9 PM Current Affairs Brief – November 21st, 2019

Cabinet approves establishment of the National Institute of Sowa Rigpa (NISR) at Leh

News:Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the establishment of the National Institute for Sowa-Rigpa in Leh.


About the institute:

  • The National Institute for Sowa-Rigpa will be an autonomous National Institute under Ministry of AYUSH.
  • The objective of the institute is to bring a synergy between Traditional Wisdom of Sowa-Rigpa and modern science, tools and technology.
  • It will also undertake interdisciplinary education and research programmes in Sowa-Rigpa in collaboration with premier national and international Institutes and facilitate the integration of different systems of medicine.

Significance of the institute:

  • The setting up of the National Institute of Sowa-Rigpa would provide an impetus for the revival of Sowa-Rigpa in the Indian Sub-continent.
  • The Institute will also provide opportunities for students of Sowa-Rigpa not only in India but also from other countries.

Additional information:

About Sowa-rigpa:

  • Sowa-Rigpa is a Traditional Medical system of the Himalayan belt in India.
  • It has been popularly practiced in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling (West Bengal), Himachal Pradesh, Union Territory of Ladakh and now all over India.
  • In 2015,Ministry of Ayush had also included Sowa Rigpa to the AYUSH system.

About AYUSH:

  • AYUSH stands for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy.
  • These systems are based on traditional medical philosophies and represent a way of healthy living with established concepts on prevention of diseases and promotion of health.

Farmers Clubs Programme

News:Government has informed the Lok Sabha that there are around there are 24321 active Farmers clubs existing in different States/UTs.


About Farmers clubs:

  • The Farmers Clubs programme which was earlier known as Vikas Volunteer Vahini(VVV) Programme was launched by NABARD in 1982.
  • The Programme was renamed as Farmers’ Club Programme in 2005 by revisiting its earlier mission.
  • The major objective of the club is to promote development through credit, technology transfer, awareness and capacity building of the farmers.
  • The clubs are organized by rural branches of banks with the support and financial assistance of NABARD for the mutual benefit of the banks concerned and the village farming community/rural people.
  • All Institutional agencies such as Commercial Banks, Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks and all grassroot level organisations such as NGOs, PRIs, State Agricultural Universities among others are eligible to form Farmers’ Clubs.
  • The clubs are beneficial for banks as well as line departments of the State Government for convergence of the programmes / schemes sponsored / implemented by them.

Additional information:


  • 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.

Explained:What change in US policy on Israeli settlements in West Bank means

News:Recently,the United States has declared that it does not consider Israeli settlements on the West Bank a violation of international law.


About West Bank:

  • West Bank is a landlocked territory in West Asia.It also contains a significant section of the western dead sea.
  • It was captured by Jordan after the Arab-Israeli War(1948) but Israel snatched it back during the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.
  • At present,there are around 130 formal Israeli settlements along with 26 lakh Palestinians at West Bank.

What is the stand on West Bank globally?

  • The United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice have said that the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Under the Fourth Geneva Convention(1949), the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
  • Under the Oslo Accords of the 1990s,both Israel and the Palestinians agreed that the status of settlements would be decided by negotiations. But the negotiations process has been all but dead for several years now.

What has been the US stand earlier?

  • The US had considered the West Bank settlements as illegitimate since 1978.
  • However in 2016,the US did not veto a resolution that called for an end to Israeli settlements.
  • Recently,the US had also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and backed Israel’s assertion that the city is its capital.

Puducherry: 29th RCP meeting of Asia Pacific Customs begins

News:India is hosting the World Customs Organization(WCO) Asia Pacific Regional Contact Points(RCP) conference in Puducherry.


About the conference:

  • The conference is being held for the fourth time in India.Previously it was held in Jaipur and Cochin.
  • The conference discussed the key focus areas of the Asia Pacific Region.It includes security, enforcement, facilitation and capacity building.
  • The conference has also taken stock of the progress being made in carrying forward the programmes of WCO to promote,facilitate and secure the cross-border trade in the region and the capacity building and technical assistance required to achieve this goal.

Additional information:

About WCO:

  • The World Customs Organization(WCO) is an inter governmental organization headquartered in Brussels,Belgium.It was founded in 1952.
  • It administers the technical aspects of WTO, agreements on customs valuation and rules of origin
  • WCO represents 182 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.
  • The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions.Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.
  • WCO offers its members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services provided either directly by the Secretariat, or with its participation.
  • It has also been responsible for administering the WTO’s agreement on Customs Valuation which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.

Importance of Asia-Pacific region for India:

  • The Asia Pacific accounts to 37% of the world’s GDP.The region is important for India as it is trying to increase its trade and investment in the region.
  • The development of North East Region is also linked with India’s interests in Asia Pacific.India is finding markets in the region for the export of goods from North East.
  • It is also essential for India to increase its presence in the region as China has larger interests in the region especially in the markets of the region.

Mission Raftaar of Indian Railways

News:Minister of Railways has informed the Lok Sabha about the Mission Raftaar.


About Mission Raftaar:

  • Mission Raftaar of Indian Railways was announced in the Railway Budget 2016-17. 
  • The mission envisages a target of doubling of average speed of freight trains and increasing the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kmph in the next 5 years.

Significance of the mission:

  • The mission has helped the trains to reduce travel time for passengers, transit time for cargo, reduce operational cost, improve revenues and railway’s market share.

Additional information:

Other missions of Indian Railways:

Mission 25 Tonne:

  • It aims to increase revenue of Railways by augmenting the carrying capacity.

Mission Zero Accident: It comprises of two sub missions

  • Elimination of unmanned level crossings: The goal is to eliminate all unmanned level crossings on Broad Gauge in the next 3-4 years through innovative financing mechanisms.It will reduce deaths due to accidents and improve throughput of the network
  • TCAS (Train Collision Avoidance System): An indigenous technology has been developed to equip 100% of the High Density Network with TCAS in the next 3 years.This will prevent head on collisions and improve throughput by increasing average sectional speeds.

Mission PACE (Procurement and Consumption Efficiency):

  • This mission aims to improve our procurement and consumption practices to improve the quality of goods and services.
  • It will introduce a culture of optimum usage by adopting practices such as Vendor Managed Inventory, new procedures for identification and disposal of scrap among others.

Mission Hundred:

  • This mission will commission at least a hundred sidings in the next 2 years.
  • The current siding/ PFT policy would be revised to elicit greater private participation. An online portal will be operated for accepting and processing all new applications, alongwith decentralization of powers.

Mission beyond book-keeping:

  • The mission will establish an accounting system where outcomes can be tracked to inputs.
  • This will transform IR as right accounting would determine right costing and hence right pricing and right outcomes.

Mission Capacity Utilisation:

  • The mission proposes to prepare a blueprint for making full use of the huge new capacity that will be created through two Dedicated Freight Corridors between Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata scheduled to be commissioned by 2019.

World Energy Outlook 2019 – International Energy Agency

News:The International Energy Agency has released its report on World Energy Outlook,2019.


About World Energy Outlook:

  • The World Energy Outlook is a leading source of strategic insight on the future of energy and energy-related emissions, providing detailed scenarios that map out the consequences of different energy policy and investment choices.

Key takeaways from the outlook:

  • The agency says that at present the energy demand in the world is growing at a rate of 2% per year.
  • The oil demand will slow down after 2025 and the world will transit towards electric vehicles.However, the oil demand for the next decade will keep increasing with 85% of the increase coming from the US.
  • The outlook has projected that the installed solar power in the world will increase by 3,142 GW by 2040.Currently,the world uses 495GW of installed solar power.
  • In African states,the gas and renewable sources will power the future energy.However,the demand for coal in these countries is still increasing.

Additional information:

About IEA:

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) was founded in 1974.It is an autonomous intergovernmental organization established under the OECD framework.It is headquartered in Paris,France.
  • It works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy to its 30 member countries, 8 association countries and beyond.
  • It has four main areas of focus namely (a)Energy security (b)Economic development (c)Environmental awareness and (d)Engagement worldwide.
  • India became an associate member of the International Energy Agency in 2017.

Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan Kosh

News:Minister of Railways has informed the Lok Sabha about the Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan kosh.


About Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan kosh:

  • Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Rosh(RRSK) is a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works of the Indian Railways.
  • The fund was announced in the Budget 2017-18.The special safety fund has a corpus of more than Rs. 1 lakh crore over a period of five years.
  • The Finance Ministry would contribute Rs. 15,000 crore annually towards the fund while the Ministry of Railways would fund the balance Rs. 5,000 crore every year.

Significance of the fund:

  • The fund has helped Indian Railways to accomplish zero-accident mission by strengthening the safety measures on the rail network in a comprehensive way.
  • Under this fund,envisaged works like track renewal and upgradation, bridge rehabilitation, elimination of level-crossings, construction of road over bridges/road under bridges have been undertaken.
  • It has also been used for replacement and improvement of signalling system, improvement and upgradation of rolling stock, replacement of electrical assets and human resource development.

Funds for North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme(NESIDS)

News:Union Minister of State of North-Eastern Region has informed the Lok Sabha about the funds for North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme(NESIDS) scheme.


About NESIDS scheme:

  • North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme(NESIDS) was approved by the Government of India as a Central Sector Scheme in 2017.
  • The scheme aims to fill up the gaps in creation of infrastructure in specified sectors in North east till March,2020.
  • The scheme will cover the projects of (a)physical infrastructure relating to water supply, power and connectivity enhancing tourism and (b)Social infrastructure relating to primary and secondary sectors of education and health.
  • The funds under the scheme will be distributed among eight North Eastern States on the basis of well-defined criteria on certain parameters such as area, population , Human Development Index, road density among others.

NuGen Mobility Summit 2019 in Manesar

News:The NuGen Mobility Summit 2019 will be held Manesar, Gurugram.


About NuGen Mobility summit:

  • The Summit is being organized by The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) in association with SAENIS, SAE INDIA, SAE International, NATRiP, DIMTS, Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, SIAM and ACMA.
  • The objective of the Summit is to (a)share new ideas (b)learnings (c)global experiences (d)innovations and (e)future technology trends for faster adoption,assimilation and development of advanced automotive technologies for a smarter and greener future.
  • The summit will help in building a platform for bringing together all stakeholders in the automotive industry to understand global advancements in technologies.

Additional information:

About ICAT:

  • The International Centre for Automotive Technology(ICAT),Haryana, is a leading world-class automotive testing,certification and R&D service provider.
  • It works under the aegis of National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project(NATRiP).
  • It is an important element of the automotive sector with its world-class infrastructure and domain expertise providing services in development, testing,validation and homologation.

About NATRiP:

  • National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project(NATRiP), is one of the significant initiatives in the automotive sector of India.
  • Under this project,Government of India, State Governments and Indian Automotive Industry have joined hands to create a state of the art Testing,Validation and R&D infrastructure in the Automotive sector of the country.
  • The Project aims at creating core global competencies in Automotive sector in India and facilitate seamless integration of Indian Automotive industry with the world as also to position the country prominently on the global automotive map.

U.S. State Department approves $1 billion arms sale to India

News:UnitedStateshas approved sale of 13 MK 45 naval guns to India and related equipments worth an estimated cost of $1 billion.


About MK 45 naval guns:

  • The MK 45 is manufactured by BAE Systems Land and Armaments at its facilities in Louisville,Kentucky in the US.
  • It is a naval artillery gun designed for use against surface warships, anti-aircraft and shore bombardment to support amphibious operations.
  • The gun features an automatic loader with a capacity of 20 rounds that can be fired under full automatic control taking a little over a minute to exhaust those rounds at maximum fire rate.

Significance of the sale for India:

  • The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats from enemy weapon systems.
  • The MK-45 Gun System will provide the capability to conduct anti-surface warfare and anti-air defense missions while enhancing interoperability with U.S. and other allied forces.
  • India will also use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.

National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction

News:Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment has informed the Rajya Sabha about the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction.


About National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction:

  • This Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is implementing the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.
  • The plan aims to create awareness and educate people about the ill-effects of drug abuse on the individual, family, workplace and also the society at large in order to integrate them back into society,
  • It seeks to employ a multi-pronged strategy involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families to address the issue.
  • The plan calls for coordination with implementing agencies for controlling the sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, holding awareness generation programmes and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by the cyber cell.
  • It also calls for increasing community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand by involving Panchayati Raj institutions, Urban Local Bodies among others to tackle the menace of drugs.
  • As a part of the plan, module for re-treatment, ongoing treatment and post-treatment of addicts of different categories and age groups will be developed and database on substance use will be maintained,
  • Further,a steering committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry and with representatives from several other Ministries to monitor the implementation of the Action Plan.

Additional information:

About Drug menace in India:

  • India is vulnerable to drug trafficking and drug abuse due to its geographical location.
  • It lies in close proximity to the major opium producing regions of South West and South East Asia also known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’ respectively.
  • Further cannabis (ganja) also grows unaided in many parts of the country.It has also been reported that it is cultivated in hilly terrains in some parts of the country.
  • In certain regions of the country, drug abuse has already become a severe social-economic problem affecting the vulnerable age groups.

Singapore to get access to use India’s Chandipur missile test range

News:India and Singapore’s Defence minister has co-chaired the 4th Singapore-India Defence Ministers’ Dialogue(DMD) in Singapore.


Key takeaways from the Dialogue:

  • India has offered Singapore to use its Chandipur Integrated Test Range for launching and testing missiles and rockets.
  • Singapore has territorial limitations due to its geographical location. Thus, India has already opened its military training facilities such as air force and artillery firing ranges to the Singapore armed forces.
  • The two countries have also agreed to explore cooperation in the fields of artificial intelligence, geo-spatial data sharing and cyber security.
  • They have also reviewed the inaugural edition of the Singapore India Thailand Maritime Exercise(SITMEX) in the Andaman Sea and agreed to conduct the exercise on a yearly basis.
  • They also agreed to reaffirm mutual commitment to explore deepening Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief(HADR) cooperation in areas such as information sharing and capacity building.

Additional information:

About Singapore-India Defence Ministers’ Dialogue(DMD):

  • The DMD between India and Singapore had commenced in 2015 after both countries had signed the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) to further strengthen the long-standing bilateral defence relationship.
  • Since then,the relationship has deepened to include military cooperation across all three defence services of India and Singapore.

About Integrated Test Range:

  • The Integrated Test Range under the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) was set up in Chandipur,Odisha.
  • The testing facility is located on the Dr. Abdul Kalam Island.It provides launch facilities for performance evaluation of rockets, missiles and air-borne weapon system.
  • Several missiles such as the Prithvi, Agni, Brahmos and tactical weapons such as Akash and Nag have been tested from there.

About Exercise SITMEX:

  • The exercise is a trilateral exercise involving the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Royal Thailand Navy(RTN) and Indian Navy(IN).
  • The exercise is aimed at bolstering the maritime inter-relationships amongst India, Singapore and Thailand and contribute significantly to enhancing the overall maritime security in the region.
  • The exercise was held for the first time in 2019 at Port Blair,Andman and Nicobar.
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