GS-2 CTBTO invites India to be an observer at meetings
  1. Recently, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation(CTBTO) has offered India an observer status and access to state-of-art International Monitoring System(IMS) data.
  2. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions for both civilian and military purposes in all environments.
  3. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996.It can only enter into force after it is ratified by eight countries with nuclear technology capacity, namely China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
  4. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty. India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.
  5. According to CTBT, each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
  6. India has refused to sign the Treaty on the grounds that the CTBT like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is discriminatory. While endorsing the spirit of test-ban and self-imposed moratorium on tests, India has said it would join the treaty only if there was no discrimination in favour of the five ‘nuclear weapon states’ in fulfilling the obligations for complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
  7. The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is an international organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria. It promotes the Treaty so that it can enter into force. It has also established a verification regime to monitor adherence to the Treaty
  8. The International Monitoring System (IMS) is a worldwide network of monitoring stations that will help to verify compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by detecting events that might indicate violations of the Treaty.
CPI inflation quickens to six-month high of 2.92% on food, fuel prices
  1. According to the data released from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), retail inflation for the month of January has increased to a six month high of 2.92%.This has been primarily due to increase in food prices including vegetables, meat, fish and eggs.
  2. Retail inflation is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).CPI measures changes in the price level of a market basket of consumer goods and services purchased by households. The CPI is a statistical estimate constructed using the prices of a sample of representative items whose prices are collected periodically.
  3. The annual percentage change in a CPI is used as a measure of inflation. Recently, base year of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been revised from 2010 to 2012.
  4. RBI has adopted CPI as the key measure for determining inflation situation of Indian economy on the recommendation of Urjit Patel Committee.
  5. However, Core Inflation has seen a downward trend. Core inflation demonstrates inflation apart from temporary shocks and volatility. It is measured using the CPI by excluding food and fuel components as their prices are highly volatile.
China hits back, imposes tariff hike on U.S. goods worth $60 bn
  1. China has decided to impose tariffs on $60bn of US goods extending a bilateral trade war. This move comes after the US had more than doubled the tariffs on $200bn of Chinese imports.
  2. The United States and China were discussing a trade deal to end the trade war. However, the latest round of US-Chinese trade negotiations has ended without a deal.
  3. Trade war is a situation where countries restrict each other’s trade by imposing tariffs or quota on imports. Tariffs are a tax on imports. They are typically charged as a percentage of the transaction price that a buyer pays a foreign seller.
  4. China has pointed out three major areas of disagreement between the two countries which are (a) whether to cancel all trade war tariffs when an agreement is reached (b)the exact size of Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and (c)balanced agreement text.
  5. The US has argued that China's trade surplus with the US is the result of unfair practices including state support for domestic companies. It also accuses China of stealing intellectual property from US firms.
Discourse on WTO reform lacks balance
  1. The second informal meeting of trade ministers from about 20 member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has started in India.
  2. During the meeting, India has raised the issue of deadlock in WTO’s dispute settlement body and attempts by developed nations to deny developing countries access to certain trade benefits.
  3. US has consistently blocked the appointment of judges in dispute settlement body. Further, India has also said that reform initiatives under WTO must promote inclusiveness, non-discrimination and address the inequalities and glaring asymmetries in existing agreements.
  4. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.
  5. The WTO officially commenced in 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement signed by 124 nations replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).Currently, it has 164 members and 22 observer governments with Afghanistan and Liberia being the latest to join.
  6. The Appellate Body of the WTO was established in 1995 with its seat in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a standing body of seven persons.
  7. It hears appeals from reports issued by panels in disputes brought by WTO Members. The Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel.
  8. The Appellate Body Reports once adopted by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) must be accepted by the parties to the dispute.
Collegium recommends names for appointment as chief justices of 4 HCs
  1. The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the names of four High Court Judges for their appointment as Chief Justices of the High Courts of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Telangana.
  2. Collegium system in India is the system by which the judges are appointed by the judges only also referred to as Judges-selecting- Judges. It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  3. The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the court. A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  4. The collegium sends its recommendation to the Government for approval. The government can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the government, then it is bound by that recommendation.
Prashant Bhushan sends notice to Centre on Bt Brinjal
  1. Recently, senior advocate has sent a legal notice to Union Environment Minister asking for a freeze on all genetically modified organisms (including Bt Brinjal) including field trials.
  2. This notice comes in the backdrop of activist groups had said that they had found evidence of Bt Brinjal being grown in a farmer’s field in Haryana.
  3. He has demanded that the Environment Ministry (a) uproot and destroy planted Bt brinjal in farms and seedlings in nurseries (b) undertake a scaled-up exercise of testing of seeds and plantings and (c) ascertain the supply chain from seed developers to intermediaries.
  4. The Bt brinjal refers to a group of transgenic brinjals created by inserting a crystal protein gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the genome of various brinjal cultivars.This was developed to give resistance against lepidopteran insects in particular the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer.
  5. It was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the Dharwad University of Agricultural Sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. In 2010, the government had placed an indefinite moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal.
  6. Government had said that the moratorium will last till independent scientific studies establish the safety of Bt brinjal from the point of view of its long term impact on human health and environment. However, the same Bt brinjal variety was subsequently approved for commercial cultivation in Bangladesh in 2013.
  7. GM Crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering.GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism. To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants inherit the new DNA.
SC agrees to hear plea against Delhi HC verdict quashing cadre allocation of IAS, IPS officers
  1. The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a government appeal against the Delhi High Court’s decision to quash the cadre allocation of IAS and IPS officers of the 2018 batch.
  2. The Delhi high court’s verdict came on petitions filed by various officers. The petitioners had claimed that the interpretation of Cadre Allocation Policy 2017 adopted by the government was unfair and arbitrary and the cadres were not allocated taking into account both merits and preferences of the candidates.
  3. In 2017, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had amended the earlier roster-based system of cadre allocation policy to make it a zone-based policy with the aim of protecting the national character of the top civil services.
  4. The move was to ensure that they do not turn into regional services because an increasing number of officers were opting for cadres in their home states or neighbouring states.
  5. Under the policy, states are divided into five zones. The candidates first mark their descending order of preference in various zones and then select a preferred cadre in each zone.
  6. After indicating one preferred cadre, the candidates have to follow the same process and indicate their second preferred cadre in each zone. The same process continues for other cadres and zones. For no preference in zones and cadres, the candidates have to enter “99”.
  GS-3 DRDO conducts successful flight test of ABHYAS
  1. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has conducted successful flight test of ABHYAS - High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT), from Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur, Odisha.
  2. ABHYAS is drone involving designed for autonomous flight with the help of an autopilot. Drones are unmanned aircrafts piloted from a remote pilot station.
  3. The configuration of ABHYAS is designed on an in-line small gas turbine engine. It uses indigenously developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) based navigation system for its navigation and guidance.
  4. The design of the fuselage is based is based on Lakshya. Lakshya is a high speed target drone system developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of DRDO.
415.26 parts per million: Carbon Dioxide levels hit historic
  1. Recently, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has recorded CO2 levels at 415.26 parts per million (ppm) baseline. It is the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415ppm. According to scientists, the last time Earth's atmosphere contained this much CO2 was 3 million years ago.
  2. The Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) is an atmospheric research facility on Mauna Loa, on the island of Hawaii, located in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The observatory is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) - Global Monitoring Division (GMD).
  3. There are certain factors that make MLO ideal for monitoring constituents in the atmosphere that can cause climate change such as- a) undisturbed air, b) remote location, and c) minimal influences of vegetation and human activity.
  4. MLO has been monitoring and collecting data related to atmospheric change since the 1950's. Concentration of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere is represented by the Keeling Curve- named after its creator, Dr. Charles David Keeling.
  5. At the end of 2018, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded the fourth-highest annual growth in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 in its 60 years of record keeping. In 2013, CO2 levels were recorded as exceeding 400 ppm for the first time in human history. In comparison, CO2 levels were around 315 ppm at the start of record keeping in the 1950s.
  6. The high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 clearly indicates that nations are not on track in fulfilling the commitment to 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Paris agreement aims to a) keep global temperature rise in 21st century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and b) pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
DNA database coming up for Indian rhino
  1. The Union Environment Ministry has started a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in India. The deadline of the project is 2021. Once completed, the Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced.
  2. Proponents of the project include World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The Wildlife Institute of India is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change.
  3. According to experts, once the project is completed it would be helpful in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  4. The project is a subset of recently launched National Rhino Conservation Strategy for India. The strategy focuses on a) strengthening protection, b) expanding present distribution range by at least 5%, research on rhinos in India, c) active Indo- Nepal and Indo- Bhutan trans-boundary engagement, and d) emphasis on use of wildlife forensics for controlling poaching and illegal trade in rhino parts and products.
  5. The Great one horned Rhinoceros (Indian rhinoceros) is found in the Indian subcontinent. It is listed as Vulnerable in the ICUN Red List.
  6. There are about 2,600 rhinos in India, with more than 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. Outside Kaziranga, there are about 200 rhinos in West Bengal, 40 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Bihar.
  7. In 2005, Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 programme to protect and increase the population of the one-horned rhinoceros. The programme was launched by Assam Forest Department in partnership with WWF-India, the International Rhino Foundation and US Fish & Wildlife Service. It aims to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in Assam by the year 2020.
  8. At the recent Second Asian Rhino Range Countries Meeting in New Delhi, India has signed the New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019. Under the declaration India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia for conservation and protection of three Asian rhino species- Greater one-horned rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and Sumatran rhinoceros. The population of these rhino species will be reviewed every 4 years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
ISRO hosts first batch of teen scientists
  1. Indian space Research Organization (ISRO) is hosting first batch of students under the Young Scientists Programme, also known as YUva VIgyani KAryakram (YUVIKA).
  2. In January 2019, ISRO had announced “Young Scientist Programme”- a special programme for school children. The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to children. The intent is to arouse their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  3. The programme has a duration of about 2 weeks during summer holidays. It includes a) invited talks, b) experience sharing by the eminent scientists, c) facility and lab visits, d) exclusive sessions for discussions with experts, e) practical and feedback sessions. Those who have finished 8th standard and currently studying in 9th standard are eligible for the programme.
Particulate matter from cigarettes, mosquito coils makes indoor air toxic
  1. According to a new study published in journal SN Applied Sciences, burning of mosquito coils and cigarettes in closed places releases traces of heavy metals and particulate matter in the environment which may cause adverse health impacts following prolonged exposure.
  2. Cigarettes and mosquito coils along with highly polluting cooking fuel use, and gases released from burning of wood-containing products are major sources of indoor air pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), household pollution is responsible for 4.3 million deaths annually in the world.
  3. The study had found that maximum concentration of various sizes of particulate matter (PM0.25, PM1, PM2.5, and PM10) was released during the burning phase as compared to pre- and post-burning phases of cigarettes and mosquito coils. Aluminium, chromium and tin were higher in mosquito coil smoke, while copper, zinc, manganese, nickel and lead were higher in cigarette smoke samples.
  4. Particulate Matter (PM) is small liquid droplets and solid particles whose hazardous nature increases with a decrease in their size as they become respirable. It includes both organic and inorganic particles, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
As hypertension prevalence rises, 50% of Indians are unaware of diagnosis
  1. According to a new study by PLOS Medicine, though prevalence of hypertension is rising fast among Indians, awareness, diagnosis and treatment of the condition is significantly low. The study was conducted by researchers from Germany’s Heidelberg University, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and Public Health Foundation of India. It was based on a survey of 7, 31,864 individuals aged 15 to 49 years sampled from all states and UTs of India.
  2. According to the study, more than 50% of those with hypertension are unaware of their diagnosis, only 13% take blood pressure lowering medication and 8% achieved any control over their condition.
  3. The study has also found substantial variation in management of the disease in rural and urban areas as well as among states. Awareness level was lowest in Chhattisgarh and highest in Puducherry. Further, there was contrast in awareness levels between rural and urban areas with the latter performing better.
  4. The study has also found that women had better control over hypertension conditions. The analysis found that while 10.9% of hypertensive women were taking medications, only 5.3% men did so.
  5. Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels.