W.B.C.S. Current Affairs – 29 June 2019 To 04 July 2019.
1) The State of the Education Report for India 2019: Children with Disabilities, was recently launched at an event organized by UNESCO in New Delhi. The event was attended by more than 200 representatives from government, civil society, academia, partners and youth. To be published annually, the 2019 edition of report is 1st of its kind published by UNESCO New Delhi. It highlights accomplishments and challenges with regards to Right to Education (RTE) of children with disabilities (CWDs). Key findings of Report: Based on extensive research of national and international documents of reference, the report provides comprehensive and detailed information on present state of education of CWDs and submits 10 key suggestions to policy makers. Bodies involved: It is Prepared by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and commissioned by UNESCO. Citing 2011 census data, report showed that there are more than 78 lakh CWDs in India between age group of 5-19 years. 27% of these CWDs between (ages 5 to 19) have never attended any educational institution. Nearly 75% of 5 year olds who have certain disabilities, do not go to any educational institution. In schools there are fewer girls with disabilities than boys. The proportion of CWDs who are out of school is higher than overall proportion of out-of-school children at national level. Home-based education: In many parts of rural India, if a parent opts for home-based education, the child may not be getting an education at all as it often exists only on paper for CWDs. Challenges: Inadequate allocations, delays in releasing funds and under-utilisation of allocation remain key challenges in financing education for CWDs. Differences noted among various types of disabilities- Only 20% of children with impairments related to Visual and Hearing had never been in school. However, among children with multiple disabilities or mental illness, that figure rose to more than 50%. Recommendations: Amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 to make it align with the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Data: There is a need to strengthen data on children with disabilities which can help in effective planning, implementation and monitoring of their education. Campaign: There should be concentrated campaigns and large scale awareness which can improve the attitude towards children with disabilities in the classroom and beyond. Mechanism under Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is needed to coordinate all education programmes for children with disabilities across departments. This would help remove inconsistencies and achieve synergy in the various measures aimed at their education. About United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization- It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s programmes contribute towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2015. It fosters scientific programmes and policies as platforms for development and cooperation.Continue Reading W.B.C.S. Current Affairs – 29 June 2019 To 04 July 2019.
2) According to a recent report by International Labour Organization (ILO) titled- Working on a Warmer Planet – The Impact of Heat Stress on Labour Productivity and Decent Work, India will be the most affected country due to global warming. The major impact would be on agriculture and construction sectors of the country. Key Highlights of Report- India will be the most affected country primarily because of its large population. Also, the costs may be higher without mitigating climate change. Working Hours: It projects that India would lose 5.8% of working hours in 2030 due to global warming. The loss of working hours will be due to temperature being too hot to work or because workers work at a slower pace. Productivity: In an absolute term India is expected to lose equivalent of 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 in productivity due to global warming. Although most of global warming impact in India will be felt in agricultural sector but, increasing working hours are expected to be lost in construction sector, where heat stress affects both male and female workers. Heat stress: is defined as generally above 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 Fahrenheit), in places with high humidity. Based on: These projections by ILO are based on a global temperature rise of 1.5 degree Celsius by end of 21st century and labour force trends. ILO report also noted that Ahmedabad (in Gujarat) incorporated a cool roofs initiative into its 2017 Heat Action Plan. Under it notably provided access to affordable cool roofs for city’s slum residents and for urban poor. About ILO- It was founded on 29 October 1919 with Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was United Nations first specialised agency. Mandate: to advance social justice as well as promote decent work by setting internationally accepted labour standards. Members: 187 member states: 186 of the 193 UN member states plus the Cook Islands are members of the ILO.
3) The First Ever India International Cooperatives Trade Fair (IICTF) will be held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. It scheduled from 11th till 13th October 2019. It is a unique initiative for taking farmers, artisans & other members of cooperatives directly to global trade arena. Key Highlights- Objective: Trade Fair is aimed at promoting cooperative to cooperative trade within India and abroad leading to enhanced rural and farm prosperity. Organizations Involved: Steered by National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), the Fair is being conducted with support of one international organization NEDAC (Network for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives), 3 Ministries, 4 State Governments and several apex level Indian cooperative organizations. This initiative is a part of Agriculture Export Policy 2018 which aims at doubling agriculture export and integrating Indian farmers and agriculture products with global value chains. Significance: IICTF would be a major platform for promoting exports by cooperatives so that it direct benefit to farmers, women, artisans and people coming from Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe communities can be ensured. It also offers a huge opportunity for industry and business houses from India and abroad to build alliances, product sourcing as well as interact with primary producers of a wide range of products and service providers.
4) South Central Railway (SCR), one of the 18 zones of Indian Railways has commissioned the longest electrified tunnel in Indian Railways. Key Features of Longest Electrified Railway Tunnel- The newly commissioned electrified tunnel measures 6.6 kilometres. It is situated between Cherlopalli and Rapuru Railway stations in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh. It will be helpful for decongesting traffic on Vijayawada-Gudur main line. It is part of 113-km new railway line completed recently between Obulavaripalli– Venkatachalam – Krishnapatnam Port. The tunnel construction was completed in a record time of 43 months. The height of tunnel (rail level to roof) is 6.5 metres and Minimum height of contact wire is maintained at 5.2 metres. The electrified tunnel is an engineering marvel which is constructed in a horseshoe design. It is constructed on New Australian Tunnelling Method, at a cost of 460 crore. This new line would facilitate direct and viable connectivity between South Coast and West Coast Railway. It will aslo improve freight revenue of zone. About South Central Railway- It is one of 18 Indian Railways zones. Its jurisdiction zone is spread over states of Maharashtra, Telangana, and some portions of Madhya Pradesh. It has 3 divisions under its administration, which include Nanded, Secunderabad, Hyderabad.
5) Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given ex-post facto approval for Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Maldives for establishment of passenger and cargo services by sea, which was signed on 8 June 8 2019 during the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Maldives. Key Highlights of MoU- Objective: This MoU with Maldives has been signed with a view towards harnessing potential opportunity that lies in passenger and cargo transportation by sea between two countries. It will pave way for ferry services between Maldives and Kerala by Connecting Kochi with Male & Kulhudhuffushi in Maldives by Sea route. Male is Maldive’s capital and most populous city of country. It is situated at a distance of 708 Kms from Kochi. Kulhudhuffushi is 3rd most populous city of Maldives. It is 509 Kms away. Significance: Current connectivity between India and Maldives involves flights to Male and sea planes to resorts, which is majorly an expensive option. Thus, connectivity with Kochi via sea could promote inbound tourism, mainly health and wellness tourism for India. Also a large number of Maldivians also travel to Kerala as well as other South Indian cities for educational purposes. This proposed ferry service would contribute in a big way in promoting people to people contact and to boost bilateral trade between two nations. India-Maldives- India is a leading development partner of Maldives. Till now India has established many of the leading institutions of Maldives. At present, India has provided US $100 Million Stand-by Credit facility (SCF) to island nation of Maldives, including long-term loans and revolving credit for trade.
6) US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) has selected MasterCard CEO and President Ajay Banga and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji for its 2019 Global Excellence Awards. Key Highlights- The two business leaders will receive 2019 Global Excellence Awards at USISPF’s 2nd Annual Leadership Summit scheduled to be held on 11 July in Washington, US. Jared Kushner, senior adviser to US President will be presenting the awards during summit. The prestigious Global Excellence Awards are being conferred for significant contribution made by Azim Premji and Ajay Banga towards strengthening economic ties between US and India. Azim Premji: His work to transform Indian Information and Technology industry into a global powerhouse is globally well-known. The award recognises his philanthropic efforts, which reflect his mission to change lives through education. Ajay Banga: He had been a champion of US-Indian partnership, advancing bilateral ties across multiple transitions. His efforts along with Mastercard’s commitment to Digital India and Make in India inititive, the US firms continue to regard India with a positive outlook. About US-India Strategic Partnership Forum- It is a non-profit organization that was established in 2017 by its Executive Board with primary objective of strengthening U.S.-India bilateral and strategic partnership. Objective: It is committed towards creating most powerful strategic partnership between U.S. and India with the purpose of enabling business and governments to collaborate and create meaningful opportunities that can positively change lives of citizens. USISPF 2nd Annual Leadership Summit will be held in Washington, D.C. on 11 July 2019. The leadership summit will highlight areas of bilateral cooperation like trade and investment, manufacturing, strategic energy ties and innovation partnership.
7) International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde has been confirmed as new head of European Central bank (ECB). Her appointment would make her 1st woman to lead powerful institution of ECB. Key Highlights- Following Lagarde’s nomination as President of ECB she announced to temporarily relinquish her responsibilities as head of IMF. She will now step down 2 years before end of her second five-year term as IMF Chief. She would be succeeding Mario Draghi, whose term ends on 31 October 2019. About Christine Lagarde- The 63 years old French, was the 1st woman to head International Monetary Fund (IMF) when she took the job in 2011. In 2005 she was appointed France’s trade minister and in 2007 as finance minister. She will next head European Central Bank starting November 2019. About European Central Bank- It was established on 1 June 1998 with Headquarters in Ostend district, Frankfurt, Germany. It is the central bank of 19 European Union (EU) countries which have adopted Euro. It is EU’s one truly federal institution which is responsible for administering of Euro and Monetary policy of Eurozone. It is one of the largest monetary areas in world. After U.S. Federal Reserve, ECB is most influential central bank in world. Mandate: To maintain price stability in Euro area and so preserve purchasing power of single currency. ECB Presidency: It is not just most powerful position in Europe, far more significant than European commission presidency but is one of the most significant policymaking positions in world. The position is currently held by Mario Draghi, who was widely credited with saving the euro during the eurozone debt crisis.
8) Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has signed a Statement of Intent (SoI) with IBM India Private Limited (Indian subsidiary of IBM) for undertaking a pilot study to utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) and weather technology solutions in agriculture in selected pilot districts. Key Highlights of SoI- The pilot study will be undertaken in 3 districts of Bhopal, Rajkot and Nanded in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra respectively. The pilot study will be conducted for Kharif crop season 2019. As part of collaboration, IBM’s Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture will be leveraged to gain village level soil moisture and farm level weather forecast in 3 pilot districts. IBM’s Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture will give solution in field of agriculture through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Weather Technology at village level as well as farm level so as to provide weather forecast and soil moisture information on free of charge basis to help farmers for taking decisions regarding crop and water management for better production and productivity. Benefits: Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture can improve the future of food and crop years as it aims to harness multiple data points and combine predictive analytics, AI, weather data, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to give farmers insights on plowing, planting crops, spraying, and harvesting. Significance: This move of signing of SoI between Agriculture Ministry and IBM to enable use of Next-Generation technologies like AI and advanced weather data for better insights to make faster and more informed agricultural decisions signifies that India is foraying further into the digital age in line of aspiration towards achieving goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2010. It can also be seen as government’s assurance to bring digital technologies to help our farmers to increase their income and transform Indian agriculture.
9) As per latest study by World Bank, the turnover ratio of Indian stock market has fallen significantly by 60% in past 10 years. The turnover ratio fall has been higher in India in comparison to some of the other leading markets of world. Key Highlights of Study- Turnover ratio of Indian stock market had fallen from 143 in 2008 to 58 in 2018 which means a fall of nearly 60% between 2008-2018 decade. Although the ratio had managed to move up in last 5 years but it is still quite low when compared with earlier highs. The fall had been highest among most leading markets of world, except United States (US) and European Union (EU). Other Countries: Between 2008 and 2018, China’s turnover ratio fell less than 6% in last 10 years; Brazil (12.85%) and South Korea (31.12%), Japan and Hong Kong saw ratio dip between 40-50%. Significance: Key analysis by WB study assumes significance as market participants have been lobbying hard with central government to reduce overall cost of trading in equities in India, which, they feel, is adversely affecting investors’ interest in stock market. Background- In 2007-08, central government stopped treating Securities Transaction Tax (STT) as tax paid and rather treated it as an expense that led to double taxation for gains assessed under business income. Moreover, while introducing STT in 2004 the Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) tax was made nil but STT was not done away with when LTCG was reintroduced in 2018. Way Forward for India- The capital market participants had sought rationalisation of STT apart from bringing back certain exemption benefits that were available earlier. What is Turnover Ratio? It is a universally accepted parameter to measure trading volumes. It is the total value of shares traded in a specific period divided by average market capitalisation of that period. It indicates how easy, or difficult, it is to sell shares of a particular stock on capital market.
10) Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen was appointed by European Union (EU) leaders as bloc’s next Chief Executive i.e. European Commission president. She will be replacing Jean-Claude Juncker. About Ursula von der Leyen- The 60 year old, is the only minister who has been in Merkel’s government since German leader took office in 2005. She is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister and fellow conservative party member. She was backed by Angela Merkel but there was resistance to her nomination within the German coalition ending in her appointment as a compromise. This would be 1st time a German holds top EU job since Walter Hallstein was head of Commission of European Economic Community more than 50 years ago. Challenge Ahead: To navigate world full of bruising trade wars, renewed geopolitical tension around Iran, and calling for increased transparency and representation within EU itself. About European Commission- It is an institution of European Union (EU) that was founded on 1 January 1958. Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium. It is responsible for implementing decisions, proposing legislation, upholding EU treaties and managing day-to-day business of European Union. Role of EU Commission President: heads executive branch, sets policy agenda and controls a cabinet of commissioners.
11) Reserve Bank of India (RBI) constituted a working group to review regulatory guidelines and supervisory framework for Core Investment Companies (CIC). The 6-member working group is chaired by Tapan Ray, non-executive chairman, Central Bank of India and former Secretary in Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). Key Highlights- Background: In August 2010, Central Bank on recognising the difference in business model of a holding company relative to other Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) had introduced a separate framework for regulation of systemically important. RBI’s Objective behind forming Panel- Country’s Corporate Group structures have become more complex over the years. It now involves multiple layering and leveraging, which has further led to greater inter-connectedness with financial system through their access to public funds. Also, in light of recent developments, there is a need to strengthen corporate governance framework of CICs. Troubled financial conglomerate Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) is registered with RBI as a CIC. Terms of Reference for Panel- It will examine current regulatory framework for CICs in terms of efficacy, adequacy and effectiveness and will also suggest changes. It will also suggest measures to strengthen corporate governance and disclosure requirements for CICs as well as measures to enhance RBI’s on-site supervision and off-sight surveillance over CICs. To assess adequacy of supervisory returns submitted by CICs and also suggest changes. Timeframe: Working Group must submit its report by 31 October 2019.
12) Union Minister of Railway Piyush Goyal recently informed Lok Sabha during Question Hour that Centre government has eliminated Unmanned Level Crossings (ULCs) in whole Broad-Gauge (BG) network in the country. Key Highlights- On January 31, 2019, Indian Railways declared that last unmanned level crossing has been sealed and at present there is not a single Unmanned Level Crossing in the broad-gauge network in India. Method: Majority of such UMLCs were eliminated by merger, closure, introducing subway and manning. Although nearly 93% of total network of over 120,000 km is under broad gauge but India’s railway network still has close to 1,500 UMLCs on meter gauge and narrow gauge. Why was ULCs eliminated? Since ULCs were not designated crossings and were not protected so there have been a often suffer injury or loss of life or even number of deaths in past due to a collision between trains and vehicles. Now as ULCs have been entirely removed from railway network so numbers of train accidents are expected to decrease significantly. Way Ahead- In 2019-20, 1500 Road Over Bridges (ROBs) and Road Under Bridges (RUBs) have been targeted for construction out of which 195 ROBs/RUBs have been constructed till May 2019. Currently government is considering a Policy for construction of ROBs/RUBs to eliminate Manned Level Crossings (MLCs) on Golden Quadrilateral/Golden Diagonal (GQ/GD). Indian Railways also seeks to revamp all railway stations as many as 87 out of 115 aspirational districts have been connected with the rail network.
13) Supreme Court of India has directed Meghalaya state government to deposit Rs.100 crore fine imposed on it by National Green Tribunal (NGT) for failing to curb illegal coal mining with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Key Highlights of Judgement- A SC bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K M Joseph has directed state administration to hand over illegally extracted coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) which will auction it and deposit the funds with state government. SC upheld that as per statutory regime brought in force by notification of 15 January 2016 issued under Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) 1986, environmental clearance was required for a project of coal for mining of any extent of area. SC bench also acknowledged that since Meghalaya has very limited sources of revenue and it allowed it to transfer Rs.100 crore to CPCB would be used for restoration work from Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (EPRF). Evidence: Allegations of environmental degradation by illegal and unregulated coal mining has taken place in Meghalaya were fully proved from report of Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, report of committee headed by former High Court Judge B P Katakey (or Katakey Committee), and report of experts, which all proved environmental degradation of water, air and surface. Coal lying in Open: SC clarified that all extracted coal as assessed by Meghalaya government lying in different districts which as per order of NGT is in custody of state shall be handed over to Coal India Ltd. (CIL) for proper disposal. Katakey Committee after discussion with CIL and Meghalaya shall formulate a mechanism for transport, weighment of all assessed coal. The apex court had earlier refused to allow miners to transport extracted coal lying at various sites in Meghalaya. Allowed Sites: SC bench has allowed mining operation to go on in Hills districts of Meghalaya on either privately or community owned land, but it is subjected to lease or required permissions from concerned authorities. Background- On 13 December 2018, total of 15 miners were trapped in an illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, about 3.7 km deep inside a forest, when water from nearby Lytein river gushed into it. So far only two bodies have been recovered from mine.
14) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) to improve understanding and to enable better ways diagnosis and treatment of human genetic disorders. Key Highlights of MoU- Both CCMB and CDFD institutes have mutually agreed to undertake training and educational activities in genetic diagnostics. Objective of MoU: To provide quality DNA-based diagnostic services to public at lower costs. To develop newer diagnostic methods. To engage in scientific research for improving understanding of human genetic disorders. Need: Each year more than 50 lakh babies are born with genetic disease in India. The burden of genetic disorders has its effects on economic and social structure of society. Importance: Most of genetic disorders are presently untreatable and for those which can be treated, treatment is very expensive. Therefore only option to address genetic disorder problem is preventive approach which requires prenatal diagnosis and genetic counselling. About Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology- It is an Indian biotechnology premier research organization located in Hyderabad. It operates under the aegis of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Objective: To conduct high quality basic research and training in frontier areas of modern biology. It also promotes centralized national facilities for new and modern techniques in inter-disciplinary areas of biology. About Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics- CDFD is an autonomous Indian Biotechnology research centre, located in Hyderabad. It operates under the aegis of Department of Biotechnology, Union Ministry of Science and Technology.Continue Reading W.B.C.S. Current Affairs – 29 June 2019 To 04 July 2019.
15) Delhi Police signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to set up Rooftop Solar Energy Systems in more than 200 of its buildings across the city. Key Highlights of MoU- As per MoU, SECI will support implementation of grid-connected rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on establishments of Delhi police. This is because solar energy is economical as well as environmental friendly. Capacity: Under this green initiative project, Rooftop Solar Systems of total capacity of about 3-4 MW will be implemented across various Delhi Police buildings. Need: As per Delhi Police, it has more than 200 establishments spread across city and their electricity requirements are quite significant. Thus project intends to utilize these vacant roofs of their buildings so as to harness solar energy and also to cater part of their electricity demand via generated green energy. Significance: MOU will go a long way in making Delhi green and will be optimally used in buildings and complexes available with Delhi Police all across the city. It will not only result in significant reduction on electricity bill payments of Delhi Police but also further cause of ‘Clean Energy‘. Way Ahead: Project would be completed soon in a phased manner with active cooperation between two agencies involved. About Solar Energy Corporation of India- SECI is a company under Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It is government’s nodal agency for implementation of the National Solar Mission (NSM). It is the only Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSU) dedicated to solar energy sector. It was established on 20 September 2011 and originally incorporated as a section-25 (not for profit) company under Companies Act 1956. Later through Centre Government’s decision company has been converted into a Section-3 company under Companies Act, 2013. This mandate of company has also been broadened to cover entire renewable energy domain.
16) India has ratified Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures (MLI) to prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). It will pave way for amendments to double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAA) with countries signatories to convention to plug revenue leakages. The provisions enshrined in framework will come into effect from fiscal year 2020-21 for bilateral tax treaties. Key Highlights- Earlier on 25 June 2019 India deposited to OECD an Instrument of ratification, along with India’s final position in terms of reservations, Covered Tax Agreements (CTAs), options and notifications under MLI. Impact: MLI will modify India’s tax treaties that will help reduce revenue loss due to treaty abuse and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) strategies by ensuring that profits are taxed where ever substantive economic activities generating profits are carried out. India’s DTAA with MLI shall get modified in following prominent ways- MLI will modify their application in order to implement BEPS measures. It will be applied alongside existing tax treaties. Avenues leading to avoidance of capital gains from alienation of shares or interests which derive value principally from immovable property would be plugged. Some dividend transfer transactions that are intended to lower withholding taxes payable on dividends artificially would also be prevented. As on date out of 93 CTAs notified by India, 22 countries have already ratified MLI and so DTAA with these countries will be modified by MLI. Once MLI comes into effect, India’s DTAA will have a new Preamble and Principal Purposes Test (PPTs). These changes would also lead to curbing of artificial avoidance of Permanent Establishment (PE) status through various arrangements. Way Ahead: MLI will enter into force for India on 1 October 2019 and provisions enshrined in framework will come into effect on India’s DTAAs from fiscal year 2020-21 for bilateral tax treaties. What is MLI? The Multilateral Convention (MLI) is an outcome of OECD or G20 Project to tackle Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (called as BEPS Project). BEPS means tax planning strategies which exploit mismatches and gaps in tax rules so as to artificially shift profits to a low or no-tax location where there is little/no economic activity, which further results in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.
17) India has pledged to contribute $5 Million in 2019 to United Nation Palestine refugee agency. This move comes amid India voiced its concern over agency’s financial situation and called for ensuring sustained financial support for its work. India and UNRWA- During UN General Assembly (UNGA) Ad Hoc Committee meeting for Voluntary Contributions to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in June 2019, India notified that it has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to UNRWA core budget from $1.25 Million in 2016 to $5 million in 2018 in solidarity with Palestine refugees. Every year Government of India is assisting 150 Palestinian professionals under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. Also in past 5 years under India-Palestine Development Partnership, several agreements have been signed in fields of IT, agriculture, healthcare, women’s empowerment, media, consular affairs and youth affairs. About UNRWA- It is a relief and human development agency that was established in 8 December 1949. Since 1950 it has been providing relief, social services health and education as well as emergency humanitarian assistance. Mandate: It supports registered Palestinian refugees, and their patrilineal descendants, who fled/expelled their homes during Palestine war (1948) and those who fled/expelled during and following Six Day war (1967). At present Agency serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees 20% of world’s refugees. It provides aid in 5 fields of operation– Syria, West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon, and Gaza Strip. Aid for Palestinian refugees outside these 5 areas of operation is provided by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). The meeting of Ad Hoc Committee, established by UN General Assembly is the primary forum for announcing financial support. At this year’s meet a total of 23 donors announced contributions, or their intention to contribute, to UNRWA’s 2019 budget. Almost all of UNRWA’s resources come from voluntarily contributions, with a limited donor base of traditional donors. Current Situation: Currently UNRWA is under difficult financial situation which has caused concern and has put to risk Agency’s core services to Palestine refugees, especially in fields of health, education and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.
18) The United States Senate (Upper Chamber of US Congress) has passed a legislative provision that brings India at par with America’s NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies and countries like South Korea, Australia, Japan and Israel for increasing defence cooperation. This development to bring India at last with NATO ally comes amid a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during G20 in Osaka, Japan and visit by US Secretary of State (SoS) Mike Pompeo to New Delhi. What is National Defense Authorisation Act? The legislative provision called National Defense Authorisation Act (or NDAA) for fiscal year 2020 was passed by Senate in late June. Purpose: NDAA provides for increased US-India Defence cooperation in Indian Ocean in areas of counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and maritime security. Significance: The move of elevating India to non-NATO status is vital towards advancement of US-India strategic partnership and will further boost collaboration between India and US in defence. Way Ahead: The bill would be signed into law after both chambers of US Congress pass it. The House of Representatives is expected to take up its version of NDAA in July before legislators adjourn for August recess on July 29. US-INDIA Relation- In 2016 United States recognised India as a Major Defence Partner, a designation that allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from US at par with that of US’ closest allies and partners. In July 2018, US President Donald Trump-led administration granted India status of Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) country. This made India the only South Asian nation to be given the said designation along with US’ NATO allies. This move would ease export controls for high technology product sales to India. The increased engagement of US with India in multilateral frameworks seeks to promote regional security and defend shared values and common interests in rules-based order.
19) The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has operationalized 1st ‘Aadhaar Seva Kendra’ (ASKs) in Delhi and Vijayawada. The new centres are functioning on a pilot basis and have set in motion UIDAI’s ambitious plan to set up 114 such centers by the end of 2019. About Aadhaar Seva Kendra- ASKs being set up by UIDAI will be covering 53 cities across India at an estimated project cost of Rs 300-400 crore. These centers are similar to the concept of Passport Seva Kendras. Objective: These new centres seek to provide more touch points to public for availing Aadhaar enrolment and updation services. Function: These Aadhaar centers are meant to facilitate enrolment, updation and other activities. ASKs are owned by UIDAI. They operate in addition to thousands of centers that are currently being run by post offices and banks and even in government premises (offering similar Aadhaar services). Delhi Centre- It is located at Akshardham metro station premises and has a capacity to handle 1,000 enrolment/updation requests a day. It is equipped with 16 workstations and will be operational 6 days a week including weekends. It will be closed only on Tuesday and public holidays. Vijayawada Centre- The capacity of this centre is half that of the Delhi centre. Benefits: New ASK model entails an online appointment management system to allow people to book a slot as per their convenience. These ASK have more capacity, more requests for enrolment and updation thus can be processed on a daily basis compared to other centres. About UIDAI- It is a Government agency which was founded on 28 January 2009, as an attached office of then Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog). It is Headquartered in New Delhi. On 12 July 2016, it was established by Government of India, as a statutory authority under the provisions of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (or Aadhaar Act 2016) under the aegis of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). Function: It is mandated to issue Aadhaar to all Residents of India, which is an easily verifiable 12 digit random number as Unique Identity.
20) The 34th edition of Hyderabad Sailing Week National Ranking Multi-Class Championship 2019 was inaugurated by Governor of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan in Hyderabad, Telangana. About Hyderabad Sailing Week- The YAI Multi-Class (Ranking) Sailing Championship is one of oldest sailing competitions in India. It is held every year in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad is taking place at Hussain Sagar Lake. Objective: of this Championship is to put Hyderabad into World sailing map. Schedule: The event will take place between 2 to 7 July. The 2019 is a landmark year for EME Sailing Association as this year event has been accredited as YAI National Ranking Event hence participant’s sailor’s performance will be ranked and this will give them points for selection into National team. Participants: includes 190 plus sailors, 16 sailing clubs with round 21 sailors from Telangana state alone. Technical part of championship is being taken care of by foreign sailing members. Organiser: Event is jointly organised by Secunderabad Sailing Club and EME Sailing Association (EMESA) under the aegis of Laser Class Association of India supported by Sports Authority of Telangana State. Why Hyderabad? The wind conditions in city are most favourable to hone sailor’s skills in yacht handling and understanding wind shifts. About EME Sailing Association- EMESA was formed in 1964. It has produced a number of medal winners both at National and International level. In year 1986 LCAI was founded with a view to promote sailing in India. Since then, event has been conducted continuously for last 33 years and is popularly known as “Hyderabad Sailing week”.
21) Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan while addressing a query during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha announced that Government has set a target to raise health services expenditure to 2.5% of country’s GDP (Gross domestic product) by 2025. He also highlighted that public expenditure on health services has increased continuously over the years and continues to increase. Key Highlights- The government’s objective is in line with National Health Policy 2017 which envisages increasing public health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP by 2025. The policy also recommends that State governments should spend more than 8% of their budget on health sector by 2020. Steps taken by Government: Under Aayushman Bharat programme ( or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana or National Health Protection Scheme), Government envisions setting up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres by 2022 and out of this 18,000-19,000 have already been established. These centres will boost healthcare facilities in country’s Urban as well as rural areas. The 3% Education Cess on personal income tax and corporation tax to is already replaced with 4% Health and Education Cess so as to cater to education and health needs of poor and rural families. Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) has also started supporting infrastructure works of medical institutions.
22) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Union Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) has signed to collaborate on digitization of AYUSH sector. Key Highlights of MoU- As per MoU, MeitY has agreed to advice and give technical support to AYUSH Ministry for planning and development of AYUSH GRID Project. Need for Project: In pursuance to National Health Policy 2017 and e-governance initiative, AYUSH Ministry seeks to digitize entire AYUSH as it will lead to transformation in at all levels of health care delivery field, along with education, greater research, delivery of various health care programmes and better drug regulations. Significance: AYUSH GRID Project will be beneficial for all stakeholders, including citizens of country and will also help to achieve various national and international goals in healthcare. Also, high quality technical support from MeitY to AYUSH Ministry would lead to success in endeavor of Ministry of AYUSH in field of digitalization. Meity & Healthcare- Meity led health initiatives: includes e-Aushadhi, e-Hospital, e-Rakt Kosh, Online Registration System (ORS) and e-Shushrut for digitizing internal work-flows and processes of hospitals enabling efficient and online delivery of health care services across India. It has sponsored a number of Research and Development projects for development of medical electronics devices and systems like medical and imaging equipment, establishing a centre of excellence in medical electronics. Meity has also launched an online information guide called Vikaspedia. It is a portal for various social sectors including health as well as offers information in 23 languages.
23) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ atomic watchdog has confirmed that Iran has exceeded limit on amount of enriched uranium in its stockpile set out in 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. This marks the 1st major departure by Iran from unraveling agreement a year after U.S. unilaterally withdrew from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) accord. Key Highlights- The initial announcement about Iran had broken limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 2015 nuclear deal were made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Limit Breached: Later IAEA inspectors verified and confirmed that the country has exceeded 300-kilogramme limit on its enriched uranium reserves. Threat: Iran has threatened that country is planning to increase its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels by July 7 and to suspend its other commitments under JCPOA deal in 10 days unless European powers took steps to implement their new mechanism called INSTEX for facilitating trade. Iran also announced that it is planning to suspend other commitments also. What is INSTEX? INSTEX stands for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. It is a special-purpose vehicle established in January 2019 by E3 i.e. France, Germany and United Kingdom to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran amid US unilateral withdrawal from JCPOA. This new trading system is designed to circumvent sanctions on Iran. As of May 2019 use of SPV is limited to humanitarian purposes such as purchase of otherwise embargoed foods or medicines. Issue: On 28 June 2019, EU stated that INSTEX has been made operational and that 1st transactions are being processed, but according to Iran, it did not meet countries needs. About Iran Nuclear Deal- Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal was an agreement on Iranian nuclear program reached. Participants: It was signed between Iran, P5+1 (refers to UN Security Council’s 5 permanent members (P5); namely France, United Kingdom, China, Russia, and US; plus Germany.), and European Union in Vienna on July 14, 2015. Under the 2015 Nuclear Deal, Iran had agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in IAEA inspectors in return for lifting of sanctions. Limit: As per the deal Iran can stockpile no more than 300kg of low-enriched uranium. Iran is permitted to produce low-enriched uranium, which has a 3.67% concentration of U-235, and can fuel a power plant only until 2031. Uses: Enriched uranium used for peaceful purposes, including medical research and producing electricity but, if it is highly purified it can also be used to make a nuclear bomb.
24) Manoj Kumar Nambiar Managing Director of Arohan Financial Services has been elected as new chairman of Microfinance Institutions Network (MFIN). He was elected at 6th annual general meeting of MFIN. Highlights- Nambiar is also a director on boards of IntelleCash Microfinance Network Company. He will be replacing Ujjivan Financial Services CEO and MD Samit Ghosh. Gyan Mohan and Jagadish Ramadugu were also inducted to MFINs governing board. About Microfinance Institutions Network- Background: It was established as a Society in December 2009 under Andhra Pradesh Societies Registration Act 2001. It is an association for microfinance sector in India. It is also a Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) for regulated NBFC-MFI. Members Organizations: constitute India’s leading microfinance institutions. According to MFIN Bye-Laws, all NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Company) registered with Reserve Bank India as NBFC-MFIs are eligible for membership of Society. To a large extent MFIN is member funded. Governing Board: comprises of Members elected from amongst leadership of member MFIs and 33% of Board comprises of independent Members. Currently: MFIN comprises 56 NBFC-MFIs (Non-Banking Financial Company-Micro Finance Institutions) and 40 associates including banks, small finance banks and NBFCs and it controls 90% of India’s MFI business. In financial year 2018-19 the microfinance industry saw a 38% growth in its gross loan portfolio at Rs 1.87 lakh crore. Significance: This sector has played a significant role in getting rural India into folds of financial inclusion.
25) An 82-member Special Rhino Protection Force which is trained to combat poachers and understand animal behaviour was recently deployed in Kaziranga National Park (KNP). About Special Rhino Protection Force- Background: The process of setting up special force was initiated in 2015. In July 2018 members recruited were given appointment letter after which they were trained at Forest Guard School in eastern Assam’s Makum. All recruits also underwent weapons training at 9th Assam Police Battalion in Nagaon district of Assam. SRPF: Basically SRPF is a tiger protection force that was named after the rhino since threat of poaching is more for one-horned herbivore. Raised by: This Special Force has been raised by initiative of both central as well as state governments so as to control rhino poaching in tiger reserve. The state government of Assam would be paying salaries of SRPF members and amount would be reimbursed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which recommended setting up of this special force. Members: It consists of 82 personnel among whom eight are women. Out of 82 SRPF personnel, 60 have been assigned ranges under Eastern Assam Wildlife Division on southern bank of river Brahmaputra. Task: SRPF personnel will be posted under 8 ranges of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) to control rhino poaching as well as protecting striped cat (tiger poaching) since Kaziranga is also a tiger reserve. About Kaziranga National Park- Background: The 430 sq.km national park is located in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam. In 1968 it was given National Park status and in 1985 it was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) for its unique natural environment. Known for: It is home to World’s largest population of One Horned Rhinoceros i.e. about 68%. The one-horned rhinoceroses are listed as vulnerable on IUCN Red list of Threatened Species. It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International for conservation of avifaunal species. It encompasses 8 ranges under two wildlife divisions: (1) Eastern Assam and (2) Biswanath along the river Brahmaputra.Continue Reading W.B.C.S. Current Affairs – 29 June 2019 To 04 July 2019.
26) New Zealand has officially banned single-use plastic shopping bags with effect from 1 July 2019. It has also introduced hefty fines for businesses that continue to provide them. As per United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) more than 80 countries have already introduced similar bans. Key Highlights- Background: The Waste Minimisation (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulations 2018, legislation regarding plastic ban was announced in August 2018 and came into force on 1 July 2019. It is supposed to have little practical effect, as New Zealand’s major supermarkets have already voluntarily banned plastic bags. Ban Implies: Under new rules, New Zealand retailers including supermarkets, stores and restaurants will no longer be able to sell or distribute any single-use plastic shopping bags but law allows reusable carriers to continue being provided. Only exceptions are Plastic shopping bags in fruit and vegetable section and other areas of supermarkets. What is Single-use plastic shopping bag? It is defined as any plastic bag which has handles and is less than 70 microns thick. Why? The move was taken as Plastic pollution has become growing global concern. Every year nearly a million birds and over 100,000 marine mammals injured or killed by becoming entangled in packaging or ingesting it through the food chain. Fine: Companies that will break New Zealand’s ban will face heavy penalties such as fines of up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars ($ 67,000). Significance: Ending use of single-use plastic shopping bags would help country maintain its country’s clean and green reputation. Due to Ban people are now talking about single-use plastics and how they can phase them out.
27) Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constituted a High-powered Committee of Chief Ministers (CMs) for ‘Transformation of Indian Agriculture’. HPC was set up subsequent to the deliberations of Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog and in keeping with promise of Centre government for Agriculture reforms, rural development, water conservation and its proper. About High Powered Committee- Objective: It will suggest policy measures, attract investments and raise growth in food processing. Composition: The 9 member committee is headed by Devendra Fadnavis Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Other members include- Narendra Singh Tomar (Union Agriculture, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister) and Ramesh Chand (NITI Aayog member) and Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh. Timeframe: Committee will submit its report within 2 months. Terms of Reference (ToR) of Committee: To discuss measures for transformation of agriculture in country and for raising farmer’s income. To examine various provisions of Essential Commodity Act (ECA) so as to attract private investments in agricultural marketing and infrastructure. To suggest mechanism for linking of market reforms with e-NAM (National Agriculture Market), GRAM and other relevant Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). To suggest modalities for adoption and time-bound implementation of agriculture sector reforms. To suggest policy measures to raise growth in food processing, boost agricultural export and attract investments in value chains and logistics, modern market infrastructure.
28) University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched STRIDE scheme to boost research culture and innovation in colleges and universities. STRIDE stands for Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India’s Developing Economy. Key Features of STRIDE- Objective: To identify young talent, build capacity, strengthen research culture, support trans-disciplinary research and promote innovation for India’s developing economy and national development. Feature: This new initiative will seek to support local need-based, socially relevant, nationally important and globally significant research project. Overseeing: An advisory Bhushan Patwardhan committee set up by UGC under chairmanship of Prof Bhushan Patwardhan, Vice Chairman, UGC will oversee entire scheme. 3 Components of STRIDE: Attempting to identify motivated young talents with research and innovation aptitude in colleges and universities. This component is open to all disciplines (subjects) for grant up to Rs.1 crore. Encouraging collaborations between universities, government, industries and voluntary organizations. This component is open to all disciplines for grant upto Rs.50 lakh to 1 crore. Funding high impact research projects in humanities and Social Sciences via national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions of country. Grant available for this component is up to Rs.1 crore for one High Educational Institute (HEI) and up to Rs.5 crores for multi institutional network. STRIDE web portal: will be open to receive applications from 31 July 2019.
29) Indian pro boxer Vaibhav Yadav became World Boxing Council (WBC) Asia silver Welterweight Champion after winning the title bout held in Pattaya, Thailand. Highlights- He won the title after defeating Fahpetch Singmanassak of Thailand. Vaibhav clinched a 3rd-round knockout win over Singmanassak. The fight was conducted by Asian Boxing Council (ABC) and approved by World Boxing Council (WBC). About Vaibha Yadav- The 24-year-old Indian boxer is nicknamed ‘Ahir boxer’. He hails from New Delhi and so far have a record of 5-1-0 on pro circuit. He is a cousin of Commonwealth Games (CWG) gold-medallist Vikas Krishan who has also turned pro now. About Asian Boxing Council- It is a professional boxing organization that is responsible for sanctioning title fights in Greater Asian region. It was established in 1985 with headquarters in Thailand. ABCO is a Federation of national professional boxing commissions which was formed as a confederation affiliated with WBC. Members– 20 national members.
30) Indian Air Force (IAF) and Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) are participating in Garuda VI, a bilateral air exercise at Mont de Marsan in France. The last edition of joint exercise between IAF-FAF was held in June 2014 at Air Force Station Jodhpur, Rajasthan. This year is the 6th edition of exercise which is taking place from 1 July to 12 July 2019. About Garuda VI- Objective: This joint India-France air exercise is aimed at enhancing interoperability level of French and Indian crews in air defence and ground attack missions. Drill: The exercise will see most potent fighter aircraft of India and France going head-to-head to validate latest defence strategies and fine-tune their waging capabilities. Aircrafts Participating: It is expected to showcase fighter jets such as Rafale, Sukhoi 30 and Mirage 2000 from two sides. IAF contingent comprises of- 120 air-warriors and 4 Sukhoi 30 MKI along with an IL-78 flight refuelling aircraft. Also, IAF’s C-17 Globemaster strategic lift aircraft will provide logistics support to contingent during induction and de-induction phases. French Air Force (FAF) units will comprise- Rafale, Mirage 2000, C135, E3F, C130, Casa and Alpha Jet. Significance: Such joint exercises between two countries increases understanding of interoperability during mutual operations between two air forces as well as provide an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices.
31) Centre has declared entire State of Nagaland a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of 6 more months under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) with effect from 30 June 2019. The central government opinion was notified by Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Key Highlights- Background: AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades. On August 3, 2015 a framework agreement was signed by Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and central government in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi AFSPA but still even after it AFSPA was not withdrawn. This framework agreement came after over 80 rounds of negotiations in past 18 years. Current Scenario: Central government declared whole of Nagaland to be a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months in exercise of its powers conferred by Section 3 of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No. 28 of 1958). Government justified that area comprising entire State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary. About AFSPA- Background: On passing of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill by both Houses of Parliament and approved by President on 11 September 1958 it became known as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. This Act came into force in context of increasing violence in North-eastern States of India decades ago, which State governments found difficult to control. Powers Given: It empowers security forces to maintain public order in ‘disturbed areas’. If reasonable suspicion exists, Armed forces have authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can conduct search operations anywhere without warrant, arrest anyone without warrant, ban possession of firearms among others. Where necessary Union Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act, but n exceptions exists where Centre decide to forego its power and leave decision to State governments. What is disturbed area? It is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of AFSPA. It can be invoked in places where use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary. Central Government, or Governor of State concerned or administrator of Union Territory (UT) can declare whole or part of State or UT as a disturbed area.
32) Japan has resumed commercial whaling after a period of 31 years, but will stay within country’s exclusive economic waters. Since 1988 Japan had switched to so-called research whaling. Though this move is slammed by anti-whaling activists but is welcomed by Japanese whaling communities. Key Highlights- On 1 July 2019 Whaling boats embarked their first commercial hunts since 1988. This comes after Japan’s 6 month notice to withdraw from International Whaling Commission (IWC) took effect on 30 June 2019. Japanese boats will not be allowed to venture more than 200 miles (321km) off Japan’s Pacific coast. For a very long period Whaling has proved to be a diplomatic flashpoint for Tokyo, which justifies practice as a Japanese tradition and thus it should not be subject to international interference. Way Ahead: The fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it won’t be getting as much subsidies as it used to get. Why Whaling is important for Japan? During the lean times after World War II, Whale meat was an affordable source of protein and in 1962 its consumption peaked at 223,000 tons. But later whale was quickly replaced by other meats and in 1986 Whale meat consumption was down to 6,000 tons. In fiscal 2017 whaling in Japan involved only a few hundred people and accounted for less than 0.1% of total meat consumption. But still whaling is kept synonymous with Japan’s traditional lifestyle. About International Whaling Commission- It is an international body set up under International Convention for Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), which was signed in 1946 in Washington, D.C., United States (US). ICRW governs scientific, commercial, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of 59 member nations. IWC Headquarters: Impington, England. Objective: To provide for proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible orderly development of whaling industry. IWC-JAPAN: In 1986, IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling to protect the world’s last remaining whales. The ban on commercial whaling nevertheless allowed Japan an annual whale quota for scientific reasons which meant that Japan could undertake whaling only for scientific reasons. In December 2018 Japan announced its decision to withdraw from IWC.
33) Butterfly species Tamil yeoman (Cirrochroa thais) has been officially declared as state butterfly of Tamil Nadu. The southern State formally notified this by an order on lines of the State Tree (Palm), Bird (Emerald Dove), Flower (Gloriosa) and Animal (Nilgiri Tahr). About Tamil yeoman- Scientific Name: Cirrochroa thais. It is also known as Tamizh Maravan (which means warrior). This butterfly species is endemic to Western Ghats. It is among 32 butterfly species found in Western Ghats but mainly in the hilly areas. Features: Uniformly orange in colour with a dark brown outer ring. This butterfly species moves in groups in large numbers, but only in a few places. Why Tamil yeoman? It was chosen for honour after both Tamil Nadu Forest Department and state conservation groups decided to work together to identify a butterfly species that could be iconic, easily recognisable and easy to spot, and a the same time serve as another symbol of State. Key Facts- For the 1st time Tamil Nadu has declared its state butterfly. With this it becomes only 5th in country to do so. Maharashtra was 1st to declare Blue Mormon as its state butterfly, followed by Common peacock in Uttarakhand, Southern bird wings in Karnataka and Malabar banded peacock in Kerala.
34) Uttar Pradesh government has launched a massive campaign called ‘Dastak’ to eradicate deadly Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) disease. About Dastak Campaign- It is a state-wide campaign against communicative diseases which will run from 1st to 31st July 2019. It is started by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. This campaign is part of a comprehensive Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategy embraced by state government. Background: In 2018, UP government started ‘Dastak’ campaign in association with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) to control encephalitis and other vector-borne diseases. As part of campaign, entire state machinery with help of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) went door to door in 38 districts affected by JE and AES. The state government claimed that campaign has improved health conditions and fatality rate due to AES and JE dripped since then. Procedure: Under it teams will go door to door in every village of state’s 75 districts to create awareness about communicable diseases as well as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese Encephalitis. The districts sensitive for the vector-borne diseases such as encephalitis, dengue, kalaazar, malaria, chickungunya, etc. are already marked. Department Involved: In this large scale campaign, many state departments such as health, primary education, rural development, will work together to spread awareness about diseases through mass media communication. Mandate: The campaign will ensure availability of clean drinking water, initiate sanitation drive. It will also ensure vaccination and early treatment so that disease should be nipped in bud.
35) United States President Donald Trump became 1st sitting US president to set foot in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or North Korea) when he met its leader, Kim Jong Un, in Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea. Key Highlights- President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea and agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks. This was the third meeting between two leaders in just over a year on old Cold War frontier that for decades has symbolised hostility between their countries, which are technically still at war. Unique 3-way Gathering: Trump while escorted by Kim, briefly crossed a military demarcation line into North Korea and moments later, they returned to South Korean side and joined South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in for a brief chat, marking an unprecedented 3-way gathering. About US-North Korea Meet- 1st summit: In 2018 between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump was held in Singapore city, called as North Korea–United States Singapore Summit or Singapore Summit. At the summit a joint statement was signed between two agreeing to security guarantees for North Korea, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, new peaceful relations, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials. 2nd summit: In February 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam called as 019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit, or Hanoi Summit. This meet was cut short and that no agreement was reached as two sides failed to narrow differences between US demand for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and a North Korea’s demand for relief of sanctions. Why is meet Important? Now for years North Korea has pursued nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and easing tensions with North Korea and denuclearisation of Korean peninsula is one of US president’s top foreign policy priorities. North Korea (DMZ) was set up after 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a truce, leaving North Korea and a US-led U.N.
36) Abu Dhabi, capital of United Area Emirates (UAE) is hosting International Security Alliance (ISAs) first joint security exercise named ISALEX19. About ISALEX19: Activity Undertaken: It will simulate a real-life security threat in a virtual context, to test readiness of different teams and to evaluate strategies, procedures and tools developed jointly between member countries since formation of Alliance in 2017. Participants: Representatives of 50 law enforcement agencies of ISA are taking part in 1st joint security exercise in Abu Dhabi. Participants include representatives from tactical teams, communications, civil defence, rapid intervention units and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams. About International Security Alliance- It is an international working group to confront organised, transnational and extremist crimes by joint security cooperation projects and exchange of expertise on practices implemented across ISA member countries. It was launched in 2017 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Headquarters: Abu Dhabi. Members (9): ISA now comprises of nine countries viz. Bahrain, Morocco, France, Italy, Spain, Senegal, Singapore, Slovak Republic and United Arab Emirates.
37) Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) launched India’s first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) dashboard in a bid to effectively track country’s progress on Agenda 2030 adopted by UN. It was launched on occasion of National Statistics Day (on June 29) which marks birth anniversary of Prof. P C Mahalanobis. About SDG Dashboard- It is a unique, searchable platform, which provides data and insights on how India is progressing on SDGs. Function: It is a first of its kind national platform that pulls together reliable data from more than 100 different data sets, portals and sectors on to only one easy to use and intuitive platform, to power better informed decision making on SDGs. It will be India’s official data repository of National Indicator Framework (NIF) on SDGs, which is India’s largest monitoring framework with 306 statistical indicators. Partnership: SDG Dashboard is developed in partnership with United Nation in India, Department for International Development (DFID) India and data intelligence firm Social Cops. Need: India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is also one of the nations with fastest growing populations. Therefore, being home to about 17% of world population India’s progress in SDGs is crucial. Significance: Dashboard can help fast-track India’s progress in SDGs by helping state governments contextualize, visualize, track and measure their progress towards goals more effectively. It also allows state governments to track their performance on each goal and compare it to other states and identify priority areas, which need urgent action. What are SDGs? They are universal call by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for action towards ending poverty, improving health and education, protecting planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. India has been closely monitoring its progress on SDGs through its National Indicator Framework and India SDG Index released in 2018.
38) India has signed Rs.200 crore deal with Russia for acquiring Strum Ataka anti-tank missile for its fleet of Mi-35 attack choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF). This deal comes in wake of an IAF’s attempt to keep itself battle-ready in situations like post-Balakot aerial strikes. Key Highlights- This Rs.200 crore deal for Strum Ataka anti-tank missile would give an added capability to Mi-35 attack choppers of IAF to take out enemy tanks and other armoured elements. Mi-35s are set to be replaced with Apache gunships being acquired from United States (US) and slated to be delivered from August onwards. Emergency Clause: For more than a decade India has been trying to acquire Russian missiles but the deal has been signed under emergency clauses through which missiles would be supplied within 3 months of contract signing. What is Emergency Clause? Within few weeks after 14 February Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed, emergency powers were given to Indian Defence forces and India started increasing vigil at borders with Pakistan. Under, emergency powers given to three services, they can procure equipment of their choice within 3 months at a cost of about Rs.300 crore per case. IAF has emerged as front runner in terms of weapon acquisition under emergency procurement, followed by Indian Army. Under emergency provisions IAF has acquired also acquired Spice-2000 stand-off weapon system along with a number of spare and air to air missile deals with multiple counties to equip itself for sudden war.
39) 1st July 2019 is being celebrated as GST (Goods & Services Tax) Day. This year marks the 2nd anniversary of implementation of historic tax reform of Goods & Services Tax. Background- First GST Day was celebrated on 1 July 2018, as to mark the first anniversary of new indirect tax regime i.e. Goods and Services Tax (GST). GST was rolled out in intervening night of 30 June and July 1 2017 in a ceremony held in the Central Hall of Parliament. GST Day 2019- Finance Ministry will be introducing new return system on a trial basis from 1 July 2019 and will make it mandatory basis from 1 October 2019. Reforms proposed– Union Ministry of Finance kicked off the celebrations of GST day by coming up with further reforms in Indirect Tax system with introduction of- New return system: Sahaj & Sugam returns for small taxpayers. Rationalisation of Cash Ledger System: With regards to single cash ledger, Centre will rationalise ledger in a manner that earlier 20 heads are merged into 5 major heads. There is only 1 cash ledger for tax, penalty, interest, fee among others. Single Refund-Disbursing Mechanism: will come into play wherein government which sanctions refund disburses all four major heads of refunds namely Central Goods & Services Tax (CGST), State Goods & Services Tax (SGST) or Integrated Goods & Services Tax (IGST) and Cess. Introduction of Composition Scheme: As per FinMin threshold limit of Rs.40 lakh is offered of suppliers of goods as per choice of states. Thus ministry propose to introduce composition scheme for small service providers up to an annual turnover of Rs.50 lakh with a tax rate of 6%, electronic invoicing system in a phase-wise manner for B2B (Business to Business) transactions. GST Appellate Tribunals: are being established at various state headquarters and also in area benches. Celebrations: Anurag Thakur Minister of State (MoS) for Finance and Corporate Affairs will preside over event alongside key secretaries and officials of various departments. At event Book on ‘GST for MSME’ will be released. ‘GST Commendation Certificates‘ will be awarded to Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) officers who worked hard in GST implementation. What is GST? Goods & Services is an Indirect Tax levied on the supply of goods and services and which has replaced many Indirect Taxes that previously existed in India. On 29th March 2017, Goods and Service Tax Act was passed in Parliament and Act came into effect on 1st July 2017. It is one Indirect Tax for entire country and is a multi-stage, comprehensive, destination-based tax that is levied on every value addition. Under GST regime, tax is levied at every point of sale (PoS). In case of Intra-state sales, Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) are charged and the Inter-state sales are chargeable to Integrated GST (IGST). GST has transformed India into ‘one nation, one Tax, and integrated country into an Economic Union and into single common market by breaking barriers to inter-state trade and commerce.Continue Reading W.B.C.S. Current Affairs – 29 June 2019 To 04 July 2019.
40) National Statistics Day is observed every year on 29 June to popularize use of Statistics in everyday life and sensitize public as to how Statistics helps in shaping and framing policies. 2019 is the 13th edition of National Statistics Day. About National Statistics Day- Objective: To create public awareness among people about importance of statistics in daily life and in process of planning and development. Theme for 2019 National Statistics Day- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Why 29 June? NSD is celebrated annually on occasion of Birth anniversary of India’s eminent statistician, Late Prof Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, in recognition of his invaluable contribution in establishing National Statistical System. The day also commemorates contributions made by Mahalanobis in fields of statistics and economic planning. Celebrations: To mark the occasion a series of events have been planned across India. Winner of Prof. C R Rao Award 2019 for notable contribution in field of Statistics was felicitated during the program on occasion of day held in New Delhi. Also winners of All India level ‘On the Spot Essay Writing Competition’ for Post Graduate Students on subject relevant to Statistics organized at were also felicitated. About PC Mahalanobis- He was an Indian scientist and applied statistician who lived from 29 June 1893 to 28 June 1972. He became 1st Indian statistician to receive world recognition and is called as Father of Indian Statistics. He is also referred as chief architect of Indian statistical system. Establishments: In 1931 he established Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata and contributed to design of large-scale sample surveys. In 1933 institute founded journal Sankhya, 1st Indian statistical journal, along the lines of Karl Pearson’s Biometrika. In 1959 ISI was made an autonomous body of Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoS&PI). After 1947 (Post-independence), he served as the honorary statistical adviser to cabinet and helped in establishment of Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the National Sample Survey (NSS) and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI). He had made pioneering studies in anthropometry India but in 1936 he introduced statistical measure called Mahalanobis distance, widely used in cluster analysis and classification techniques for which he is widely known. He was also a member of the 1st Planning commission (1951-56) of free India. The II Five Year Plan (1957-62) relied on Mahalanobis’s mathematical description of Indian economy and this plan encouraged development of heavy industry in India and later came to be known as Basic Industry strategy of economic Growth or Nehru-Mahalanobis Model.
41) National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO), an Odisha-based Navaratna Company has been selected for President’s award for utilisation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund in social development. NALCO was selected for its Aliali Jhia Scheme. About Aliali Jhia- In 2015 NALCO started a scheme called Aliali Jhia. The scheme was on the line of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to adapt and promote the poor and talented girls for education. It aimed to promote the education of Girls of BPL (Below Poverty Line) families. Under this scheme, NALCO adopted 416 girls from BPL families of 66 villages in Anugul and Koraput districts of Odisha. These girls are reading in 45 different schools and under this scheme Company is bearing all expenditure for education and promotion of talent from 8th to 10th class. Scheme is now joined by employees of the company. About National Aluminium Company Limited- NALCO is a Navratna CPSE (Central Public Sector Enterprises) under Union Ministry of Mines. Centre Government holds 52% equity of NALCO. It was established in 1981, with its registered office at Bhubaneswar, Odisha. It is one of the largest integrated primary producer of Aluminium in Asia. It encompasses entire vale chain from bauxite mining, alumina refining, aluminium smelting and casting, power generation, rail and port operations. What is Corporate Social Responsibility? CSR is funding and grants process undertaken by corporate sector under which they provide financial and other support to Non-Profit Organisations (NGOs). Under Companies Act, 2013 it is a mandatory provision for companies to provide a contribution of 2% of average of their net profits.
42) The state government of Goa recently approved an amendment to Factories Act 1948 which will allow deployment of women in night shifts (from 7pm to 6 am) in industries. It is a welcome step taken by Goa government towards women empowerment. Key Highlights- The Amendment Bill was approved by state cabinet and is set to be tabled during upcoming Legislative Assembly session. Need: Specific provision restricting employments of women at night have had a deterred effect on employment of women. Importance: The amendment will allow deployment of women in night shifts in industries and might end the discrimination against female workers as far as job opportunities are concerned. It will give trouble-free space to women to excel in their careers and will also help women get more jobs. It is a revolutionary step which might bring about equality at workplace. What is Factories Act 1948? Administration: It is administered by Union Ministry of Labour and Employment via Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), which advises Central and State Governments on administration of Factories Act and coordinates factory inspection services in States. In state the act is administered by State Governments through their factory inspectorates. Amendment: It was amended by Factories (Amendment) Act, 1987 and serves to assist in formulating national policies with respect to occupational safety and health in factories and docks in India. Focus Area: It deals with different problems concerning health, safety, efficiency and well-being of persons at work places. Covers: It is applicable to establishments with 10 or more workers, if premise is using power and to establishments with 20 or more workers, without electricity connection.
43) India has abstained from voting on United Nation General Assembly (UNGA’s) resolution aimed at examining options to end trade in goods which are used for capital punishment and torture. India stated that it is unacceptable to place death penalty on par with torture that it firmly believe that freedom from torture is a human right which must be respected and protected under all circumstances. Key Highlights- UN General Assembly adopted resolution on- Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards. The resolution was adopted by 193 member assembly with a recorded vote of 81 in favour, 20 against, and 44 abstentions. Arguments by India- India argued that incorporating capital punishment into scope of this resolution raised concerns about making an attempt to place it on par with torture. India stressed that the country remains firmly committed to prevent torture and other such punishment (like cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment). India stated that where capital punishment is statutorily provided for, due process of law is followed. It warned the assembly against current resolution, that it may even start a duplicative parallel process related to goods being used for torture and capital punishment and that it will further create ambiguity by conflating different issues. In India, capital punishment is a statutory provision, but at the same time it is used in rarest of rare cases. Also, acts of torture are punishable in India under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Indian judiciary system serves as a bulwark against any such violations of human rights.
44) Acknowledging that country’s telecom industry was under financial stress, Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had constituted a committee chaired by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan to spell out revival plans for Telecom sector. About Aruna Sundararajan Committee- Background: As the Indian telecom sector is under stress for a long time Union Minister has decided to deal with this issue now on priority basis thus for this purpose he will be meeting all telcos ‘at the earliest’ to discuss various sectoral issues and also constituted Aruna Sundararajan Committee to look into entire issue of removing ambiguities in ease of doing business and also to revisit the whole issue of SUC. Need: Reduction of levies and fees, such as licence fee, SUC and universal service levy, has been a long-standing demand of Telecom industry, along with review of definition of aggregated gross revenue and this will also be main focus areas of committe. Purpose: To review levies, including spectrum usage charge (SUC), and promote Ease of Doing Business (EDB) in telecom sector. Mandate: The Committee headed by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan would submit its report in 2 weeks’ time. In case of any issues which require clarity, committee has been directed to seek views of Solicitor General. Committee would also look into previous recommendations provided by sectoral regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on the issue. Way Forward- The Government of India is also looking into revival plan for state-owned BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) and MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) on priority and the details for that are being worked out.
45) Mahatma Gandhi Information Technology and Biotechnology Park (MGIT-BP) built with India’s assistance was recently inaugurated at Grand-Bassam in Cote d’Ivoire. It was jointly inaugurated by Sailas Thangal, Ambassador of India to Cote d’Ivoire and country’s Vice President Daniel Kablan Duccan. About MGIT-BP- It is a dedicated Free Trade Zone (FTZ) for IT and Biotechnology. It is being built with India’s assistance through EXIM Bank Line of Credit (LoC) of $20 million. MGIT-BP Project consists of two parts– (1) Architectural concept and design for buildings of FTZ and construction of main building to host IT enterprises. 1st part of project was implemented by Shapoorji Pallonji, an Indian Conglomerate company. (2) Supply and commissioning of equipment which included, computer assembly plant, VSAT (very small aperture terminal) with satellite earth station, human DNA lab, networking lab, data storage area network, an audio-visual lab, and a power generator. 2nd part was implemented by United Telecom Limited (UTL), an Indian company specializing in telecom networks. Significance of MGIT-BP: It shows growing and shining example of cooperation between India and Cote d’Ivoire, energised by high-level of political commitment from both nations. It is expected to bring direct benefit to Cote d’Ivoire’s people. It will further consolidate cooperation and bilateral relations between India and Cote d’Ivoire, especially in context of technology transfer and sharing of development experience to build capacities of partner countries in Africa. It is important milestone to mark 150th celebration of birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It also showcases India’s commitment to expediting projects under 100 days plan. Background- In July 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made Africa a priority for India’s foreign policy while outlining 10 principles of India’s engagement with Africa in Kampala, Uganda. Over the years, there has been a significant intensification of India’s engagement with Cote d’Ivoire with India extending six Lines of Credits (LoCs) aggregating to $207.70 million aimed at building infrastructure, improving Ivorian skills and create opportunities.
46) Reserve Bank of India recently clarified that all Payment System Operators (PSOs) shall store entire payment data in systems located only in India. It means that the data related to payments must be stored in systems located only in India. This follows a clarification sought by PSOs on issue of data localization. Key Highlights- Background: In April 2018 RBI had issued a directive on ‘Storage of Payment System Data‘ by which it had advised all system providers to ensure that within a 6 months period, entire data relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India. No Limit on Payment processing outside India: In Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on certain implementation issues raised by Payment System Operators (PSOs), RBI had mentioned that there is no bar on processing of payment transactions outside India (if PSOs desires so) but after processing data shall be stored only in India and complete end-to-end transaction details should be part of data. Sharing of Data: Depending upon nature or origin of transaction and with prior approval of RBI, data can be shared with overseas regulator, if required. Transaction Details: Data should include end-to-end transaction details and information pertaining to transaction related to payment or settlement that is either gathered or processed or transmitted, as part of a payment message/instruction. Data Type: The data could be relating to customer data such as name, mobile number, PAN details, Aadhaar number or even Payment-sensitive data like customer and beneficiary account details, payment credential- PIN, OTP and transaction data like originating and destination system information amount etc. Data Processed Abroad: In case the data processing is done abroad, then data should be brought back from systems abroad to India not later than 1 business day or 24 hours from payment processing, whichever is earlier.
47) Narinder Batra, President of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was elected as a member of International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He secured 58 votes out of 62 polled. About Narinder Batra- He was elected to prestigious seat during the 134th IOC Session being held in Lausanne, Switzerland. His election is linked to his function in a National Olympic Committee that is president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Achievement: He now has a rare distinction of becoming a IOC member, while heading a National Olympic Committee as well as an international federation. He is also the 1st Indian to have this distinction. He has already become 1st Indian to head an international federation of an Olympic sport which is that of FIH (International Hockey Federation). Indian IOC Members: With Batra now being elected to IOC, the number of Indians who are currently active members of IOC will increase to two. In 2016 Nita Ambani Chairperson of Reliance Foundation, was elected as an individual member of IOC. She is 1st Indian woman to be elected to prestigious seat. Randhir Singh, Former IOA Secretary General has also served as a member of IOC from 2001 to 2014 and has been made an honorary member since then. About International Olympic Committee- IOC is non-governmental sports organization that was founded on 23 June 1894 in Paris, France. It is the supreme authority of Olympic Movement and is headquartered at Lausanne, Switzerland. It acts as a catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family and shepherds success through a wide range of programmes and projects. It ensures regular celebration of Olympic Games, supports all affiliated member organisations of Olympic Movement and strongly encourages, promotion of Olympic values by appropriate means.
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