Current affairs of 20th August 2019

1. Draft on National Resource Efficiency Policy 2019 released

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released a draft on National Resource Efficiency Policy (NREP) 2019. It aims to streamline the efficient use of the resources with minimum negative impact on environment.

Key highlights:
  1. NREP envisions a future with environmentally sustainable and equitable economic growth, resource security, healthy environment (air, water and land), and restored ecosystems with rich ecology and biodiversity.
  2. NREP encompasses resources and materials used across all life cycle stages of any sector. The resources & materials are Water, Land and Soil, Air, Fossil fuels, Non-metallic Minerals, Metals and Biomass.
  3. Life cycle of any product covers all stages including raw material extraction, material processing, production, use and maintenance, disposal and end-of-life management.
  4. Reduction in primary resource consumption to ‘sustainable’ levels, in keeping with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and staying within the planetary boundaries.
  5. Creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches.
  6. Waste minimization.
2. Committee headed by CBDT submits report on replacing I-T Act with DTC

A group of experts panel headed by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) legislative member Akhilesh Ranjan who was appointed as the convener of the task force in November 2018 by the finance ministry,submitted a report to Nirmala Sitharaman(Finance Minister), to replace the Income Tax Act with a new Direct Tax Code(DTC).

Key highlights: 
  1. The idea to replace the Income Tax (IT) Act,1961 was given by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the annual conference of tax officers in New Delhi in September 2017, as the Income-Tax Act, 1961, had been drafted more than 50 years ago and needed a change.
  2. The report which was scheduled to be submitted by May 31 2019, was given additional time till August 16 by the then finance minister Shri Arun Jaitley.
  3. The task force was assigned to draft direct tax laws incorporating international best practices and also considering the economic needs of the country.
  4. Akhilesh Ranjan-led panel was tasked to submit the report by February 28, 2019, following Arbind Modi’s (the then CBDT convener) retirement on September 30, 2018.
  5. The report is expected to be placed for stakeholder consultations and is likely to be placed in Parliament as a part of Union Budget 2020-21.
3. MoU between India & Maldives on training and capacity building programme for Maldivian Civil Servants operationalised

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Maldives on Training and Capacity Building Programme for Maldivian Civil Servants was operationalised

Key highlights:
  1. Indian delegation: It was led by Shri V.Srinivas, Additional Secretary, DARPG. The High Commissioner of India to Maldives Mr. Sanjay Sudhir was also present.
  2. Maldivian delegation: It was led by Dr. Aly Shameem, Chairman of the Civil Services Commission of Maldives.
  3. iii. Schedule: The first 3 training programs will be held on September 16-28, 2019,  November 18-30, 2019 for 60 officers of the middle management level and December 2-14, 2019 for 30 officers of top management level. The first 10 training programmes will be held from September, 2019 to December, 2020.
  4. Nodal Institute: National Center for Good Governance, India and the Civil Services Commission of Maldives had signed an MoU which envisaged capacity building activities for 1000 Civil Servants of Maldives at the National Centre for Good Governance over the next 5 years. It envisaged that the National Center for Good Governance, India will be the nodal institution for designing customized training modules and its implementation taking into account the requirements of the Civil Service Commission of Maldives.
  5. Academic Committee: An academic committee will be established between the 2 institutions for enhanced cooperation in implementing the training programs. It will cover areas relating to the subject matter, faculty and timelines of the training.
4. The second Uday Express between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada to be launched

In order to cater to the busy route in the East Coast Railway zone, The Indian Railways’ second luxury double-decker Uday(Utkrisht Double-decker Air-conditioned Yatri) Express is to be run between Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada. This was announced on August 19, 2019.

Key highlights:
  1. Facilities:The train consisting of nine double-decker coaches and two power cars will be equipped with WiFi facility, striking interiors, cushioned seating, display screens, automatic food and beverages vending machine, LED screen in pantry-cum-dining area for entertainment of passengers, smoke detection alarm system, modular bio-toilets, etc.
  2. Uday express service between between Bengaluru city and the chennai central was also proposed.
5. All CAPFs to adopt uniform retirement age of 60 years: Union Home Ministry 

According to the order of the Union Home Ministry, all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) personnel will now retire at a uniform age of 60 years. The decision comes in the wake of a January 2019 order of the Delhi High Court where it had called the policy of different age of superannuation as discriminatory and unconstitutional, and said it created two classes in the uniformed forces.

Key highlights:
  1. All personnel of the forces- the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) will superannuate at the age of 60, instead of 57 years for certain rank of officials. Officers from the rank of Deputy Inspector General upto the top-most rank of Director General in these four forces retired after attaining the age of 60.
  2. According to the existing policy, all personnel in the Central Industrial Security Force and the Assam Rifles retire at the age of 60.
  3. The personnel who have retired at 57 years in between the court order and the Home Ministry directive will have two options – either to join service after returning all pensionary benefits or straightaway get all pension benefits as due to them as on completion of 60 years of service.
  4. The personnel who had retired and approached court for clarification or were granted stay will be deemed “not superannuated” and will continue to serve until 60 years of age.
6. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviews functioning of IMAC, IFC-IOR

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited and reviewed the functioning of Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurgaon, Haryana.

Key highlights:
  1. The IMAC monitors movement of more than 1,20,000 ships a year passing through the Indian Ocean. It is a joint initiative of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) to improve coastal surveillance.
  2. It is a collaborative initiative by the Indian Navy in coordination with partner nations and multinational maritime agencies to enhance maritime domain awareness and maritime security.
  3. He was accompanied by Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and other senior Navy officials who briefed the minister on further enhancing the capabilities of the 2 centres under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project which was launched in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
7. SMVDU signs MoU with NISE to achieve national solar mission

An autonomous Institution of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy,  National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU) to work jointly to accelerate, expand and achieve the objective of National Solar Mission through training programmes.

Key highlights:
  1. The MoU will be valid till 5 years. It was signed by Prof Mukkapandhoy and Prof V K Bhat of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU), and Deputy General Director of NISE Dr Chandan Banerjee, said SMVDU PRO Rajan Badyal.
  2. National Solar Mission: It  is an initiative of the Government of India and State Governments to promote solar power as a  part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  3. On 11 January 2010, The mission was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a target of 20GW by 2022 which was then increased by the Modi government to 100 GW by 2022.
8. Defence talks between India and China held in Beijing

In order to improve military to military cooperation , India and China reviewed the situation on the border and agreed on more port calls by each side’s  Navies at a meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Defence Ministries held in Beijing, China.

Key highlights:
  1. JWG:  The meeting was a preliminary one attended by Joint Secretary from the Defence Ministry of India along with one star officer each from the 3 Services. It was happened right after the meeting between the external affairs minister ,S Jaishankar and Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister .
  2. Discussion:  The thorny issues were looked at the meeting include border management, maritime cooperation including increment of port calls. The two sides also Plan to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries from April 2020 to March 2021.
  3. Defence dialogue: India-China annual defence and security dialogue will be held later in 2019. It will be headed by the Indian defence secretary and his Chinese equivalent.
  4. The likely visit of Defence Minister , Rajnath Singh to China towards the end of 2019.
  5. HiH:  The 8th edition of Hand-in-Hand(HiH)Military exercise 2019 between India, China will be held in December 2019 at Umroi near Shillong in Meghalaya  will focus on transnational counter-terror operations, the establishment of a joint command post, joint combat missions. The 7th edition was held at Chengdu, China in December 2018.
9. Karnataka Government categorised Nicotine as “class A poison”

The Government of Karnataka amended the Karnataka Poisons (Possession and Sale) Rules 2015 and notified Nicotine as “Class A poison” in order to strengthen the enforcement of the ban on production and sale of electronic cigarettes. The new rules are called the Karnataka Poisons (Possession and Sale) Rules, 2019.

Key highlights:
  1. The ban was imposed after the study conducted the High Powered Committee on Tobacco Control headed additional Chief Secretary of Karnataka, Vandita Sharma.
  2. The Government has also ordered the suspension of all kinds of promotion of e-cigarettes, including online promotion.
  3. Class A poison are “Highly toxic chemicals”, which even in very small quantities as gas or vapour in the air are dangerous to life (such as cyanogen, hydrocyanic acid, nitrogen peroxide, and phosgene).
10. Membranes that can separate oil and water developed by IIT Guwahati researchers

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, Assam invented two distinct and special membranes that can separate oil and water, even under harsh conditions. This development is expected to be used in applications of oil spill management. The work is published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering journal.

Key highlights:
  1. Features of the membrane: The membranes are super-water repellent in air and super oil-repellent in water.
  2. Research team: The research was led byUttam Manna, Assistant prof. at Department of Chemistry, IIT Guwahati along with his research team Avijit Das, Dibyangana Parbat and Arpita Shome.

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