9 PM Current Affairs Brief – September 12th, 2019

24th World Energy Congress

News:The 24th World Energy Congress will be commenced in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates(UAE).

Facts:

About World Energy Congress:

  • The World Energy Congress is a triennial event organised by the London-based World Energy Council.
  • The Congress which took place for the first time in 1924 in London has been associated with several distinguished contributors to the modern world’s energy industry.
  • The Congress enables dialogue amongst Ministers, CEOs, policy makers and industry practitioners on critical developments in the energy sector.

24th World Energy Congress:

  • The 24th World Energy Congress will take place in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, United Arab Emirates from 9-12 September 2019.
  • The theme of this World Energy Congress is Energy for Prosperity which also represents the ambitious and dynamic energy transition of the country. 
  • The Congress is set to look into a future beyond hydrocarbons and will explore themes in sustainability, notably renewables,nuclear and even electric vehicles.

CHC Farm Machinery

News:Union Minister of State for Agriculture has launched a multilingual Mobile App named “CHC Farm Machinery”.

Facts:

About the App:

  • The “CHC Farm Machinery” is a mobile app.
  • The application will allow the farmers to avail the services of Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) located in a radius of 50 km.
  • This will help farmers to get affordable access to cutting-edge technology at their doorsteps.

Additional information:

About Customer Hiring Centres:

  • Customer Hiring Centres (CHCs) are basically a unit comprising a set of farm machinery, implements and equipment meant for hiring by farmers.
  • Marginal farmers (Farmers whose land holdings are less than two hectares of land), by virtue of their economic condition are unable to own farm machinery on their own or through institutional credit. 
  • Therefore in order to bring farm machinery available within the reach of small/marginal holdings,Custom Hiring Centres have been established.
  • Ideally,the CHCs should be located within a radius of 5 to 7 kms of land holdings.This will reduce the transport cost and time of transport of agricultural machinery.

India, ASEAN agree to review free trade pact in goods

News:India and the 10-member ASEAN nations have agreed to initiate a review of the bilateral free trade agreement(FTA) in goods to make it more user-friendly, simple and trade facilitative.

Facts:

About ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) 

  • The ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) is a free trade area among the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India.
  • The free trade agreement came into force from January 2010.
  • Under the pact, two trading partners set timelines for eliminating duties on the maximum number of goods traded between the two regions.

Why review is needed?

  • India-ASEAN trade deficit has widened significantly since the pact was implemented.
  • A NITI Aayog study reveals that India’s trade deficit with ASEAN doubled to $10 billion in 2017 from $5 billion in 2011.
  • One of the reasons for the growing deficit is the low utilisation of the FTA route by Indian exporters to ASEAN countries because of difficulties faced in negotiating the rules.

Additional information 

What are Free Trade Agreements?

  • FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non tariff barriers on substantial trade between them but capital or labor may not move freely.
  • FTAs normally cover trade in goods (such as agricultural or industrial products) or trade in services (such as banking, construction, trading etc).
  • FTAs can also cover other areas such as intellectual property rights (IPRs),investment, government procurement and competition policy etc.

Snow leopards

News:Experts at the 14th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has said that Conservation of snow leopards can prevent land degradation of the Himalayan ecosystem.

Facts:

About Snow Leopard:

Features:  

  • Snow leopards (Panthera uncial) belong to the family of cats called Felidae.
  • The snow leopard’s fur is whitish to gray with black spots on head and neck, but larger rosettes on the back, flanks and bushy tail.

Habitat:

  • Snow leopards are found in 12 range countries namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
  • In India,snow leopards are found in the high altitude areas above the forested areas above 3000m.
  • The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh constitute snow leopard Habitat range in India.
  • Further,they are also the State animal of Uttarakhand and the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan.

Conservation Status:

  • Snow leopards are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • They are also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Government of India has also identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high altitude Himalayas.

Major Threats:

  • Loss of Habitat and species
  • Man-animal conflict
  • Hunting of snow leopards for their fur and skin
  • Human habitation in and around their habitats

Conservation Measures:

  • Project snow leopard- It is a centrally-supported programme launched in 2009 by the Government of India.It is aimed at conservation of the Snow leopards species and its habitats.
  • Global Snow Leopard Forum-It was formed in 2013 by 12 countries encompassing the snow leopard’s range.The countries are Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Bishkek Declaration- The 12 range countries had signed the Bishkek Declaration to acknowledge that the snow leopard is an irreplaceable symbol of our nations’ natural and cultural heritage and an indicator of the health and sustainability of mountain ecosystems.
  • Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program-It is a joint initiative of range country governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector.Its goal is to secure the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.

HimVijay Exercise

News:Indian Army is scheduled to conduct a major Exercise called ‘HimVijay’.

Facts:

About the Exercise:

  • The exercise HimVijay will be conducted by 17 Mountain Strike Corps.
  • The exercise will take place in October,2019 in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • The Indian army will join with the integrated battle groups(IBGs) for this exercise.The Indian Air force(IAF) will also be part of the exercise for strategic airlift of personnel and equipment.
  • The primary aim of carrying out such an exercise is to test if the Mountain Strike Corps which is under the Eastern command can carry out operations in different terrains.

Additional information:

About Mountain strike Corps:

  • Mountain Strike corps is India’s first dedicated strike corps for mountain operations.
  • It focuses on the eastern end of the contested border to bolster India’s defence.
  • They can also be used in any mountainous region which means all the northern borders.

About Integrated Battle groups:

  • IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.
  • Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.
  • The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive.While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes, 
  • On the other hand, the defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.The composition of the IBGs would also depend on this.

Explained: A suicide every 40 seconds, taking stock of global trends

News:TheWorld Health Organization(WHO) has released a study which shows that suicides account for one death every 40 seconds.

Facts:

Key findings of the study:

  • The study has shown that close to 8 lakh people die due to suicide every year.In other words,suicides account for one death every 40 seconds.
  • The global age-standardized suicide rate for 2016 was 10.5 per 100,000.
  • The study has shown that 79% of the world’s suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries.But high-income countries also had the highest rate at 11.5 per 100 000.
  • Further,nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high-income countries,in contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the rate is more equal.
  • The study has also said that suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years after road injury.

Recommendations:The key interventions that have shown success in reducing suicides are 

  • restricting access to means
  • educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide
  • implementing programmes among young people to build life skills that enable them to cope with life stresses
  • Early identification, management and follow-up of people at risk of suicide.

Additional information:

Attempt to commit suicide not an offence

  • Parliament had passed the Mental health care Act in 2017.This act had brought changes in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalized attempted suicide).
  • The act says that a person who attempts to commit suicide will be presumed to be suffering from severe stress and shall not be subjected to any investigation or prosecution.
  • The act also envisages the establishment of Central Mental Health Authority and State Mental Health Authority.

World University Rankings

News: TheTimes Higher Education has released the World University Rankings 2020.

Facts:

  • The Times Higher Education has ranked 1,300 universities from 92 countries.
  • The University of Oxford retained the top position for the consecutive fourth year.
  • Times has also included 56 Indian institutions into the table this year, making India the fifth most-represented country in the list and the third in Asia (behind Japan and China).
  • The Indian Institute of Science(IISc) Bangalore topped the Indian universities on the list.However,its ranking fell from the 251-300 group in 2019 to the 301-350 bracket in 2020.
  • Further,this is for the first time since 2012 that an Indian university has not featured in the top 300 of the ranking.
  • According to THE,the best Indian institutions are generally characterized by relatively strong scores for teaching environment and industry income, but when it comes to an international outlook they perform poorly.

Additional information:

About TIMES 

  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by the Times Higher Education(THE) magazine.
  • The world university rankings are based on marks allotted under areas such as teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook with a maximum of 100 marks in each category and for overall performance.

Market Intervention Scheme(MIS)

News:Government is planning to procure almost 12 lakh metric tonnes of apple from Kashmir under the Market Intervention Price Scheme.

Facts:

About Market Intervention Price Scheme

  • Market Intervention Scheme(MIS) is a price support mechanism implemented on the request of State Governments.
  • The scheme aims for procurement of perishable and horticultural commodities in the event of a fall in market prices. 
  • MIS is implemented by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation , Government of India.
  • The Scheme is implemented when there is at least 10% increase in production or 10% decrease in the ruling rates over the previous normal year.
  • The objective of MIS is to protect the growers of these horticultural or agricultural commodities from making distress sale in the event of bumper crop during the peak arrival period when prices fall to a very low level. 

India’s oil demand to rise at fastest pace in world: Opec

News: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has released the World Oil Demand report.

Facts:

  • The report has said that India’s oil demand will rise by the fastest pace globally in 2019 and 2020 even as its economic expansion has slowed down.
  • However,the report also highlighted that India has experienced lower than expected growth rates for first half of 2019 amid ongoing structural challenges.
  • The report has said that structural reforms covering labour laws, taxation and the legal system can ease the path for India’s businesses in the coming year.

Additional information:

About OPEC:

  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) is a permanent, intergovernmental Organization.
  • It was created at the Baghdad Conference in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.It has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • OPEC aims to manage the supply of oil in an effort to set the price of oil on the world market and to avoid fluctuations that might affect the economies of both producing and purchasing countries.
  • According to its statutes,OPEC membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and which shares the ideals of the organization.
  • The current OPEC members are: (a)Algeria (b)Angola (c)Ecuador (d)Equatorial Guinea (e)Gabon (f)Iran (g)Iraq (h)Kuwait, (I)Libya (j)Nigeria (k)the Republic of the Congo (l)Saudi Arabia (j)United Arab Emirates and (k)Venezuela.

U.K. opens up two-year post-study work permit visa again

News:United Kingdom has decided to re-introduce the two-year post-study work visa for international students.

Facts:

  • The new visa rules will allow International students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job.
  • The move reverses a decision made in 2012 by the UK Government that forced overseas students to leave four months after finishing a degree.
  • The change will apply to international students in the UK who start courses at the undergraduate level or above from 2020.
  • This decision is aimed at attracting the brightest and the best students around the world and a sign of the UK’s ambition once the Brexit happens.

Additional information:

About Brexit:

  • Brexit is a term used to define United Kingdom coming out of European Union(EU).During a referendum in 2016,UK voted by a narrow margin in favour of Brexit.
  • Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any European Union(EU) member state the right to quit unilaterally and outlines the procedure for doing so.
  • The treaty gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal.

European Union:

  • The European Union is an international organization made up of 28 European countries.It governs common economic,social and security policies of its member states.
  • It operates an internal (or single) market which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.
  • The 19 EU countries use EURO as their official currency.But nine EU members namely Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom do not use the euro.

European Economic Area (EEA):

  • EEA brings together the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States namely Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in a single market referred to as the Internal Market.
  • Switzerland is not part of the EEA Agreement.The relations between Switzerland and the EU are framed by a series of bilateral treaties whereby the Switzerland has adopted various provisions of European Union law in order to participate in the Union’s single market without joining as a member state.

RBI panel to firm up mechanism for assessing adequacy of forex reserves

News:TheReserve Bank of India (RBI) has formed an internal group to assess whether foreign exchange reserves are adequate.The panel is expected to study how much reserves are adequate to cover various risks.

Facts:

  • According to Bimal Jalan Committee report, the RBI’s foreign exchange reserves in 2008 were higher than the country’s external debt.But this position has reversed in 2019.
  • At present,India’s foreign exchange reserves (more than $400 billion) are significantly lower than the country’s total external liabilities ($1 trillion) and even lower than total external debt ($500 billion). 
  • This position is opposite to that in 2008 when India’s foreign exchange reserves exceeded the then total external debt.
  • Therefore,RBI may be required to increase the size of its forex reserves with its accompanying implications for the balance sheet, risks and desired economic capital. 

Additional information:

About foreign exchange reserves:

  • Foreign exchange reserves are assets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies.These reserves are used to back liabilities and influence monetary policy.
  • These assets serve many purposes but are most significantly held to ensure that a central government agency has backup funds if their national currency rapidly devalues or becomes altogether insolvent.
  • The Foreign exchange reserves of India consists of four categories which are (a)Foreign Currency Assets (b)Gold (c)Special Drawing Rights(SDRs) and (d)Reserve Tranche Position.

Reserve tranche:

  • A reserve tranche is a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund(IMF) that can be withdrawn at any time without any interest during critical situations of a country.

Special drawing rights(SDR):

  • The Special drawing rights(SDR) is an international reserve asset created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries official reserves.The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.
  • The SDR basket Includes five currencies namely the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen and the British pound sterling.
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