ForumIAS: Facts in News (November 15th – 21st)

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.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the Third week of November.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

Bills, Programs, Policies, Schemes, orders, Judgment
Boosting of public transportContext:
• Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded urgent steps by various government departments, especially Transport, to strengthen its existing public transport infrastructure
What are the initiatives taken?
• The Chief Minister ordered directions to urgently fill up 2,000 vacancies in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).
• He also directed to expedite the procurement of buses scheduled to be rolled out next year, route rationalisation by Delhi Integrated MultiModal Transit System.
• Creation of a fleet of electric buses at the earliest.
• A proposal has been extended to fill up vacancies in the DTC, both service¬related and required for the maintenance of buses which will be added to the fleet, has been pending with the Finance Department for over a month.
• 2,000 buses being procured will be on the Capital’s roads by June, 2018.
MultiModal Transit System:
• Multimodal transport (also known as combined transport) is the transportation of goods under a single contract, but performed with at least two different means of transport.
National Anti Profiteering AuthorityContext:
• The Union Cabinet approved establishing the National Anti Profiteering Authority (NAA) under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) to ensure fair pricing.
Objectives of establishing:
• To ensure that benefit of the reduction in prices under the uniform tax regime reaches the consumers.
• The Cabinet consented to creating positions of Chairman and technical members of the authority which would lead to immediate establishment of the apex body.
• To ensure that the latest tax rate reductions approved by the GST Council on more than 200 items are implanted immediately by businesses.
• Help in controlling inflation.
• The objective of the anti-profiteering clause in GST is to ensure that any reduction in tax rate as a result of GST should be passed on to consumers by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
• The NAA will be headed by a senior Secretary-level official of the Central government, with four technical members from either the Centre or the states.
• This is the second major GST-related decision taken by the government.
Supreme Court allowed a prayer by a terminally-ill Ukranian prisonerContext:
• The Supreme Court allowed a prayer by a terminally-ill Ukranian prisoner in Chennai that his fundamental right to life includes the right to die with dignity in the company of family members.
Arguments sighted in petition:
• The right to live with human dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution by included “some of the finer graces of human civilization, which makes life worth living”.
• The concept of life also found that the right to live with human dignity included the right to co-mingle with fellow human beings.
• The petition argued that the right to life for the petitioner, who is a foreign national, would also include the right to be repatriated to his country of origin to spend his last few days.
Supreme Court is facing an institutional crisisContext:
• Presently, the Supreme Court is facing an institutional crisis on account of the most ferocious attack ever on the judiciary by the executive.
Present crisis in Indian Judiciary:
• Corruption in the judiciary.
• The executive wants a judiciary that is beholden to it.
• Politicians and governments influence judges.
• Shortfall of judges.
• The most telling indicator of the assault on the judiciary is the non-appointment of judges.
• Absence of separate Commercial Courts.
• Lack of expertise.
• Poor dispute resolution mechanism.
• Frequent transfer of judges.
• Lack of transparency.
• Expensive and delayed justice
• Frequent adjournments and indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction.
‘India State Level Disease Burden’ reportContext:
• The ‘India State Level Disease Burden’ report, prepared as part of the Global Burden of Disease(GBD) Study 2016 published in Lancet.
Key Highlights of the report:
1- Non-Communicable diseases:

• The study has found that every State in India has a higher burden from non-communicable disease and injuries than from infectious disease.
• Air pollution and tobacco smoking continue to be major contributors to health loss.
• Lifestyle diseases like heart and chronic respiratory diseases now kill more people than communicable ones like tubercolosis or diarrhoea in every state in India, including the most backward.
• The other non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the top 10 individual causes of death included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.
2- On Communicable diseases:
• The report pointed out that communicable diseases constitute almost two-thirds of the disease burden in India.
• Malnutrition is still the single largest risk factor responsible for 15% of the total disease burden in India in 2016.
• The leading individual cause of death in India in 2016 was inchaemic heart disease.
• Communicable diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infections, and tuberculosis, were also in the top 10 causes of death.
The Indian States Disease Burden:
• The Indian States Disease Burden Initiative is a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in collaboration with Union health ministry.
• This is the first time burden of disease has been studied at state-level.
• The study used multiple data sources to map State-level disease burden from 333 disease conditions and injuries, and 83 risk factors for each State from 1990 to 2016.
‘Anti-superstition’ BillContext:
• The State Legislative Assembly recently passed the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017, popularly known as the ‘anti-superstition’ Bill, with minor changes.
Changes introduced in the Bill:
• Stamping of mudra on the body, a practice in the upper caste community (Madhwa Brahmins) has been exempted from the ban, advertisements that offer miracle cures for disease have been banned.
• As per this practice, ‘Mudras’ (dyes) usually made of gold or copper are heated on coal fire and stamped on the body.
• In the change Bill more attention should be given to creating awareness about preventing superstitious in various lower caste communities.
• The proposed law would be a diluted version of an original Bill that had proposed a ban on all forms of unscientific practices.
• The Cabinet will carry a list of practices that would be allowed, and ones that will be controlled or prohibited.
• The legislation was earlier proposed as The Evil, Inhuman and Superstitious Practices Prevention Bill.
• After omitting the word superstitious, it is now titled the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practice and Black Magic Bill, 2017.
Rasogolla gets GI tagContext:
• The Geographical Indication (GI) Registry and Intellectual Property India recently presented the Geographical Indication Tag status to BanglarRasogolla of West Bengal and Mamallapuram stone sculptures of Tamil Nadu.
Geographical Indication (GI):
• A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin
• The qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin.
• GI tag is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regards to its special quality or reputation attributes.
• The status to the products marks its authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name.
• It is covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
• At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Benefits of GI Status:
• Legal protection to the products.
• Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
• Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits
• Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demands in international and national market.
• GIs are of utmost importance to the country as they are an integral part of India’s rich culture and collective intellectual heritage.
• Goods branded as GIs can be made indigenously by local communities independently and in a self-sustaining manner.
• GIs can also promote rural development in a significant manner
• It could be fitted in as the most ideal intellectual property right to bolster a programme such as ‘Make in India’.
International issues
India-US deepen engagementContext:
• The ASEAN-India and East Asia summits was held in Philippines .
United approach:
• The discussion constituted broader security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of China’s increasing military presence in South China Sea.
• Other regional and global issues including terrorism emanating from Pakistan, North Korea’s missile tests, situation in Afghanistan and also the Gulf region were also the part of the talk.
• Wide-rangingtalks were held with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, covering an entire gamut of bilateral relationship.
• Four pacts were inked providing for cooperation in a number of areas, including defence and security.
France and India growing cooperationContext
• France and India have a “special and specific” interest in the Indian Ocean, and would prefer to conduct their exchanges across the Indo-Pacific bilaterally.
Growing cooperation:
• The cooperation is growing in the Indian Ocean, where both India and France have focal positions.
• Both the countries are in a process of forming a defence and security partnership in the Indo-Pacific.
• This new cooperation will deal in counter-terrorism, defence hardware, nuclear energy, and space cooperation during the upcoming visit of Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to India.
Large territory
• France is the only western country with large territory in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) including the Reunion Islands, spanning about two million square kilometres of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
• France has a population of one million French Citizens in the region, including about 30% of Indian origin.
• The French navy maintains bases in the UAE, Djibouti as well as in Reunion, with a total of 20,000 forces permanently based in the IOR.
• France is India’s oldest strategic partner, and has conducted India’s first international ‘Varuna’ joint naval exercises since 1983.
Trans-Pacific PartnershipContext:
• The US abandoned the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) following the Paris accord and Iran nuclear deal have raised suspicions about American commitment to well-negotiated treaties.
What is the implication of US exclusion?
• The U.S.’s self-exclusion reflects a failure on the part of the Trump administration as the benefits are not as significant in comparison to its losses
• The pact without the U.S. can be interpreted as a step that diminishes American power and the international order.
• Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal has raised suspicions about American commitment.
How the ‘Quad’ was bornContext
• India’s full capabilities came as a surprise to the world the Indo-Pacific during Tsunami crisis as India had naval capabilities of scale to move in urgently further leading to the formation of QUAD.
The formation of Quad:
• In December 2004, the then U.S. President George W. Bush announced that India, the U.S., Japan and Australia would set up an international coalition to rescue those trapped in the waters, rush relief, and rehabilitate those made homeless, and to restore power, connectivity lines as well as infrastructure like ports and roads.
• By mid-January the coalition handed over charge to the UN, it led to the birth of a new framework: the Quadrilateral, or Quad.
Economic issues
RBI to launch multimedia campaignContext:
• The Reserve Bank is planning to launch a full-fledged multimedia and multilingual campaign to create general awareness among citizens of its regulations and initiatives.
What is the campaign about?
• The campaign will be in 14 languages such as Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English with focus on regional languages.
• The media mix will include traditional ones such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television channels and cinema halls and new ones that include digital.
• The RBI is planning close to 15 TV commercials, 15 radio spots and 15 print advertisements each year.
• It also plans to create an awareness campaign Suno RBI Kya Kehta Hai through SMSs to warn the public against falling prey to unsolicited and fictitious offers from fraudsters.
success of the bankruptcyContext:
• To ensure the success of the bankruptcy process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the Finance Ministry has asked banks to be vigilant to ensure that wilful defaulters are prevented from buying stressed assets.
What is the present scenario?
• As many as 12 accounts, each having more than ₹5,000 crore of outstanding loans, and accounting for 25% of total NPAs of banks are under the insolvency and bankruptcy resolution process.
• Banks are in the process of taking other large non-performing accounts to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) under the insolvency and bankruptcy code.
• The resolution is crucial to the entire banking sector and therefore banks have been advised to be vigilant so that wilful defaulters do not get benefits of the process.
National Issues
Bill banning superstitious practices tabled in KarnatakaContext:
• A Bill to prevent and eradicate superstitious practices was tabled in the Karnataka Assembly recently
Features of the Bill:
• It seeks to ban the controversial ‘made snana’ ritual in public/ religious places.
• The Billdoes not envisage regulations for astrology or vaastu practices.
• It primarily aims to protect people against evil and sinister practices and combat inhuman magic.
• The Bill noted that no person shall himself or through any other person commit, promote, propagate or practice or cause to promote propagate or practice inhuman, evil practices and black magic.
Can money buy votes?Context:
• There is a widely held belief that voters in India, especially the poor, sell their votes in exchange for cash or other briberies.
• Thus, the supply of cash and consumption of liquor increases during elections remains unexplained.
What does recent research says about briberies during election?
• Recent research says that spending of money was not reflected in the vote count.
• The candidate who spent the most came nowhere near winning the seat, while the candidate who won a landslide victory did so with limited spending.
• Thus, distribution of money is seen as an uncertain investment and a leap of faith on the part of the candidate.
Environmental Issues
Rich countries must pay more to deal with climate changeContext:
• The recent 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate change in Bonn reveals the fact that developing countries including India are focusing on the imperatives of ensuring adequate financing for mitigation and adaptation.
What has been India’s contribution so far?
• India’s progress in reducing the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020 has been positive.
• Early studies also suggest that it is on track to achieve the national pledge under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
• Since this performance is predicated on a growth rate of just over 7%, and the parallel target for 40% share of renewable energy by that year, the national road map is clear.
• The country has also chalked out an ambitious policy on renewable energy, hoping to generate 175 gigawatts of power from green sources by 2022.
Transport Decarbonisation Alliance:
• At the Bonn conference, a new Transport Decarbonisation Alliance has been declared.
• It is aimed at achieving a shift to sustainable fuels, getting cities to commit to eco-friendly mobility and delivering more walkable communities, all of which will improve the quality of urban life.
Transition to sustainability Context:
• More than 120 Indian scientists are among the 15,364 scientists from 184 countries to endorse the second warning that the world’s scientists have issued to humanity.
• They say that if the current unsustainable ways of living is not mended, it could augur “widespread misery” and “catastrophic biodiversity loss”
What are the recommendations made by the scientists?
Recommendations to transition to sustainability include:
• halting conversion of natural habitats such as forests and grasslands,
• reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure,
• promoting new green technologies, and
• revising economies to reduce inequalities in wealth.
• There is a need for both immediate and long-term solutions.
• It is critical to limit further habitat loss and the expansion of new roads, mines and mega-projects into the last wild places.
• There is also a need to enlist the help and engagement of local communities wherever possible Indian scientists, from.
• Societies need to take into account evidence-based inputs from the scientific community.
Electrocution of tigersContext:
• The electrocution of a tigress in the Chimur forest range in Chandrapur brings the tiger death toll due to electrocution in the Vidarbha area alone to five this year.
• Delayed action to protect crucial wildlife corridors, despite the availability of relevant ecological knowledge is another reason killing the big cats
Why are tigers dying?
• In a desperate attempt to prevent herbivores from destroying their crops, farmers often set up illegal high-voltage electrical fences around their fields
• Tigers, which use human-dominated landscapes including agricultural fields to move about, die when they come in contact with these fences.
Graded Response Action PlanContext:
• The Supreme Court asked the Environment Ministry to come up with what is now called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
Graded Response Action Plan:
• The Union Environment Ministry notified a ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ against air pollution for Delhi and the National Capital Region.
• The plan puts governments under the lens and holds out the promise of improvement in air quality.
• A graded response lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants, in this case particulate matter, reaches a certain level.
Defence Issues
New J&K surrender policy to target local militantsContext:
• The Army and the J&K Police, in a joint appeal asked all local militants to give up arms.
• The former assured them “full cooperation” to join the mainstream under the fresh surrender policy framed by the government has over 130 local militants are still active in the Valley.
The fresh surrender policy:
• The government has taken inputs from all security agencies to frame the fresh policy.
• Earlier, the surrender policy was limited to those who crossed the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the early 1990s and were stuck there.
• The new surrender policy is considering provision of “passports and jobs to any local youth who gives up the gun” and “support for his full assimilation into society.”
Science and Technology
Drought- resistant plantsContext:
• According to scientists, drought- resistant plants such as cacti and succulents make use of an enhanced form of photosynthesis to minimize water loss.
• The research, published in journal “the Plant Cell”, could be used to help produce new crops that can thrive in previously inhospitable, hot and dry region across the world.
• Photosynthesis involves taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to convert into sugars using sunlight.
Drought –resistant plants:
• Such plants make use of enhanced form of photosynthesis.
• Drought-resistant plants, such as cacti, agaves and succulents, make use of an enhanced form of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM).
• Unlike other plant, CAM plants are able to take up CO2 during the cooler night, which reduce water loss, and store captured CO2 as malic acid inside the cell, allowing its use for photosynthesis without water loss during the next day.
• CAM photosynthesis is regulated by the plant’s internal circadian clock, which allows plants to differentiate and pre-empt day and night and adjust their metabolism accordingly.
• Researchers looked at an enzyme called PPCK that is involved in controlling the conversion of CO2 to its overnight stored form.
• Researchers wanted to know if PPCK is a necessary component for engineering CAM photosynthesis and tested this by switching the PPCK gene off in the succulent CAM plant Kalanchoefedschenkoi.
• For CAM to work properly, the cell must switch on PPCK each night driven by internal circadian clock.
New species of parasitic flowering plant: GleadoviakonyakianorumContext
• Scientists have discovered a new species of parasitic flowering plant, Gleadoviakonyakianorum, that has no chlorophyll, and survives by feeding on another species of plant.
• The species Gleadoviakonyakianorum, is named so in honour of the Konyak tribe of Nagas.
• It was identified during a botanical exploration earlier this year near Tobu town of Mon district in eastern Nagaland.
• It is a holoparasite that derives its entire nutritional requirement from the host plant, which is a Strobilanthes species.
• Though the plant has no chlorophyll, the plant has a vascular system and extracts its nutrition from the host plant with the help of a haustorium.
• Gleadoviakonyakianorum is a root parasite that grows up to 10 cm in height, and bears white, tubular flowers.
• The white flowering parasite was found in a group of 15-20 plants, and since the species hasn’t been reported anywhere else, scientists have described its status as ‘data deficient’ as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species Criteria.
• Plant parasites are differentiated as stem and root parasites.
Plant emissions higher than believedContext
• Carbon released by plant respiration accounts to 30% higher than previously predicted, therefore as the mean global temperature increases, respiration will increase significantly.
What are the future prospects?
• Such an increase may end up lowering the future ability of global vegetation to offset carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.
• Plants both capture carbon dioxide and then release it by respiration.
• Changes to either of these processes in response to climate change will have profound implications for how much ecosystems soak up carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.
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