Current Affairs a for IAS Exams - 30 APRIL 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 30 APRIL 2019


Supreme court seek response from EC over VVPAT issue

  • The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Election Commission to a plea to decriminalise the act of reporting “deviant behaviour” manifested in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) sytems during polling.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India RanjanGogoi issued notice to the Commission to explain the requirement for Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 read with Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs.
  • Petitioner Sunil Ahya submitted, “It may not be fair and just to charge an elector for reporting such a deviant behaviour. Yet, presently, in all eventuality, the onus/burden of proof is on the elector, who will face the criminal charges irrespective of whether that reporting is truthful and honest.” In fact, the rule worked to deter people from coming forth to complain.
  • The petition explained the various forms of “deviant behaviour” the EVMs and VVPATs could possibly have, including an “unsolicited programme” by ballots cast for one candidate may be transferred, not sequentially, but rather intermittently (at pre-programmed intervals or otherwise) to another candidate.
  • “And, therefore, where an elector is asked to cast test vote as prescribed under Rule 49 MA, he may not be able to reproduce the same result which he was complaining about,” it said.

Central committee to implement clean air programme

  • The Union Environment Ministry has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • The NCAP unveiled in January is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.The NCAP is envisioned as a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. There would be a review every five years.
  • States in which the cities are located are expected to produce plans that include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and strengthening enforcement. For achieving the NCAP targets, the cities would be expected to calculate the reduction in pollution, keeping 2017’s average annual PM levels as the base year.
  • The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) database on air pollution over the years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most polluted places in the world. In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India.
  • The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures such as “ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or “ensuring strict action against unauthorised brick kilns” (within 30 days). It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in. Experts have criticised the lack of mandatory targets and the challenge of inadequate enforcement by cities.


India – China pharma sector to discuss issues soon

  • India will be sending a high-level delegation to the first meeting of the working group on pharmaceuticals, with China, scheduled in Beijing next month.
  • An initiative under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) Mechanism, the working group meeting comes in the backdrop of growing efforts by India to increase pharma exports to China.
  • In doing so, the emphasis has been on impressing upon China to make the drug registration process easier for Indian pharma companies. “There is a need for strengthening our exports to China and also to reduce import dependence from China, which could be achieved with regular trade and bilateral discussions,” a communication from the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) to its members said.
  • In 2018-19, China figured in the 17th spot in the list of India’s top pharma export destinations. At $230.19 million, exports increased 14.83% from the previous year’s $200.46 million.
  • The growth potential, however, is much higher, considering the fact that the exports grew 52% in 2017-18.
  • The Indian delegation will be led by Joint Secretary to the Department of Pharmaceuticals and comprise senior officials from the Commerce Ministry as well. Senior executives of a few pharma companies from India as well as of those already involved in their firms’ operations in China, such as Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Hetero, are expected to be part of the delegation, sources said.

Employees consortium to bid for Jet airways

  • As uncertainty continues over the fate of the shuttered Jet Airways, an employees’ consortium has proposed to take over the airline with at least ₹3,000 crore expected from outside investors for the bid, according to two staff unions.
  • This is the first time that employees have come together with a proposal to run the more than 25-year-old Jet Airways, which temporarily suspended operations on April 17.
  • Two associations representing pilots and engineers SWIP and JAMEVA have written to State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar proposing that they would like to take over the airline and can bring in up to ₹7,000 crore.
  • The Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP) and the Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association (JAMEVA) have written a letter to the SBI chief asking the lead lender to consider “employee consortium” as an intending bidder for the carrier.
  • The deadline for submitting initial bids have already ended and the list of shortlisted entities is expected to be finalised on May 10.SBI Capital Markets, on behalf of the lenders’ consortium led by the SBI, is managing the bidding process.
  • Cash-starved Jet Airways stopped operations on April 17 after lenders decided not to extend emergency funds. Since then, employees have held gatherings in various cities and have also met various Ministers with pleas to save the airline.

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Sanchez’s PSOE party wins by small margin in Spain

  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists have won snap elections, without the necessary majority to govern solo, in a fragmented political landscape marked by the far-right’s entry into Parliament. The results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with Mr. Sánchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment that has soured since Catalonia’s failed secession bid in 2017.
  • A significant development was the rise of the ultra-nationalist Vox party, which garnered just over 10% of the vote in a country that has had no far-right party to speak of since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. Mr. Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) got 123 lawmakers out of 350, or close to 29% of votes short of an absolute majority but much better than the 85 seats it got in 2016.
  • Mr. Sánchez, who came to power in June after ousting conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote, could seek to forge alliances with far-left Podemos and smaller groupings like Catalan separatist parties, as he had done over the past 10 months. He could also try to cosy up to centre-right Ciudadanos, which won 57 seats. Together, they would form an absolute majority but voters from both parties would likely frown on such a move.
  • Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera built his campaign on disparaging Mr. Sánchez, criticising his attempts to negotiate with Catalan separatist parties in a bid to ease aw secession crisis in the northeastern region.
  • The crisis in Catalonia was precisely what fuelled Vox’s meteoric rise from the outer margins of politics to the national scene, after gaining nearly 11% of votes in December regional polls in southern Andalusia. Founded by Santiago Abascal, a disgruntled former PP member, it will now take 24 seats in the national Parliament.

EU extends arms sales ban to Myanmar

  • The European Union has extended a ban on selling arms to Myanmar and prolonged sanctions against high-ranking officials till 30th April 2020, over their role in the Rohingya crisis.
  • The EU said in a statement that the sanctions include an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on dual-use goods for use by the military and border guard police, and export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that might be used for internal repression.
  • About 14 top military and border officials are under individual EU sanctions - barring them from travelling to or through the European bloc and freezing any assets they hold in Europe - over alleged human rights violations, including killings and sexual violence.
  • The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
  • In August 2017, almost 750,000 Rohingya refugees fled a military crackdown in northern Myanmar to cross into Bangladesh, where 300,000 members of the persecuted Muslim minority were already in camps.


ICRISAT discovers tolerance & heat resistance of chick pea varieties

  • An international team led by the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has identified in chickpea four important genes for heat tolerance and three important genes for drought tolerance.
  • With rising temperatures and increasing climatic fluctuations due to climate change, the identification of these climate-resistant genes will help in developing newer chickpea varieties which can tolerate temperatures up to 38 ° C. Also, the identification of other genes with important agromic traits will help in increasing the yield and providing better resistance to pests and diseases. The study was based on complete genome sequencing of 429 chickpea lines from 45 countries More than 90% of chickpea cultivation area is in South Asia, including India. Globally, more than 70% yield is lost due to drought and increasing temperatures. Chickpea is a cool season crop, so in general any further increase in temperature is expected to further reduce the yield.
  • In India, chickpea is generally sown in September-October and harvested in January-February. “Currently, in India, chickpea does not face a major threat from increasing temperature. But we are already witnessing a slight warming during the months of January and February. So a new variety with heat and drought tolerance will be highly useful to Indian farmers.
  • The study has found that chickpea originated in the Mediterranean/south-west Asia and migrated to south Asia. It reached India about two centuries ago, apparently through Afghanistan. In parallel, it migrated from the Mediterranean to east Africa and central Asia.


Indian athletes clinch gold at para cycling championships

  • Indian para-athletes came up with brilliant performance to secure a silver and two bronze medals at the Asian Road para-cycling championships at Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
  • Divij Shah clinched silver while Asian Para Games bronze medallist Gurlal Singh and Hand cyclist SudhakarMarathe claimed bronze.

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