9 PM Current Affairs Brief – February 6th, 2020

Burhi Dihing River

News: Massive fire broke out on the Burhi Dihing River in Assam’s Dibrugarh district allegedly due to an oil pipeline blast


  • Dihing or Burhi Dihing is a large left bank tributary of the Brahmaputra River.
  • Source: the Patkai Hills, Eastern Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh
  • Course: flows through Tinsukia and Dibrugarh Districts in Assam to its confluence with the Brahmaputra at Dihingmukh

Additional Information:

Other important Tributaries of River Brahmaputra

  1. Major left bank tributaries: Burhi Dihing, Dhansari (South), Kalang, Lohit, Dibang
  2. Major right bank tributaries: Subansiri, Kameng, Manas, Sankosh, Teesta

Global Misery Index

News: Congress party claimed that the Indian economy should be measured in terms of the Global Misery Index (GMI)


Misery Index

Origin: The first Misery Index was constructed by economist Art Okun in the 1960s. It was a simple sum of a nation’s annual inflation rate and its unemployment rate. The higher the index, the more is the misery felt by average citizens.


  • The Index has been modified several times, first by Robert Barro of Harvard and then by Prof. Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University
  • Hanke’s Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita.
  • A higher Misery Index score reflects a higher level of “misery.”

Soil Health Card scheme of Central Govt: A success story

News: A study conducted by the National Productivity Council (NPC) has said that the application of Soil Health Card recommendations has led to a decline of 8-10% in use of chemical fertilizers and also raised productivity by 5-6%.


Soil Health Card Scheme

  • Launched in 2015 by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. It is one of the most important interventions under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture

Implementation: Department of Agriculture of all the State and Union Territory Governments


  • Provides for the analysis of soil composition by the State Governments once in every two years.
  • Soil Health Card (SHC):
  • It is a printed report that a farmer will be handed over for each of his holdings
  • It contains the status of his soil with respect to 12 parameters: N, P, K (Macro-nutrients); S (Secondary- nutrient); Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, Bo (Micro – nutrients); and pH, EC, OC (Physical parameters).
  • Based on this, the SHC indicates fertilizer recommendations and soil amendment required for the farm.

Additional Information

National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: It seeks to enhance agricultural productivity especially in rain fed areas focusing on integrated farming, water use efficiency, soil health management and synergizing resource conservation.

National Productivity Council:

  • It is a national level autonomous organization under the administrative control of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It was established in 1958 and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • Its function is to promote and adopt the new and improved culture of productivity in India.

Surrogate mother need not be a close relative, Rajya Sabha committee recommends

News: The 23-member Rajya Sabha select committee set up to look into the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 has advocated 15 major changes.


About Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019

Aim: To regulate the practice and process of surrogacy in India

Key Provisions:

  • Prohibition of Commercial Surrogacy: The bill puts a complete ban on commercial surrogacy. It also bans surrogacy for producing children for sale, prostitution and other forms of exploitation.
  • Permitted Purposes of Surrogacy: It allows altruistic surrogacy for intending couples who have proven infertility.
  • Eligibility criteria for intending couple: An intending couple should have a “certificate of essentiality” issued by the appropriate authority upon fulfilling the following criteria:
    • Indian citizenship and married for at least 5 years
    • Aged between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband)
    • should not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate) {Exception: a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life-threatening disorder or fatal illness}
  • Eligibility Criteria for surrogate mother:
    • A close relative of the intending couple
    •  Married; having a child of her own
    • Aged 25-35 years
    • A surrogate only once in her lifetime
    • Possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy
  • Formation of National and State Surrogacy Boards: It proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories.
  • Parentage of the surrogate child: It states that any child born out of a surrogacy procedure shall be the biological child of the intending couple. Also, the child will be entitled to all rights and privileges that are available to a natural child
  • Abortion of Surrogate Child: It states that in case of abortion of the surrogate child, written consent of the surrogate mother is mandatory. Also, there must be an authorization from appropriate authorities, in compliance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  • Offenses and Penalties: Any form of monetary transactions in the name of surrogacy has been made a criminal offense. It imposes a fine of up to Rs. 10 lakh and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the following offenses:
    • Advertisement of the act of commercial surrogacy.
    • Exploitation of the surrogate mother.
    • Exploiting or abandoning the surrogate child.
    • Sale and Import gametes or human embryos.

Major Changes recommended in the bill by the Committee

  • A surrogate mother need not be a “close relative”
  • Omission of the five-year time limit before seeking surrogacy
  • allow single women (widow or a divorcee and Persons of Indian Origin) to avail of surrogacy
  • Increase in insurance cover for the surrogate mother from the 16 months to 36 months.
  • Delete the definition of “infertility” as “the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse” on grounds that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.
  • The order regarding the parentage and custody of the child, issued by a Magistrate, should be the birth affidavit for the surrogate child.

How Wuhan outbreak became sixth global health emergency in 10 years

News: The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak in China as a public health emergency of international concern.



  • These are viruses belonging to a family known as Coronaviridae. They are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people
  • They cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Novel Coronavirus:

  • It is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. 2019-nCoV, had not previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
  • Transmission: It is a respiratory viruswhich spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets.
  • Symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Public Health Emergency

  • Defined as an extraordinary event that constitutes a public health risk to other States through the international spread of the disease and potentially requires a coordinated international response.
  • Declared under International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) by Director-General of the WHO
  • Previous Declarations:
    • H1N1 Influenza-2009
    • Polio-2014
    • Ebola-2014 and 2019
    • Zika Virus: 2016

Additional Information:

International Health Regulations (IHR 2005)

  • Aim: prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease
  • Legally binding international law on 196 states and countries must report events of international public health importance
  • Entered into force in 2007


  • Assist countries to work together to save lives and livelihoods endangered by the international spread of diseases and other health risks
  • Avoid unnecessary interference with international trade and travel.

International Intellectual Property Index

News:TheU.S Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) has released the International Intellectual Property Index 2020.


About the index:

  • The index maps the Intellectual Property(IP) ecosystem in 53 global economies representing over 90% of global GDP.
  • It uses 50 unique indicators which span across nine categories of protection namely patents, copyrights, trademarks, design rights, trade secrets, commercialization of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency and membership and ratification of international treaties.

Key takeaways from the index:

  • The US, the UK, Sweden, France and Germany remained the top five economies on the index.
  • India has been ranked at 40th out of 53 countries in the index.It was placed at 36th position among 50 countries in 2019.

Challenges for India:The index has identified several challenges for India. Some of them are:

  • Patentability requirements
  • patent enforcement
  • compulsory licensing
  • patent opposition
  • regulatory data protection 
  • transparency in reporting seizures by customs among others.

Supreme Court panel recommends several prison reforms

News:The Supreme Court has issued notice to the central government seeking a reply on the Justice Amitava Roy committee recommendations.


About the committee:

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court had constituted a three-member committee headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Amitava Roy to look into issues of reforms in prison administration and management.

Key recommendations of the committee:

  • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
  • There should be modern cooking facilities,canteens to buy essential items.
  • Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of overcrowding.
  • There should be atleast one lawyer for every 30 prisoners as under trial prisoners are languishing behind bars for years without a hearing.
  • There should be use of video-conferencing for trial mainly because of unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation.
  • Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offences which have been pending for more than five years.
  • An adjournment should not be granted in cases where witnesses are present and the concept of plea bargaining, in which accused admits guilt for a lesser sentence, should be promoted.

Prison Conditions in India:The India Justice Report 2019 highlighted the grim data on the prison conditions in India.As per the report: 

  • Prisons in India are overcrowded with a 114% occupancy rate where 17 out of 36 state and union territories have prison occupancy of 100 percent. 
  • As per the data, Delhi prisons are most occupied with 180% occupancy rate.The overcrowding in prisons is due to the fact that nearly 68% of under-trials are waiting for investigation, inquiry or trial.
  • The report found vacancies to be a major challenge in the three institutions of the criminal justice system namely police, prisons and the judiciary.

Mukti Caravan mobilising people against child trafficking

News:A Mukti Caravan has been flagged off in Rajasthan to mobilise people against child trafficking.


About Mukti Caravan:

  • The Mukti(liberation) Caravan is a nationwide campaign launched by Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi.
  • The campaign aims to raise awareness about evils like child trafficking, child labour and child sexual abuse.
  • Activists, government officials, theatre artists, National Legal Services Authority representatives, judiciary and other stakeholders are part of this campaign.

Additional information:

Legislative Provisions related to Trafficking in India:

  • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act,1956(ITPA): It is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013:It provides for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking including trafficking of children for exploitation in any form.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual offences(POCSO) Act,2012:It is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Cabinet clears major port in Maharashtra

News:Union Cabinet has given its approval for setting up a Major Port at Vadhavan near Dahanu in Maharashtra.


About Vadhavan Port:

  • The Vadhavan port will be the 13th major port in the country.It will be developed on a landlord based model.
  • A special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be formed with Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust(JNPT) as the lead partner with the government holding 51% stake.

Additional information:

About Landlord Based Model:

  • In the landlord port model,the publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body and as landlord while private companies carry out port operations mainly cargo-handling activities.
  • The port authority maintains ownership of the port while the infrastructure is leased to private firms.
  • In return, the landlord port gets a share of the revenue from the private entity.

About Jawaharlal Nehru Port:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) was established in 1989.It is located east of Mumbai in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • It is the biggest container port in India and the 28th largest in the world. But with the development of Vadhavan port,India will be in the top 10 container ports in the world.

Amrabad Tiger Reserve

News:Recently,a major forest fire was reported for a second time from the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Nagarkurnool district.


About Amrabad Tiger Reserve:

  • Amrabad Tiger Reserve lies in the Nallamala hills,Telangana.Earlier,it was part of the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger reserve.
  • The tiger reserve has a large presence of the Chenchu tribe.

About Chenchus Tribe:

  • Chenchus are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group(PVTGs).They are forest dwellers whose home is the Nallamala forest range.
  • They are an aboriginal tribe whose traditional way of life has been based on hunting and gathering.
  • They speak the Chenchu language,a member of the Dravidian language family.
  • They are found in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha.

Cabinet Clears Amendments To Ensure Greater RBI Control Over Cooperative Banks 

News:The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Banking Regulation Act to give the Reserve Bank of India greater control over cooperative banks.


Key provisions of the amendments:

  • Cooperative banks will be brought under the regulation of the RBI. 
  • The RBI will have the power to supersede and take control of the cooperative banks if the bank’s financial health deteriorates. 
  • Cooperative banks will need RBI permission to appoint a CEO 
  • Cooperative bank audits will have to be done as per RBI guidelines

About Co-operative bank:

  • Co-operative bank is a financial entity which belongs to its members, who are at the same time the owners and the customers of their bank.
  • Cooperative Banks are registered under the States Cooperative Societies Act.They are also regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • They are classified into two categories namely Urban Co-operative Banks(UCBs) and rural co-operative banks.

International Seafood Show

News:The 22nd edition of India international seafood show(IISS) will be held in Kochi,Kerala from 7 to 9 February 2020. 


About the Seafood Show:

  • It is a biennial show which is organised once every two years.
  • It is organized by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) in association with the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI).
  • Theme:Blue Revolution- Beyond Production to Value Addition.

Additional Information 

About MPEDA:

  • It was established in 1972 through the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) Act 1972 under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is the nodal agency for the holistic development of the seafood industry in India.

About SEAI:

  • Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) was established in 1973 as an organisation registered under the Registrar of Companies Act, 1956.
  • It aims to protect and promote the interests of the seafood industry and develop the international trade of seafood from India.

Fish Production in India:

  • India is currently the second largest producer of fisheries.It is also world number two in aquaculture production as well as in inland capture fisheries.
  • In 2017-18, Andhra Pradesh topped the Indian States in Inland fisheries followed by West Bengal.Gujarat was ranked number one in marine fisheries.
  • The contribution of fisheries to the Gross Domestic Product is about 1% and about 5.37% to the Agricultural GDP.

Janasevaka scheme

News:The Karnataka government has launched a doorstep delivery scheme- called Jana Sevaka scheme.


About the scheme:

  • Aim:To provide citizens with easy access to important government services at a doorstep delivery.
  • Under the scheme, the citizens will have to place the request for the service through the website or mobile phones. 
  • After the request is placed,a Jan Sevak will be assigned to collect required documents and to deliver several government services such as issuance of ration card, Health card among others.

DefExpo 2020

News:DefExpo is being held for the first time in Lucknow(Uttar Pradesh) from 5th February 2020.


About DefExpo:

  • It is a biennial event organized by the Department of Defence Production ,Ministry of Defence.
  • Theme: India-The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub and the focus will be on Digital Transformation of Defence.

Key Takeaways from the DefExpo:

  • India aims to develop 25 defence products based on Artificial Intelligence in the next 5 years.
  • India will shift towards “Assemble in India” from “Make in India”.The new mantra will be “Make in India, for India and for the world”.This will aim at importing raw materials and assembling in India and exporting the finished goods to different parts of the world.
  • Under the Draft Defence Production Policy 2018, the Indian government eyes $5 billion defence exports by 2025. 
  • India has also taken several measures to boost the defence sector.It has liberalized the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) to 49% through automatic route and above 49% under government route.
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