9 PM Current Affairs Brief – September 26th, 2019

Economic Advisory Council

News:Government of India has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM) for a period of two years with effect from 26th September 2019.

Facts:

About EAC-PM:

  • Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM)  is a non-constitutional, non-permanent and independent body constituted to give economic advice to the Government of India, specifically the Prime Minister.

Terms of reference:

  • Analyzing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the Prime Minister and advising the PM.
  • Addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister.This could be either suo-moto or on a reference from the Prime Minister.

Members:

  • The PMEAC is chaired by a Chairperson and consists of eminent economists as members.
  • It is supported in its functions by a team of officials and administrators. There is no fixed definition on the exact number of members and staff of the PMEAC.

Global Goalkeepers Award 

News:Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the ‘Global Goalkeeper Award’.

Facts:

About the award:

  • The award is conferred by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.The annual awards are presented in five categories.
  • They are presented to leaders and individuals for their efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
  • The categories are Progress, Changemaker, Campaign, Goalkeepers Voice and the Global Goalkeeper.
  • Indian Prime minister has received the award for his leadership and commitment to the Swachh Bharat mission.

Additional information:

About Swachh Bharat mission:

  • Swachh Bharat mission is a cleanliness campaign initiated by Govt. of India in 2014.
  • The mission seeks to achieve a Clean India by 2019 as a tribute to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • It has two sub-missions (a) Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) which is implemented by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation,Jal Shakti Ministry and (b) Swachh Bharat Mission(Urban) which is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Prime minister inaugurates Solar Park, Peace Garden at UN

News:Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park and Gandhi Peace Garden at the headquarters of the United Nations on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Facts:

About Solar Park:

  • Solar park is a first of its kind Indian effort at the U.N that highlights India’s willingness to go beyond the talk on climate change and climate action.
  • It is a 50 kWh roof-top solar park which has 193 solar panels each  representing a member of the multilateral body.
  • The energy generated in the park is equivalent to energy that would have been created through the use of 30,000 kg of coal. 
  • The park also has a carbon sequestration of 1,000 seedlings which will grow into trees over 10 years.

About Gandhi Peace Garden:

  • Gandhi Peace Garden is an initiative under which Consulate General of India in New York, Shanti Fund NGO and the State University of New York-Old Westbury have entered into an agreement to plant 150 trees.
  • It is a crowdsourced project with people adopting trees in memory of their loved ones at the State University of New York-Old Westbury campus. 
  • The garden is dedicated in memory of Mahatma Gandhi and seeks to underline that his principles act as a moral compass as world grapples with challenges of climate change, terrorism and corruption.

Higher Education Commission of India bill

News:Government is likely to introduce the Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) Bill in the winter session of Parliament.

Facts:

Key features of the bill:

  • The bill aims to create a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) replacing the University Grants Commission(UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE).
  • The bill proposes to bring almost all areas of higher education including technical, architectural and legal courses except medical education under the ambit of a HECI.
  • The HECI will maintain academic standards in higher education by (a)specifying learning outcomes for courses (b)specifying eligibility criteria for Vice Chancellors and (c)ordering closure of higher educational institutions which fail to adhere to minimum standards.
  • The bill says that person appointed as Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and Members shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or upto 70 years of age.
  • Further, the bill provides for a new autonomous body which will be created to supervise the doling out of funds to higher education institutions.

Additional information:

About UGC:

  • The University Grants Commission of India (UGC India) is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act,1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • It is charged with coordination,determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.It provides recognition to universities in India and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.

About AICTE:

  • The All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE) is the statutory body and a national-level council for technical education.
  • It works under Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • It was initially established in 1945 as an advisory body and later on in 1987 given statutory status by an Act of Parliament.
  • AICTE is responsible for proper planning and coordinated development of the technical education and management education system in India. 

SIDHIEE Portal

News:Union Minister for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises has launched Knowledge Management Portal “SIDHIEE”.

Facts:

  • The portal was launched at the National Conclave on Enhancing Energy Efficiency.
  • This Conclave was organized by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency(BEE).

SIDHIEE Portal

  • The portal was launched under the Bureau of Energy Efficiency Micro Small and Medium Enterprises(BEE’s MSME) Programme.
  • The portal will host useful information including fifty videos of multimedia tutorials for MSMEs for early adoption of energy-efficient technologies.

About BEE:

  • The BEE is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power,Government of India.
  • It was set up under the provisions of Energy Conservation Act,2001.
  • Its mission is to assist in developing policies with the primary objective of reducing energy intensity of the Indian Economy.
  • BEE coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies and other organizations.
  • It recognizes,identifies and utilizes the existing resources and infrastructure in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

News:Indian Prime Minister has made a pitch for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) in New York.

Facts:

About Nuclear suppliers group:

  • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons
  • The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
  • The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • The NSG has 48 member states and the European Commission acts as an Observer.

India and NSG:

  • Since 2008,India has sought membership in the NSG.The NSG had granted India a clean waiver from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT).
  • India had also submitted its membership application to the NSG in May 2016, a month before the Seoul plenary of the Group.However at the Seoul plenary group,India’s membership was blocked by China.

Roadblocks in India’s NSG membership:

  • NSG operates by consensus and all its current members are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • China has relied on an obstructionist argument claiming that a compulsory requirement for NSG membership is that they must be signatories to the NPT.
  • China equates India with Pakistan which has an established history of nuclear proliferation.

Significance of NSG for India:

  • The NSG is the top club of countries which controls access to technology and guards against proliferation.Its membership is important for India to access cutting-edge high technology.

Additional information:

About Non-Proliferation Treaty:

  • The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of disarmament.
  • Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device before January 1,1967.
  • India did not sign it as the treaty was discriminatory.India argued that treaties like NPT were selectively applicable to only non-nuclear powers and legitimized the monopoly of nuclear power by a few.

Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT)

News:The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) will now become an independent organization led by an Executive Director.

Facts:

About GIFCT:

  • Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism(GIFCT) was formally established in July 2017.
  • The forum was led by a rotating chair drawn from the founding four companies—Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube.
  • The main aim of the forum is to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms.

Objectives:

  • Improve the capacity of a broad range of technology companies, independently and collectively, to prevent and respond to abuse of their digital platforms by terrorists and violent extremists
  • Enable multi-stakeholder engagement around terrorist and violent extremist misuse of the internet and encourage stakeholders to meet key commitments consistent with the GIFCT mission
  • Encourage those dedicated to online civil dialogue and empower efforts to direct positive alternatives to the messages of terrorists and violent extremists
  • Advance broad understanding of terrorist and violent extremist operations and their evolution, including the intersection of online and offline activities.

Structure:

  • The GIFCT will be restructured as an independent membership organization led by an Executive Director and supported by dedicated staff. 
  • The funding for the core operations of the forum will be drawn from industry contributions.

Right Livelihood Award

News:Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has won the Right Livelihood Award.

Facts:

About the Right Livelihood Award:

  • The Right Livelihood Award was created in 1980 by Swedish-German philatelist Jakob von Uexkull.The award is also known as the alternative Nobel Prize.
  • The award was created after Nobel Foundation behind the Nobel Prizes refused to create awards honouring efforts in the fields of the environment and international development.
  • The award consists of a cash prize of one million Swedish kronor ($103,000 or 94,000 euro) for each laureate meant to support the recipient’s work.

Purpose of the Right Livelihood Award:The purpose of Right Livelihood Awards is to promote scientific research, education, public understanding and practical activities which:

  • contribute to a global ecological balance
  • are aimed at eliminating material and spiritual poverty
  • contribute to lasting peace and justice in the world.

Pacific Islands Developing States (PSIDS)

News:Indian Prime Minister has met leaders of the Pacific small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York,USA.

Facts:

  • Prime Minister has announced a USD 150 million line of credit to the group of Pacific island nations for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate related projects based on their requirement.

What are Small Island Developing States(SIDS)? 

  • Small Island Developing States(SIDS) are a distinct group of developing countries facing specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. 
  • SIDS were recognized as a special case both for their environment and development at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) also known as the Earth Summit.
  • The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) represents this group of states.

How many are SIDS states?

  • The UN has never established any criteria to determine an official list of SIDS” but it maintains a shorter, unofficial list for analytical purposes.The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists 57 small island developing states.

Where are the SIDS located?

  • SIDS are spread over three geographical regions, namely (a)Caribbean, (b)the Pacific and the Atlantic (c)Indian Ocean (d)Mediterranean and (e)South China Sea(AIMS).

What is the Barbados Programme of Action?

  • The United Nations has been assisting and extending cooperation to SIDS in their sustainable development efforts through the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS finalized at the Global Conference held in Barbados in 1994 known also as the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA).

Zero budget natural farming

News:Noted agriculturist Subhash Palekar has said that the zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) can act as an alternative method of agriculture to resolve the plight of farmers.

Facts:

About Zero budget natural farming(ZBNF):

  • Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a farming practice that believes in natural growth of crops without adding any fertilizers and pesticides or any other foriegn elements. 
  • The word Zero Budget refers to the zero net cost of production of all crops.Natural farming’ means farming with Nature and without the use of fertilisers.

Four wheels of ZBNF:

  • Jeevamrutha: It is a fermented microbial culture that uses urine and dung from an indigenous cow breed and paste of green gram to rejuvenate the soil to provide micro-nutrients to crops.
  • Bijamrita: It is a treatment used for seeds, seedlings or any planting material.
  • Acchadana: It promotes mulching and soil aeration for favourable soil conditions.
  • Whapasa: It means providing water to maintain the required moisture-air balance.

Benefits of ZBNF:

  • The yields of various crops have been found to be significantly higher in the ZBNF.
  • The Input costs are near zero as no fertilizers and pesticides are used in this method.
  • There will be no toxic chemical residues released in the environment.
  • This method also reduces the use of water and electricity.
  • This method may also end reliance on loans and cut the production costs ending the debt cycle.

Concerns of ZBNF:

  • Experts have said that the term ‘zero budget’ is misleading as modern agriculture requires a whole set of expensive external inputs apart from sizeable capital investments initially.
  • Recently, Maharashtra have reverted back to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years.

Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS)

News:India’s food safety regulator has said that Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme(PGS) should incentivise more farmers to grow organic food.

Facts:

What is Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)?

  • PGS is an internationally applicable organic quality assurance system. Participatory Guarantee System –India (PGS-India) is a decentralised organic farming certification system. 
  • The system certifies organic products maintaining the requisite quality standards including ensuring that the cultivation and production process is done complying the standards laid down for organic product.
  • The scheme is implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

Benefits of PGS:

  • PGS helps small and marginal farmers to easily get access to organic certification.
  • It is cost effective, hassle-free and most important of all farmer-friendly.
  • It helps in increasing domestic demand for organic produce.
  • It also provides training to farmers in the management of documents and fulfilment of requirements that are needed for the certification process.

Concerns under PGS:

  • PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of contiguous villages.
  • The individual farmers or groups of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS.

India Water Week-2019

News:President of India has inaugurated the 6th India Water Week-2019, at Vigyan Bhavan,New Delhi.

Facts:

About India water week:

  • India Water Week is a forum where international and national experts, who are associated with water issues are invited to join in and share their views, opinions and solutions regarding the water crisis.
  • The water week is organised by the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation,Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The theme of the India Water Week-2019 is ‘Water Cooperation – Coping with 21st Century Challenges”.

ADB cuts India’s GDP growth forecast to 6.5% for FY20

News:Asian Development Bank has released an update to its flagship Asian Development Outlook,2019.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The report has slashed India’s growth forecast for fiscal 2019-20 to 6.5% from 7% projected in July,2019.
  • The growth was lowered due to slowdown in consumption and investment activities that hit manufacturing and service sectors.
  • ADB has said that proactive policy interventions along with a recovery in domestic demand and investments will likely see the economy pick up to 7.2% in 2020-21.
  • The report has also said that the measures such as (a)corporate tax cuts (b)direct income support for small farmers (c)tax relief for low-income taxpayers and (d)reduced loan interest rates will boost the growth.
  • Further,the foreign direct investment could get a boost as trade tensions between the United States and China may push some businesses to move part of their operations to India.
  • However, the ADB cautioned that risks remain tilted to the downside due to the weak global economy and slowdown in the consumption on domestic front.

Additional information:

About Asian Development Bank(ADB):

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966.
  • ADB is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
  • It assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
  • ADB has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside. 
  • Japan and US holds the largest proportion of shares in ADB followed by China, India and Australia. ADB is also an official United Nations Observer.

Exercise Tiger Triumph

News:India and the United States are set to hold their first tri-services exercise code-named Tiger Triumph at Visakhapatnam and Kakinada in November,2019.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • The tri service drill is being organised under the aegis of the headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff.
  • The exercise will see the participation of a special forces reconnaissance team of the US.
  • The focus of the drill will be on amphibious humanitarian disaster and relief (HADR) operations.
  • This is the first time US and India will be holding the tri-service military exercise.India had earlier conducted such tri-service exercise with Russia.

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