Essential Facts (Prelims) – July 16, 2019


Amended Motor Vehicles Bill reintroduced

Prelims: Polity

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

Prelims: Polity

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

Prelims: Polity

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

Prelims: Environment

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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – July 15, 2019


Orchids

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.

Chandrayaan-2

Sc/tech

  • 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.

Law Commission

Polity

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 21, 2019


Aditya

Category: Environment

  • 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.

Washi

Category: International

  • 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

Category: Health

  • 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

Category: Schemes

  • 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)

Category: Schemes

  • 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

Category: Schemes

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 20, 2019


Water clinic for Elephants

Category: Environment

  • 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

Category: International

  • 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

Category: Sc/tech

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 19, 2019


India to be most populous by 2027

Category: International

  • 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.

Cotton Imports

Category: Agriculture

  • 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.

Libra

Category: Sc/tech

  • 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.

Sinha Panel

Category: Economy

  • 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.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 17 & 18, 2019


Bonn Challenge

Category: Environment

  • India for the first time will host the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September.
  • Ahead of the COP-14, India launched a flagship project, part of a larger international initiative called the Bonn Challenge, to enhance India’s capacity for forest landscape restoration (FLR).
  • It will be implemented during a pilot phase of three-and-a-half years in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka.
  • The project will aim to develop and adapt the best practices and monitoring protocols for the country, and build capacity within the five pilot States.
  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation.
  • A 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organization found that about 29% of India’s land (in 2011-13) was degraded, this being a 0.57% increase from 2003-05.
  • At the previous edition of the COP, India had committed to restore 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.
  • The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • The United Nations has three major Conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • Established in 1994, the UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.

CO2 emissions by Bitcoin

Category: Environment

  • The use of cryptocurrency Bitcoin emits 22 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually, comparable to the emissions of cities such as Las Vegas and Vienna, says a study.
  • For a Bitcoin transfer to be executed and validated, a mathematical puzzle must be solved by an arbitrary computer in the global Bitcoin network. The network, which anyone can join, rewards the puzzle solvers in Bitcoin.
  • The computing capacity used in this process — known as Bitcoin mining — has increased rapidly in recent years.
  • Thus, the Bitcoin boom raises the question of whether the cryptocurrency is imposing an additional burden on the climate.

Ocean Plastic Waste

Category: Environment

  • Group of 20 (G 20) Environment Ministers agreed to adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.
  • Environment and Energy Ministers of the Group of 20 major economies met this weekend in Karuizawa, northwest of Tokyo, ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, on June 28-29.
  • One of the top issues was ocean plastic waste as images of plastic debris-strewn beaches and dead animals with stomachs full of plastic have sparked outrage with many countries banning plastic bags outright.
  • The new framework is aimed at facilitating further concrete action on marine waste, though on a voluntary basis, after the G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany adopted the “G20 action plan on marine litter” in 2017.
  • Under the new framework, G20 members will promote a comprehensive life-cycle approach to prevent and reduce plastic litter discharge to the oceans through various measures and international cooperation.

GM Cotton

Category: Sc/tech

  • Bt cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in the country.
  • Developed by US giant Bayer-Monsanto, it involves insertion of two genes viz ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into cotton seeds. This modification codes the plant to produce protein toxic to Heliothis bollworm (pink bollworm) thus making it resistant to their attack.
  • The commercial release of this hybrid was sanctioned by the government in 2002.
  • In India, it is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry to assess the safety of a genetically modified plant, and decide whether it is fit for cultivation.
  • The GEAC comprises experts and government representatives, and a decision it takes has to be approved by the Environment Minister before any crop is allowed for cultivation.
  • Besides Bt cotton, the GEAC has cleared two other genetically modified crops — brinjal and mustard — but these have not received the consent of the Environment Minister.
  • The farmers in Akola planted a herbicide-tolerant variety of Bt cotton. This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It is not cleared by GEAC.
  • The farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, a herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.
  • Genetic changes made in a plant can make it unsafe for consumption, have adverse impacts on human or animal health, or introduce problems in the soil or neighbouring crops. There is an elaborate process of tests and field trials to be followed.
  • Critics of GM technology argue that some traits of genes start expressing themselves only after several generations, and thus one can never be sure about their safety.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 16, 2019


Changangkha Lhakhang

Category: International

  • For centuries, parents of newborn children in the Thimphu valley have visited the Changangkha Lhakhang (temple).
  • Parents bring their babies as young as four or five days old to be blessed by its deity.
  • But a surge of tourist inflows into Bhutan this year has left parents and pilgrims jostling for space in the temple’s small inner sanctum.
  • The crowds have sparked a major debate across the country that could mean tougher regulations for tourists from the region, especially India.

Balsams

Category: Environment

  • Between 2010 and 2019, botanists and taxonomists working on Impatiens — a group of plants commonly known as Balsams or jewel-weeds — discovered 23 new species from the eastern Himalayas.
  • Consisting of both annual and perennial herbs, balsams are succulent plants with high endemism.
  • Because of their bright beautiful flowers, these group of plants are of prized horticultural significance.
  • Of the 83 species described, 45 are from Arunachal Pradesh, 24 from Sikkim and 16 species common to both states
  • Other than high endemism, what sets Impatiens apart is their sensitivity to climate change.

Workers

Category: Economy

  • If labour rules are simplified, the country will experience a boom in formal employment, says ISF.
  • The number of people in formal employment in India will grow only if the country’s archaic labour regulations, that are irrelevant in today’s context, are fully scrapped, says Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), a staffing industry apex body.
  • The country has a total workforce of 463 million and 94% of them are informal workers employed with small and micro firms.
  • These enterprises prefer to remain tiny (below 20 people) in order to stay away from the burden of unrealistic labour compliance demands.
  • We have some 44 Central labour rules in addition to over 100 State-specific laws. Most of these regulations were written for India of a different era and therefore currently are not in use or are irrelevant to today’s conditions.

Saturn

Category: Sc/tech

  • Data given by Cassini probe during its last rendezvous with Saturn show that Saturn has five small moons located in and around its rings.
  • These accrete ring material and have distinct shapes.
  • The rings are much younger than the planet, giving clues and placing constraints on models of how they formed.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 15, 2019


Ebola

Category: International

  • The World Health Organization said the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo — which spilled into Uganda this week – is an “extraordinary event” of deep concern but does not yet merit being declared a global emergency.
  • For such a declaration, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response.
  • This outbreak, the second-deadliest in history, has killed more than 1,400 people since it was declared in August.
  • As the far deadlier 2014-16 Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, WHO was heavily criticized for not declaring a global emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died and the virus had spread to at least three countries.
  • Congo’s epidemic is the second worst worldwide since West Africa’s Ebola outbreak in 2014-16.
  • Only 4 emergencies have been declared in the past decade: the H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic (2009), West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, polio (2014) and Zika virus (2016).

Trade Deficit

Category: Economy

  • India’s trade deficit widened in May 2019 to $15.36 billion, with imports growing faster that exports during the period.
  • The industries that saw a major growth in exports include electronic goods (50.97%), organic and inorganic chemicals (20.64%), and readymade goods of all textiles (14.15%).
  • Imports into India grew 4.31% in May 2019 to $45.35 billion, up from $43.48 billion worth of imports in May of last year.
  • The segments that saw strong growth in exports include pulses (84.2%) and gold (37.4%).

Bishkek Declaration

Category: International

  • India stayed away from supporting China’s Belt and Road Initiative at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit’s Bishkek declaration, in line with the template followed at the SCO summit in Qingdao last year.
  • The Bishkek declaration mentioned “cross-border” security threats in the context of terrorism.
  • Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, the Bishkek declaration said that they call on the international community to promote global cooperation in combating terrorism with the central role of the UN.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 14, 2019


Asiatic Golden Cat

Category: Environment

  • Golden is no longer the only colour the elusive Asiatic golden cat can be associated with. Its coat comes in five other shades in Arunachal Pradesh, scientists have discovered.
  • The Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.
  • It is found across eastern Nepal through north-eastern India to Indonesia. Bhutan and China were known to have two morphs of the golden cat — one the colour of cinnamon and the other with markings similar to the ocelot, a small wild cat found in the Americas.
  • Indian scientists) have discovered six colour morphs of the golden cat in Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The findings have contributed to an evolutionary puzzle because no other place on earth has so many colours of wild cats of the same species.

India-US Defence Pact

Category: International

  • India and the US are working towards signing two more defence pacts, the Industrial Security Annexure (ISA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) to further institutionalise defence cooperation between the two countries.
  • .An ISA, which is an Annexure to the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between the two countries, will enable the US government and US defence companies to share classified information with Indian private defence manufacturers.
  • India and the US had the GSOMIA 17 years ago, which allowed sharing of classified information from the US government and American defence manufacturers with Indian government and government-owned defence firms but not with Indian private companies.
  • Signing the ISA is seen as a prerequisite for meaningful private sector participation in defence production in India, if it has to get modern technological inputs from US in a secure manner.
  • With the Defence Ministry stressing Strategic Partnership model in defence manufacturing as part of Make in India, an ISA gains even greater importance.
  • The US has also shared a draft of BECA, which will allow exchange of geospatial information between India and the US for both military and civilian use. Getting accurate locations will allow Indian weapons systems and military platforms to accurately hit their targets.
  • BECA is the last of the three foundational agreement and the only one remaining to be signed.
  • The two countries had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in August 2016, wherein both the militaries can provide logistics support to the other side from their bases.
  • Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), amended to meet Indian requirements, was signed last September at the 2+2 dialogue.

GM Crops

Category: Agriculture

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has sought a detailed report on the sowing of unapproved genetically modified (GM) cotton and brinjal in Maharashtra.
  • In India, introduction of GM seeds requires approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a body under the MoEF.
  • Till date, commercial release is granted for Bt cotton, but similar approvals for Bt mustard and Bt brinjal are awaited.
  • In case of cotton, the first two generations of Bt have seen introduction of ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ genes from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), into the cotton seed, which make the crop resistant to the attack of pink bollworm.
  • The third generation variety saw the addition of ‘Cp4-Epsps’ gene from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which produces a modified protein that allows the plant to withstand herbicide glyphosate.
  • Farmers are not able to spray glyphosate on normal cotton because the chemical does not distinguish between the crop and weed, but the herbicide tolerant Bt (HtBt) cotton remains unaffected by glyphosate.

Essential Facts (Prelims) – June 12, 2019


DSRO

Category: Defence

  • To enhance the capabilities of the armed forces to fight wars in space, the government has approved the setting up of a new agency which will develop sophisticated weapon systems and technologies.
  • The agency would be provided with a team of scientists which would be working in close coordination with the tri-services integrated Defence staff officers.
  • It would be providing the research and development support to the Defence Space Agency (DSA) which comprises members of the three services.
  • In March, India had carried out the Anti Satellite Test (ASAT) which demonstrated its capability to shoot down satellites and joined an elite club of four nations with similar capability.
  • The test also helped the country develop deterrence capability against adversaries who may want to attack Indian satellites to cripple systems in times of war.
  • The Defence Space Agency is being set up in Bengaluru and will gradually take over the space-related capabilities of the three forces.

CO2 Emissions

Category: Environment

  • Global carbon emissions grew by 2.0% last year, the highest rate since 2010-2011, a review by energy giant BP said.
  • The BP Statistical Review of World Energy is viewed as an energy industry standard.
  • It also found that global energy demand grew by 2.9%

Amendment Bills

Category: Governance

  • The Cabinet has approved the Indian Medical Council (Amendment Bill), 2019 and the Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment Bill), 2019 – both of which had lapsed in the 16th Lok Sabha session.
  • The Medical Council Bill is aimed at bringing in transparencyand quality in the governance of medical education.
  • Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment Bill), 2019, meanwhile, seeks to extend the period for reconstitution of the Central Council from existing period of one year to two years so that the tenure of the Board of Governors may be extended for a further period of one year with effect from May 17, 2019.