Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 05 MARCH 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 05 MARCH 2019


Home ministry launches new border surveillance system in Dhubri

  •  Home Minister Rajnath Singh will inaugurate on Tuesday an electronic surveillance project in Dhubri district of Assam, a riverine and highly porous stretch along the Bangladesh border.
  •  The “smart fencing” will be operationalised in the 61 km riverine section of the international border in the district where the Brahmaputra river enters into Bangladesh, in a bid to check illegal immigration and smuggling of arms, ammunition, drugs and cattle, MHA said Monday.
  •  The project, BOLD-QIT (Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique) under the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS), will cover the India-Bangladesh border in the area which consists of ‘char’ (sand islands) and innumerable river channels, which makes border guarding a daunting task, especially during the rainy season, a statement by the MHA said.
  •  To overcome this problem, the MHA had in 2017 decided to employ a technological solution, besides the physical presence of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel.
  •  In January 2018, the information and technology wing of the BSF undertook project BOLD-QIT and completed it in record time with the support of various manufacturers and suppliers.

Study reveals crop burning increases risk of respiratory illness

  •  The burning of agricultural residue a contributor to north India’s winter pollution increases the risk of respiratory illnesses threefold for those who experience it.
  •  It may also be responsible for an annual $30 billion (approximately Rs. 2 trillion) loss in terms of days of work lost in States affected by crop burning, according to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  •  The researchers used health records and satellite data from September 2013-February 2014. The satellite data was for crop-burning fires detected by the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra satellite, managed by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA).
  •  Living in a district that saw 100 fires a day was the “leading risk factor” for ARI. These trumped factors such as cracker burning in Diwali, being a child below 5 years of age and, living in a district with high motor vehicle congestion.
  •  “Our study shows that it is not only the residents of Delhi, but also women, children and men of rural Haryana who are the first victims of crop residue burning. Much of the public discussion on the ill-effects of crop residue burning ignores this immediately affected vulnerable population,” said Dr. Kishore.
  •  In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, asking them to ban stubble burning.
  •  The Environment Ministers of these States as well as top officials at the Centre declared a “zero tolerance” policy on the burning of stubble, which has been estimated to contribute anywhere from 7% to 78% of the particulate matter-emission load in Delhi during winter.


Government moots financial support to work from home jobs to support IT sector

  •  The government is working on a scheme to push work-from-home jobs in the IT sector by offering financial incentives to both employees and employers.
  •  “Incentivising work-from-home jobs through policy-level initiatives can help in creating jobs in the ITES domain while increasing the available talent pool for the sector. This will create employment opportunities in the IT/ITES industry, especially for women and differently-abled persons,” an IT Ministry official said.
  •  Currently, the scheme is proposed for a three-year period till March 31, 2022, with an outlay of about Rs. 270 crore to create about 50,000 work-from-home jobs.
  •  The initiative is likely to be launched as phase II of the IT Ministry’s India BPO Promotion Scheme that incentivises firms to set up operations in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country. The scheme, launched in 2016, had an outlay of about Rs. 500 crore with an objective to create about 1.45 lakh jobs.
  •  “We are also thinking about offering salary-based incentives to incentivise employees to stick to work-from-home jobs,” the official said, adding that additional incentive would be given to women employees, differently-abled, SC/ST or those from aspirational (backward) districts.
  •  To avail benefits under the work-from-home scheme, employees will need to have an Aadhaar-linked Universal Account Number.
  •  For employers, among other things, the policy proposes to provide 50% of the actual expenditure on technical infrastructure required for enabling such jobs, with a cap of Rs. 10,000 per job.

Indian LPG coalition demands reduced GST for conversion kits

  •  LPG conversion kits, which allow vehicles to run on LPG rather than petrol or diesel, are not luxury commodities and should be taxed under GST at 5% rather than the highest rate of 28%, the Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC) said in a statement.
  •  While several countries worldwide have adopted the cleaner fuel, policy in India has, in fact, been a detriment to its adoption, the Coalition added.
  •  “An auto LPG conversion kit is not a luxury item which is placed under the highest GST slab,” Suyash Gupta, director general of the Indian Auto LPG Coalition, said. “At a time when our cities have been reeling under the impact of harmful vehicular emissions, all efforts must be initiated to push consumers towards using cleaner fuels.”
  •  “Conversion of vehicles to auto LPG has to be promoted by making them more affordable and easily available,” Mr. Gupta said. “Unfortunately, such a prohibitively high GST rate is driving up the costs of conversion kits and discouraging consumers.”
  •  Mr. Gupta further said that putting an efficient and non-polluting fuel under the highest GST slab is counter-productive to the government’s attempts to clean India’s urban air quality.
  •  “Another detrimental policy that is hindering the growth of auto LPG is the archaic type approval norms governing vehicle conversions to gaseous fuels,” Mr. Gupta added.

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Pakistan government passes order banning UNSC designated outfits

  •  Facing severe pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, and calls from a number of countries to crack down on terror groups, especially after tensions with India, the Pakistan government on Monday passed an order to effectively ban Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) offshoots Jamat-udDawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
  •  Government sources in New Delhi, however, are sceptical about the move, given Pakistan’s attempts to ban these groups in the past, only to drop the ban over a period of time.
  •  The Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) passed on March 4 says all “properties owned or controlled, wholly or partly, directly or indirectly, by a designated entity or designated individual” and any income from the assets including rent would be frozen or physically seized by the Pakistani authorities.
  •  Islamabad said it will “streamline” the banning of groups that have been proscribed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and ensure that all entities banned by UNSC 1267 Committee in particular will have their assets frozen. In February 2018, the Pakistani government had passed a similar order as a Presidential Ordinance, but then allowed it to lapse six months later.
  •  Meanwhile the U.K. expects a fresh move in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to have the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief MasoodAzhar placed on the UNSC’s 1267 committee’s ban list may go through this time, said Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

U.S. – China trade deal to conclude soon

  •  The Trump administration is close to a trade deal with China that would roll back tariffs on both sides of the Pacific but may do little to achieve the substantive changes to China’s economy that the U.S. initially set out to win, people with knowledge of the talks said.
  •  Significant details remain unsettled and the deal is still being discussed but so far, the two sides have agreed on a pact that would largely require Beijing to make big purchases of U.S. agricultural and energy goods and to lower some barriers that prevent U.S. companies from operating in China.
  •  In return, the U.S. would most likely drop its tariffs on at least $200 billion of the $250 billion worth of Chinese imports currently subject to U.S. levies.
  •  China, which has retaliated against President Donald Trump’s tariffs with its own punishing taxes on U.S. goods, is pushing for the elimination of all of the Trump tariffs, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said.
  •  It is unclear whether the Trump administration will agree to remove all the tariffs or keep some in place to keep pressure on China. As part of the agreement, the Trump administration has been pushing China to accept an enforcement mechanism that would enable the U.S. to quickly reinstate tariffs if Beijing fails to live up to specific promises.
  •  For Mr. Trump, the ability to announce a deal with China would constitute a victory for a presidency rocked by legal investigations and failed nuclear disarmament talks in North Korea last week. Mr. Trump has spent more than a year accusing China of unfair trade practices and promising to shift the balance of economic power back to the U.S.


Stem cell transplantation gives results in HIV remission

  •  In a significant development, a person with HIV infection has been reported to be experiencing remission for the last 18 months after antiretroviral therapy (ART) was stopped following stem-cell transplantation in London. Remission is when HIV RNA (ribonucleic acid) is undetectable in blood. ART is used for treating HIV.
  •  The person with HIV was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 2012. To treat the cancer, stem cells which give rise to blood cells were transplanted from a donor who had two mutant copies of a co-receptor for HIV infection.
  •  This exercise was carried out in London. The co-receptor (CCR5) is used by the HIV virus to gain entry into host cells in humans. But a mutant does not allow the virus to enter the host cells and hence makes the person resistant to HIV infection.
  •  This is the second instance when HIV remission has been achieved through transplantation of stem cells carrying two copies of the mutant co-receptor. The first case wasin 2009; no viral rebound was then seen even 20 months after transplantation and discontinuation of ART therapy.
  •  The researchers did not use radiation but instead used certain drugs to deplete the T cells, which play a crucial role in immunity, before performing stem cell transplantation.
  •  At present, achieving HIV remission through stem cell transplantation will be possible only in those cases where people with HIV also have some form of cancer.


Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey in ICC top rankings

  •  For the first time in nine years, two India bowlers, JhulanGoswami and ShikhaPandey, joined the top five club in the latest ICC women's cricket rankings for ODI bowlers issued on Monday.
  •  Stylish left-handed India opener SmritiMandhana consolidated her position at the top with a career-best 797 points.
  •  In ODI All-Rounder rankings, ShikhaPandey has been placed joint 3rd along with South Africa's Dane van Niekerk. Veteran pacer JhulanGoswami topped the latest ICC women's cricket rankings.

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