9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 17th, 2019

Tulagi Island

News: A Chinese company has signed an agreement to lease Tulagi Island in the Solomon Islands for 75 years.


  • Tulagi is a small island Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Ngella Sule (Florida islands).
  • It is about two square kilometres (0.8 square miles) with a population of 1,200. I
  • It is the site of a former Japanese naval base and was the scene of fighting in World War II.
  • The agreement with Chinese company mentions developing a refinery on the island. However, its potential for dual use as a Chinese military base is certain to raise concerns with the United States and Australia.

Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report

News:The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2019 has been released.


About the report:

  • The report has been published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific(ESCAP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD).
  • The report provides information on developments in (a)intra- and inter-regional trade in goods and services (b)foreign direct investment (c) trade facilitation measures (d)trade policy measures and (e)preferential trade policies and agreements.

Highlights from the report:

  • The report has said that the Non-tariff measures (NTMs) have increased in the past two decades and are affecting trade as well sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Asian countries.
  • Around half the Asia-Pacific’s economies have at least one NTM addressing water and energy efficiency and only 10% have measures addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated(IUU) fishing and illegal timber trade.
  • NTMs can also affect foreign direct investment negatively which may slow down countries’ economic activities.It can also have a direct impact on the performance of trading partners. 


  • The report has called for increasing cooperation with developed economies to work out regional mechanisms and developing common guidelines on sustainability impact assessment of NTMs.
  • The report has also recommended reviewing current NTMs and ensuring that new NTMs are systematically follows and monitored. 
  • The report also said that the implementation of NTMs in the right spirit can help in achieving SDGs.

Additional information:

What are Non-tariff measures(NTM)?:

  • Non-tariff measures (NTMs) are policy measures other than ordinary customs tariffs that can potentially have an economic effect on international trade in goods, changing quantities traded, or prices or both.

Examples of NTM:

  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures:These aremeasures that are applied to protect human or animal life from risks arising from: additives, contaminants, toxins or disease-causing organisms in food.
  • Technical Barriers to Trade:These are measures referring to technical regulations, and procedures for assessment of conformity with technical regulations and standards.


  • The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • It has 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members from Asia-Pacific Region including India.It serves as the UN ‘s regional hub promoting cooperation among countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable development.


  • UNCTAD is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and part of the UN Secretariat.
  • It was formed specifically to handle the problems of developing countries dealing with trade, investment and development issues.

Explained: How a waqf is created, and the laws that govern such properties

News:The UP Sunni Waqf Board has decided to surrender its claim on the disputed Ayodhya site.


What is a waqf?

  • Waqf is the property given in the name of God for religious and charitable purposes. 
  • In legal terms,permanent dedication by a person professing Islam of any movable or immovable property for any purpose recognised by the Muslim law as pious, religious or charitable.

How is waqf created?

  • A waqf can be formed through a deed or instrument, or a property can be deemed waqf if it has been used for religious or charitable purposes for a long period of time. 
  • The proceeds are typically used to finance educational institutions, graveyards, mosques and shelter homes.
  • A person creating the waqf cannot take back the property and the waqf would be a continuing entity.

How is waqf governed?

  • Waqfs in India are governed by the Wakf Act, 1995. 
  • A survey commissioner under the Act lists all properties declared as waqf by making local investigation, summoning witnesses and requisitioning public documents. 
  • The waqf is managed by a mutawalli who acts as a supervisor.It is similar to a trust established under the Indian Trusts Act,1882.
  • But trusts can be set up for a broader purpose than religious and charitable uses. A trust established can also be dissolved by the board unlike a waqf.

What is a Waqf Board?

  • A Waqf Board is a juristic person with power to acquire and hold property and to transfer any such property. 
  • The board can sue and be sued in a court as it is recognised as a legal entity or juristic person.
  • Each state has a Waqf Board headed by a chairperson with one or two nominees from the state government.

Powers of waqf board:

  • The Waqf Board has powers under the law to administer the property and take measures for the recovery of lost properties of any waqf.
  • The waqf can also sanction any transfer of immovable property of a waqf by way of sale, gift, mortgage, exchange or lease. 
  • However, the sanction shall not be given unless at least two thirds of the members of the Waqf Board vote in favour of such transaction.

GOAL program

News:Union Minister of Tribal Affairs has announced the second phase of programme GOAL (Going Online as Leaders) for tribal women.


About the programme:

  • Going Online as Leaders(GOAL) is a digital skilling initiative launched by Facebook in March,2019 for underprivileged tribal women.
  • The program aims at inspiring, guiding and encouraging tribal girls from across India to become village-level digital young leaders for their communities.
  • In order to become a beneficiary of the program the girls should be above 18 years of age and should have dropped out of school and should be of tribal origin.
  • The initiative seeks to nurture and train young girls from India’s tribal heartland across three core areas – digital literacy, life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship.
  • The project also connects the women with senior experts in areas of business, fashion and arts to learn digital and life skills. 

Second phase of the programme:

  • In the second phase,the Facebook and Tribal ministry will partner to digitally mentor 5000 young women in India’s tribal dominated districts.
  • The program will include weekly one-to-one mentoring sessions.It will also focus on online safety, entrepreneurship among others.

Additional information:

About Tribal Population in India

  • As per the data of 2011 census about 104 million tribal people are living in India. 
  • Most of the tribal people are living in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andaman Nicobar Islands and some north-eastern states.

Shinyuu Maitri

News:The Indian Air Force will be carrying out a joint military exercise called ‘Shinyuu Maitri’ with Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) from 17 to 23 October 2019.


About Shinyuu Maitri:

  • Shinyuu Maitri is a bilateral air exercise between the Japanese Air Self Defence Force(JASDF) and Indian Air Force(IAF).
  • The exercise will be held at Air Force Station, Arjan Singh in Panagarh town,West Bengal.
  • The objective of the exercise will be to undertake Joint Mobility and Tactical interoperability among the two forces.
  • Indian Air force(IAF) C-130 J aircraft of Special Operations Squadron and JASDF’s C-130 H of Tactical Airlift Squadron will participate in the exercise.

Additional information:

Other exercises between India and Japan:

  • JIMEX- It is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Japan.
  • Exercise Malabar– It is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Sahayog-Kaijin – It is a joint bilateral exercise between Indian Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard.

Food Safety Mitra Scheme

News:Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has launched the Food Safety Mitra Scheme and Eat Right Smart Jacket.


About Food Safety Mitra scheme:

  • The scheme aims to create an ecosystem of food safety mitras(FSM) who will help Food Business organisations(FBO) with licensing and registration, training and auditing hygiene among others.
  • FSM is an individual professional certified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) who assists in compliances related to FSS Act, Rules & Regulations.
  • The food safety Mitra will have three avatars- Digital Mitra, Trainer Mitra and Hygiene Mitra depending upon their respective roles and responsibilities.

Significance of the scheme:

  • The scheme will lead to improved ease of doing business by creating a transparent and organized ecosystem.
  • It will support food businesses wherein food businesses will be able to get trained service providers at fair prices – lowering the costs of compliance

About Eat Right Jacket:

  • Eat Right Smart Jacket has been introduced to giving an identity to FSSAI staff to ensure transparent inspection. 
  • It’s embedded with an RFID tag and QR code.It is linked to software to capture entry of inspection staff into premise for monitoring.

Additional information:

About Eat Right India Movement

  • The Eat Right India Movement was launched by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2018. 
  • It is a preventive healthcare measure to trigger social and behavioural change among people.
  • The movement aims to improve public health in India and combat negative nutritional trends to fight lifestyle diseases.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a statutory autonomous body under Food Safety and Standards Act,2006.It comes under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.

Kafala System

News:Qatar has announced to extend the elimination of Kafala System to all the remaining workers.


About Kafala system:

  • The Kafala (Sponsorship) System emerged in the 1950’s to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers in many countries in West Asia.
  • The Kafala system requires foreign workers to have an in-country sponsor usually their employer or Kafeel who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
  • The migrant worker cannot enter the country,transfer employment or leave the country for any reason without first obtaining explicit written permission usually from his employer.
  • The system has been practiced in the Gulf Cooperation Council member countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and also in the Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon.
  • However,this practice has been criticised by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.

Qatar and Kafala system:

  • Qatar has introduced a series of labour reforms since its selection as the 2022 World Cup host.
  • In September 2018, Qatar had approved legislation to scrap the kafala system.
  • Further,Qatar has also introduced a monthly minimum wage of 750 riyals ($206) and agreed to work closely with the ILO, which now has an office in the capital.

National Security Guard(NSG)

News:Union Minister for Home Affairs celebrated the 35th raising day ceremony of National Security Guard (NSG) at NSG headquarters located in Manesar, Gurugram.


About National Security Guard(NSG):

  • National Security Guard(NSG) is a counter terrorism unit under the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • It was founded in 1984 following Operation Blue Star for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against internal disturbances.
  • The head of NSG is designated as Director General (DG) and  is selected and appointed by the Minister of Home Affairs.
  • The NSG personnel are often referred to in the media as Black Cats. They are also deployed to protect VIPs for whom the threat perception is the highest.
  • National Security Guard has also been given the specific role to handle all facets of terrorism in any part of the country as a Federal Contingency Force.

Bluetongue(BT) virus

News:Department of Animal Husbandry released two diagnostic kits developed by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.


About the diagnostic kits:

  • The diagnostic kits developed are Bluetongue sandwich ELISA(sELISA) and the Japanese Encephalitis lgM ELISA kit for the control of Swine and Detection of AntigenELISA.

About Bluetongue virus:

  • It is an insect-transmitted viral disease of domestic and wild ruminants that includes the camelid species.
  • The disease is widespread among the sheep, goats, cattle, buffaloes and camels in the country.
  • Bluetongue Virus can be controlled with the vaccination of susceptible animals, vector control and quarantine of infected animals with the good management practices.

About Japanese Encephalitis:

  • Japanese encephalitis is caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). 
  • JEV is a mosquito-borne flavivirus and belongs to the same genus as dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses.
  • The first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease(JE) was documented in 1871 in Japan.

Randomized Controlled Trial(RCT)

News:The three Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer are considered to be instrumental in using randomised controlled trials to test the effectiveness of various policy interventions to alleviate poverty.


About Randomised Control trial(RCT):

  • A Randomised Control trial is an experiment that is designed to isolate the influence that a certain intervention or variable has on an outcome or event.

How does RCT works?

  • A social science researcher who wants to find the effect that employing more teachers in schools has on children’s learning outcomes can conduct a randomized controlled trial to find the answer.
  • The RCT method says that any point in time,there are multiple factors that work in tandem to influence various social events.
  • For instance, to measure the impact that hiring more teachers can have on children’s learning,researchers must control for the effect that other factors such as intelligence, nutrition, climate, economic and social status etc.
  • RCTs promise to overcome this problem through the use of randomly picked samples.
  • Using these random samples,researchers can then conduct experiments by carefully varying appropriate variables to find out the impact of these individual variables on the final event.

Criticism of the Trial:

  • Critics have argued that an over-reliance on RCT-based research turns questions of poverty into bite-sized problems with a focus on correcting individual behaviour instead of grappling with the larger, systemic issues at hand.
  • Further,a popular critic of randomized controlled trials is economist Angus Deaton who won the economics Nobel Prize in 2015.
  • He had said that simply choosing samples for an RCT experiment in a random manner does not really make these samples identical in their many characteristics.

Pakistan to remain in FATF’s ‘Grey List’ till February 2020: Reports

News:The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list till February 2020.


Pakistan and FATF:

  • In June 2018,Financial Action Task Force(FATF) had greylisted Pakistan for failing to curb anti-terror financing.
  • FATF had given 15 months to Pakistan to complete implementation of a 27-point action plan failing which it be placed in the Black List.
  • It had asked Pakistan to implement 40 measures against money laundering and terror financing by banned outfits and non-government entities through banking and non-banking jurisdictions among others.
  • However,a report released by the FATF’s Asia Pacific Group has stated that Pakistan has implemented only one of the 40 measures.As for the other 39 measures,they were either implemented partially or overlooked totally.
  • The Pakistan government had also not made institutional changes to tackle terrorism financing and these organisations have come up under different names.

Additional information:

About FATF:

  • The Financial Action Task Force(FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.
  • It is a policy-making body which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in various areas.
  • The FATF Secretariat is housed at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France.


  • The objectives of the FATF are to (a) set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures (b) for combating money laundering (c)terrorist financing and (d) other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

Listing by FATF:FATF maintains two different lists of countries:

  • Grey list:The grey list contains those countries that have deficiencies in their anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) regime.But they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes, 
  • Black list:These countries are those that do not end up doing enough even after having deficiencies in their anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) regime.

Which countries are listed?

  • As of now there are only two countries in the blacklist which are Iran and North Korea.
  • Further,there are seven countries on the grey list which includes countries such as  Pakistan, Syria , Yemen among others.

Implications of listing:

  • Once a country is on grey list,the country is downgraded by institutions like IMF, World Bank, ADB, EU and also reduction in risk rating by Moody’s, Fitch and S&P.
  • Further,if the country is blacklisted,FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced due diligence and counter measures,increasing the cost of doing business with the country and in some cases severing it altogether.

U.S. House passes Hong Kong ‘Democracy Act’

News:The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a Hong Kong Democracy Act.


Why was the bill passed?

  • Hong Kong has been experiencing protests against a proposed law to allow extradition to mainland China but it has since transformed into a larger pro-democracy movement.
  • The protests have also increasingly turned violent with police being accused of brutality.

What the bill says?

  • The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act involves an annual review of whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its special trading status under US law.
  • The Bill urges China to uphold its commitments to Hong Kong which includes allowing Hong Kongers to govern with a high degree of autonomy and without undue interference.
  • It also states that Hong Kong voters should freely enjoy the right to elect the chief executive and all members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council by universal suffrage.
  • The Bill also adds that the US should allow Hong Kong residents to obtain visas to work or study in the United States even if they have been arrested for being part of non-violent protests supporting human rights or the rule of law.
  • In addition,those found responsible for abducting and torturing people for exercising internationally recognised human rights in Hong Kong would be sanctioned and barred from entering the US, should the measure become law.

How did China react?

  • China has asked the United States to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs.
  • China has said that its relationship with the United States would be damaged should the bill become law,

What is Hong Kong’s status?

  • Hong Kong is a former British colony which was handed back to China in 1997.
  • It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China.Those rights include freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
  • But those freedoms expires in 2047 and it is not clear what Hong Kong’s status will then be.

Van Dhan Internship Programme

News: Ministry of Tribal Affairs has launched Van Dhan Internship Programme.


About Van Dhan Internship Programme

  • It is being organised by TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • 18 interns (to be called Minister’s interns) from some of the reputed Institutes of Rural Management/ Management Institutions/ Institutes of Social Work/ Social Services of the country are  participating in the programme.
  • The period of internship is 6 months (extendable developing upon the need of the organisation and mutual sustainability.
  • Responsibilities of Interns
    • Work with the team of TRIFED in various states and districts in tribal areas in development of tribal welfare and inclusive growth.
    • Support the TRIFED activities on livelihood promotion, value addition of NTFTs, marketing and credit linkages
    • Develop tools and techniques on institutional development including mechanism for determination of a just price or producer price of Minor Forest Products.

About Van Dhan Yojana

  • The Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana was launched in 2018. It is a scheme of Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • Aim: It aims to help tribals in optimum utilization of natural resources and provide sustainable Minor Forest Produce (MFP)-based livelihood. It seeks to help increase tribal income through value addition of MFP centric products
  • Implementation of the Scheme:
    • The scheme is implemented through Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level. TRIFED acts as the Nodal Agency at the National Level.
    • Under the scheme, Van Dhan Vikas Kendras are set up. These centres cater to 10 Self Help Groups of and each group consist thirty tribal gatherers. They are trained and provided with working capital to add value to the products, which they collect from the jungle. The first Van Dhan Vikas Kendra was set up in Chattisgarh.
    • These SHGs can then market their products within and outside the States through retail network. Training and technical support is provided by TRIFED.

Additional Information:

Minor Forest Produce:

  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 defines minor forest produce as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin.
  • These include bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, etc.

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED)

  • It was established in 1987. It functions under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal affairs.
  • The basic objective of the TRIFED is to provide good price to the products made or collected from the forest by the tribal people

20th Livestock Census

News: The 20th Livestock Census has been released.


Key takeaways:

  • The total Livestock population is 535.78 million in the country showing an increase of 4.6% over Livestock Census-2012
  • Total Bovine population (Cattle, Buffalo, Mithun and Yak) is 302.79 Million in 2019 which shows an increase of about 1% over the previous census.
  • The total number of cattle in the country in 2019 is 192.49 million showing an increase of 0.8 % over previous Census.
  • The Exotic/Crossbred and Indigenous/Non-descript Cattle population in the country is 50.42 million and 142.11 million respectively.
  • The Indigenous/Non-descript female cattle population has increased by 10% in 2019 as compared to previous census.
  • The total poultry in the country is 851.81 million in 2019, registered an increase of 16.8% in the total poultry.
  • The population of the total Exotic/Crossbred Cattle has increased by 26.9 % in 2019 as compared to previous census.

About Livestock Census

  • It is conducted Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
  • The census has been conducted in the country periodically since 1919-20. It is conducted quinquennially (every five years). The 19th Census was conducted in 2012.
  • The Livestock Census covers all domesticated animals and its headcounts.
  • The major thrust given to 20th Livestock Census is the collection of data through tablets computers.

Additional Information:

Rashtriya Gokul Mission:

  • Rashritya Gokul Mission was launched in 2014. It seeks development and conservation of indigenous bovine (cattle) breeds (through selection of high genetic merit bulls for breeding).
  • The mission is under Department of Animal Husbandry and dairying, Ministry of Agriculture and Framers Welfare.
  • Objectives:
    • To undertake breed improvement programme for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve their genetic makeup and increase the stock.
    • To enhance milk production and productivity of indigenous bovine breeds.
    • To upgrade nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Red Sindhi etc.
    • Arrange quality Artificial Insemination services at farmers’ doorstep
  • Gokul Grams:  Integrated Indigenous Cattle development Centres – “Gokul Grams”- are established under mission with the aim of conservation and development of indigenous bovine breeds in a scientific and holistic manner.

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog:

  • It has been established by the government in 2019. It seeks for conservation protection and development of cows and their progeny.
  • It is high powered permanent body. At present it functions as a part of Rashtriya Gokul Mission under Department of Animal Husbandry and dairying, Ministry of Agriculture and Framers Welfare.
  • Functions:
    • provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes and
    • Ensure proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.
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