9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 18, 2019

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Navy’s MiG-29K to take on France’s Rafale-M off Goa

  1. India and France will hold their largest ever naval exercise called ‘Varuna’. The exercise will take place at Goa from 1 May 2019.
  2. The exercise is expected to involve aircraft carriers, destroyer ships, submarines and fighter planes which will make it a mega event to happen in the history of the relationship between the two nations.
  3. The two countries will be deploying their aircraft carriers with India deploying its INS Vikramaditya and Mig-29K.On the other hand, France will be deploying its Charles de gaulle and Rafale-M naval fighter jet.
  4. The two countries have also operationalized their reciprocal military logistics support agreement, which saw French anti-aircraft destroyer FNS Cassard docking at the Mumbai naval port in January.
  5. Under the agreement, Indian warships can access French bases like the Reunion Islands near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

China’s GDP grows at 6.4% in Q1,defies expectations slowdown

  1. China’s economy grew at a steady rate of 6.4% in the first quarter. The improvement in growth is due to (a)industrial production jumped sharply and (b)consumer demand showed signs of improvement.
  2. China has also enhanced its fiscal stimulus to shore up growth by announcing billions of dollars in additional tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
  3. However, the economic downward pressure still persists due to (a)slowing world economy (b)increasing global uncertainty and (c)domestic structural issues.
  4. Further, the United States and China are in the final stage of completing a trade deal. The deal would end the trade war between both the countries that has been escalating since last year.
  5. The trade agreement under discussion will lead to(a)lower tariffs for American goods (b)ease restrictions on American goods such as on farms, automobile and chemical products (c)lower barriers that would allow American companies to operating from China and (d)Reduce trade gap as China will be buying more goods from US.
  6. In return for Chinese concessions, US will also remove all the trade sanctions which it had imposed on China since 2018.

China unmoved by U.S. bid to discuss Masood Azhar in UNSC

  1. China has dismissed the reports that the US,UK and France has served an ultimatum until April 23 to lift its technical hold on designating Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
  2. However, China has said that the issue is heading towards a settlement and has asked the US not to force through its own resolution on the matter.
  3. Earlier, US has circulated a draft resolution in the UN Security Council proposing to blacklist Jaish chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
  4. This move came after UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee had failed to designate Azhar as a terrorist after China has repeatedly used its veto power to block the proposal.
  5. The UNSC 1267 Committee was established as a result of resolution 1267 (1999).If an individual or an organisation is included in the list, it leads to(a)countries to freeze the targeted group’s or individual’s assets (b)ban designated individuals from travelling and (c)prevent the supply of weapons, technology and other aid.

Madras High Court upholds President’s decision to cancel Vellore poll

  1. The Madras High Court has upheld the Election Commission’s decision of cancelling polling in Vellore Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu.
  2. Earlier, the President had cancelled polling in Vellore. This decision was taken after the Election Commission had recommended to the President that elections in Vellore be cancelled citing the suspected use of money power to influence voters after huge cash seizures were recovered.
  3. The High court has also said that the EC which has the power to issue notification for conducting elections also has the power to recommend for cancellation if it arrives at the decision that it is necessary to halt the election.
  4. However, EC has no direct powers to cancel or postpone an election. However, Article 324 of the Constitution gives the poll body the superintendency as far as the conduct of free and fair elections is concerned.
  5. Further, various Supreme Court orders have stated that where the law is silent, the EC can invoke Article 324 to ensure elections are conducted without malpractices.

Chenchus believe the fox ushers in fortune

  1. The Chenchu tribal families have succeeded in domesticating the fox. They believe that the fox ushers in fortune. However, the conservation of fox falls under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972, according to which hunting or domesticating it is an offence.
  2. Chenchus are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group(PVTGs). They are forest dwellers whose home is the Nallamala forest range. It spreads across four to five districts in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states.
  3. Chenchus are an aboriginal tribe whose traditional way of life has been based on hunting and gathering.The Chenchus speak the Chenchu language, a member of the Dravidian language family.
  4. The PVTGs are the marginalized section of the Scheduled tribes of India. They are a section who are relatively isolated, educationally and socio-economically backward, living in a habitat far away from amenities.
  5. PVTG is not a Constitutional category, nor are these constitutionally recognized communities. It is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with particularly low development.
  6. The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under (a)pre-agriculture level of technology (b)stagnant or declining population (c)Extremely low literacy and (d)subsistence level of economy.

Mentally ill convict escapes the noose

  1. The Supreme Court has ruled that post-conviction severe mental illness will now be a mitigating factor while deciding appeals for commutation of death penalty.
  2. This ruling came by the apex court while deciding the plea of a death row convict who was sentenced for rape and murder of two minors. The Supreme Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.
  3. The apex Court has said that there cannot be a set of disorders/disabilities for evaluating severe mental illness. However, a test of severity can be a guiding factor for recognizing those mental illnesses which qualify for an exemption.
  4. The Court also considered India’s international obligations to not punish mental health patients with cruel sentences. Further, the court has passed a slew of directions which needs to be considered while assessing appeals of those diagnosed with severe mental illness.
  5. The directions include (a)an assessment of the disability to be conducted by a multi disciplinary team of qualified professionals, with one professional to have expertise in the particular mental illness of the accused (b)The onus would be on the accused to prove that he suffers from the illness and (c)It allowed the state to offer evidence to rebut such claims.
  6. The court has also directed the state prisons to set up a mental health establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison in each State and Union Territory.

Airline regulator to do special safety audit of Indigo airlines

  1. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has ordered a safety audit of domestic airline Indigo over Pratt & Whitney engines. Safety auditing is a core safety management activity, providing a means of identifying potential problems before they have an impact on safety.
  2. In India, Indigo and Go Air operate Pratt & Whitney-powered Airbus A320 neo planes. The aircraft has been facing engine problems since the induction of the United States firm’s engines in the fleet three years ago.
  3. Directorate General of Civil Aviation is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation primarily dealing with safety issues.
  4. The main functions of DGCA are following (a)registration of aircraft, Licensing pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, flight engineers (b)Supervision of Institutes, clubs and schools engaged in in flying training (c)Conducting air crash investigations (d)Formulating guidelines for airplane safety and (e)It serves as nodal agency for coordination with ICAO (International Civil Aviation organisation, a United Nations agency).

India, Vietnam hold naval exercise

  1. The second edition of Indian Navy-Vietnam People Navy Bilateral Exercise (IN – VPN BILAT EX) was concluded. The four-day maritime exercise was held at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam with an aim to boost operational cooperation.
  2. The exercise involved a composite training programme in the fields of submarine, aviation and dockyard training.
  3. This exercise was undertaken as part of the ongoing Overseas Deployment of Eastern Fleet ships to South East Asian countries.
  4. This exercise is a significant step in strengthening mutual confidence and interoperability as well as sharing best practices between the Indian and the Vietnam People Navies.
  5. In 2016,during the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Vietnam, the relations between the two countries were elevated to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Navy reviews outcome of Sea Vigil exercise

  1. The debrief of Exercise Sea Vigil was held on 16 Apr, 2019. The debrief was chaired by Vice Admiral who highlighted the significant achievements made during the exercise.
  2. Exercise Sea vigil is Indian Navy’s large-scale coastal defence exercise to test the robustness of the entire coastal security apparatus.
  3. The aim of the exercise is to provide a realistic assessment of our strengths and weakness that will further help in strengthening of maritime security and in turn national security.
  4. The exercise has witnessed the simultaneous activation of the coastal security apparatus across the country involving maritime stakeholders at the Centre and all the 13 Coastal States and Union Territories.

U.S. astronaut to spend 11 months in space

  1. NASA has announced extended assignments for astronauts at the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Christina Koch will spend 11 months at the International Space Station, setting a record for women.
  2. The current record-holder for female space fliers is by Peggy Whitson who had spent 288 days.
  3. The world’s space endurance record is held by Russia. A Russian cosmonaut-physician spent nearly 15 months on a single mission aboard the former Mir space station in the mid-1990s.
  4. The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA(USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA(Japan), ESA (European Union) and CSA(Canada).

About 150 Great Indian Bustards in Jaisalmer area of desert park: Report

  1. According to Rajasthan state forest department, there are 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) in the Jaisalmer area of the Desert National Park (DNP) in Thar, Rajasthan. This was submitted following a directive of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  2. Earlier, NGT had directed the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to submit the report in two months on a petition filed by the Centre for Wildlife and Environment Litigation (CWEL).
  3. The petitioner had said that the wind power projects and transmission lines were proving to be a major hazard for the survival of the species in the desert area.
  4. The Great Indian Bustard or Indian bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. It is found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in India.
  5. A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds.
  6. The bird is a critically endangered species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
  7. These birds are protected under CITES Appendix I, Schedule 1(Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002).Further, the Protected areas for Great Indian Bustard are (a)Desert National Park Sanctuary(Rajasthan) (b) Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary(Andhra Pradesh) and (c) Karera Wildlife Sanctuary(Madhya Pradesh).

Mars base simulator unveiled in Gobi Desert

  1. Chinese company C-Space has set up a Mars-based stimulator in the Gobi Desert. It acts an educational facility and hosts students. The company also plans to open the stimulator for tourists in 2020.
  2. China had also established a village simulating the environmental conditions on Mars, in northwest China’s Qinghai Province. The village was constructed in red rock area of the Qaidam basin in western Qinghai, which has been dubbed “the most Martian place on Earth.”
  3. These projects are part of China’s Mars exploration preparation. China has planned to send a probe to the Mars in 2020.
  4. Earlier in 2019, China had achieved a milestone after its spacecraft Chang’e-4 made first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon

Average rainfall hides weather extremes: report

  1. A report titled ‘The Face of Disasters 2019’, published by Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) has noted that IMD’s normal monsoon prediction gives only a myopic view. It does not give insights on extremes of floods and droughts across India.
  2. Recently, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said monsoon rains are expected to be normal in 2019. ‘Normal’ rainfall is defined as 96%-104% of the long period average (LPA), with a model error of plus or minus 5%. The LPA is the weighted average of rainfall that India received in June-September from 1951 to 2000 and is pegged at 89 cm.
  3. The IMD issues two long-range forecasts for the southwest monsoon. The first stage forecast is issued in April and the second stage in early June. The second stage forecast covers the four homogenous regions of the country viz. Central India, Peninsular India, Eastern India and North-western India. IMD provides monthly monsoon rainfall forecast for the months from June to September.
  4. However, the forecast does not provide a comprehensive picture. For example, in 2018 monsoon season, Punjab had experienced a “normal” monsoon with rainfall just 7% higher than the average rainfall in the State. However, that figure ignored the fact that Ropar had 71% excess rainfall while Ferozepur district experienced a 74% shortage.

Rain, thunderstorm leave over 50 dead in four States

  1. Heavy rainfall accompanied with thunderstorm and lightning has killed more than 50 people across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  2. The government has approved Rs. 2 lakh PM’s National Relief Fund for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the unseasonal rain in different states.
  3. In 1948, Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.
  4. At present, the resources of the PMNRF are utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots. The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support
  5. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that the unseasonal rainfall was caused by western disturbance. Western disturbance (WD) is an extra-tropical storm which originates in the Mediterranean region. It is a low pressure system that travels from the western to the eastern direction. It brings unseasonal winter rain to the north and north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent.
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April 18, 2019

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