9 PM Current Affairs Brief – September 16th, 2019

Vulture Conservation in India

News: The current population of vultures in Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC) in India is 700.

Facts:

About Vultures in India

  Species IUCN Status
1 White rumped vulture Critically Endangered
2 Slender billed vulture Critically Endangered
3 Long billed vulture Critically Endangered
4 Red headed vulture Critically Endangered
5 Egyptian vulture Endangered
6 Himalayan Griffon Near Threatened
7 Cinereous vulture Near Threatened
8 Bearded vulture Near Threatened
9 Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) Least Concern

Out of 23

species of vultures in the world, nine are found in India. These include:

Threats to Vulture Population in India

  • Diclofenac: Feeding on cattle carcass with contaminated vetnary drug diclofenac has led to fatality among vulture population.
  • Habitat loss
  • Low food availability
  • Infectious diseases
  • Environmental pollution

Conservation Efforts

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has prohibited the manufacture of Diclofenac for animal use in 2008 and has also restricted packaging of multi-dose vials of Diclofenac to single dose for humans.
  • The central government has formulated a National Action Plan (2006) on Vulture Conservation. The Action Plan provides for strategies, actions for containing the decline of vulture population through ex-situ, in-situ vulture conservation.
  • Bombay Natural History Society in collaboration with the Haryana State Forest Department has set up Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC) in Pinjore. A ‘Vulture Captive Care facility’ has been established at Panchkula.
  • Vulture Breeding Facilities have been set up Rani, Guwahati (Assam), Buxa (West Bengal), Pinjore (Haryana) and Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh).
  • Breeding facilities at Zoos at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Junagarh and Hyderabad have also been set up through Central Zoo Authority.
  • Vulture Safe Zones: It is an area designated as natural habitats of vultures. The area is made free of diclofenac contaminated carcasses. It aims to sustain and increase vulture populations. VSZ are there in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam.
  • Jatayu Restaurant: These are areas where regular and safe food supply is provided to attract vultures in to the safe area and to retain vultures already there.
    White backed, Long Billed and Slender Billed Vultures are listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Additional Information:

Bombay Natural History Society

  • It is a pan-India wildlife research organization and seeks to promote the cause of nature conservation. It was established in 1883.

India, Australia to elevate strategic partnership

News:India and Australia are likely to conclude the mutual logistics support agreement and a broader maritime cooperation agreement to elevate the strategic partnership.

Facts:

About the Logistics agreement:

  • Logistics agreements are administrative arrangements facilitating access to military facilities for exchange of fuel and simplifying logistical support and increasing operational turnaround.
  • Currently, defence cooperation between the two countries is based on (a)Memorandum on Defence Cooperation 2006 (b)Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation 2009 and (c)bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation 2014.

Maritime Cooperation agreement:

  • India and Australia have already expanded cooperation in maritime domain awareness. 
  • The maritime cooperation agreement with a border mandate is important for better maritime domain awareness.
  • The Indian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are also partners in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS).

About Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS):

  • IONS is an international maritime security initiative launched in February 2008.
  • It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among the navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
  • There are 36 littoral in the Indian Ocean which have been geographically grouped into the four sub-regions.

About AUSINDEX:

  • AUSINDEX is a biennial bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN). 
  • The first edition of the exercise, AUSINDEX-15 took place in 2015 off the East Coast of India. 
  • The exercise is aimed at strengthening professional interaction and enhance interoperability between the two navies. It seeks to strengthen maritime cooperation between India and Australia.

Indian Air Force receives Spice-2000 ‘building blaster’ buster bombs

News:Indian Air Force(IAF) has received the new version of the guided air-to-ground Spice-2000 bombs from Israel.

Facts:

About SPICE 2000:

  • SPICE stands for Smart, Precise Impact, Cost Effective.
  • The bomb comes from a family of standoff air-to-ground weapon systems.
  • The bomb is basically an electro-optical/GPS guidance kit to convert air dropped unguided bombs into precision guided ‘Smart’ bombs.
  • SPICE has a stand-off range of 60 km.It is a highly sophisticated piece of weaponry.
  • These bombs are difficult to detect by most ground-based radars.
  • SPICE can also overcome errors in locating the target,GPS jamming and reduces collateral damage.

Additional information:

About precision-guided munition:

  • A precision-guided munition (PGM, smart weapons, smart munitions, smart bomb) is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target to minimize collateral damage and increase lethality against intended targets.

Mid-Autumn Festival

News:Asian countries and communities around the world has celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Facts:

About Mid-Autumn Festival:

  • It is a harvest festival that marks the end of the autumn harvest and appearance of the fullest moon of the year.
  • It is an important celebration across East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, particularly those having Chinese communities.
  • Since the festival is meant to mark a good harvest,food plays an important role in celebrations in all countries.

Does India also celebrate autumnal harvest?

  • The diversity of culture in India has resulted in unique versions of harvest festivals for the spring and autumn harvest cycles.
  • Mizoram:The festival of Mim Kut is celebrated in the months of August & September after maize crops are harvested.
  • Odisha:The festival of Nuakhai is celebrated a day after Ganesh Chaturthi.The name of the festival Nuakhai means “new” (Nua) “rice” (Khai) after the new harvest of rice.
  • Arunachal Pradesh:Bugun,a scheduled tribe celebrates Pham Kho Sowai,a harvest festival that starts around September 10 every year.The festival involves worship of the mountain and water sources like rivers, that are the main sources of livelihood for this tribe.
  • Kerala:Onam is a harvest festival in Kerala where food is an integral part of the celebrations.The festival involves music, dance and other cultural practices and preparation of other dishes using seasonal vegetables served on a banana leaf.

India’s mega shopping festivals: What is being planned and what is the impact?

News:Government has announced that India will be organising an annual mega shopping festival in four Indian cities on the lines of massive Dubai Shopping Festival.

Facts:

About the festival:

  • The mega shopping festival will be held in four major cities by March 2020.The festival is aimed to push more people-to-people contacts and connections.
  • The festival is expected to follow the model of Dubai’s annual shopping festival which is famous for the heavy discounts offered by retailers in the city on popular brands across sectors.
  • However,India’s own mega shopping festival will have different themes in each of the four cities and is expected to focus on sectors like gems and jewellery, yoga, tourism and textiles and leather.
  • The festival is expected to give a boost to exports of micro, small and medium enterprises(MSMEs) as they will be a potential showcase of the products that India has to offer in the specified themes.

Government should protect Sentinelese in their own environment,says expert

News: A research paper has argued that the Sentinelese tribe should be protected by the government in its own environment and chosen circumstances. 

Facts:

About Sentinelese tribe:

  • The Sentinelese are a negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman.
  • Based on carbon dating by the Anthropological Survey of India, Sentinelese presence was confirmed in the islands to 2,000 years ago.

Demography

  • The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers, likely using bows and arrows to hunt and more rudimentary methods to catch local seafood.
  • It is known that the Sentinelese speak their own language, the Sentinelese language.
  • Currently,their numbers are believed to be less than 150 and as low as 40.

Protection under law:

  • The Sentinelese and other aboriginal tribes of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are protected under The Andaman and Nicobar (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation,1956
  • The entire North Sentinel Island including the coastal sea extending up to 5 Kms has been declared as Tribal Reserve.
  • Government has also prohibited entry of all persons except those with authorisation.
  • Further,photography or filming the tribe members is also an offence.But restricted area permits were relaxed for some islands recently.

Why are they protected?

  • Sentinelese have been hostile to outside contact.They have been mostly left alone even from colonial times unlike other tribes such as the Onges, Jarawas and Great Andamanese,because the land they occupy has little commercial attraction.
  • Further,having lived in isolation,the Sentinelese have no immunity or resistance to even the commonest of infections.

Additional information:

Restricted Area Permit:

  • Restricted Area Permit(RAP) regime was notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.
  • Under it,foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless Government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify their visit.
  • Every foreigner, except citizens of Bhutan who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area is required to obtain special permit from competent authority having power to issue such permits to foreigners, seeking it.
  • However,the citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are an exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.

Goods And Services Tax (GST) Network

News:Goods and Services Tax Network(GSTN) has decided to make Aadhaar authentication mandatory for new dealers from January 2020 to check malpractices in GST.

Facts:

About GST Network:

  • The GST Network(GSTN) is a non-profit organization.It has been established to manage the entire IT system of the GST portal.
  • This portal is used by the government to track every financial transaction and it also provides taxpayers with all services from registration to filing taxes and maintaining all tax details.
  • The GSTN was initially held by the Central Government with 24.5% of shares while the state government held 24.5%.The remaining 51% were held by non-Government financial institutions.
  • However,later it was made a wholly owned government company having equal shares of state and central government.

About Aadhar:

  • The Aadhaar number is a verifiable twelve-digit unique identity number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to the residents of India.
  • It is linked with the resident’s demographic and biometric information.
  • The Aadhaar project was conceptualised in the year 2006 and launched in the year 2009 with the creation of Unique Identification Authority of India(UIDAI).
  • The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act,2016 provides legislative backing to the project.

Army to get indigenous tank ammunition

News:The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the indigenous development of ammunition for the Army’s T-90 tanks.

Facts:

About T-90:

  • The T-90S ‘Bhishma’ is a main battle tank of the Indian Army.
  • India had procured T-90 from Russia in 2001 and deliveries started in 2004.
  • The tank is equipped with a new turret weapon station with an upgraded 125mm gun. 
  • The tanks also sport an advanced and highly automated digital fire control system(FCS) to annihilate enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and other armoured targets. 
  • The tank also has a guided missile system which can destroy armoured targets including those equipped with explosive reactive armour (ERA) and has a range up to 5 kilometres. 
  • The tank has a protection system to insulate and help its crew operate in a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical attack environment.

Additional Information:

About Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):

  • Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) is the highest decision making body for military procurement.It was formed in 2001.It is headed by Defence minister.
  • The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought and time frame prescribed by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
  • DAC also gives policy guidelines to acquisitions based on long-term procurement plans.
  • It also clears all acquisitions including imported equipment and those produced indigenously or under a foreign licence.

Survey of India to deploy 300 drones for mapping country

News: The Survey of India (SoI), will for the first time, use about 300 drones to map the country

Facts:

  • The map being prepared through the drones will be of 1:500 resolution, meaning 1 cm on the map will represent 500 cm on the ground.
  • At present, the best SoI maps have a resolution of 1:2500 meaning a 1 cm on the map represents 2500 cm on the ground.

Significance:

  • The drone mapping will help SoI in getting unprecedented detail of India’s landscape
  • It will also help creating high resolution maps of land in villages facilitating the digitisation of land titles in villages

Additional Information:

Survey of India

  • Survey of India is the national survey and mapping organization of India. It functions under the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • It was set up in 1767 and is the oldest scientific department of India.
  • It provides user focused, cost effective, and reliable and quality geospatial data, information and intelligence to meet the needs of national security, sustainable national development and information markets.
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