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October 8, 2019
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October 10, 2019
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09 October Current Affairs

Essel Mutual Fund by BAC Acquisitions Pvt Ltd

In News:

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has given its approval under the ‘green channel’ route to acquisition of Essel Mutual Fund by BAC Acquisitions Pvt Ltd, a Sachin Bansal-owned entity. This is the first clearance under the ‘green channel’ route, a speedier approval mechanism put in place by the CCI.

About:

The green channel concept — recommended by the high-level panel that reviewed competition law in August — allow for an automatic system for speedy approval for certain categories of merger and acquisitions.

Under the framework, green channel approvals can be availed in combinations where there are no horizontal overlaps, no existing or potential vertical relationships and no complementary business activities between the combining parties, or their respective group entities, or involving any entity in which any of the combining partied hold shares or have control.

Merger and acquisitions (M&As) or combinations beyond a certain threshold are required to have mandatory approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

Bharat Stage Six (BS-VI)

In News:

Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar has said that the country will shift to Bharat Stage Six (BS-VI) vehicular emission norms from BS-IV by April 2020. BS VI petrol/diesel is already available in Delhi/NCR.

About:

What are they? Bharat Stage norms are the automotive emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and construction equipment vehicles.

Objective: To regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment. The higher the fuel standard a vehicle complies with, the less polluting it is.

Who sets them? These are emission standards instituted by the Government of India based on European regulations. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change.

Indian scenario: To curb growing menace of air pollution through the vehicles emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020.

e-DantSeva

In News:

Union Minister of Health, Dr. Harsh Vardhan launched the eDantseva website and mobile application, the first ever national digital platform on oral health information and knowledge dissemination.

About:

e-DantSeva contains information about the National Oral Health Program, detailed list of all the dental facility and colleges, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material.

it also contains a unique feature called the ‘Symptom Checker’, which provides information on symptoms of dental/oral health problems, ways to prevent these, the treatment modes, and also directs the user to find their nearest available dental facility (public and private sectors both).

The website also provides GPRS route/images/satellite images of the facility for easier access to the general population.

‘Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan’

In News:

Union Jal Shakti Minister launched Ganga Aamantran – a unique social awareness initiative to connect with Ganga’s Stakeholders.

About:

The ‘Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan’ is a exploratory open-water rafting and kayaking expedition on the Ganga River to be held between 10th October 2019 to 11 November 2019.

Starting at Devprayag and culminating at Ganga Sagar, the expedition will cover the entire streatch of over 2500 kms of the Ganga River.

This is the first ever effort by National Mission for Clean Ganga to raft across the entire stretch of the river and also the longest ever social campaign undertaken through an adventure sporting activity to spread the message of River Rejuvenation and Water Conservation on a massive scale.

The expedition will encompass the five Ganga basin states including Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal with stops at Rishikesh, Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Sonepur and Kolkata.

The expedition will be supported by all the stakeholders of Namami Gange including the MPs of the constituency along Ganga, members of Ganga Praharis, Ganga Vichar Manch among others.

Cotton Technical Assistance Programme (TAP)

Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Irani announced that India will cover five more African countries in the second phase of its cotton technical assistance programme (TAP) for the region.

About:

India implemented a technical assistance programme (TAP) for cotton in six African countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, from 2012 to 2018.

In the five year long second phase, the programme will be introduced in five additional countries, namely Mali, Ghana, Togo, Zambia and Tanzania. The Cotton TAP programme will now cover 11 African countries including the C4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali).

Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) covers the following broad areas –

Increasing cotton production (area expansion and productivity enhancement)

Improving Extension & Support Service Efficiency

Enhancing R&D/ Quality Control

Marketing/Distribution Infrastructure

Strengthening/development of cotton residue based value addition industry

Creating/Strengthening Downstream Industry in Textiles and Clothing

New Automatic Exchange Of Information Framework

In News:

India has received the first tranche of details about financial accounts of its residents in Swiss banks under a new automatic exchange of information framework between the two countries.

About:

India figures among 75 countries with which Switzerland’s FTA has exchanged information on financial accounts within the framework of global standards on Automatic Exchange Of Financial Account Information (AEOI).

This is the first time that India has received details from Switzerland under the AEOI framework, which provides for exchange of information on financial accounts that currently active as well as those accounts that were closed during 2018.

It marks a significant milestone in the fight against black money suspected to be stashed abroad.

The next exchange would take place in September 2020.

Asia Environmental Enforcement Award

In News:

Senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Ramesh Pandey has been selected for the prestigious Asia Environmental Enforcement Award by the United Nations Environment Programme.

About:

This is the fourth time the Awards will be given.

Objective: The awards recognize excellence in enforcement by government officials and institutions/teams combating transboundary environmental crime, such as illegal trade in wildlife, chemicals or waste, in Asia.

Categories: This year’s Awards will be given in 5 categories: (1) Collaboration; (2) Impact; (3) Innovation; (4) Integrity and (5) gender leadership. There will be also a separate category for Africa-Asia cooperation in the area of illegal trade in wildlife.

Agencies involved: The 2019 Awards are presented by UN Environment programme (UNEP) in partnership with the UNDP, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, USAID, Freeland Foundation, and the Government of Sweden.

55th Anniversary of India’s flagship capacity building programme

In News:

Development Partnership Administration Division of the External Affairs Ministry is celebrating the 55th Anniversary of India’s flagship capacity building programme – Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation.

About:

ITEC Programme was launched in 1964 by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The ITEC Programme is fully funded by the Government of India.

The Programme is essentially bilateral in nature. However, in recent years, ITEC resources have also been used for cooperation programmes conceived in regional and inter-regional context such as Economic Commission for Africa, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNIDO and Group of 77.

It has the following components:

Training (civilian and defence) in India of nominees from ITEC partner countries;

Projects and project related activities such as feasibility studies and consultancy services;

Deputation of Indian experts abroad;

Study Tours;

Gifts/Donations of equipment at the request of ITEC partner countries; and

Aid for Disaster Relief.

Division of Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal division for handling all capacity building programmes.

2019 Nobel Prize

In News:

Two Americans and a British scientist have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for discovering how the body’s cells sense and react to oxygen levels, work that has paved the way for new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and other diseases.

About:

The 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to scientists William G Kaelin, Jr, Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza.

They received the award jointly for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. they established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function.

Their research has “paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anaemia, cancer and many other diseases.

The three will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor or about 9 Lakh 14 thousand US dollar. They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.

It is the 110th prize in the category that has been awarded since 1901.

Larger pictorial warnings

In News:

A new study has shown that large health warnings on tobacco packets with plain packaging can be highly effective in conveying ill effects of tobacco to people.

Key findings:

Such warnings would be more impactful through increased visibility of the warning thus help prevent initiation and motivate cessation.

Packs with 85% graphical warnings were perceived to be more effective in increasing noticeability of the warnings and conveying the intended health message.

These warnings are also effective in preventing non-users from initiating tobacco use, and motivating users to quit.

Background:

In October 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had first proposed that 85% of a cigarette packet’s surface area on both the sides should carry health warnings, up from 40% on one side of the packet. It was opposed by the tobacco industry and put on hold after the parliamentary panel said it needed to analyse the impact on the industry.

Why stricter laws in this regard are necessary?

Nearly one million tobacco-related deaths take place in India every year, and in 2011, the total health expenditure burden from all diseases due to tobacco use amounted to more than Rs.1,00,000 crore, which is 12% more than the combined State and Central government expenditure on health in 2011-12.

The revenue earned through tobacco excise duty during the same period was a paltry 17% of the health burden of tobacco.

Also, 12% of children in India in the 13-15 age group use tobacco. Similarly, in the case of adults in India, the percentage is 35%.

Why larger pictorial warnings are necessary?

Besides being unaware of all the risks associated with tobacco use, a vast majority of consumers in India of bidi and chewing tobacco are poor and less exposed to awareness campaigns.

Hence, larger images on both sides of the packet are the most effective and powerful way to communicate health risks to this population. They also provoke a greater emotional response, decrease tobacco consumption and increase motivation to quit.

Stubble burning

In News:

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has launched an advanced Air Quality Early Warning System, which can predict places neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day.

Key facts:

The system has been developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, under MoES.

It uses data of stubble burning incidents from the past 15 years to predict the date and place of the next burning, and help authorities to act in advance.

Using the data, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board, creates probability maps to alert government agencies about areas where the chances of stubble burning is going to be high.

The system can also track pollution load from stubble burning in places neighbouring the national capital, using satellite data. It can predict the air pollution level for next 72 hours. It can also forecast the level of pollutants like particulate matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, and dust, coming from sources other than stubble burning.

This will help authorities to take preventive steps to control pollution levels as well as mitigate pollution from existing sources.

Background:

Every year between October and November, air quality deteriorates in Delhi and its neighbouring states, as farmers burn the residue after harvesting paddy to clear the fields and make way for the sowing of wheat, despite there being a ban on burning agricultural residue. Smoke from Punjab and Haryana travels to Delhi leading to a spike in pollution levels.

What is stubble burning?

Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.

Impact: Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.

Why farmers opt for stubble burning?

They do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.

The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.

With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.

Advantages of stubble burning:

It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.

Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.

Kills slugs and other pests.

Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:

Promote paddy straw-based power plants. It will also create employment opportunities.

Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.

Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.

New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.

Unless Financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanisation, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning.

States needs to make alternative arrangements for consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.

What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?

Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.

The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.

The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.

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