Aug. 25, 2019

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

CLOUDED LEOPARD
A recent research paper published on clouded leopards by over 20 researchers from across the globe has helped understanding the habitats, migration corridors and laid out the conservation strategies.

About: 

  • Sub Species: Classically considered a single species, the Clouded Leopard has recently been split into two species.
    • Neofelis Nebulosi: It is restricted to mainland Southeast Asia.

    • Neofelis Diardi: It is found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.



  • Physical description:
    • Clouds: It is named after the distinctive 'clouds' on its coat - ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker colour than the background colour of the pelt.

    • Legs: It has relatively short legs and broad paws which make it excellent at climbing trees.



  • Range:
    • Historically, their range covered most of Southeast Asia from Nepal and southern China through Thailand, Indonesia, and Borneo. It is regionally extinct in Singapore and Taiwan.’

    • In India, it occurs in north-east and West Bengal. It is the state animal of Meghalaya. 
      • Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram has one of the highest population densities.





  • Habitat: Subtropical/Tropical Moist Forests.

  • Conservation status: Both the species are listed as Vulnerable in IUCN red list.

  • In 2018, India added clouded leopards to its Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species to aid more research and strengthen conservation efforts.

Important Info :

The Clouded leopard is one of the big cats occurring on the Indian subcontinent, apart from the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard and Indian leopard. 

Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

MESOVELIA
Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered seven species of water treaders, semi-aquatic insects that can walk or run on the surface of water.

About: 

  • The newly described species belong to the genus Mesovelia whose size ranges from 1.5 mm to 4.5 mm and are equipped with hydrophobic setae (bristles) on their legs. The combination of hydrophobic setae and water surface tension prevents them from sinking.

  • These bugs are hemimetabolous insects without having larval stage i.e., they go from egg to nymph to adult.

  • They are found on freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes, pools, streams, rocks with moss and sometimes on estuaries.

  • There are 12 species of genus Mesovelia found in the country.

Mesovelia vs water striders:

  • Other than the size, there are morphological features that make these pond-weed insects different from water striders.

  • The claws of Mesovelia are placed apically (tip or extreme end of legs), whereas in water striders, they arise from the pre-apex (just before the tip) of legs.

Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

GREENLAND
U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to buy Greenland, an autonomous province of Denmark. Upon being told that Greenland was not, in fact, for sale, Trump promptly cancelled a planned state visit to Denmark for what he termed the Danish PM’s “nasty” remarks.

About: 

  • Location: Greenland, an autonomous province of Denmark, is located to the north east of Canada.

  • Demography: Most of its inhabitants are Inuit whose ancestors migrated from Canada.

  • Capital: Nuuk. 

  • Governance: The autonomous Danish dependent territory has limited self-government and its own parliament. While its government decides on domestic matters, foreign and security policy is handled by Denmark.

  • Economy: Denmark contributes two thirds of Greenland's budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing. 

Significance:

  • The US President wants to buy the Danish territory as it is in a crucial strategic location in case tensions with Russia rise - but admits it's not a No1 priority.

  • Potential oil, gas and rare earth mineral reserves have also attracted prospecting firms.

Legal Obstacles To Sale

  • Any sale would require a change to Greenland’s legal status through an amendment to Denmark’s constitution. Since 2009 Greenland has held the right to declare independence from Denmark. If Greenland do so, it could choose to become associated with the United States.

  • But few Greenlanders see independence as viable given their economic dependence on Denmark, part of the affluent European Union.

Important Info :

Territories earlier purchased by USA? 

  • In 1803, the US struck a land deal with France to buy 827,000 square miles of land called the Louisana Purchase. It massively expanded the US' territory. 
  • In 1819, the US bought Florida from Spain. 
  • The US bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2m in 1867. 
Source : The Hindu
International

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

ASIA/PACIFIC GROUP ON MONEY LAUNDERING
The Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has put Pakistan in the Enhanced Expedited Follow Up List (Blacklist) for its failure to comply with terror funding standards.

Recent decision: 

  • it has also found that Pakistan was non-compliant on 32 of the 40 compliance parameters of terror financing and money laundering. 

  • On 11 effectiveness parameters of terror financing and money laundering, Pakistan was adjudged as low on 10. 

  • While the placing does not bring any new punitive measures on Pakistan, it will mean quarterly reporting to the group on improvement in its financial safeguards. 

  • Now, Pakistan has to focus on avoiding the blacklist in October, when the 15-month timeline ends on the FATF's 27-point action plan. 

Important Info :

Asia/Pacific Group On Money Laundering? 

  • What is it? The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering is an inter-governmental organisation, consisting of 41 member jurisdictions.
  • Purpose: To ensure that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.
  • Type: It is a part of global network of similar bodies, referred to as Financial Action Task Force-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs) and is the largest in terms of membership numbers and geographical size.
  • Secretariat: Sydney, Australia
  • Established in: 1997. 
Source : All India Radio
Defence & Security

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

AMAZON FIRES
Over the last several days, the Amazon rainforest has been burning – mostly caused by farmers clearing land – at a rate that has alarmed environmentalists and governments worldwide.

Trend this year: 

  • There have been more than 72,800 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region -- an 80% increase compared with the same period last year -- according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). 

  • Brazil’s Amazon has lost more than 344,500 hectares (1,330 square miles) of forest cover between January and June, according to INPE. 

Reason: 

  • Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as by lightning strikes, but also by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.

  • However activists also blame Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has encouraged such tree-clearing activities for agriculture and mining.

Concern:

  • The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, is roughly half the size of the United States and produces 20 per cent of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.

  • it is a repository of rich biodiversity and is also home to indigenous communities whose live is now under threat.

  • Carbon intake by the Amazon basin matches the emissions released by nations in the basin. The burning of forests, therefore, implies additional carbon emissions.

  • Amazon rainforest influences the water cycle not only on a regional scale, but also on a global scale. The rain produced by the Amazon travels through the region and even reaches the Andes mountain range.

Source : Indian Express
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

AKADEMIK LOMONOSOV
Russia launched the world’s first floating nuclear reactor, sending it on an epic journey across the Arctic, despite environmentalists warning of a “Chernobyl on ice.”

About: 

  • Loaded with nuclear fuel, the Akademik Lomonosov with a crew of 69 left the port of Murmansk to begin its 5,000 km voyage to Pevek in Siberia. The reactor's trip is expected to last between 4 and 6 weeks. 

  • When it arrives in Pevek, it will replace a local nuclear plant and a closed coal plant. It is due to go into operation by the end of year, mainly serving the region's oil platforms as Russia develops the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Arctic. 

  • It follow the examples of submarines, icebreakers and aircraft carriers, which have long used nuclear power, and are intended for isolated areas with little infrastructure. 

  • But environmental groups have long warned of the dangers of the project, dubbing it a potential "Chernobyl on ice" and a "nuclear Titanic." 

Source : Livemint
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

GLOBAL COAL CONSUMPTION
According to the findings of International Energy Agency (IEA) and 2019 BP Statistical Review, Asia is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for 75 % of global demand.

About: 

  • Asia is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for 75 % of global demand. 

  • China is the world’s largest consumer of Coal, followed by India, Japan and South Korea. China continues to emit more carbon dioxide than any other country. 

  • Global coal consumption peaked in 2013 at 3,867 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, but that demand last year had declined merely 2.5 % below the peak. 

  • South-East Asia was the only region in the world in which coal’s share of power generation grew last year. 

Source : Graphic News
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

BIG DATA AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT
According to a report by the U.N.’s Asia-Pacific social agency (UNESCAP), use of big data can better predict increasingly complex disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.

Key findings of report: 

  • Since 1970, natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region have killed two million people — 59% of the global death toll for that period. 

  • Disasters also cause more damage in Asia and the Pacific, measured as a percentage of GDP, than the rest of the world, and this gap has been widening. 

  • However, big data innovations reveal patterns of complex disaster risks which helps to understand and predict the risk of extreme and slow-onset events. 

  • Flood and cyclone forecasting now relies on computer simulations. Sensor webs and the Internet of Things have enabled efficient earthquake early-warning systems. Remote sensing via satellites and drones provide quick assessments of damage and people affected, and help in relief efforts. 

Big Data? 

  • Big data refers to the analysis of very large data sets to reveal patterns, trends and associations. 

  • The data can come from a range of sources, including satellite imagery, drone videos, simulations, crowdsourcing, social media and global positioning systems. 

Important Info :

UNESCAP? 

  • The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) serves as the United Nations’ regional hub promoting cooperation among countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. 
  • This regional intergovernmental platform with 53 Member States and 9 associate members. 
Source : The Hindu
Disaster Management

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

MICROPLASTICS IN DRINKING WATER
The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first report into the effects of microplastics on human health.

Key findings of the report:

  • In this report, WHO looked into the specific impact of microplastics in tap and bottled water.

  • The level of microplastics in drinking water is not yet a health risk for humans. Microplastics larger than 150 micrometres are not likely to be absorbed by the human body but the chance of absorbing very small microplastic particles, including nano-sized plastics, could be higher.

  • WHO has called on researchers to conduct a more in-depth evaluation into microplastics and the potential impact on human health. 

Important Info :

What are microplastics (view of WHO)?

  • As a category, microplastics encompass a wide range of materials composed of different substances, with different densities, chemical compositions, shapes and sizes.
  • There is no scientifically-agreed definition of microplastics, although they are frequently defined as plastic particles < 5 mm in length.
  • However, this is a rather arbitrary definition and is of limited value in the context of drinking-water since particles at the upper end of the size range are unlikely to be found in treated drinking-water.
  • A subset of microplastics < 1 µm in length are often referred to as nanoplastics.

How do microplastics get into drinking-water?

  • Microplastics may enter drinking-water sources in a number of ways: from surface run-off (e.g. after a rain event), to wastewater effluent (both treated and untreated), combined sewer overflows, industrial effluent, degraded plastic waste and atmospheric deposition.
  • Plastic bottles and caps that are used in bottled water may also be sources of microplastics in drinking-water. 
Source : The Hindu
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 25, 2019

GOKULASHTAMI
The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has greeted people on the occasion of Janmashtami.

About: 

  • Lord Krishna is an important Hindu God and is said to be the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. 

  • The day of Lord Krishna's birth is considered to be an auspicious event for Hindu devotees across the world and is celebrated as Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami

  • When? According to the Hindu calendar, Janmashtami is marked on Krishna Paksha's eighth day in Bhadra month which is also called the Ashtami. This generally falls in August or September, according to the Gregorian calendar.

  • Celebrations:
    • According to Hindu mythology, Sri Krishna was born at midnight to Devaki and Vasudeva in Mathura, and so Janmashtami is celebrated at midnight.

    • On this day, Bhajans and kirtans are performed at Krishna temples. Bhagvat Gita is read and listened, and satsang meetings are held by devotees.

    • This is followed by the Dahi Handi festival celebrated majorly in Maharashtra and the Nandotsav festival.



Important Info :

Nandotsav: 

  • Nandotsav is a festival celebrated the day after the festival Janmashtami.
  • It is believed that all the villagers of Braj visited Nand Baba's house to see little Krishna and congratulate Mata Yashoda. Nand Baba distributed ornaments, clothes, cattle and various other valuables among saints and sages.
  • On this day people celebrate 'Govinda'- Devotees form small groups and break Maakhan Haandis tied to ropes on high rise buildings.
Source : PIB
Culture

Aug. 24, 2019

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

FISCAL STIMULUS
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a number of measures to boost growth.

Some of the steps announced are:

  • Controversial surcharge on Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) to be withdrawn. But increased surcharge will apply to high net-worth individuals earning more than ₹2 crore a year.

  • Violations of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rules will not be treated as criminal offences.

  • The government also decided to front-load the ₹70,000 crore of capital infusion in public sector banks that was announced in the Budget, a move that is further aimed at increasing private investment by facilitating greater credit disbursal by the banks.

  • The government had rescinded its ban on the purchase of new vehicles by its departments to replace old ones. Vehicles bought till March 31, 2020, will also be eligible for an additional 15% depreciation.

  • To curb the discretionary powers of the tax authorities, from October 1, all notices and summons by the Income Tax Department would be generated by a centralised computer and would carry a unique code. Any notices not carrying these codes would be considered invalid.

  • Public sector banks have also decided to increase their repo rate-linked loan offerings.

  • Government has announced an additional ₹20,000 crore of liquidity to the housing finance companies, over and above the ₹10,000 crore earlier announced.

Source : The Hindu
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

STERILE INSECT TECHNIQUE (SIT)
Bangladesh is studying the feasibility of applying Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to control the dengue outbreak. A team of experts from WHO-FAO and IAEA arrived in Dhaka to discuss the feasibility of this technique.

About: 

  • What is it? Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a 'mosquito fights mosquito technique.' 

  • Working: Under this, radiation sterilised male mosquitoes are released in areas with dengue causing female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes turning them infertile. 

  • Significance: This is an environmentally friendly method to control mosquitoes as no pesticide is used. 

  • Global scenario of usage: This breakthrough technique has been tested successfully at two sites in Guangzhou in China. 

Source : All India Radio
Health

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

FEDOR
Russia launched an unmanned rocket carrying life-sized robot to the International Space Station (ISS) from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

About: 

  • The robot, named Fedor – short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research – is the first ever sent into space by Russia. Fedor is also known as Skybot F850.

  • In order to test a new emergency rescue system, the robot was the Soyuz rocket's only passenger.

  • During its 10 days at the ISS, Fedor will learn new skills such as connecting and disconnecting electric cables, using standard items from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher.

  • Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton. Such robots will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as space walks.

Source : The Hindu
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

COMPOSITE WATER MANAGEMENT INDEX 2.0
NITI Aayog has released the second Round of Composite Water Management Index (CWMI 2.0).

About: 

  • NITI Aayog first launched the Composite Water Management Index in 2018 as a tool to assess and improve the performance of States/ UTs in efficient management of water resources.

  • This has been done by NITI Aayog in partnership with Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Rural Development and all the States/ Union Territories.

  • CWMI 2.0 ranks various states for the reference year 2017-18 as against the base year 2016-17.

Rankings:

  • Gujarat hold on to its rank one in the reference year (2017-18), followed by Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

  • In North Eastern and Himalayan States, Himachal Pradesh has been adjudged number 1 in 2017-18 followed by Uttarakhand, Tripura and Assam.

  • The Union Territories have first time submitted their data and Puducherry has been declared as the top ranker.

  • In terms of incremental change in index (over 2016-17 level), Haryana holds number one position in general States and Uttarakhand ranks at first position amongst North Eastern and Himalayan States.

  • On an average, 80% of the states assessed on the Index over the last three years have improved their water management scores, with an average improvement of +5.2 points.

Source : PIB
Water

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

INDO-FRENCH RELATIONS
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visited France for an official visit for a Bilateral Summit on 22nd and 23rd August 2019 in Paris.

List of MoUs signed during visit:

  1. Implementing Arrangement between ISRO and CNES France for Joint Maritime Domain Awareness

  2. Cooperation Agreement between Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), an autonomous scientific society of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and ATOS

  3. Memorandum Of Agreement between National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), India and The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)

  4. Administrative Arrangement between the Ministry of Skill Development, India and the Ministry of National Education and Youth, France

Other key highlights:

  • Coining a new abbreviation, PM Modi said: “Nowadays, we talk of 21st century ‘INFRA’. That is ‘IN’ plus ‘FRA’ — the alliance of India and France… From solar infra to social infra, from technical infra to space infra, from digital infra to defence infra, the alliance of India and France is moving strongly.”

  • Modi also inaugurated a memorial in Nid D’Aigle for Indian victims of two Air India crashes in 1950 and 1966.

Automatic Identification System AIS):

  • India and France formalised the development and launch of AIS, a unique constellation of around 10 low-earth orbit satellites that will continuously provide maritime surveillance and security.

  • They will cover a wide belt around the globe and specifically focus on the Indian Ocean region where France, with its Reunion Islands, has a strategic interest.

Source : MEA
International

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

ANUBHAV AWARDS, 2019
Union Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions presented the ANUBHAV awards, 2019.

About:

  • The Anubhav portal was created on the call of Prime Minister in 2015 with a vision to preserve rich experience of retired official in digital form.

  • It is envisaged that their rich experience will be preserved for future generation to learn and explore knowledge on various aspects of governance, culture & development history of a particular region.

  • An award scheme to incentivize and encourage more retiring employees to submit their write-ups was introduced in 2016.

  • Since then, three annual awards ceremony have been organized. This was fourth annual award in the series.

Source : PIB
Awards and Recognitions

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

NATIONAL FOOD LABORATORY (NFL), DELHI
Union Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the first ever state-of-the-art National Food Laboratory-Delhi, NCR of the FSSAI at Ghaziabad.

About: 

  • The National Food Laboratory (NFL), Delhi, NCR, former Food Research & Standardized Laboratory (FRSL, Ghaziabad) is one of the two premier referral laboratories under the direct administrative control of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

  • NFL-Delhi, NCR, renovated and operationalized under a unique Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model is the first of its kind venture in the food sector.

  • It also houses state-of-the-art collaborative training centres namely The Food Safety Solution Centre (FSSC) and Centre for Microbiological Analysis Training (C-MAT).

  • FSSAI will also be establishing NFLs at Mumbai and Chennai in the near future along the same lines.

Health

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

RICE FORTIFICATION PILOT SCHEME
In a meeting held between Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog and Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, it was decided that the Department of Food and Public Distribution will prepare a roadmap for extending the pilot scheme of Rice Fortification all over the country so as to tackle Malnutrition.

About: 

  • Government of India has approved the Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on “Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System” on 14.02.2019 - rice to be fortified with Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin B-12. 

  • The Pilot Scheme has been approved for a period of three year beginning 2019-20. 

  • The Pilot Scheme at present focusses on 15 districts during the initial phase of implementation. 

  • The operational responsibilities for implementation of the Pilot Scheme lie with the States/UTs. 

Source : Economic Times
Health

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

FIRST WORLD YOUTH CONFERENCE ON KINDNESS
The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the first World Youth Conference on Kindness in New Delhi on August 23, 2019.

About:

  • Organised by: The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

  • Objective: To impart critical competencies (i.e. empathy, compassion, mindfulness and critical inquiry) in global youth to enable them to transform themselves and build long-lasting peace in their communities.

  • Participants: Youth leaders, representing over 27 countries, are participating in this Conference.

  • Venue: New Delhi. 

Source : PIB
International

Current Affairs
Aug. 24, 2019

INDUS FOOD
TPCI will launch two sub shows ‘Indusfood-Tech’ and ‘Indusfood-Chem’ in the forthcoming 2020 edition to be held in in Greater Noida (NCR Delhi), on January 08-10, 2020. This will establish Indusfood as a fully integrated food processing lifecycle event.

About: 

  • Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) with the support of Dept. of Commerce, Govt. of India is organising the flagship international food show cum Reverse Buyer Seller Meet – “Indus Food” at India Exposition Centre, Greater Noida India.

  • The is the largest of its kind food export promotion event organised in India with supported by Department of Commerce with over 400 plus Indian Food & Beverage Manufacturers and Exporters exhibiting and over 500 pre-screened hosted buyers invited from across the world.

Economy

Aug. 23, 2019

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

ADRATIKLIT BOULAHFA
Scientists from the London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) have described Adratiklit boulahfa, a new species of stegosaurus.

About: 

  • How old? Adratiklit boulahfa, a new species of stegosaurus is dated to 168 million years ago, which makes it the oldest known member of that group of dinosaurs ever known.

  • Location of discovery: It is also the first stegosaurus to be found in North Africa. Its remains were discovered in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco.

  • Genus: The scientists believe it is not only a new species but also belongs to a new genus. Adratiklit’s closest relatives is the European stegosaurus Dacentrurus.

  • Name: The name is derived from the words used by the Berber (an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa) for mountains (Adras), lizard (tiklit) and and the area where the specimen was found (Boulahfa).

  • Features: The Adratiklit was armoured and herbivorous, and lived on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which later split into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica.

Source : Indian Express
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

INNOVATORS GROWTH PLATFORM (IGP)
The SEBI Board has approved the norms for migration of companies listed on the Innovators Growth Platform (IGP) earlier called startups to regular trade category of the main board.

The key proposals approved by the Board are as follows:

  • The Company should have been listed on the Innovators Growth Platform for a minimum period of one year.

  • At the time of making the application for trading under regular category of main board, the number of shareholders should be minimum 200.

  • The company  should  have  profitability/  net worth  track  record  of  3  years  or have  75%  of  its  capital  as  on the  date  of  application  for  migration  held  by Qualified Institutional Buyers.

  • Minimum promoters contribution shall be 20% which shall be locked in for 3 years.

Important Info :

The institutional trading platform (ITP) was introduced by SEBI in 2015 to enable listings of new-age companies and startups. In 2018, SEBI renamed the ITP as Innovator Growth Platform (IGP). 

Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

BUYBACK
The SEBI has relaxed buyback norms for listed firms that own NBFCs and housing finance companies (HFCs) subsidiaries. This move will free conglomerates from the restrictive debt-to-equity ratio (DER) norms calculated on a consolidated basis for guiding buybacks.

About:

  • A buyback is a mechanism through which a listed company buys back shares from the market.

  • Method: A buyback can be done either through open market purchases or through the tender offer route.
    • Under the open market mechanism, the company buys back the shares from the secondary market. Historically, most companies had preferred the open market route.

    • Under tender offer, shareholders can tender their shares during the buyback offer.



  • Benefits:
    • Buybacks are typically done when a company has a significant cash reserve and feels that the shares are not fairly valued at the current market price. Since the shares that are bought back are extinguished, the stake of the remaining shareholders rise.

    • Since a buyback is usually done at a price higher than the then prevailing market price, shareholders get an attractive exit option, especially when the shares are thinly traded.

    • It is also more tax-efficient than dividends as a way to reward shareholders.

    • Promoters also use this mechanism to tighten their grip on the firm.



Source : Livemint
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

INSIDER TRADING
The SEBI Board has approved the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2019.

Salient features of the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2019 are as follows: 

  • Informant: An informant means a person voluntarily submitting a form detailing credible, complete and original information relating to an act of insider trading.

  • Office of  Informant  Protection(‘OIP’):  An  independent  office shall be established by SEBI for receipt  and  registration  of  the Voluntary  Information  Disclosure  Form (‘VIDF’) and serve as a medium of exchange between the informant/legal representative and the Board.

  • Confidentiality of Informant: The confidentiality regarding the identity of the informant and information provided would be protected through the OIP.

  • Reward: Reward would be given in case the information provided leads to a disgorgement  of  at  least  Rupees  one crore. The  total  amount  of monetary  reward  shall  be 10  % of  the  money collected  but shall not exceed Rs one crore.

  • Investor Protection and Education Fund (‘IPEF’): IPEF shall be the designated fund from which the reward would be paid.

  • Exemption under  RTI: The original information provided by the informant shall be exempted from disclosure under section 8(1)(g) and 8(1)(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

  • Protection against victimization: Market participants would be  required  to incorporate  in  their  Code  of  Conduct,  suitable provisions  to  ensure  that  no  employee  who  files  a  VIDF  is harassed, or discriminated against.

  • Vexatious or frivolous complaints: In case the OIP determines that the information submitted   is  frivolous   or   vexatious, SEBI may initiate appropriate action against the informant under the securities laws and any other applicable law.

Source : All India Radio
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

HENLEY PASSPORT INDEX
The latest Henley Passport Index ranks India at 86, down five places from 81 in 2018.

About:

  • The Henley Passport Index ranks passports based on their power and mobility.

  • It is prepared by Henley and Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm. The index gathers data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that manages inter-airline cooperation globally.

  • Passport rankings point towards the strength of diplomatic relations between countries.

Rankings for 2019:

  • For 2019, Japan and Singapore are ranked 1 and have a score of 189.

  • India’s score is 58 and it ranks 86 in the list, down five places from 81 in 2018. Last year, an Indian passport holder had visa-free access to 60 countries; this year, she has access to 58.

  • Afghanistan holds the weakest passport, with a score and ranking of 25 and 109, respectively. Syria and Pakistan follow with rankings of 107 and 106 and scores of 29 and 30, respectively. 

Important Info :

Other passport indices?

  • The Henley Passport Index is not the only index available on passport rankings.
  • Others include the Arton Passport Index, which ranks United Arab Emirates’s passport at rank 1 as per its most recent rankings. As per this index, India has a mobility score (MS) of 67. It is powered by Arton Capital, a global financial advisory.
Source : Indian Express
International

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

ZONAL COUNCILS
Union Home Minister, Amit Shah chaired the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Panaji (Goa). The meeting was also attended by Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Administrator of the UTs of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

Five Zonal Councils:

  • The five Zonal Councils - Western, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Central - were set up under the States Reorganization Act, 1956 to foster Inter-State co-operation and co-ordination among the States.

  • The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning, border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport etc.

Organisational Structure Of Zonal Councils:

  • Chairman - The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.

  • Vice Chairman - The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.

  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.

Committees Of Zonal Councils:

  • Each Zonal Council has set up a Standing Committee consisting of Chief Secretaries of the member States of their respective Zonal Councils.

  • These Standing Committees meet from time to time to resolve the issues or to do necessary ground work for further meetings of the Zonal Councils.

Important Info :

North Eastern Council?

  • The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils.
  • Their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.
  • The State of Sikkim has also been included in the North Eastern Council vide North Eastern Council (Amendment) Act, 2002.
Source : PIB
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

OCEAN ENERGY
Minister of New and Renewable Energy has approved a proposal to declare ocean energy as Renewable Energy.

About:

  • The New and Renewable Energy Ministry has clarified to all stakeholders that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave and ocean thermal energy conversion will be considered as Renewable Energy.

  • It will be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).

  • The decision will give a boost to ocean energy in the country. 

Important Info :

Technology: Ocean energy is mostly exploited following technologies – 

  • Tidal Energy: The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon. The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy.
  • Wave Energy: Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor.
  • Current Energy: Marine current is ocean water moving in one direction. This ocean current is known as the Gulf Stream. Tides also create currents that flow in two directions. Kinetic energy can be captured from the Gulf Stream and other tidal currents with submerged turbines
  • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC): OTEC, uses ocean temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 meters, to extract energy. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy.
Source : All India Radio
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

‘SAN-SADHAN’ HACKATHON
The Government of India has invited applications for its latest initiative called the ‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon – for Divyangjan accessible toilets.

About: 

  • Objective: ‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon is an initiative under the Swachh Bharat Mission to ease lives of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) by making toilets smarter, more accessible, and easier to use. 

  • Bodies involved: The initiative is being organized jointly by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and 91springboard. 

  • Strategy: 
    • In this hackathon, the government is looking for smart, scalable and innovative solutions for economical toilets for individual and community use in rural and urban contexts.

    • Technology enthusiasts have been called to apply by or before August 28th, 2019. The shortlisted applicants will work to develop their prototype during the two-day Hackathon scheduled to be held in the month of September in New Delhi.



Source : PIB
Social Issues

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

SABKA VISHWAS-LEGACY DISPUTE RESOLUTION SCHEME, 2019
The Sabka Vishwas-Legacy Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2019, which was announced in the Union Budget 2019-20, has now been notified. It will be operationalized from 1st September 2019 and would continue till 31st December 2019.

About: 

  • Government expects the Scheme to be availed by large number of taxpayers for closing their pending disputes relating to legacy Service Tax and Central Excise cases that are now subsumed under GST so they can focus on GST. 

  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty. 
    • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Taxthat are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums. 

    • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law. 



  • For all the cases pending in adjudication or appeal – in any forum - this Scheme offers a relief of 70% from the duty demand if it is Rs.50 lakhs or less and 50% if it is more than Rs. 50 lakhs. 

Source : Livemint
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 23, 2019

IMPACT OF NITRATE EXPOSURE IN INFANCY ON INDIAN WOMEN’S HEIGHT
In a new World Bank report that looks at the impact of water pollution worldwide, one aspect covered is the long-term impact of nitrate exposure experienced during infancy.

Key findings:

  • Nitrate levels in groundwater aquifers in India exceeded permissible levels in more than 50 % of the districts across 19 states.

  • While short-term exposure to nitrates has almost negligible effect on adult height, cumulative exposure over the first 3 years of life has considerable impact.

  • An infant girl who has been exposed to nitrate levels above the safety threshold in the first three years experiences a 1-2 cm decrease in her adult height.

  • Given that female adult height in India has increased by approximately 4 cm over the last century, a 1-2 cm loss means that nitrate exposure in infancy can wipe out almost half of this gain in height.

Important Info :
  • Nitrate pollution is caused by the overuse of nitrogenous fertilisers which, while boosting yields, can be harmful if they leach into water or air.
  • In India, the Green Revolution of the 1960s kick-started the use of synthetic fertilisers, the report notes.
Source : Indian Express
Social Issues

Aug. 22, 2019

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

REVIEW OF SEBI (FOREIGN PORTFOLIO INVESTORS) REGULATIONS
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has simplified the compliance requirements for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), to make the regulatory framework more investor friendly.

Key aspects of revised regulations include: 

  • To simplify the registration process and to bring about ease in compliance requirements  for FPIs, the broad based eligibility criteria for institutional foreign investors has been done away with.

  • On reviewing the risk profiling of the FPIs, it is decided that the FPIs may be re-categorized into two categories, instead of the present requirement of three categories.

  • Registration for multiple investment manager  (MIM)  structures  has  been simplified.

  • Considering that the central banks are relatively long term, low risk investors directly/ indirectly managed by the Government, the central banks that are not the members of BIS (Bank for International Settlement) shall also be eligible for FPI registration.

  • The entities established in the international financial services center (IFSC) be deemed to have met the jurisdiction criteria for FPIs.

  • FPIs shall be permitted for off-market transfer of securities which are unlisted, suspended or illiquid, to a domestic or foreign investor.

  • Offshore funds floated by Indian Mutual Funds shall now be permitted to invest in India after obtaining registration as FPI.

  • The requirements for  issuance  and  subscription of Offshore  Derivative Instruments (ODIs) have been rationalized.

Source : The Hindu
Economy

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

KUTCH DESERT
A team of Indian and French researchers have concluded that the hot arid desert of Kutch was once a humid sub-tropical forest with a variety of birds, freshwater fish and possibly giraffes and rhinos.

About:

  • Their conclusions are based on the discovery of a tranche of vertebrate fossils from nearly 14 million years ago in a geological period known as the Miocene.

  • The fossils, consisting mostly of ribs, and parts of teeth and bones, were unearthed from Palasava village of Rapar taluk in Kutch, Gujarat.

  • Overall, the fossil finds from Palasava suggest that a rich diversity of fauna and flora sustained in warm, humid/wet, tropical to sub-tropical environmental conditions during the Middle Miocene (about 14 Mya).

  • Geological changes eventually closed off the salt-flats’ connection to the sea and the region turned into a large lake, eventually becoming salty wetlands.

Significance:

  • The findings showed Kutch to be a potential treasure trove of mammal fossils with possible continuity to vertebrate fossils in the Siwalik, spanning Pakistan to Nepal.

  • The findings point to clues on how mammals dispersed between Africa and the Indian subcontinent when part of India was in the Gondwanaland supercontinent that existed nearly 300 million years ago.

 

Important Info :

Miocene?

  • The Miocene is the first geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago (Ma). The Miocene is preceded by the Oligocene and is followed by the Pliocene.
Source : The Hindu
Geography

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

CABINET SECRETARY
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of Rajiv Gauba as the new Cabinet Secretary with a tenure of two years from 30th of this month. Mr. Gauba who is a 1982 batch IAS officer of Jharkhand cadre will replace P.K. Sinha.

Cabinet Secretariat: 

  • Administration: 
    • The Cabinet Secretariat functions directly under the Prime Minister. 

    • The administrative head of the Secretariat is the Cabinet Secretary who is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board. 



  • The business allocated to Cabinet Secretariat under Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 includes: (i) Secretarial assistance to the Cabinet and Cabinet Committees; and (ii) Rules of Business. 

  • Functions: 
    • The Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for the administration of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961 and Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 facilitating smooth transaction of business in Ministries/ Departments. 

    • The Secretariat assists in decision-making in Government by ensuring Inter-Ministerial coordination, ironing out differences amongst Ministries/Departments and evolving consensus. 

    • Management of major crisis situations in the country is also one of the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat. 



Source : All India Radio
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

OP-BLUE FREEDOM
After the success of the Chandigarh leg, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and former India football captain Baichung Bhutia flagged off the Delhi leg of Op-Blue Freedom.

About: 

  • Op-Blue Freedom is a nation-wide adaptive scuba diving programme for people with disabilities as well as the able bodied.

  • This is an initiative in which a group of armed forces veterans train adventure enthusiasts in special forces skills like survival techniques, emergency first response skills, unarmed combat, endurance and fitness.

Source : All India Radio
Sports

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

CATALINA CHANNEL
Madhya Pradesh para swimmer Satendra Singh Lohia has become the first Asian swimmer to cross the Catalina Channel of America. Satendra holds the Asian record of crossing both the English and Catalina channels.

About:

  • Stretching between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles in California, the Catalina Channel is 21 miles long.

  • It's comparable to the English Channel in terms of distance and water conditions, although it’s a little warmer. 

Important Info :

Santa Catalina Island?

  • Santa Catalina Island is a rocky island off the coast of the U.S. state of California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. The island name is often shortened to Catalina Island or just Catalina.
  • Santa Catalina is part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago and lies within Los Angeles County.
Source : All India Radio
Geography

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

ILLEGAL TRADE IN TIGER
A new report by Traffic, an environmental NGO has quantified the illegal global trade in tigers and tiger parts over a 19-year period between 2000 and 2018.

Key findings: 

  • Although Tigers are listed in Appendix I of CITES, which bans all commercial international trade for member countries, recent years have revealed an increase in tiger captive breeding to fuel demand for various tiger products.

  • Overall, 2,359 tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories globally. These occurred from a total of 1,142 seizure incidents.

  • Apart from live tigers and whole carcasses, tiger parts were seized in various forms such as skin, bones or claws.

  • On average, 60 seizures were recorded annually, accounting for almost 124 tigers seized each year.

  • The top three countries with the highest number of seizure incidents were India, followed by China and Indonesia.

  • India is the country with the highest number of seizure incidents (463, or 40% of all seizures) as well as tigers seized (625).

  • In terms of various body parts seized, India had the highest share among countries for tiger skins (38%), bones (28%) and claws and teeth (42%).

Source : Indian Express
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

STATE ROOFTOP SOLAR ATTRACTIVENESS INDEX (SARAL)
Union Power Minister launched the State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index (SARAL) during the Review Planning and Monitoring (RPM) Meeting with States and State Power Utilities.

About: 

  • Objective of Index: Incentivise rooftop solar by creating healthy competition among the States.

  • Bodies involved: SARAL has been designed collaboratively by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Ernst & Young (EY).

  • Methodology: The Index evaluates Indian states based on their attractiveness for rooftop development. SARAL currently captures five key aspects –
    • Robustness of policy framework

    • Implementation environment

    • Investment climate

    • Consumer experience

    • Business ecosystem



  • Rankings: Karnataka has been placed at the first rank in the Index. Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have got 2nd, 3rd and 4th rank respectively.

Important Info :

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, of which 100 GW solar power is to be operational by March 2022, of which 40 GW is expected to come from grid connected solar rooftops. 

Source : PIB
Environment & Ecology

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

NISHTHA
Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister launched NISHTHA to build capacities of 42 Lakh government teachers across the country.

About: 

  • Full name: National Mission to improve Learning Outcomes at the Elementary level (NISHTHA). 

  • What is it? NISHTHA is the world’s largest teachers’ training programme of its kind in the world. 

  • Objective: To motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students. 

  • Features: Under it, teachers will develop their skills on various aspects related to Learning Outcomes, School Safety and Security, ICT in teaching-learning including Artificial Intelligence, Environmental Concerns and School Based Assessment in a joyful learning manner. 

  • Coverage: It aims to build the capacities of around 42 lakh participants covering all teachers and Heads of Schools at the elementary level in all Government schools, faculty members of SCERTs, DIETs as well as Block Resource Coordinators and Cluster Resource Coordinators in all States/UTs. 

  • Strategy: Training will be conducted directly by 33120 Key Resource Persons (KRPs) and State Resource Persons (SRP) identified by the State and UTs, who will in turn be trained by 120 National Resource Persons identified from NCERT, NIEPA, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), CBSE and NGO. 

Source : PIB
Education

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

IRON AGE SETTLEMENT AT PHUPGAON
The recent excavation carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Maharashtra’s Phupgaon has revealed evidence of an Iron Age settlement in the Vidarbha region.

Location: 

  • The team of ASI took up an intensive survey in the region between Chandur Bazar to Dariyapur of Purna basin at Phupgaon, Amravati district of Maharashtra. 

  • The site is situated in the vast meander of the river Purna, a major tributary of Tapi, which used to be a perennial river, but at present is completely dried-up due to the dam construction in the upper stream. 

Findings:  

  • A total of 9 trenches were taken for excavations, which brought to light the house remains and other associated features like hearth, post-holes and artefacts.

  • The excavation also exposed antiquities like beads of agate-carnelian, jasper, quartz and agate were collected in large quantity. Iron, Copper objects have also been collected from all the trenches. Large quantity of graffiti marks had been observed on the potsherds.

  • Chronologically, the site could be placed between 7th C BCE and 4th C BCE.

Significance:

  • The excavation indicates the presence of sedentary (permanent) settlement, belonging to the Iron Age of Vidarbha.

  • The finding from Phupgaon indicates its contemporaneity with other Iron Age settlements of Vidarbha like Naikund, Mahurjhari, Bhagimori and Thakalkat.

Source : PIB
Culture

Current Affairs
Aug. 22, 2019

e-VBAB NETWORK PROJECT
The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, received Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of Zambia, at Rashtrapati Bhavan on his first state visit to India.

List of MoU/Agreement exchanged during the State Visit:

  • MoU on E-VBAB Network Project

  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Geology and Mineral Resources

  • MoU on cooperation in the field of Defence

  • MoU on cooperation in the field of Arts & Culture

  • MoU between Foreign Service Institute of India and Zambian Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies

  • MoU between Election Commission of India and Electoral Commission of Zambia

Important Info :

e-VBAB Network Project: 

  • In 2018, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) signed an Agreement for the implementation of e-VidyaBharati and e-AarogyaBharati (e-VBAB) Network Project.
  • E-VBAB Network Project is primarily a technological upgrade and extension of the Pan-African e-Network Project (Phase 1) which was implemented in 48 partner countries across Africa from 2009 till 2017.
  • Over the 5 years project duration, e-VBAB Network Project will provide free tele-education courses in various academic disciplines to 4000 students every year from African countries.
  • The e-VBAB Network Project will be completely funded by the Government of India for its entire duration and will be open for participation to all our partner countries in Africa.
Source : PIB
International
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