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Committee constituted to oversee National Clean Air Programme

Paper : General Studies 3

 

Why in news?

  • Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
  • It will be chaired by Secretary, Union Environment Ministry
  • It will be headquartered in New Delhi

 

What is the National Clean Air Programme?

  • Five-year action plan unveiled in January 2019.
  • It aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
  • States in which these 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.
  • 2017’s average annual PM levels will be taken as the base year.
  • Cities included are required to ensure pothole free roads, improve traffic flow and reduce dust within 60 days.
  • They also have to ensure strict action against unauthorised brick kilns within 30 days.
  • National project implementation unit will be at CPCB
  • An authority will be set up to manage three tier system for data collection, archiving and analytics.
  • Apart from the Steering Committee under the Secretary, Environment it also includes an Apex Committee under the Minister of MoEFCC.

 

Army invokes Emergency powers for missile deal

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • Army is procuring Spike-LR Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHO-RAD)
  • The Army is looking to procure 12 launchers and around 250 missiles for each system.
  • This is being done under new financial emergency powers which were sanctioned by the Ministry of Defence earlier this month.

 

What are the new financial emergency powers?

  • It allows them a free hand in procurement of equipment worth up to Rs. 300 crores on a priority basis
  • Deliveries to be completed in three months, extendable to six months.

 

GRSE to build anti-submarine aircraft for Navy

Paper : General Studies 3

 

Why in news?

  • Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with Kolkata based defense shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) for construction of eight Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Aircrafts (ASWSWCs)
  • First ship will be delivered within 42 months from the contract signing date and subsequent balance ships will be delivered two per year.
  • Project completion time is 84 months.

 

What are the features of ASWSWCs?

  • They have a displacement of 750 tonnes and a complement of 57 personnel.
  • They can reach speeds of 25 knots.
  • Capability of full scale sub-surface surveillance of coastal waters and coordinated ASW operations with aircraft.
  • They can also be deployed for search and rescue by day and night in coastal areas.
  • They are capable of prosecuting intruding aircraft and laying mines in the sea bed.

 

SC tells EC to respond to plea on EVMs and VVPATs

Paper : General Studies 2

 

Why in news?

  • Supreme Court 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) systems during polling.
  • Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 read with Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs i.e. if an allegation is found to be false then a case is made under Section 177 of the IPC
  • The EC said the penal provision was there to prevent frivolous complaints.

 

What is an Electronic Voting Machine?

  • EVM or Electronic Voting Machines are used to cast vote without revealing your identity.
  • EVM has two parts, it consists of a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’, connected by a 5-metre cable.
  • The control unit is with the Election Commission-appointed polling officer; the balloting unit is in the voting compartment into which the voter enters to cast the vote in secret by pressing the button against the name and symbol of the candidate of her choice.
  • The control unit is the EVM’s ‘brain’ — the balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it.
  • The EVM runs on a 6 volt single alkaline battery fitted in the control unit, and can even be used in areas that have no electricity.
  • EVMs are transported under proper security. Machines are sent directly from the factory to the district administration to avoid tampering.

 

What is a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system?

  • Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are used during election process to verify that the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate.
  • VVPATs are a second line of verification and are particularly useful in the time when allegations around Electronic Voting Machines’ tampering crop up.
  • After a voter presses the button on the EVM against the chosen candidate, the VVPAT prints a slip containing name of the candidate and the election symbol and drops it automatically into a sealed box.
  • The machines give the chance for the voter to verify their vote. The machine is placed in a glass case in a way that only the voter can see it.
  • The slip is displayed to the voter for seven seconds after which the VVPAT machine cuts it and drops in into the storage box with a beep.
  • The machines can be accessed, though, by the polling officials and not by the voter.

 

Afghan Grand Assembly Begins

Paper : General Studies 2

Why in news?

  • More than 3000 people are meeting in a ‘loya  jirga’ (Pashtun for Grand Assembly) to specify the main lines for the negotiations with Taliban in Kabul.
  • This Grand assembly is being held in the backdrop of the US-Taliban talks regarding withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

India-China team on pharma to meet next month

Paper : General Studies 2

 

Why in news?

  • In an initiative under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) Mechanism, India will be sending a high-level delegation to the first meeting of the working group on pharmaceuticals with China in Beijing next month.
  • This meeting comes in the backdrop of India’s growing efforts to increase pharma exports to China. China currently features as the 17th destination in India’s top pharma exports.

 

Passenger Traffic at Indian airports grows 11.6% to 34.4 crore

Paper : General Studies 3

 

Why in news?

  • Airports in the country witnessed a total 34.4 crore passengers during FY 2018-19 based on data from Airports Authority of India.
  • Domestic passengers stood at 2.5 crore recording a growth of 13.1% while international passengers were 6.9 crore showing a rise of 6.1% compared to FY 2017-18.
  • This growth rate is however the slowest in the last three years.
  • Among Major airports Mumbai saw a contraction in domestic passenger traffic due to infrastructure constraints.

 

What is the Airports Authority of India?

  • It is a statutory body, created through the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994, working under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India.
  • It provides Communication Navigation Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) services over Indian airspace and adjoining oceanic areas.
  • It also manages a total of 126 Airports.

 

UN Report : Drug resistant diseases could kill 10 million a year by 2050

Paper : General Studies 2

 

Why in news?

  • UN Ad Hoc Inter-agency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance said in a report that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050.
  • By 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
  • It also noted that more and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections are becoming untreatable, medical procedures are becoming riskier and food systems are getting increasingly precarious due to rise in anti-microbial resistance.
  • It has recommended that countries prioritise national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts, put in place stronger regulatory systems and support awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials.

 

What is Antimicrobial resistance?

  • It is the development by a disease-causing microbe, through mutation or gene transfer, of the ability to survive exposure to an antimicrobial agent that was previously an effective treatment.
  • When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs”. This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society.

 

India notifies pact with US to check tax evasion by MNCs

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • India has notified the inter-governmental agreement with the United States for exchange of country-by-country (CbC) reports filed by multinational enterprises (MNEs) regarding income allocation and payment of taxes.
  • It is aimed at providing relief to subsidiaries of US multinationals and ensuring a check on cross-border tax evasion
  • This follows the two nations signing a pact in March for sharing the CbC reports by the ultimate parent corporations based in either of the countries.
  • This agreement for exchange of CbC reports, along with the Bilateral Competent Authority Arrangement, will enable both the countries to automatically exchange CbC reports filed by the ultimate parent entities of MNEs in the respective jurisdictions, pertaining to the years commencing on or after January 1, 2016.
  • It will also obviate the need for Indian subsidiary companies of US multinationals to do local filing of CbC reports, thereby reducing the compliance burden.