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Union Cabinet clears fresh DNA profiling bill

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill,2019.
  2. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the molecule that contains the genetic instructions and can be extracted from samples of blood,tissue,hair and bodily fluids.Outside of identical twins,no two people have the same DNA pattern.
  3. The bill had been tabled earlier this year and was passed by the Lok Sabha in January,2019.It lapsed after not being passed in the Rajya Sabha.
  4. The bill makes provision for the government to set up national and regional DNA data banks that will maintain samples under categories such as (a)crime scene (b)suspect or under-trial (c)offenders (d)missing persons and (e)unknown deceased person.
  5. The bill provides that bodily samples for DNA analysis can be collected only on consent from the people, including those who have been sentenced for up to seven years.For people who have received a sentence of more than seven years, the samples can be collected without consent.
  6. The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.
  7. The bill will enable cross-matching of DNA of persons reported missing and unidentified dead bodies and also for establishing the identity of victims during mass disasters.
  8. Further,the bill says that leaking of identifiable DNA information will be punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 1 lakh.And, altering or destroying biological samples is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2 lakh.
  9. However,some activists and lawyers criticized this bill as they argue that India does not have a data protection law and that information like ancestry or susceptibility to a disease or other genetic traits is liable to be misused.
  10. It has also been argued that DNA tests have not led to an improvement in conviction rates in countries where legislation is already being followed.

IAF contingent flies to France to participate in Ex-Garuda VI

  1. The Indian Air Force contingent with its aircraft has left for France to participate in bilateral air exercise between Indian and French Air Force named Exercise ‘Garuda-VI’.
  2. This is the sixth edition of Exercise Garuda and is being planned at Mont-de-Marsan,French Air Force Base.The last exercise,‘Garuda V’ was held at Air Force Station Jodhpur in June 2014.
  3. This exercise will provide an opportunity for Sukhoi 30 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force(IAF) to engage in dogfights with France’s Rafale multirole aircraft in simulated scenarios.
  4. This is one of the biggest air exercises that is being planned between the two Air Forces.This will enhance understanding of interoperability during mutual operations between the two Air Forces and provide an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices.
  5. This will also allow IAF pilots to have a closer look at the Rafale jets being operated by the French Air Force.India had signed a deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets.The first Rafale jet is scheduled to be delivered in September,2019.
  6. India and France defence and security cooperation has been on an upswing in the last few years.In 2018,two countries had inked a strategic pact providing for the use of each others military facility including opening naval bases to warships.
  7. India and France have been also carrying out discussions on the possibility of launching a tri-services military exercise between the armed forces of the two nations.

Sinha-led panel proposes ₹5,000 crore stressed asset fund for MSMEs

  1. A Reserve Bank of India(RBI) expert committee tasked with reviewing the current framework for the micro,small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) has submitted its report.
  2. The committee has recommended a ₹5,000 crore distressed asset fund for micro,small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
  3. The fund will assist units in a cluster where there is a change in the external environment such as plastic ban which had resulted in large numbers of such entities becoming non-performing.
  4. The panel has recommended doubling the cap on collateral-free loans to Rs 20 lakh from the current Rs 10 lakh.This will be extended to borrowers falling under the Mudra scheme,self-help groups and MSMEs.
  5. A collateral free loan means that borrowers do not have to offer any asset or pledge collateral to borrow against.
  6. The committee has also recommended that banks which wish to specialise in MSME lending,their targets for farm loans under the priority sector lender could be waived off and instead can be given a target for loans to the SME sector.
  7. The targets could be of 50% of the net bank credit for universal banks and 80% for small finance banks.At present,the overall priority sector lending target for a universal bank is 40% of their net bank credit and 75% for small finance bank.
  8. The committee has also recommended a government-sponsored fund of funds(FoF) of Rs 10,000 crore.The FoF will be meant to support venture capital (VC) and private equity(PE) firms investing in the MSME sector.

Council of Europe restores Russia′s voting rights

  1. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has voted in favor of restoring Russia’s voting rights five years after they were revoked over its illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
  2. The move paves the way for Russia to participate in the election of a new secretary general for the pan-European rights body.
  3. Russia was denied its voting rights after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014.
  4. Russia had responded by boycotting the assembly.Since 2017, the country had also refused to pay its share of 33 million Euro to the human rights watchdog.
  5. It had threatened to quit the body altogether if it is not allowed to take part in the upcoming election in the Council of Europe.
  6. The Council of Europe is Europe’s oldest political body.It aims to uphold human rights,democracy and the rule of law across the continent.
  7. The council was founded in 1949 and it has 47 member states,28 of which are members of European Union(EU).However,the organisation is distinct from the EU.
  8. The council oversees and enforces rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights which considers cases brought by individuals and groups against the signatories to the convention.The Council of Europe is also an official United Nations Observer.

Trade, anti-missile deal, other sticky issues on plate during Pompeo-Jaishankar talks

  1. United States Secretary of State has arrived in India for his interaction with the Indian Government.
  2. The two countries will discuss the US opposition to India’s $5 billion deal for acquiring S-400 missile system from Russia.
  3. The US wants India to cancel the deal citing a US Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act(CAATSA) that imposes sanctions on any country that has significant transactions with Iran,North Korea or Russia.
  4. A key issue expected to come up in the discussion is the US tension with Iran.While Indian oil companies have stopped imports to avoid sanctions, but India will discuss the alternative sources of oil.
  5. The two countries will also interact on the deadlock over a trade deal and the U.S. withdrawal of India’s GSP(Generalized System of Preferences) status.
  6. Further,there will also be a talk on the H-1B issue where Secretary of State may assure India that the US has no plans to impose a cap on issuing the H-1B visas on countries that are forcing foreign companies to store data locally.
  7. The discussions will also happen on US demand that India must not allow Chinese telecom major Huawei to participate in 5G network trials.
  8. India is likely to tell US that the Indian government will balance the national security implications of the Chinese company with the demands of the local telecommunications market before deciding on 5G trials.

Gross NPAs of banks may shrink to 8 per cent by March 2020: Crisil

  1. According to the Crisil report,public sector banks which account for over 80% of the non-performing assets(NPAs) could see the gross NPAs decreased to 10.6% by March 2020 from a peak of 14.6% in March 2018.
  2. The reason attributed to this downfall in the NPAs were highlighted as higher recoveries and slowdown.
  3. The Gross NPAs within the banking system had hit a peak of 11.5% in March 2018 and stood at 9.3% in March 2019.
  4. Further,the report also says that the write-offs coupled with recoveries under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(IBC) in stressed assets also played a critical role in reduction of NPAs.
  5. The report also says that banks have already recognised around Rs 17 lakh crore of stressed loans as NPAs since FY16 led by accelerated NPA recognition following the Reserve Bank of India’s(RBIs) stringent norms and asset quality reviews.
  6. The report assumes that the bulk of the pending cases in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) would be resolved with higher recovery rates and faster resolution times.
  7. Non-performing assets(NPA) is a loan or advance for which the principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days.
  8. Banks are  required to classify NPAs into (a)Substandard assets: Assets which has remained NPA for a period less than or equal to 12 months (b)Doubtful assets: An asset would be classified as doubtful if it has remained in the substandard category for a period of 12 months and (c)Loss assets:Loss asset is considered uncollectible and of such little value that its continuance as a bankable asset is not warranted although there may be some salvage or recovery value.

RBI union moots collegium to select governors, deputy governors

  1. The RBI union has proposed a Collegium of experts to appoint governors and deputy governors to ensure central bank autonomy and independence.
  2. The collegium should comprise former RBI governors,other prominent central bankers and economists.
  3. The recent resignation of the RBI deputy governor at least six months before his term expired is the trigger for mooting such a proposal.
  4. The union said that collegium can ensure the neutrality, autonomy and independence of the central bank of the country and prevent undesirable political and purposive interference in such matter.
  5. The Reserve Bank’s affairs are governed by a central board of directors.The board is appointed by the Government of India in keeping with the Reserve Bank of India Act.
  6. The Board consists of (a)official directors which includes the Governor and up to four Deputy Governors (b)non-official directors who includes up to ten directors from various fields (c)two government officials and (d)one director from each of four local boards of the RBI.
  7. The Governor and Deputy Governors hold office for not more than five years,the ten directors nominated by the government hold office for four years and the government officials are to hold a term on the RBI Board as long as the government sees fit.
  8. The Governor has to call a Board meeting at least six times in a year and at least once each quarter.A meeting can be called if a minimum of four Directors ask the Governor to call a meeting.
  9. The Governor or if for any reason unable to attend,the Deputy Governor authorised by him to vote for him presides the Board meetings.In the event of split votes the Governor has a second or deciding vote.

Bank NPA

  1. Union Minister of Finance informed Lok Sabha about the present state of Bank Non Performing assets(NPA) in India.
  2. The minister said that as per RBI provisional data on global operations, the aggregate amount of gross NPAs of Public sector banks(PSBs) and Scheduled Commercial Banks(SCBs) till 31st March,2019 were Rs.8 lakh crore and Rs. 9.5 lakh crore respectively.
  3. Data on NPAs is regularly published by RBI as part of its Financial Stability Reports.NPA data is not collated by RBI in terms of corporate houses/companies.
  4. The primary reasons for spurt in NPA’s are (a)aggressive lending practices (b)wilful default / loan frauds / corruption in some cases and (c)economic slowdown.
  5. Over the last four years,Government has taken comprehensive steps under its 4R’s strategy of (a)recognising NPAs transparently (b)resolving and recovering value from stressed accounts (c)recapitalising PSBs and (d)reforms in banks and financial ecosystem to ensure a responsible and clean system.
  6. Further,the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016(IBC) has been enacted.Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act has also been amended to make it more effective.

NGOs for promotion of road safety

  1. Union minister has informed that Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has launched a scheme for grant of financial assistance to NGOs for administering Road Safety Advocacy in the last FY 2017-18.
  2. Under this Scheme,proposals for road safety advocacy programmes through 203 different Non-Governmental Organisations(NGOs)/Trusts/ Cooperative Societies have been sanctioned in FY 2017-18.
  3. As per the scheme provisions,financial assistance for a road safety programme is Rs.five lakh.
  4. The scheme does not provide for any advance payment and financial assistance is reimbursed only after the successful completion of the programme.
  5. There are adequate safeguards in the scheme to ensure proper utilization of funds such as (a)No advance payment is released to any agency (b)Registration of the NGO on Darpan Portal (c)The scheme is administered through a Project Management Unit(PMU) for scrutiny of proposals.

ICMR scientists identify new biomarker for malaria

  1. A team of researchers from Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) has identified a new biomarker in the body called as glutamate dehydrogenase of malaria parasite.
  2. This promises to help develop a more sensitive diagnostic test for the malaria disease.
  3. Currently,tests used for diagnosing malaria are based on a gene,Histidine-rich Protein 2(HRP2) replete with amino acid Histidine.However,studies have shown that this gene is often absent in some strains of the malaria parasite.
  4. Consequently,significant levels of malaria infection were going undetected. Scientists across the world have been searching for new biomarkers that would be more effective.
  5. biomarker or biological marker is a measurable indicator of some biological state or condition.Biomarkers are often measured and evaluated to examine normal biological processes,pathogenic processes or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.Biomarkers are used in many scientific fields.
  6. Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  7. According to the World Malaria Report 2018, more than 200 million people were affected by malaria in 2017. India (4%) along with Nigeria Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Uganda accounted for nearly 50% of all malaria cases worldwide.

Cash in circulation fell post note ban: FM

  1. Finance minister has said that demonetisation along with increased digital transactions and the reduced cash usage in the informal economy has led to a reduction in currency in circulation by ₹3.4 lakh crore.
  2. The Government has also said that fake note circulation has also dropped.It quoted RBI reports which said that the number of counterfeit notes detected in the banking system has come down to 3.17 lakhs pieces in FY19 from as high as 5.22 lakhs pieces in FY18.
  3. Further,the digital transactions in terms of value has increased to 188 lakh crore in September 2018 from ₹112 lakh crore in November 2016.In volume terms,they increased to ₹241.88 crore from ₹91.83 crore in the same period.
  4. Demonetisation also had a significant positive impact on curbing violence since illegally held cash which forms the major chunk of terrorist funding and most of these cash held by terrorists turned worthless post demonetisation.
  5. Demonetization is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender.In 2016,the Indian government decided to demonetize the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, the two biggest denominations in its currency system.
  6. The objectives of Demonetization were (a)To fight black money and corruption in the country by preventing hoarding of cash (b)To fight terrorism by cutting off funding in cash and (c)To prevent counterfeiting of currency notes.Other objectives like transition toward a less-cash economy or push for digital transaction were added later by the Government.

‘Impressive’ tortoise discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

  1. Wildlife experts have discovered the Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) in near Yazali of Lower Subansari district in Arunachal Pradesh.
  2. The new species of tortoise are elusive and have never been previously sighted in India.
  3. They are considered to be restricted to western Myanmar, pockets of habitat in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and southern China, and Peninsular Malaysia.
  4. The Impressed Tortoise is, medium-sized species and has a spine which bent upwards and beautifully serrated.
  5. It inhabits moist, primary forests of hilly tracts. It is impressive in colour and shape and hence called Impressed Tortoise.
  6. Impressed tortoise is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.
  7. The discovery of impressed tortoise has increased the total number to 29 species of non-marine chelonians and five tortoises in India. Chelonian is an order of reptile that includes turtles, terrapins and tortoises. Tortoises differ from turtles on account of being terrestrial animals.

Single mothers head 4.5% of all Indian households

  1. According to UN Women’s Report titled “Women’s Progress of the World 2019-2020”, in India, 13 million (4.5% of all households) are run by single mothers.
  2. In India, 46.7% of families are couples living with their children, over 31% live in extended families, while single person families account for 12.5%
  3. Further, the report has noted that In India, the poverty rate of single-mother households is 38% compared to 22.6% of dual parent households.
  4. Globally, more than eight out of ten single-parent households are headed by women (84.3%).
  5. The report has noted that for women in India, participation in the lab or force is dramatically impacted by marital status. According to 2012 data, 29.1 percent of all women aged 25 to 54 are in the labour force, compared to 97.8 percent of men of the same age
  6. The report has also drawn attention to the needs of the growing elderly population. Worldwide, it is projected that men’s life expectancy will be lower than that of women in 4.6 years during the period 2015-2020. Thus, there needs to be focus on senior women.
  7. The report offers solutions for elderly women such as family-friendly policies, including cash transfers, healthcare, and care services for children and older people

Kerala tops the list for best performing State in health

  1. The NITI Aayog has released the second edition of its State Health Index 2019 in a report titled “Healthy States, Progressive India: Report on Rank of States and UTs”
  2. The report has been prepared by NITI Aayog in collaboration with the health ministry and with technical assistance from the World Bank
  3. The index analyses overall performance and incremental improvement in the States and the Union Territories for the period with 2015-16 as the base year and 2017-18 as the reference year.
  4. It takes into account 23 health indicators such as neonatal mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, proportion of low birth weight among new-borns, proportion of districts with functional Cardiac Care Units, full immunisation coverage etc.
  5. The report ranked states and UTs in three categories — larger States, smaller States and Union Territories to ensure comparison among similar entities.
  6. Kerala has been designated for the best performing State in the health sector among the 21 large States. The position of the second-best State has been taken by Andhra Pradesh, and the third by Maharashtra. Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand improved the most.
  7. Among the large states, Uttar Pradesh was the worst performing state. Other poor performing states were Bihar, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh.
  8. Among the smaller states, Mizoram ranked first in overall performance. Tripura and Manipur improved the most.
  9. Among the UTs, Chandigarh ranked first in overall performance, while Dadra and Nagar Haveli improved the most.
  10. The report has also observed that there was a general positive correlation between the Health Index scores and the economic development levels of States and UTs as measured by per capita Net State Domestic Product (NSDP).
  11. However, a few States with relative low level of economic development performed well in the Health Index, such as Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab.

1 crore houses likely to be completed by 2020 ahead of deadline: Puri

  1. Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister of State has said that the government’s target of constructing one crore houses by 2022 under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) could be completed by the end of 2020.
  2. He was speaking on the fourth anniversary of the launch of three schemes for urban development – PMAY (U), the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transportation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission.
  3. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U) aims to construct 1.2 crore houses and ensure “Housing for All by 2022” by providing financial assistance to the beneficiaries. It has four components: a) In-situ Slum Redevelopment (ISSR), b) Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP), c) Beneficiary-led Individual house construction or Enhancement (BLC), and d) Credit-Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS).
  4. Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transportation (AMRUT) seeks to provide basic services (e.g. water supply, sewerage, urban transport) to households and build amenities in cities to improve the quality of life for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged.
  5. The Smart Cities Mission seeks to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.
  6. The nodal ministry for the above schemes is  Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

31.4% of Indian children will be stunted by 2022: report

  1. According to a report prepared by the UN World Food Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, going by the current trends, 31.4% under five years will still be stunted by 2022.
  2. The report has noted that food grain yields in India have risen 33% over the last 20 years, but are still only half of 2030 target yields.
  3. The report has observed that though the food production is higher than ever before, the consumer’s access to rice, wheat and other cereals has not increased at the same rate. This is because of population growth, inequality, food wastage and losses, and exports
  4. The average per capita consumption of energy among the poorest 30% of the population is 1811 kilo calories-much lower than the norm of 2155 kilo calories per day.
  5. Further, there is regional variation in stunting which is a measure of chronic malnutrition. In States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh 48% and 46% of children are stunted. While, it is only 20% in states like Kerala and Goa.
  6. There are high rates of stunting among children in the poorest wealth quintile (51.4%), Scheduled Tribes (43.6%) and Scheduled Castes (42.5%), and children born to mothers with no education (51%).

IOC inaugurates new Lausanne headquarters

  1. The International Olympic Committee(IOC) has formally opened its new headquarters in Lausanne,Switzerland.The Olympic House has been built on the site of the former headquarters.
  2. The International Olympic Committee(IOC) is a non-governmental sports organisation based in Lausanne,Switzerland.It was established in 1894.
  3. IOC is the authority responsible for organising the modern Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
  4. The IOC is the governing body of the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) are the national constituents of the worldwide Olympic Movement.As of 2016,there are 206 NOCs officially recognised by the IOC.
  5. The IOC also ensures the regular celebration of the Olympic Games,supports all affiliated member organisations of the Olympic Movement and strongly encourages the promotion of the Olympic values.