9 PM Current Affairs Brief – November 1st, 2019

Programme for International Student Assessment(PISA)

News:Union Human Resource Development Minister reviewed the preparations for the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2021.

Facts:

About Programme for International Student Assessment(PISA):

  • PISA is an international survey held every three years.It was first conducted in the year 2000.
  • It is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • The objective of the survey is to assess the quality of education systems across the world by evaluating students in science, mathematics and reading.
  • The survey consists of a competency-based test designed to assess the ability of the 15-year-old candidates that measures their reading, mathematics and science literacy to apply their knowledge to real-life situations.

India and PISA:

  • India had taken part in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009 and bagged the 72nd rank among 74 participating countries. 
  • However,the then government had boycotted PISA blaming out of context questions for India’s dismal performance.
  • In 2018, India has decided to participate in PISA-2021.The students of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti and UT of Chandigarh will represent India in this examination.

UNESCO Creative Cities Network(UCCN)

News:UNESCO has announced that Mumbai and Hyderabad have been included in its network of UNESCO Creative Cities Network(UCCN).

Facts:

  • Mumbai has been designated as Creative City of Films and Hyderabad a Creative City of Gastronomy.
  • Earlier,Chennai and Varanasi were included as UNESCO cities of music while Jaipur was included as the City of Crafts and Folk Arts.

About UNESCO Creative Cities Network(UCCN):

  • The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) is a project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO).
  • It was launched in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities which recognized creativity as a major factor in their urban development.
  • Currently,180 cities are part of this network which aims towards a common objective of placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.
  • The network covers seven creative fields namely (a)crafts and folk arts, (b)media arts (c)film (d)design (e)gastronomy (f)literature and (g)music.
  • By joining the Network, cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships involving the public and private sectors as well as civil society.

Tamil Nadu becomes first State to enact law on contract farming

News:Tamil Nadu has become the first State in the country to enact a law on contract farming with President giving assent to the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act.

Facts:

Features of the act:

  • The act provides for a six-member body called the Tamil Nadu State Contract Farming and Services Authority.
  • The authority would ensure proper implementation of the Act and make suggestions to the State government for promotion and better performance of contract farming.
  • The act safeguards the interests of farmers during times of bumper crop or when market prices fluctuate.The farmers would also be paid a predetermined price which had been arrived at the time of signing agreements with buyers.
  • The farmers could get support from purchasers for improving productivity by way of inputs, feed and fodder and technology. 
  • However,any produce banned by the Centre or State government or the Indian Council of Agricultural Research would not be covered under contract farming.

Additional information:

About Contract Farming:

  • Contract farming refers to varied formal and informal agreements between producers and processors or buyers. 
  • It may include loose buying arrangements, simple purchase agreements and supervised production with input provision with tied loans and risk coverage.
  • Contract farming usually involves the following basic elements – pre-agreed price, quality, quantity or acreage (minimum/maximum) and time.

Advantages of Contract Farming:

  • The farmers get high remunerative price for their farm products.
  • It promotes best agri practices from different parts of the world.
  • It will free farmers from middlemen and money lenders.
  • Farmers income security through guaranteed price and access to quality inputs.
  • Encourages new generation to take farming as new business ventures instead of migrating to cities in search of jobs.

Spyware Pegasus used to Snoop WhatsApp

News:Recently,it has been reported that WhatsApp was used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India earlier this year.The surveillance was carried out using a spyware tool called Pegasus.

Facts:

About Pegasus:

  • Pegasus is a spyware that can hack any iOS or Android device and steal a variety of data from the infected device.
  • Pegasus works by sending an exploit link and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone. 
  • Once Pegasus is installed,the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.
  • The spyware was created by NSO Group,an Israeli cybersecurity firm founded in 2010.
  • The NSO group have claimed to help governments and law enforcement agencies across the world fight crime and terrorism.

Additional information:

About Malware:

  • Malware which means malicious software refers to any kind of software that is designed to cause damage to a single computer, server or computer network
  • It is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive malicious software including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and ransomware among others.

About Spyware:

  • Spyware is classified as a type of malware designed to gain access to or damage your computer, often without your knowledge. 
  • Spyware gathers your personal information and relay it to advertisers, data firms or external users.

Global Microscope report

News:The Global Microscope for Financial Inclusion report has been released.

Facts:

About Global Microscope report:

  • The Global Microscope for Financial Inclusion report is produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit.The report was first published in 2007.
  • The report is a benchmarking index that assesses the enabling environment for financial access in 55 countries. 
  • The report assessed countries across four basic enablers namely (a) allowing non-banks to issue e-money (b)presence of financial service agents (c)proportionate customer due diligence and (d)effective financial consumer protection.
  • The 2019 Global Microscope report also features 11 new gender focussed indicators that measure financial inclusion for both women and men.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The report has said that the overall environment for financial inclusion has improved globally with India, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Mexico having the most favourable conditions for inclusive finance.
  • The report has ranked Colombia at the first position followed by Peru, Uruguay and Mexico.
  • India has been ranked at the 5th spot.On the other hand,Democratic Republic of Congo was ranked at the 55th position.
  • India was placed among top nations due to conducive environment for financial inclusion in terms of allowing non-banks to issue e-money, proportionate customer due diligence and effective consumer protection.
  • Further,South Africa, India, Mexico, Tanzania and Uruguay were among the top countries that safeguard e-money via some sort of deposit insurance or protection.

Additional information:

About Economic Intelligence Unit:

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) was created in 1946.It is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group and the world leader in global business intelligence.

2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance(ISA) to be held in New Delhi

News:The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is hosting the 2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance(ISA) on 31 October 2019 at New Delhi. 

Facts:

About ISA:

  • The International Solar Alliance(ISA) is an Indian initiative that was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France in 2015,
  • The overarching objective of the ISA is to collectively address key common challenges to the scaling up of solar energy in ISA member countries.
  • It also aims to undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology needed for massive deployment of solar energy and pave the way for future technologies adapted to the needs.
  • The alliance is of 121 solar resource rich countries lying fully or partially between the tropic of Cancer and tropic of Capricorn as prospective members.
  • Till now,81 countries of the 121 prospective member countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA.Of these,58 countries have ratified the same.
  • The Assembly is the supreme decision making body of the ISA and gives directions on various administrative, financial and programme related issues.

Cyclone Maha

News:A meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee(NCMC), chaired by the Cabinet Secretary was held to review the preparations for the cyclone Maha.

Facts:

About Cyclone Maha:

  • The depression over Arabian Sea has intensified into a cyclonic storm. It is named Maha.The name is given by Oman.
  • The cyclone is centered over Lakshadweep and the adjoining southeast Arabian Sea and the Maldives area.
  • The cyclone Maha will be the fourth Cyclone in Arabian Sea to form after Vayu, Hikaa and Kyaar.

Additional information:

About NCMC:

  • Government of India had set up a Standing National Crisis Management Committee for effective implementation of relief measures in the wake of natural calamities.
  • The committee is headed by Cabinet Secretary.It includes Secretaries of Ministries / Departments and agencies with specific Disaster management responsibilities. 
  • The key functions of the committee include (a)oversee the Command, Control and Coordination of the disaster response and (b)give direction to the Crisis Management Group(CMG) as deemed necessary.

Overseas citizens of India can subscribe to National Pension System

News:Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has now permitted Overseas Citizen of India(OCI) to enroll in the National Pension System(NPS) at par with Non-Resident Indians.

Facts:

About National Pension System(NPS):

  • National Pension System (NPS) is a government-sponsored pension scheme.
  • It was launched in 2004 for government employees.However,in 2009,it was opened to all sections.
  • NPS is being implemented and regulated by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority in the country.
  • The scheme allows subscribers to contribute regularly in a pension account during their working life. 
  • Upon retirement,subscribers can withdraw a part of the corpus in a lump sum and use the remaining corpus to buy an annuity to secure a regular income after retirement.

Additional information:

About Overseas Citizen of India:

  • The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) is an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely.
  • The OCI was introduced in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora particularly in developed countries.
  • An OCI is entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi purpose life-long visa to visit India.
  • However,OCI is not actual citizenship of India as it has many limitations such as no right to vote, no right to hold constitutional offices and no right to buy agricultural properties.

About PFRDA:

  • PFRDA is a statutory body established under the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority(PFRDA) Act,2013.
  • Its objective is to be a model regulator for promotion and development of an organized pension system to serve the old age income needs of people on a sustainable basis.
  • It develops, promotes and regulates the pension industry under National Pension System and also administers the Atal Pension Yojana.

Indian Brain atlas-IBA100

 News:International Institute of Information Technology(IIIT) Hyderabad has built the first-ever Indian brain atlas named IBA100.

Facts:

About Brain Atlas:

  • A brain atlas is a brain map or a template which becomes the ‘standard’ against which brain abnormalities can be measured.
  • The first digital human brain atlas was created by the Montreal Neurological Institute(MNI).This brain atlas was based on the Caucasian brain template.

About Indian Brain Atlas:

  • The India-specific brain atlas was created by using the Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) scans of 50 individuals of different genders.It has been named as IBA100.
  • The Indian atlas was validated against other atlases for various populations.
  • The study about Indian Brain Atlas have revealed that the Indian brain is smaller compared to others.
  • It is smaller in height, width, and volume compared to the western and eastern populations.

Significance of Brain Atlas:

  • The brain atlas helps researchers compare findings from different brain imaging methods like Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) and functional MRI(fMRI) or between healthy and diseased brain states or across individuals.
  • This study will also help in the early diagnosis of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Adolescents,Diets and Nutrition:Growing Well in a Changing World Report

News:UNICEF has released a report titled “Adolescents, Diets and Nutrition: Growing Well in a Changing World”.

Facts:

About the report:

  • The report has been released in association with the NITI Aayog.The report is based on the recently released Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey(CNNS).
  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey(CNSS) is the first ever survey of its kind.The survey has been conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to measure malnutrition.
  • It studied 1.2 lakh children between 2016 and 2018 and measured food consumption, anthropometric data, micronutrients, anaemia, iron deficiency and markers of non-communicable diseases.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • Over 50% of adolescents(about 63 million girls and 81 million boys) in the age group of 10 to 19 years in India are, short, thin, overweight or obese.
  • More than 80 per cent adolescents in India suffer from hidden hunger a form of undernutrition.Hidden hunger is a deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
  • The report found that adolescent girls especially suffer multiple nutritional deprivations.While more girls suffer from shortness than boys, anaemia affects 40% of adolescent girls compared to 18% of boys and worsens as they get older.
  • The report has also revealed that government nutritional schemes are not reaching the adolescents.
  • Further,fruits and eggs are consumed daily by less than 10% of boys and girls.Over 25% of adolescents reported no consumption of green leafy vegetables even once a week.

Recommendations:

  • The report has asked the government to focus on adolescent girls before they become mothers to break India’s intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.
  • It has also asked the government to work with academia to tap into the growing expertise in nutrition, diets and agriculture.
  • It has also called for more private sector investment and engagement in adolescent nutrition.

Core sector output falls 5.2% in September

News:The output of eight core infrastructure industries has decreased by 5.2% in September,2019 indicating the severity of the economic slowdown.

Facts:

  • All sectors in the core index with the exception of fertilisers has seen a contraction in September,2019.
  • The experts have blamed consumption slowdown, heavy rainfall and flooding in several states as the prime reasons for the contraction.
  • They have also said that the sharp contraction also showed the severity of the industrial slowdown and recovery may take time.
  • To lift growth,government has also taken several measures such as (a)slashing corporate tax rates (b)infusing capital in banks (c)relaxing foreign direct investment limits for select sectors (d)supporting real estate and (e)providing liquidity for non banking finance companies.

About Core Sector:

  • Core sector can be defined as the main industry which has a multiplier effect on the economy.
  • The Eight Core Industries comprise 40.27% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production(IIP).
  • The eight Core Industries in decreasing order of their weightage are(a) Refinery Products (b)Electricity (c)Steel (d)Coal (e)Crude Oil (f)Natural Gas (g)Cement and (h)Fertilizers.

Additional information:

About IIP:

  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is a composite indicator that measures changes in the volume of production of a basket of industrial products.
  • The index is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO),Ministry of Statistics and Programme.
  • It is implemented six weeks after the reference month ends, i.e a lag of six weeks.
  • The Base Year of the Index of Eight Core Industries has been revised from the year 2004-05 to 2011-12 from April, 2017.
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