Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 17, 2017

Culture

‘Deep Dharohar’

  • Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent charge) for Culture inaugurated “Deep Dharohar” organized by the Ministry of Culture here today.
  • The festival was inaugurated by the lighting of 1000 diyas by the participating artists and artisans and children from organisations like the CCRT, SAPNA Prayas and Kailash Satyarthi’s foundation, to the beat of pakhawajs, nagadas, dhols etc.
  • The Minister released a book entitled ‘Living Traditions, Tribal and Folk Paintings of India’ published under the matrix of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ by the Cultural Mapping team of M/o Culture and Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT)

Science & Technology

DNA barcodes reveal adulteration in traditional medicines

  • Traditional medicines in the large unorganised market contain spurious plant extracts and, sometimes, heavy metals that pose serious risks to health, an exhaustive genetics-based study has revealed
  • The set of studies shows that traditional medicinal markets are replete with unrelated plant materials that substitute for endangered or rare ones, while the final product, in some instances, contains heavy metals, particularly lead

Magic mushrooms may reset depressed brains

  • A psychoactive compound occurring naturally in “magic mushrooms” may help reduce symptoms of depression as well as “reset” brain activity in affected patients, a study has shown.
  • The findings demonstrated that Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as psychedelic mushrooms, effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression

Verdict

Free speech placed on the highest pedestal, says SC

  • It is not up to the Supreme Court to use its powers to ban books, which are a free expression of a writer’s thoughts and feelings about the society and world he lives in
  • This is what the Supreme Court recorded in its two-page order while dismissing a petition to ban the book, Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu, by Dalit writer and activist Professor Kancha Ilaiah

Fishries

India acts against bottom trawling

  • During the recently held meeting of the Joint Working Group, India informed Sri Lanka that it has taken measures to stop bottom trawling by its fishermen in the waters near the Sri Lankan coastline.

Measures taken by India:

  • The launch of a programme on diversification of bottom trawlers into deep-sea fishing vessels for tuna long lining under the Blue Revolution Scheme.
  • Construction of Mookaiyur and Poompuhar fishing harbours, and capacity-building programmes for fishermen of the Palk Bay area in deep sea tuna long lining.
  • Fresh registration for bottom trawlers in the Palk Bay area has been banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Infrastructure Development

India starts on implementation of motor pact

  • India has embarked on the implementation of the BBIN motor pact with Bangladesh and Nepal.

Background

  • India in June 2015 had signed the major sub-regional transport project, Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA), for the seamless transit of passenger and cargo vehicles among them.
  • However, Bhutan could not get public and parliamentary support for it.
  • However, Bhutan has suggested that Bangladesh, India and Nepal may consider the implementation of the MVA.

About BBIN MVA:

  • The four SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries had in June 2015 signed the Motor Vehicle Agreement.
  • The pact aims at allowing motor vehicles of all categories registered in three countries to move freely in the region.
  • The pact aims to realise the ultimate objective of free movement of people and goods in the region and said that this would be supplemented through the building and upgrading roads, railways and waterways infrastructure.

Family & Health Welfare

A plan to stamp out animal TB

  • The first-ever road map to combat animal tuberculosis (bovine TB) and its transmission to humans, referred to as zoonotic TB, was recently launched at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico.
  • The roadmap has been built on a ‘One Health Approach’, addressing health risks across sectors for the animal tuberculosis known as bovine TB and its transmission to humans.
  • Four partners in health, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) have joined forces to develop the road map and, address the major health and economic impact of this disease.

Concerns

  • New data released by the WHO estimates that over 140,000 people fall ill and more than 12,000 people lose their lives each year to zoonotic TB – mostly in the African and the South-East Asian regions.
  • In India, consumption of raw milk and living in close proximity to cattle has been attributed to high incidence rates of bovine TB in the central Indian populations.
  • There is no cure for bovine TB.

About Zoonotic TB:

  • It is a type of TB in people caused by mycobacterium bovis.
  • The disease can affect many other species surrounding cattle and become established in wildlife reservoirs.
  • Spread: Bovine TB is most often communicated to humans through food consumption, usually non-heat-treated dairy products or raw, or improperly cooked meat from diseased animals.
  • Direct transmission from infected animals or animal products to people can also occur.

Banking

Information utility under the IBC

  • National e-Governance Services Ltd (NeSL) has become India’s first information utility (IU) for bankruptcy cases under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.
  • NeSL is owned by State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation Ltd., among others.
  • Recently, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) eased ownership norms for setting up such utilities.

What is an information utility?

  • Information utility is an information network which would store financial data like borrowings, default and security interests among others of firms.
  • The utility would specialise in procuring, maintaining and providing/supplying financial information to businesses, financial institutions, adjudicating authority, insolvency professionals and other relevant stake holders.

What are the rules governing these utilities?

  • Information utilities are governed by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code 2016 and IBBI (Information Utilities) Regulations 2017.
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) oversees aspects such as registration and cancellation of these entities, their shareholding and governance among others.
  • Recently, IBBI eased norms for information utilities, allowing Indian firms listed on stock exchanges to hold 100% in such firms.
  • It also allowed individuals to hold 51% in the utility for a period of three years.

key challenges for these utilities?

  • While the onus is on financial creditors, operational creditors and corporate debtors to provide the required information, procuring authentic information might be a challenge due to the sensitivity involved.
  • There may also, be resistance in sharing information.
  • Since it is a digital database, there is the risk of exposure to data piracy and data theft.

Home Affairs

ITBP raises maiden Mechanised column

Maiden Mechanized Column of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)

  • The ITBP is raising and deploying a mechanised column of power vehicles and machines

Why:

  • To quickly mobilise troops along the India-China border during Chinese military transgressions and Doklam-like standoffs

Decision by the Home Ministry

  • The decision to raise such a military-style combat wing in the paramilitary force was taken by the Union Home Ministry recently
  • HM has approved deployment of snow scooters at all high-altitude border outposts of the mountain-warfare trained force along the 3,488-km-long frontier

Judicial Activities

Supreme Court to hear plea Against Linking Asdhar to bank accounts, phones

  • The Supreme Court will hear a petition challenging the government move to link bank accounts and mobile phones with Aadhaar numbers
  • The court has stated that it violates the fundamental right to privacy and equates citizens, including the elderly, women and students, with money launderers.

Enlighten about the petition is about?

  • The petition has challenged Rule 2(b) of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 for-

Bank Accounts

  • Mandatory submission of Aadhaar number for individual clients, companies, partnership firms and trusts for opening of bank accounts, maintaining existing bank accounts, making financial transactions of and above 50,000 and crediting foreign remittance into small accounts.
  • Existing bank account holders have been directed to furnish Aadhaar numbers by December 31, 2017.
  • Non-compliance would render the bank accounts “in-operational indefinitely” subject to submission of the Aadhaar Number and the Permanent Account Number (PAN).
  • Present and potential bank account holders, who do not wish to part with their biometric information, are therefore treated on par with alleged offenders under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Mobile Phones

  • The petition challenges the Department of Telecom on March 23, 2017 making it mandatory for all mobile phone holders to link their mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar.
  • The mobile phone circular is violative of Article 300A of the Constitution which protects a person’s right to not be deprived of property.

Business Agreements

First Investment Agreement signed between NIIF and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

  • India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) of India on has signed an investment agreement worth $1 billion with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).
  • With this, ADIA became first institutional investor in NIIF’s Master Fund and shareholder in NIIF’s investment management Company.
  • NIIF is claimed to be India’s first sovereign wealth fund.

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)

  • The Union Government has set up NIIF in 2015 with aim to attract investments from both domestic and international sources for infrastructure development in commercially viable projects both Greenfield and Brownfield, including stalled projects.
  • It was envisaged to be Category II Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) under SEBI Regulations.
  • It will also serve as an umbrella fund with several funds underneath it.
  • It has proposed corpus of Rs. 40,000 crores (around $6 Billion).
  • Government’s contribution to NIIF is 49% of total commitment at any given point of time.
  • NIIF has been mandated to solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners
  • Two companies viz. NIIFTL, trustee of fund and NIIFL, investment management company of NIIF were incorporated in 2015.
  • Besides, Governing Council also has been set up under chairmanship of Union Finance Minister to act as an advisory body

Defence

INS Kiltan commissioned into Indian Navy in Visakhapatnam

  • Indigenously-built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette INS Kiltan was commissioned an into the Indian Navy at the Eastern Naval Command (Naval Dockyard) in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
  • It is India’s first major warship to have a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material resulting in improved stealth features, lower top weight and maintenance costs.
  • About 81% of the ship is indigenous and it is well equipped to fight in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare conditions.

Enlighten about INS Kiltan

  • INS Kiltan is third of four Kamorta-class corvettes being built under Project 28.
  • It is latest indigenous warship after Shivalik Class, Kolkata Class and sister ships INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt of Indian Navy’s arsenal.
  • It is also first major warship to have undertaken sea trials of all major weapons and sensors as a pilot project.
  • The stealth corvette derives its name from one of islands in Aminidivi group of strategically located Lakshadweep and Minicoy group of islands.
  • It has been designed indigenously by Indian Navy’s in-house body Directorate of Naval Design under Project 28 (Kamorta Class).

Features:

  • It is 109 meters in length and 14 meters at beam and is propelled by four diesel engines to achieve speeds in excess of 25 knots with an endurance of 3450 nautical miles.
  • It has displacement capacity of 3500 tonnes and has installed propulsion and auxiliary systems that provides very low radiated underwater noise feature, required for anti-submarine warfare.

Stealth features:

  • Enhanced stealth features of the ship have been achieved by ‘X’ form of Hull, full beam superstructure, inclined ship sides and use of InfraRed Signature Suppression (IRSS) system designed by NSTL for cooling the Engine and Generator exhausts.

Weapons and Sensors suite:

  • The ship hosts predominantly indigenous cutting-edge weapons and sensors suite which includes heavyweight torpedoes, ASW rockets, missile decoy rockets (Chaff), advanced Electronic Support Measure system, 76 mm calibre Medium Range gun and two multi-barrel 30 mm guns as close-in-weapon system (CIWS) with dedicated fire control systems, most advanced bow mounted sonar and air surveillance radar Revathi.
  • In future, it will be installed with short range SAM system and carry an integral ASW helicopter.

Historical Legacy:

  • The ship also boasts of proud legacy of the erstwhile Petya Class ship of same name ‘Kiltan (P79)’ built in the USSR which had actively participated as Task Force Commander in ‘Operation Trident’ during 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Focus

Infant deaths

  • Across the world, there is a link between government per-capita spending on health and infant mortality.
  • This partly explains why India has historically had one of the highest infant mortality rates
  • A study using data from 1983-84 to 2011-12 showed that per-capita spending on health in Indian States was the biggest predictor of infant mortality
  • Willingness of people to access this infrastructure is crucial. On this count, southern States like Kerala
  • Literacy and greater female autonomy in States like Manipur, mean women give birth at a later age and wait longer between births. This cuts infant mortality
  • Even the transport infrastructure of a State can have a role
  • Merely ensuring that women go to hospitals to deliver their children can prevent asphyxia and trauma. This is why the Janani Surakhsha Yojana is an important step
  • Despite Kerala’s low infant mortality, the hilly regions of districts like Kasargod have historically lagged behind.

Onsite creches a win-win for firms

  • IFC study says such facilities for employees’ children bring down attrition rate
  • Onsite childcare facilities help business grow as much as they benefit employees, a new study by the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank organisation, has found.
  • The report titled “Tackling childcare: The business case for employer-supported childcare” looks at 10 case studies across the world to examine how businesses that are more sensitive to the needs of parents have saved money by lowering attrition and absenteeism. Among the 10 case studies is Mindtree, an IT firm from Bengaluru.
  • Proportion of women among new recruits rose by 4% in just two years — in 2013-2014, only 26% of the workforce was women and by 2015-16, that number grew to 31%
  • 90% of their employees came back after maternity and were employed even till a year later
  • Some have even refused better job offers because onsite childcare was a huge attraction
  • The report, however, is not able to quantify the gains for business in purely financial terms