Amended Motor Vehicles Bill reintroduced
Mains: GS 2
- Amendments to the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act has been re-introduced in the Lok Sabha.
- This bill had lapsed since it had not been passed by the Rajya Sabha.
- The proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act seeks to provide a compensation of ₹5 lakh for death and ₹2.5 lakh for grievous injury in a motor vehicle accident case.
- The Bill seeks to increase penalties for violations, facilitate grant of online learning licence, simplified provisions for insurance to provide expeditious help to accident victims and their families, and protection of good samaritans.
- The Bill also proposes to raise the time limit for renewal of driving licence from one month to one year before and after the expiry date.
- The provisions in the legislation are not binding on States and it is up to them to implement it.
Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 reintroduced
Mains: GS 2
- Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 has been reintroduced in the Lok Sabha.
- This bill had lapsed since it had not been passed by the Rajya Sabha
- It seeks to prohibit commercial surrogacy in the country.
- The Bill seeks to “allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the intending infertile Indian married couple between the age of 23-50 years and 26-55 years for female and male, respectively.”
- The Bill states that a woman should be allowed to act as a surrogate only once, should be a close relative of the intending couple and “should be an ever-married woman having a child of her own and between the age of 25-35 years.
NIA Bill, UAPA Bill, DNA Bill
Mains: GS 3
- The NIA (Amendment) Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha while the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill has been introduced in the House.
- The NIA Bill seeks to give greater powers to the National Investigation Agency by expanding its jurisdiction to offences committed outside the country.
- The latest amendments will enable the NIA to additionally investigate offences related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyberterrorism, and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
- The UAPA Bill is aimed at strengthening India’s security framework. It seeks “to introduce fourth schedule to add or remove the name of individual terrorists”.
- The DNA Bill seeks to regulate the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in respect of matters listed in a Schedule. These include criminal matters and civil matters such as parentage disputes, emigration or immigration, and transplantation of human organs.
- From 1993 till 2003, 70% of legislation went to standing committees. But in the last two years, the frequency has reduced. Only 26% were referred to standing committees.
Blue Flag challenge
Mains: GS 3
- The Union Environment Ministry has selected 12 beaches in India to vie for a ‘Blue Flag’ certification, an international recognition conferred on beaches that meet certain criteria of cleanliness and environmental propriety.
- These beaches are at Shivrajpur (Gujarat), Bhogave (Maharashtra), Ghoghla (Diu), Miramar (Goa), Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka), Kappad (Kerala), Eden (Puducherry), Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu), Rushikonda (Andhra Pradesh), Golden (Odisha), and Radhanagar (Andaman & Nicobar Islands).
- The Blue Flag programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).
- It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined.
- Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and south-eastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
- Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.
- There are nearly 33 criteria that must be met to qualify for a Blue Flag certification, such as the water meeting certain standards such as waste disposal facilities, disabled-friendly facilities, first aid equipment and no access to pets in the main areas of the beach.
- Some criteria are voluntary and some compulsory.
Global Economic Prospects report
Prelims: Economy/ International
- India’s trade deficit narrowed by nearly 8% to $15.28 billion during the last month, as against $16.6 billion in June 2018.
- The World Bank, in its Global Economic Prospects (June 2019), has projected weakening of global trade in 2019.
- Global trade is projected to grow at 2.6% this year.
Environment and ecology
- Three life forms Orchids can be broadly categorised into three life forms:
- epiphytic (plants growing on another plants including those growing on rock boulders and often termed lithophyte),
- terrestrial (plants growing on land and climbers) and
- mycoheterotrophic (plants which derive nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that are attached to the roots of a vascular plant).
- About 60% of all orchids found in the country, which is 757 species, are epiphytic, 447 are terrestrial and 43 are mycoheterotrophic.
- The epiphytic orchids are abundant up to 1800 m above the sea level and their occurrence decreases with the increase in altitude.
- Terrestrial orchids, which grow directly on soil, are found in large numbers in temperate and alpine region.
- Mycoheterotrophic orchids, mostly associated with ectomycorrhizal fungi, are found in temperate regions, or are found growing with parasites in tropical regions.
- Himalayas, North-East parts of the country and Western Ghats are the hot-spots of the orchids.
- The highest number of orchid species is recorded from Arunachal Pradesh with 612 species, followed by Sikkim 560 species and West Bengal; Darjeeling Himalayas have also high species concentration, with 479 species.
- While north-east India rank at the top in species concentration, the Western Ghats have high endemism of orchids.
- There are 388 species of orchids, which are endemic to India of which about one-third (128) endemic species are found in Western Ghats.
- Among the 10 bio geographic zones of India, the Himalayan zone is the richest in terms of orchid species followed by Northeast, Western Ghats, Deccan plateau and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- Orchids have complex floral structure that facilitates biotic cross-pollination and makes them evolutionarily superior to the other plant groups.
- Entire orchid family is listed under appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and hence any trade of wild orchid is banned globally.
- Indian lunar mission- Chandrayaan-2-is to take its first step towards touching the moon.
- It will consist of a leggy lander -Vikram- and a six-wheeled rover-Pragyan.
- The mission will hunt for minerals and water ice deposits that Chandrayaan-1 confirmed.
- Chandrayaan-2’s journey will last about 52 days.
- When it lands on the moon, Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to safely land on lunar terrain.
- No space agency has landed on the south pole of the moon to date, making the landing spot also historic.
- With the country left without a Law Commission since September 2018, the Law Ministry has initiated the process of setting up the body.
- The commission gives advice to the government on complex legal issues.
- The three-year term of the 21st Law Commission ended on August 31 last year.
- The Cabinet approves reconstitution of the law panel for a period of three years.
- It is usually headed by a former Supreme Court judge or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.
Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS)
Environment and ecology
- Restricting the speeds of vessels and blowing sirens and horns is how the Ministry of Shipping plans to safeguard the population of the Ganges River Dolphin.
- The above plan is to be executed in the country’s one dolphin reserve through which National Waterway-1 connecting Haldia to Varanasi passes.
- The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS), from Sultanganj to Kahalganj on the Ganga in Bihar is the only dolphin sanctuary in the country
- Vessel speed would be restricted to 2.7 knots in Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) area to reduce the noise generation from propeller.
- lf any aquatic mammal/dolphin is spotted, then the measures will be taken to push it away through sirens/signals.
- Aditya is India’s first solar ferry, in operation Kerala.
- It is a hybrid vessel which will be powered by a motor that can source energy from solar panels, battery, and generator.
- Aditya incurs a rock-bottom energy expense of ₹200 a day, as compared to the approximately ₹8,000 needed for diesel-powered ferries.
- Once an indispensable part of daily life in Japan, ultra-thin washi paper was used for everything from writing and painting to lampshades, umbrellas, and sliding doors, but demand has plunged as lifestyles have become more westernised.
- Despite its 1,300-year history and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status, washi paper is struggling to attract consumers and the market value has dropped by more than 50% in the past two decades
- “Washi paper is more flexible and durable” than what Japanese refer to as “western paper”, which disintegrates into tiny pieces when it becomes very old.
- The traditional hand-made paper is manufactured from plants called kozo, or mulberry, which has fibres that are much longer than materials used for paper in the west such as wood and cotton.
Access, Watch and Reserve
- WHO has suggested the adoption of ‘Access, Watch and Reserve’, an approach that specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections, which ones ought to be available at all times in the healthcare system, and those that must be used sparingly, or reserved and used only as a last resort.
- WHO estimates that more than 50% of antibiotics in many countries are used inappropriately for treatment of viruses, when they only treat bacterial infections, or are the wrong choice of antibiotic (broader spectrum), thus contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
- The new campaign aims to increase the proportion of global consumption of antibiotics in the ‘Access’ group to at least 60%, and to reduce use of the antibiotics most at risk of resistance.
- Using ‘Access’ antibiotics lowers the risk of resistance because they are ‘narrow-spectrum’ antibiotics (that target a specific microorganism rather than several). They are also less costly because they are available in generic formulations.
- In India, the Health Ministry has made it mandatory to display a 5mm-thick red vertical band on the packaging of prescription-only drugs to sensitise people to be cautious while buying these medicines that are widely sold without prescriptions.
- WHO has now urged all countries to adopt the Access, Watch and Reserve guidelines to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance, adverse events and costs.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana
- The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship implements the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (2016 – 2020) to encourage and promote skill development for the youth throughout the country.
- The scheme aims to benefit 10 million youth over the period of four years (2016- 2020).
Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)
- Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Health Mission (NHM).
- Launched with the objective of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) promotes institutional delivery among pregnant women especially with weak socio-economic status i.e. women from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and BPL household
Organic Farming in The Country
- Government of India has been promoting organic farming under two dedicated schemes namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) and Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015 through State Governments.
- Under these schemes, support has been provided for formation of farmers’ clusters/ Farmer Producer Organisation; incentives to farmers for input procurement, value addition including post harvest infrastructure creation, packaging, branding, publicity, transportation, organic fairs etc.
- Organic Farming has also been supported under other schemes viz Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Network Project on Organic Farming under ICAR.
Water clinic for Elephants
- India has opened its first specialized hydrotherapy treatment for elephants suffering from arthritis, joint pain and foot ailments in Uttar Pradesh in collaboration with Wildlife SOS.
- It is situated on the banks of the Yamuna in Mathura.
- The elephants at the Wildlife SOS have been rescued from extreme distress.
- Some were privately owned and had the cruel history of being used for begging.
U.P. site to get ‘national importance’ tag
Category: Art & Culture
- An ancient site with chariots, swords and other objects pointing to the presence of a warrior class around 4,000 years ago in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district could be declared a site of national importance soon.
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has started the process of declaring the site at Sadikpur Sinauli, which is spread over 28 hectares.
- Among the treasures unearthed are three chariots, legged coffins, shields, swords and helmets – all which point towards a warrior class that must have existed around 2,000 BCE.
- The site, 68 km northeast of Delhi, was the largest necropolis of the late Harappan period of the early 2nd millennium BCE.
Bangladesh, South Korea to telecast DD
- The Indian government has signed agreements with Bangladesh and South Korea, under which Doordarshan India will be available in those countries.
- The move is part of a robust cultural exchange, in line with Act East policy.
- The government has also approved the proposal of Prasar Bharati for making KBS World, an English 24×7 channel of the government of Republic of South Korea, available on the DD Free Dish.
Carbon quantum dots
- Scientists in Assam has developed a chemical process that turns ‘dirty’ coal into a biomedical ‘dot’ to help detect cancer cells.
- The team has applied for a patent for their chemical method of producing carbon quantum dots (CQDs) from cheap, abundant, low-quality and high-sulphur coals.
- CQDs are carbon-based nanomaterials whose size is less than 10 nm, or nanometre.
- Carbon-based nanomaterials are used as diagnostic tools for bio-imaging, especially in detecting cancer cells, for chemical sensing and in opto-electronics.
- CQDs are futuristic materials whose demand in India has been increasing leading to a considerable volume of import.
India to be most populous by 2027
- India is set to overtake China as the most populous country by 2027 and will have almost 1.64 billion inhabitants by 2050, says a United Nations report- World Population Prospects 2019.
- South Asia’s opportunity to reap the “demographic dividend” will peak by 2047.
- Globally, people aged above 65 are the fastest growing age group, putting pressure on social protection systems as the proportion of the working-age population shrinks.
- According to the report, India is expected to add 273 million people by 2050, which will be the largest national increase in the world.
- China, on the other hand, is expected to become smaller, dropping from its current 1.43 billion people to approximately 1.4 billion by 2050.
- However, while India may have the highest absolute increase in numbers, its rate of growth is slowing.
- The rate of population growth is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility rate stand at 4.6 births per woman over a lifetime.
- Nigeria is expected to add 200 million people over the next three decades and overtake the U.S. to become the third most populous nation.
- In 2018, for the first time in history, people above 65 outnumbered children under five years of age.
- Import of cotton in the 2018-2019 cotton season is expected to be 22 lakh bales, almost seven lakh bales higher compared with the previous season.
- The international price of cotton is lower compared to the domestic price.
- It is not just the mills, but traders are also importing, especially African cotton.
- There’s a new cryptocurrency called Libra by Facebook.
- Libra will be controlled by the Libra Association, which is a non-profit based in Geneva, Switzerland. But Facebook will have a leadership role for all of 2019, though later on it will be just one of the many members part of the association.
- Facebook also announced a dedicated wallet app called Calibra, which will be built into WhatsApp and Messenger as well, to let users store and use these Libra coins.
- Libra is a cryptocurrency built on a blockchain network.
- Libra is like any other cryptocurrency powered by blockchain technology.
- Blockchain technology functions like an open ledger that gets updated in real time, and each transaction made on a blockchain network is preserved.
- Reversing a record is impossible on blockchain and with cryptocurrency, the idea is a decentralised network, which is not controlled by one bank or a government.
- The U K Sinha committee on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) has proposed doubling the limit on collateral-free loans to Rs 20 lakh from the current level of Rs 10 lakh to boost the fund requirement of the MSME sector.
- The proposal is to provide the loans under the MUDRA scheme of the central government as working capital and term loans for business enterprises in manufacturing, trading, services and agriculture activities.
- The RBI constituted an ‘Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises’ under the chairmanship of former Securities and Exchange Bureau of India (Sebi) chairman U K Sinha in January 2019 to suggest long-term measures for the economic and financial sustainability of the MSME sector.
- Under the aegis of Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY), MUDRA has created three products: Shishu, Kishor and Tarun to signify the stage of growth, development and funding needs of the beneficiary micro unit/entrepreneur and also provide a reference point for the next phase of growth.
- Under the Shishu scheme, loans up to Rs 50,000 will be offered.
- Under Kishor scheme, loans above Rs 50,000 and up to 5 lakh are offered.
- Tarun scheme covers loans above Rs 5 lakh and up to Rs 10 lakh.