9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 14th, 2019

Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for Jammu & Kashmir

News: Nearly 4,500 students from Jammu and Kashmir have reported at colleges across the country to pursue undergraduate studies under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) — the highest in six years.

Facts:

  • Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) was launched in 2011. The scheme is under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • Aim: To encourage the youth from Jammu & Kashmir to pursue higher education in educational institutions outside the state.
  • It is a merit-based programme that offers admission to J&K students in colleges, institutes and universities across the country and pays for their tuition, board, books and other incidentals.
  • The scheme envisages to provide 5000 fresh scholarships every year (4500 for General, 250 for Engineering and 250 for Medical studies).

Bullet Train Project

News: Gujarat high court rejected more than 100 pleas challenging the land acquisition process for Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) Project.

Facts:

  • The E5 Shinkansen series Bullet Train Project (Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) is an India-Japan joint venture.
  • The agreement was signed with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project was inaugurated in 2017 and is scheduled for its first run in 2022. The project is a first of its kind in India.
  • Originating at the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai and terminating at the Sabarmati, the high speed train corridor will pass through Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra& Nagar Haveli.
  • The proposed corridor lies in Western Railway zone.
  • National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) is the implementing agency of the project.

Additional Information

National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL)

  • It was incorporated in 2016 under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • Its mandate is to finance, construct, maintain and manage the High Speed Rail Corridor in India.
  • The Company has been modelled as ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ in the joint sector with equity participation by Central Government through Ministry of Railways and two State Governments viz. Government of Gujarat and Government of Maharashtra.

Effect of Mother’s Education on Child’s Nutritional Status

News: The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNSS) has shown a direct correlation between mothers’ education and the well-being of children.

Facts:

  • With higher levels of schooling in a mother, children received better diets. Only 11.4% of children of mothers with no schooling received adequately diverse meals, while 31.8% whose mothers finished Class XII received diverse meals.
  • 3.9% of children whose mothers had zero schooling got minimum acceptable diets, whereas this was at 9.6% for children whose mothers finished schooling. Further, 7.2% of children in the former category consumed iron rich food, whereas this was at 10.3% for children in the latter category.
  • Only 49.8% of children in 2-4 age group whose mothers did not go to school consumed dairy products, while 80.5% of children of mothers who completed their schooling did so.
  • Levels of stunting, wasting and low weight were higher in children whose mothers received no schooling as opposed to those who studied till Class XII.
  • Anaemia saw a much higher prevalence of 44.1% among children up to four years old with mothers who never went to school, versus 34.6% among those who completed their schooling.

Additional Information

Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNSS):

  • It 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.

HIV-AIDS

News: According to Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), Mizoram reports nine positive cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) a day.

Facts:

HIV-AIDS

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term which applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. It is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers.
  • 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.

HIV Prevalence in India

  • As per the India HIV Estimation 2017 report, National adult (15–49 years) HIV prevalence in India is estimated at 0.22% in 2017.
  • Among the States/UTs, in 2017, Mizoram has shown the highest estimated adult HIV prevalence of 2.04% followed by Manipur, and Nagaland.
  • The total number of people living with HIV in India is estimated at 21.40 lakhs in 2017.

Steps taken by the Government:

  • National AIDS Control Program (NACP): It was launched in 1992. Launched in 2012, under the Phase IV of NCAP, the target is to reduce new infections by 50% (2007 Baseline of NACP III). It also seeks comprehensive care, support and treatment to all persons living with HIV/AIDS.
  • National AIDS Control Organization: It is a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies. It was established in 1992 to implement NACP.
  • National Strategic Plan (2017-24): It aims towards fast tracking strategy of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and is expected to pave a roadmap for achieving the target of 90:90:90.
  • Mission SAMPARK: The aim is to trace those who are Left to Follow Up and are to be brought under Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) services.
  • Project Sunrise: It aims at prevention of AIDS especially among people injecting drugs in the 8 North-Eastern states

Global Initiatives

  • Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS): It is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was established in 1994 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 90:90:90 Strategy: It is a HIV treatment narrative of UNAIDS programme which has set targets of
    • 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status (90% diagnosed),
    • 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (90% on HIV treatment) and
    • 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression (90% suppressed)

Plastic Pollution in Great Nicobar Island

News: A survey of five beaches in the Great Nicobar islands have recorded the presence of plastics. The study was published in the journal Current Science.

Facts:               

Key findings of the Survey

  • About 10 countries including India contributed to the plastic litter in the island. They were Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Myanmar, China and Japan.
  • Major portion of the litter (40.5%) was of Malaysian origin. It was followed by Indonesia (23.9%) and Thailand (16.3%). The litter of Indian origin only amounted to 2.2%.
  • The contribution from Indonesia and Thailand was likely due to its proximity to the island. The plastic is likely to have made its way to the island because of water currents via the Malacca Strait, which is a major shipping route.

Additional Information:

Great Nicobar Islands

  • Great Nicobar is the southernmost and largest of the Nicobar Islands of India. The island of Sumatra is located 180 km to the south of Great Nicobar. It has an area of about 1044 sq. km.
  • According to the 2011 census, has a population of about 8,069. The island is home to one of the most primitive tribes of India — the Shompens.
  • The island includes the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (GNBR) comprising of the Galathea National Park and the Campbell Bay National Park.
  • Indira point in the Great Nicobar Island is the southernmost point of India’s territory.

Nepal, China ink road connectivity deal

News:Chinese President is on a visit to Nepal.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the visit:

  • India and China have decided to construct a 70-km (42-mile) rail link which will connect the Gyiron in Tibet with Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.
  • A 28-km Kerung-Kathmandu road tunnel is also proposed to halve the distance between Kathmandu and Chinese border.
  • Chinese President has also promised to replenish the Arniko highway that links Kathmandu with Tatopani transit point.The highway was badly damaged in 2015 earthquake.
  • Nepal and China has also signed around 20 deals covering water supply, trade, traditional medicines. 

Why is Nepal increasing its interests in China?

  • Nepal is wedged between China and India.So being a landlocked nation, Nepal is trying to diversify its relations.
  • For Nepal,China serves as a potential supplier of goods and assistance that it badly needs in order to recover its economy.
  • The Madhesi agitation in 2015 had forced Nepal to explore trade links with China and reduce its long term dependence on India.
  • Lastly,another factor to increase the interest is China card which most of the south Asian countries are playing with India to gain the mileage in negotiations & counter India’s Big Brother approach.

Why China cannot replace India vis-à-vis Nepal?

  • India has an advantage of geography on its side. Chinese rail and port connectivity projects are not very feasible owing to the difficult terrain.
  • The nearest Chinese ports will be over 3000 km away while Kolkata and Visakhapatnam ports which Nepal currently uses are relatively closer.
  • India and Nepal has deep linguistic & cultural and religious affinity, whose trade or economic ties with China alone cannot entirely takeover.

Index of Industrial Production(IIP)

News:India’s industrial sector production(IIP) has contracted by 1.1% in August when compared to the production in the same month in 2018.

Facts:

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.

There are two ways in which IIP data can be viewed:

  • Broad sectors: The first is to look at sectoral performance.In this the whole industrial economy is divided into three sectors; manufacturing (with a weight of 77.63 % in the index), mining (14.37 %) and electricity (7.99 %).
  • Use-based sectors: The second way is to look at the way such industrial products are used namely Basic Goods, Capital Goods and Intermediate Goods.

Core industries:

  • Core industry 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 CSO:

  • The Central Statistics Office(CSO) is a governmental agency in India under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • It is responsible for coordination of statistical activities in India and evolving and maintaining statistical standards.

World Bank Cuts India’s Growth Forecast To 6%

News:The World Bank has reduced India’s economic growth forecast in its South Asia Economic Focus report.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The World Bank has projected India’s gross domestic product growth at 6% in the fiscal year 2020 compared with 7.5% forecast in April,2019.
  • However,the bank also expects India’s growth to gradually recover to 6.9% in 2021 and 7.2% in 2022.
  • The report said that India is going through a broad-based growth deceleration with a sharp decline in private consumption on the demand side and the weakening of growth in both industry and services on the supply side.
  • Further, it also observed that the weakness of Indian economic activity during the first half of 2019 is largely driven by external and cyclical factors.
  • The bank also said that the Non-Banking financial companies(NBFC) in India remain vulnerable to financial stress despite liquidity enhancing measures.

Additional information:

About World Bank:

  • The World Bank was created at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects.
  • The World Bank Group consists of five development institutions which are (a)International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (b)International Development Association (IDA) (c)International Finance Corporation (IFC) (d)The Multilateral Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and (e)International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
  • All of these world Bank groups support the twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity of the poorest 40% of the population in all countries.

Government to decriminalise 2/3rds of offences under the Companies Act

News:The Union government is all set to do away with jail term in over 40 of the 66 sections under the Companies Act 2013.These changes are being discussed by the Company Law Committee.

Facts:

About the company law committee:

  • Government of India had constituted the company law committee for examining and making recommendations on various provisions and issues related to implementation of the Companies Act.
  • The committee consists of 11-members which is chaired by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs(MCA) secretary Injeti Srinivas.
  • The committee is to submit its recommendations on offences both compoundable and non-compoundable which could be recategorised as civil offences under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The panel will propose measures to improve the functioning of the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • The committee will also examine the feasibility of introducing settlement mechanism, deferred prosecution agreement within the fold of the Companies Act, 2013.

What are the changes being discussed?

  • The Union government is planning to introduce an amendment to do away with jail term in over 40 of the 66 sections under the Companies Act 2013.
  • Additionally, the government is also seeking to lower the penalty for small companies.
  • These changes are expected to benefit around 8 lakh of the 1.1 million registered companies in the country with a turnover of up to Rs 2 crore and a paid-up capital of less than Rs 50 lakh.
  • The new amendments will also allow companies and their executives to avoid persecution or jail term by paying up penalties. 
  • Once the amendments are approved,civil offences will be dealt through Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ in-house mechanism led by the registrar of companies.

Additional information:

Companies Act,2013:

  • The Companies Act 2013 is an Act of the Parliament of India on Indian company law.Company means a company incorporated under this Act or under any previous Company Law.
  • The law regulates incorporation of a company, responsibilities of a company, directors and dissolution of a company.

Exercise Vajra Prahar

News:The 10th edition of the joint military exercise ‘Vajra Prahar’ between India and the US will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Seattle from October 13-28,2019.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • Vajra Prahar is a Special Forces joint military training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US since 2010.
  • The exercise enables sharing of best practices and experience in areas such as joint mission planning capabilities and operational tactics.

About Special forces:

  • The Special Forces of India refer to those Special forces units which are specifically organised, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations.
  • The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces have separate special forces units namely (a)Para SF of Indian Army (b)MARCOS of Indian Navy and (c)Garud Commando Force of Indian Air Force.

Additional information:

Other exercises between India and US:

  • Yudh Abhyas- It is a joint military exercise between India and the US.
  • Exercise Malabar– It is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Tiger Triumph- It is a tri-service military exercise between India and the US.

Explained: Why Lok Sabha is still 543

News:Former Union Minister has said that the number of Lok Sabha seats should be rationalised on the basis of population as the composition of the Lower House has remained more or less the same for four decades.

Facts:

What is the strength of Lok Sabha:

  • Article 81 of the Constitution defines the composition of the House of the People or Lok Sabha.
  • It states that the House shall not consist of more than 550 elected members of whom not more than 20 will represent Union Territories.
  • Under Article 331,the President can nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she feels the community is inadequately represented in the House.
  • At present, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 543 of which 530 have been allocated to the states and the rest to the Union Territories.
  • The strength of the Lok Sabha hasn’t always been 543 seats.Originally, Article 81 provided that the Lok Sabha shall not have more than 500 members.The first House constituted in 1952 had 497.

What is the Criteria of allotting Lok Sabha seats to a state:

  • Article 81 mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is the same for all states.This is to ensure that every state is equally represented.
  • However, this logic does not apply to small states whose population is not more than 60 lakh. 
  • So,at least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that its population-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.

Census for allocation of seats:

  • As per Article 81(3),population for the purpose of allocation of seats, means the population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published.In other words,the last published Census.
  • But, by an amendment to this Clause in 2003, the population now means population as per the 1971 Census, until the first Census taken after 2026. 
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026. 

Operation Peace Spring

News:India has expressed deep concern over Turkey’s unilateral military operation called Operation Peace Spring against the Syrian Kurdish militia (YPG) in Northeast Syria.

Facts:

About Operation Peace Spring:

  • The Turkish military has launched a major cross-border operation in north-eastern Syria against a Kurdish-led militia alliance allied to the United States.
  • This move came after US troops, who relied on the Kurds to defeat the Islamic State(IS) group on the ground in Syria withdrew from the border area.

Why has Turkey launched an assault?

  • Turkey considers the biggest militia in the Kurdish-led alliance a terrorist group.It says it is an extension of a Kurdish rebel group fighting in Turkey.
  • Turkey also wants 32km (20-mile) deep safe zone along the Syrian side of the border clear of Kurdish fighters.It hopes to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey at that safe zone.

Who are Kurds?

  • The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia.
  • Today, they form a distinctive community, united through race, culture and language even though they have no standard dialect. 
  • They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims.
  • In the early 20th Century, many Kurds demanded the creation of a homeland generally referred to as Kurdistan.
  • However,the boundaries of modern map of middle east made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.

One Nation One Fastag

News:Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways will be inaugurating a conference on One Nation One FASTag in New Delhi.

Facts:

About the conference:

  • The conference will see the signing of MoUs with state departments / other agencies for bringing in a unified electronic tolling solution across the country. 
  • This would mean enabling the use of the same FASTag affixed on the windscreen of a vehicle at every toll plaza in the country under the jurisdiction of different states and other entities.

About FASTag:

  • FASTag is a reloadable tag that allows automatic deduction of toll without having to stop for carrying out the cash transaction. 
  • The tag is linked to a prepaid account from which the applicable toll amount is deducted
  • The tag uses radio frequency identification(RFID) technology and is fixed on the windscreen of the vehicle once active.
  • The tag is valid for five years and comes in seven different colours — violet, orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, black.Each colour is assigned to a particular category of vehicles.

Significance of FASTag:

  • FASTag is a perfect solution for a hassle free trip on national highways.
  • It reduces air pollution and will also reduce the use of paper 
  • It will also reduce the toll payment hassles and provide analytics for better highway management   
  • It will also provide ease of payment as there will be no need to carry cash for the toll transactions.

Additional information:

About RFID:

  • Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. 
  • A tag can be read from up to several feet away and does not need to be within direct line-of-sight of the reader to be tracked.
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