discovered in the Indian waters.Pteropsaron indicum is one of the distinctly larger species of signal fish.
  • The species has a unique colour pattern and an interesting behaviour that allows it to communicate with others of the same species by flipping its highly specialised dorsal fins.
  • The species sports three distinct bright yellow bands on a pale greyish pink background.The body and head are criss-crossed with dark margins of large-scale pockets.
  • It is also characterized by three extended dorsal fin spines, a high number of vertebrae and a relatively large body size.

Additional information:

About Signal fish:

  • Signal fish are tiny and fragile and are often found in waters below 50 metres.
  • The signal fishes are poorly studied group of benthic species found in deep sandy habitats usually close to coral reefs.They are known to flip up their extended dorsal fins to signal each other.
  • The discovery of this new signal species indicates the presence of patchy corals off the Kerala coast and therefore with a lot of conservation value.

6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural finance

News: The 6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance (WCRAF) began in New Delhi on November 12, 2019.

Facts:

About the World Congress:

  • The World Congress is held at regular intervals of 3 year period.The first Congress was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2005.
  • It aims at bringing together stakeholders of rural and agricultural finance all over the world.The Congress is an opportunity to strengthen business relations and to promote products and services.
  • The 6th WCRAF is co-hosted by NABARD, Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (APRACA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • The theme of the conference is “Rural and Agricultural Finance:Critical Input to achieve Inclusive and Sustainable Development”.

Objectives of the conference:

  • To promote Global value chains in agriculture
  • To help in tackling food security
  • To ensure agriculture is in line with sustainability, natural resource conservation and social harmony.
  • To achieve the objective the financial institutions should constantly evolve innovatively to provide rural people stable and constant financial services.

Additional information:

About APRACA:

  • Asia-Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (APRACA) is a regional association that promotes cooperation and facilitates mutual exchange of information and expertise in the field of rural finance.
  • Currently,it has a total of 86 institutions in 24 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region that are affiliated with the APRACA as its members.The General Secretariat of APRACA is located in Bangkok,Thailand.
  • APRACA along with NENARACA (Near East – North Africa Agricultural Credit Association) and AFRACA (African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association) were established with the help of FAO following the 1975 World Conference on Agricultural Credit.

About NABARD:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

India pledges to contribute $5 million in 2020 to UN Palestine refugee agency

News:India has pledged to contribute USD 5 million in 2020 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees(UNRWA).

Facts:

About UNRWA:

  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was established by the United Nations in 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees.
  • The agency provides assistance and protection for some 5.5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.
  • The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance including in times of armed conflict.
  • The aid is is provided in five areas of operation namely Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.The aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.
  • The UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. 
  • It also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.

Indian wins BRICS-Young Innovator Prize

News: The BRICS Young Innovator Prize has been awarded to Ravi Prakash for his indigenously designed affordable milk chilling unit at fourth BRICS-Young Scientist Forum (YSF)–2019.

Facts:

About BRICS Young Scientist forum:

  • The BRICS Young Scientist Forum (YSF) was established in 2015 at the 2nd BRICS Science,Technology and Innovation(STI) Ministerial Meeting in Brazil.
  • The first BRICS Young Scientist Forum (YSF) was held in India in 2016.
  • The forum was established to provide a platform for connecting & networking amongst the BRICS youth in order to harness their knowledge for resolving common societal challenges through research and innovation. 
  • The BRICS Young Scientist forum had also established the BRICS Young Innovator Prize.
  • The prize aims to recognise and reward the best results related to research, development and innovation projects that represent technological innovation and a potential contribution to the science and technology sector of the BRICS countries.

Additional information:

About BRICS:

  • BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • The BRICS 2019 summit is being held in Brasilia under the theme BRICS: Economic Growth for an Innovative Future.

NASA Renames Ultima Thule as ‘Arrokoth’

News: NASA has renamed Ultima Thule as ‘Arrokoth, meaning ‘sky’ in the Native American Powhatan language.

Facts:

  • Ultima Thule is a Kuiper Belt object and the farthest object ever explored by any spacecraft. The object is officially named 2014 MU69.
  • It is a contact binary that is single object with two lobes attached gently. NASA dubbed the larger lobe as Ultima and three time’s smaller lobe as Thule.
  • In colour, Ultima Thule has a reddish hue which is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
  • NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface.
  • Further, a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits have been observed. The largest depression is an 8-kilometre-wide feature, which researchers have named Maryland crater. It was likely formed from an impact.

Additional Information:

Kuiper Belt:

  • The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
  • It consists of icy objects, which are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Pluto is also a part of the Kuiper Belt.

New Horizons:

  • The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 by NASA. It is the first mission to explore the Kuiper belt.

Climate change is already damaging health of children, says Lancet report

News: The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change 2019 has warned that children will suffer from a rise in infectious diseases, malnutrition and air pollution if global warming continues on the current trajectory.

Facts:

About The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change:

  • It is a comprehensive yearly analysis that tracks progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating the health impacts of climate change. It was first published in 2016.
  • The project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions, including the World Health Organisation and the World Bank.

Key takeaways from the Report

  • With high carbon emissions and climate change continuing at the current rate, a child born today will face a world on average over 4˚C warmer by their 71st birthday, threatening their health at every stage of their lives.
  • Shrinking average yields of rice and maize will inflate the price of these crops, increasing the malnutrition burden.
  • Changing weather will increase the prevalence of infectious diarrhoeal and mosquito-borne diseases to which children are particularly susceptible
  • Air pollution will worsen, increasing the number of deaths attributable to fine particulates
  • Incidence of severe floods, prolonged droughts and wildfires will increase with rising temperature, and children will be most vulnerable

CJI Office comes under RTI ambit

News: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Facts:

Background: The verdict comes in the matter of a plea filed by Supreme Court Secretary-General challenging Delhi High Court’s 2010 order holding that the CJI’s office is a “public authority” and falls under the ambit of the RTI Act.

Key takeaways from SC Verdict:

  • The Supreme Court of India and the office of the CJI are not two different public authorities. The SC would necessarily include the office of CJI and other judges in view of Article 124 of the Constitution (Establishment and Constitution of Supreme Court)
  • Right to Information and Right to Privacy are two sides of the same coin. They have to be balanced while deciding to give out information from the office of the chief Justice.
  • Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand, but transparency does not undermine judicial independence.
  • Disclosure of any information sought will have to be balanced with the independence of judiciary, which itself is a matter of public interest.
  • The Court has asked the information commissioner to apply test of proportionality while entertaining applications seeking information from CJI’s office, keeping in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.

Additional Information

Right to Information Act, 2005:

  • RTI Act provides for timely disclosure of information by citizens from both central and State Public Authorities. It seeks to empower citizens and promote accountability and transparency.
  • Under the Act, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.  This includes
    • disclosure on their organization
    • functions and structure
    • powers and duties of its officers and employees and
    • Financial information.

Note: Public authority” is defined in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. It states: “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted—

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament;
  • by any other law made by state legislature
  • by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.
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