THE HINDU DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS 19TH JANUARY 2020

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Q.1 The military exercise Maitree-2019 was held
between which countries:
(a) India and Vietnam
(b) India and Maldives
(c) India and Thailand
(d) India and Australia

Q.2  Consider the following statements about
Quad Grouping:
1. Quad Group is a closed group consisting
of India, Australia, Japan & USA.
2. Japan pioneered the initiative in 2007 as
a coalition of maritime democracies.
3. First Quad talks were held in India.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Q.3 Consider the following statements regarding
Global Oceans:
1. The horizontally stratified ocean supplies
99% of the Earth’s biologically-habitable
space.
2. Seawater has a heat capacity four times
larger than air.
3. The average depth of the global ocean is
about 3700 m.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answers: C, A , B

CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday conducted searches on the premises of persons allegedly involved in irregularities in the tests conducted for recruitment of constables in the Border Security Force (BSF). “The searches were carried out in Delhi, Ghaziabad and Gurugram,” said a CBI official. Among those named as accused in the FIR are Ravi Kumar and CS Datamation Research Services Private Limited.

ABOUT CBI

Origins of CBI can be traced back to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) set up in 1941 in order to cases of bribery and corruption in War & Supply Department of India during World War II.

The need of a Central Government agency to investigate cases of bribery and corruption was felt even after the end of World War II. So, DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act, 1946 was brought that gave legal power of investigating cases to CBI.

CBI is not a statutory body as it is not established by an Act of the Parliament.

CBI investigates cases related to economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption and other high-profile cases.

CBI comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Various organizations under this Ministry are Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), CBI, Central Information Commission (CIC), etc.

CBI is exempted from Right to Information (RTI) Act similar to National Investigating Agency (NIA), National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), etc.

CBI is headed by a Director, an IPS (Indian Police Service) officer of the rank of Director General of Police. The director is selected based on CVC Act, 2003 for two years-term. Several other ranks in CBI are filled through recruitment by SSC or deputation from Police, Income Tax Department and Customs Department.

The appointment procedure of CBI Director has undergone several changes over time.

Initially, appointments were made as per Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

The Lokpal Act provided a committee headed by Prime Minister and members as Leader of Opposition/ Leader of single largest opposition party, Chief Justice of India/ a Supreme Court Judge for appointment of CBI Director was formed. Home Ministry sends list of eligible candidates to DoPT that prepares the final list and send it to the committee.

What is CID :-
Established in 1902 by the British Government, CID (Crime Investigation Department) is an investigation and intelligence department of state police. On the other hand, CBI is an agency of the Central Government.

ABOUT BSF

BSF is primary border guarding organisation of India and termed as First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.

It is the sentinels of Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It came into existence on 1st December, 1965.

CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

NEWS: The auction of paddy for a cause — the legal fight against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) — at Sasoni-Merbil in Dibrugarh district of eastern Assam was deferred on Saturday as more farmers from other areas joined in the “rice revolution”.

According to the organisers, thousands of protesters turned up for an anti-CAA rally at the local playground. So did merchants and rice mill owners to buy the paddy sacks stacked in a makeshift shed.

The proceeds of the paddy auction were to be used for the legal campaign against the law

WHAT DOES THE ACT CONTAINS?

The ACT seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

The ACT says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.

The ACT shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

ACT has reduce the time period required for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for members of these communities.

ERUTHU VIDUM VIZAHA: Bull race in Tamil Nadu

NEHRU MEMORIAL MUSEUEM

NEWS: 

As part of a full revamp of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library’s executive council, Nripendra Misra, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, has been appointed as the new chairperson. This comes at a time when the institution is finalising plans to set up a Museum of Prime Ministers.

In another significant move, former Union Minister M.J. Akbar — who resigned from his position after allegations of rape and sexual harassment by multiple women —— has been removed from his position as vice chairman of the NMML executive council.

The new vice-chairperson will be Prasar Bharati Chair A. Surya Prakash.

The members include Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chairperson Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, journalist and Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta and Indian Institute of Advanced Study Chairperson Kapil Kapoor.

ABOUT NMML

The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library was set up in 1966 as an autonomous institution under the Culture Ministry.

Located at the Teen Murti Bhavan, Nehru’s official residence as Prime Minister, it houses his papers and others related to the freedom movement and other aspects of modern history.

 

INDIA PAKISTAN TRADE

NEWS: 

At least 9,354 families, roughly 50,000 people, in Punjab and nearly 900 families in Kashmir have been directly affected by the shutdown of trade between India and Pakistan across the Wagah-Attari border and the Line of Control (LoC) Salamabad-Chakhan da Bagh routes in 2019, says a report.

The cancellation of MFN (most favoured nation) status to Pakistan and the trade routes’ closure following the February 14 last Pulwama terror attack, as well as Pakistan’s counter-measures, including an airspace ban and suspension of trade relations, have resulted in losses in billions of dollars and hundreds of job days.

The traders and truckers said they hoped the governments at the Centre and in Punjab and Jammu Kashmir would consider compensating them for the losses and finding alternative trading markets internally so that those affected were not put out of business permanently. “Trade can be switched off with one stroke of a pen, but it cannot be switched on again easily if the government wants to in the future as trust takes time,” said Mr. Sehgal.

ABOUT MOST FAVORED NATION

According to World Trade Organization rules, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. If one country is granted a trade concession then all countries must be granted such trade concession. This principle is known as the Most Favoured Nation Treatment.

Despite repeated promises Pakistan has never granted Most Favoured Nation status to India.

Revoking MFN status means India can impose whatever tariff it wants on Pakistani’s imports.

COCHLEAR IMPLANTS

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in a letter to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has requested the Union government to reduce the Goods and Services Tax imposed on cochlear implants and its accessories.

These implants are used by persons with hearing impairment.

In his letter, he pointed out that cochlear implants attracted 5 % GST and its accessories were taxed at 12-18%.

“As per the 2011 Census, there are 1.26 million people with hearing disabilities and a large number of such people are from the poor and vulnerable sections of the population,” Mr. Gandhi wrote, requesting the government to reconsider the tax rates.

CORONA VIRUS IN CHINA

China reported four more cases of pneumonia believed to be caused by a new coronavirus strain, causing rising concern globally that a disease health officials do not yet fully understand could spread during a key holiday period.

The new virus, which was discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, belongs in the same large family of coronaviruses that includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.

Though experts say the new virus does not appear to be as lethal as SARS, there is little known about its origins and how easily it can spread.

Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus earlier this week, stoking worries globally as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese people will travel abroad during the Lunar New Year holidays that begin next week.

INDIA EU FTA

NEWS: India-EU trade cannot increase substantially until the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the European Union and India is negotiated, said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, expressing the hope that there will be movement on the BTIA when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Brussels in March this year.

ABOUT INDIA EU FTA

India – EU (European Union) Broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiation started in 2007.

·        Even after sixteen rounds of negotiations, BTIA is still a mirage.

CONCERNS 

For India

·        Expects a greater ease of movement of temporary skilled workers to provide services in the EU.

·        Expects relaxing pharmaceutical sector.

·        EU not granting the Data Secure certification status to India.

·        This data secure status facilitates the cross-border transfer of personal data, key to services industry in India.

·        Rising populism and protectionism in Europe.

For Europe

·        A disagreement on whether the protection of foreign investments will be part of the BTIA or dealt with in a stand-alone treaty.

·        India has allowed lot of bilateral investment treaties to lapse, including those with EU states.

·        Expect greater market access for its automobiles, wines, spirits and dairy products.

·        India does not have a data privacy law.

·        Concerns about the protection of personal data of EU citizens, in case of services industry are open to India.

·        Expects strong intellectual property regime

NATIONAL GAS GRID 

NEWS: A study to facilitate the development of a national gas grid is to be undertaken soon by a U.S. entity for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB).

The India National Gas Grid Technical Assistance programme stems from an agreement in September between PNGRB and the United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA). It will primarily update a 2011 study carried out by the same contractor (ICF Resources). USTDA and ICF Resources will fund the project cost of $1.219 million.

The study will aim at developing an economic basis for building India’s Natural Gas Grid (NGG), said a presentation by ICF Resources that PNGRB shared while inviting suggestions from stakeholders “to carry out the study in a practical and realistic scenario.”

The natural gas pipeline network in India totalled 16,324 km as on April 2019, according to official figures. Nearly 7,000 km of pipeline is under construction.

Share of natural gas in India’s energy basket is 6.2% as against 23.4% globally and is expected to increase.

ISSUE: IS THE INDIAN ECONOMY MOVING TOWARDS STAGFLATION?

What is stagflation?

Stagflation is an economic scenario where an economy faces both high inflation and low growth (and high unemployment) at the same time.

WHAT IS THE SITUATION OF THE INDIAN ECONOMY?

The Indian economy has now faced six consecutive quarters of slowing growth since 2018. Economic growth in the second quarter ending September, the most recent quarter for which data is available, was just 4.5%. For the whole year, growth is expected to be around 5%.

WHY INDIAN ECONOMY IS FACING SLOWDOWN?

Most economists have blamed the slowdown on the lack of sufficient consumer demand for goods and services. In fact, insufficient demand was cited as the primary reason behind the low price inflation that was prevalent in the economy until recently. Subsequently, the government and many analysts prodded the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut interest rates in order to boost demand.

WHY DOES STAGFLATION OCCURS ACCORDING TO ECONOMISTS?

The conventional view among economists is that there is an inverse relationship between economic growth and inflation.

The idea was first proposed by New Zealand economist William Phillips, after whom the “Phillips Curve” is named, based on statistical studies of inflation and unemployment. It later gained widespread acceptance among mainstream economists. The inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment was seen as a confirmation of the hypothesis that inflation helps the economy function at its full potential.

The simultaneous presence of high inflation and low economic growth under stagflation, however, challenges the conventional view that inflation helps an economy operate at full capacity. It was the stagflation in the United States in the 1970s, caused by rising oil prices after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut supplies abruptly, which first led many to question the validity of the Phillips Curve.

Why is stagflation a problem?

Stagflation essentially ties the hands of the government and the central bank from taking such countercyclical policy steps. With retail inflation now well above the RBI’s targeted range of 2-6%, the central bank is unlikely to assist the economy any time soon by cutting its benchmark interest rate.

Stagflation can also be politically costly to the ruling government. On the one hand, the slowdown in growth could affect peoples’ incomes. On the other, higher inflation could cause a reduction in people’s standard of living as they can afford fewer things.

What is the way out?

Some economists suggest that policymakers should stop worrying about inflation and instead focus exclusively on boosting aggregate demand in the economy. India’s nominal GDP growth, a measure of the overall level of spending in the economy, is expected to hit a 42-year low of 7.5% this year. They consider the RBI’s target of keeping inflation from rising above 6% as an arbitrary one and believe that the central bank should further ease its policy stance and the government should spend more on infrastructure and other sectors to boost the economy.

Others, however, are more cautious about advocating a big-spending approach to rescue the economy from stagflation. They point to the fact that monetary easing in the last one year has only raised prices without leading to higher growth rates. So injecting further liquidity into the economy may only stoke higher inflation without boosting economic growth.

Some economists even see the severe drop in consumer demand simply as a symptom rather than as the primary cause behind the current slowdown. According to this view, it is natural for spending to drop after the end of a credit-fuelled boom. India’s growth rate, it is worth noting, was boosted by the availability of easy credit over the last decade, or even longer. Further credit expansion by the central bank and debt-fuelled government spending, these economists argue, will not lead to genuine and sustainable economic growth but only to another unsustainable boom followed by a bust. So they instead advocate supply-side reforms to bring about genuine economic growth.

 

ISSUE: CORONA  VIRUS ALERT

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses with some causing less severe common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

While the SARS coronavirus is thought to be an animal virus from an as-yet-uncertain animal reservoir, perhaps bats, that spread to other animals (civet cats) and first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002, the MERS coronavirus was passed on from dromedary camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Has China shared the genome sequence data?

On January 11, China shared the whole genome sequence data with WHO and submitted them to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) platform to allow researchers across the world to access the data. Sharing the data with GISAID will help other countries to quickly identify the virus, provide care, and also develop specific diagnostic kits, drugs and even vaccines. Since January 11, five more genome sequences have been submitted to GISAID.

How many have been infected?

Using the genomic test kit, China was able to accurately identify that only 41 of the 59 suspected cases have been infected. On January 17, four more cases were reported by the Wuhan health department.

According to WHO, the clinical signs and symptoms of the patients are mainly fever and fatigue, accompanied by dry cough, with a few experiencing difficulty in breathing. Chest radiographs showed fluid in both lungs.

Has the virus been able to spread among humans?

WHO has said 763 people, including medical staff, who have come in close contact with patients infected with the novel coronavirus, have been identified for close monitoring. Based on preliminary epidemiological investigation, most of the patients had come in close contact with animals or frequently visited a wholesale seafood market (which authorities in Wuhan said was the centre of the outbreak, and closed since January 1).

Has the virus been seen in people outside China?

On January 8, a 61-year-old woman who had travelled from Wuhan to Thailand was hospitalised and mild pneumonia was diagnosed. Thermal surveillance at the one of the airports in Bangkok detected the febrile illness of the traveller. Subsequent testing confirmed that the woman, a Chinese national, was that country’s first imported case of a ‘novel’ coronavirus infection.

Are there any travel restrictions to China?

India has issued a travel advisory asking citizens to follow certain precautionary measures while visiting China.

 

ISSUE: CAN STATES CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF CENTRAL LAWS?

WHY IN NEWS?

Kerala has filed a suit in the Supreme Court of India seeking to declare the CAA as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh has also filed a similar suit, challenging the constitutional validity of the National Investigation Agency Act. Both have invoked Article 131, which confers exclusive jurisdiction on the top court to adjudicate disputes between two or more States, or between States and the Centre.

What does Article 131 say?

Article 131 confers exclusive jurisdiction on the Supreme Court in disputes involving States, or the Centre on the one hand and one or more States on the other. This means no other court can entertain such a dispute.

What happens when a State feels its legal rights have been violated by another State or by the Centre?

Unlike individuals, State governments cannot complain of fundamental rights being violated. Therefore, the Constitution provides that whenever a State feels that its legal rights are under threat or have been violated, it can take the “dispute” to the Supreme Court. States have filed such cases under Article 131 against neighbouring States in respect of river water sharing and boundary disputes. There have been instances of such cases being filed against the Centre too.

Is such a suit maintainable?

There are two conflicting opinions of the Supreme Court on this point. In 2011, in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Union of India and Another, the court said: “…when the Central laws can be challenged in the State High Courts as well and also before this Court under Article 32, normally, no recourse can be permitted to challenge the validity of a Central law under the exclusive original jurisdiction of this Court provided under Article 131.”

However, in State of Jharkhand vs. State of Bihar and Another (2014), another Bench said it was unable to accept the view that the constitutionality of a law cannot be raised in a suit under Article 131. Therefore, the matter was referred to a larger Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.

What is likely to happen?

Given the reference by a two-judge Bench, the Supreme Court may have to constitute a larger Bench to decide the question whether the suits challenging central laws are maintainable.

If the suits are declared maintainable, the same Bench may also adjudicate the disputes.

TRUENAT MTB

WHAT IT IS?

A molecular diagnostic test to diagnose pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB and rifampicin-resistant TB, has high diagnostic accuracy.

Truenat MTB has “high diagnostic accuracy as initial test to diagnose TB and to sequentially detect rifampicin resistance”, says the WHO Communication. Truenat MTB will be used as an initial test to diagnose TB thus replacing sputum smear microscopy.

Truenat is developed by the Goa-based Molbio Diagnostics. The company was provided with technical assistance and resources by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) to help commercialise Truenat. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had assessed and validated the diagnostic tool.

“Truenat will be cheaper per test than Xpert.

Higher sensitivity

While sputum microscopy has only about 50% sensitivity, Truenat has been found to have higher sensitivity and specificity. According to WHO, the overall sensitivity of the Truenat MTB assay is 83% and specificity is 99%. In the case of Truenat MTBPlus, which uses two targets to diagnose TB bacteria, the sensitivity increases to 89% and the specificity is 98%.

Beats smear microscopy

Based on data available from around 230 TB diagnosing units located in primary health centres and community health centres in Andhra Pradesh, scientists at the Chennai-based National Institute of Epidemiology found Truenat had better ability to diagnose more TB positive cases. “Compared with smear microscopy, there was 30% more number of positive cases diagnosed after Truenat was implemented in the 230-odd units,” says Manoj V. Murhekar, Director of NIE.

Low cost

The main cost advantage while using Truenat will be in the manner the tests are carried out. Only when samples test positive for TB will the test for rifampicin resistance be carried out in the case of Truenat. This is unlike Xpert where both TB diagnosis and rifampicin resistance test are done at one go. Hence the use of reagents may be reduced, and this will help make the testing cheaper when Truenat is used.

Also, a peripheral-level TB test using Truenat will reduce the delay in diagnosis and when combined with improved treatment initiation rates will fare better compared with district-level Xpert testing. After all, early diagnosis and treatment initiation will help reduce TB transmission and incidence.

REMOVAL OF METALS FROM WATER

NEWS: Simultaneously removing heavy metals such as arsenic, chromium, cadmium and mercury from waste water with very high efficiency now appears possible, thanks to the work of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

The carbon-based nanostructure that the team fabricated shows 80-90% adsorption efficiency for all the four heavy metals studied.

No electricity is required for the nanostructure to remove heavy metals from water as it allows for gravity-driven purification of the water. The nanostructures can be recycled and reused multiple times.

For the four heavy metals to get adsorbed on the nanostructure the water has to be in contact with the nanostructure for at least 32 seconds. The team used a 1 cm long column of the nanostructure to make sure that minimum contact time is maintained.

The team tested the ability of the structure to adsorb heavy metals in industrial effluent over a range of pH conditions (pH 2-13). The industrial effluent was simulated by mixing 100 ppm of each metal.

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