9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 16th, 2019

World Food Day

News: United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a booklet that people globally should eat healthy diets for a zero hunger world. The booklet has been released ahead of World Food Day on October 16.

Facts:

About World Food Day

  • World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16 October in honour of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • It was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference in November 1979.
  • The days seeks to raise awareness about the issues behind poverty and hunger.
  • The theme of 2019 World Food Day is “Our Actions Are Our Future, Healthy Diets for A #Zero Hunger World.” With the theme, the FAO aims to create awareness about healthy diets and how sustainable diets can help eradicate hunger and malnutrition.
  • The FAO has defined healthy diets as one that meets the nutritional needs of individuals by providing sufficient, safe, nutritious and diverse foods to lead an active life and reduce the risk of disease.

Additional Information

FAO

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to combat hunger.
  • It was established in 1945. It is headquartered in Rome, Italy.

World Economic Outlook

News:The International Monetary Fund(IMF) has released the World Economic Outlook(WEO) Report.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The report has downgraded India’s growth projections to 6.1% in 2019 and 7% in 2020.
  • The report has said that the global economy is at its slowest pace of growth at 3%.This is a serious climb down from 3.8% in 2017.
  • However,the report has said that the Global growth rate is projected to improve to 3.4% by 2020.
  • Further,the growth of advanced economies is projected to slow down by 1.7% 
  • But the emerging and developing economies are projected to experience a growth pick up from 3.9% in 2019 to 4.6% in 2020.

Why is there a slowdown in growth?

  • The higher tariffs and prolonged uncertainty in the trade policy are the major reasons for dented investment and the slowdown in the growth. 
  • The automobile industry is contracting mainly due to the disruptions from new standard emission standards.This predominantly has an effect in China. 
  • Further,trade barriers and geopolitical tensions like Brexit is hampering investment, confidence and growth.

What should India do to reverse the slowdown?

  • IMF has suggested that the monetary policy and broad-based structural reforms should be used to address cyclical weakness and strengthen confidence. 
  • A credible fiscal consolidation path is needed to bring down India’s elevated public debt over the medium term. 
  • This should be supported by subsidy-spending rationalisation and tax-base enhancing measures.
  • Further,Governance of public sector banks and the efficiency of their credit allocation needs should be strengthened.
  • Land reforms should also be enhanced to encourage and expedite infrastructure development.

Additional information:

International Monetary Fund

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries. It was established in 1945.
  • The main goal of IMF is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system. 
  • It also seeks to facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.

World Giving Index

News:The World Giving Index 2019 has been released.

Facts:

About World Giving index:

  • The World Giving Index(WGI) is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation.It is an international organisation that promotes giving to transform lives and communities across the world.
  • The index uses data gathered by Gallup and ranks countries in the world according to how charitable they are.
  • The report is based its findings on three parameters (a)number of people donating money (b)volunteering time and (c)helping a stranger.

Key takeaways from the index:

  • The report has found that worldwide more than 2.5 billion people helped a stranger over the past decade with African countries accounting for 7 of the top 10 places where people are most likely to do so.
  • The index has ranked USA at the top followed by Myanmar, New Zealand and Australia.
  • India has been ranked at 82 among the 128 countries surveyed.At the bottom of the list are Yemen, Greece and China.
  • Further,India at 82 on the index falls below Nepal (53), Pakistan (69), Mexico(73) and Brazil(74).

The State of the World’s Children Report

News:United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund-UNICEF has released “The State of the World’s Children Report”.

Facts:

Key Highlights of the report:

  • The report has said that a third of the world’s children under five years of age which is around 700 million have nutrition problems.They are undernourished or are facing overweight problems.
  • It has also stated that despite 40% drop in stunting of children in poor countries between 1990 and 2015,149 million are still too short for their age.
  • The report warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life.It stated that breastfeeding can save lives, but only 42% of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.
  • Further,the report has also said that 50 million children are affected by wasting.

Suggestions:

  • Empowering families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including by improving nutrition education and using proven legislation such as sugar taxes to reduce demand for unhealthy foods.
  • Driving food suppliers to do the right thing for children by incentivizing the provision of healthy, convenient and affordable foods. 
  • Building healthy food environments for children and adolescents by using proven approaches, such as accurate and easy-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods.
  • Mobilizing supportive systems – health, water and sanitation, education and social protection – to scale up nutrition results for all children.
  • Collecting, analyzing and using good-quality data and evidence to guide action and track progress.

Additional information:

UNICEF

  • UNICEF, acronym of United Nations Children’s Fund, formerly United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund,
  • It was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. It is headquartered in New York, USA.
  • It is a special program of the United Nations (UN) devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.

Note: Stunting- low height for age, Wasting- low weight compared to height, Underweight- low weight for age. Malnutrition includes both under and over nutrition.

Project Beehive

News:Indian Army has launched a project named Project Beehive.

Facts:

About Project Beehive:

  • Project Beehive was launched by the Army’s Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers(EME) on September 1,2019.
  • The project seeks to achieve greater automation of the Corps and connect all its workshops to an integrated smart network with real-time data analytics capabilities.
  • The centralised network would allow Indian army to access data about any equipment across the country in real-time basis,
  • The project would also have the capability to analyse the data and say which equipment is due for maintenance.
  • The project has been divided into eight modules of which the first module is ready and the second is under preparation.
  • The Army had earlier automated its workshops under WASP (Workshop Honey bees) which is now being upgraded to be on the same level with Beehive.

Additional information:

About Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers(EME):

  • The Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers(EME) is an arms and service branch of the Indian Army. 
  • The Corps has varying responsibilities related to the design, development, trial, inspection and refit of weapon systems and equipment. 
  • They also provide technical advice to units and conduct recovery operations in peace and war.

UNESCO Asia-Pacific awards for cultural heritage conservation

News:India has won four UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Facts:

About the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards:

  • The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation was established in 2000. 
  • It recognizes the efforts of private individuals and organizations that have successfully conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region. 
  • It aims to encourage other property owners to undertake conservation projects within their communities either independently or by seeking PPP (public-private partnerships).

Award winners from India:

  • Award of Distinction was won by Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management(IIM),Ahmedabad 
  • Award of Merit was won by both Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai and Our Lady of Glory Church,Mumbai.
  • Honourable Mention was won by the Flora Fountain, Mumbai.

Additional information:

About UNESCO:

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was formed in 1945.It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris,France.
  • It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, Sciences and Culture.
  • UNESCO has 193 member states and 11 associate members.

Maritime States Development Council

News:Minister of State for Shipping has chaired the 17th Maritime State Development Council (MSDC) meeting in New Delhi.

Facts:

About MSDC:

  • Maritime State Development Council(MSDC) is an apex advisory body for the development of the Maritime sector.
  • MSDC was constituted in May 1997 under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Shipping.
  • It aims to ensure integrated development of Major and non-Major Ports.It also assess in consultation with State Governments for the future development of existing and new Minor Ports.
  • Further, MSDC also monitors the development of minor ports, captive ports and private ports in the Maritime States with a view to ensure their integrated development with Major Ports.
  • It also assess the requirements of other infrastructure requirements like roads/rail/IWT and make suitable recommendations to the concerned Ministers.

DPIIT launches website and mobile app for IPR

News:Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT) has launched the website and mobile application L2Pro India on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

Facts:

About L2Pro:

  • L2 Pro stands for Learn to Protect, Secure and Maximize Your Innovation.
  • The website and app have been developed by Cell for IPR Promotion and Management(CIPAM) in collaboration with Qualcomm and National Law University (NLU),Delhi.
  • The e-learning platform will enable youth, innovators, entrepreneurs and small and medium industries(SMEs) in understanding IPRs for their ownership and protection, integrate IP into business models and obtain value for their R&D efforts.

Additional information:

About IPR:

  • Intellectual Property rights(IPR) provide certain exclusive rights to the inventors or creators of that property in order to enable them to reap commercial benefits from their creative efforts or reputation. 
  • There are several types of intellectual property protection such as patent, copyright, trademarks among others. 
  • The main social purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.

About CIPAM:

  • Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) has been created as a professional body under DPIIT to take forward the implementation of the National IPR Policy with the slogan Creative India; Innovative India.
  • CIPAM works towards creating public awareness about IPRs in the country, promoting the filing of IPRs through facilitation, providing inventors with a platform to commercialize their IP assets among others.

Preschool children should learn in mother tongue: NCERT curriculum

News:TheNational Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has released the first-ever preschool curriculum.

Facts:

Why was the curriculum released?

  • The draft National Education Policy has recommended that the Right to Education Act be extended to students in the three years of preschool before Class I.
  • It has also proposed that the NCERT develop a curricular and pedagogical framework for early childhood education.

About the curriculum:

  • The curriculum is aimed at all pre-school education defined as the education of 3 to 6-year-olds whether at anganwadis, nursery schools, kindergartens, playschools or Montessori schools.
  • The curriculum recommends that Children between the ages of three 
  • and six years should be taught in their own mother tongues
  • Also,the focus on learning should be through play instead of being subjected to rote learning, tests and examinations.

Additional information:

About NCERT:

  • The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is an autonomous organisation set up in 1961 by the Government of India.
  • It aims to assist and advise the Central and State Governments on policies and programmes for qualitative improvement in school education. 
  • The major objectives of NCERT are to (a)undertake, promote and coordinate research in areas related to school education (bjprepare and publish model textbooks among others.

Facebook officially launches its cryptocurrency Libra

News: Facebook has officially launched its cryptocurrency Libra,despite several high-profile defections from the project and intense criticism from US regulators and politicians.

Facts:

About Libra:

  • Libra is a virtual currency where users can buy and store in a digital wallet.It can be used for transactions on a decentralized network that is not controlled by one bank or a government.
  • It is powered by a technology called blockchain which functions like an open ledger that gets updated in real time.
  • Libra will also have a digital wallet called Calibra which will handle its crypto dealings.
  • Libra will be controlled by a non-profit Libra Association.It will be a Geneva-based entity that has 21 members including Uber,Vodafone group among others.
  • Originally the Libra Association had 27 potential members but several companies dropped out including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.

Concerns of Libra:

  • The global community has expressed concerns that Libra can disrupt the entire global payment system.
  • There is also an issue of privacy and security as Cambridge Analytica scandal had exposed the Facebook’s lapses of data privacy and security.
  • Libra could also stifle competition among other providers and even threaten financial stability if users suddenly suffer a loss of confidence in the digital currency.
  • It could also globally weakens the government’s control over monetary and banking policies.

India and Libra:

  • The Current regulations do not permit the use of cryptocurrency for currency transactions.
  • The Draft Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019’ has proposed that private cryptocurrencies should be banned completely in India.
  • The draft has also said that anybody who mine, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form whether directly or indirectly through an exchange or trading should attract a jail term of one to 10 years.

Additional information:

About Cryptocurrency:

  • Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security.
  • Cryptocurrencies use decentralized technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank.
  • They run on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.
  • The most common cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin.

Global Hunger Index 2019

News: Global Hunger Index 2019 has been released.

Facts:

About Global Hunger Index (GHI)

  • It is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Ireland’s Concern Worldwide and Germany’s Welthungerhilfe. It calculates the levels of hunger and under nutrition worldwide.
  • The index was first published in 2006. It was initially published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Welthungerhilfe.
  • The four indicators for the index are
    • Undernourishment,
    • Child stunting (the share of children under five years who have a low height for their age),
    • Child wasting (the share of children under five years who have a low weight for their age) and
    • Child mortality rate under 5 years of age.
  • GHI scores countries on a 100-point “severity scale”, where zero is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
  • Values less than 10 reflect low hunger, values from 20 to 34 .9 indicate serious hunger; values from 35 to 49.9 are alarming; and values of 50 or more are extremely alarming.
  • The focus of GHI 2019 is Climate Change and hunger which seeks to explore the impact of extreme weather on food production, nutrition and food security. In 2019, 117 countries have been assessed.

Key takeaways from GHI 2019

Global

  • 17 countries with 2019 GHI scores of less than 5 have not been assigned individual ranks, but rather have been collectively ranked 1–17 as differences between their scores are minimal. Some of the countries include Uruguay, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba, etc.
  • Central African Republic has been ranked the worst (117th) followed by Yemen and Chad.
  • At the regional level, South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara have the highest 2019 GHI scores in the world, at 29.3 and 28.4, respectively indicating serious levels of hunger.
  • Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and the Caribbean, East and Southeast Asia, and the Near East and North Africa range from 6.6 to 13.3, indicating low or moderate hunger levels.
  • Nine countries of concern were omitted due to lack of data, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.
  • The report has warned that the progress towards a 2030 zero hunger target (SDG 2) that was agreed upon by leaders across the words was “under threat”.

India

  • India has been ranked102nd out of 117 qualifying countries. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious. India’s ranking in 2018 was 103rd out of 119 countries.
  • The child wasting rate in India stands at 20.8% which, according to the index, is the highest wasting rate of any country studied for the GHI report.
  • The child stunting rate, at 37.9%, has also been termed as very high.
  • Further, when it comes to infants aged six months to 23 months, only 9.6 percent of them in India are fed a “minimum acceptable diet”.
  • Neighbouring countries like Nepal (73rd), Sri Lanka (66th), Bangladesh (88th), Myanmar (69th) and Pakistan (94th), although all in the ‘serious’ hunger category, have performed better than India. China (25th) has moved to a ‘low’ severity category.

Indus Waters Treaty

News:Indian Prime minister has said that the Indus river water which belongs to India but is flowing to Pakistan would soon get diverted to the fields of Haryana and Rajasthan for the benefit of agriculture in the state.

Facts:

About Indus water treaty:

  • The Indus Waters Treaty,1960 is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan.
  • The Indus system comprises of Indus River, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.The basin is mainly shared by India and Pakistan with a small share for China and Afghanistan.
  • Under the Indus treaty, all the waters of three eastern rivers namely Ravi,Sutlej and Beas were allocated to India for exclusive use.
  • On the other hand,the waters of Western rivers namely Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab were allocated to Pakistan.
  • But India can use the water in western rivers in non-consumptive needs. Here non-consumptive means we can use it for irrigation, storage and even for electricity production.

Permanent Indus commission(PIC):

  • Permanent Indus Commission(PIC) was also established under the Indus water Treaty.
  • Its mandate is to (a)establish and maintain cooperative arrangements for the implementation of the Indus water Treaty and (b)to promote cooperation between India and Pakistan in the development of the Indus water systems.

India’s Projects on Indus River:

  • India has constructed the Bhakra Dam on Sutlej, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi. 
  • These storage works along with other works like Beas-Sutlej link, Madhopur-Beas link, Indira Gandhi Nahar Project has helped India utilise nearly entire share (95 per cent) of waters of the eastern rivers. 
  • However, about 2 million acre feet(MAF) of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilised to Pakistan below Madhopur.
  • For this,India is constructing several projects such as (a)Shahpurkandi Project (b)Ujh multipurpose project and (c)Ravi-Beas link below Ujh project.

Govt. to set up 14 World Skills India Training Centres across 9 cities

News:Union Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister has unveiled plans to set up 14 authorize World Skills India Training Centres across 9 cities in the country for media and entertainment sector.

Facts:

About the skill training Centres:

  • The new institutes will be set up for advanced skill training of candidates in media and entertainment sector.
  • The training centres will be set up in partnership with the MESC (Media & Entertainment Skill Council).
  • The institutes seeks to encourage more youth to get skilled and not just participate in competitions such as World Skills but come back with a medal in such competitions. 
  • Further,these institutes also aims to develop the skilling eco-system for training candidates for the international market.
  • The cities include Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Indore, Mumbai, Pune, Shillong and Trivandrum.

Additional information:

About World skills:

  • The WorldSkills International Competition is a biennial event and the biggest showcase of skills excellence in the world.It is conducted by the WorldSkills International.
  • The objective of the competition is to demonstrate the advantages of learning a vocational skill and encouraging ‘parity of esteem’ between vocational and academic qualifications.

About MESC:

  • Media & Entertainment Skills Council (MESC) was founded in 2012.
  • It is a not for profit organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. 
  • The Council has been promoted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry(FICCI) with the financial support from National Skill Development Corporation(NSDC)

Microbial Fuel Cells

News: At the London Zoo, a fern has started taking its own selfies. This was achieved by installing microbial fuel cells.

Facts:

Definition: Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria as the catalysts to oxidize organic and inorganic matter and generate current. The idea of using microbes to produce electricity was conceived by M. C. Potter in early 20th century.

Process:

  • Generally MFC consists of anode and cathode compartments, which are separated by a cationic membrane.
  • Microbes reside in the anode compartment, where they metabolize organic compounds such as glucose which act as electron donor. The metabolism of these organic compounds generates electrons and protons.
  • Electrons are then transferred to the anode surface. From anode, the electrons move to cathode through the electrical circuit, while the protons migrate through the electrolyte and then through the cationic membrane.
  • Electrons and protons are consumed in the cathode by reduction of soluble electron acceptor, such as oxygen or hexacynoferrate and acidic permanganate. Electrical power is harnessed by placing a load between the two electrode compartments.

Applications of MFCs:

  • Production of low-cost electricity from waste materials.
  • Can be used as an alternate method for bioremediation.
  • Can act as a biosensor-can measure the solute concentration of wastewater.
  • Can be used in waste-water treatment.

Ayushman Bharat

News: Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment worth nearly ₹7,901 crore availed under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY).

Facts:

About Ayushman Bharat:

  • The scheme was launched in 2018 as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The scheme is under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The main aim of the scheme is to provide universal health care to the poor, needy and vulnerable sections of the country. The scheme covers both prevention and health promotion.
  • National Health Authority is the apex body responsible for implementing ‘Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’.
  • The two flagship programmes under Ayushman Bharat programme are (a) Health and Wellness Centre and (b) Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY).

Health and Wellness Centre:

  • The National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system.
  • Under this 1.5 lakh health care centres will be established.
  • These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
  • These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
  • The contribution of the private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY):

  • It is the world’s largest health insurance/ assurance scheme fully financed by the government.
  • PM-JAY provides cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization across public and private empaneled hospitals in India. There is no restrictions on family size, age or gender.
  • Over 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable entitled families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) are eligible for these benefits.
  • PM-JAY provides cashless access to health care services for the beneficiary at the point of service, that is, the hospital.
  • It covers up to 3 days of pre-hospitalization and 15 days post-hospitalization expenses such as diagnostics and medicines
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