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Trade deficit widens to $15.36 bn in May

  1. According to data released by the Ministry of Commerce, India’s trade deficit has widened to a six-month high of $15.4 billion in May,2019.
  2. The trade deficit has widened due to import growth outpacing export growth following a 37% jump in gold imports.
  3. The rising crude oil prices due to sanctions on Iranian oil imports could further increase imports and put pressure on India’s current account deficit.
  4. Further, India’s exports also grew by 3.93% following a growth in many key sectors such as engineering goods, iron ore and leather products.
  5. However, escalating trade war between the US and China and rising protectionism have cast a shadow on India’s prospects for higher exports.
  6. A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceed its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets.

PM Modi reaches India after attending SCO meet

  1. Indian PM has concluded his two-day visit to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
  2. During his visit, Indian PM has held successful bilaterals with China, Russia, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan apart from addressing the SCO summit.
  3. He coined the acronym HEALTH during his address at the Summit, which is a template for strengthening cooperation amongst SCO member-states.
  4. Expanding on the acronym, he said that the ‘H’ in HEALTH stands for Healthcare Cooperation,’E’ for Economic Cooperation,’A’ for Alternate Energy, ‘L’ for Literature and Culture,’T’ for Terrorism free society and ‘H’ for Humanitarian Cooperation.
  5. Indian PM has also asked the member states to try coordinated action against international terrorism under the SCO-Regional Anti Terrorist Structure(RATS).
  6. Indian PM also said that India’s participation in projects such as the International North South Transport Corridor(INSTC),Ashgabat Agreement and in the development of Iran’s Chabahar port was a hallmark of its commitment to linkages between India and the region.
  7. The INSTC is a 7,200-km multimode network of ship, rail and road routes for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
  8. The Ashgabat Agreement is a pact among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Oman to build an international transport and transit corridor that facilitates transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
  9. The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) is a permanent organ of the SCO. It serves to promote cooperation of member states against (a)terrorism (b)separatism and (c) extremism. The head of RATS is elected to a three-year term. Each member state also sends a permanent representative to RATS. Its headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Narendra Modi, Imran Khan exchange pleasantries during SCO Summit at Bishkek

  1. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
  2. The Bishkek Declaration of the SCO Heads of State Council condemned terrorism in all forms and manifestations.
  3. The member states stressed on expanding and deepening cooperation in trade, finance, investment, transport, energy, agriculture, innovation, cutting-edge technology.
  4. They also called for keeping outer space free from weapons and importance of peaceful uses of outer space.
  5. The summit also signed a document titled ‘Roadmap for Further Action of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group’.
  6. Further, they also stressed on the need to address the illegal cultivation, production, circulation, sales and dissemination of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors.
  7. A separate MoU was also signed for establishment of Astana International Financial Centre. Apart from that the other agreements were on sports, mass media, coordination of humanitarian affairs, tourism, healthcare.
  8. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also known as the Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation. It was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  9. Apart from Uzbekistan, the other five countries have been a part of the Shanghai 5 since 1996.The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001.India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in 2017.

Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report: The Internet Is Growing, and So Are the Problems That Come With It

  1. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2019,Over half of the world’s population has access to the internet now with a majority of users which is about 53% coming from the Asia-Pacific region.
  2. The report says that India has the second largest internet user base at 12% while China leads with 21% internet users globally. The United States is third with 8% internet users globally.
  3. The report also says that seven of the top 10 companies across the world by market capitalization are technology companies. Out of these, four of the top six are based in the US while two are Chinese companies.
  4. The report further revealed that ecommerce occupies 15% of global retail sales at present. Sales from online channels went up by 12.4% compared to offline retail sales that grew a mere 2%.
  5. The report further says that the global smartphone shipments fell by 4% in 2018 highlighting the fact that when markets reach mainstream new growth is harder to find.
  6. However, the report highlights that as the Internet continues to grow, it’s having its share of problems as well. Removing inappropriate content still remains a major issue for major social platforms on the Internet. Also, social media has lead to increased political polarisation and divisiveness

Scientists unravel the fungus responsible for Sheath Blight disease in rice

  1. Recently, scientists at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research has unraveled the genomic diversity associated with aggressiveness of two Indian strains of Rhizoctonia solani.
  2. Rhizoctonia solani is a fungal pathogen that causes the dreaded Sheath Blight disease in rice.
  3. Sheath Blight disease is a major issue in rice cultivation. It can cause up to 60% reduction in rice yield. It is difficult to breed disease resistant rice varieties as there is a lack of natural source of disease resistance. Thus, controlling the disease in a sustainable manner has remained a challenge.
  4. The scientists have identified several genes and gene families in the strain that might account for their disease aggressiveness. This genomic insight is expected to help develop rice varieties resistant to sheath blight disease.
  5. The scientists have also said that the further characterisation of the identified genes will be helpful to understand their role in the pathogenesis of the fungus.

US cautions India over S-400 deal with Russia, cites strategic partnership choices

  1. The US administration has been persuading India to cancel the Russian S-400 missile defence system.
  2. The US has raised a range of concerns over the deal such as systems interoperability to long-term worries over strategic partnership choices.
  3. US officials have also indicated that the US is ready to sell India platforms such as its Terminal High Altitude Area defence(THAAD) and Patriot-3 missiles defence systems if India cancels the S-400 deal.
  4. However, US persuasion comes in the backdrop of (a)US stopping India from buying oil from Iran (b)US withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) (c)Tighter norms for H1-b visas which undermine the mutual pledge to elevate the relationship between the two countries.
  5. S-400 Triumf Missile System is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM).It is capable of engaging aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and has a terminal ballistic missile defense capability. It has an operational range of over 400 kms.
  6. The S-400 Triumf is known as the SA-21 Growler by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).NATO members consider the S-400 a major threat because of its long range.

Akshaya Patra wins BBC award

  1. The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been awarded the BBC World Service’s Global Food Champion 2019.
  2. Global Food Champion is an annual award that honours people or projects that is changing the way the world produces, processes, consumes or thinks about food for the better.
  3. The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF) is an NGO for children in India which implements the Mid-day meal scheme in number of states in India.
  4. Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a centrally-sponsored Scheme that provides children studying in Classes I-VIII of government and government aided schools with cooked mid-day meal.
  5. The key objectives of the MDMS is to a) improve the nutritional status of children and b) improve enrollment, attendance and retention rates in schools and EGS/AIE centres (Alternative and Innovative Education Centres)
  6. The Mid-day Meal scheme is implemented by the Ministry of Human resources and Development. Both the Centre and the state governments contribute funds for the scheme, with the menu differing in each state according to local factors.
  7. In some places, the supply of meals is outsourced to contractors appointed by the state governments; example: Akshaya Patra.

45 writers to get Sahitya Akademi awards

  1. Sahitya Akademi has selected 22 writers for the Sahitya Akademi Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2019 and 23 writers for Yuva Puraskar 2019.
  2. Bal Sahitya Puraskar is given to authors for their contribution in children literature. The Yuva Puraskar is given to writers aged below 35.
  3. The Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of India. It is the only institution that undertakes literary activities in 24 Indian languages, including English.
  4. It was founded by the government of India in 1954. Though set up by the government, the Akademi functions as an autonomous organisation.

IBC-type framework for NBFCs, simplified GST among several issues raised with Finance Minister

  1. Finance Minister has held pre-budget discussions with the economists.
  2. The economists stressed on the need to (a) promote labour intensive sectors and (b)manufacturing through Make in India.
  3. Further, they also suggested simplification of GST, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(IBC)-type framework for NBFC ,implementation of Direct Tax Code and constitution of independent fiscal policy committee.
  4. Economists also gave suggestions on tariff reforms, removing bottlenecks in supply-chain, EXIM policy for agriculture, removal of specific duties on textiles, revival of inter-state councils for holistic domestic growth and boosting employment by focusing on skilling.
  5. Earlier, Finance Minister also held a meeting with representatives of social sector wherein they suggested that the government should focus on education, hygiene, women safety and nutrition of infants in the forthcoming Budget.
  6. They also suggested expansion of healthcare infrastructure, provision of free drugs and diagnostic facilities, rationalisation of taxes on medical devices, promotion of public private partnership in secondary and tertiary healthcare sectors, fiscal incentives for recycling of waste water and rainwater harvesting among others.

WPI inflation at 2-year low in May

  1. According to government data, wholesale price-based inflation has reached a 22-month low of 2.45% in May. The decline has been attributed to falling prices of food articles, fuel and power items.
  2. Wholesale Price Inflation tracks changes in the price of goods in stages before the retail level i.e. goods that are sold in bulk and traded between organizations instead of consumers.
  3. It is measured by the Wholesale Price Index. The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products. It is important to note that WPI does not cover services.
  4. Wholesale Price Index is computed by Office of the Economic Advisor (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

WPI inflation at 2-year low in May

  1. According to government data, wholesale price-based inflation has reached a 22-month low of 2.45% in May. The decline has been attributed to falling prices of food articles, fuel and power items.
  2. Wholesale Price Inflation tracks changes in the price of goods in stages before the retail level i.e. goods that are sold in bulk and traded between organizations instead of consumers.
  3. It is measured by the Wholesale Price Index. The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products. It is important to note that WPI does not cover services.
  4. Wholesale Price Index is computed by Office of the Economic Advisor (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Bihar first state to launch universal old-age pension scheme

  1. Bihar state government has launched a universal old age pension scheme—Mukhyamantri Vridhajan Pension Yojana (MVPY)
  2. Under the scheme, a person above the age of 60 (if they are not getting any another pension from state or central government), irrespective of their financial, family or caste status will get a sum of Rs. 400/ month directly in their bank account.
  3. Each person above at the age of 80 or above will get a pension of Rs. 500/ month directly in their bank account.
  4. Bihar has become the first state in India to launch a universal old age pension scheme. In other states, old age pensions are provided only to members of either BPL family or SC/ST or widows or disabled persons.

Three horses test positive for Glanders disease, euthanized

  1. Three horses in Uttar Pradesh have been euthanized after a report by Hisar-based National Research Centre on Euquines (NRCE) report confirmed that they tested positive for Glanders disease.  
  2. Glanders is a zoonotic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Glanders is primarily a disease affecting horses, but it also affects donkeys, mules, goats, dogs, and cats.
  3. Glanders is spread to humans by direct contact with infected animals. Although very rare, glanders may additionally spread from one person to another through the bodily fluids of an infected person.
  4. The National Research Centre on Equines was established in 1986 under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It is mandated with research on equine health and production considering the importance of equines in India. The term equine refers to a horse or other member of the horse family such as ponies, mules.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is being observed today

  1. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is being observed on 15th June.
  2. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed on the 15th of June every year to voice opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted on elderly people.
  3. The United Nations General Assembly, in 2011, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The recognition came after a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA).
  4. INPEA is an international NGO, founded in 1997, which is dedicated to the global dissemination of information as part of its commitment to the world-wide prevention of the abuse of older people.
  5. Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world. According to UN, around 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse.

India to impose retaliatory tariffs on 29 U.S. goods from June 16

  1. India has decided to impose the long pending retaliatory tariffs on 29 US products after US had withdrawn Generalized system of preferences (GSP) for Indian exporters.
  2. This action comes a year after the notification for the retaliatory tariffs was issued in 2018 in response to penal duties imposed on Indian aluminium and steel by the US.
  3. The tariffs will place a burden of $220-290 million on the U.S which is similar to the impact on India due to the U.S. tariffs on aluminium and steel imports.
  4. India has since been postponing the implementation of these duties hoping to resolve trade concerns including the withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) by the US.
  5. GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries. It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  6. Further, US and India has issues that needs to be resolved such as (a)India’s Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally (b)Price controls on medical devices(Cardiac stents) (c)Tariff on ICT products (d)Lack of greater market access for the US dairy industry and (e)India’s e-commerce policy.
  7. In 2018, bilateral trade in goods and services between the two countries registered a growth of 12.6% to $142 billion from $126 billion in 2017.

India to impose retaliatory tariffs on 29 U.S. goods from June 16

  1. India has decided to impose the long pending retaliatory tariffs on 29 US products after US had withdrawn Generalized system of preferences (GSP) for Indian exporters.
  2. This action comes a year after the notification for the retaliatory tariffs was issued in 2018 in response to penal duties imposed on Indian aluminium and steel by the US.
  3. The tariffs will place a burden of $220-290 million on the U.S which is similar to the impact on India due to the U.S. tariffs on aluminium and steel imports.
  4. India has since been postponing the implementation of these duties hoping to resolve trade concerns including the withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) by the US.
  5. GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by developed countries to developing countries. It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  6. Further, US and India has issues that needs to be resolved such as (a)India’s Data localisation rules which forced foreign companies to store their data locally (b)Price controls on medical devices(Cardiac stents) (c)Tariff on ICT products (d)Lack of greater market access for the US dairy industry and (e)India’s e-commerce policy.
  7. In 2018, bilateral trade in goods and services between the two countries registered a growth of 12.6% to $142 billion from $126 billion in 2017.

Swiss women across the country rise up for equal pay

  1. Thousands of women across Switzerland have recently held a strike for equal pay for equal work.  
  2. Women in Switzerland on average still earn 20% less than men.
  3. According to Global Wage Report 2018-19, Women are paid the most unequally in India, compared to men, when it comes to hourly wages for labour. On average, women are paid 34% less than men.
  4. The right to equal pay for equal work is a Directive Principle 39(d) in the Indian Constitution
  5. Further, in 1976, the Equal Remuneration Act was passed with the aim of providing equal remuneration to men and women workers and to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender in all matters relating to employment and employment opportunities.

Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting 2019 in Mumbai

  1. The Intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process(KP) is being hosted by India from 17th to 21st June,2019 in Mumbai.
  2. The Kimberley Process(KP) is an international certification scheme that came into force in 2003.It regulates trade in rough diamonds. It aims to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds.
  3. Conflict diamonds also known as blood diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance armed conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.
  4. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme(KPCS) outlines the rules that govern the trade in rough diamonds.
  5. The KP is not an international organisation as it has no permanent offices or permanent staff. It relies on the contributions under the principle of burden sharing of participants supported by industry and civil society observers.
  6. The Kimberley Process (KP) is a binding agreement that imposes extensive requirements through the national legislation of its participants.
  7. India is a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).Further, Kimberley Process is also described in the United Nation Security Council(UNSC) Resolutions.

SVEEP Nodal Officers from across the country meet to deliberate upon the blueprint for the next five years

  1. The Election Commission of India has organised a National Conference of Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) Nodal Officers to deliberate upon the blueprint for the next five years.
  2. SVEEP is a programme of multiple interventions through different modes and media. It is designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes.
  3. SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.
  4. It includes enhanced interaction with the citizens through social media, online contests and voters festivals. It also includes awareness on the new initiatives launched by the EC.
  5. In addition to target groups of women, youth, urban voters and the marginalized sections, the inclusion of groups like service voters, NRIs, persons with disabilities, prospective voters, students is also of primary focus.

Cross-border data movement under new law may be allowed on basis of reciprocity: Prasad

  1. Union Telecom minister has said that the draft of Personal Data Protection Bill,2018 is finalised.
  2. The minister also said that India will uphold its data sovereignty and it will not be negotiable .However, some degree of data movement may be allowed but that will be based upon reciprocity and understanding.
  3. The draft of Personal Data Protection Bill,2018 is based on the recommendations of the government-constituted high-level panel headed by Justice BN Srikrishna.
  4. The government had started process on framing personal data protection law after the Supreme Court had held that privacy is a fundamental right and asked the government to work around it.
  5. The draft bill restricts and imposes conditions on cross-border transfer of personal data. It also suggests setting up of Data Protection Authority of India to prevent misuse of personal information.
  6. The Bill also emphasized on individual consent being most important to data sharing. The bill says that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and unless you have given your explicit consent, your personal data cannot be shared or processed.
  7. Further, the minister also said that Digital villages has been another area of focus for the government which aims to set up one lakh villages with facilities like public WiFi, computer literacy centres among others.

Cabinet approves New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill,2019

  1. Union Cabinet has approved the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill,2019 for introduction in the ensuing session of Parliament.
  2. The Bill provides for setting up of an independent autonomous body for institutional arbitration and to acquire and transfer the undertakings of International Centre For Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) to New Delhi International Arbitration Centre(NDIAC).
  3. NDIAC will be headed by a chairperson who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration law or management, to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  4. There will be two Full time or Part time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration both domestic and international.
  5. Also, one representative of a recognised body of commerce and industry shall be chosen on a rotational basis as Part time Member.
  6. The Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Financial Adviser nominated by the Department of Expenditure and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC shall be ex-officio Members.
  7. Arbitration is one of the methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).ADR is the procedure for settling disputes without litigation. Arbitration is a procedure in which the dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision on the dispute that is binding on the parties.