ForumIAS: Facts in News (August 1st – 7th)

Read summaries of all important news articles 

Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation for the first week of August.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the first week of August.

Government Policies
Drug-smuggling route• 1,500 kg of heroin worth over ₹3,500 crore have been seized off Gujarat coast.
• One of the world’s biggest drug smuggling routes spreads across Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Indian Ocean.
• Heroin and other drugs come down from Afghanistan and is loaded into fishing trawlers in Karachi, Keti Bandar or other smaller fishing harbours on the Pakistan coast.
• The boats try to keep off Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, and reach mid-sea.
• Many of these gangs are controlled form Thailand and Dubai and the drugs are sold in the international markets.
Handbook for Childcare workers• The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has released a handbook on skill development and counselling of staff of Child Care Institutions (CCIs).
• NCPCR is a statutory body created under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005.
• It functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
• The Commission's Mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Delhi reports ‘good’ air quality• For the first time in two years, Delhi has seen two days of ‘good’ air quality in July, according to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Moreover, not a single day in July saw ‘poor’ air quality.
• These classifications are part of a 6-grade, colour-coded Air Quality Index (AQI) that the government uses to rate air quality.
• Officials attribute July’s cleaner air to above-normal rains and the various steps taken in the aftermath of the Graded Action Plan.
• The Government notified a Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi and NCR in January 2017, whereby municipal and State authorities must undertake a series of steps if particulate matter pollution exceeds 300g/m3, i.e., ‘severe’ pollution.
Breastfeeding Week• Breastfeeding Week is observed in the first week of August to focus attention on the important aspect of promotion and support of breastfeeding.
• The theme of this year’s breastfeeding week is ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding’.
• To intensify the efforts, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated a nationwide programme called “MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection'’.
• The key components of the MAA programme are awareness generation, promotion of breastfeeding & inter personal counselling at community level.
Swachh Bharat Hackathon• The Ministry of Drinking water and Sanitation, MDWS is organizing Swachhathon 1.0- the Swachh Bharat Hackathon, to crowd source solutions for the pressing issues pertaining to Sanitation.
• The event will be held on 8th September.
• The Primary target of the Ministry is youth from rural areas, who can come up with innovative models and affordable technologies related to toilets and sanitation.
Centre mulls ‘One Nation, One Licence’ in new telecom policy• The Centre will consider including a ‘one-nation one-licence’ regime in the new telecom policy that is set to come out next year.
• The move, if implemented, is likely to remove the distinction between local and STD calls, as service providers will not need separate licences for operations in various parts of the country.
• Creation of ‘one-nation one-licence’ policy across services and service areas, was also the one of the objectives of the National Telecom Policy 2012.
A committee to draft data protection Bill• The unique identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has informed a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court that the Centre has constitutes a committee of experts, led by former SC judge Justice B.N. Krishna, to identify “key data protection issues” and suggest a draft data protection bill.
• UIDAI has also said that privacy is not a fundamental right; it is subjective and dependent on human behaviour.
• The committee was formed on July 31, 2017.
Blue Whale challenge• Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis is going to urge the Centre to ban the online game the Blue Whale Challenge. Recently, a 14-year-old boy died in Andheri allegedly due to participating in the game.
• The Blue Whale challenge is an online social media game wherein the participants are given a series of tasks to complete over a period of time.
• The online game starts by asking participants via social media to draw a blue whale on a piece of paper. The participants are then asked to carve the whale on their body. They are given other tasks, like waking up at odd hours, listening to psychedelic rock and watching a horror movie alone. The tasks have to be recorded on video and uploaded to access the next stage of the game. The final task is to commit suicide.
• In Russia, from where the game originated, more than 130 children have allegedly committed suicide in a bid to compete the game tasks.
• The creator of the game has been arrested and sentenced to three years in jail in Russia last month.
Motor Vehicles Bill • A Bill seeking to bring radical changes in the transport sector by amending the nearly 30-year-old Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, would be sent to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
• The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 addresses issues such as third party insurance, regulation of taxi aggregators, and road safety.
• Under the Act, the liability of the third party insurer for motor vehicle accidents is unlimited. However, the Bill caps the maximum liability for third party insurance in case of a motor accident at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and at five lakh rupees in case of grievous injury.
• The Bill provides for a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which would provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
Swachh Survekshan• Central Government has launched ‘Swachh Survekshan-2018’ to rank cities and towns of the country based on infrastructure development for improved sanitation services and their sustainability, outcomes, citizen connect and visible impact on ground.
• The survey is the third in the series and will be a Pan-India sanitation survey.
• All 4,041 cities and towns of the country will be covered under Swachh Survekshan-2018 and the results will be announced in March next year.
• Under this survey, cities will be ranked based on 71 sanitation related parameters with different weightages for a total of 4,000 marks.
Coconut palm declared State tree in Goa• Goa government has declared coconut palm as the State tree.
• It has also decided to include coconut palm as tree in the Goa, Daman and Diu (Prevention of) Trees Act, 1984 to regulate its felling.
New Vice President of India• M. Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as the 13th Vice President of India.
• Naidu received 516 out of 760 votes.
• Opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi received 244 votes.
Now Aadhaar mandatory for death certificates too• The government has made Aadhaar numbers a pre-requisite for issuing death certificates to residents of all States, barring Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya and Assam, in order to establish the identity of the deceased.
• The order comes into effect from October 1, 2017.
• The move will result in ensuring accuracy of the details provided by the relatives of the deceased and would obviate need to produce multiple documents to prove the identity of a deceased person.
• Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act 2016 permits the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose pursuant to any law or any contract to this effect.
• The registration of births and deaths are being done under the provisions of Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969 and the corresponding Rules made by State governments
Relief package for the North East• Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a total package of ₹ 2,350 crore for all north eastern states for mitigating the impact of floods in short and long term basis.
• He also announced an immediate release of ₹250 crore for flood-hit Assam.
• Floods in the Brahmaputra River have affected over 25 lakh people in Assam.
India’s first private missile production facility• India’s first private sector missile sub-systems manufacturing facility was inaugurated near Hyderabad on 3rs July.
• It is a joint venture between the $2.5 billion Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.
• The Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS) plant will make anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Spike and the production is expected to begin in a few weeks.
• Besides supplying to the Indian Army, the plan is to export to South East Asian countries.
• It is formed in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Centre and the policy to encourage private sector participation in defence production.
• The localisation content is 90% and most of the vendors are in and around Hyderabad.
NOTA option to remain in Rajya Sabha polls• The 'None Of The Above' (NOTA) will continue as an option on the ballot paper in the coming Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat.
• The Supreme Court has refused to stay a 2014 Election Commission (EC) circular that introduced it in Rajya Sabha elections.
• In Rajya Sabha polls, the MLAs have to show their ballot paper to an authorised party agent before putting it in ballot box.
• If a voter (MLA) defies the party directive and votes for someone else or uses NOTA option, he cannot be disqualified as a legislator.
• But the party is free to take disciplinary action including expulsion.
• According to EC rules, the defiant voter can continue to be an MLA and his vote can also not be invalidated for defying party directions.
Arvind Panagariya • Arvind Panagariya has stepped down as Vice Chairman of the government think tank NITI Aayog.
• He is a Professor of Indian Political Economy at Columbia University and will be returning to the U.S. to rejoin academia.
• The noted economist, who was appointed to the post in January 2015, has written to the PM Modi requesting to be relieved by the end of the month as he has not been granted an extension of leave from Columbia University.
• Mr Panagariya holds a Ph. D in Economics from Princeton University and has also worked for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in various capacities.
RBI cuts policy rate• RBI has cut the key policy rate or repo rate by 25 basis point (bps) to 6%.
• It is lowest in six-and-a-half-years.
• RBI has reduced the repo rate by 200bps since January 2015.
SBI cuts Savings bank account interest rate• The State Bank of India has cut the savings bank account interest rate by 50 bps to 3.5% for deposits of less than Rs. 1 crore.
• About 90% of SBI’s savings account holders will be impacted due to the move.
• SBI has a savings account base of Rs. 9 lakh crore.
Manufacturing PMI slowed down• According to the Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, manufacturing activity in July has slowed to 47.9. It is the lowest level since February 2009.
• Reason of this slump is the introduction of Goods and Services Tax on July 1.
• A score above 50 implies an expansion of activity while one below 50 denotes a contraction.
Easier to buy small homes• Lower interest rates and stagnant property prices, in combination with the interest subsidy under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), have reduced the real interest rate for a home buyer.
• The interest rates have fallen about 200 basis points (one basis point is equal to 1/100th of 1%) in the last 15 months, bringing down the EMIs.

Services PMI drops• Service sector activity in July slowed to its lowest level since September 2013, due in large part to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, according to a private sector survey.
• The Nikkei India Services Purchasing Managers’ Index registered a reading of 45.9 in July, falling from the eight-month high of 53.1 seen in June.
• A reading over 50 indicates expansion and one below 50 implies a contraction in activity.
• The slowdown in services activity coincides with a similar sharp slowdown in manufacturing activity in July, with the Manufacturing PMI registering a reading of 47.9, the lowest it has been since February 2009.
BHARAT 22• The Government has announced the launch of a new Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) by the name BHARAT 22.
• Bharat 22 consists of 22 stocks of CPSE's, PSB's & strategic holding of SUUTI.
• Compared to energy heavy CPSE ETF, Bharat 22 is a well diversified portfolio, with 6 sectors (Basic Materials, Energy, Finance, FMCG, Industrials & Utilities).
• The Bharat 22 Index will be rebalanced annually.
• ICICI Prudential AMC will be the ETF Manager and Asia Index Private Limited will be the Index Provider.
• In the Budget Speech of 2017-18, the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley had promised to use ETF as a vehicle for further disinvestment of shares.
Dr. Rajiv Kumar• Economist Dr. Rajiv Kumar has been appointed as the new vice-chairman of NITI Aayog.
• Dr. Kumar holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a PhD from Lucknow University.
• He has served as director and chief executive of the Indian Council of Research on International Economic Relations.
GST Council approves e-Way billing• The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has decided to implement the e-Way bill system for the transport of goods across the country.
• The GST Council has given its in-principle approval for the implementation of e-Way bills.
• e-Way bills will be necessary for the transport of goods worth more than ₹50,000, and over a distance of more than 10 km.
• It will not apply for goods exempt from GST.
International Relations
Minor Chinese transgression• Chinese troops entered almost a kilometre inside the Indian territory along the Uttarakhand border on 25th July.
• It was a minor transgression in the Barahoti area of Chamoli district.
• Barahoti is one of the rare areas in the Middle Sector that sees regular transgressions because of difference of perception over the border between the two sides.
• The transgression gains significance against the background of the ongoing standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area
Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and Bhutan• The bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan are governed by the Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between the Government of India and Bhutan.
• The Agreement provides for a free trade regime between the territories of India and Bhutan. The Agreement also provides for duty free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.
• The Agreement was last renewed in 2006 for a period of ten years and then extended for a year in 2016.
• The new Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement was signed on 12th November 2016 between India and Bhutan and has come into force with effect from 29th July 2017.
7th Meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers- Shanghai• The 7th Meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers was held in Shanghai from 1-2 August.
• A six-member delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the meetings.
Science & Tech
Turmeric to treat cancer in children• Curcumin, a bioactive component of turmeric that is widely used in Indian cuisine, can treat cancer in children.
• Researchers at Nemours Children’s Hospital and the University of Central Florida have found that nanoparticles loaded with curcumin can target and destroy neuroblastoma tumour cells.
• Curcumin has been shown to have substantial anti-cancer ability, but its low solubility and poor stability have restricted its use in therapeutic applications.
A new antibacterial drug-delivery system• A new antibiotic drug-delivery system that improves the efficacy of drugs used for treating bacterial infections has been tested in a lab by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
• A peptide bound to gold nanoparticles was able to kill E. coli and Salmonella typhi more efficiently at lower dosages.
• Drug delivery becomes better and the bioavailability improves when the drug is conjugated to gold nanoparticles. So reduced dosage is sufficient to kill the bacteria and there is a reduced drug resistance
A new grasshopper species discovered• A small-granulated dark black andbrown coloured pygmy grasshopper measuring about 9.07 mm was discovered in the forests of Chhattisgarh.
• The species was discovered from moist deciduous forests in Korba district and was named Coptotettix korbensis.
• Earlier in 2017, a short-horned grasshopper Epistaurus tinsensis was discovered from the Baranwapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Raipur.
• Grasshoppers form an important link in the food chain and their predators include reptiles, amphibians, and birds and they help directly in the protection of endangered species of birds.
Methanol-a clean, cheaper fuel • The government is deliberating upon a strategy to use methanol as an alternative fuel in automobiles.
• Methanol is a promising fuel for waterways as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels.
• India imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran at present. NITI Aayog is working on a roadmap for conversion from coal to methanol.
• Methanol can be produced from municipal waste as well.
Malabar Pit Viper• It is a snake found only on Western Ghats.
• It is a flagship species of the Western Ghats and its life-cycle is linked to water.
• However, the monsoon pattern is becoming erratic in Western Ghats.
• The Malabar Pit Viper is a single species with varied colour morphs.
• IUCN has put the snake under ‘Least Concern’ species as of 2013.
• India is home to 21 species of pit vipers. These snakes are named after the infra-red sensing pit between their nose and eyes which they use to identify warm-blooded prey.
Iodine content in salt on the decline in WB• While nearly 80% of salt samples passed the iodine content testing in 2013-14, the rate has come down to about 53.8% in 2015-16 when the decision to shut the Salt Department was taken.
• According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, proper iodine content in salt is 15 parts per million (15 mg per kg).
• Lack of iodine in diet can lead to hypothyroidism, (a disorder in which the thyroid gland does not produce adequate thyroid hormone).
• It can also lead to stunned growth among children.
• It also results in stillbirth and various types of goiter.
• Indian Space Research Organisation will soon launch a replacement navigation satellite IRNSS-1H fitted with corrected atomic clocks to make up for the crippled satellite, IRNSS-1A.
• Its launch became imperative after all three rubidium atomic clocks on IRNSS-1A failed in mid-2016. Three more clocks failed later across the fleet of seven satellites, which together had 21 atomic clocks.
• The fleet now called NAViC or Navigation Indian Constellation, is India’s own GPS-like system to give accurate information about location and time of persons or objects.
• The clocks for ISRO’s NavIC and the European Space Agency's first 18 Galileo satellites came from the same Swiss company and developed similar problems around the same time.
Silver in rice• Garib-sal, one of the 505 types of rice plants tested by scientists, is capable of absorbing silver found naturally in soil and accumulating it in the grain to unusually high levels of 15 mg per kg.
• The rice was able to accumulate high quantities of silver even when the soil contained only about 0.15 mg per kg.
• This shows the possibility of commercial extraction of the metal through farming.


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