9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 8, 2019

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Highway ban disrupts life in J&K

  1. The first day of closure of the 271-km Baramulla-Udhampur national highway for civilian traffic has disrupted the distribution of essentials and halted all passenger services.
  2. The Jammu and Kashmir administration and Centre had announced that the national highway from Baramulla to Udhampur will be put out of bounds for civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays till May 31. No civilian traffic would be allowed during the movement of the paramilitary forces.
  3. The ban on the civilian traffic will be in force for the two days — Sunday and Wednesday — from 4 am to 5 pm till May 31. It will be effective from Baramulla to Udhampur through Srinagar, Qazigund, Jawahar-Tunnel, Banihal and Ramban.
  4. The government has cited the recent suicide bombing of a security forces convoy in Pulwama which killed 40 CRPF personnel as the reason for temporarily blocking part of the highway. Further, the decision was also made in view of the upcoming lok sabha elections.
  5. However, the restriction on civilian traffic during military convoy movement has drawn ire from several quarters with political parties in J&K asking for the order to be revoked immediately.
  6. The Jammu-Srinagar-Uri national highway(NH-1A) runs 370 km. The national highway is not just the only road link that connects Kashmir to the outside world but also the key highway that connects Srinagar with the southern and northern districts of the Valley. The highway passes through five of the 10 districts of the Valley.
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Trinamool, BJP seek credit for enclave exchange

  1. Political parties in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district has raised the issue of enclaves and are demanding votes seeking credit for the land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh in 2015.
  2. The Cooch Behar constituency includes 51 enclaves which became part of India in 2015 after the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh. Enclaves refers to territories inside India that actually belongs to Bangladesh and vice versa.
  3. The Prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed the Land Boundary Agreement in 1974 to exchange enclaves and simplify their international border. A revised version of the agreement was adopted by the two countries on 7 May 2015 when the Parliament of India passed the 100th Amendment to the Indian Constitution.
  4. Under this agreement, which was ratified in 2015, India received 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in the Indian mainland while Bangladesh received 111 Indian enclaves in the Bangladeshi mainland. The enclave residents were allowed to either continue residing at their present location or move to the country of their choice.
  5. The exchange of enclaves was to be implemented in phases between 31 July 2015 and 30 June 2016.The enclaves were exchanged at midnight on 31 July 2015 and the transfer of enclave residents was completed on 30 November 2015. After the Land Boundary Agreement, India lost around 40 square kilometres to Bangladesh.
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Angel investors get further relief

  1. The government has announced that it will be mandatory to disclose holdings in unlisted companies while filing tax returns. This data will be matched with filings of startups which have been asked to disclose the list of investors along with some of their details. This may give some relief to the angel investors from notices of the income tax department.
  2. This new filing mechanism for startups will make it simpler for startups. With the two sets of data in their possession, tax authorities need not approach investors with notices. It will also ensure faceless assessment while trying to ensure that there will be no undue scrutiny of honest taxpayers.
  3. Earlier, Several startups had received notices from the I-T department asking them to clear taxes on the angel funding they raised, and in some cases levying a penalty for not paying Angel Tax.
  4. Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an Angel investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
  5. Angel funds refers to a money pool created by high net worth individuals or companies (generally called as angel investors), for investing in business startups. They invest at very early-stage of businesses where other institutional investors such as venture capital funds or private equity funds hesitate to invest
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100 years on, UK may not apologise for Jallianwala

  1. India is still hopeful of an apology from the U.K government as 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre approaches. Last year, UK Foreign Secretary had said that he would give consideration to the suggestion that the U.K. should mark the anniversary by seeking forgiveness from the Indian people for one of the worst crimes of the colonial period.
  2. Jallianwala Bagh massacre is also known as the Amritsar Massacre. On 13th April 1919, thousands of people were gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
  3. Colonel Reginald Dyer had announced curfew and a ban on all processions that even prohibited a group of 4 or more people to meet publicly. However, General Dyer sensed the number of people present there and the secret meeting that was about to take place.
  4. Thus, he arrived with armed troops and ordered to open fire. The troops were ordered to start shooting, this heinous act of violence resulted in extreme mass killing.
  5. The British government had then appointed the Hunter Commission to inquire into the happenings. The ineffective inquiry and the initial accolades for Dyer by the House of Lords fuelled widespread anger was one of the causes of the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920–22.
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For second time, India declines China’s invite for BRI forum

  1. India has turned down an official invite from China to attend the second Belt and Road Forum meet scheduled to take place later this month.
  2. India had boycotted the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in 2017 after protesting against the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) overriding India’s sovereignty concerns.
  3. China has hoped that India would review its position on BRI and participate in the Forum after the remarkable turnaround in ties last year, as evident from the first informal summit between Indian PM and Chinese President In Wuhan in April 2018.
  4. However, the progress made in Wuhan summit got weakened after China’s decision to again put on technical hold a UN resolution to ban Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar. This was the fourth time China had blocked the ban on Azhar.
  5. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious programme to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks along six corridors with the aim of improving (a)regional integration, (b)increasing trade and (c)stimulating economic growth.
  6. India along with the US and several other countries have been highlighting the concerns over the BRI projects which will leave a number of smaller countries in debt traps. The concerns grew louder after China took over Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on a 99-year lease as debt swap.
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Maldives: MDP headed for big win in parliamentary polls

  1. Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) has got an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary elections held recently.
  2. Preliminary results have shown that the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President Mohamed Nasheed have won more than 60 seats in the 87-member parliament.
  3. This is for the first time when a single party has won the majority on its own in Parliament since multi-party democracy was established in 2008.
  4. Further, In the run up to the polls, Maldives Democratic Party had promised voters to investigate debts to China, which it fears could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy.
  5. The increased Chinese investments in the Maldives had made India wary given that India has traditionally held the Indian Ocean region as part of its strategic sphere of influence.
  6. Former President Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2015 but he had left the Maldives a year later, after being granted prison leave for medical treatment in Britain. The charges were dropped by the Supreme Court after President Solih came into power, with judges saying there was no basis for the charges.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

About 85% of Ujjwala beneficiaries in 4 States still use earthen stoves

  1. A recent survey by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics has found that 85% of the beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan still use solid fuels for cooking. Among the surveyed households 53% exclusively used the chulha, while 32% used both.
  2. Launched in 2016, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. It aims to safeguard the health of women & children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel – LPG. The scheme provides free LPG connections to economically weaker families. The connections are issued in the name of women of the households.
  3. Under the scheme, cash assistance of Rs.1600 is given to the beneficiaries to get a deposit-free new connection. Further, interest free loan is provided to purchase stove and refill by Oil Marketing Companies.
  4. The study has observed affordability is a major concern with the scheme. Though, free LPG connections are provided, refilling charges of LPG cylinders remain very high and unaffordable for the poor households. The households thus opt for solid cooking fuels.
  5. Gender inequalities is another factor which influences the decision for opting solid cooking fuel over LPG. The study has noted that since women are not generally economic decision makers in the household, the shift to LPG usage is hindered.
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‘One more official in each booth will cut VVPAT delay’

  1. Opposition parties have argued in the Supreme Court that deployment of one more official and an extra worktable in each polling booth will ‘substantially reduce’ the 5.2-day delay a proposed 50% VVPAT verification will cause.
  2. The opposition parties had moved to the SC demanding the random verification of at least 50% Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) using Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in every Assembly segment or constituency. They have argued that this would increase voter confidence and make the electoral process more transparent.
  3. However, the Election Commission had objected the opposition parties’ demand and argued before the SC that increasing VVPAT verification to 50% would delay Low Sabha election results 5.2 days.
  4. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. At present, VVPAT slips in one randomly chosen polling station per constituency are tallied with EVM results.
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Swiss protest over global warming

  1. Recently, demonstrations against climate change had been organised across several cities in Switzerland. The demonstrations were organised by an alliance of green activist groups in Switzerland, including Greenpeace, Swiss Youth for Climate.
  2. The climate change protests in Switzerland were in part inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year old school girl who has been protesting against inaction on climate change.
  3. She is the founder of the Youth Strike for Climate movement under the #Fridays for Future. She has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019.
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Fungus immune to drugs is secretly sweeping the globe

  1. A mysterious and dangerous fungal infection called Candida aurishas emerged around the world. The infection has been reported predominantly among patients in healthcare facilities.
  2. Candida auris is a fungus that when gets into bloodstream causes serious infections and can life threatening. The fungus was first identified in 2009 in a patient in Japan. Increasing numbers of infections have been identified in multiple countries since 2009. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA has added it to a list of germs deemed “urgent threats.”
  3. A major concern with the fungus is that it is resistant to many antifungal medications commonly used to treat Candida infections. Of late, fungi, just like bacteria are growing resistance to drugs and thus adding to the concern over antimicrobial resistance (AMR). According to public health experts the rampant use of antifungals in agriculture sector is a major contributing factor to antifungal resistance.
  4. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and anti malarials) from working against it. AMR threatens the effective prevention and treatment of increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises AMR as a serious threat to global public health.
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Yellow weather warning for Himachal

  1. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow weather warning for rain and hailstorm in Himachal Pradesh.
  2. The IMD issues colour-coded warnings to alert the public ahead of severe or hazardous weather conditions that can cause disruption or damage.
  3. IMD uses four colour codes to indicate various categories of alerts. These colour codes are a) green, b) yellow, c) amber and d) red. These colour codes signify the levels of caution to be taken
  4. Green indicates “no warning” and therefore no actions to be taken. No advisory is issued in such cases.
  5. Yellow indicates “be updated” i.e. keeping a watch on the weather situation as it may deteriorate. Yellow is the least dangerous of the weather warnings.
  6. Amber indicates “be prepared”. It implies there is an increased likelihood of extremely bad weather. IMD advises people to be alerted. Further, government agencies should be prepared to manage situations arising out of severe weather conditions.
  7. Red indicates “Take action”. Red warning demands necessary actions to be taken by different agencies.
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No end to discolouration of Periyar

  1. Discolouration of water of the Periyar River, Kerala has continued unprecedently, thus raising concerns among environmentalists. Environmentalists allege that that discolouration was caused due to excess discharge of chemical wastes into the river by industries located on the banks.
  2. The Periyar River is the longest river in Kerala. It originates from Sivagiri Hills of Western Ghats and flows through the Periyar National Park and drains into the Periyar Lake.
  3. According to environmentalists, the discolouration is due to the poor quality of water as a result of eutrophication. Eutrophication is the enrichment of a lake or other water body with chemical nutrients, typically compounds containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or both.
  4. Eutrophication occurs naturally in lake as they age through the geological time. However, human activities accelerate the rate and extent of eutrophication. Runoff from agriculture and development, pollution from septic systems and sewers, and other human-related activities increase the flux of both inorganic nutrients and organic substances into lakes or water bodies thus resulting in eutrophication.
  5. Excessive nutrients in water bodies result in algal bloom- rapid increase in the population of algae. Algal blooms limit light penetration, thus reducing growth and resulting in death of plants in littoral zones. Further when algae die and decay, it results in a foul smell and discolouration of water.
  6. Further, high rates of photosynthesis associated with eutrophication deplete dissolved inorganic carbon and raise pH to extreme levels in water bodies.
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Lanka plans month-long military exercise from July 1

  1. The Sri Lankan army has said that it will conduct “Exercise – Western Shield” starting from July 01,2019.
  2. The exercise will coincide with 10 years of the end of the island nation’s 30-year civil conflict between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.
  3. The exercise will provide an opportunity for army trainees to march through those areas that are inaccessible to others, except forest conservation authorities.
  4. The army further said that army personnel would also be trained to stay well-attuned, refreshed and upgraded to meet with any future warfare threat.
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Nagaland: 4,700 Konyak Naga women dance together to set world record

  1. Around 4,700 Konyak Naga women came together in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the “Largest Traditional Konyak Dance”.
  2. The programme was organised by Konyak Union at Mon during the ‘Aoleang Monyu festival’. It was organised with an aim to preserve the cultural heritage of the konyak people and also to promote tourism.
  3. During the festival, Konyak people danced to the beats of traditional instruments and sang a ceremonial song for five minutes and one second. The official declaration on the record to be announced by the Guinness authorities is expected within few days.
  4. Konyak is one of the 16 Naga tribes and people of this community live mainly in the Mon district of Nagaland. They are easily distinguishable from other Naga tribes by their pierced ears and tattoos which they have all over their faces, hands, chest, arms and calves.
  5. Aoleng, a festival celebrated in the first week of April to welcome the spring is the biggest festival of the Konyaks. Another festival, ’Lao Ong Mo’, is the traditional harvest festival celebrated in the months of August/September.
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