Jan. 31, 2019

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

THE FUTURE OF RAIL TRANSPORT
Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal launched the report “The Future of Rail” prepared by International Energy Agency (IEA).

About: 

  • The Future of Rail Transport and Energy report by IEA highlights the great potential of railways to serve increasing transport demand at contained impact on global energy consumption. 

  • A focus chapter looks at the special role of railways in India, where it is sometimes referred to as the lifeline of the nation. 

Key findings from The Future of Rail: 

  • Rail is among the most energy efficient modes of transport for freight and passengers - while the rail sector carries 8% of the world’s passengers and 7% of global freight transport, it represents only 2% of total transport energy demand. 

  • Today, three-quarters of passenger rail transport activity takes place on electric trains, which is an increase from 60% in 2000 - the rail sector is the only mode of transport that is widely electrified today. 

  • The regions with the highest share of electric train activity are Europe, Japan and Russia, while North and South America still rely heavily on diesel. 

Focus on India: 

  • Rail passenger traffic in India has increased by almost 200% since 2000 and freight traffic by 150%. 

  • Yet latent demand for mobility in India remains huge. For example, on average, each Indian travel about 3 kilometres per day by privately owned road vehicle, compared to 17.5 kilometres in Europe. In fact, rail activity in India is set to grow more than any other country. 

  • Today, the conventional rail system in India comprises a total route length of almost 68000 km, shared between passenger and freight transport. 

  • Metro systems exist in 10 Indian cities, with about 515 km of track in operation and an additional 620 km of metro rail under construction. A further 600 km of metro lines are planned for the next few years. 

  • For now, India does not have any high-speed rail. However, in 2015 India and Japan signed an agreement to develop a high-speed rail line connecting the cities of Ahmedabad and Mumbai, to come into operation in 2023. Seven other high-speed lines are currently under consideration. 

Important Info :

International Energy Agency (IEA)? 

  • Status: IEA is an autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 
  • Mandate: To act as a policy adviser in promoting alternate energy sources (including renewable energy), rational energy policies, and multinational energy technology co-operation. 
  • Secretariat: Paris, France. 
  • Established in: 1974 (in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis). 
  • Membership: 
    • Only the OECD member states can become members of the IEA. In 2018, Mexico joined the IEA and became its 30th member. 
    • Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Singapore and Thailand are the associate members of IEA. 
Source : PIB
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

COW URINE AND NITROGEN POLLUTION
According to a recent research study published in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed Scientific Reports, Cow urine may also contribute to global warming.

Recent Study: 

  • That cattle and livestock are a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas, and therefore a contributor to global warming, is well-known. However, the role of cow urine is less understood. 

  • In this background, The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia conducted a study in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago on the linkages between cow urine and global warming. 

  • Key findings: 
    • Cow urine may also contribute to global warming as it is a source of nitrous oxide emissions (N2O), a gas that is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. 

    • Most times, when cow urine is used in degraded pastures, which are also seen in vast tracts of land in India, N2O emissions are tripled. 

    • Degraded grasslands emitted more N2O than healthy pastures because the vegetation in the latter took up some of the reactive nitrogen compounds and only the leftovers were emitted. 



  • Implications for India: 
    • Dung and urine are commonly mixed together for manure in Indian fields. 

    • Since, India also hosts the world’s largest livestock population, as well as significant tracts of degraded land, the findings may have a bearing on nitrogen emissions from Indian fields. 

    • Studies like these are probably needed and useful for Indian livestock emission studies as India has very limited research on this. 



Important Info :
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and even exert a potent greenhouse gas (heat trapping) effect. 
  • Gases such as ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) contribute to poor air quality and can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions, leading to millions of premature deaths across the world. 
  • Other than air pollution, nitrogen is also linked to the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers and seas, ozone depletion, health, economy, and livelihoods. 
Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

CARNOT PRIZE 2018
Union Minister Piyush Goyal has been awarded the 4th annual Carnot Prize for “pathbreaking transformations in India’s energy sector”.

Carnot Prize: 

  • Objective: Carnot Prize, the most prestigious award in the energy sector, is the annual recognition of distinguished contributions to energy policy through scholarship or practice. 

  • Awarded by: Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. 

  • Named after: French physicist Nicolas Sadi Carnot who recognised that the power of the steam engine would “produce a great revolution” in human development. 

  • Previous winners include: 
    • Daniel Yergin, Vice chairman of IHS, 

    • Fatih Birol, Director of International Energy Agency, 

    • Gina McCarthy, a career public servant in fields of energy and environment. 



  • 2019 winner: This year, it has been awarded to Union Minister Piyush Goyal is a recognition of the pathbreaking transformations in India’s energy sector by launching – 
    • The rural electrification drive that helped in achieving ‘24x7 Affordable, Environment Friendly Power for all’ and 

    • UJALA scheme the world’s largest LED distribution programme, in which 143 crore LED bulbs have been provided. 



Important Info :

Diwakar Prize: 

  • Union Minister Piyush Goyal has announced to donate the prize money of Carnot Award ($25,000), to the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to institute the Diwakar Award. 
  • The Diwakar Solar Award (Divyang Akshay-urja Puraskar) will recognise, every year, an outstanding organisation that has been working for special children and maximising the use of solar energy. 
Source : PIB
Awards and Recognitions

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

NATIONAL MUSEUM INSTITUTE
Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar inaugurated the new Campus of the National Museum Institute at Noida. Till now, the Institute has been working from the premises of the National Museum, Janpath, New Delhi.

About: 

  • Background: The National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology was formed and registered in 1989 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. 

  • Status: It has been accorded the status of 'Deemed to be University'. 

  • Parent Ministry: Ministry of Culture. 

  • Mandate: 
    • The Institute is one of the leading centres in the country for training and research in the field of art and cultural heritage. 

    • It imparts higher education in Master of Arts and Ph. D in the field of History of Art, Conservation and Museology. 



Source : PIB
History & Culture

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

CENTRAL POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE (CPRI)
Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy laid the foundation stone of Regional testing laboratory of Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) at Nashik, Maharashtra.

About: 

  • Status: CPRI is an Autonomous body under Ministry of Power, Govt of India. 

  • Established in: 1960.

  • Mandate: 
    • Undertaking applied Research in electrical engineering. 

    • Functioning as an Independent National Testing and Certification authority for electrical equipment. 



  • HQ: The Institute has its Head Office & major laboratories at Bangalore.  

Source : PIB
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT CENTRE (HSFC)
The Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC), the hub of ISRO's future manned missions, was in/augurated at ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru.

About: 

  • Mandate: HSFC shall be responsible for implementing all activities of Gaganyaan project — which involves mission planning, development of engineering systems, crew selection and training and also pursue activities for sustained human space flight missions. 

  • HQ: Bengaluru. 

  • Administration: Earlier this month, S. Unnikrishnan Nair was named as the founder Director of HSFC and R. Hutton as the project director of Gaganyaan. 

Important Info :

Gaganyaan Project is ISRO’s maiden human spaceflight mission under which the astronauts will orbit Earth at a distance of 400 km. 

Announced on August 15 2018, the country's first crewed mission is set to happen by 2022, the 75th year of Independence with a 3-member crew abroad the GSLV-MkIII. 

Source : The Hindu
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

GEORGE FERNANDES
Former Defence Minister and Anti-Emergency Crusader George Fernandes passed away. He was 88.

About: 

  • George Fernandes was also a trade unionist, agriculturist and journalist. 

  • As President of the All India Railwaymen's Federation he led the Railway strike involving 1.5 million workers in 1974, resulting in thousands being sent to jail. It was one of the events that led to the imposition of the Emergency in June 1975. 

  • He later became the industry minister in the Janata Party (JP) government in 1977 under the prime ministership of Morarji Desai. 

  • After the split in Janata Dal in 1994, Fernandes formed the Samata Party along with present Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The party became an ally of BJP in 1996. 

  • Under the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he was the defence minister of India during the Kargil war in 1999. 

  • He was elected to the Lok Sabha 9 times and once to the Rajya Sabha. He also served as Union Minister for Railways, Communications and Industry. 

Source : All India Radio
History & Culture

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

BABY LEAVE PROXY VOTING
British lawmakers have approved a year-long trial of proxy voting for MPs on parental leave.

About: 

  • In British Parliament, if an MP wants their vote counted, they must show up— meaning that during parental leave, their voice in the Commons can go silent. 

  • For years, some MPs and rights campaigners have been trying to change that by instituting proxy voting, so an MP who is present can cast the vote on behalf of the one who's absent in a situation like parental leave. 

  • The idea was under discussion the idea for several months but matters came to a head when Opposition Labour MP Tulip Siddiq postponed the birth of her son Raphael by Caesarean section in order to vote on Brexit issue (contributing to the Prime Minister's historic defeat). 

  • It will allow new parents to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf. The new proxy vote trial will also apply to MPs who have suffered a miscarriage. 

  • The vote marks a significant step by preventing parliament being run like an “18th century gentleman’s club”, amid warnings that female politicians risked being shut out of key votes. 

Source : All India Radio
Social Issues

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

NATIONAL SALT SATYAGRAHA MEMORIAL
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial to the nation on Mahatma Gandhi’s 71st death anniversary. Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary (January 30) is also observed as Martyrs' Day. He was assassinated on this day in 1948.

About: 

  • Location: The National Salt Satyagraha Memorial is situated at Dandi in Navsari district, Gujarat on Arabian sea coast. 

  • Memorial Detail: The memorial has statues of Mahatma Gandhi and 80 Satyagrahis who had marched with him during the historic Dandi Salt March in 1930. It also has 24-narrative murals depicting various events of the salt March. 

Important Info :

Dandi March? 

  • The Salt Satyagraha March, well known as the Dandi March of 1930 has been a landmark event in the history of India’s freedom struggle. 
  • As a part of the Civil Disobedience Movement against the British rule, 80 Satyagrahis led by Mahatma Gandhi marched 241-miles from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad to the coastal village of Dandi and made salt from seawater breaking the Salt Law imposed by the British. 
Source : PIB
History & Culture

Current Affairs
Jan. 31, 2019

ABER
The central banks of the UAE and Saudi Arabia have launched a common digital currency called "Aber".

About: 

  • This digital currency has been established by the United Arab Emirates Central Bank (UAECB) and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). 

  • This digital currency will be used in financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies. It is expected to reduce remittance costs between the two countries. 

  • Project details: 
    • The digital currency is backed by fiat currencies of the two nations. The platform would be supported by a legislative and regulatory framework. 

    • The initial stages of the digital currency project will focus on technical aspects. The use of the currency will be restricted to a limited number of banks in each state. 

    • After that, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered. ‏The project will also enable the possibility of using the system as an additional reserve system for domestic central payments settlement. 



Source : All India Radio
International Relations

Jan. 30, 2019

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Swadesh Darshan Project in Sikkim
Union Minister for Tourism will inaugurate the project ‘Development of North East Circuit’
  • The circuit will cover the following areas: Rangpo- Rorathang- Aritar- Phadamchen-Nathang- Sheranthang- Tsongmo, Gangtok- Phodong- Mangan- Lachung- Yumthang- laden- Thangu- Guruongmer- Mangan- Gangtok-Tuminingee- Singtam.

  • Swadesh Darshan scheme is one of the flagship schemes of Ministry of tourism to bring development to the North East.

  • The scheme was launched in 2014 -15

 

Status:

As on date the Ministry has sanctioned total 77 projects worth projects for Rs. 6121.69 Crore to 30 States and UTs, under which 16 projects for Rs. 1349.04 crores will be covering all North Eastern States under schemes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD.


Initiatives for North East:

  • Ministry carries out special promotion in domestic and international markets highlighting regions diversity, tourism products and its rich culture.


  • Ministry of Tourism has also set up Hotel Managements and Food Craft Institutes for creating skilled manpower in tourism and hospitality sector in the North Eastern Region.


Positive Outcome: Foreign tourist arrivals in the region has shown an upward trend over the years. The region received a total of 1.69 lakh foreign tourist visits during 2017 as against 1.45 lakh in 2016 registering a growth of 16.7% over 2016.

The Domestic Tourist Visits reached to 95.47 lakhs in the year 2017 against 77.71 lakhs registering impressive double digit growth of 22.8% over 2016.

Source : PIB
Culture, Tourism

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Sahitya Akademi Award 2018
President of the Sahitya Akademi – Mr Chandrasekhar Kambar presented the Awards at New Delhi for 24 different languages.

List of Awardees

  • Renowned Hindi writer Chitra Mudgal, Dogri writer Inderjeet Kesar, Kannada writer KG Nagarajappa and Kashmiri story writer Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq were among 24 writers, who were honoured.


  • The award was given to Chitra Mudgal for her book 'post box no 203 NallaSopara', which was based on the life of a transgender. 

  • Inderjeet Kesar got the award for his Dogri novel- Bhagirath based on challenges faced by human beings. 

  • G Nagarajappa bagged the award for Anushreni- Yajamanike which is a collection of Kannada essays. 

  • Mushtaq  Ahmad Mushtaq received the award for his collection of  18 Kashmiri short stories - Aakh.

Source : All India Radio
Awards and Recognitions

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Odisha Handicrafts Policy 2019
The Odhisa cabinet has approved the Odisha Handicrafts Policy 2019, aimed to expedite the growth of handicrafts sector.


Objective:

1.To create a vibrant and sustainable handicrafts sector in the state with enhanced market share in the domestic and international market.

2.To improve the income and living standards of the handicraft artisans of the state

3.To create income generating opportunities

  1. To preserve the cultural heritage and identity of Odisha's handicrafts.


5.Development of a centre of excellence at the State Institute for Development of Arts Crafts (SIDAC).

This policy provides the centre stage to the artisan and his masterpieces. It recognizes that without the artisan, there can be no handicrafts. 

Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Golden Langur Breeding Project
Assam government has announced the success of the Golden Langur Conservation Breeding in the state.This project was undertaken at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati during the 2011-12 fiscal.

Key Facts:

  • Funded by Central Zoo authority, an isolated and an isolated and undisturbed site within the zoo was chosen to provide a natural habitat for the primates with a golden coat endemic to Assam.

  • The zoo authorities had shifted a pair of golden langurs — Bolin and Lovely — from the display enclosure to the isolated which resulted into birth of female infant.

  • The golden langur (Trachypithecusgeei) is currently endangered.

Apart from a 60 square mile area in northwestern Assam, small populations are found in Bhutan and Tripura.

Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Institutes Of Eminence
The University Grants Commission has deferred a decision on which institutions should be granted the prestigious Institutes of Eminence tag.This step has been taken as an expert committee has recommended more names than the government scheme allowed for.

Key Facts:

  • The expert committee recommended 30 names, 15 in each category. However, the government scheme had to select ten in each category [of public and private institutions].

  • It is not just a question of naming institutions, but there is also a ₹1,000 crore grant for the public institutions once they get the tag.

  • Hence, it was decided to refer back to the government.

Background:

  • The empowered expert committee headed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami had initially recommended 11 institutions for the tag in July 2018.

  • Of those, the Centre had actually bestowed thetag on six institutions, three public — IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and IISc Bangalore – and three private — BITS Pilani, Manipal University, and the yet-to-open Jio University.

  • In December, the committee recommended 19 more names, taking the total list to 30.

Important Info :

About Institute of Eminence

  • The scheme is aimed at developing world-class institutions which would put India on the global education map.
  • Institutions were offered greater autonomy and freedom to decide fees, course durations and structures.

The 10 selected public institutions would also receive a grant of Rs.1000 crore, while the 10 private institutions would not receive any financial assistance.

Source : The Hindu
Education

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Suman Kumari
• Suman Kumari has become the first Hindu woman to be appointed as a civil judge in Pakistan.
  • Kumari, who hails from Qambar-Shahdadkot in Sindh province, will serve in her native district.

  • The country’s first judge from the Hindu community was Justice Rana Bhagwandas, who served as the acting Chief Justice for brief periods between 2005 and 2007.

  • Last year, Mahesh Kumar Malani became the first non-Muslim to be elected on a general seat in the National Assembly while a Thari woman, Krishna Kumari, was elected in Pakistan’s Senate elections.

Source : The Hindu
Person in News

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Clean Air Plan
According to a report by Greenpeace, there are 139 Indian cities that breach air pollution standards but are not included in the Centre's National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).While 102 of these cities were included in the NCAP, the remaining 139 cities were left out.

Key facts:

  • Of these 313 cities, 241 (77%) had PM10 levels beyond the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

  • The exclusion of these cities is due to the fact that  the government’s list of 102 cities relied on average pollution data until 2015 whereas the current report has relied on 2017 pollution data.

  • Even if the NCAP were able to reduce pollution by 30% by 2024, 153 cities would still be left with pollution levels exceeding the NAAQS.

About NCAP:

  • The NCAP was launched by the government in January 2019 and is a ₹300 crore initiative to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

  • The 102 cities, identified as hotspots of pollution, were asked to submit a plan for how they would address the problem.

  • Broadly, the plans include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and strengthening enforcement.

  • As part of the NCAP, cities have been given a specified number of days to implement specific measures such as “ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or “ensuring strict action against unauthorised brick kilns” (within 30 days).

  • It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in.

Important Info :

Some Facts:

  • The World Health Organisation’s database on air pollution over the years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most polluted places in the world.
  • In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India.

A study in the journal Lancet ranked India as No.1 on premature mortality and deaths from air pollution.

Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Cyber Diplomacy
Speaking at the 2019 annual Cybertech conference, Israeli PM reiterated that “cyber diplomacy” will be the next area of cooperation among big economies.According to him, any country can be attacked today with cyber attacks and every country needs the combination of a national cyber defence effort and a robust cybersecurity industry.

Key Facts:

  • India is among the countries with which Israel has a cybersecurity agreement.

  • Israel also boasts of having 20 per cent of global private investments in cybersecurity, second only to the United States.

  • In 2015, Israel had announced the setting up of the National Cyber Defence Authority, which was converted into a National Cyber Defence Directorate last year by merging another government body called the Cyber Bureau.

  • This accelerated the Israeli pace in cyber security investments.

What India Can Learn From Israel?

  • Israel leads the world in investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP. It happens because Israel have the highest percentage of R&D personnel per one thousand employees.

  • Also, defence industry in Israel is used to leverage the civilian industry.

  • As a result, almost all the top 10 new companies have major research centres in Israel.

 

Source : Indian Express
Internal Security

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Antibiotic Resistance Genes
A new study has found traces of antibiotic resistance genes in the High Arctic region.It also included the ‘superbug’ or the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 protein (coded by NDM-1 gene), which was first detected in urban India in 2008.
  • Key Facts:

    • Samples were collected from Kongsfjorden region of Svalbard – a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean – in 2013.

    • Researchers found “comparatively localised” levels of blaNDM-1, which poses no health threat.

    • However, the “detection reinforces how rapidly antibiotic resistance (AR) can globalize.

    Importance Of This Study:

    • The findings underscore the value of characterizing remote locations with minimal ‘impact’, providing a baseline for quantifying the spread of AR around the world.

    • We already understand drivers for antibiotic resistance to be human misuse and overuse, poor sanitation and extensive use in agriculture.

    • However, we still do not understand the pathways that cause this resistance to spread around the globe.

    • Less than three years after the first detection of the blaNDM-1 gene, we found them thousands of miles away in an area where there has been minimal human impact.

    • NDM-1 (blaNDM-1) is a clinical ARG that is not found in nature, and has to come from the urbanised world.

    • Hence, this study presents a crucial step forward in understanding how AMR transmits around the globe.



Source : Indian Express
Health, Sanitation

Current Affairs
Jan. 30, 2019

Corruption Index 2018
The Transparency International has released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018.

Key Facts

  • The top countries on the list are Denmark and New Zealand, with scores of 88 and 87 respectively.

  • Other top performers around the world were Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany.

  • Somalia, Syria and South Sudan are at the bottom of the list, with scores of 10, 13 and 13 respectively.

  • India rose by three points to 78 (81st in 2017) in the list of 180 countries in the world, while China ranked 87 and Pakistan 117 in 2018.

  • The United States slid four points lower, dropping out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011. USA has been ranked at 22nd out of 180 countries.

  • Overall, more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on the 2018 index, and the average was 43

 

India Specific Observation:

  • However, India saw little significant improvement in its CPI score, which moved from 40 in 2017 to 41 in 2018.

  • The report highlighted that despite spectacular public mobilisation against corruption in 2011, there has been little to no movement on the ground to build the specialist anti-corruption infrastructure required.

Source : Indian Express
Polity & Governance

Jan. 29, 2019

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

Four New Highway Projects launched
Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari launched four highway projects worth over 3000 crore rupees in Rajasthan.
  • Gadkari inaugurated Bikaner-Phalodi Section of National Highway-15 in Bikaner.

  • Foundation stone of two projects were also laid, which include two lane section of National Highway from Raisinghnagar to Poogal.

  • At Nagaur, the minister inaugurated two-laning of Salasar-Nagaur section

  • These projects will contribute towards improvement of security scenario with better connectivity in border areas.

  • Addressing a function in Bikaner, Mr Gadkari said, 24 thousand kilometres of Highways will be constructed in the first phase of Bharatmala Project

Source : AIR
Urbanization

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

PISA
India has ended its boycott of PISA and decided to participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2021. HRD ministry has signed an agreement with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD), which will facilitate India’s participation.

About PISA:

  • PISA was introduced by OECD in 2000.

  • It tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading,mathematics and science.

  • The test is conducted every three years.

Why India had stayed away from PISA?

  • India participated in this programme until 2009.

  • However, in 2009, India was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries.

  • The then government had criticized the parameters used in this assessment.

  • According to the government “out of context” questions asked in this programme were responsible for this dismal performance.

  • Subsequently, India chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle.

What has changed now?

  • The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), at the government’s behest, set up a committee to review the matter.

  • In its report, submitted in December 2016, it recommended that the country should participate in the 2018 test cycle.

  • Later a similar recommendation was made in 2017 by the group of secretaries on education constituted by PM.

 

Source : Indian Express
Education

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

NCD Top Killers In South-East Asia: WHO
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — mainly cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer — continue to be the top killers in the South-East Asia Region. It is claiming 8.5 million lives each year.

 Key Facts:

  • NCD are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. These include 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.

  • The NCDs disproportionately affect the poor, impoverish families, and place a growing burden on health care systems.

  • Factors Mainly Contributing to the four ‘Major’ NCDs: Tobacco use, Unhealthy diet, Insufficient physical activity; and harmful use of alcohol.

    WHO Health Goals for 2019


  • Containing the NCDs

  • Reducing mortality related to air pollution and climate change, global influenza pandemic etc.

Suggestions:

  • Consuming fibre and whole grains can reduce health risks from NCD such as heart disease.A higher fibre intake is also associated with lower bodyweight, systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol when compared with lower intake.

  • Eat less and enjoy your food by eating slowly. Avoid oversized portions which causes weight gain.

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit consumption of food high in trans fats.

 

Source : The Hindu
International

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP)
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) launches NAHEP to attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country

Objective: To attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country.

Project Cost:1100 crore

Funding:- World Bank and the Indian Government on a 50:50 basis.

Efforts:-

  1. A four year degree in Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Forestry has been declared a professional degree.

  2. Rajendra Agriculture University has been upgraded as Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University to strengthen the government’s effort to bring green revolution in Eastern India including North East.

  3. Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has been set up in Barhi, Jharkhand on the lines of IARI, Pusa New Delhi.

  4. Another IARI is being set up in Assam.

In order to promote the participation of students in agricultural business, Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) scheme is being run, under which practical experience of agriculture and entrepreneurship is provided to undergraduate students.

Source : PIB
Economy - Agriculture

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

Basic Income Scheme/Minimum Guarantee Scheme
Former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian had said that the Centre and the States should launch a basic income scheme which guarantees minimum cash transfers to all except the well-off in rural areas.Hence, he has termed this scheme as the Quasi-universal basic rural income (QUBRI) scheme.

Key Highlights:

  • According to him, the scheme should not be funded out of the reserves of RBI but through replacement of existing farm and fertilizer subsidies.

  • Also, the transfer would not be to all rural households but all except the demonstrably well-off thereby making it quasi-universal.

  • According to him, QUBRI scheme would be better than Telangana’s RythuBandhu initiative and Odisha’s Kalia scheme, as it will be progressive and go further in including non-farm rural households.

Economic calculation behind this scheme:

  • An annual transfer of about Rs 18,000 or Rs 1,500 per month per household would cover 75 % of the rural population at a total fiscal cost of about 1.3 % of GDP or Rs 2.64 lakh crore in 2019-20 prices.

  • This can be funded equally by the Centre and the states through cutting down of existing farm subsidies and pruning Centrally Sponsored Schemes.

  • Hence, it will not create any additional burden on exchequer.

Rationale behind this step:

  • Agrarian crisis is not limited to the agriculture only. It has depressed the entire rural

  • So, making the focus rural might be more effective at addressing the agrarian stress.

  • Such a scheme would be better than loan waivers given by the government which are essentially regressive as they mainly benefit rich farmers.

International

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

India Replaces Japan As 2nd Top Steel Producer
India has replaced Japan as world's second largest steel producing country, while China is the largest producer of crude steel accounting for more than 51 % of production, according to World Steel Association.

Fact file

  • The global steel body in its latest report noted that China's crude steel output jumped 6.6 per cent to 928.3 million tonnes (MT) in 2018. India's crude steel production in 2018 was at 106.5 MT, up by 4.9 per cent.

  • Others in the top 10 steel producing countries include the United States (86.7 MT) at the 4th position followed by South Korea (72.5 MT, 5th place), Russia (71.7 MT, 6th), Germany (42.4 MT, 7th), Turkey (37.3 MT, 8th), Brazil (34.7 MT, 9th) and Iran (25 MT, 10th).

  • World Steel Association (worldsteel) is one of the industry associations in the world.

  • Its members represent around 85 per cent of the world's steel production, including over 160 steel producers with 9 of the 10 largest steel companies, national and regional steel industry associations, and steel research institutes.

Source : Indian Express
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

Kondaveedu Buddhist Remains
The Department of Archaeology and Museums has found Buddhist remains under the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum sanctorum) of Sivalayam at Kondaveedu fort( Andhra Pradesh). According to the officials, these remains date back to later Satavahana period--1st to 2nd century A.D.

Background

  • The Department has taken up conservation and restoration of two temples — Sivalayam and Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple — in the fort recently.

  • During this process, the officials found the remains which included a petal design on railing piece, stupa, pillar etc.

Key Findings

  • A small Buddhist stupa in circular shape built with limestones with inner diameter of 13 feet was found after dismantling garbhagriha.

  • One part of Ayaka pillar, which is octagonal shape, was found near the stupa.

  • Railing panel having man riding a bull and a horse, with lotus designs, tiny floral motif etc were some of the remains that were unearthed from the site

  • One small fragment of Brahmi inscription was found in the stupa remains.

  • Based on this inscriptional evidence, it emphasises that Buddhism existed on Kondaveedu fort from Satavahana period.

  • It has eight letters i.e..‘gha ra kha thasa a thaevaa.’

Source : The Hindu
History & Culture

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

China Starts legal process at WTO against U.S tariffs
World Trade Organisation (WTO) has started a legal process to hear China's complaint against U.S regarding the trade barriers and accused U.S. for blocking the appointment of judges to hear appeals in trade disputes.
  • In July 2018, the United States started to impose 25 per cent additional tariffs on approximately $34 billion of Chinese imports and further from September 2018, imposed 10 per cent additional tariffs on approximately $200 billion of Chinese imports.

  • In response, China has also imposed tariffs on U.S. goods, leading to a Trade war situation between the two countries.

  • Trade war: A trade war is a back-and-forth dispute wherein a country imposes tariffs/taxes on certain imports in order to restrict trade. In response, the country or countries affected by those tariffs/taxes impose their own fees on imports.

  • Trade war between the two biggest economies of the world would have a negative effect on world trade, which further could result into a recession in the world economy. Thus, there is need of people centric policies with the involvement and welfare of people at priority.

 

Important Info :

About WTO

  • WTO is a Geneva-based, 164-member global body which frames rules and norms for exports and imports.
  • Roles of the WTO
    • Ensure trade flows smoothly, predictably and freely as possible
    • It operates a global system of trade rules,
    • It acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements,

It settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries.

Source : Indian Express
Economy – trade

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

Cash And Carry Store Launched By Common Services Centres (CSCs)
In its endeavour to promote rural marketing and create employment, CSC has launched its first Cash and Carry store in Kanth Tehsil of Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh.

About:

Common Services Centres (CSCs) under Digital India mission are providing Citizen Centric Services. CSCs are delivering many government and non-government services to citizens in rural India across the country.

Products at Present:  Godrej, Patanjali, JIVA, Crompton, i-Ball.

Common Services Centres (CSCs) are also selling IFFCO fertilizers and seeds through its vast network in the country.

Other Benefits :-

Each cash and carry store will provide employment minimum 4 persons directly and indirectly. Clubbed with economic census initiative, stage has been set to create 25 lakh job opportunities in the near future in under–exposed parts of India. The store also offers free membership benefits to other CSC VLEs and government employees.

Source : PIB
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 29, 2019

Pench Tiger Reserve
With 29 cubs, tigress sets new Penchmark & India can’t handle more big cats
  • Pench Tiger Reserve’s Royal Bengal tigress called ‘Collarwali’ has given birth to 4 cubs.

  • She is the mother of 29 cubs born over the last 10 years.

  • Pench Tiger Reserve is located in Madhya Pradesh in Seoni and Chhindwara districts, named after the Pench river that flows through the National Park.

  • There are 50 Tiger Reserve area’s in India estimating the number of tigers as 2,226 according to the 2014 census.

  • Tiger conservation initiative in India is called ‘Project Tiger’ under the administration of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

  • In 2018, NTCA used an app/system called MSTrlPES, to monitor and record the tiger population to release the census in 2019.

  • Project Tiger aims to aid and facilitate the breeding of tigers within a safe environment and transport the tigers to other parks to increase the tiger population across its habitats. In addition, Project Tiger also takes up initiatives to improve the vegetation in the park, to facilitate the availability of prey for the tigers.

  • Pench National Park has the highest density of herbivore population like spotted deer, sambar deer, nilgai, four horned antelope and mouse deer.

  • Other Tiger Reserves in Madhya Pradesh include Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Panna National Park, Satpura National Park, Sanjay-Dubri National Park

  • Tigers command over 60 sq kms of area and often get into territorial conflicts with other tigers or outside territorial limits with humans.

  • It is argued that the Tiger breeding has reached its threshold as India is not prepared to increase more tigers.

  • To distribute the density of tigers translocating tigers to unpopulated reserves like Satkosia in Odisha has not been successful.

Important Info :

Rudyard Kippling’s famous book - The Jungle book’s story is based on Pench National Park.

Environment & Ecology

Jan. 28, 2019

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

RDP INDIA 2019
On the Republic Day, Ministry of Defence had launched a mobile app 'RDP India 2019'.

About: 

  • Objective: Making available the highlights of the Republic Day event to the spectators and general public all over the world. 

  • Key highlights: 
    • This app contains information about the Parade on Rajpath, New Delhi, including Order of the March, details of the tableaux presented by different States and Ministries and names of recipients of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2019. 

    • The app also had the provision for live streaming of the Parade. 



Source : PIB
History & Culture

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

PARIKSHA PE CHARCHA 2.0
On 29th January, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with students from all over the country in the second edition of Pariksha Pe Charcha.

About: 

  • Venue: The event named will be held in Delhi's Talkatora Stadium. 

  • Objective of the session: It is a unique interaction where students, teachers, parents and the Prime Minister will come together to discuss issues related to exams esp. stress-free examination. 

  • Key highlights: 
    • For first time, students from all over India and also Indian students residing abroad will participate as compared to last year where only Delhi / NCR students were called. 

    • This year a cultural programme of 10 minutes has also been included in which the bright student winners (e.g. Dancers/Singers etc) from Kala Utsav contest will be performing. 



Source : PIB
Education

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

POST-OFFICE PASS PORT SEVA KENDRAS (POPSK)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 12 Post-Office Pass Port Seva Kendras (POPSK) in Tamil Nadu. He also laid the foundation stone for AIIMS Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

About: 

  • Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK) is an Indian government initiative by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Department of Posts (DoP). 

  • Under it, the Head Post Offices (HPO)/ Post Offices are being utilized as a Passport Seva Kendra for delivery of passport related services to the citizens of India. 

  • MEA aims to open POPSKs at every Lok sabha Constituency so as to develop passport related services on a bigger scale and to ensure wider area coverage. 

Source : PIB
International Relations

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

UTTARA DEVI
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dedicated to the public newly imported locomotive power set from India to be used for the ‘Uttara Devi’ Colombo-Kankesanthurai train.

About: 

  • The train with the new S-13 locomotive power set commenced its maiden journey from the Colombo Fort Railway Station to reach Kankensthurai. 

  • The new powerset has been imported from India under Line of credit (LOC) assistance. India has provided concessional financing of 1.28 billion dollars for the development of railways in Sri Lanka. 

  • India has also partnered with Sri Lanka in capacity development of Sri Lankan railway employees. 

Important Info :

Sri Lanka Railways Class ‘S13’ is a diesel–electric multiple unit (DEMU) train, built for Sri Lanka Railways by Integral Coach Factory, Chennai and imported through RITES Ltd, an Indian state infrastructure corporation on a line of credit extended by the Indian Government.

Source : All India Radio
International Relations

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

VANDE BHARAT EXPRESS
Union Government has renamed Train 18 as Vande Bharat Express after taking suggestions from the general public. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the semi high speed train soon.

About: 

  • It is India's fastest indigenous train which has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai. 

  • It is India's first semi-high-speed train which will run from Delhi to Varanasi at a maximum speed of 160 kmph by covering the distance in 8 hours. 

  • It is equipped with world class passenger amenities like On-board wifi entertainment, GPS based passenger information system, CCTVs, bio-vacuum toilets, rotating chairs in executive class, etc. 

  • Further, it has intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient. 

  • It is also the first locomotive-less train in the country. 

Source : The Hindu
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

SAMANTHA EXPRESS
Government of India announced that 'Samantha Express' covering places linked to Dr BR Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha will run from Nagpur on April 14.

About: 

  • 'Samantha Express' is a special tourist train covering prominent places associated with chief architect of the Indian Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha. 

  • The train will cover Chaityabhoomi (Mumbai), Mhow (Indore), Bodhgaya (Gaya), Sarnath (Varanasi), Lumbini (Nautanwa), Kushinagar (Gorakhpur), Deekshabhoomi (Nagpur). 

  • It will embark on its maiden journey on April 14 from Nagpur. The duration of this tour will be of 10 nights and 11 days. 

  • The train will be run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). 

Source : All India Radio
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

IREP, KOCHI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the Integrated Refinery Expansion Complex by the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) at Kochi Refinery.

About: 

  • This marks the successful culmination of the ₹16,504-crore Integrated Refinery Expansion project (IREP). 

  • This project of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) was conceptualised to transform Kochi Refinery into the largest PSU Refinery in India with world class standards. 

  • The IREP will meet the growing energy needs of South India by doubling the production of LPG & diesel and commencing production of feedstock for petrochemical projects in this plant. 

  • India, which is the second largest refiner in Asia, is emerging a refinery hub with supply exceeding demand. 

Source : The Hindu
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

VOTE ON ACCOUNT
On February 1, the government is set to present its last Budget ahead of the elections. Conventionally, a government at the end of its term has gone in for a vote on account rather than a full Budget.

Full Budget: 

  • A Full Budget is not just the presentation of annual finances of the government but an occasion to change existing tax slabs, announce new schemes and sops for different sectors of the economy. 

  • A Full Budget includes the passage of a finance bill to get Parliament's approval for any tax related changes. 

Vote on account: 

  • In an election year, the outgoing government doesn't change the taxes or announce new schemes and sops as these are left at the disposal of the new government. 

  • In order to manage its expenditure for the interim period till a new government takes over and announces the Budget, the outgoing government presents what is called a vote on account to get the Parliament's approval for expenditure to be incurred for the next few months. 

  • Article 116 (1)(a) says that House of the People has the power to make any grant in advance in respect of the estimated expenditure for a part of any financial year pending the completion of the procedure prescribed in article 113 and article 114. 

Source : Indian Express
Economy

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

DISASTER IN 2018
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) released an analysis of 281 disaster events recorded by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in its EM-DAT (International Disaster Database).

Key findings for the year 2018: 

  • Country most Affected: India (23.9 million people in India were affected by disasters). 

  • Top 2 Countries affected by Total Death Toll: Indonesia (4,535) followed by India (1,388). 

  • Seismic activity including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity accounted for the majority of the 10,373 lives lost in disasters. 

  • Extreme weather events accounted for most of 61.7 million people affected by natural hazards.  

  • Floods continued to affect the largest number of people,4 million people, including 23 million people in Kerala, India.  They caused 2,859 deaths including India (504). 

  • Storms affected 12.8 million people last year and caused a recorded 1,593 deaths. It is anticipated that storms will be the costliest type of disaster of 2018 once final economic losses are compiled. 

  • Wildfires in Europe and North America claimed a record number of lives as Greece (126) had the deadliest European wildfire on record, and the United States (88) had its deadliest wildfire in over a century. 

  • Drought affected 9.3 million people worldwide. 

Important Info :

UN member States are implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), the global plan for reducing mortality and the numbers of disaster affected people, as well as reducing associated economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure. 

Source : All India Radio
Disaster Management

Current Affairs
Jan. 28, 2019

2019 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
The 2019 Australian Open concluded. It was a tennis tournament played at Melbourne Park in Australia between 14–27 January 2018.

Winners: 

  • Men's Singles: Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal to win his 7th Australian Open Men's Singles title. He is the first player to clinch seven Australian open title. With his 15th title, he also surpassed Pete Sampras to become third on the all-time Men’s Grand Slam title list. 

  • Women's Singles: Japan's Naomi Osaka defeated Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic to clinch her maiden Australian Open Grand Slam Singles title. With this, she became the first Asian player to achieve the world number one ranking. 

Important Info :

This was the first Australian Open to feature final set tie-breaks, which have been introduced for all match formats. If the match reaches 6–6 in the final set, the first player to score 10 points and be leading by at least 2 points wins the match. 

Source : All India Radio
Sports
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