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Prelims bits: April 2019

Polity  &  Governance : 

What is Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)?

  • What ? SVEEP is a programme of multi interventions through different modes and media designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes.
  • SVEEP is designed according to the socio-economic, cultural and demographic profile of the state as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.

Economy :

Ways and Means Advances (WMA)

  • Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in consultation with the government of India has set the limits for Ways and Means Advances (WMA) for the first half of the financial year 2019-20 (April 2019 to September 2019) at Rs 75000 crore.
  • What is WMA?

The Reserve Bank of India gives temporary loan facilities to the centre and state governments as a banker to government. This temporary loan facility is called Ways and Means Advances (WMA).

What is a PMI?

  • PMI or a Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity — both in the manufacturing and services sectors. It is a survey-based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before. It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.

Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs)

  • Context: The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into 18 Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) in March this year, including three bilateral APAs.
  • With the signing of these APAs, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT in the year 2018-19 stands at 52, which includes 11 bilateral APAs. The total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT as of now stands at 271, which inter alia includes 31 bilateral APAs.
  • What are APAs?
  • An APA is an agreement between a taxpayer and the tax authority determining the Transfer Pricing methodology for pricing the tax payer’s international transactions for future years. An APA provides certainty with respect to the tax outcome of the tax payer’s international transactions.
  • An APA can be one of the three types – unilateral, bilateral and multilateral.

FAME 2 scheme

  • Context: NITI Aayog & Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Release Technical Analysis of FAME II Scheme. Report looks at potential saving in areas of energy, oil and carbon emissions.
  • What are the salient features of FAME 2 scheme?
  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, or FAME 2 scheme aims to boost electric mobility and increase the number of electric vehicles in commercial fleets.
  • Target: The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme.
  • The government will offer the incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.

Background:

  • FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies. FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

Society & Human Development :

Global Report on Food Crises 2019

  • What is it? It is a report released jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and EU.
  • Key findings in the latest report:
  • Approximately 113 million people in 53 countries experienced high levels of food insecurity last year. These crises are primarily driven by conflict and climate-related disasters.
  • The number going chronically-hungry has remained well over 100 million over the past three years, with the number of countries affected, rising.
  • According to the report, nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger come from just eight countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
  • Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018 and that number excludes 13 countries – including North Korea and Venezuela – because of data gaps.

World Health Day

  • Context: April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. This year’s World Health Day will focus on equity and solidarity.
  • Theme of World Health Day 2019 is Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.

NIRF 2019 rankings

  • About NIRF:
  • Started in 2015, NIRF outlines a methodology to rank educational institutions across the country.
  • The parameters used for ranking broadly cover teaching, learning and resources, research and professional practices, graduation outcome, outreach and inclusivity, and perception. From 2017, besides being ranked under specific disciplines, large institutions were also given a common overall rank.
  • This year as well, educational institutions across the country were ranked in nine categories – overall, universities, engineering, colleges, management, pharmacy, medical, architecture and law.
  • Top 5 Engineering Institutions in India-2019:
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
  • Top 5 Universities:
  • Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
  • University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad
  • Calcutta University, Kolkata
  • Top 5 Colleges:
  • Miranda House, Delhi
  • Hindu College, Delhi
  • Presidency College, Chennai
  • Stephen’s College, Delhi
  • Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi

IR , Defence & Security :

India to set up agriculture institute in Malawi

  • Context: India has signed an agreement with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Consultancy Service (NABCONS) for setting up the India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development (IAIARD) in Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa.
  • The agreement is a part of India’s efforts to enhance capacity in the areas of agro-financing and entrepreneurship development for African countries.
  • About India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development (IAIARD):
  • IAIARD will be a Pan-African Institute wherein trainees from Malawi and other African countries will be trained to develop their human resources and build their capacity.
  • The entire expenditure on India faculty, their travel, logistics and training course expenses for students from other African countries will be borne by the Indian Government for an initial period of three years.

Bilateral Maritime Exercise ‘AUSINDEX

  • Context: The third edition of ‘AUSINDEX-19’ (Australia India Exercise), bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy is being held at Visakhapatnam.
  • Objective: The exercise seeks to ‘strengthen and enhance mutual cooperation and interoperability between the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy, providing opportunities for interaction and exchange of professional views between the personnel of the two navies’.

World Bank report on remittances

  • Context: World Bank has released its Migration and Development Brief.
  • Key findings- India specific:
  • India is positioned as the world’s top recipient of remittances with its diaspora sending USD 79 billion back home in 2018. The remittances in 2018 grew by over 14 percent in India.
  • India managed to retain its top spot in remittances by registering a significant flow of remittances from USD 62.7 billion in 2016 to USD 65.3 billion 2017 and to USD 79 billion in 2018, a significant growth over the last three years.
  • Natural disasters like Kerala floods likely boosted the financial help that migrants sent to their families.

Bold Kurukshetra 2019’:

  • Context: 12th edition of ‘Bold Kurukshetra 2019’, a India- Singapore joint military exercise, began at Babina Cantonment, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Exercise is aimed at attaining a high level of interoperability between the armies of both the nations through mutual understanding and familiarisation with each other’s operational procedures and equipment

Assam Rifles

  • Why in News? The Delhi High Court has sought the response from the Cabinet Committee on Security on a plea seeking directions to remove the dual control of Assam Rifles and bring it under the Ministry of Defence.
  • Key facts:
  • Assam Rifles which is also referred to as the Sentinels of North East is the oldest paramilitary force of India.
  • The administrative control of Assam Rifles lies with the Home Ministry, while the operational control is with the Defence Ministry.
  • What’s the issue now?
  • A plea filed in the court alleges the dual control as the violation of the rights of the troopers of Assam Rifles. The plea challenges the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 saying that it places Assam Rifles under the head ‘Police’, which is arbitrary, unreasonable and violates the rights of Assam Rifles ex-servicemen guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

Exercise ‘SEA VIGIL’:

  • Context: The maiden national level Coastal Defence Exercise SEA VIGIL was conducted recently by the Indian Navy.
  • The exercise witnessed the simultaneous activation of the coastal security apparatus across the country involving maritime stakeholders at the Centre and all the 13 Coastal States and Union Territories.

Geography, Environment & Biodiversity:

El Niño

  • Context: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has finally declared that weak El Nino conditions are prevalent in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Concerns for India:
  • In India, there is a relationship between El Nino events and hotter than usual summers along with a decrease in rainfall during the monsoon. Most of the time, these events have also led to drought conditions. The weak El Nino might have an effect on the onset and intensity of monsoon this year, an update on which is expected soon from the government of India.
  • In the 135 years between 1880 and 2014, around 90 per cent of all evolving El Nino years have seen below normal rainfall, and 65 per cent of them experienced droughts. In fact, six of the worst droughts in the country since 1871 have been triggered by El Nino — the most recent being in 2009.
  • What is ENSO?
  • ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation. As the name suggests, it is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics). The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.

Neelakurinji

  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
  • Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.
  • Some Kurinji flowers bloom once every seven years, and then die. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.
  • The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

Yangtze giant softshell turtles:

  • Context: The only known female member of one of the world’s rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China. The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam.
  • It is also known as the Red River giant softshell turtle, Shanghai softshell turtle, Swinhoe’s softshell turtleor speckled softshell turtle.
  • It is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. It may be the largest living freshwater turtle in the world.

IMD rainfall distribution categories:

  • Context: While releasing its monsoon forecast recently, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) expressed the projected rainfall in terms of Long Period Average (LPA), saying that it was expected to be 96% of LPA. The LPA of the monsoon season over the country is 89 cm, calculated for the period 1951-2000.
  • What is LPA? This is the average rainfall recorded during the months from June to September, calculated during the 50-year period, and is kept as a benchmark while forecasting the quantitative rainfall for the monsoon season every year.

Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary:

Why in News? With the number of tigers steadily on the rise at Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand, the authorities feel upgrading it to a tiger reserve is necessary for the conservation of tigers at the facility. Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is situated close to the Nandhaur river in Kumaon region of the State.

Great Indian Bustards (GIB):

  • Why in News? There are 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP), as per a survey.
  • About :
  • The bird is a critically endangered species listed in the International Union for conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
  • It is also found in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The DNP, spread over Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner districts, however remains its main habitat.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972 and in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES.
  • It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

World heritage day

  • Context: Every year, 18th April is celebrated Worldwide as World Heritage Day to create awareness about Heritage among communities.
  • Theme: The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Rural Landscapes’, which is related to the theme of the 2019 ICOMOS Scientific Symposium on Rural heritage that will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco in October.
  • There are 37 World Heritage Sites located in India. These include 29 cultural sites, seven natural sites and one mixed site. India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world.
  • What is a World Heritage site?
  • A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance, and a space which requires special protection.
  • These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO. UNESCO believes that the sites classified as World Heritage are important for humanity, and they hold cultural and physical significance.

Indian bullfrogs:

  • Context: A study has found that the Indian bullfrogs introduced in the Andaman islands are invasive, and eat native wildlife including fish and lizards.
  • About Indian Bullfrog:
  • The Indian bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) is native to the Indian subcontinent. It is a large species of frog found in mainland Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal.
  • Other names: Indus Valley bullfrog, Asia bullfrog.
  • The bullfrogs are prolific breeders: they have short breeding seasons, and each egg clutch can contain up to 5,750 eggs.
  • Its tadpoles are carnivorous and eat other tadpoles, including their own species.
  • They prefer freshwater wetlands and aquatic habitats. Generally they avoid coastal and forest areas.

Earth Day:

  • It is an annual event, organized to show support for environmental protection around the world on April 22.
  • Earth Day was founded by American senator Gaylord Nelson for environmental education.
  • This day commenced on April 22, 1970. In the year 2020, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day will be celebrated.
  • Theme of Earth Day 2019: Protect Our Species.

Cyclone Fani:

  • Why in News? Cyclone Fani is likely to turn into a ‘severe cyclonic storm’.
  • It was formed at low pressure region in south east of Sumatra (Indonesian island), which further intensified into a depression.
  • Terminology:
  • Cyclones are given many names in different regions of the world – They are known as typhoons in the China Sea and Pacific Ocean; hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean; tornados in the Guinea lands of West Africa and southern USA.; willy-willies in north-western Australia and tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

Science & Technology

Toluene

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

Kandhamal Haldi

  • Context: Odisha’s Kandhamal Haldi (turmeric), famous for its healing properties, has received GI tag.
  • Key facts:
  • The golden yellow spice, named after the district where it is produced, has been cultivated since time immemorial and is known for its medicinal value.
  • Turmeric is the main cash crop of tribal people in Kandhamal. Apart from domestic use, turmeric is also used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
  • More than 60,000 families (nearly 50% of Kandhamal population) are engaged in growing the variety. The crop is sustainable in adverse climatic conditions.
  • About GI tag:
  • What is it? A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory.
  • Significance of a GI tag: Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
  • Security: Once the GI protection is granted, no other producer can misuse the name to market similar products. It also provides comfort to customers about the authenticity of that product.
  • Provisions in this regard: GI is covered as element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property.
  • At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In India, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999 governs it.

Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB)

  • Why in News? Scientists at CCMB have discovered a new enzyme which helps in breaking cell walls of bacteria and hence, offers a potential for a new drug delivery route to arrest the anti-bacterial resistance
  • The Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) is a premier research organization which conducts high quality basic research and trainings in frontier areas of modern biology, and promote centralized national facilities for new and modern techniques in the interdisciplinary areas of biology.
  • It was set up initially as a semi-autonomous Centre on April 1, 1977 with the Biochemistry Division of the then Regional Research Laboratory (presently, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, IICT) Hyderabad.
  • It is located in Hyderabad and operates under the aegis of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • It is designated as “Center of Excellence” by the Global Molecular and Cell Biology Network, UNESCO.

South Korea to launch world’s first 5G networks:

Context: South Korea will launch world’s first 5G mobile networks on April 5, 2019. South Korea will be the first country to launch 5G networks.

Hayabusa2

  • Context: Japan’s spacecraft Hayabusa-2 recently dropped an explosive on an asteroid to make a crater. It’s aim was to make a crater on asteroid. Also, this spacecraft will collect its underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system.
  • Notably, Hayabusa2 is the second Japanese spacecraft to land on an asteroid, after Hayabusa achieved a similar feat back in 2005.
  • Hayabusa:
  • In mid-September 2005, Hayabusa landed on the asteroid Itokawa, and managed to collect samples in the form of grains of asteroidal material. It returned to Earth with the samples in June 2010, thereby becoming the first spacecraft to return asteroid samples to Earth for analysis.
  • Hayabusa2:
  • It is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.
  • It was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018.
  • It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.

RailWire Wi-Fi

  • Context: RailWire Wi-Fi by RailTel is now live at 1600 railway stations across the country, with Santacruz railway station in Mumbai becoming the 1600th station to become a RailWire Wi-Fi zone.
  • What is RailWire?
  • RailWire is a retail Broadband initiative of the RailTel. It envisages extending broadband and application services to the public. RailTel is working to establish bringing fast and free Wi-Fi at all stations (except the halt stations) within a year.
  • The Wi-Fi at 415 A, A1 and C category stations has been provided in association with Google as the technology partner. Wi-Fi connections at 200 stations were provided with support from the Universal Service Obligatory Fund of the Government of India.

Bubble boy disease:

  • Context: US scientists claim that they used HIV to make a gene therapy that cured eight infants of severe combined immunodeficiency, or “bubble boy” disease.
  • What is Bubble boy disease?
  • The inherited immune system disorder is technically called X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), and it affects mostly boys. Bubble boy disease is the most common SCID condition, and the frequency of the illness isn’t known.

 HOPE mission

  • Context: UAE has started its preparations for the upcoming Mars Mission named- HOPE.
  • Background:
  • In July 2014, the UAE leadership announced the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission project by the President of the UAE. Subsequently, the President issued a decree establishing the UAE Space Agency.

MISC:

Café Scientifique’:

  • What is it? ‘Café Scientifique’ is the first of its kind initiative in the State of Kerala aimed at popularising Science.
  • Objective: The café envisages to bring science back into popular culture by demystifying scientific research for the public and empowering non-scientists to comfortably assess science and technology issues, particularly those that impact social policymaking.

Checkpoint Tipline by Whatsapp

  • What is it? WhatApp has unveiled a brand new initiative, called Checkpoint Tipline, that will help people verify if any information they receive is true or false.
  • Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, the tipline is basically aimed at creating a database of rumours. The idea is to study misinformation spread ahead of the upcoming elections for Checkpoint, which is a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp.
  • How it works?
  • WhatsApp users can submit all the information received through the messaging platform and that they are uncertain about to the ‘Tipline’ on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).
  • Following this, PROTO’s verification centre will “seek to respond and inform the user” if the information received is verified or not.
  • The response will indicate if information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available.
  • The verification centre, in turn, will be able to review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text. Apart from English, it will cover four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.

Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman’ Awards

  • Why in News? Vice President recently conferred around 100 ‘President’s Certificate of Honour’ and ‘Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman’ Awards to scholars in Classical Languages.
  • About ‘Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman’ Awards:
  • The Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman distinction is conferred on persons in recognition of their substantial contribution in the field of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Pali, Prakrit, Classical Oriya, Classical Kannada, Classical Telugu and Classical Malayalam.
  • Introduced in the year 2002.
  • Given to selected young scholars in the age group of 30 to 45 years.
  • Carries a certificate of honour, a memento and a one-time cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.

‘Veer Parivar App’:

  • Context: President Ram Nath Kovind recently launched ‘Veer Parivar App’, a mobile application for families of CRPF personnel killed in the line of duty.
  • The application will act as an interface between the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) authorities and the next of kin of the slain personnel.
  • It will render all assistance to the families of the martyred CRPF personnel with regard to issuance of ex gratia, pensionary benefits and all information regarding the welfare schemes introduced for them by the government

Google ‘Wing’ launches first drone delivery service in Australia:

  • Context: Air delivery service developer ‘Wing’, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, began delivering its first orders to customers in Canberra, Australia through flying drones. The drones will deliver food and drinks as well as medication directly to clients’ homes. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) gave its approval after testing the safety of the drones, its traffic management system, drone pilot training and operational plans.

New early human species found: Homo luzonensis:

  • Context: Researchers have unearthed an unknown human species that lived on an island in Philippines some 50,000 years ago– Homo luzonensis.
  • The newfound species is named Homo luzonensisin honor of Luzon, the island where the mysterious beings lived during the late Pleistocene epoch, more than 50,000 years ago. They were less than four feet tall.
  • Though luzonensisis short like the hobbit, it shares features with a number of other ancient human relatives.

World’s largest plane makes first test flight:

  • Context: The world’s largest aircraft recently took off over the Mojave Desert in California.
  • Key facts:
  • It is carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
  • It is called Roc.
  • It has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage.

Indonesia releases special stamp on Ramayana theme:

  • Context: Indonesia has released a special commemorative stamp on the theme of Ramayana to mark the 70th anniversary of establishment of its diplomatic ties with India. A specially signed version of the stamp will be on display at the Philately Museum in Jakarta.

Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize:

  • Context: The Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2019 was awarded to author Rana Dasgupta for his 2010 novel “Solo”.
  • Solo is a tale of estrangement and the ultimate failure of material existence.
  • About the prize:
  • aims to revive poetry and books that can change lives.
  • An amount of $10,000, a Tagore statue and a certificate for contribution to literature will be given to the awardee.
  • Eligibility: Indian Poets, novelists and Playwrights writing in officially recognized languages or dialects of the Indian subcontinent, including English.