Current Affairs April 2019

CURRENT AFFAIRS – APRIL 2019

1.   POLITY

ELECTORAL BONDS

The Supreme Court of India in its interim order has asked all political parties to disclose, the details of the donations received by them through anonymous electoral bonds, in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India.

  • Electoral bond scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017-18 in an attempt to “cleanse the system of political funding in the country.”
  • The electoral bonds were introduced by amendments made through the Finance Act 2017 to the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, Representation of Peoples Act 1951, Income Tax Act 1961 and Companies Act.
  • However, there are certain provisions in the scheme, which raised an objection on transparency of political funding itself.
  • Some petitioners had move to the Supreme Court for a plea to stay the Electoral Bonds Scheme.
  • The Election Commission also filed an affidavit to the SC on some provisions in the scheme, which can have serious repercussions on political funding in the country.

 

MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT

In the run up to the Indian General Election for the 17th Lok Sabha, various violations of the Model Code of Conduct have been witnessed.

  • It is a set of guidelines laid down by the Election Commission to govern the conduct of political parties and candidates in the run-up to an election. This is in line with Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.
  • It comes into force the moment an election is announced and remains in force till the results are declared. This was laid down by the Supreme Court in the Union of India vs. Harbans Sigh Jalal and Others Case.
  • It is intended to provide a level playing field for all political parties, to keep the campaign fair and healthy, avoid clashes and conflicts between parties, and ensure peace and order. So, there are guidelines on general conduct, meetings, processions, polling booths, observers, election manifesto of political parties.
  • Its main aim is to ensure that the ruling party, either at the Centre or in the states, does not misuse its official position to gain an unfair advantage in an election. There are guidelines on conduct of ministers and other authorities in announcing new schemes, using public exchequer for advertisements etc.

 

VOTER VERIFIED PAPER AUDIT TRAIL

The Supreme Court recently increased voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) verification to five random Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in each Assembly segment/constituency “to ensure the greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction in election process.”.

  • Earlier, under the ECI guidelines, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification.
  • Recently, 21 Opposition parties appealed for VVPAT verification in 50% or 125 polling booths in each constituency due to the glitches observed in the VVPAT machines in various assembly elections.
  • However, ECI pointed out various issues in implementation of 50% verification such as:

o VVPAT counting is a manual job and the risk of error multiplies with an increase in human intervention.

o Increased VVPAT slip counting would require extensive training and capacity building of election officials in the field.

o The results of elections would be delayed by six days if the Opposition parties’ demand is met.

 

JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Recently, there was an allegation of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) made by a former Supreme Court employee, which has yet again triggered a debate between judicial independence and judicial accountability.

  • Indian Democracy runs on the principle of ‘rule of law’, which implies that ‘no one is above the law’. The Constitution of India gives the role of its guardian and protector to the Judiciary of India.
  • The Judiciary is the watchdog, which preserves and enforces the fundamental and legal rights against any arbitrary violations.
  • However, there have been many areas and instances, where the actions of judiciary itself have been questioned on being contrary to this and hence the issue of accountability of the judiciary has sprung up.
  • Accountability means any action taken by any authority requires justifiable explanation for that particular action. All public institutions and functionaries, whatever their role may be or wherever they stand in the hierarchy have to be accountable for their actions to the people of India.
  • The Constitution follows the principle of separation of power where checks and balances exit on every organ’s conduct. The two organs of the state of India- The Legislature and the Executive are accountable to the Judiciary and to the people at large. But, the question, which has come up, is, “to whom is the judiciary accountable?” and “who is judging the judges?”

 

Areas where Judicial Accountability has been found lacking

  • Judicial Appointments – The collegium system in India presents a unique system wherein the democratically elected executive and Parliament at large has no say in appointing judges.
  • Removal of Judges- Impeachment under Article 124 (4) and Article 217 (1) of the Constitution is a long-drawn-out and difficult process along with its political overtone.
  • Conduct of Judges- where judges have been alleged to have indulged in corruption (Justice Ramaswami Case, Justice Soumitra Sen), misappropriation, sexual harassment, taking post retirement jobs among others.
  • Opacity in the operations of Judiciary- The judiciary claims that any outside body having disciplinary powers over them who compromise their independence so they have set up an “in-house mechanism” investigating corruption.

 

LATERAL ENTRY

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has selected nine professionals to work in the capacity of joint secretaries in the Government of India.

  • Earlier, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had invited applications for 10 joint secretarylevel posts to be hired on a short-term contract for three to five years depending upon the performance.

Important Features of Draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), 2016

  • Include “merit and integrity” as “prime criteria” for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
  • Performance Appraisal for promotion as chief justice of a high court: by evaluation of judgments delivered by a high court judge during the last five years and initiatives undertaken for improvement of judicial administration.
  • Setting up a permanent secretariat in Supreme Court for maintaining records of high court judges, scheduling meetings of the Collegium, receiving recommendations as well as complaints in matters related to appointments.
  • Now, after the UPSC has recommended the candidates, their appointment has to be cleared by the Election Commission of India (EC) and the next government.
  • Lateral Entry refers to the direct induction of domain experts at the middle or senior levels of administrative hierarchy, rather than only appointing regular recruits through promotion.

o The debate of generalists vs. specialists has been an old one in the discussions of governance reforms.

o Various professionals, commissions and political commentators have prescribed Lateral Entry.

o Earlier in India, experts have been brought by the Government of India, at specific posts such as the Reserve Bank of India, Chief Economic Advisor, NITI Aayog among others. But till now it has not become an institutionalised mechanism of recruitment.

 

2.  INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

INDO-PACIFIC REGIONAL COOPERATION

Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs has setup a dedicated Indo-Pacific division for the matters related to the Indo-Pacific.

The “Indo-Pacific” idea was originally conceived in 2006- 07. The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ combines the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Western Pacific Region (WP) – inclusive of the contiguous seas off East Asia and Southeast Asia – into a singular regional construct.

Indian Initiatives

  • Defence Cooperation such as Joint defence exercises like Malabar, RIMPAC; inter-operability where countries can use each other’s military bases.
  • FIPIC- Forum for India- Pacific Islands cooperation.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor- an economic cooperation agreement between the governments of India, Japan and multiple African countries.
  • SAGAR Approach- Security and Growth for All in the Region.
  • Project Mausam: to explore the multifaceted Indian Ocean ‘world’–collating archaeological and historical research.
  • Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue.

INDIA’S DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP

India’s development partnership assistance, extended to countries through concessional loans, has more than doubled in the past five years.

Successes of India’s Development Partnership

  • Transformed into a foreign aid donor nation- In the financial year 2015-16 India gave Rs. 7719.65 crores as aid whereas it received Rs. 2,144.77 crore in aid from foreign countries and global banks. India ranks above 11 of the 28 OECD donors (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and is one of the largest development partners in certain regions.
  • Commitment to Neighbourhood First- Most of India’s foreign aid over the past decade has been directed towards its neighbours. An analysis says that 84% of this $1.6 billion Indian foreign aid is to be directed towards the South Asia, with Bhutan being allotted the largest share of 63% ($981 million). This is in consonance with India’s aspiring status as a regional power.
  • African Outreach- where India has contributed in the following ways

o Pan-African E-Network Project: In 2004, India announced an initiative to bridge the digital divide and accelerate development on the African continent.

o TEAM-9 Initiative: The Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Movement (TEAM-9), is a credit facility with a volume of 500m US$ launched in 2004 for eight African countries.

o Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries.

o Aid to Africa budget of the Ministry of External Affairs of India.

  • Rise of India’s Soft Power- In the AidData’s, Listening to Leaders 2018 report, India rose to 24th position on a ranking of the most influential development partners. India also outperformed China on the 2017 helpfulness ranking.

 

BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE

The second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) was recently held in Beijing, two years after first forum was held in May 2017.

About Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

  • The BRI announced in 2013, is made up of a “belt” of overland routes and a maritime “road”, which aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.
  • The Belt refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt which comprises overland routes: connecting China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe.
  • The Road refers to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road designed to provide an impetus to trade from China to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and from China through the South China Sea towards the South Pacific.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important component of BRI, passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, is the main reason for India signaling its displeasure over BRI and not participating in both the BRFs.

 

US SANCTIONS ON IRAN

India is being forced to stop importing crude oil from Iran after the United States ended sanction waivers, known as “Significant Reduction Exceptions” on countries’ importing oil from Tehran.

  • USA had decided to withdraw from 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with Iran and reinstate sanctions upon it because it was alleged that Iran was placing restrictions on the work of the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

o Iran has retaliated by stating that Iran would not abide by the JCPOA. It has given a 60-day time-line to the EU-3 and other parties to the nuclear deal for restoring oil and banking channels.

o As part of the plan, Iran was required to sell its surplus enriched uranium abroad, rather than store it inside the country.

  • The US had granted waivers, known as “Significant Reduction Exceptions” that allowed India and seven other countries to continue importing reduced quantity of Iranian oil for six months ending May 1, 2019. Any imports would have triggered secondary sanction from US.
  • As a result, Indian refiners have almost halved their Iranian oil purchases since November, when the sanctions came into effect. India’s oil imports from Iran fell about 57 per cent year-on-year in April.

 

Implications for India

  • Impact on Energy Security- India imports about 10% of its oil needs from Iran, which is bound to take a hit.
  • Negative impact on the economyo Rising inflation- Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Now Iran’s supplies may fall by between 200,000 bpd and 1 million bpd. The price of oil has already shot up above the $70 mark in April, 2019.

o Widening Current Account Deficit- given that the value of imports goes up with crude oil. It will further have effect on the value of Rupee, which may fall further.

o Impact on Capital Markets- Indian benchmark indices slid by around 1.3%, as investors rushed to sell shares on concerns that rising oil prices could stoke inflation and adversely affect already repressed consumption.

 

Measures taken by India

  • Focus on finding alternate sources of energy- minimising the impact on the Indian market.
  • Diversification of oil imports- e.g. importing crude oil, LNG and ethane condensate from the US. Also, Indian oil companies had until February 2018 acquired stakes in 27 countries including Australia, Brazil, etc.

Recently, an Indian consortium picked up 10% in the Lower Zakhum offshore oil field in UAE, and IOCL acquired 17% in Oman’s Makhaizna oilfield.

 

ARMS TRADE TREATY (ATT)

US President has announced that he will withdraw his country from the International Arms Trade Treaty.

  • The Arms Trade Treaty will be opened up for amendment in 2020.

o USA cannot support certain proposed amendments like gun control measures which is viewed as threat to America’s second amendment right to bear arms.

About the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT):

  • It is the first legally binding international agreement to regulate the global trade in conventional arms by establishing common international standards for member countries.
  • It has 102 states parties (Lebanon joined last month) and an additional 34 signatories, including the United States, which had signed but did not formally ratify the treaty. Countries who neither signed nor ratified included Russia, China, India, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
  • It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in April 2013, and entered into force on December 23, 2014.
  • It regulates ammunition or munitions fired, launched, or delivered by the conventional arms covered under the treaty.
  • It requires states to monitor their arms exports, and to ensure their weapons sales do not break existing arms embargoes.

 

UN DESIGNATES MASOOD AZHAR AS GLOBAL TERRORIST

Recently, Pakistan-based terrorist leader Masood Azhar was added to the UN Security Council (UNSC) “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee” (1267 Committee) sanctions list.

Significance

  • Broad global support with India- which was reflected in the 13 co-sponsors for listing proposal in a 15 member UNSC. It has also isolated Pakistan globally, as apart from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, no other country supports Pakistan on this issue.
  • Affirms the Wuhan Spirit-between India and China, which also makes strategic space for resolution of the different irritants between the two countries.
  • Strategic Alignment: Quad members (US, Japan and Australia) co-sponsoring the proposal, shows a key element of the global fight against terrorism.
  • Tap on terror financing- Pakistan has to take the next steps required under UNSC 1267. If Pakistan does not do so, it faces a challenge as the Financial Action Task Force may blacklist it.

It now gives a legal basis on which India pressurize Pakistan on taking verifiable and demonstrable action against Masood Azhar.

  • Symbolic victory: The move is unlikely to have any tangible impact unless Pakistan cooperates, as Azhar will probably continue to run tame in Pakistan, just as Hafiz Saeed of LeT has, despite being designated in a list decade ago.

 

LIBYA CRISIS

India has evacuated its entire peacekeeping CRPF contingent from Tripoli in Libya.

Arab Spring

  • The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that enveloped several largely Muslim countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain
  • The Arab Spring began in December 2010 when Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest the arbitrary seizing of his vegetable stand by police over failure to obtain a permit.
  • This served as a catalyst for the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia.
  • Activists in other countries in the region were inspired by the regime change in Tunisia—the country’s first democratic parliamentary elections were held in October 2011—and began to protest similar authoritarian governments in their own nations.
  • The participants in these grassroots movements sought increased social freedoms and greater participation in the political process. Notably, this includes the Tahrir Square uprisings in Cairo, Egypt and similar protests in Bahrain.
  • The crisis in Libya began after the ‘Arab Spring’ protests engulfed Libya along with other countries in the region including Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011.
  • The long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted after a bloody battle and finally killed in October 2011 bringing a brutal regime to an end.
  • However, years after the revolution and successful elections, Libya still seems far from finding the perfect solution for governing this vast North African country.
  • Libya is currently split broadly between two administrations, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) under prime minister Fayez Al Sarraj, which is based the capital Tripoli, and the House of Representatives based in the eastern town of Tobruk.

 

 3.        ECONOMY

INDIAN STATISTICAL SYSTEM

Recently, there have been controversies and debates over the credibility of data and statistics published by different agencies including government bodies, independent think tanks and private players.

About Statistical Architecture in India

  • India’s modern statistical system took shape

even before independence under the leadership of Prof PC Mahalanobis who was known as ‘father of Indian Statistical System’.

  • The Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI) was later created in 1999 and the National Statistical Commission (NSC) was set up in 2005 in order to oversee the entire range of official statistics.

o The Ministry has two wings, one relating to Statistics and the other Programme Implementation. The Statistics Wing called the National Statistical Office (NSO) consists of the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

  • Although, India has the history of producing credible economic statistics, but recently a group of 108 economists and social scientists called for restoration of “institutional independence” and integrity to the statistical organisations in India freeing critical data releases from ‘political interference.’

 

 SMALL FINANCE BANKS

Recently data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show that the small finance bank sector has been seeing remarkable growth in credit disbursement as well as deposits.

About Small Finance Banks (SFBs)

  • These are private financial institution for the objective of financial inclusion without any restriction in the area of operations, unlike the Regional Rural Banks or Local Area Banks.
  • They can provide basic banking services like accepting deposits and lending to

the unbanked sections such as small farmers, micro business enterprises, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.

  • Some of the operational Small Finance Banks in India are: Ujjivan SFB, Janalakshmi SFB, Equitas SFB, AU SFB, and Capital SFB.
  • They were proposed by the Nachiket Mor Committee of RBI, as one of the differentiated banking system for credit outreach and announced in the annual Budget of 2014.
  • Currently, SFBs constitutes 0.2% of the total deposits of all scheduled commercial banks and makes up 0.6% of the total lending undertaken by the scheduled commercial banks in India.

 

MUNICIPAL BONDS

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to invest in municipal bonds.

What are municipal bonds?

  • They are debt securities issued by government or semigovernment institutions who need funding for civic projects.
  • Normally, they are issued and redeemed at par and carry a fixed interest rate.
  • There are two types of municipal bonds

o General obligation bonds are issued for enhancing civic amenities such as water, sanitation, garbage disposal, etc. They generally are not backed by revenue from a specific project.

o Revenue bonds are issued for a specific purpose such as construction of a toll road or a toll bridge.

  • Bangalore Municipal Corporation was the first urban local body (ULB) to issue Municipal Bond in India in 1997.

 

ASIAN TEA ALLIANCE

Recently the Asian Tea Alliance (ATA), a union of five tea-growing and consuming countries, was launched in Guizhou, China.

  • The forging of this alliance is an outcome of the signing of a memorandum of understanding in December 2018 between the Indian Tea Association and China Tea Marketing Association.
  • Participating countries: India, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Japan.

o It will work towards enhancing tea trade, promoting tea globally, and creating a sustainability agenda for the future of Asian tea.

 

4.  SECURITY

ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT (AFSPA)

After 32 years of imposition, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was partially withdrawn from three of the Arunanchal Pradesh’s nine districts by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

About AFSPA

  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, enacted in the year 1958, grants extra-ordinary powers and immunity to the armed forces to bring back order in the “disturbed areas”.
  • Areas are considered disturbed “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”.
  • AFSPA empowers the Governor of the State/Union territory to issue an official notification declaring the state or a region within as a “disturbed area”, after which the Centre can decide whether to send in armed forces.
  • Some of these extra-ordinary powers include:

o Fire upon anyone after giving warning who is acting against law & order in the disturbed area.

o Arrest anyone without warrant.

o Stop and search any vehicle or vessel.

o Armed forces personnel have legal immunity for their actions.

  • Presently AFSPA is enforced in the 5 states of North East (parts of Arunachal, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram & Nagaland) and J&K.
  • AFSPA was removed from Tripura in 2015 and from Meghalaya in 2018.

 

5.  ENVIRONMENT

INTERNATIONAL SOLAR ALLIANCE

Recently, Bolivia became the 74th country to sign the framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

About ISA

  • It is an initiative jointly launched by India and France in 2015 on the sidelines of COP-21 of UNFCCC in Paris.
  • It was officially established on 6 December 2017, on the entry into force of the Framework Agreement.
  • The membership is open to those solar resource-rich States, which lie fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and are members of the United Nations.

o The First Assembly at Delhi adopted the proposal made by India to expand the scope of membership of the ISA to all members of United Nations. This has not yet entered into force.

  • Through this initiative, the countries share the collective ambition:

o to address obstacles that stand in the way of rapid and massive scale-up of solar energy;

o to undertake innovative and concerted efforts for reducing the cost of finance and cost of technology for immediate deployment of competitive solar generation; and

o to mobilise more than 1000 Billion US Dollars of investments by 2030.

o accelerate the development and deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity in member countries.

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY CERTIFICATES

Recently, the Renewable Energy (RE) companies have moved the Delhi High Court, seeking an exemption for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) under the goods and services tax (GST).

About Carbon Market in India

  • In a bid to promote renewable energy market in India, the Government of India has framed policies under the Electricity Act, 2003 and the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • Consequently, India currently has two carbon marketbased trading schemes in placeo The Perform, Achieve & Trade (PAT), which is designed to accelerate implementation of costeffective measures in energy efficiency in large energy-intensive industries.

o The Renewable Energy Certificate (REC), which designed to promote generation of renewable energy (RE) within the country.

 

Renewable Energy Certificates

  • A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is a market-based instrument that certifies the bearer owns one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated from a renewable energy resource.
  • Once the power provider has fed the energy into the grid, the REC they receive can be sold in the open market as a commodity. A pan-India market has been created for trading in RECs through two Power Exchanges namely, Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange of India (PXIL).

 

BHARAT STAGE NORMS

Supply of Bharat Stage-VI grade petrol and diesel has begun in cities adjoining the national capital recently.

Delhi in April 2018 became the first city in the country to leapfrog from BS-IV grade petrol and diesel to BS-VI fuels.

About Bharat Stage Norms

  • India introduced emission norms in 1991 and by 1996 most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades like catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • The Supreme Court in 1999 made Centre notify Bharat Stage-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • In 2014, Saumitra Chaudhary committee gave recommendations on Auto Fuel Vision Policy 2025 which had recommended implementation of BS-IV (2017), BS-V (2019) and BS-VI (2024) standards.
  • In 2016, the Union Government announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.
  • Currently, BS IV norms have been enforced across the country since April 2017. However, recently the Supreme Court of India ordered barring of sale of Bharat Stage IV vehicles from April 1, 2020.

 

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION

A recent study has pointed out that household emissions remained one of the major factors behind air pollution.

Background

  • Indoor air pollution refers to the degradation in physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a home, building, or an institution or commercial facility.
  • As per the analysis carried out by researchers from IIT Delhi in collaboration with other universities, it was found that the use of firewood, kerosene and coal in the households contributed to about 40% of the PM 2.5 pollution in the Gangetic basin districts. This number varied across the country but household emissions remained one of the major culprits behind air pollution.
  • The results showed that by eliminating household emissions the average outdoor air pollution levels could be reduced and brought within the national ambient air quality standards.

 

Major Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

  • Use of Open Fires, unsafe fuels or combustion of biomass fuels, coal and kerosene.
  • Gas stoves or badly installed wood-burning units
  • Construction of more tightly sealed buildings- which accumulate more pollutants. It also leads to poor ventilation in houses, which do not allow cross ventilation of air in the indoors.
  • Asbestos released from the construction material- is a big contributor to air contamination indoors. Increased use of synthetic material now days in construction has resulted in emission of toxins in the indoor air. Paints, coatings and tiles are main sources of asbestos.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds- which originate mainly from solvents and chemicals. The main indoor sources are perfumes, hair sprays, furniture polish, glues, air fresheners, moth repellents, wood preservatives, and many other products used in the house.
  • Tobacco Smoke- generates a wide range of harmful chemicals.
  • Biological Pollution- which include pollen from plants, mite, hair from pets, fungi, parasites, and some bacteria.
  • Formaldehyde- is a gas that comes mainly from carpets, particle boards, and insulation foam.

 

RIVER POLLUTION

Recently, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has appointed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan for reducing polluted river stretches across the country.

  • The committee would comprise of:

o representative of NITI Aayog;

o secretaries of Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Environment;

o the director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga and

o the Chairman of Central Pollution Control Board.

  • The committee would also co-ordinate with the River Rejuvenation Committees of the states and oversee the execution of the action plans, taking into account the timelines, budgetary mechanism and other factors.
  • CPCB will be nodal authority at national level, while Chief secretaries of states will be the nodal agency at state level.

 

River pollution in India

  • According to an assessment by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2018, there were 351 polluted river stretches (302 in 2015) in the country, with 45 of them being critically polluted.

o The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3 mg/l as an indicator of a healthy river.

o Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat account for 117 of the 351 polluted river stretches.

o The increase in numbers reflected higher pollution levels and increase in water quality monitoring stations.

 

ECOLOGICAL SANITATION

There have been calls for greater adoption of Ecological Sanitation toilets under the Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan.

About Ecological Sanitation (Ecosan)

  • Ecosan is a concept that treats various types of waste generated by humans as a resource, which can be safely collected, treated and reused to prevent pollution of water bodies and the environment. E.g. Ecosan toilets, compost pit, biogas plants, reed-beds for treatment of wastewater.
  • The underlying aim is to close (local) nutrient and water cycles with as less expenditure on material and energy as possible to contribute to a sustainable development.
  • The Ecosan is a dry toilet built on a raised platform, listed in the Swachh Bharat Mission’s guidelines as suitable for dry areas with scarce water supply, coastal and flood-prone areas with high water tables, and rocky areas. But it has very few takers, due to the Swachh Bharat Mission’s focus on pit toilets.

 

ANIMAL CRUELTY ISSUES NOW UNDER FARM MINISTRY

Recently the Central Government has transferred administrative control and matters concerning cow shelters, Prevention of cruelty to animals and its governing laws, from MoEF&CC to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare.

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) was originally administered by the Ministry of Agriculture after being enacted in 1960.
  • It was transferred to the Ministry of Environment later when the government felt that the law that regulates animal agriculture should be kept at an arm’s length distance from the ministry whose sole purpose is to increase production.
  • Officials have called this measure a matter of administrative convenience as it has already been dealing with livestock issues such as loss of livestock due to natural calamities etc.

 

UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARKS

Geological Survey of India (GSI) chose heritage locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka for UNESCO Global Geopark Network site status.

What is UNESCO Global Geopark Network Status?

  • UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
  • It aims to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing natural disasters-related risks.
  • The Global Geoparks Network (GGN) is a legally constituted not-for-profit organisation. Its membership is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks.
  • An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted.
  • At present, there are about 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries. As of now there is no geo-heritage site from India which is included under UNESCO Geopark Network.

 

SUMMER PLOUGHING

Recently concept of Summer Ploughing has been gaining traction among the farmers for soil conservation.

About Summer Ploughing

  • It is defined as the ploughing the field across the slope during hot summer with the help of specialized tools with primary objective of opening of the soil crust accompanied by deep ploughing and simultaneously overturning of the soil underneath to disinfect it with the help of piercing sun rays.
  • The ploughing activity is taken up in the direction perpendicular to the natural flow of water/gradient or wind flow so that soil erosion is arrested and whatever small quantum of rain received gets into the soil preserving it for the crop to be sown during kharif.
  • It is done one month in advance i.e. in the month of May for Kharif crops.

 

6.  SOCIAL ISSUES

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

In the judgment delivered in Arunkumar and Sreeja v. Inspector General of Registration and Others (2019), the Madras High Court, has extended enjoyment of civil rights, especially those pertaining to marriage, to transpersons.

  • The term ‘transgender’ refers to all those who differ in behaviour and appearance from the usual gender stereotypes. It includes transsexuals, transvestites (cross-dressers), intersexed individuals and gender queers. In the Indian context, it also includes social identities such as hijras, kinnars, aravanis, jogtas, Shivshaktis and aradhis.
  • In 1861, Section 377 came into force during British rule, which criminalised sexual activities “against the order of nature”.
  • Last year, in a landmark verdict a constitutional bench of Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v/s Union of India case declared parts of Section 377 of IPC as unconstitutional.
  • Naturally after this, there exist various legal rights and other rights extendable to transgenders. But, they were not examined by the Supreme Court.
  • Now, the Madurai Bench judgment has revised the legal construction of gender and the conventional interpretation of terms such as “bride” and “bridegroom” found in the Hindu Marriage Act. The court has held that a properly solemnised marriage between a male and transwoman is valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Registrar of Marriages is bound to register the same.

The court refers to NALSA v. Union of India (2014), which held that transgender persons have the right to decide their “self-identified gender”.

  • This led to court to interpret that, there cannot be a legal bar any more to extending civil rights such as marriage, succession or inheritance to LGBTQ couples who have decided to get married consensually, have married in accordance with the existing laws and are not in violation of any other laws.

 

NATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL RANKINGS FRAMEWORK 2019

Recently the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has topped the list of higher education institutes in the National Institutional Rankings Framework list of 2019.

About NIRF

  • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was developed in 2015 by a 16-member Core Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Human resource and Development. The rankings are published annually since 2016.
  • The ministry also constituted an Implementation Core Committee to oversee the implementation of the overall NIRF rankings.

 

STATE OF WORLD POPULATION REPORT, 2019

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently released the 2019 edition of the State of World Population report titled ‘Unfinished Business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all’.

  • The 2019 State of the World Population Report reflects on the current state of sexual and reproductive health.

India specific findings:

o India accounts for over one-sixth of the world’s population in 2019 (1.37 billion out of 7.71 billion) and has grown at an average of 1.2 per cent annually between 2010 and 2019, more than double the annual growth rate of China.

o While 67 per cent of the country’s population was in the 15-64 age bracket, 6 per cent of the country’s population was of the age 65 and above.

o The total fertility rate per woman declined from 5.6 in 1969 to 2.3 in 2019.

o While India’s life expectancy at birth is lower than the world’s (69 years to 72), it scores higher than the global average in terms of access to healthcare during childbirth, and also has a much lower adolescent birth rate.

 

7.       SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

BLACK HOLE

Recently, the Event Horizon Telescope revealed the first ever photograph of the shadow of a black hole.

About Black Hole

  • A black hole is a region of space-time, which exhibits the property of extremely intense gravitational force, which is so strong, that nothing, not even light, can escape it.
  • Black holes were predicted by the Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which showed that when a massive star dies, it leaves behind a small, dense remnant core.
  • If the core’s mass is more than about three times the mass of the Sun, the force of gravity overwhelms all other forces and produces a black hole.
  • In the center of a black hole is a gravitational singularity, a one-dimensional point which contains a huge mass in an infinitely small space, where density and gravity become infinite and space-time curves infinitely, and the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate.

 

CHANDRAYAAN-2

ISRO is planning to launch Chandrayaan-2 mission by mid-July 2019.

  • Chandrayaan-2 is a completely indigenous mission comprising of an Orbiter, Lander (called Vikram) and Rover (called Pragyan).
  • It will be launched by Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV-F10).
  • It will be ISRO’s first inter-planetary mission to land a rover on any celestial body.
  • The mission will attempt to soft land a rover 600km from the lunar South Pole.

o Only three countries have ever soft-landed on the moon— the United States, the U.S.S.R. and China.

  • Primary Objective: To demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface.
  • Scientific Goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

 

MALARIA VACCINE

Government of Malawi recently launched the world’s first malaria vaccine in a landmark pilot programme.

  • The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S (Trade name: Mosquirix), will be made available to children up to 2 years of age.
  • Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine later.
  • Financing for the pilot programme has been mobilized through a collaboration among three key global health funding bodies: GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Unitaid.

 

3-PARENT BABY

Recently, a team of Greek and Spanish doctors has produced a baby from three people using maternal spindle transfer technique (a method of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy).

  • The mitochondria are organelles inside cells that are involved in releasing energy by producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key energy currency that drives metabolism.
  • In addition to energy production mitochondria also helps to regulate the self-destruction of cells (aptosis), necessary for production of substances such as cholesterol and heme (a component of haemoglobin).
  • While most of DNA is found in cell nucleus, some DNA is also found in the mitochondria, it is called mitchochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
  • Mitochondria are inherited solely from the mother and this results into cases of babies been born with rare mitochondrial diseases if mother has the faulty mtDNA.
  • Certain disorders caused due to mtDNA dysfunction are diabetes, respiratory disorders, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease etc.
  • There is currently no cure for mitochondrial diseases.

About “three-parent” babies

  • Mitochondrial Replacement therapy (MRT) is a form of In Vitro Fertilization (Assisted Reproductive Technology).
  • It is used to replace mother’s faulty Mitochondrial DNA with healthy Mitochondria from a donor woman during IVF process, thus the name- “three-parent” baby.
  • The resulting child is still conceived from two parents and will have nuclear DNA from the woman and her partner, and mitochondrial DNA from the donor.

 

PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETIES AND FARMERS’ RIGHTS (PPV&FR)

Recently, PepsiCo has sued nine farmers in Gujarat for alleged rights infringement on the grounds that they illegally grew its registered FC-5 potato variety (or FL-2027) used to make Lays chips.

  • PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights, as company has patented FC-5 until January 2031 under the Act.
  • Farmers groups cite Section 39 of the PPV&FR Act, which specifically says that a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as he does not sell “branded seed”.

 

About the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001

  • India as a signatory to World Trade Organization in 1994, was obliged under Article 27(3) (b) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), either to adopt a sui genesis system for plant variety protection or join the Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

It’s the world’s only IPR legislation which grants intellectual property rights not only to the plant breeders but also to the farmers by protecting new, extant and farmers’ varieties.

  • Unlike UPOV, the Act facilitates protection of not only new, but even extant (existing) varieties. That includes those notified under the Seeds Act (1966), farmers’ varieties and varieties of common knowledge.

 

Rights under the Act

  • Breeders’ Rights: Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety.

Breeder can appoint agent/ licensee and may exercise for civil remedy in case of infringement of rights.

  • Researchers’ Rights: Researcher can use any of the registered variety under the Act for conducting experiment or research. This includes the use of a variety as an initial source of variety for the purpose of developing another variety but repeated use needs prior permission of the registered breeder.

Farmers’ Rights

o A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled for registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety.

o A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act provided farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001.

o There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety under Section 39 (2) of the Act, 2001.

 

8.       CULTURE

100 YEARS OF JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE

13th April, 2019 marked the 100 years of the historical Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre.

  • The Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, better known as the Rowlatt Act, came into force in March 1919, even though every single Indian member of the Central Legislative Council opposed it.
  • The Rowlatt Act bestowed on the Government the power :

o to set up special courts consisting of three High Court Judges for specified offences;

o to direct execution of bond for good behaviour; internment within city reporting at police station; and abstention from specific acts; and

o to arrest anybody suspected of terrorist activities, detain them for up to 2 years without trial, search a place without a warrant, and impose severe restrictions on the freedom of the press.

  • Mahatma Gandhi called for a satyagraha against the act (Rowlatt Satyagraha). The hartal was observed on 6 April 1919 after the Viceroy gave his assent to the Rowlatt Bill.
  • In Punjab, the situation was tense under the oppressive regime of lieutenant governor Sir Michael O’ Dwyer who had imposed martial law.

o On Baisakhi day, people gathered in the small park for peaceful protest against arrest of their leaders.

o The army surrounded the gathering under orders from General Reginald Dyer, who was given a free hand by Governor Michael O’ Dwyer. The only exit point was blocked, and army opened fire on the unarmed crowd, killing more than 1000.

Aftermath

  • Mahatma Gandhi was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of violence and withdrew the Rowlatt satyagraha on 18th April, 1919.
  • Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, in 1920, returned the Kaiser-i-Hind medal awarded to him after the Boer War by the British Government as a part of his movement against Punjab and khilafat injustice.
  • The corrupt mahants of the Golden temple honoured General Dyer with a saropa (robe of honour), which led to the agitation that resulted in the formation of a committee known as Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which was given the control and management of the Golden Temple, the Akal Takht, and other Gurudwaras.
  • Accepting the report of the Repressive Laws Committee, the Government of India repealed the Rowlatt Act, the Press Act, and twenty-two other laws in March 1922.
  • Udham Singh, a revolutionary belonging to the Ghadar Party assassinated Michael O’ Dwyer in London, on 13 March 1940.

 

75TH ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE OF KOHIMA

Recently 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima was observed by the Nagaland government.

Battle of Kohima:

o It was fought between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Army on the Naga Hills in three stages from April to June 1944.

o The Nagas were drawn into it on both sides some with the British and some with the Japanese.

Consequences of the Battle:

o The defeat sealed the fate of Tokyo’s imperial ambitions in South Asia.

o The huge losses the Japanese suffered in the Battle of Kohima weighed heavily on them during the next phase of the war, allowing the Allied to take control of Burma in 1945.

o In 2013, the National Army Museum of London, voted the Battle of Kohima and Imphal as “Britain’s Greatest Battle” beating out Battle of D-Day and Battle of Waterloo.

o The Battle is often referred to as the “Stalingrad of the East”.

 

CHARMINAR

Recently, the south-west minaret of the Charminar suffered major damage.

  • Charminar (also referred as Arc de Triomphe of the East) is a monument and a mosque, which was completed in 1591 CE.
  • It is believed that Mohammed Quli Qutb Shahi, the fifth sultan of the Qutub Shahi dynasty had built the monument to commemorate the end of a deadly plague menace that had gripped the city then.
  • It is located near the bank of the river Musi.
  • It is an example for Indo-Islamic architecture combined with few Persian elements.

 

KONYAK DANCE

  • The Guinness World Records has acknowledged Konyak Dance as the “largest traditional dance”, in which around 4,700 Konyak Naga women in their colourful traditional attire came together to perform largest “Traditional Konyak Dance”.
  • It was organised during the “Aoleang Monyu” festival of the Konyak tribe, which is celebrated in the first week of April every year to welcome the spring

 

About Konyak Tribe

  • Konyak is one of the 16 Naga tribes, known for its fierce head-hunting history.
  • They mainly live in the Mon district of Nagaland however they are also found in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Myanmar.
  • They are easily distinguishable from other Naga tribes by their pierced ears; and tattoos which they have all over their faces, hands, chests, arms, and calves.
  • Other unique traditional practices of Konyaks are: Gunsmithing, iron-smelting, brass-works, and gunpowder-making.
  • Konyak Dance: Dancers dance to the beats of traditional instruments and sing a ceremonial song along the dance.

 

BHARATI SCRIPT

An IIT Madras team of researchers has developed a unified script for nine Indian languages, named Bharati script.

About Bharati Script

  • The Roman script is used as a common script for many European languages (English, French, German, Italian etc.), which facilitates communication across nations that speak and write those languages. Likewise, if a common script is adopted across India, it can greatly facilitate communication across the country.
  • Taking a cue from European languages, an IIT Madras team have been working since the last decade over developing such a script.
  • The scripts that have been integrated include Devnagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil.

 

9.   MISCELLANEOUS

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MULTILATERALISM AND DIPLOMACY FOR PEACE

  • On April 24 2019, the first official International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace was celebrated.
  • The International Day was officially approved on 12 December, 2018 by United Nations General Assembly through a resolution. The day underscores the value of international cooperation for the common good.

 

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX

  • The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released the World Press Freedom Index 2019 in which India has dropped two places ranking 140th out of 180 countries.
  • List is topped by Norway, and the report highlights increased sense of hostility towards journalists across the world.
  • It notes death of at least six journalists in 2018 and highlights the violence against journalists including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians.

 

SOVEREIGN INTERNET LAW

  • Recently Russian President signed into law a “Sovereign Internet” Bill which will allow Russia to isolate the country’s internet.
  • The law requires all internet service providers to filter all their traffic through special nodes which are under the control of Kremlin’s internet censor, Roscomnadzor.
  • This will enable Roscomnadzor to enforce blocks on websites. (In the past, Telegram was blocked after it refused from giving Kremlin backdoor access to its app.)
  • It includes measures like creating technology to monitor internet routing and to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.

 

NUGEN MOBILITY SUMMIT

  • The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is going to organize NuGen Mobility Summit, 2019, at Manesar, Haryana in November 2019.

Objectives

o To share new ideas, learnings, global experiences, innovations and future technology trends for faster adoption, assimilation and development of advanced automotive technologies for a smarter and greener future.

o Building a platform for bringing together all stakeholders in the automotive industry to understand global advancements in technologies.

  • The summit will host conferences, track events and an exhibition in which manufacturers, suppliers and service providers will showcase their products and services, with a special focus on touch and feel of the concurrent and futuristic technologies.

 

PM AWARDED RUSSIA’S HIGHEST CIVILIAN AWARD

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been awarded the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, the highest civilian award of the Russia.
  • The award was given for achievement in developing the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between Russia and India and deepening the friendly relations between the peoples of the two countries.
  • The Order is awarded to prominent government and public figures, representatives of science, culture, art and various sectors of the economy for “exceptional services that contribute to the prosperity, greatness and glory of Russia.”

 

KAFALA (SPONSORSHIP) SYSTEM

  • Recently UN’s International Labour Organization announced that Qatar is all set to abolish its controversial Exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019.
  • About 1.2 million foreign workers in Qatar, mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines, make up 94 percent of the total labor force.
  • The Kafala system emerged in the 1950’s to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers in many countries in West Asia.
  • Under this system a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor (kafeel) for their contract period.

 

KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK

  • The Supreme Court has banned all mining activities along the Kaziranga National Park and catchment area of rivers originating in Karbi Anglong Hills in Assam

Kaziranga National Park

o Formed in 1908 the park is located on the edge of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspots – in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam.

o The southern border of the park is roughly defined by the Mora Diphlu River. Further south are the hills of Barail and the Mikir.

o The Brahmaputra River constitutes the dynamically changing Northern boundary of the park.

o The other rivers in Kaziranga are Diphlu and Mora Dhansiri.

o It is world’s major stronghold of the Indian one-horned rhino, having the single largest population of this species, currently estimated at over 2,000 animals (approximately 2/3rd of their total world population).

 

NATIONAL MISSION FOR CLEAN GANGA

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.
  • The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.
  • The awards recognize excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) o It is the implementing wing of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga.

o It is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

 

RICE KNOWLEDGE BANK

  • Recently Rice Knowledge Bank-Assam, was launched as part of the world Bank Funded project named Assam Agri-business and Rural Transformation (APART).
  • Rice Knowledge Bank is an agriculture web portal dedicated to enhancing knowledge on rice production techniques, agricultural technologies, best farming practices and state agriculture facts.
  • The portal is the result of efforts of Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Society (ARIASS); Assam Agricultural University (AAU); with technical assistance from International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

 

20TH LIVESTOCK CENSUS

  • Livestock Census has been conducted every 5 year in the country since 1919-20, under the aegis of Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare).
  • The 20th Livestock Census will be conducted in all the districts of the India in participation with all States and Union Territories.
  • Various species of animals (Cattle, Buffalo, Mithun, Yak, Sheep, Goat, Pig, Horse, Donkey, Camel, Dog, Rabbit and Elephant)/poultry birds (Fowl, Duck, Emu, Turkeys, Quail and other poultry birds) possessed by the households, household enterprises/non-household enterprises and institutions will be counted at their site.
  • This census would be a breed-wise Livestock Census, which will be helpful for framing policies or programmes for breed improvement.
  • Currently, India has highest livestock population in world at 125.5 crore.

 

GLOBAL FOOD POLICY REPORT

  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has recently released Global Food Policy Report-2019.
  • The 2019 Global Food Policy Report reviews the major policy developments of 2018 and focuses on rural revitalization as a promising way to achieve the 2030 development agenda and improve rural lives.
  • Report recommends rurbanomics as approach for strengthening rural–urban linkages.

Rurbanomics is an approach that frames rural economies as equal partners with urban economies, emphasizing the vitality of rural economies as drivers of food security and rural well-being; as springboards for value chains; and as providers of quality environmental services.

 

USTR PLACES INDIA ON PRIORITY WATCH LIST

  • India has been retained on the “priority watch list” in the latest Special 301 report released by the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
  • The Special 301 Report (Report) is the result of an annual review of the state of IP protection and enforcement in U.S. trading partners around the world.
  • Each year the USTR identifies countries which do not provide “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property rights or “fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property rights
  • The report ranks countries mainly into two categories – priority foreign country (PFC) and priority watch list (PWL).

 

MILITARY EXERCISES

  • Bold Kurukshetra 2019: It is a joint military exercise between India and Singapore.
  • Indian Navy-Vietnam Peoples’ Navy Bilateral Exercise (IN – VPN BILAT EX): It is 2nd edition of the bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Vietnam Peoples’ Navy.
  • Exercise Varuna: It is the naval exercise between India and France.

 

INS IMPHAL

  • The Indian Navy recently launched its third guided missile destroyer (INS Imphal) as part of its Project 15B.

Project 15B

o Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai has been entrusted to build four guided missile destroyers under Project 15B (P 15B).

o The design of P15B ships has been developed in house by the Directorate of Naval Design.

o These ships are amongst the most technologically advanced Guided Missile Destroyers of the world, with state-of-the-art weapon/sensor package, advanced stealth features and a high degree of automation.

o The Navy had earlier launched INS Vishakhapatnam and INS Mormugao under Project 15B.

 

NIRBHAY MISSILE

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired its first indigenously designed and developed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ from a test range in Odisha.
  • The missile can be launched from multiple platforms and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
  • The missile is capable of loitering and cruising at 0.7 Mach at altitude as low as 100 metre with a range of 700 km to 1,000 km. After its launch in typical missile style, it can be controlled in aircraft mode.
  • The guidance, control and navigation systems of the missile are configured around the indigenously designed Ring Laser Gyroscope and MEMS based, inertial Navigation System.

 

WORLD’S LARGEST PLANE

  • Recently, world’s largest aircraft (by wingspan) completed its first flight test.
  • It has been developed by aerospace venture Stratolaunch and is designed to act as a flying launch pad for satellites and put payloads in orbit.

 

ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON

  • Recently, Gagandeep Kang became the first Indian woman scientist getting selected as a fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) London.
  • Other prominent past fellows include: Srinivasa Ramanujan, Jagdish Chandra Bose, C.V. Raman etc.

 

HONEYPOT

  • Cybercriminals attempted attacks on a Mumbai Cloud server honeypot more than 678,000 times in a month.
  • A honeypot is a system intended to mimic likely targets of cyber attackers for security researchers to monitor cybercriminal behaviour.
  • Recently, honeypots were set-up in 10 of the most popular Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centres in the world.

 

AJIT

  • Recently, a team from IIT Bombay unveiled a chip designed, AJIT.
  • It’s country’s first indigenously-produced microprocessor for SPARC ISA architecture.
  • India recently also had its first indigenously-developed open-source processor in the form of Shakti (developed by IIT Madras). That was instead based on RISC-V architecture.
  • The other main difference between the two is that Shakti is smaller and geared towards smartphones and IoT devices. Ajit instead is aimed at larger systems like robots, automation systems, appliances, and in the future perhaps even servers and workstations.

 

SARASWATI SAMMAN

  • Telugu poet K Siva Reddy was conferred with the prestigious Saraswati Samman for 2018, for his collection of poems titled Pakkaki Ottigilite (Turning Aside While Lying Down).
  • This prestigious award instituted by K.K.Birla foundation is given every year to an outstanding work of an Indian citizen published during the last 10 years in any of the languages mentioned in Schedule 8 of the constitution.
  • The award comprises of a citation and a plaque apart from award money of 15 lakh rupees.
  • Besides the Saraswati Samman, the K.K.Birla foundation also gives away two other literary awards Vyas Samman and Bihari Puraskar.

 

RECENT GI TAGS

14 products from different States accorded GI tags so far this year.

Odisha

  • Kandhamal Turmeric: Grown organically by tribals in Kandhamal district and has high antimicrobial, anti‐inflammatory property and anti-carcinogenic quality.

Tamil Nadu

  • Erode Turmeric: It has distinctive golden yellow colour and also characteristic sweet taste and aroma.
  • Thirubuvanam Silk Sarees

Karnataka

  • Sirsi Supari: It is the first in the arecanut sector to get a GI Tag. It has a unique taste due to differences in chemical composition and the total average flavonoids content in it is around 90 whereas in others it is around 80.
  • Coorg Arabica Coffee
  • Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee
  • Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee

Kerala

  • Marayoor jaggery: High sweetness with less saltiness, high iron content, less sodium, less insoluble impurities, organic method of production are its special features.
  • Wayanad Robusta Coffee

Andhra Pradesh

  • Araku Valley Arabica Coffee: It is grown around Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh and Koraput district in Odisha.

Chattisgarh

  • Jeeraphool: It is a superfine variety of rice.

Uttar Pradesh

  • Chunar Balua Patthar (sandstone): It is the second GI tag under natural goods after Makrana Marble of Rajasthan.

Himachal Pradesh

  • Himachali Chulli (Apricot) oil
  • Himachali Kala Zeera (Black cumin)

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