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Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 22 may 2019
Plea for 100% verification of VVPAT rejected by supreme court
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a writ petition for
100% random physical verification of EVM-VVPAT in the LokSabha polls of
The court said that there were just two days left before
counting and the country should be allowed to choose its government. The court
would not stand in the way. Dubbing the public interest litigation filed by a
collective of technocrats called ‘Tech4All’ a “nuisance”, the Vacation Bench of
Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah junked the PIL in a brief hearing.
The Bench pointed out that all the seven phases of polling were
over and the country was looking forward to form a new government on May 23. The
PIL was ill-timed and would only disrupt the electoral process which was on its
last spring to the finish line, it noted.
The PIL had cited the recent allegations of changing the EVMs
even as the Election Commission of India has strongly denied them.The PIL said
the Supreme Court’s order in April to raise the physical verification of votes
using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (EVM-VVPATs) from one EVM to five EVMs
per Assembly segment was not enough of a safeguard from tampering.
There was a need for 100% physical counting for foolproof poll
results on May 23, it said. On May 7, a Supreme Court Bench, led by Chief
Justice RanjanGogoi, had dismissed a plea by 21 Opposition parties to review its
Home secretary seeks better preparedness from states ahead of
The Union Home Secretary Shri Rajiv Gauba has called on the
States and Union Territories to step up their preparedness by advance
planning and deployment of human, physical and financial resources ahead of
the monsoon season.
He called upon the States to undertake capacity building of
urban local bodies, State Disaster Response Force, Fire Service and Civil
Defence since they are the first responders during a calamity.
He urged the States to increase coverage of farmers under the
PradhanMantriFasalBimaYojana crop insurance scheme to provide immediate relief
to farmers in the event of natural disasters.
Citing a UN Report, the Union Home Secretary said disasters had
caused economic losses of US $3 trillion globally during the last two decades.
India alone suffered losses to the tune of $80 billion during 1997-2017.
Stating that our country is prone to various kinds of disasters,
ShriGauba called for building Disaster Resilient Infrastructure as a long term
measure to minimize the economic losses.
In his address, Dr. DN Sharma, Member, National Disaster
Management Authority (NDMA), said that India has been able to reduce deaths due
to natural disasters substantially. While 385 people had died last year due to
natural disasters, the figure came down to 195 this year. He said the NDMA has
come out with the Urban Flood Management Plan in 2015, which can serve as a
template for tackling monsoon flooding.
India’s GDP growth forecast lowered by UN
The United Nations (UN) has lowered its forecast for India’s
GDP growth in 2019-20 to 7.1% from its estimate in January of 7.5%, citing
an overall slowdown in global growth.
The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2019
report said that the global economy is experiencing a broad-based growth
slowdown led by slowing industrial production coupled with the weakening of
international trade activity due in large part to the unresolved trade disputes
between the U.S. and China.
“Across both developed and developing countries, growth
projections for 2019 have been downgraded,” the report said. “Alongside a
slowdown in international trade, business sentiments have deteriorated, casting
a cloud on investment prospects. “The Indian economy, which generates two-thirds
of the regional output, expanded by 7.2% in 2018,” the report added. “Strong
domestic consumption and investment will continue to support growth, which is
projected at 7% in 2019 and 7.1% in 2020.”
While the slowdown in European Union has meant exports from
nations such as Bangladesh have also slowed as the EU is one of its major export
destinations, India is on a stronger footing because of the nature of its export
“India’s exports remain more robust, as around half of exports
are destined for faster-growing Asian markets,” the report said.Overall, the UN
lowered its growth forecast for South Asia marginally to 5.8% in 2020 from the
5.9% estimated for the year in January.
High level committee pertaining to issues of Oil& Gas sector
The High-Level Committee (HLC) constitutedby the Government
of India to examine the issues relating to preparation of action plan to
create synergy among R&D Centres of Oil & Gas PSUs; tax issues and ways to
benefit from GST by the Oil & Gas PSUs today submitted its report to the
Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship
ShDharmendraPradhan here today.
The HLC, consisting of Dr. Anil Kakodkar, eminent Scientist and
ShriSidharthPradhan, an expert on financial and tax issues, also looked into
merger, acquisition and consolidation of Oil & Gas PSUs and the Joint Ventures;
explored the need and possibility of formation of new entity dealing with oil
services and supply of qualified manpower to Oil & Gas sector around the world.
Energy security is a key strategic priority for
India.During2018, India consumed 204.92 MMT petroleum products and 58.64 BCM
natural gas whereas the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas has
India’s projected oil demand is going to grow at CAGR 4% during
2016-2030 against the world average of 1% though the projected oil demand will
be much lower as compared to the US and China. India is thus at very precarious
situation and to secure its energy needs in sustainable manner, out-of-box
solutions are needed. R&D is going to play an important role in the process.
The HLC, in the process visited, different R&D and training
institutes of different oil & gas PSUs. It also engaged with CMDs/ senior
executives of the Oil sector to understand the business, challenges and
opportunities in the sector before writing its recommendations.
Pakistani fishing vessel caught near Gujarat coast with
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Tuesday seized heroin,
estimated to be worth between Rs. 800 and Rs. 1,000 crore in the
international market, from a Pakistani fishing vessel off the Gujarat coast.
According to Additional Director General K. Natarajan, Coast
Guard commander, Western Seaboard, they received intelligence inputs on May 20
from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and other agencies that a
Pakistani fishing boat was to deliver narcotics off the Gujarat coast to an
Indian fishing boat.
ICG ship Arinjay on patrol off the India-Pakistan International
Maritime Border Line was alerted. Two additional Interceptor Boats C-437 and
C-408 from Jakhau and Okha were asked to join the search. An ICG Dornier
aircraft was also launched from Porbandar for aerial recce.
Al Madina was kept under surveillance and intercepted by Arinjay
at about 9.15 a.m. on Tuesday. The Karachi-based vessel was then 08 NM from the
IMBL, inside Indian waters.
“Despite evasive maneuvers carried out by the crew of Al Madina and rough sea
conditions, it was intercepted within Indian waters. During hot pursuit, the
crew threw bags containing suspicious material into the sea. The Coast Guard
team upon boarding the vessel took six crew members into custody and retrieved
the material from the sea,” Mr.Natarajan said.
“On initial checking, about 195 packets containing approximately
200 kg of heroin has been found. The Pakistani vessel crew are being
interrogated and the boat is being searched by various agencies,” Mr.Natarajan
Indonesia re-elects JokoWidodo as president
Heavily armed Indonesian troops were on high alert on
Tuesday amid fears of civil unrest in the capital Jakarta, as the surprise
early announcement of official election results handed JokoWidodo another
term as leader of the world’s third-biggest democracy.
The Election Commission had been due to give the divisive poll’s
final tally on Wednesday, but results were announced early on Tuesday instead.
Presidential challenger PrabowoSubianto, a 67-year-old retired
general, vowed to take his claims of widespread cheating to court as several
thousand supporters protested in the capital.
Tensions have also spiked since police said last week that they
arrested dozens of Islamic State-linked terror suspects who planned to cause
chaos by bombing post-election protests.
On Friday, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta issued a heightened
security alert for Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation which
has long wrestled with Islamist militancy. Other embassies issued similar
The front of the Election commission office was barricaded,
after Mr.Subianto warned that mass demonstrations could break out if he lost.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Civil society groups seek revision of WHO’s guideline on
Over 60 civil society organisations from across the world
have written to the Director General of World Health Organisation (WHO)
demanding revision of the global health body's 'Guidelines for Evaluation of
Similar Biotherapeutic Product (SBPs),' which were adopted in 2009.
Biotherapeutic medicines, also known as biologics, are produced
through biological processes and differ from the older generation small-molecule
medicines that are derived through chemical synthesis.
"Unfortunately, both accessibility and affordability of this new
class of medicines in developing countries is abysmally poor, owing largely to
their high prices,’’ noted the group.
Civil Society groups claim that even though a Resolution of the
World Health Assembly in 2014 mandates the Director General to convene the WHO
expert committee on biological standardization to update the 2009 guidelines,
“till date, the secretariat has neither updated the SBP guidelines nor has the
WHO given any scientific reasons for the decision,” the group added.
The groups including the Cancer Patients Aid Association
(India), Section 27 (South Africa), Third World Network (Malaysia), and
Treatment Action Group (USA) have demanded that WHO, in its capacity as the
directing and coordinating authority on international health, promptly make
public the scientific reasons for insisting on comparative clinical trials for
the approval of SBP and urgently take measures to update the SBP Guidelines.
They also sought public consultations to review the scientific
evidence with respect to the need for comparative clinical trials, among other
India’s GomathiMarimuthu fails dope test again
GomathiMarimuthu had been the biggest surprise for India
with her 800m gold at the recent Asian athletics championships in Doha, but
now she is in big doping trouble.
The Tamil Nadu athlete has failed a dope test for a banned
steroid at last month’s Doha Asians and now faces a four-year ban. She had
tested positive in the Federation Cup held more than a month before that but the
National Anti-Doping Agency appears to have kept quiet about it.
India could now lose one of the three golds it had won at the
Doha Asians and this could lead to a lot of embarrassment, something which could
have been avoided if the results had come on time.