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DU scientists discover frog in Assam, name it after Northeast

  1. A team of scientists from Delhi University and the Wildlife Institute of India, in collaboration with researchers from Indonesia and the US, have discovered a new species frog from Assam in Northeast India.
  2. The frog belongs to the microhylid genus Micryletta. Micryletta is a group of narrow-mouthed frogs that is primarily and widely distributed in Southeast Asia. They are commonly known as paddy frogs.
  3. The new species of the frog has been named Micryletta aishani (derived from the Sanskrit word ‘aishani’ or aisani meaning northeast).
  4. The first known species of this genus was first described from Sumatra in Indonesia. Currently, there are only four recognised species in this group. Micryletta aishani has become the fifth.
  5. According to scientists, Micryletta aishani is currently endemic to Northeast India. However, they could also be present in neighbouring regions of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  6. Micryletta aishani has features which makes it different from other paddy frogs. These characteristics include a) reddish-brown colouration on back, b) prominent dark streaks and ash-grey mottling on the lateral sides, c) shape of the snout, and d) absence of web on its feet

New agency to develop space warfare weapon systems

  1. The Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared the setting up of the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRO).
  2. The DSRO will comprise scientists who will work closely with integrated staff officers of the three armed forces – the Indian Air Force, Army, and the Navy.
  3. It will work on space warfare weapon systems and technologies. It would provide the research and development support to the Defence Space Agency (DSA).
  4. The DSA comprises members of the three services and is headed by an Air Vice Marshal-level officer. The main objective of DSA is to fight wars in space.
  5. The DSA will come up in Bengaluru and will gradually take over space-related capabilities of the three forces.

CO2 emissions rose by 2% in 2018: study

  1. According to the recently released BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Global carbon emissions grew by 2%, the highest since 2010-2011. The report has termed the trend unsustainable.
  2. The BP report has found that while the use of renewable forms of energy grew by 14.5% in 2018, it still accounted for just a third of the total rise in power generation in 2018.
  3. The United States recorded the largest-ever annual production increases by any country for both oil and natural gas with the vast majority of increase coming from onshore shale.
  4. The report has highlighted that there is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress. This can be understood from energy demand and carbon emissions growing at fastest rates for years.
  5. BP plc. is a British multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. The BP Statistical Review of World Energy is viewed as an energy industry standard.

BJP MP Virendra Kumar to be Pro-tem speaker of Lok Sabha

  1. BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh Virendra Kumar has been appointed as the Pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  2. Pro-tem Speaker’s appointment, functions and powers are not clearly mentioned in the Constitution.
  3. After, the new government is formed, the Legislative Section of Parliament prepares a list of the senior most Lok Sabha members. The list is then submitted to the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs for the appointment of pro tem Speaker. The appointment has to be then approved by the President.
  4. The Protem Speaker performs the duties of the office of the Speaker from the commencement of the sitting of the Lok Sabha till the election of the Speaker. The main responsibility is to administer the oath of new Members of Parliament

Gujarat on alert as cyclonic storm Vayu inches towards coast

  1. Gujarat has been put on high alert after Cyclonic storm Vayu intensified into a severe cyclonic storm.  The cyclonic storm has been named Vayu by India.
  2. The severe cyclonic storm Vayu developed in the Arabian Sea and is expected to make a landfall on the Saurashtra coast between Porbandar and Mahuva Kutch.
  3. The IMD ranks cyclones on a 5-point scale- a) Cyclonic storm, b) Severe cyclonic storm, c) Very severe cyclonic storm, d) Extremely Severe cyclonic storm and e) Super cyclonic storm.
  4. If a Deep Depression develops gale force wind speeds of between 62–88 km/h, it is called a Cyclonic storm. Severe Cyclonic Storms have storm force wind speeds of between 89–117 km/h.
  5. Very Severe Cyclonic Storms have hurricane-force winds of 118–166 km/h. Super Cyclonic Storms have hurricane-force winds of above 222 km/h.

Govt eyes reforms, to club 44 labour laws into 4 codes

  1. The Central government is planning to introduce a new Labour Bill in the upcoming session of the Parliament with an aim to help investors and accelerate growth.
  2. The new labour legislation would merge the existing 44 labour laws under four specific categories which are (a)wages (b)social security (c)industrial safety and welfare and (d)industrial relations.
  3. Labour is a subject in the concurrent list of the Constitution of India. Thus,both the centre and states can enact laws on labour matters.There are 44 central laws and more than 150 state laws on labour.
  4. Labour reforms are needed as India’s growth rates in the 2000s are often derided as jobless growth since the service sector-led model has been capital rather than labour intensive.
  5. Further,Nine out of ten Indians are employed in the informal sector where labour laws are rarely implemented.Government needs to make the labour laws modern so that it encourages employers to keep more workers in formal roles with social security benefits.
  6. Recently,NSSO report showed that unemployment rate across the country stood at 6.1%, the highest since 1972-73.It also showed that joblessness was higher in urban India (7.8%) than in rural India (5.3%).
  7. However,there is a stiff opposition from labour unions who alleges that Industries are already flouting labour regulations and any dilution of the existing laws will compromise employees welfare.
  8. The labour Union believes that the government is insisting on changing labour laws without realizing that it is not a shortcut for job creation.

ICAT Releases India’s 1st BS – VI Certificate in Two Wheeler Segment

  1. International Centre for Automotive Technology(ICAT) has released India’s first Type Approval Certificate(TAC) for Bharat Stage VI(BS VI) norms for the two wheeler segment in New Delhi.
  2. The certificate was released and handed over by Director of ICAT to top officials of the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers).This is India’s first certification in the two wheeler segment for the BS – VI norms.
  3. The Bharat Stage(BS) norms are standards instituted by the Indian government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.The norms were introduced in 2000.
  4. The Indian government has decided to skip BS-V and directly move to BS-VI from April 2020.From 1st April 2020,only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India which complies with these norms.
  5. The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is a leading world class automotive testing,certification and R&D service provider under the aegis of NATRiP (National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project), Government of India.

Govt to ask RBI to remove priority lending limit for renewable energy sector

  1. The Ministry of new and renewable energy(MNRE) has decided to ask the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) for removal of the priority sector lending limit for the renewable energy(RE) sector.
  2. This will encourage the PSBs(public sector banks) to lend more for renewable energy projects and help RE developers access easy finance.
  3. India is running the world’s largest renewable energy programme and plans to achieve 175 gigawatts(GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its climate commitments.
  4. Priority Sector Lending is an important role given by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to the banks for providing a specified portion of the bank lending to few specific sectors.
  5. Priority Sector includes the following categories:(a) Agriculture (b)Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (c) Export Credit (d) Education (e) Housing (f) Social Infrastructure (g)Renewable Energy and (h)Others.

Villagers turn to age-old ritual for rains

  1. Recently,Valasa Devarlu was celebrated in the number of villages of Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.
  2. The festival was celebrated in the face of drought conditions and with only a few weeks left for the sowing season to close.
  3. Valasa Devarlu is a traditional old age ritual dating back to the reign of emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya.This ritual is popular in about 50 villages of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh.
  4. During the failure of rains,crops failure and breakout of epidemics,the entire population of a village would abandon the households at dawn and retreat into the fields or tank bund till dusk.
  5. The village elders would initiate special pujas to the goddess ‘Valasa Devaramma’,an idol made of clay, consecrated under a tent or a tree. After having community lunch,the population would return to their village. The time is marked by dancing,singing and chit-chatting.
  6. The male members of the families would then offer prayers at the famous Gangamma temple atop Boyakonda hillock nearby followed by animal sacrifice.

India’s first dinosaur museum inaugurated

  1. Gujarat Chief Minister has inaugurated India’s first dinosaur museum and fossil park at Raiyoli village of Mahisagar district,Gujarat.
  2. Raiyoli is globally known to be the third largest fossil site and the second largest dinosaur hatchery from where about 10,000 dinosaur eggs have been found.
  3. The new museum will create a prehistoric-like era environment when dinosaurs might have roamed around freely in Raiyoli.
  4. As many as 50 sculptures of dinosaurs including a life-size one of Rajasaurus Narmadensis that was found in Gujarat have been erected at the museum.
  5. The museum would have 3D projection, 360 degree virtual reality presentations, interactive kiosks, gaming consoles and other facilities.

Govt to states: Integrate all water depts like Jal Shakti Ministry

  1. The central government has requested all states to adopt an approach similar to the newly-formulated Jal Shakti Ministry in order to integrate all ministries and bodies dealing with water under one umbrella.
  2. Recently the Centre has formed a new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry. It has been formed by merging the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  3. The Jal Shakti Ministry has been mandated to deal with issues ranging from international and inter-states water disputes, management of water resources, the Namami Gange project and the provision of clean drinking water.
  4. Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation was the apex body for formulation and administration of rules and regulations relating to the development and regulation of the water resources in India. It was the nodal ministry for the Namami Gange- the flagship initiative to clean the River Ganga
  5. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation was the Nodal Ministry for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordination of two flagship programmes namely, the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) for rural drinking water supply and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) [SBM (G)] for sanitation in rural India.

El Salvador recognises forests as living entities

  1. Recently, El Salvador has taken the decision to recognise forests as living entities.
  2. This decision was taken as El Salvador has lost about 85% of its native forests since the 1960s while Earth has lost about 80% of its native forests.
  3. This recognition will require each person to commit to caring,preserving and respecting forests.People should also promote concrete actions that expand forests in the country
  4. Further,recognising forests as living entities means humans live in harmony with forests and respect them as more than just property.
  5. The recognition of Legal entities helps the forests to have a right to be legally protected from any kind of destruction.Destroying them without permission could lead to human rights violations for which legal action can be taken.
  6. Further,New Zealand had earlier passed legislation giving legal rights to the Whanganui river ecosystem.Ecuador had already given legal rights to nature in its Constitution adopted in 2008.

Explained RBI’s NPA circular: Small and medium firms get reprieve

  1. The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has issued a revised prudential framework for resolution of stressed assets.
  2. This revised circular was issued after Supreme Court had declared the RBI’s February 12 circular on the resolution of stressed loans as unconstitutional.
  3. The revised circular has given small and medium-sized defaulters enough time to come out from the stressed account books of banks and regularise their repayments while maintaining its tough stance over big defaulters.
  4. This framework will apply to big defaulters of Rs 2,000 crore and above  with immediate effect.The review period for defaulters between Rs 1,500 crore and less than Rs 2,000 crore will start only from January 1,2020.
  5. However,the review period for loans below Rs 1,500 crore is yet to be announced by the RBI which indicates that the RBI is expected to take a lenient approach to small defaulters.
  6. Further,the intercreditor agreement sets the grounds for finalising and implementing a resolution plan.It spells out details such as the rights of the majority lenders, dissenting lenders, and treatment of lenders with priority in cash flows among others.
  7. Any decision taken by lenders representing 75% by value of total outstanding credit facilities and 60% by number will be binding on all the lenders that have signed the inter-credit agreement.

Plan to import talent: A third of Deputy Secys from outside

  1. The central government is planning to recruit outside experts at the level of Deputy Secretary and Director to bring efficiency and expertise in the administration.
  2. The Department of Personnel and Training has been asked to draft a formal proposal for recruiting around 400 subject experts from outside to occupy Director in the Central Staffing scheme.
  3. Recently,the Central Government has appointed nine non-governmental professionals at joint-secretary level posts through lateral entry in central government department.
  4. The term ‘lateral entry’ in the civil services refers to a move by the government to appoint outsiders in the middle rung of the ministries, especially in the sectors of economy and infrastructure.
  5. The recruitments is done in a bid to infuse domain expertise in key government departments and is aimed at bringing in specialized talent in various government departments, contributing to better governance.
  6. However,various experts are against lateral entry as (a)differences in work culture may often come in the way (b)The width and depth of field experience which the civil services provide is not available with outside talent and (c)Interests and motivation vary from person to person.

Reserve Bank sets up panel to examine ATM charges, fees

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has constituted a high-level committee under IBA Chief V G Kannan to examine ATM charges and fees by banks.
  2. The six-member panel will review the existing structures and patterns of costs,charges and interchange fees for ATM transaction.
  3. The committee will also review the overall patterns of usage of ATMs by cardholders and assess the impact on charges and interchange fees.
  4. Besides,the committee will also assess the entire gamut of costs in respect of the ATM ecosystem and make recommendations on the optimal charge/interchange fee structure and pattern.
  5. An Automated Teller machine(ATM) is a computerized machine that provides the customers of banks the facility of accessing their accounts for dispensing cash and to carry out other financial & non-financial transactions without the need to visit a bank branch.
  6. The fee structure determines the fee consumers pay for using their ATM cards at ATMs of other banks.Normally,the issuing bank allows a certain number of ATM transactions for free.
  7. But customers are charged for using the ATMs of other banks for transactions beyond a certain number.The number varies from one issuing bank to another.

India sides with Israel against Palestine NGO at UN meet

  1. India has voted in support of Israel at the UN’s Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) to deny observer status to a Palestinian human rights organisation named ‘Shahed’.
  2. This is the first time India has taken a step back from its decades-old position on the two-state theory under which India sees both Israel and Palestine as separate and independent countries.
  3. India has voted against after Israel has said that Shahed has links with Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that was designated as terrorist organisation in 1997.
  4. Israel has also said that Shahed operates as an arm of the Hamas based in Lebanon.The US has listed Hamas as a foreign terrorist organisation.
  5. The two-state theory refers to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict which envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.
  6. The United Nations Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations.
  7. The Council serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and formulating policy recommendations addressed to the member states and the United Nations system.

‘China getting decimated by tariff war’

  1. The US President has said that the US threat to impose tariffs on Mexico has forced the country to agree to stronger immigration enforcement.He has predicted the same strategy will be successful with China.
  2. The US President had slapped tariffs on products from key trading partners China,Canada,Mexico and the European Union in order to push them to address alleged trade imbalances.
  3. Tariffs are a tax on imports.They are typically charged as a percentage of the transaction price that a buyer pays to a foreign seller.
  4. The United States and China are discussing a trade deal to end the trade war.However,the latest round of US-Chinese trade negotiations had ended without a deal.
  5. Trade war is a situation where countries restrict each other’s trade by imposing tariffs or quotas on imports.
  6. The trade tensions had further intensified since US had blacklisted Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei Technologies.This decision was taken after US authorities had said that there was a risk in using Huawei products as it could be used by China for illegal surveillance.

Quad one way to fix regional issues: Australian envoy

  1. Australian Envoy has urged India to play a greater role in solving the regional problems of the Indo-Pacific region.
  2. Australian envoy has said that the quadrilateral grouping of the US, Australia, India, and Japan also known as the Quad was a manifestation of this cooperation.
  3. The Quad was formed to ensure and support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.The group has also been viewed as response to increased Chinese economic and military power.
  4. Australian envoy has also urged India to play a greater role in successfully concluding talks to forge a new regional trade bloc known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
  5. RCEP is proposed mega trade pact between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing Free trade agreements(FTA’s)(Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
  6. It aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates.It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
  7. India has repeatedly advocated that the agreement needs to be comprehensive in nature.India is concerned about (a)trade pact will allow greater access to Chinese goods which may have an impact on the Indian manufacturing sector (b)There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to foreign goods in the Indian market.

Pre-budget consultations: Industry for tax cuts, more reforms to push investment

  1. Finance Minister has held pre-budget discussions with the industry heads.The industry has suggested various reforms and tax cuts to push investment and growth of the economy.
  2. The various reforms suggested are (a)reduction in direct tax rate to a maximum of 18% (b)reducing the dividend distribution tax and (c)reform of land and labour laws.
  3. Industry heads has also said that after dismantling of Foreign Investment Promotion Board(FIPB),FDI proposals are dealt by the concerned sectoral ministry.This is causing significant delays in the approval process.
  4. Therefore,they have suggested that a country-specific desk to be set up for major foreign direct investment (FDI) source countries.
  5. Further,agriculture experts in their pre-Budget consultation with the Finance Minister has suggested that the government should take steps to boost investment in farm sector and enhance market access to farmers.
  6. Representatives of the agricultural sector has also suggested that solar energy may be treated as third crop to augment income of farmers, besides resolving GST issues related to farmers producers organisations,incentives for agro processing units in the border districts and enhancing investments in R&D.