9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 15th, 2019

India joins WEF’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance

News: India has joined the World Economic Forum’s(WEF) G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance.

Facts:

About G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance:

  • The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance was established in June 2019, in conjunction with the G20 Summit held in Osaka,Japan. 
  • It is an alliance that comprises of 15 of the world’s leading city networks and technology governance organisations.
  • It seeks to work towards advancing the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies. 
  • The alliance also aims to create global norms and policy standards for the use of connected devices in public spaces.

Founding set of Institutional Partners include:

  • Presidents and host nations of Group of 20 (G20) in 2019 and 2020 
  • Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 
  • The Smart City Mission of India 
  • Cities for All 
  • Cities Today Institute 
  • Commonwealth Local Government Forum 
  • Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Network among others.

Significance of the alliance:

  • Smart city technologies can help decrease traffic congestion, combat crime, improve resilience during natural disasters and reduce greenhouse emissions. 
  • However,without proper governance,these technologies pose significant risk, notably to privacy and security.
  • Hence,India joining the league is a first step towards accelerating global best practices, fostering greater openness and public trust as well as mitigating risks regarding the collection of data in public spaces.

Additional information:

World Economic Forum(WEF):

  • WEF was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva,Switzerland.
  • The objective of WEF is to improve the state of the world by engaging business,political,academic and other leaders of society to shape global,regional and industry agendas.
  • Some of the most significant reports published by the WEF are (a)Global Competitiveness Report (b)Global Gender Gap Report (c)Global Risks Report and (d)Global Travel and Tourism Report among others.

About G20:

  • G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies formed in 1999.
  • The group accounts for 85% of world GDP and two-thirds of the population.
  • They have no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.

Vigyan Jyoti

News:Government is planning a programme called Vigyan Jyoti to help girl students inculcate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Facts:

Background:

  • The programme is to be launched in the backdrop of low percentage of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM).
  • The data shows that females comprised 24% of the total pass-out students in STEM subjects in engineering, 22% at the postgraduate level, 28% at M Phil and 35% at the PhD level.

About Vigyan Jyoti:

  • The programme aims to tap 100 girl students in 550 districts from 2020-2025.
  • The programme comes under the aegis of the Department of Science & Technology(DST).
  • The programme will cover girl students from grade 9 to 12.It will choose students based on their percentile.
  • The programme will help girl students inculcate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM).
  • The programme also has financial dimension.The girls will be given a modest financial incentive to cover their additional expenses like travel to camps.
  • It will also include holding science camps for the girl students in nearby IITs, NITs and national laboratories.

LOTUS-HR

News:India and Netherlands has launched the second phase of the LOTUS-HR as a part of joint collaboration.

Facts:

About LOTUS-HR:

  • LOTUS-HR stands for Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse plant.
  • The project was initiated in 2017.It aims to demonstrate a novel holistic waste-water management approach that will produce clean water that can be reused for various proposes.
  • The project also aims to simultaneously recover nutrients and energy from the urban waste water thus converting drain into profitable mines.
  • The project is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research(STW), Government of the Netherlands.
  • The location of the project is Barapullah drain systems,New Delhi.The partners in the project are IIT-Delhi and The Energy and Resources Institute(TERI).

Additional information:

About TERI:

  • The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a non-profit research institute.
  • It conducts research work in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development for India and the Global South.
  • It was established in 1974 as the Tata Energy Research Institute and renamed to The Energy Resources Institute in 2003.

National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey

News:The National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey 2019 has been released by the Union Health Minister.

Facts:

About the survey:

  • The survey was conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) for Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It was conducted in 31 districts of 24 States.

Key takeaways from the survey:

  • The survey has found that Cataract is the principal cause of blindness for people above 50 years in India.
  • India was the first country to launch the National Programme for Control of Blindness in 1976 to reduce blindness prevalence to 0.3 per cent by 2020. 
  • But,the survey has found that the estimated prevalence of blindness still stands at 1.99% as of October,2019.
  • The blindness is more pronounced among illiterate group than literates and more prevalent in the rural population than urban population.
  • It has also found that approximately 93% of cases of blindness and 96.2% visual impairment cases in this age group were avoidable.
  • The survey has also said that India has successfully met the WHO target of 25% reduction from 2014-19 in visual impairment from the baseline level of 2010.
  • The barriers to accessing treatment includes (a)no one to accompany the patient (b)seasonal preferences and (c)financial constraints.

Additional information:

About Cataract:

  • Cataract is a clouding or loss of transparency of the lens in the eye as a result of tissue breakdown and protein clumping. 
  • There are many causes of cataracts, including aging, cortisone medication, trauma, diabetes and other diseases.
  • Cataracts affect most people who live into an old age.

RTI Portal

News: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and state governments to file reply on a plea seeking direction to establish Right to Information (RTI) web portals in all states to enable citizens, especially those living abroad, to file RTI applications online.

Facts:

  • The plea has said that the Centre has established an online RTI portal in which any Indian citizen, including NRIs, can apply for information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department
  • It also noted that the Centre in December 2013 had requested state governments to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTI in their respective state. However, only Maharashtra and Delhi have established portals for that so far.
  • The online RTI portals would enable people to electronically apply for the required information instead of filing applications physically. The present system of physical RTI applications makes it difficult, inconvenient, and costly and leads to long delays, especially for NRIs who seeks information under RTI.

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.

Baul festival

News:Athree day long Baul festival has concluded in Dhaka with performances by Bauls from India and Bangladesh.

Facts:

About Baul:

  • The Bauls are mystic minstrels living in rural Bangladesh and West Bengal,India.
  • Baul music represents a particular type of folk song, carrying influences of Hindu bhakti movements as well as the shuphi, a form of Sufi song.
  • Bauls live either near a village or travel from place to place and earn their living from singing to the accompaniment of the ektara, the lute dotara, a simple one-stringed instrument and a drum called dubki.
  • Bauls belong to an unorthodox devotional tradition influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam yet distinctly different from them.
  • Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where God resides.They are admired for this freedom from convention as well as for their music and poetry.
  • In 2005, the Baul tradition of Bangladesh was included in the list of Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Asian Development Bank(ADB)

News:India and Asian Development Bank(ADB) have signed 190 million dollar loan agreement for improving road connectivity in Rajasthan.

Facts:

About Asian Development Bank(ADB):

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966.
  • ADB is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
  • It assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
  • ADB has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside. 
  • Japan and US holds the largest proportion of shares in ADB followed by China, India and Australia. ADB is also an official United Nations Observer.

India and ADB:

  • India was a founding member of ADB in 1966 and is now the bank’s fourth-largest shareholder and top borrower. 
  • ADB commenced operations in India in 1986 and has since committed 229 sovereign loans totaling $38.9 billion.
  • In 2018, ADB committed a record $3.03 billion for 19 sovereign projects to help India develop infrastructure and services in transport, energy among others.

Man Booker Prize

News:The Man Booker Prize 2019 has been jointly awarded to Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

Facts:

  • Canadian author Margaret Atwood was awarded for the book ‘The Testament’.
  • Bernardine Evaristo was awarded for her book ‘Girl, Woman, Other’.She is the first black woman to win prestigious award since its creation in 1969.

About Man Booker Prize:

  • The Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969.It is sponsored by the Man Group.
  • It aims to promote the finest in fiction and is awarded each year to the book adjudged as the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom.
  • The prize is open to writers of any nationality and published in the UK or Ireland.
  • The award carries a cash prize of 50,000 pounds or 64,000 US dollar.
  • In 2018 Northern Irish writer Anna Burns won the Booker Prize for ‘Milkman’.

Model tenancy law to help attract institutional investments in rental housing: Report

News:According to a report,the proposed model tenancy law will be instrumental in institutionalising rental housing in the country and tap huge potential in this segment as over 11 million homes are vacant in urban areas.

Facts:

Draft of Model Tenancy Act, 2019:

  • The Act aims to balance the interest and rights of both the owners and tenants.It seeks to create an accountable and transparent ecosystem for renting the premises
  • The draft law proposes to set up Rent authority in every state for the registration of all tenancy agreements.It has also proposed to set up a separate Rent court and Rent Tribunal for resolving tenancy-related disputes.
  • The rent authority will be headed by a deputy collector-rank officer and will be set up by district collectors with the approval of the respective state governments.
  • The law states that both landlord and tenant will have to submit a copy of rent agreement to the district Rent Authority.
  • The draft law has also proposed hefty penalty for tenants who fail to vacate the rented property after their tenancy has been terminated by order, notice or as per agreement.
  • The law also states that the landowner has to give a notice in writing three months before revising rent.
  • The model law has also fixed the security deposit to be paid by the tenant in advance which will be a maximum of two months’ rent in case of residential property and a minimum of one month’s rent in case of a non-residential property.

Note:Since land and urban development are state subjects, the central Model Act is not binding on the states unless they draft their legislation based on it.

World Standards Day

News: World Standards Day is being celebrated on October 14,2019.

Facts:

About World Standards Day:

  • World Standards Day(WSD) is celebrated each year all over the world on 14 October.
  • This day was chosen after the delegates from 25 countries gathered in London in 1946 to create an international organization that focuses on facilitating standardization.
  • The aim of the day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.
  • The theme for 2019 is “Video Standards create a global stage”.
  • In India, the World Standard Day was celebrated by the Bureau of Indian standards(BIS).

Additional information:

About BIS:

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) is the National Standard Body of India established under the BIS Act 2016.It works under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • It aims for harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways by (a)Providing safe reliable quality goods (b)Minimizing health hazards to consumers (c)Promoting exports and imports substitute and (d)Control over the proliferation of varieties through standardization, certification and testing.

World Standards Day

News: World Standards Day is being celebrated on October 14,2019.

Facts:

About World Standards Day:

  • World Standards Day(WSD) is celebrated each year all over the world on 14 October.
  • This day was chosen after the delegates from 25 countries gathered in London in 1946 to create an international organization that focuses on facilitating standardization.
  • The aim of the day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.
  • The theme for 2019 is “Video Standards create a global stage”.
  • In India, the World Standard Day was celebrated by the Bureau of Indian standards(BIS).

Additional information:

About BIS:

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) is the National Standard Body of India established under the BIS Act 2016.It works under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • It aims for harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways by (a)Providing safe reliable quality goods (b)Minimizing health hazards to consumers (c)Promoting exports and imports substitute and (d)Control over the proliferation of varieties through standardization, certification and testing.

Nobel Prize in Economics

News: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Facts:

Work: The work of the three economists had shown how the problem of poverty could be tackled by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, making problems easier to tackle.

Impact of the Work on Policy Making

  • Research surrounding remedial tutoring provided arguments for large scale support programmes that have now reached by 5 million children in India
  • Their studies showed that deworming provides clear health benefits to school children but also parents are very price sensitive. This led to the WHO recommend that medicine should be distributed free to over 800 million school children living in areas where over 20% of them have a specific type of parasitic worm infection.
  • Their studies paved the way for heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.

Additional Information:

Nobel Prizes:

  • The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.
  • The will of the Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist Alfred Nobel established the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature in 1895.
  • Nobel Prize in Economics was created by Sweden’s Central Bank in 1968. It is officially known as Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
  • Amartya Sen received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1998 for his contributions to welfare economics.

Impact of Rising CO2 emissions on labour productivity

News: According to a study published in the journal Nature, extreme heat days caused by the rising carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the atmosphere will affect labour productivity and economic growth, particularly in several developing countries.

Facts:

Key Takeaways:

  • Outdoor jobs in tropical areas such as Southeast Asia, north-central Africa and northern South America are likely to turn more dangerous with the increase in temperatures caused by climate change.
  • Agriculture, mining and quarrying, manufacturing and construction — sectors which account for 73% of output in poor countries’ are most vulnerable
  • For each trillion tonnes of CO2 emissions, gross domestic product (GDP) losses could be nearly half a per cent.
  • The developed countries such as Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will have less than 0.1% of productivity loss per unit emission.
  • However, productivity losses in developing countries like India, Gabon, Thailand and Malaysia will range from 3-5% of total GDP per year for every trillion tonne of carbon emitted.

Additional Information:

Working on a Warmer Planet

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) released a report titled ‘working on a Warmer Planet: The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work’.
  • It highlighted how heat stress will impact labour productivity (measured in terms of working hours) and lead to economic losses.
  • The report projected that in 2030, 2.2% of total working hours worldwide will be lost due to high temperatures. This is equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.
  • The global financial loss due to heat stress is expected to reach USD 2,400 billion by 2030.
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