CURRENT AFFAIRS – JULY 2019 (FREE)

 

CONTENT

 

  1. G20 SUMMIT 2019
  2. ACUTE ENCEPHALITIS SYNDROME 
  3. KERALA TOPS THE LIST FOR BEST PERFORMING STATE IN HEALTH
  4. CLASSICAL STATUS FOR MARATHI
  5. UN CELEBRATES 2019 AS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES
  6. GREENBERG’S DIVERSITY INDEX
  7. THE CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (RESERVATION IN TEACHERS’ CADRE) BILL
  8. ASEAN
  9. REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP (RCEP)
  10. ALPHONSO MANGO GETS GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION TAG
  11. ERODE’S UNIQUE TURMERIC GETS A GI TAG
  12. BHUNGROO
  13. NIPAH VIRUS 
  14. HORNBILLS AMONG TOP SEED DISPERSERS, MOST THREATENED
  15. OLIVE RIDLEYS IN ODISHA
  16. POTASSIUM FERROCYANIDE
  17. NASA’S PUNCH MISSION
  18. INDIA’S POPULATION GROWTH
  19. ECONOMIC SURVEY 2019 HIGHLIGHTS
  20. FRENCH PLANNING TO LEVY 3% TAX ON INTERNET GIANTS
  21. IRAN-US STANDOFF
  22. PINK CITY JAIPUR GETS UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE TAG
  23. WHY LIBYA IN NEWS?
  24. CALIFORNIA IN NEWS
  25. PLAN BEE
  26. FACEBOOK’S GLOBAL DIGITAL CURRENCY ‘LIBRA’
  27. FRANCE TO IMPOSE GREEN TAX ON PLANE TICKETS FROM 2020
  28. SCO SUMMIT
  29. INDIA’S BID FOR NON-PERMANENT SEAT AT UNSC
  30. WORLD POPULATION PROSPECTS 2019 REPORT
  31. INTER-STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES (AMENDMENT) BILL
  32. EVALUATION OF PRIME MINISTER’S JAN DHAN YOJANA SCHEME
  33. DRAFT MODEL TENANCY ACT(MTA), 2019
  34. PROJECT TO SAVE THE GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD (GIB)
  35. CAMPA (COMPENSATORY AFFORESTATION FUND MANAGEMENT AND PLANNING AUTHORITY)
  36. WASTE MANAGEMENT IN INDIA
  37. INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
  38. ROADBLOCKS TO LABOUR REFORMS IN INDIA
  39. INDIA’S ANSHULA KANT IS WORLD BANK MD AND CFO
  40. DALAI LAMA TO BE SELECTED BY CHINA
  41. CHANDRAYAAN-2
  42. LEGAL TUSSLE BETWEEN GUJRAT POTATO FARMERS AND PEPSICO
  43. GANGES DOLPHIN
  44. JAL JEEVAN MISSION
  45. DAM SAFETY BILL, 2018
  46. AYUSHMAN BHARAT-PRADHAN MANTRI JAN AROGYA YOJANA
  47. ‘BLUE FLAG’ CHALLENGE
  48. COLISTIN BANNED IN ANIMAL FOOD INDUSTRY
  49. 10TH SCHEDULE TO THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
  50. US-CHINA TRADE WAR
  51. NASA CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF MAN’S FIRST LANDING ON MOON
  52. INDO-SRI LANKA RELATIONS
  53. ARTIFICIAL SNOW AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
  54. BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGIES
  55. EBOLA OUTBREAK IN CONGO
  56. JOAQUIN “EL CHAPO” GUZMAN
  57. FARMERS OPT OUT OF PRADHAN MANTRI FASAL BIMA YOJNA
  58. NEW INDEX TO CHECK EASE OF DOING AGRI-BUSINESS
  59. WPI INFLATION EASES TO NEAR TWO-YEAR LOW
  60. ADITYA-L1
  61. WHAT ARE THE LIGO DETECTORS?
  62. CENTRAL EQUIPMENT IDENTITY REGISTER (CEIR) 
  63. SHARP DECLINE IN VULTURE POPULATION
  64. THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE CENSUS OF ORCHIDS OF INDIA
  65. BORIS JOHNSON IS THE NEW U.K. PRIME MINISTER
  66. HONG KONG ANTI-EXTRADITION BILL PROTESTS
  67. METABO-PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER
  68. RAJYA SABHA CLEARS POCSO (AMENDMENT) BILL 2019
  69. RAJYA SABHA CLEARS RTI AMENDMENT BILL 2019
  70. TIGER CENSUS 2018
  71. BRICS 2019
  72. CIPS / SWIFT
  73. THE PRICE OF FREE
  74. INTEGRATED BATTLE GROUPS (IBGS)
  75. THE INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019
  76. INDIA’S 7TH ECONOMIC CENSUS BEGINS FROM TRIPURA
  77. MEDICAL COMMISSION BILL 2019
  78. THE CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2019
  79. THE COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019
  80. PRITI PATEL APPOINTED BRITAIN’S FIRST INDIAN-ORIGIN HOME SECRETARY
  81. DRAGON TREES FOUND IN ASSAM
  82. ZERO BUDGET NATURAL FARMING
  83. JAPAN TO HOST OLYMPICS 2020
  84. PHEMA
  85. ETHIOPIA CREATES WORLD RECORD PLANTING MOST TREES IN A SINGLE DAY
  86. BHARAT STAGE VI STANDARDS
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G20 Summit

  1. G-20 consists of governments and central bank governors from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), Argentina, Mexico, US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, European Union, Turkey, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia.
  2. Collectively, the G-20 economies account for nearly 90 per cent of the gross world product, 80 per cent of world trade, two-thirds of the world population, and approximately half of the world land area.
  3. Founded in 1999 in Berlin.
  4. Canadian finance minister Paul Martin was chosen as the first chairman.
  5. To decide which member nation gets to chair the G20 leaders’ meeting for a given year, all members, except the European Union, are assigned to one of five different groupings. All countries within a group are eligible to take over the G20 Presidency when it is their group’s turn.
  6. The G20 operates without a permanent secretariat or staff. The incumbent chair establishes a temporary secretariat for the duration of its term.
  7. The 2019 G-20 summit was held in Osaka in Japan
  8. Resolved to prevent the use of the Internet to fund and facilitate terrorism and extremism.
  9. The 2020 G-20 summit is scheduled to be held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
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Acute Encephalitis Syndrome

  1. Bihar has been struggling with an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). 
  2. US researchers found that a toxin present in litchi fruit was responsible for the deaths. Undernourished children who ate the fruit during the day and went to bed on an empty stomach presented with serious illness early the next morning. Blood glucose fell sharply causing severe brain malfunction.
  3. Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources have also been reported.
  4. Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India. AES due to JEV was clinically diagnosed in India for the first time in 1955 in the southern State of Madras, now Tamil Nadu. 
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Kerala tops the list for best performing State in health

  1. Uttar Pradesh retained the worst performer 
  2. Among the UTs, Chandigarh toped.
  3. The Index ranks the States and Union Territories based on 23 health-related indicators, including neonatal mortality rate, under-five mortality rate, proportion of low birth weight among new-borns, proportion of districts with functional Cardiac Care Units, full immunisation coverage and proportion of specialist positions vacant at district hospitals.
  4. Health Index 2019 released by NITI Aayog.
  5. While the Centre has devoted greater attention to tertiary care and reduction of out-of-pocket expenses through financial risk protection initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat, several States remain laggards when it comes to creating a primary health care system with well-equipped PHCs as the unit. This was first recommended in 1946 by the Bhore Committee. The neglect of such a reliable primary care approach even after so many decades affects States such as Bihar, where much work needs to be done to reduce infant and neonatal mortality and low birth weight, and create specialist departments at district hospitals.
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Classical status for Marathi

  1. Under active consideration
  2. Oriya was the last language to be given this status.
  3. Currently, there are only 6 classical languages of India. These are:
    1. Kannada
    2. Malayalam
    3. Oriya
    4. Tamil
    5. Telugu
    6. Sanskrit
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UN Celebrates 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages

  1. There are total 7,111 languages spoken around the world. Although indigenous peoples make up less than 6 percent of the global population, they speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages. As per UN, 40 percent of the world’s total languages are in danger of extinction.
  2. The Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea has the highest number of ‘living’ indigenous languages in the world (840), while India stands fourth (453).
  3. Asia accounts for the highest number of indigenous languages followed by Africa.
  4. Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages worldwide when only first-languages are considered.
  5.  Six percent of the world’s languages are spoken in India. Five languages have become extinct since 1950, while 42 are critically endangered.
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Greenberg’s diversity index

  1. The probability that any two people of the country selected at random would have different mother tongues.
  2. The value ranges from 0 to 1, where 0 indicates no diversity (everyone has the same mother tongue) and 1 indicates total diversity (no two people will have the same mother tongue). Hence, a higher diversity index would mean more languages spread across the country.
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The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Bill

  1. The Bill seeks to ensure reservations in teaching positions in central institutions for persons from Scheduled Castes/Tribes, socially and educationally backward classes, and those from economically weaker sections.
  2. Those institutes deemed as institutions of excellence, and of national and strategic importance will not come under this law.
  3. Minority institutions are also left out of this Bill.
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ASEAN (ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH EAST ASIAN NATIONS)

  1. It was founded in 1967, at the Laem Thaen, Bang Saen Beach, in Bangkok in Thailand (Bangkok Declaration)
  2. Total 10 members today- Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei.
  3. The ASEAN Secretariat is in Jakarta, in Indonesia.
  4. ASEAN Plus Three was the first of attempts for further integration to improve existing ties with China, Japan, and South Korea. This was followed by the even larger East Asia Summit (EAS), which included ASEAN Plus Three as well as India, Australia, and New Zealand.  Now it is known as East Asia Community or ASEAN plus Six.
    1. ASEAN + 3 = ASEAN + China + Japan + South Korea.
    2. ASEAN + 6 = ASEAN +China + Japan + South Korea + India + Australia + New Zealand.
  5. India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992. India also became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996. India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN members in 2009.
  6. In 2006, ASEAN was given observer status at the United Nations General Assembly. In response, the organisation awarded the status of “dialogue partner” to the UN.
  7. Objective of ASEAN is to promote regional peace and stability, and to promote economic growth in the region by mutual cooperation
  8. The ‘ASEAN Way‘ refers to a methodology or approach to solving issues that respects the cultural norms of Southeast Asia. ASEAN Anthem is also titled by the same name.
  9. ASEAN Motto is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community
  10. Thailand is hosting the 2019 meeting at Bangkok, in Thailand. The theme for 2019 meet was ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’.
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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

  1. The yet to be concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) and the six Indo-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand). The negotiations started in 2012. Since then, there have been 28 rounds of negotiations.
  2. It contains 45 percent of the world population and 40 percent of the world trade.
  3. So far, the perception has been that India’s importance in trade arises out of its large market. However, India’s experience with countries with which it has signed free trade agreements till now is not exactly a happy one. Although trade has increased post FTA with South Korea, ASEAN and Japan, imports have risen faster than exports from India. According to a paper published by NITI Aayog, India has a bilateral trade deficit with most of the member countries of RCEP.  India’s chief concern with the RCEP is the fact that it needs to protect its economy from the flooding of cheap imports from China. Of all the countries in the RCEP, India is the only one not involved in any bilateral or multilateral negotiations for an FTA with China, Australia and New Zealand. The biggest worry for India is that an FTA within the RCEP will just become a cover for duty free entry of Chinese goods into India. On its part, China says it is willing to reassure India on its concerns. In the past year, China has improved market access to several Indian agricultural and pharmaceutical products, and says it is working on ways to balance the massive USD 60 billion trade deficit that India suffers at present. 
  4. Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), has been pushing India to join the RCEP trade bloc. According to it, India will get an opportunity to tap large and vibrant economies, which will boost Indian exports. By not being part of the block, Indian exports will lose in terms of preferential access and hence, become less competitive. This would harm India’s export and investment flow in the future.
  5. However, certain industries such as steel, agriculture, and dairy in India have been protesting against the RCEP deal.
  6. During RCEP Summit in Bangkok, held in November 2019, India has finally decided to opt out of the RCEP agreement. According to a government note, the outstanding issues included major trade deficits with all the countries in RCEP and lack of assurances on market access to Indian exports. However, the fallout of India’s decision is that it has burnished its image as a protectionist nation with high tariff walls. India needs to initiate reforms on the export front, bring down costs in the economy and, simultaneously, increase efficiencies. It cannot miss to be part of global supply chains and this can happen only by reducing its trade barriers soon or later. The only desirable way to balance the effect of rising imports is to promote the exports. 
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Alphonso Mango gets Geographical Indication tag

  1. The Alphonso mango from Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and other adjoining areas in Maharashtra have been accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  2. A Geographical Indication or a GI tag is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  3. The Government of India enacted Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999, which came into force in 2003. This act was enacted in India so as to comply with the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The act is administered by Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks of India (who is under Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade, which is in turn under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry). 
  4. The first product to get a GI tag in India was Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  5. There are a total of 325 products from India that carry this indication.
  6. Other examples of products from India with a GI tag are Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees, and Tirupati Laddus.
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Erode’s unique turmeric gets a GI tag

  1. Erode, the city in Tamil Nadu, famously called manjal maanagaram or turmeric capital, gets the GI tag for its turmeric for its high curcumin content of around 4 percent.
  2. India is the world’s largest producer of turmeric, a perennial herbaceous plant of the ginger family. 
  3. Tamil Nadu is the third largest grower of turmeric in the country (behind Telangana and Maharashtra).
  4. The spice’s colour comes mainly from curcumin, a bright yellow phenolic compound that has been in the news recently for its potential to fight cancer. 
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Bhungroo

  1. Water management system that injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells. The system consists of a pipe erected in such a way that excess water passes through it, gets filtered and accumulates in an underground well. Later, farmers use a motor to pump the water up and use it for irrigation. Adoption of this technology has decreased salt deposits on soil and increased fresh water supply, saving farmers from drought.
  2. Bhungroo system is typically used in arid regions of Gujarat.
  3. It is proprietary World Bank-awarded rain water harvesting technology and product.
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Nipah virus 

  1. A newly emerging disease that is transmitted from its natural wildlife host – the flying foxes (fruit bats) to both animals and humans. Such viruses that are transmitted from animals to humans are also known as zoonotic virus.
  2. It takes its name from Sungai Nipah, a village in Malaysia where it was first identified in 1999 among pig farmers. No new outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia since 1999. 
  3. India confirmed its first Nipah outbreak in Siliguri, West Bengal, in 2001. The most recent Nipah outbreak happened in Kerala in 2018.
  4. In India, consumption of fruits or fruit products contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats is the most likely source of infection. Limited human-to-human transmission of NiV has been also reported.
  5. The drugs Ribavirin and Remdesivir have been shown to be effective against the viruses in laboratory.
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Hornbills most threatened bird in India

 

  1. The study carried out in Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has concluded that the Hornbills are the most threatened bird species in India.
  2. The distribution of the species is fragmented over its range in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. In the subcontinent they are found in a few forest areas in the Western Ghats and in the forests along the Himalayas. 
  3. Hornbills are important for ecological biodiversity since they are the top seed dispersers among birds. Referred to as ‘forest engineers’ or ‘farmers of forest’ for playing a key role in dispersing seeds of tropical trees, hornbills indicate the prosperity and balance of the forest they build nests in.
  4. Due to habitat loss and hunting in some areas, the great hornbill is evaluated as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is also listed in Appendix I of CITES. 
  5. The great hornbill is the state bird of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh in India.
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Olive Ridleys in Odisha

  1. Also known as the Pacific Ridley Sea Turtle.
  2. Second smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
  3. Found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  4. Best known for their unique mass nesting calledArribada’, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  5. Gahirmatha beach of Odisha is largest mass nesting site for the olive ridley turtles in India. The beach is now now a part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary surrounded by mangroves forest and best place in India to spot Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Besides this, Olive Ridleys are also found in Rushikuleya and Devi rivers in Odisha, Marina Beach in Tamil Nadu and Versova Beach in Mumbai (Maharashtra).
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Potassium Ferrocyanide

  1. Used as anti-caking agent to prevent lumping in salts.
  2. In news recently for some hoax that it is toxic and may cause cancer.
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NASA’s PUNCH mission

PUNCH, which stands for “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere” is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.

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India’s Population Growth

  1. India’s population growth will continue to decline over the next two decades, growing less than 1 per cent during 2021-31 and under 0.5 per cent during 2031-41.
  2. At present, total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 children per woman is called the replacement level fertility, which is the average number of children a woman would need to have in order for the population to replace itself. In other words, it refers to the average number of children a women must have for population to stabilise.
  3. With TFR projected to fall well below replacement level fertility by 2021, positive population growth in the next two decades will be due to population momentum and the continued rise in life expectancy.
  4. At present, the TFR for India as a whole is 2.3.
  5. Rural areas have a TFR of 2.5, while urban areas are lower, at 1.8.
  6. Currently, TFR is below replacement level fertility in 13 out of the 22 major states.
  7. With TFR reaching low levels and longevity continuing to increase, India’s population at the national level and in several states will begin ageing significantly in just a decade from now.
  8. The share of India’s young, i.e. 0-19 years, population is projected to drop from as high as 40 percent in 2011 to 25 per cent by 2041.
  9. On the other hand, the share of elderly, 60 years and above, population will nearly double from 8 percent in 2011 to 16 per cent by 2041.
  10. The number of school-going children in India will decline by approximately 18 percent between 2021 and 2041. 
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Economic Survey 2019 Highlights

  1. Theme that underlies this Economic Survey 2019, bluesky thinking (thinking that is not grounded or in touch with the realities of the present). 
  2. Economic Survey 2019 projections for FY 2019-20
    1. To achieve a $5 trillion economy by 2024. 
    2. To grow at 7 percent, slightly higher than the 6.8  percent in FY 2018-19.
    3. General fiscal deficit to be 5.8 percent.
    4. growth rate of 2.9 percent for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.
  3. FY 2018-19 data:
    1. Consumer inflation (rate of increase of prices) stood at 3.4 percent for FY 2018-19 as it continues to show a downward trend since FY 2016.
    2. The Index of Industrial Production, an indicator of growth across key industries, registered a rise in FY 2017 and FY 2018, but dipped in FY 2019 to 3.6 percent.
    3. Per capita national income stood at INR 1,26,406 during FY 2018-19.
    4. Projected 283.4 million tones of food-grains production for 2018-19.
    5. Fiscal Deficit of 6.4 percent. The current account deficit to GDP was higher as compared to 2017-18, primarily due to higher oil prices.
  4. Observations:
    1. Need to increase private investment to spur growth.
    2. Low pay and wage inequality remain serious obstacles towards achieving inclusive growth.
    3. Decline in NPAs (Non Performing Assets) should help push CapEx cycle. CapEx is any type of expense that a company capitalises, or shows on its balance sheet as an investment, rather than on its income statement as an expenditure.
    4. India to face a challenge on the fiscal front following an economic slowdown impacting tax collections amid rising state expenditure on the farm sector.
    5. Indian MSMEs need to be freed from shackles that convert them into dwarfs (Companies with less than 100 workers). 
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France planning to levy 3 percent tax on Internet giants

  1. GAFA Tax (an acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon).
  2. Aims to stop multinationals from avoiding taxes by setting up headquarters in low-tax European Union countries.
  3. Currently, the companies pay nearly no tax in countries where they have large sales like France.
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Iran-US standoff

  1. Years of tension over Iran’s alleged efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran insisted that its nuclear programme was entirely peaceful, but the international community did not believe that. 
  2. Iran had two facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235. Low-enriched uranium, which has a 3%-4% concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. ‘Weapons-grade’ uranium is 90% enriched.
  3. By 2015, Iran had a large stockpile (~12000 kg) of enriched uranium and almost 20,000 centrifuges. It had also enriched uranium to 20% purity. 
  4. In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
  5. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Iran’s uranium stockpile was to be reduced by 98 percent to 300 kg. It must also keep the stockpile’s enrichment level at 3.67 percent.
  6. By 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordo, and shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia.
  7. In May 2018, U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal saying it was a “bad deal” that does not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its “subversive” activities in West Asia such as backing proxy militias.
  8. The UK, Germany and France, which all opposed the sanctions, set up an alternative payment mechanism aimed at helping international companies trade with Iran without facing US penalties.
  9.  In May 2019 Iran suspended commitments under the agreement and gave the other signatories a 60 day deadline to protect it from US sanctions, otherwise it said it would resume production of highly enriched uranium.
  10. If either the U.S. or Iran fails to back off from the brinkmanship, another military conflict in the Gulf cannot be ruled out.
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Pink City Jaipur gets UNESCO World Heritage tag

  1. The announcement was made after the 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC), at Baku (Azerbaijan).
  2. The World Heritage Committee is composed of representatives of 21 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention who meet annually.
  3. According to the World Heritage Convention, a committee member’s term of office is six years. However many State’s Parties choose to voluntarily limit their term to four years, in order to give other States Parties an opportunity to serve.
  4. Currently India, US, UK are not members of UNESCO world heritage committee.
  5. The historic walled city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, was founded in 1727 AD under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II.
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Why Libya in news?

  1. Libya has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves and is also a player in the natural gas market. 
  2. It’s been nearly a decade since despotic ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed. However, the political situation in Libya has gone from bad to worse. Libya was in no shape to transition to a functioning democracy so abruptly.
  3. Currently, the western half of the country is being “led” by a UN-backed government based out of Tripoli.
  4. This stands in stark contrast to the eastern half of the country, which is ruled by Haftar. Haftar used to be a close ally of Gaddafi. However later two had a fallout and Haftar helped in overthrow of Gaddafi. From the remnants of Libya’s army, he cobbled together a fighting force now known as the Libyan National Army. After Haftar declared victory over ISIS in Libya in 2017, the international community seemed to accept that Haftar would be a major political player in Libya’s future and began orienting itself in that direction. 
  5. While Haftar was able to get militia in the east to his side by playing them off each other and addressing their localized concerns, the ones operating in Tripoli have long-standing grievances against the Gaddafi era, and are more concerned that Haftar will simply end up being Gaddafi 2.0. Haftar has repeatedly voiced the opinion that Libya is not ready for democracy. 
  6. Collective wisdom was that Haftar would wait and capture the country through the ballot box. He seems to have opted to do so via violence instead. Air strikes and ground fighting have since left nearly 1,000 people dead and some 5,000 wounded, according to UN’s World Health Organization.
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California in news

  1. California becomes first US state to ban hairstyle discrimination.
  2. California hit by biggest earthquake in 20 years.
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Plan Bee

An amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks.

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Facebook’s global digital currency ‘Libra’

  1. It is a stable coin, which means it’s a digital currency backed by traditional currency. These aim to overcome the extreme volatility that plagues crypto-currencies. Facebook says Libra is designed to address inefficiencies in the global payments system, which is beset by high fees, lengthy transfer times and a lack of reliability. 
  2. Tether, an existing stable coin is only a fraction of the size of bitcoin. However, unlike Tether, Libra will be backed not just by USD but a basket of stable global currencies and assets such as bank deposits and securities.
  3. It will be run by the Libra Association, a Geneva-based entity having over two dozen founding partners, including Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, Uber and the Vodafone group. 
  4. Bitcoin and Libra are both based on blockchain technology, which refers to a form of distributed ledger.
  5. Nations have been skeptical of its launch since such stable coins could threaten the world’s monetary system and financial stability. It could hinder cross-border efforts to fight money laundering and terror financing, and throw up problems for cyber security, taxation and privacy. 
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France to impose green tax on plane tickets from 2020

  1. To fund less-polluting transportation projects.
  2. A similar tax was introduced in Sweden in April 2018.
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SCO summit

  1. Created in 2001 by China and Russia, it is headquartered in Beijing in China. It includes the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, while India and Pakistan were inducted in 2017.  India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia, while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. The United States applied for observer status in the SCO, but was rejected in 2005.
  2. It is the largest regional organisation in Asia and accounts for approximately 40 percent of the world’s population, 22 percent of the world’s GDP, and about 80 percent of Eurasia’s landmass.
  3. The Heads of State Council is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO, meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation. The 18th Heads of State Council summit 2019 was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
  4. The 19th Heads of State Council summit in 2020 will be hosted by India. With India indicating that it sees little use of SAARC, the SCO provides the only multilateral platform for it to deal in close proximity with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  5. SCO emphasises that sustainable development is not possible without stability and peace. The SCO remains committed to countering international terrorism, drug trafficking and resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. As such, in recent years, the SCO has made counter terrorism cooperation one of its main focus areas and created the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), which focusses on periodic counter terrorism exercises involving the member countries. It is headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 
  6. The US has been demanding India to curb defence deals with Russiaincluding on the S-400 anti-missile system, and to deny access to Chinese telecom major Huawei for India’s 5G network. India needs to balance competing demands from its various international groupings.
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India’s bid for non-permanent seat at UNSC

  1. All 193 members of the UN General Assembly will vote for five non-permanent seats in June 2020, when India will need to show the support of at least 129 countries to go through to the UNSC.
  2. India will occupy the non permanent seat at the UNSC for a two-year period from 2020-2021, as it has previously on seven occasions since 1950-51, the most recent being 2011-12 tenure.
  3. India has a unique role to play at the UNSC, given the near-complete polarisation among the permanent members (P-5 nations), with the U.S., the U.K. and France on one side, and Russia and China on the other. India’s ability to work with both sides is well known. 
  4. It is significant that despite the poor state of bilateral relations with Pakistan, and the many challenges India has faced from China at the UN, both the countries graciously agreed to the nomination.
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World Population Prospects 2019 report

  1. Published by United Nations.
  2. The report includes updated population estimates from 1950 to the present for 235 countries.
  3. World’s population expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050.
  4. The study concluded that the world’s population could reach its peak around the end of the current century, at a level of nearly 11 billion.
  5. The 2019 report confirmed that the world’s population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels, and that the number of countries experiencing a reduction in population size is growing.
  6. Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. While the population in India is expected to increase, it is expected to decrease in China.
  7. By 2050,
    1. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double (99% increase). 
    2. Global fertility rate projected to decline further from 2.5 in 2019 to 2.2 only.
    3. Global life expectancy is expected to increase further from 72.6 years in 2019 to 77.1 years.
    4. one in six people in the world will be over age 65.
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Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill

  1. The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes.
  2. A key feature of the bill is the constitution of a single tribunal with different Benches, and the setting of strict timelines for adjudication.
  3. The Bill also proposes a Dispute Resolution Committee set up by the Central Government for amicably resolving inter-State water disputes through negotiations within 18 months. Any dispute that cannot be settled by negotiations would be referred to the tribunal for its adjudication.
  4. The bill also seeks to make people with technical expertise as the head of the tribunal. At present, the Central Government constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute, if the matter is not resolved amicably through negotiations. Currently all tribunals are staffed by members of the judiciary, nominated by the Chief Justice.
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Evaluation of Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana scheme

  1. The cumulative account balance in zero-balance bank accounts opened under the PM’s Jan Dhan Yojana scheme crossed the Rs. 1 trillion mark.
  2. The average balance in each account now stands at Rs 2,782. 
  3. Nearly 60 percent of Jan Dhan Accounts are in rural areas.
  4. About 72 percent of Jan Dhan Accounts are in Public Sector Banks while 24 percent are in Regional Banks. Only about 4 percent accounts are with private sector banks.
  5. Gujarat topped the list of States with the highest percentage of inoperative accounts, with Jammu and Kashmir standing second. In Gujarat over 50 lakh Jan Dhan accounts out of the total 1.2 crore accounts were inoperative. Among the big States, West Bengal had the least share of inoperative accounts. 
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Draft Model Tenancy Act(MTA), 2019

  1. To bring transparency and accountability in the existing system of renting of premises and to balance the interests of both the property owner and tenant in a judicious manner
  2. Applicable to urban as well as rural areas.
  3. Provides for a robust grievance redressal mechanism comprising of Rent Authority, Rent Court and Rent Tribunal.
  4. Security deposit equal to a maximum of two month’s rent in case of residential properties and, minimum of one month’s rent in case of non-residential property.
  5. If not covered under the tenancy agreement, a revision in rent would have to be communicated to the tenant three months in advance. 
  6. Within two months of executing rental agreement both landowner and tenant are required to intimate to the Rent Authority about the agreement and within seven days a unique identification number will be issued by the Rent Authority to the both the parties.
  7. A digital platform will be set up in the local vernacular language of the State for submitting tenancy agreement and other documents.
  8. As per Census 2011, nearly 1.1 crore houses were lying vacant in the country and making these houses available on rent will complement the vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
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Environment Ministry initiates ₹33-crore project to save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

  1. One of the heaviest birds listed under critically endangered species.
  2. It lays one egg every 1-2 years and the success rate of these eggs is 60-70 percent. However, this rate has been reduced to 40-50% due to predators like fox and dogs.
  3. Just 130 great Indian bustards left in the country.
  4. It is nearing extinction due to collision with high voltage power lines that criss-cross their flying path, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment.
  5. Also, because of frequent ploughing and cropping or use of pesticides, there is lack of food and vegetation cover to meet the ecological requirements of the species.
  6. Ill-informed forestry practices by state forest departments such as plantation of exotic shrub/tree species in deserts and grasslands in the name of afforestation have also degraded the habitat of Great Indian Bustard that prefer visibility and openness.
  7. The need of the hour is to put the power lines underground and install bird diverters to save them from being electrocuted.  Also, there is a need to regulate intensive agricultural land-uses in such areas where Great Indian Bustard thrives.
  8. The project for conservation of endangered species is led by Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, Government of India. established in May 1982. The government has released Rs 33 crore for the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard through a project, titled ‘Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard-An Integrated Approach’, for five years from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)
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CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority)

  1. According to India State of Forest report 2015, the forest and tree cover extends to 23% of the country’s geographical area. Government’s long term plan is to bring 33 % of area under forests and tree.
  2. However, at the same time, development for a growing economy like ours is important. In a number of infrastructure projects, the government gives permission to divert forest land for non-forest purpose under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. This is given on the condition that the ‘user agency’ will deposit the stipulated amount to undertake compensatory afforestation to mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion.
  3. The amount is deposited to the newly formalized structure – Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) established in 2016. Earlier an ad-hoc body was set up for the task after the Supreme Court order.
  4. The funds collected are supposed to be spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.
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Waste Management in India

  1. Falls under Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. 
  2. The retail sector expects e-commerce to grow from about $40 billion in 2017 to $200 billion by 2026. Given the role played by packaging, the waste management problem is likely to become alarming. 
  3. India’s imports of solid plastic waste quadrupled (increased fourfold) from 12,000 tonnes in the fiscal year 2016-17 to 48,000 tonnes in FY 2017-18.
  4. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): It is defined as any waste generated by household, commercial and/or institutional activities and is not hazardous.
  5. Various steps taken by government to regulate waste management are: 
    1. Solid Waste Management Rules – 2016,
    2. Plastic Waste Management Rules – 2016,
    3. Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules – 2016
    4. Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules – 2016
    5. E-waste Management Rules – 2016
    6. Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules – 2016
  6. Minimum thickness of plastic bags to be 50 microns. Manufacture and use of non-recyclable multilayered plastic if any to be phased out in two years’ time.
  7. Clinical establishments to phase out chlorinated plastic bags (excluding blood bags) and gloves. These have to be replaced with organic and biodegradable bags and gloves.
  8. Waste segregation at source has been made mandatory. Waste generators have to segregate waste into three streams –
    1. Organic or Biodegradable waste
    2. Dry waste (Plastic, Paper, Metal, Wood, etc.)
    3. Domestic Hazardous waste (diapers, napkins, mosquito repellants, cleaning agents etc.)
  9. Producers responsibility fixed to manage waste generated from their products. Bulk waste generators such as hotels, hospitals etc. are expected to treat organic waste either onsite or by collaborating with the urban local body. Also FMCG product manufacturers that use non-biodegradable packaging for their products must put in place a system to collect the packaging waste generated due to their production. Generator to pay User Fee’ to waste collector and ‘Spot Fine’ for Littering and Non-segregation.
  10. No non-recyclable waste having a calorific value of 1,500 Kcal/kg or more should be disposed in the landfills. It should rather be utilized for generating energy like in South Korea where world’s first landfill-powered hydrogen plant was built in 2011, and currently over 60% of new and renewable energy is produced from waste.
  11. Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU). However, electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  12. Indian Railways has decided to enforce a ban on single-use plastic materials on its premises, including trains. Plastic water bottle crushing machines will be installed in all major railway stations and passengers will be asked to return plastic drinking bottles as part of Extended Producer Responsibility.
  13. Large waste generators shall submit waste management plan and get appropriate approvals from the local authority before starting construction or demolition or remodeling work. Large generators also need to segregate the waste into four streams – concrete, bricks, steel, wood and plastics.
  14. State Pollution Control Board mandated to prepare an annual waste management report and submit to the Central Pollution Control Board by the 30th day of September every year. 
  15. Integration of waste pickers/ rag pickers and waste dealers/ Kabadiwalas in the formal system to be done by State Governments, and Self Help Group.
  16. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) has included the prevalence of plastic litter and water-logging in villages as indicators of cleanliness in its 2019 rural survey.  The new mission will have four main verticals- solid waste management divided into biodegradable waste and plastic waste, and liquid waste management divided into grey water (kitchen waste water) and faecal waste. Ever since the SBA was launched on Gandhi Jayanti (2nd October) in 2014, its main focus has been on eliminating open defecation by constructing toilets and promoting their usage through widespread behaviour change programmes. With the October 2, 2019 deadline looming near, and the original goal almost achieved according to government data, the mission is moving on to its next phase. 
  17. As per a UN report, the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year and only 20 percent of this is formally recycled. India produces 2 million tonnes of e-waste annually, Maharashtra being the largest contributor. The sad part is that a mere 5 percent of India’s total e-waste gets recycled.
  18. The Global E-waste Monitor 2017 report by United Nations University (UNU) has marked India as a major contributor to waste management on account of the e-waste legislation adopted by the nation in 2016. When most of the other Asian countries are still struggling with the policy frameworks, India has risen as a leader amongst them. However, implementation is equally important as legislation and on this particular front, India is still walking on tightropes since:
    1. Only 60 percent of the used plastic is regenerated.
    2. The majority of the people working in Indian Waste Management System belong to the informal sector and and lack the expertise in waste material processing.
    3. Most Urban local bodies in India struggle to provide efficient waste management services due to financial problems, lack of infrastructure and technology. Most of the funds for solid waste management is allotted to collection and transportation, with very less left for processing or resource recovery and disposal. 
    4. Though, solid waste management rules mandate source segregation of wastes, it has largely not been followed. Due to improper segregation of waste, much of recyclability of waste is lost.
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International Criminal Court

  1. Headquartered in Hague in Netherlands, the International Court of Justice has its origins in Rome Statute of 1998.  At present, it has 123 member nations. Republic of Kiribati is the latest country to join the membership. However, India is not a member state. Among India’s neighbours China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal are also not members of International Criminal Court. Afghanistan and Bangladesh are the members. Among big nations, US is signatory to Rome Statute but has not yet ratified it.
  2. The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The Rome Statute provides that all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
  3. The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a member nation or if they are committed by a member nation, or if they are referred by United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  4. The International Criminal Court has four principal organs:
    1. The Presidency: The President is the most senior judge chosen by his or her peers in the Judicial Division.
    2. The Judicial Divisions: Hears cases before the Court.
    3. The Office of the Prosecutor: The Office of the Prosecutor is headed by the Prosecutor who investigates crimes and initiates proceedings before the Judicial Division. 
    4. The Registry: The Registry is headed by the Registrar and is charged with managing all the administrative functions of the ICC, including the headquarters, detention unit, and public defence office.
  5. However, it became functional from 2002, when Rome Statute came into force. 
    1. First President – Philippe Kirsch (Canada).
    2. Current President – Chile Eboe-Osuji (Nigeria).
  6. Recently, Bosco Ntaganda, also known as “the terminator”, was pronounced guilty of war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. These crimes relate to the 2002-03 ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The conviction follows the International Criminal Court’s 2012 sentencing of Thomas Lubanga, the first to be pronounced guilty by the International Criminal Court, also pertaining to atrocities during the Congolese conflict. 
  7. In the face of strong resistance of International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes committed by US forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many African nations feel they were being selectively targeted. In an unjustified move, Burundi has quit the International Criminal Court, as also the Philippines.
  8. Amidst these charges of nepotism, International Criminal Court has to establish its credibility amongst weaker nations.
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Roadblocks to Labour Reforms in India

  1. The biggest impediment to businesses currently is the Industrial Disputes Act (1947), which says that if you are a manufacturing firm with 100 workers or more, you cannot dismiss any of them under any circumstances unless you get prior approval from the government. This is rarely given and it applies even if you go bankrupt, in which case you still have to pay your workers. This has important consequences because investors are not going to enter into an industry if they can’t exit. 
  2. Labour is in the concurrent list and more than 40 central laws and more than 100 state laws govern the subject. The central government is keen to consolidate the central laws into four codes –
    1. wages.
    2. industrial relations.
    3. social security and welfare.
    4. occupational safety, health and working conditions.
  3. However, there is a stiff opposition to some of the provisions of the new labour code.
    1. Membership and composition of trade unions: Industrial Relations Code provides that a minimum of 10% of workers or 100 workers employed in an establishment or industry (whichever is more) would be needed – from seven at present – to register a trade union. It also restricts outsiders to an establishment/industry from becoming a member to two and prohibited a minister or a person holding an office of profit (outside of establishment) from becoming a member or office bearer.
    2. Hire and fire: The Industrial Relations Code further seeks to increase the limit for prior permission of the government for lay-off to companies with 300 workers or more, up from 100 at present. This has been the most controversial provision.
    3. Ban on strikes: The Industrial Relations Code also restricts strike by:
      1. requiring prior notice of 14 days and striking within two months of such notice (now prior notice is required only for essential services).
      2. banning strikes during the pendency of the conciliation process which starts from the day of the notice.
      3. increasing fine up to Rs 50,000 in addition to one month’s imprisonment for violations.
    4. Single social security authority: Another contentious issue is a single mechanism, under the Social Security and Welfare Code of 2017, to govern pension, provident fund, medical benefit etc. for all kinds of workers, including part-time, casual, fixed term, domestic and home-based workers.
    5. Redefining factories: The government proposes several amendments in the Factories Act of 1948 to ensure adequate safety measures and promote health and welfare of the workers. One of these relates to redefining factories from a minimum of 10 workers in an establishment (if power is used) to 20 and from 20 (if power is not used) to 40 workers.
  4. However, there are some rules that have been welcomed. For e.g. the Code on labour safety and working conditions include regular and mandatory medical examinations for workers, issuing of appointment letters, and framing of rules on women working night shifts. 
  5. Simplification and consolidation of labour laws apart, the government must focus on the key issue of job creation. The Periodic Labour Force Survey that was finally made public in late May clearly pointed to the dire situation in job creation in recent years.
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India’s Anshula Kant is World Bank MD and CFO

  1. Anshula Kant will be the first woman Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Bank.
  2. She will be reporting to US based David Malpass, current president of World Bank. So far no Indian has served as the president of the world bank.
  3. From India, Kaushik Basu has been the Chief Economist of World Bank.
  4. Economist John Maynard Keynes, along with Harry Dexter White, is the founder of World Bank.
  5. World Bank is an international financial institution that provides interest-free loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. The World Bank Group is a sitting observer in the United Nations Development Group.
  6. World Bank comprises two institutions:
    1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
    2. International Development Association (IDA).
  7. The World Bank’s most recent stated goal is the reduction of poverty.
  8. India and China have been the largest recipients of World Bank aid through IBRD. Both have got voting rights in the world bank.
  9. World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group which is a conglomerate (grouping) of five banks:
    1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
    2. International Development Association (IDA)
    3. International Finance Corporation (IFC)
    4. Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)
    5. International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)
  10. Clean Air Initiative (CAI) is a World Bank initiative to advance innovative ways to improve air quality in cities.
  11. Together with the World Health Organization, the World Bank administers the International Health Partnership (IHP+). IHP+ is a group of partners committed to improving the health of citizens in developing countries.
  12. The World Bank has often been criticised on below grounds:
    1. While the World Bank represents 188 countries, it is run by a small number of economically powerful countries. These countries (which also provide most of the institution’s funding) choose the leadership and senior management of the World Bank, and their interests dominate the bank.
    2. In the 1990s, the World Bank and the IMF forged the Washington Consensus, policies that included deregulation and liberalization of markets, privatization and the downscaling of government. Though the Washington Consensus was conceived as a policy that would best promote development, it was criticized for emphasising too much on growth and not on improving the quality of life of people.
    3. The World Bank has also been criticized for putting too much emphasis on issuing loans rather than on achieving concrete development results within a finite period of time. Quite often the projects serve to expand the exercise of bureaucratic state power. 
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China claims to select the next Dalai Lama

  1. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a crackdown on an uprising by the local population in Tibet. India granted him political asylum and the Tibetan government-in-exile is based on Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then.
  2. However, of recently, India has been supporting the ‘One China’ policy, which states that Taiwan and Tibet are part of China’s mainland. Beijing made the ‘One-China’ policy a prerequisite for countries to establish diplomatic ties with it. As such, China now insists that the next Dalai Lama will be selected by it.
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Chandrayaan-2

  1. India’s second lunar exploration mission after Chandrayaan-1.  It will be carrying 14 Indian payloads and one small payload from NASA too. It will travel approximately 3.84 lakh km voyage to the moon.
  2. The main scientific objective is to map the location and abundance of lunar water in Moon’s Southern Pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.
  3. The mission will be launched to the Moon by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III). It includes a lunar orbiter, lander and rover, all developed indigenously. The Orbiter has a mission life of one year and the metre-long rover has an expected life of 14 earth days.
    1. The orbiter will orbit the Moon at an altitude of 100 km. It will carry payloads that will map the entire surface of moon to create 3D image of the moon’s terrain.
    2. The lander (Vikram) will detach from the orbiter and attempt a soft landing, deploy the rover. It will carry three payloads, which will measure the electron density and temperature near the lunar surface; the vertical temperature gradient, and seismicity around the landing site. Vikram would be the first ever spacecraft to land at the lunar south pole.
    3. The rover (Pragyan) will perform scientific activities. The rover will carry two instruments or payloads which will collect and test samples from the moon’s surface to identify what elements they contain. 
  4. Chandrayaan-2 will attempt a soft landing of a lander and rover in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N. A successful landing would make India the 4th country to achieve a soft landing (a landing that does not result in damage or destruction of the vehicle) on the Moon, after the space agencies of the USSR, USA and China. If successful, Chandrayaan-2 will be the second mission to soft land near the lunar south pole after the Chinese Chang’e 4 mission in early 2019.
  5. Both the lander and rover are solar powered. They will operate for about 15 days at once because the time taken for the moon to complete one rotation on its axis is approximately equal to 29.5 earth days. This is also equal to the time it takes to complete one orbit around the earth. Since, it takes 29.5 earth days to complete one rotation, every point on its surface experiences daylight for about half the time, i.e. about 15 days at a stretch. Therefore moon days are nearly 15 earth days long. Since the ‘Vikram’ lander and ‘Pragyan’ rover are powered by solar energy, they will be energised during this period by sunlight on the moon. Once night falls, this energy will not be available as they are plunged into a dark and cold -180º Celsius environment. 
  6. In order to test the spacecraft’s lander Vikram, ISRO recreated lunar surface at its Lunar Terrain Test Facility in Bengaluru. The soil used for this test was sourced from a few sites near Salem in Tamil Nadu. Geologists had found that it had the ‘anorthosite’ rock that somewhat matches lunar soil in composition and features.
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Legal tussle between Gujarat Potato Farmers and PEPSICO

  1. Multi-billion dollar conglomerate PepsiCo has sued four Gujarati farmers, asking them to pay ₹1.05 crore each as damages for ‘infringing its rights’ by growing the potato variety used in its Lays chips.
  2. PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights. However, farmers groups cite Section 39 of the same 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”.
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Ganges dolphin

  1. India’s national aquatic animal.
  2. Lives in Ganga and Brahmaputra river system.
  3. It is greyish brown in color and is approximately 2.5 meters in length.
  4. Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu‘.
  5. Experts have pegged the population of the Ganges dolphin to less than 2000.
  6. The proposed National Waterway-1 connecting Haldia to Varanasi passes through one and only dolphin reserve in the country and there are reservations for opening it for inland waterways.
  7. IUCN status is ‘Endangered‘.

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Jal Jeevan Mission

  1. The Har Ghar Nal Se Jal programme, under the Jal Jeevan Mission, is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India.
  2. The programme will also implement source sustainability measures (to safeguard sources of water) as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation, rain water harvesting.
  3. The Jal Jeevan Mission will be based on a community approach to water.
  4. Under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, in Ministry of Jal Shakti.
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Dam Safety Bill, 2018

  1. India ranks third after USA and China in the number of  large dams. Currently there are approximately 5350 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 500 are under construction. In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams. However, about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 300 dams are more than 100 years old. Nearly 92% dams are on inter state rivers.
  2. The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety, Central Dam Safety Organization and State Dam Safety Organizations has been making constant endeavours in Dam Safety, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.
  3. The institutional framework for dam safety as provided under the dam safety bill 2018 includes the following:
    1. National Committee on Dam Safety to prepare dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.
    2. National Dam Safety Authority to oversee the policy implementation as well as to prepare guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
    3. State Committee on Dam Safety to ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in that State and ensure their safe functioning.
    4. State Dam Safety Organization manned by officials with sufficient experience in the field of dam safety.
  4. The dam owners are required to
    1. earmark sufficient funds for maintenance & repairs.
    2. establish ‘dam safety unit’
    3. conduct special inspections after heavy rainfalls, earthquakes or any other suspicious geological activity.
    4. establish hydro-meteorological and inflow forecasting system.
    5. establish an emergency flood warning system.
  5. The bill provides for comprehensive safety evaluation by independent panel of expert every 5 years.
  6. Most of the southern states have opposed the Bill on the grounds that it encroaches upon the sovereignty of the states to manage their dams. Their objections to the Bill are two-fold, one of which is that since ‘water’ comes under the State list, it is an unconstitutional move aimed at taking control of their dams. Tamil Nadu’s main concern stems from Section 23(1) of the Bill, according to which if the dams of one State fall under the territories of another, then the National Dam Safety Authority will perform the role of State Dam Safety Organisation, thus eliminating potential causes for inter-State conflicts.
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Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY)

  1. An entitlement-based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation and occupational criteria in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) database. As such, the scheme has currently been rolled out for the bottom 40 percent of poor and vulnerable population. 
  2. The scheme provides an insurance cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. Some of the key features of the scheme are:
    1. Provides cashless access to health care services for the beneficiary.
    2. The benefits of INR 5 lakh are on a family floater basis which means that it can be used by one or all members of the family.
    3. No restrictions based on family size, age or gender.
    4. All pre–existing conditions are covered from day one.
    5. Covers up to 3 days of hospitalisation and 15 days post-hospitalisation expenses such as diagnostics and medicines.
    6. Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country i.e. a beneficiary can visit any empanelled public or private hospital for cashless treatment.
    7. Public hospitals are reimbursed for the healthcare services at par with the private hospitals.
  3. The Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres are provided under the scheme for strengthening primary health centres in states for promotive and preventive health care respectively. Services here are free and universal to all. Free essential drugs and diagnostic services are also provided.
  4. Over 10.74 crore vulnerable entitled families (approximately 50 crore beneficiarieswill be eligible for these benefits.
  5. Currently, there are over 15,000 hospitals under the scheme.
  6. When fully implemented, PMJAY will become the world’s largest fully government-financed health protection scheme.
  7. The scheme has unveiled its newly designed grievance redressal portal, which has a 3-tier system where district, State and national-level officers and committees can scrutinise and take action for speedy solution to problems. Grievances will be tracked through a system-generated unique registration number. This is a online system to help members of the general public to register their grievances and get assisted support.
  8. As per the official data, more than 46 lakh people have availed cashless treatment worth over INR 7500 crore for serious illnesses since its launch. Nearly 60 percent of this amount has been spent on tertiary care.
  9. Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have emerged as the top performing States with free secondary and tertiary treatment under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  10. However, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has suggested to keep public hospitals outside the purview of Ayushman Bharat Jan Arogya Yojana, since the medical facilities at government hospitals are already provided free of cost to everyone, and involving the insurance companies would only increase the cost to government for no additional benefit. Also it has pointed that India should not continue with insurance model of healthcare delivery since unholy nexus between insurance companies and hospitals for profit maximisation often leads to poor health care delivery. It suggests that the government should come out with a transparent and fair costing system, eliminate the insurance companies, restrict the Jan Arogya Yojana to purchase of care from private sector for well-defined economically and socially marginalised people over and above what is provided by a robust public sector.
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‘Blue Flag’ challenge

  1. An international recognition conferred on beaches that meet certain criteria of cleanliness and environmental propriety.
  2. The Blue Flag Programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education) started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001.
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Colistin banned in animal food industry

  1. Colistin is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves lives in critical care units.
  2. Arbitrary use of colistin in the food industry, particularly as growth supplements used in animals, poultry, aqua farms, has potentially reduced the antimicrobial resistance of the population.
  3. Therefore, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an order prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements.
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10th Schedule to the Indian Constitution

  1. Popularly referred to as the ‘Anti-Defection Law’.
  2. It was inserted by the 52nd amendment (1985) to the constitution of India.
  3. Defection is an act by a member of a particular party of disowning his loyalty towards that particular party and pledging allegiance to another party. This is also known as ‘crossing the floor’. 
  4. Earlier, a ‘defection’ by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a ‘merger’. The 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003 changed this. So now at least two-thirds of the members of a party have to be in favour of a “merger” for it to have validity in the eyes of the law. In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.
  5. The presiding officer of the House (Chairman or the Speaker) takes the decision to disqualify a member. The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992, and as such the decision of the Presiding Officer’s of the House regarding defection is subject to judicial review by the High Court and the Supreme Court. However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order. 
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US-China Trade War

  1. The trade war between US and China traces back to 2017 when the US launched an investigation into Chinese trade policies. It imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products last year, and Beijing retaliated in kind.  The U.S. believes that China has been deliberately weakening its currency (the yuan) in order to boost exports to the U.S. It has recently designated China as a “currency manipulator”.
  2. Devaluing the currency is a common ploy employed by economies that face a slowdown in order to help boost demand for their goods. A currency is devalued (or weakened) using the central bank to increase the supply of the currency in the forex market. This allows more units of the currency to be purchased using fewer units of various other foreign currencies. In the case of the yuan, increasing its supply will allow more units of it to be purchased in exchange for fewer U.S. dollars. This is a way of transferring more of the purchasing power to buy Chinese goods away from the hands of the local Chinese and into the hands of Americans. The Chinese believe this will help boost the value of China’s exports and also kick-start growth. Since the Chinese economy has been witnessing a general slowdown, with growth dropping to a 27-year low of 6.2 percent in July, it is no surprise that China has decided to depend more heavily on exports to other countries as a way to boost demand for its goods.
  3. As a result of the ongoing trade war between the US and China, China’s exports to the U.S. dropped by 12 percent and America’s export to China fell by 19 percent.
  4. China has retaliated by increasing tariffs on imports from the US. It could be followed by a ban on the export of rare earths that are used in everything from military equipment to consumer electronics, and penalties against US companies in China.
  5. China is planning to spend $150 billion on 5G wireless technology in the next six years, a move to jump start automated manufacturing and enable Beijing to emerge as a world leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI). China’s heavy investment in 5G has huge implications as it could sharpen Beijing’s competitive edge, vis-à-vis the US, the world’s largest economy.
  6. If the U.S. weakens the dollar to retaliate against China’s yuan devaluation, it will enter a currency war. The last time the world was engaged in an all-out currency war was during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when countries facing a domestic slowdown tried to boost their economies by devaluing their currencies in a retaliatory fashion. This caused terrible uncertainty for businesses. Combined with high tariffs (taxes on imports), this led to a steep fall in international trade. An all-out currency war would have similar effects today. Currency devaluation may temporarily boost exports by transferring more purchasing power to the hands of foreigners, but it will not boost domestic production.
  7. Also US has declared Chinese company Huawei as a national threat to the United States, since it is essentially a Chinese company that, under Chinese law, is required to turn over all of the data that it collects to the Chinese government. 
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NASA celebrates 50th anniversary of man’s first landing on Moon

  1. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969 through their lunar module ‘Eagle’ on Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong placed his left foot on the lunar surface, declaring: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” While Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were on the surface, ex-fighter pilot Collins remained in lunar orbit where he was in touch with ground control, providing them updates on his position.
  2. Mission during the tenure of US President Nixon.
  3. Provoked by the successful Russian launchings of Sputniks and the pioneering orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into outer space.
  4. U.S. space agency is preparing to take its next giant leap in 2024 with the ambitious ‘Artemis’ programme that could see the “first woman and the next man” walk on the lunar surface.
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Indo-Sri Lanka Relations

  1. Sri Lanka has signed an agreement with India to upgrade tracks in a key railway segment connecting the north and the south of Sri Lanka.
  2. The agreement comes as part of India’s ongoing support to further develop Sri Lankan railways. India has so far committed Lines of Credit worth $1.3 billion for development of the railway sector in the island, including restoration of an arterial railway line that was destroyed during civil war, and the island’s southern railway line that was hit by the 2004 tsunami.
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Artificial snow against climate change

  1. Scientists believe that global warming has already caused so much melting at the south pole that the giant ice sheet is now on course to disintegrate, which would trigger an eventual global sea level rise of at least three metres (10 feet) over centuries.
  2. Scientists have calculated that the giant ice sheet could be stabilised by depositing a minimum of 7,400 giga tonnes of artificial snow over 10 years. As such, they are planning to use 12,000 wind turbines to pump seawater 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) up to the surface, where it would be frozen into snow to stop the giant ice sheet collapsing any further.
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Blockchain Technologies

  1. Blockchains can broadly be defined as a new type of network infrastructure (a way to organise how information and value moves around on the internet) that create ‘trust’ in networks by introducing distributed verifiability and consensus.
  2. Blockchains create trust by acting as a shared database, distributed across vast peer-to-peer networks that have no single point of failure and no single source of truth, implying that no individual entity can own a blockchain network, and no single entity can modify the data stored on it unilaterally without the consensus of its peers.
  3. Blockchains record information on a timestamped chain that extends forward infinitely. New data is added to the end, and once added, it is permanent. The data can be modified, not be deleting the existing older data but by creating a new entry of the modified data. So whatever goes into the blockchain, always leaves a trace of it. It is never removed.
  4. Blockchains enable the creation of ‘smart contracts’, defined as self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller directly written into lines of code. Once executed, the smart contracts ensure that neither the buyer nor the seller can change the terms of the contract, and the contract is executed on pre-determined and agreed upon lines.
  5. Blockchains are used to store any kind of data that require trust to be maintained. For e.g. financial data, privacy data, copyrights data etc. 
  6. Cryptocurrency are the mechanism of rewarding the miners i.e. those who solve complex mathematical problems to verify the transactions in the blockchain.
  7. Blockchain is an open source, and does not require any license to develop.
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Ebola outbreak in Congo

  1. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
  2. The deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency. A declaration of a global health emergency often brings greater international attention and aid. WHO defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” which constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.
  3. Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is zoonotic i.e. transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  4. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976 in southern Sudan. The outbreak started in Guinea and then moved across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
  5. rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has been found effective so far.
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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

  1. Mexican drug lord recently convicted by US.
  2. Robin Hood-like figure that made him a folk hero to many in his home state, where he was born in a poor mountain village.
  3. He built a sophisticated organisation reminiscent of a multinational corporation.
  4. U.S. prosecutors have claimed that Guzman sold more than $12 billion worth of drugs, and Forbes magazine once listed him as among the world’s richest men.
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Farmers opt out of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna

  1. The government currently offers two crop insurance schemes– the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and the Restructured Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme.
  2. PMFBY was launched in 2016 under which farmers pay very nominal premium and get full claim for damages. The scheme is being implemented in most States.
  3. More than 84 lakh farmers, which is around 15 percent of the total farmers insured in the first year of the Union government’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in 2016-17, withdrew themselves from the scheme in 2017-18. They allege that the scheme has been benefitting the Insurance companies more than the farmers.
  4. The crop insurance companies, including Reliance, ICICI, HDFC and IFFCO, among others, have registered a total profit of around ₹15,795 crore since the launch of the scheme. Though the insurance companies made several thousand crore rupees profit in the first year of the launch of the scheme, they suffered losses in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh the same year. 
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New index to check ease of doing agri-business

  1. NITI Aayog expects to roll out a new Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index.
  2. It will rank the states on the basis of agriculture reforms, as well as their investment in agriculture.
  3. NITI Aayog already bought out a Agricultural Marketing and Farm Friendly Reforms Index, rating States on their implementation of such reforms. In the initial edition of that Index in 2016, Maharashtra stood first in the rankings, followed by Gujarat.
  4. The proposed index has a wider ambit.
    1. marketing reforms (25%)
    2. governance and land reforms (20%)
    3. success in reducing the cost of farm inputs by distributing soil health cards and encouraging organic farming and micro-irrigation (20%)
    4. Risk mitigation measures such as crop and livestock insurance(15%)
    5. increased productivity (10%)
    6. investment in agriculture (10%)
  5. As agriculture is a state subject, the success of policies and reform initiatives proposed at the Centre is dependent on implementation by the states.
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WPI inflation eases to near two-year low

Wholesale price-based inflation declined for the second consecutive month to its 23-month low of 2.02% in June, helped by decline in prices of vegetables as well as fuel and power items.

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Aditya-L1

  1. After Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has planned to launch its solar mission, Aditya-L1, during the first half of 2020.
  2. Aditya-L1 is meant to observe the Sun’s corona, the outer layers of the star that span thousands of kilometres.
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What are the LIGO detectors?

  1. The acronym LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which measures gravitational waves. LIGO consists of a pair of huge interferometers, each having two arms which are 4 km long. Remarkable precision is needed to detect a signal as faint as a gravitational wave, and the two LIGO detectors work as one unit to ensure this. Naturally, this requires weeding out noise very carefully, for when such a faint signal is being detected, even a slight human presence near the detector could derail the experiment by drowning out the signal.
  2. The gravitational waves have been described as “ripples in the fabric of space time”. Mergers of black holes or neutron stars, rapidly rotating neutron stars, supernova explosions and the remnants of the disturbance caused by the Big Bang itself, are the strongest sources of these waves.
  3. Right now, with just three detectors (two in US and one in Japan), there is huge uncertainty in determining where in the sky the disturbance came from. Observations from a new detector in a far-off position will help locate the source of the gravitational waves more accurately. Hence there is a talk of setting up on LIGO observatory in India. The LIGO India project is expected to join the international network in 2025.
  4. LIGO India will be set up in Maharashtra, near Aundha in Hingoli district.
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Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) 

  1. Based on a 2008 order from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), every mobile network provider in India has an Equipment Identity Register (EIR), or a a database of the phones connected to its network. These EIRs will now share information with a single central database, the CEIR. In essence, it will be a repository of information on all mobile phones connected to networks across India. 
  2. CEIR will have information on the device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and additional information as may be specified.
  3. Every phone or mobile broadband device has this unique 15 digit IMEI code that precisely identifies the device, model and version.
  4. You can find IMEI number of your phone by dialling ‘*#06#’ on the device.
  5. Such centralised databases are meant to identify and block stolen or illegal mobile phones across networks. Currently, when a customer reports a mobile phone as missing or stolen, mobile service providers have the ability to blacklist the phone’s IMEI in their EIRs and block it from accessing their network. But if the SIM is changed to a new network, it can continue to be in use. With a CEIR, all network operators will be aware that the phone is blacklisted.
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Sharp decline in vulture population

  1. There has been a sharp decline in the population of vultures in the country from 40 million to 19,000 in a span of over three decades.
  2. The population of three species of endangered resident vultures – slender-billed vulture, white-backed vulture, and long-billed vulture is 1000, 6,000, and 12,000 respectively.
  3. The major reason for their decline is anti-inflammatory drug ‘Diclofenac’, given to cattle in pain and inflammation. Diclofenac has been found to be extremely toxic to vultures, since it causes renal failure in them.
  4. To conserve the remnant population of vultures and facilitate their reintroduction into the wild from breeding centres, attempts are being made to create Vulture Safe Zones in the areas where there are vulture populations.
  5. There are eight identified vulture safe zones in India which include
    1. Pinjore in Haryana;
    2. Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal;
    3. Majuli Island in Assam;
    4. Bukswaha in Madhya Pradesh;
    5. Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh;
    6. Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh;
    7. Hazaribagh in Jharkhand;
    8. Central Gujarat and Saurashtra in Gujarat.
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The first comprehensive census of orchids of India

  1. India is home to 1,256 species of orchid.
  2. Orchids can be broadly categorised into three types:
    1. epiphytic (plants growing on another plants including those growing on rock boulders termed as lithophyte). The epiphytic orchids are abundant up to 1800 m above the sea level and their occurrence decreases with the increase in altitude.
    2. terrestrial (plants growing on land). Terrestrial orchids, which grow directly on soil, are found in large numbers in temperate and alpine region.
    3. myco-hetero-trophic (plants which derive nutrients from fungi that are attached to the roots of a vascular plant). These are found in temperate regions, or are found growing with parasites in tropical regions.
  3. About 60 percent of all orchids found in the country are epiphytic, 36 percent are terrestrial and 4 percent are myco-hetero-trophic.
  4. The highest number of orchid species is recorded from Arunachal Pradesh followed by Sikkim and West Bengal. While north-east India rank at the top in species concentration, the Western Ghats have high endemism of orchids. There are 388 species of orchids, which are endemic to India of which about one-third endemic species are found in Western Ghats. Kerala has the highest number of endemic species, followed by Tamil Nadu.
  5. CITES is Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It prohibits trade in wild and endangered species of flowers globally.
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Boris Johnson is the new U.K. Prime Minister

  1. Belongs to the ruling Conservative Party.
  2. He has been ardent supporter of Brexit i.e. Britain leaving European Union.
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Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests

The protests arose over concerns over legislation that would blur demarcation between the legal systems in Hong Kong and mainland China, subjecting Hong Kong residents to de facto jurisdiction of courts controlled by the Communist Party of China.

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Metabo-psychiatric disorder

  1. Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that causes a person to develop an intense fear of gaining weight, starve themselves and have an abnormally low body weight.
  2. A new study has revealed that the disorder is not a purely psychiatric one, but could also be because of metabolic problems: a ‘metabo-psychiatric’ disorder. The metabolic factors may play nearly or just as strong a role as purely psychiatric effects.
  3. Although research is in early stages, this might spur further study into the metabolic solutions instead of just psychiatric medications.
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Rajya Sabha clears POCSO (Amendment) Bill 2019

  1. The POCSO ( Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, 2012 was enacted to Protect the Children from Offences of Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children. The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.
  2. The Bill increases the minimum punishment for penetrative sexual assault from seven years to ten years.  It further adds that if a person commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below the age of 16 years, he will be punishable with imprisonment up to 20 years to life, with a fine. 
  3. The Act defines certain actions as “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”.  These include cases when a police officer, a member of the armed forces, or a public servant commits penetrative sexual assault on a child.  It also covers cases where the offender is a relative of the child, or if the assault injures the sexual organs of the child or the child becomes pregnant, among others.  The Bill adds two more grounds to the definition of aggravated penetrative sexual assault.  These include: (i) assault resulting in death of child, and (ii) assault committed during a natural calamity, or in any similar situations of violence.  Currently, the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault is imprisonment between 10 years to life, and a fine.  The Bill increases the minimum punishment from ten years to 20 years, and the maximum punishment to death penalty.
  4. The new bill has relaxed punishments in case of child pornography, although the minimum punishment for the same stays to be 5 years. The Bill defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child.
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Rajya Sabha clears RTI Amendment Bill 2019

  1. The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced by the Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  2. Under the Act, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) are appointed at the national and state level to implement the provisions of the Act.  The Act states that the CIC and other ICs (appointed at the central and state level) will hold office for a term of five years.  The Bill removes this provision and states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.
  3. The Act states that the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the central level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively.  Similarly, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the state level) will be equivalent to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively. The Bill seeks to amend these provisions to state that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs will be determined by the central government.
  4. The Act states that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the central and state level), if they are receiving pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to the pension. The Bill removes these provisions.
  5. The government claims its aim is to ‘rationalise’ the status of the authorities. It argues that while the Chief Election Commissioner is a constitutional functionary, the CIC is only a statutory authority. And while the CEC is equal in status to a Supreme Court judge, it would be incongruous for the CIC to enjoy the same status as the CIC’s orders are subject to judicial review by the high courts. This is a fallacious argument as even the Election Commission’s decisions can be reviewed by high courts. 
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Tiger Census 2018

  1. Conducted once in every four years by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) since 2006.
  2. India has 2967 tigers, a 33 percent increase over 2014.
  3. Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers followed by Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
  4. While Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of tigers, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu registered the “maximum improvement” since 2014.
  5.  Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population and all other States saw a “positive” increase.
  6. In 2010, India along with other countries pledged to double tiger population by 2022.

Year

Number of Tigers in India Percentage Increase
2006 1411
2010 1706 20.9%
2014 2226 30.5%
2018 2967 33.3% (Highest)
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BRICS 2019

  1. BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The acronym was first used in 2001 by economist Jim O’Neill.
  2. It all started with BRIC, an association of Brazil, Russia, India and China, in 2009, when they first met at Yekaterinburg in Russia.
  3. In 2010, South Africa was inducted as the fifth partner and the association was renamed at BRICS. 
  4. The first BRICS summit was held in Brazilia, in Brazil in 2010.
  5. So far, India has hosted BRICS twice, once in 2012 in Delhi (4th Summit) and then in 2016 in Benaulim in Goa (8th Summit).
  6. The 2019 summit (11th) will be held is Brazilia in Brazil. The theme for upcoming 2019 BRICS Summit is ‘Economic Growth for an Innovative Future’. During the summit,BRICS countries will discuss formation of BRICS Bond Fund which will help member countries conduct intra-BRICS trade in national currencies avoiding the U.S. dollar. Further, the summit will also launch the Innovation BRICS Network, which involves networking of research institutes like science parks, incubators and accelerators.
  7. The last BRICS summit (10th) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2019.
  8. Currently, there are two components that make up the financial architecture of BRICS, namely, the New Development Bank (NDB) or sometimes referred to as the BRICS Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). Both of these components were signed into treaty in 2014 and became active in 2015.
  9. The New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS countries. The bank’s primary focus of lending will be infrastructure projects with authorized lending of up to $34 billion annually. South Africa will be the African Headquarters of the Bank named the “New Development Bank Africa Regional Centre”. The bank will have starting capital of $50 billion, with capital increased to $100 billion over time. Each member to initially contribute $10 billion for the fund. 
  10.  The Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) is generally seen as a competitor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 
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CIPS / SWIFT

  1. China has also initiated development of their own payment system called CIPS that would be an alternative to the SWIFT system. The Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payments System(CIPS) is a planned alternative payments system to SWIFT which would provide a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment.
  2. At present the countries use SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) payment network for international payments. SWIFT is a cooperative society under Belgian law owned by its member financial institutions with offices around the world. SWIFT hosts an annual conference, called Sibos, specifically aimed at the financial services industry. However, there are certain concerns with using SWIFT payment system. 
    1. It has been alleged that USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors banking transactions via SWIFT.
    2. SWIFT network has frequently been used by the powerful to impose sanctions against weaker nations.
    3. There have been concerns related to data privacy as well as data security over SWIFT network.
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The Price of Free

  1. Documentary on Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi earns Emmy nomination.
  2. The 90-minute film follows Kailash and his team’s journey as they rescue children from the exploitative and illegal forms of child labour – something he’s been actively doing for about 35 years now.
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Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)

  1. The new concept of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) which the Army plans to create as part of overall force transformation is close to implementation.
  2. Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts. An IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from an IBG operating in the mountains
  3. The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive. While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes, defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected. 
  4. The overall transformation will also see a reduction in the size of the 1.3 million Army. 
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The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  1. Insolvency is a situation where individuals or companies are unable to repay their outstanding debt. 
  2. The Bill amends the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.  The Code provides a time-bound process for resolving insolvency in companies and among individuals. 
  3. Under the existing code, a financial creditor (one who gives loan to the company) may file an application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for initiating the insolvency resolution process. The NCLT must find the existence of default within 14 days.  Based on its finding, it may accept or reject the application.  If accepted, a Committee of Creditors (CoC) consisting of financial creditors will be constituted to take decision regarding the insolvency resolution.  They may decide either to restructure the debtor’s debt by preparing a resolution plan or to liquidate the debtor’s assets. For this CoC will need to appoint a resolution professional who will present a resolution plan for the same. If the resolution plan is approved by the CoC, the resolution process must be completed within 180 days.  This may be extended by a period of up to 90 days if the extension is approved by NCLT. If the resolution plan is rejected by the CoC, the debtor will go into liquidation.
  4. The amendment bill provides that the resolution process be completed within 330 days. The bill also provides that the amount creditors receive back through resolution plan must be higher than what they would otherwise receive through liquidation of debtors assets. 
  5.  In a 2018 Amendment, home-buyers who paid advances to a developer were to be considered as financial creditors.  They would be represented by an insolvency professional appointed by NCLT. The Code specifies that, in certain cases, such as when the debt is owed to a class of creditors beyond a specified number, the financial creditors will be represented on the committee of creditors by an authorized representative. The Bill states that such representative will vote on the basis of the decision taken by a majority of the voting share of the creditors that they represent.              
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India’s 7th Economic Census begins from Tripura

  1. The seventh Economic Census is being conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. 
  2. The data would be collected through door-to-door survey of each household and commercial establishment under the provisions of Collection of Statistics Act 2008. 
  3.  IT-enabled economic census would be done by the Common Service Centres in each gram panchayat. The enumerators and supervisors engaged by the Common Service Centres have been trained to collect data on mobile application developed for data capture, validation, report generation and dissemination. The data collected by the enumerators would be verified by supervisors in subsequent visit to the concerned household and establishments.
  4. The  First  Economic  Census  was  conducted  throughout  the  country,  except  Lakshadweep,  during  1977. The coverage was restricted to only non‐agricultural establishments employing at least one hired worker on a  fairly regular basis.  The 6th and  the latest census was conducted in 2013. 
  5. One of the main aims of the Economic Census is preparation of a National Business Register, for  collating  the  list  of  all  registered  establishments  pursuing  various  economic  activities (Agricultural as well as non agricultural)  relating  to  production  of  goods  &  services. The 13th Finance Commission recommended development of Business Registers at District  level so that it can be used for estimating District Domestic Product.  
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Medical Commission Bill 2019

  1. The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and provide for a medical education system which ensures:
    1. Availability of adequate and high quality medical professionals
    2. Adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals
    3. Periodic assessment of medical institutions
    4. An effective grievance redressal mechanism.
  2.  The Bill abolishes Medical Council of India and sets up National Medical Commission (NMC).  Within three years of the passage of the Bill, state governments will establish State Medical Councils at the state level. 
  3. The Bill sets up autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC. Each autonomous board will consist of a President and four members, appointed by the central government.  These boards are:
    1. Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB):  These Boards will be responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively.
    2. Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB):  MARB will have the power to levy monetary penalties on medical institutions which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and PGMEB.  The MARB will also grant permissions for establishing a new medical college, starting any postgraduate course, or increasing the number of seats.
    3. Ethics and Medical Registration Board:  This Board will maintain a National Register of all licensed medical practitioners, and regulate professional conduct.  Only those included in the Register will be allowed to practice medicine.  The Board will also maintain a separate National Register for community health providers. 
  4. Members of the NMC will include:
    1. Chairperson (must be a medical practitioner).
    2. Presidents of the Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate Medical Education Boards.
    3. Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services.
    4. Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research.
    5. Five members (part-time) to be elected by the registered medical practitioners from amongst themselves from states and union territories for a period of two years. 
  5. Functions of the National Medical Commission:  Functions of the NMC include:
    1. Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals.
    2. Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure.
    3. Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of the regulations made under the Bill.
    4. Framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50% of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.
  6. Under the Bill, the central government will constitute a Medical Advisory Council.  The Council will be the primary platform through which the states/union territories can put forth their views and concerns before the NMC.
  7. In the earlier version of the NMC Bill 2018, doctors and health practitioners opposed the proposed bridge course which allowed practitioners of alternative medicines such as homoeopathy and ayurveda to practice allopathy. As such the government dropped the concept but added section 32, under which the NMC may now grant a limited license to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine. These mid-level practitioners (Lab Technicians, Compounders etc) may prescribe specific medicines in primary and preventive healthcare. This provision has caused widespread agitation by doctors across the country.
  8. There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate super-specialty medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill.
  9. The Bill proposes a common final year undergraduate examination called the National Exit Test (NEXT) for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice.  This test will also serve as the basis for admission into postgraduate courses at medical institutions under this Bill.
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The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019

  1. A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration.  It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose.
  2. Six consumer rights have been defined in the Bill, including the right to: (i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property; (ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services; (iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and (iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.
  3. The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.  It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.
  4. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.
  5. The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.  In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.
  6. Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) will be set up at the district, state, and national levels.  A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs. Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC.  Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.
  7. The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore.  The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore.  Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.
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The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  1. Under the current Act, companies earning profit of over ₹ 5 crore, turnover of ₹ 100 crore or net-worth of more than ₹ 500 crore are required to shell out at least two percent of their three-year annual average net profit towards CSR activities.
  2. Under the Act, if companies do not fully spent the CSR funds, they must disclose the reasons for non-spending in their annual report, and mandatorily keep unspent money in a special account.
  3. The Bill empowers the Registrar of Companies (RoC) to initiate action for removal of the name of the company from Register of companies if it is not carrying on any business or operation in according with the company law.
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Priti Patel appointed Britain’s first Indian-origin Home Secretary

  1. She supports Britain’s exit from European Union.
  2. The Gujarati-origin politician, is a prominent guest at all major Indian diaspora events in the UK.
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Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik wins People’s Choice Award in U.S.

  1. Sudarshan Pattnaik won People Choice Award 2019, in International Sand Sculpting Festival in Boston, Massachusetts.
  2. Sudarshan, a native of Odisha, was the sole representative from India and Asia. 
  3. Highlighted the message of combating plastic pollution in oceans.
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Dragon trees found in Assam 

  1. Dragon tree also known as Dracaena cambodiana is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree. It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China. Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc., have been extracted from various parts of the plant.
  2. Its seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.
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Zero Budget Natural Farming

  1. A method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices. 
  2. According to the Economic Survey, more than 1.6 lakh farmers are practising this form for farming in almost 1,000 villages using some form of state support. Andhra Pradesh has rolled out an ambitious plan to become India’s first state to practise 100 percent natural farming by 2024. 
  3. It was originally promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation.  He argued that the rising cost of these external inputs was a leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers, while the impact of chemicals on the environment and on long-term fertility was devastating. 
  4. Zero Budget Natural Farming promotes the application of jeevamrutha – a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and aged desi cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil, on farmland. This is a fermented microbial culture that adds nutrients to the soil, and acts as a catalytic agent to promote the activity of microorganisms and earthworms in the soil. About 200 litres of jeevamrutha should be sprayed twice a month per acre of land; after three years, the system is supposed to become self-sustaining. Only one cow is needed for 30 acres of land, according to Mr. Palekar, with the caveat that it must be a local Indian breed, not an imported Jersey or Holstein.
  5. A similar mixture, called bijamrita, is used to treat seeds, while concoctions using neem leaves and pulp, tobacco and green chillis are prepared for insect and pest management.
  6. This method also promotes soil aeration and topsoil mulching, and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing. 
  7. In order to achieve the Central government’s promise to double farmers income by 2022, one aspect being considered is natural farming methods such as the ZBNF which reduce farmers’ dependence on loans to purchase inputs they cannot afford. 
  8. However, reports also suggest that many farmers, including in Mr. Palekar’s native Maharashtra, have reverted to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years, in turn raising doubts about the method’s efficacy in increasing farmers’ incomes.
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Japan to host Summer Olympics 2020

  1. The modern Olympics began in 1896.
  2. Host cities are selected by the IOC membership, usually seven years in advance.
  3. The 2020 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, and commonly known as Tokyo 2020. It will see karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding make their Olympic debuts, and the return of baseball and softball which were removed in 2008 Olympics.
  4. Switzerland, will be hosting the winter youth Olympics, in 2020.
  5. Beijing, in China will be hosting the winter Olympics, in 2022.
  6. The United States has hosted a total of eight Olympic Games, more than any other country, followed by France with five editions. The Games have been hosted in the continents of Europe (32 editions), North America (12 editions), Asia (7 editions) and Oceania (2 editions).
  7. India has so far never hosted Olympic Games.
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PHEMA

  1. PHEMA, stands for Poly 2-Hydroxy Ethyl MethAcrylate.
  2. Has a remarkable adhesive strength.
  3. Unlike commercially available glues (such as Fevicol) that are liquids when applied and solidify to perform the adhesive role, the PHEMA adhesive developed by the group is solid but in its hydrated state becomes soft, wet and squishy. Hence its use is limited to relatively dry environments, as its switching mechanism relies on water.
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Ethiopia creates world record planting more than 350 million trees in a single day

  1. Ethiopia is in the midst of a tree planting campaign in which it aims to plant 4 billion trees between May and October 2019. So far more than 2.6 billion trees have been planted in almost all parts of the East African nation. At present, less than 4 percent of the country’s land is forested.
  2. In a record-breaking environmental drive in July 2017, 1.5 million volunteers in India planted 66 million trees in 12 hours along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh, putting their names in the Guinness Book of World Records.
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Bharat Stage VI standards

  1. Bharat standards were first introduced in 2000. Progressively stringent norms have been rolled out since then. 
  2. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), India’s specifications and standards regulatory body, announced it has revised the standards on petrol and diesel to Bharat Stage (BS) VI fuel norms from the earlier BS IV emission norms.
  3. The pollutants are measured in terms of Parts Per Million (PPM) which is basically the amount of pollutant in milligrams per Kg of the exhaust (mg/Kg).
  4. The permissible Sulphur content in exhaust has been reduced to 10 PPM max in BS-VI from 50 PPM under BS-IV. 
  5. The new norms make it mandatory to bring down emission of nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 percent and in petrol cars by 25 percent. 
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