9 PM Current Affairs Brief – April 9, 2019

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Increase random checking of VVPAT slips to five per Assembly segment, SC directs Election Commission

  1. The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency or Assembly consistency, from one at present. 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.
  2. The Court has observed that the move would ensure greater degree of accuracy and increase satisfaction in the election process of not just the political parties but of the entire electorate.
  3. The SC has not agreed to the demand of 21 Opposition political parties for counting of at least 50% of VVPAT slips with EVMs in every assembly segment.
  4. In opposition to the political parties’ demand, the EC had argued that increasing VVPAT verification to 50% would delay Lok Sabha election results by nearly 6days. Further, EC had said that increasing VVPAT slip counting would require additional election officials, extensive training and capacity building of officials in the field and this would put a strain on EC’s resources.
  5. The Election Commission has assured its confidence on EVM-VVPATs based on a) secure designs of the systems, b) elaborate procedural safeguards adopted for their usage and c) the fact that there have been zero errors in sample verifications till date.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

IIT-Madras tops NIRF higher education rankings

  1. The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has topped overall in the National Institution Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings, 2019. Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and IIT-Delhi has ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively.
  2. In the university category, IISc Bangalore ranked first followed by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. In the management category, IIM- Bengaluru ranked first followed by IIM Ahmedabad.
  3. Delhi University’s Miranda House College has topped the college’s rankings followed by Hindu College and Presidency College in Chennai. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi and National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, have been adjudged as the best medical college and law school respectively.
  4. The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in 2015. It provides for a methodology to rank institutions and universities across India.
  5. The different parameters taken into account for ranking universities and institutions are: a) Teaching Learning and Resources, b) Research Professional Practice & Collaborative Performance, c) Graduation outcome, d) Outreach and Inclusivity and e) perception by the institution by its stakeholders.
  6. The different categories for which rankings are given include Engineering, Management, Pharmacy, Medical, Architecture, Law, Universities and Colleges. The rankings are being published annually since 2016.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

U.S. Treasury official David Malpass named World Bank President

  1. David Malpass has been unanimously elected as the new President of the World Bank.He will be the 13th President and will start his five year term from April 9,2019.He was nominated by the US president.David Malpass was a US government official and economic analyst.He has served as the Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs.
  2. To win the presidency of the World Bank,a candidate must win approval from the institution’s executive board,which has 25 members.The US holds a 16% share of board voting power hence more often it is the US-backed candidate gets elected for the post of the president.
  3. The World Bank was created at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).The World Bank and the IMF are both based in Washington D.C and work closely with each other.
  4. The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects.It comprises two institutions:(a)the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the (b)International Development Association (IDA).The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.
  5. The World Bank’s most recent stated goal is the reduction of poverty.As of November 2018,the largest recipients of World bank loans were India and China through loans from IBRD.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Army gets first batch of Dhanush, home-made Bofors artillery guns, from OFB

  1. The Ordnance Factory Board has delivered the first six indigenously built Dhanush artillery guns to the Army.This is the first of the 114 guns ordered by the Indian army.
  2. Dhanush is the first indigenously built 155 mm x 45 calibre long-range artillery gun with strike range of 38 kilometres.Further,they are improved version of Bofors guns acquired by India between 1987 and 1991.
  3. Dhanush is a versatile weapon that can operate in all climatic conditions. The gun is equipped with (a)inertial navigation-based sighting system, (b)auto-laying facility (c)on-board ballistic computation and (d)advanced day-night direct firing system.The self-propulsion unit allows the gun to negotiate and deploy itself in mountainous terrain with ease.
  4. Dhanush is a joint effort by the OFB,the Army,Defence Research and Development Organisation,Directorate General Quality Assurance,PSUs Bharat Electronics Limited,SAIL and private firms.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

High Court orders release of Manipur television journalist in sedition case

  1. The Manipur High court has ordered the release of the journalist who was arrested under the National Security Act after he made derogatory remarks against Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of state.
  2. The National Security Act was promulgated in 1980.The objective of the Act is to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith.The Act extends to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.
  3. According to the Act,the grounds for preventive detention of a person include: a) to prevent acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India, b) to regulate the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India, c) to prevent from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state, d) to maintain public order, e) to maintain supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.
  4. Preventive detention is the imprisonment of a person with the aim of preventing them from committing further offenses or for maintaining public order.
  5. The NSA act has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it has been used by the police.As per law Commission report from 2001,more than 14 lakh people were held under preventive laws in India.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Superseded Navy vice admiral moves court

  1. Vice Admiral Bimal Verma has moved Armed Forces Tribunal for challenging  his supersession and appointment of Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Navy Chief.
  2. The Vice admiral in his petition has asked why he was overlooked as the next Navy chief despite being the senior most in terms of the length of service.He stated that the government has illegally and in a wrongful manner appointed his junior as the next Navy chief.
  3. Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) is an Indian military tribunal established in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.Its Principal Bench is in New Delhi.It also has 11 regional benches.
  4. It’s objective is to adjudicate complaints wrt appointments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the (a)Army Act,1950 (b)The Navy Act,1957 and (c)the Air Force Act,1950.It can further provide for appeals arising out of the orders of courts martial held under the above-mentioned Acts.
  5. The Composition of Armed Forces Tribunal consists of Judicial Members who are retired High Court Judges. Administrative Members are retired Members of the Armed Forces who have held the rank of Major General/ equivalent or above for a period of three years or more.
  6. Proceedings are conducted as per the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) rules,2008.The Tribunal normally follows the procedure as practiced by High Courts of India.Paramilitary forces including the Assam Rifles and Coast Guard are outside the tribunal’s purview.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

U.S. designates Iran’s elite military unit as a ‘terrorist organisation

  1. The United States has designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.The US administration has accused the group of not only facilitating but perpetrating terrorism.
  2. It is the first time that the U.S. has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization.US has said that the move is part of an effort to put maximum pressure on Iran to end its support for terrorist plots and militant activity that destabilizes the Middle East.
  3. The foreign terrorist designation allows the US administration to seek criminal penalties against elements of the IRGC and foreign officials deemed to be aiding it.It will also allow US to ban travel to the United States for individuals associated with IRGC.
  4. This would be the latest move by the US administration to isolate Iran.US had already withdrawn from the landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018 and has reimposed punishing sanctions including those targeting Iran’s oil, shipping and banking sectors.
  5. Further,Iran has also responded by designating the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM and all its forces as terrorist and labeling the U.S. as a supporter of terrorism.
  6. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.
  7. The Revolutionary Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests.The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force which supports forces allied with Iran around the region including Syrian President and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

WB pegs India’s GDP growth at 7.5%

  1. According to World Bank report,India’s GDP growth is expected to accelerate moderately to 7.5% in Fiscal Year 19-20.The growth will be driven by (a)investment strengthening (b)improved export performance and (c)resilient consumption.
  2. The report said that on the demand side,domestic consumption has remained the primary growth driver but gross fixed capital formation and exports also made growing contributions.
  3. The report added that inflation is expected to converge toward 4% due to robust growth and recovery in food prices.Further,it added that both the current account deficit and fiscal deficit are expected to narrow down due to improvements in India’s export performance and low oil prices.
  4. Earlier,World Bank Economist has also said that India’s economic growth in recent years has been driven by domestic demand and its exports were about one third of its potential.It asserted that India needs to focus on export-led growth.
  5. Gross domestic product (GDP) is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.
  6. Gross fixed Capital formation is a term used to describe the net capital accumulation during an accounting period for a particular country.GFCF refers to additions of capital stock such as equipment,tools,transportation assets and electricity.Higher the capital formation(GFCF) of an economy, the faster an economy can grow its aggregate income.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Oil at 5-month high on Libya output threat

  1. Oil prices have increased up to 2% hitting a five-month high on the expectations that global supplies would tighten due to escalation of the civil war in Libya,OPEC-led cuts and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
  2. Earlier,to increase the oil price,the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia had pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply from the start of this year.However,the latest increase in oil price was received from an escalation of fighting in Libya which is threatening further supply disruption.
  3. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) is an intergovernmental organisation of 14 nations,founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna,Austria.
  4. The current OPEC members are the following: (a)Algeria (b)Angola, (c)Ecuador (d)Equatorial Guinea (e)Gabon (f)Iran (g)Iraq (h)Kuwait, (I)Libya (j)Nigeria (k)the Republic of the Congo (l)Saudi Arabia (j)United Arab Emirates and (k)Venezuela.Indonesia and Qatar are former members.
  5. OPEC’s objective is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries,in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers and an efficient,economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Sri Lanka seeks enhanced military training from India

  1. India and Sri Lanka has agreed to increase cooperation in security and defence spheres in several areas including (a)regional security (b) curbing drug smuggling (c)human trafficking and (d)training of Sri Lankan military personnel.
  2. Earlier,training of Sri Lankan defence personnel in India had been opposed by the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.She had opposed on the grounds that Sri Lankan army had been accused of killing at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the final months of the island’s 37-year guerrilla war that ended in May 2009.
  3. However,Indian Government does not want to stop the training of the Sri lankan military personnel.It would further push Sri lanka closer to China who have also offered similar training and military collaboration offers.
  4. Recently,Exercise MITRA SHAKTI was concluded in Sri Lanka.It is a military exercise between India and Srilanka.It is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between the two countries.
  5. The aim of the exercise was to build and promote close relations between the armies of both the countries and to enhance the ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.
  6. The exercise was started in 2012 as a response to China’s efforts to increase its influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Highway ban: J&K parties approach court

  1. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued a notice to the state administration in response to a petition filed by the political parties of J&K.The petition was filed against the ban on civilian traffic along the Udhampur-Baramulla highway.
  2. The petitioner has argued that the order announcing the ban violates the fundamental rights of citizens,including those to life,health,education and livelihood.
  3. Earlier,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 for two days a week till May 31.No civilian traffic would be allowed during the movement of the paramilitary forces.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  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.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Platinum Jubilee Commemoration of Battle of Kangla Tongbi

  1. The Platinum Jubilee of the Battle of Kangla Tongbi War was commemorated on 07 Apr 2019 by Army Ordnance Corps at Kangla Tongbi War Memorial near Imphal,Manipur.
  2. The Battle of Kangla Tongbi is also known as Battle of Lion Box.It is considered one of the fiercest battles of World War II.It was fought by Ordnance personnel of 221 Advance Ordnance Depot (AOD) on the night of 6/7 April 1944.
  3. During the Second World War (1942-1945),Japanese forces had planned three pronged strategy to capture Imphal and surrounding areas.At Kangla Tongbi,a detachment of the 221 Advance Ordnance Depot (AOD) put a stiff resistance stalling the advance of Japanese forces till reinforcement arrived and forced the Japanese to withdraw.
  4. The KanglaTongbi War Memorial is a tribute to this battle and the complete dedication to duty of the Ordnance personnel of 221 AOD.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Transition to BS-VI fuel on track but infra, lack of awareness

  1. At a round-table discussion on the preparedness to roll out BS-VI fuel norms, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has highlighted the key challenges in the India-wide transition to BS-VI norms.
  2. The Indian government has decided to skip BS-V and directly move to BS-VI from April 2020. The main difference between BS-IV and BS-VI is in the amount of sulphur in the fuel. BS-VI fuel is estimated to bring around an 80% reduction in sulphur content. Recently, Delhi became the first city in the country to switch from BS-IV grade petrol and diesel to BS-VI fuels
  3. The challenges highlighted by CSE in rolling out BS-VI norms are: a) defining each agency and body’s role in implementing BS-VI norms, b) Ensuring data disclosure from automobile companies, c) fleet modernisation, d) checking cheat devices which help aid evading emission standards, and e) public awareness about the norms.
  4. The CSE also highlighted global best practices. For example, California has strict implementation of emission standards. It also monitors emissions in real time with sensors fitted into vehicles and data being relayed to a central database. When emission levels breach the standards immediate signals are provided.
  5. The Bharat Stage (BS) standards are standards instituted by the Indian government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. The norms were introduced in 2000.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Introducing the world’s first gene-edited lizard, an albino

  1. Four brown anole lizards (a type of tropical lizard) have been genetically modified using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool. This is the world’s first successful attempt at producing a genetically modified reptile.
  2. The researchers from University of Georgia, USA had used CRISPR-Cas9 to fertilize the immature eggs of anole lizards and produce four pink albino offspring.
  3. Scientists are of the opinion that the successful research would help the study of human medicine, particularly the eye.
  4. Genome/Gene editing is the deliberate alteration of a selected DNA sequence in a living cell. It involves editing an organism’s DNA by altering, removing or adding nucleotides to the genome.
  5. CRISPR-Cas9 (‘Clustered Regularly Inter-Spaced Palindromic Repeats’) is a tool used for gene editing. The technique involves a DNA cutting enzyme and a small tag which tells the enzyme where to cut. Cas9 stands for CRISPR-associated protein 9, and is the nuclease part that cuts the DNA.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

Rainwater harvesting: SC stays NGT fine order

  1. The Supreme Court has stayed a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order imposing a penalty of Rs 5 lakh each on educational institutions in Delhi for failing to install rainwater harvesting systems. The Supreme Court’s order came in the backdrop of a plea filed by the Delhi government and others which had challenged NGT’s order.
  2. In November 2017, the NGT had said that any institution which fails to install rainwater harvesting system within two months would be liable to pay environment compensation of Rs 5 lakh.
  3. The NGT had also constituted a committee comprising representatives from the Central Ground Water Authority, Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and other departments.
  4. NGT had directed schools and colleges to approach the committee for inspecting the premises and granting permission to institutions for operating the rainwater harvesting system. The committee was entrusted with providing exemption certificates in case it was absolutely not feasible to install such systems.
  5. Established in 2010, the NGT is responsible for the disposal of cases related to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |

SC refuses to stay the release of Modi biopic

  1. The Supreme Court has refused to put a stay on the release of biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The SC is of the opinion that it is too early to intervene as the Central Board of Film Certification has not yet certified the film.
  2. Supreme Court’s observations comes in the backdrop of a petition filed by opposition party which had accused the film to be in violation with the model code of conduct. The scheduled release of the film during upcoming Lok Sabha Elections has generated widespread debate with opposition political parties alleging that it is a “propaganda film”.
  3. Previously, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had sought directions from Election Commission on how it should certify political films when the Model Code is in effect. The EC had clarified that when MCC is in force, CBFC should certify political films/films that are political in nature as per extant provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
Posted in UPSC Daily Current Affairs Brief |
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