Centre assures supreme court to fill CIC vacancies in a week
Appointments to fill at least four vacancies on the Central
Information Commission will be finalised on December 11, the Centre told the
Supreme Court this week, according to one of the petitioners in the case.
The government’s counsel also informed the court that the Centre
intends to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, said the petitioner
The 11-member Commission, the highest appeal body available to
applicants seeking information under the RTI Act, is currently operating
with only three members in the wake of multiple retirements. The eight
vacancies include the Chief Information Commissioner, who completed his
tenure last month.
While the Centre listed the RTI Amendments Bill, 2018, for
introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament, Opposition MPs had
protested, citing concerns that the proposed amendments to salary and tenure
norms would compromise the independence of the commissions at the Central
and State levels.
Apart from the CIC, a number of State Information Commissions (SICs)
are also operating with multiple vacancies, leading to a rising pendency of
cases, petitioners told the apex court.
Study reveals catastrophic effect of air pollution in India
India, with 18% of the world’s population, has a
disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease
burden due to air pollution. Moreover, one in eight deaths in India was
attributable to air pollution in India in 2017, making it a leading risk
factor for death.
This is according to the first comprehensive estimates of
reduction in life expectancy associated with air pollution in each State,
published by the India State-Level Disease Burden.
The key findings from the paper include the fact that 12.4 lakh
deaths in India in 2017 were due to air pollution, which included 6.7 lakh
deaths due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution and 4.8 lakh deaths
due to household air pollution.
Over half of the deaths due to air pollution were in persons less
than 70 years of age. In 2017, 77% population of India was exposed to
ambient particulate matter PM2.5 above the recommended limit by the National
Ambient Air Quality Standards. The report states that the highest PM2.5
exposure level was in Delhi, followed by the other north Indian States of
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.
Further, the study states that the disability-adjusted life years
(DALYs), attributable to air pollution in India in 2017 for major
non-communicable diseases were at least as high as those attributable to
It also recommends that variations between the States in the
exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution should be taken into account
while planning policies to reduce this exposure and its health impact.
India signs pact with Iran to pay for crude imports
India has signed an agreement with Iran to pay for crude oil it
imports from the Persian Gulf nation in rupees, sources in know of the
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed following the
U.S. letting India and seven other nations to keep buying Iranian oil
despite sanctions were reimposed on the Islamic state on November 5.
Under U.S. sanctions, India can export foodgrains, medicines and medical
devices to Iran.
Under the 180-day exemption, India is allowed to import a maximum
of 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil. This compares to an average daily
import of about 560,000 barrels this year.
India, which is the second biggest purchaser of Iranian oil after
China, has since then restricted its monthly purchase to 1.25 million tonne
or 15 million tonne in a year (300,000 barrels per day), down from 22.6
million tonne (452,000 barrels per day) bought in 2017-18 financial year,
India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer, meets more than 80%
of its oil needs through imports. Iran is its third largest supplier after
Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10% of total needs.
Besides blocking of banking channels from November, shipping firms
are unwilling to transport Iranian oil. To get around this, Iran is using
its own ships to transport crude to India. Its insurance companies are also
providing insurance cover for such shipments, sources added.
Cyber attacks turn out to be costly for big firms
A large-sized organisation in India incurs an average of $10.3
million in economic losses due to cyberattacks, according to a Frost and
Sullivan study commissioned by Microsoft.
The study also said cyberattacks cost a mid-sized organisation an
average of $11,000 in economic losses.
Cybersecurity attacks have also resulted in job losses across
different functions in more than three in five (64%) organisations that have
experienced an incident during the survey period,” it added.
It found that more than three in five organisations (62%) surveyed
in India have either experienced a cybersecurity incident (30%) or were not
sure if they had one as they had not performed proper forensics or data
breach assessment (32%).
The survey factors in three kinds of losses that could be incurred
due to a cybersecurity breach — direct (financial losses associated with the
incident), indirect (the opportunity cost to the organisation such as
customer churn due to reputation loss), and and induced (impact on the
broader ecosystem and economy, such as the decrease in consumer and
There are many other hidden losses that we have to consider from
both the indirect and induced perspectives, and the economic loss for
organisations suffering from cybersecurity attacks can be often
underestimated,the survey said.
Koreas agree on withdrawal of guard posts in border area
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
have agreed to verify the pilot withdrawal of guard posts in the
inter-Korean border area.
Disclosing this at a press conference in Seoul today, South Korean
Vice Defence Minister SuhChoo-suk said the verification will be conducted
through on-site visits on 12th of this month. Seven-member teams will be
sent to guard posts which were subject to the pullout.
The two sides had withdrawn soldiers and weapons from 11 guard
posts respectively and destroyed them inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on
a trial basis. The DMZ left the Korean Peninsula divided since the 1950-53
Korean War ended with armistice.
The withdrawal was conducted to implement the military agreement.
Defence chiefs of the two Koreas signed the agreement during the Pyongyang
summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un in September.
OPEC reaches consensus on cutting oil production
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
tentatively agreed an oil-output cut on Thursday but was waiting to hear
from non-OPEC heavyweight Russia before deciding the exact volumes for a
production reduction aimed at propping up crude prices, two sources from the
The price of crude has fallen almost a third since October but
U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded the Organisation of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries make oil even cheaper by refraining from output cuts.
OPEC delegates have said the group and its allies could cut by 1
million bpd if Russia contributed 150,000 bpd of that reduction. If Russia
contributed around 250,000 bpd, the overall cut could exceed 1.3 million
Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States have been vying for the
position of top crude producer in recent years. The United States is not
part of any output-limiting initiative due to its anti-trust legislation and
fragmented oil industry.
Iranian exports have plummeted after the United States imposed
fresh sanctions on Tehran in November. But Washington gave sanctions waivers
to some buyers of Iranian crude, further raising fears of an oil glut next
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Indian scientist develop ways to grow crops in arsenic contaminated soil
An Indian scientist in the U.K. is working on a way to grow crops
in arsenic-contaminated soil, a study which is likely to have wide ranging
impact for farmers in northeastern India.
Dr. Mohan T.C., from Dr. Alex Jones Laboratory at the School of
Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, conducted a pilot study in
transgenic Barley and is now looking at doing it in rice plants following
funding from the Medical and Life Sciences Research Fund, U.K.
The university made the announcement on Wednesday, to mark World
Soil Day on December 5. “To stop the cancer-causing arsenic entry into the
food chain, it is essential to develop safe crops, through restricting the
translocation of arsenic to edible part,” he said.
“In our current project, we are trying to manipulate cytokinin
hormone in rice plants through genetic engineering and we expect to increase
the roots detoxification capacity of the transgenic rice,” he said.
Yasir shah becomes youngest to reach 200wicket mark
Pakistan's leg-spinner Yasir Shah on Thursday became the fastest
cricketer to take 200 Test wickets, breaking an 82-year-old record on the
fourth day of the third Test against New Zealand.
The 32-year-old trapped nightwatchman Will Somerville leg before
for four -- his second wicket of the New Zealand second innings — to reach
the milestone in his 33rd Test, beating Australian leg-spinner
ClarrieGrimmett's record of 36 Tests achieved against South Africa in
Johannesburg in 1936.
Yasir, whose 14 wickets helped Pakistan level the series 1-1 in
Dubai, now has 27 wickets in the three Tests against New Zealand.
Yasir was also the fastest Pakistani to 50 wickets (nine Tests),
reached 100 wickets in 17 Tests — second only to Englishman George Lohmann
who took 16 matches during a Test in Johannesburg in 1896.