9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 1st, 2019

BRAHMOS Supersonic Cruise Missile, with major indigenous systems, successfully test-fired

News: The land-attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been successfully test-fired.

Facts:              

  • It was jointly launched by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and BrahMos Aerospace from Balasore’s Integrated Test Range (ITR), Odhisa.
  • Features:
    • It has a strike range of 290 km.
    • It can be fired from land as well as sea-based platforms.
    • It features indigenous components such as propulsion system, airframe, and power supply.

About BrahMos Missiles:

  • The BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile.
  • It is developed by BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. (BAPL), New Delhi.
  • It is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets.
  • It has been operationalized in the Indian Armed Forces with all the three services.

Additional Information:

Supersonic Cruise Missiles:

  • A cruise missile is an unmanned self-propelled (till the time of impact) guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path.
  • Supersonic cruise missile travels at a speed of around 2-3 Mach i.e.; it travels a kilometre approximately in a second

BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. (BAPL)

  • The BAPL is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
  • It is named after Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers.
  • It is responsible for designing, developing, producing and marketing BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

International Astronomical Union names minor planet after Pandit Jasraj

News: International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named a minor planet after Indian musician Pandit Jasraj. He’s the first Indian musician to receive this honour.

Facts:

  • Minor planet 2006 VP32 (number -300128), has been named ‘Panditjasraj.’
  • The minor planet is an asteroid. It traverses the cosmos between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • It was discovered on November 11, 2006 by the Catalina Sky Survey, whose telescopes are based in Arizona in the United States.

Additional Information:

Minor Planets:

  • Minor planet is a term used to refer to a celestial object that is not a planet or comet which orbits the Sun.
  • Minor planets can be dwarf planets, asteroids, Trojans, centaurs, Kuiper belt objects, and other trans-Neptunian objects.
  • Ceres, found in 1801, was the first minor planet discovered. It is a dwarf planet.
  • As of September, there are 5, 41,131 numbered minor planets of a total of 79, 70, 78 observed bodies, with the rest being unnumbered minor planets.

International Astronomical Union

  • It is an international association of professional astronomers.
  • Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation.
  • It was founded in 1919. It is headquartered in Paris, France.

School Education Quality Index(SEQI)

News:NITI Aayog has released the first edition of the School Education Quality Index(SEQI).

Facts:

About SEQI:

  • SEQI has been developed by NITI Aayog to evaluate the performance of States and Union Territories(UTs) in the school education sector.
  • It has been developed through a collaborative process including key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the World Bank and sector experts.

Aim:

  • SEQI aims to drive policy reforms that will improve the quality of school education.
  • The index seeks to institutionalise a focus on enhancing education outcomes by driving improvements in learning levels, access, equity, infrastructure and governance processes.

Composition:

  • SEQI is based on a set of 30 critical indicators that measure the overall effectiveness, quality and efficiency of the Indian school education system. 
  • The indicators are categorized into (a)Outcomes and (b)Governance Processes Aiding Outcomes(GPAO). 
  • The Outcomes include (a)learning outcomes (b)access outcomes, (c)infrastructure and facilities for outcomes and (d)equity outcomes, 
  • GPAO includes (a)support system necessary for learning to take place like training and availability of teachers (b)attendance of students and teachers (c)administrative adequacy (d)training (d)accountability and (e)transparency.

Ranking process:

  • The States and UTs were ranked on their overall performance in the reference year 2016-17 as well as on the change in their performance between the reference year and base year (2015-16).
  • To facilitate like-to-like comparisons, States and UTs have been grouped as Large States, Small States and Union Territories. 
  • Within each of these groups, the indicator values have been appropriately scaled, normalized and weighted to generate an overall performance score and ranking for each State and UT.

Key takeaways from the index:

  • Among the large States,Kerala bagged the top spot while Uttar Pradesh scored the lowest for 2016-17. 
  • However, Haryana, Assam and Uttar Pradesh showed the most improvement in their performance in 2016-17 in comparison to the base year of 2015-16.
  • Among the small States, Manipur emerged as the top performer while Arunachal Pradesh came last in the category.
  • Among Union Territories, Chandigarh stood at the top position while Lakshadweep ranked lowest.
  • But it is to be noted that all seven UTs have shown an improvement in their performance.

Additional information:

NITI Aayog:

  • The NITI Aayog was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1,2015.
  • It is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India providing both directional and policy inputs.It had replaced planning commission as the premier think tank.
  • The NITI Aayog has been mandated with fostering cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis recognizing that strong States make a strong nation.
  • It also seeks to design and assist the implementation of strategic, long term policy frameworks and programme initiatives and also monitor their progress and efficacy.

Bathukamma

News:The Nine-day-long floral festival ‘Bathukamma’ has began in Telangana.

Facts:

About the festival:

  • Bathukamma festival is celebrated for nine days during Durga Navratri.
  • The word Bathukamma means- ‘Mother Goddess come to life’. 
  • The festival represents cultural spirit of Telangana.It is the state festival of Telangana.
  • The festival is celebrated to pray to the Goddess for health and achievements of each family. 
  • During the festival, flowers arranged and decorated on a big plat in conical shape in seven layers and this arrangement is called as Bathukamma.
  • All the women are dressed colorfully and form a circle around ‘Bathukamma’ and dance before immersing it to the nearest water body.

Saraswati Samman

News:Telugu poet K Siva Reddy has been awarded the prestigious Saraswati Samman, 2018.

Facts:

  • K Siva Reddy was awarded the Saraswati Samman award for his collection Pakkaki Ottigilite in 2018.

About Saraswati samman:

  • Saraswati Samman award was instituted by the KK Birla Foundation in 1991.
  • The award is given annually for an outstanding literary work written in any official Indian languages and published during the preceding 10 years.
  • It is the highest recognition in the field of Indian literature and carries a cash purse of Rs 15 lakh apart from a citation and a plaque.

Additional information:

  • To felicitate writers,the KK Birla Foundation has instituted three awards in the field of literature.
  • These are the (a)Saraswati Samman (b)Vyas Samman (for Hindi) and (c)Bihari Puraskar(for Hindi and Rajasthani writers of Rajasthan).

INS VIKRAMADITYA

News:Defence minister has addressed the personnel of Western Fleet on-board INS Vikramaditya off the coast of Goa.

Facts:

About INS Vikramaditya:

  • INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier.
  • The aircraft carrier was originally built as Baku and commissioned in 1987.
  • It served with the Soviet Navy and later with the Russian Navy (as Admiral Gorshkov) before being decommissioned in 1996. 
  • It was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2013 from Russia.

Features:

  • The aircraft carrier is 284mts long.It has a displacement of 40,000 tons and is the biggest and heaviest in the Indian Navy fleet.
  • It has a total of 22 decks and can accommodate 1600 persons.
  • The warship can also carry planes such as MiG-29K,Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters.

Climate Vulnerability Map of India

News:Government is planning to develop a pan India climate vulnerability assessment map.

Facts:

Why Climate Vulnerability map?

  • The map is being developed to prepare communities and people to meet the challenges arising out of climate.
  • The information specific to a state or even district is needed to meet the challenges of climate change.
  • Such climate vulnerability atlas has already been developed for 12 states in the Indian Himalayan Region, using a common framework.

Who will be developing the map?

  • The map is being developed under a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology(DST) under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation(SDC).
  • This research programme of DST is being implemented as part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem(NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • The atlas is expected to be ready by the middle of 2020.

Mapping method:

  • The map for the Himalayan region was developed in consultation with states.It has details up to the district level.
  • The national map will also do the same as vulnerability within a state may differ from one region or district to another.
  • A common set of indicators will be used for vulnerability profile and ranking of 650 districts all over the country.
  • Among the priority areas identified for research are glaciology, climate modeling, urban climate, extreme events and Himalayan ecosystem studies among others.

Significance of the map:

  • Climate risk is interplay of hazard, exposure and vulnerability.There is a rise in climate-sensitive livelihood of people.Hence a methodology for assessing vulnerability is critical for comparison and for planning adaptation strategies.
  • The map can also help reduce risk to climate change.It also helps in identifying what makes a state or district vulnerable to climate change.
  • Further, the vulnerability assessments will also be useful for officials, decision makers, funding agencies and experts to have a common understanding on vulnerability and enable them to plan for adaptation

Armed Forces Tribunal

News:The Centre has said that it was willing to appoint former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon as Chairman of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).

Facts:

About Armed forces tribunal:

  • Armed Forces Tribunal(AFT) is an Indian military tribunal.It was established as a statutory body in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.
  • The Principal Bench of AFT is in New Delhi.It also has 11 regional benches.

Objective:

  • The objective of AFT is to adjudicate complaints on the appointments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the (a)Army Act,1950 (b)The Navy Act,1957 and (c)the Air Force Act,1950.
  • It can further provide for appeals arising out of the orders of courts martial held under the above-mentioned Acts.

Composition:

  • The Composition of Armed Forces Tribunal consists of Judicial Members who are retired High Court Judges. 
  • The Administrative Members are retired Members of the Armed Forces who have held the rank of Major General/ equivalent or above for a period of three years or more.

Proceedings:

  • The Proceedings of AFT are conducted as per the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) rules,2008.The Tribunal normally follows the procedure as practiced by High Courts of India.
  • However,the Paramilitary forces including the Assam Rifles and Coast Guard are outside the tribunal’s purview.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme

News:Government of India in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds.

Facts:

About the scheme:

  • Sovereign Gold Bonds are government securities denominated in grams of gold.They are substitutes for holding physical gold.
  • The scheme was launched in November 2015 to reduce the demand for physical gold and shift a part of the domestic savings used for the purchase of gold, into financial savings.

Eligibility:

  • These bonds are restricted for sale to resident entities including individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs), Trusts, Universities, and Charitable Institutions.

Implementation:

  • The Reserve Bank of India issues these bonds on the strength of its gold reserves. 
  • These bonds pay an interest similar to international rates of borrowing gold.The bonds can also be used as collateral for loans.

Denomination:

  • The bonds will be denominated in multiple of grams of gold.The minimum permissible investment will be 1 gram of gold.
  • The maximum limit of subscribed shall be 4 KG for the individual, 4 Kg for HUF and 20 Kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March).

Duration of the bond:

  • The time period of the Bond will be for a period of 8 years with exit option in 5th, 6th and 7th year.

Taxation:

  • The interest on Gold Bonds shall be taxable as per the provision of Income Tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961). 
  • The capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB to an individual has been exempted.

Sales channel:

  • The bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL), designated post offices and National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange, either directly or through agents.

Tradability:

  • Bonds will be tradable on stock exchanges within a fortnight of the issuance on a date as notified by the RBI.

Changes in Apprenticeship Rules notified

News:Government has notified changes in Apprenticeship Rules(1992) with an aim to increase skilled manpower in the country and raise monetary compensation of apprentices.

Facts:

What is Apprenticeship?

  • The Apprenticeship Training programme is the combination of on-the-job training and classroom training wherein the workers earn while learning the skills required for performing the specialized job.

Salient Features of notified Apprenticeship Rules:

  • The hiring limit of apprentices has been raised to 15% of the total strength of an establishment.
  • The minimum stipends have been doubled to between Rs 5,000 and Rs 9,000 per month.
  • The stipend for graduate apprentices or degree apprentices has been increased to Rs 9,000 per month.
  • For school pass outs, between Class 5th and 9th,the stipend has been increased to Rs 5,000 per month.
  • The Centre has also lowered the size limit of an establishment with a mandatory obligation to engage apprentices on an optional basis from 40 to 30.

Electoral Bond Scheme

News:Government of India has notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018.

Facts:

About Electoral Bond Scheme:

  • Electoral bonds allows donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.
  • The bond would be a bearer instrument in the nature of a Promissory Note and an interest free banking instrument.
  • It can be bought for any value in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.

Eligibility:

  • As per provisions of the Scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India or entities incorporated or established in India. 
  • A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds either singly or jointly with other individuals. 
  • Only the registered political parties which have secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Issuance of bonds:

  • The bonds are issued by Scheduled Commercial banks upon authorization from the Central Government to intending donors but only against cheque and digital payments (it cannot be purchased by paying cash).
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How will the bonds help:According to the government,electoral bonds will help in:

  • Promoting transparency in funding and donations received by political parties 
  • Building a transparent system of acquiring bonds with validated KYC and an audit trail.
  • It will also prompt donors to take the banking route to donate with their identity captured by the issuing authority.This will ensure transparency and accountability.

Issues with Electoral bonds:

  • Electoral bonds keeps the identity of the donor absolutely confidential.
  • The bond would enable corporate houses to anonymously donate their unaccounted cash to political parties.
  • The ordinary citizens will not be able to know who is donating how much money to which political party.
  • The contribution received by any eligible political party in the form of electoral bonds will be exempt from income-tax as per Section 13A of the Income Tax Act.
  • Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.

Explained: How to read corporate tax cut

News:Recently, the Government has reduced the corporate tax rates in order to encourage manufacturing and boost private investment.

Facts:

What has the government done?

  • The central government has slashed corporate tax rates for domestic firms from 30% to 22% and for new manufacturing companies from 25% to 15% to boost economic growth.
  • The new effective tax rate inclusive of surcharge and cess for domestic companies would be 25.17% and for new domestic manufacturing companies would be 17.01%.
  • Also,the Minimum Alternate Tax(MAT) will not apply to such companies.

Significance of the rate cut:The tax rate cut does the following

  • The rate cut leaves corporates with more money which they can use to either reinvest in existing firms or invest in new ventures.
  • In the medium to long term that is anywhere between one or two and five years or more, a corporate tax cut is expected to boost investments and increase the productive capacity of the economy.
  • The additional money may lead to a secondary round effect where these companies may hire more employees.
  • The rate cut is also expected to give a great stimulus to ‘Make In India’, by attracting private investment from across the globe and improving  the competitiveness of the private sector.

Concerns of the rate cut:

  • The rate cut will cost the government Rs 1.45 lakh crore annually.This increases the chances of higher fiscal deficit.
  • The corporate tax cut also depresses economic activity to the extent that it reduces the money in the hands of the government in the form of tax revenues.
  • The states will also be impacted as 42% of Union taxes is devolved to the states.Hence,they will receive almost Rs 61,000 crore less from the Central government.

Enterprise development centres

News:Union micro, small and medium enterprises sector (MSME) minister will launch the enterprise development centres(EDCs).

Facts:

About EDC

  • Enterprise Development Centres(EDCs) are aimed at developing a cadre of indigenous entrepreneurs in the MSMEs.
  • They are planned for every district by the end of the current financial year (2019-20).
  • The EDCs will be similar to incubators for start-ups.They will be run by special purpose vehicles in partnership with the private sector, business management organisations, local industry associations.
  • The centre will help new and existing businesses develop by providing services such as management training, and office space among others.
  • The EDCs will also have enterprise clinics for struggling firms which the government hopes will reduce the number of small businesses falling into a debt trap financed by bank loans.

Additional information:

About MSME’s

  • The Micro- Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are small sized entities defined in terms of their size of investment.
  • The MSMEs are classified in terms of investment made in plant and machinery if they are operating in the manufacturing sector and investment in equipment for service sector companies.
  • However,MSME(Amendment) Bill,2018 which has not been passed yet proposes a uniform classification for all MSMEs.
  • Under the Bill,all MSMEs,whether they are manufacturing or service providing enterprises will be classified on the basis of their annual turnover.

Framework to sustain India’s ‘100% ODF status’

News: Jal Shakti Ministry’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) has launched a 10-year national rural sanitation strategy.

Facts:

Aim: The strategy seeks to sustain India’s 100% Open Defecation Free (ODF) status claimed by the Union government, on September 27, 2019.

Duration: The framework will be in place from 2019 to 2029.

Focus Areas:

  • It will ensure that people sustain their usage of toilets.
  • It will also focus on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge in rural areas.

Implementation:

  • A district-level training management unit (TMU) will be set up. It will provide oversight and support to gram panchayats (GPs) so that they ensure the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure.
  • The GPs are also supposed to conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps.

Financing:

  • Government funding is the primary source of financing.
  • Further, there will be alternative self-financing by gradual leveraging of community resources in the form of tariffs for ODF plus activities.
  • 60:40 financing model as being followed till now in Swachh Bharat.

Additional Information:

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

  • It is a cleanliness campaign initiated by Govt. of India in 2014. It seeks to achieve a Clean India by 2019, as a tribute to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • It has two sub-missions. Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban):
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) aims to improve the levels of cleanliness in rural areas through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities and making villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) and clean. It is implemented by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Jal Shakti Ministry
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) aims at elimination of open defecation, conversion of unsanitary toilets to pour flush toilets, eradication of manual scavenging, municipal solid waste management and bringing about a behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices. It is implemented by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
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