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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

06 Nov 2019


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Yemen Govt, Rebels /ink Saudi-brokered Power Agreement

  •  Yemen's Saudibacked government and southern separatists signed an agreement to end a power struggle in the south of Yemen that Saudi Arabia's crown prince hailed as a step towards a wider political solution to end the multifaceted conflict.
  • The stand-off had opened a new front in the more than four-year-old war and fractured a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi movement that ousted the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the capital, Sanaa, in the north in late 2014.
  • This agreement will open, God willing, broader talks between Yemeni parties to reach a political solution and end the war.

US Starts Pullout from Paris Climate Accord

  • The US has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other powers . 
  • President Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the impact of climate change, with September- the fourth month in a row with near- or record-breaking temperatures.
  • US presented its withdrawal letter to the UN on the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Barack Obama, making the world's largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement. The US will be officially out on November 4, 2020.
  • Announcing the move, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump's rationale in 2017 that the accord would disadvantage US businesses. 
  • Russia warned the US withdrawal undermined the accord. 

France to Set Annual Cap for Professional Immigration

  •  France plans to set annual quotas for professional immigration, fixing limits for job areas where the country lacks workers with the necessary expertise.
  • The system will be a new approach, a little like the approach that Canada and Australia use, it's quite similar.
  • The goal is to better match professional migrants and unmet staffing needs than under the current system.
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BMC Gives Graded Tax Rebates for Waste Processing in Mumbai

  •  The BMC has started rolling out its property tax rebates to housing societies segregating and composting waste and recycling greywater. 
  • The rates vary 5-15% depending on the extent of waste disposal and processing of greywater (all wastewater generated in households or offices from streams without fecal contamination, i.e. all streams except for toilet wastewater). 
  • A committee will be formed in each ward, which would be expected to periodically inspect whether or not a housing society is following rebate conditions. The society's continued eligibility would depend on the panel's report.
  • The municipal commissioner cleared a proposal in August 2019 to give a 15% property tax rebate to housing societies for segregating their waste, processing wet waste on their premises, disposing dry waste through recyclers, and using harvested rainwater or greywater. 
  • The scheme aims at disciplining citizens with regard to waste disposal and reducing the amount of garbage that piles up at the dumping grounds. 
  • Societies that follow any one criteria will get a 5% rebate in property tax. Those fulfilling two will get a 10% rebate, and those following all three a 15% rebate. While the first two criteria involve waste management, the third pertains to rainwater harvesting or greywater processing.
  •  At every ward, officials from the solid waste department (SWD) have started holding meetings with residents to inform them further about the scheme. The monitoring panels too have started being formed.

US tech to Convert Rice Stubble into Biofuel

  •  The United States Trade Development Authority (USTDA) signed up to allocate a grant of $300,000-500,00 to Indian engineering firm, The Virgo Group, to carry out a 'scoping study' for setting up a plant near Bhatinda that will convert the stubble from harvested rice fields into green biofuel.
  • The scoping study will determine how much biofuel can be extracted from the rice stubble.
  • Based on the study, Virgo's Bhatinda plant will customise Rapid Thermal Processing technology from Envergent Technologies - a subsidiary of US technology giant Honeywell - to convert agricultural waste into biocrude, reducing air pollution and creating a new fuel source.
  • The project is being strongly supported by the Punjab government, which signed an agreement with Virgo on February 11, 2019 for facilitating the plant, including with concessional land.
  • Chief Minister Amarinder Singh himself attended that signing. Also backing the project is US envoy to India, Kenneth Juster, who was at the signing in Bangkok.
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India Retains Third Spot in Global Unicorn List

  • India continues to reinforce its position as the third largest startup ecosystem across the world, as it added over 1,300 startups in 2019, taking the total number to 8,900-9,300 in the last five years, according to the report 'Indian Tech Startup Ecosystem - Leading Tech In the 20s' by Nasscom.
  •  India also witnessed the addition of 7 Unicorns in 2019 till August, taking the total tally up to 24, which is the third highest number of Unicorns in a single country in the world.

PI Industries to Acquire Isagro (Asia) Agrochemicals

  •  PI Industries  will acquire 100% stake in Isagro (Asia) Agrochemicals for ₹345 crore as part of its plans to expand manufacturing capacity.
  • In a regulatory filing, PI Industries informed that the company along with its wholly-owned subsidiary PI Life Science Research has "executed a share purchase agreement".

Sebi Tightens Rules on Participatory Notes

  •  India's capital markets regulator tightened rules on participatory notes (p-notes), or offshore derivative instruments issued by brokers to foreign investors not registered locally, while easing some operational norms for select overseas funds.
  • Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) would have to make separate registrations for issuing p-notes for underlying derivatives. However, this requirement is waived for p-notes against underlying cash equities.
  • Based on the new guidelines, some of the existing FPIs will have to get separate registrations if they want to issue p-notes based on derivatives.
  • The regulator also said that an ODI-issuing (offshore derivative instrument) overseas investor, which hedges its ODI only by investing in securities held by it in India, cannot undertake proprietary derivative positions through the same FPI registration. Such an FPI must segregate its ODI and proprietary derivative investments through separate FPI registrations.
  • P-notes are derivative instruments issued by registered foreign portfolio investors to overseas investors to enable them to trade in Indian stocks without having to register with Sebi.
  • "No fresh derivative position, not in compliance with the above requirements, shall be allowed henceforth.
  • FPIs have 90 days' time from the date of publication of the Operating Guidelines to comply with the above requirements," the Sebi order said.
  • "Offmarket transfer of assets/positions will be allowed for FPIs intending to transfer assets/ position from one FPI account to another FPI account to comply with the above requirements."
  • To be sure, the regulator has also relaxed some KYC norms for FPIs. It has exempted category I FPIs from submitting the information of their beneficial owners to custodians.
  • Market participants said that the regulator has also given more clarity on the KYC documents that need to be collected for each category of offshore funds.
  • The regulator has also put in place a data-privacy mechanism for sharing of KYC documents across market institutions, such as brokers and depositories. Going forward, all such data sharing will be consent based.
  • Further, global custodians have been allowed to rely on the documentation collected by their own bank in a different country. Hence, in some cases, leading global custodians will be able to onboard FPIs into Indian markets without any fresh KYC.
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Artificial Leaf to Suck Carbon Dioxide

  •  Scientists have created an "artificial leaf " that could turn carbon dioxide into fuel. The new technology was inspired by the way plants use photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen.
  • The artificial leaf mimics this process — with the help of a cheap red powder called cuprous oxide — and produces methanol and oxygen.
  • The methanol can be collected and used as fuel by heating the solution so the water evaporates, according to the paper published in Nature Energy. 
  • This technology has achieved the solar to fuel efficiency about 10%. This is already larger than the natural photosynthesis (about one per cent). The next step is to partner with industry companies to scale it up with a system engineering of flow cell for the production of liquid fuels. More efficient artificial leaves can be developed along the lines with industry partners.

Voyager Finds Extra Layers in Solar System

  •  Nasa's Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space. Voyager 2 completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings via five papers published in 'Nature Astronomy'. 
  • The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system's bubble and interstellar space.
  • Voyager 2 detected winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system.
  • Just beyond the solar system's edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.
  • The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.
  • On November 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what's known as the "heliosphere", a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system.
  • In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the "heliopause". In that area, the edge of our solar system's bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.
  • Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.
  • But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that's the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1's damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.
  • Now, the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as once thought. 

Smart Tech Hacked Using Laser

  •  Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan's University of Electro-Communications have discovered they can use lasers to silently "speak" to any computer that receives voice commands, which included smartphones, smart speakers like Amazon Echo, and Google Home, and Facebook's Portal video chat devices. 
  • The attack can easily pass through a window, when the device's owner isn't home to notice a telltale flashing speck of light or the device's responses. 
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IPL to Go 'International'

  •  The newly formed governing council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) — in its very first meeting — has proposed that franchises be allowed to explore the idea of playing 'friendlies' overseas.
  • The decision to play friendlies in overseas destinations will bear no official stamp of the tournament or the cricket board but will be considered as potential brandbuilding exercises.
  • This is only a proposal and has to be tabled at the BCCI AGM at the end of this month (November 2019) for approval.
  • However, the Governing Council's call has, for the first time in 12 years since the inception of the tournament, considered the possibility of India's domestic cricket going global.
  • Till now, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) has not allowed either franchises or cricketers to play overseas, a decision that the court-appointed Committee of Administrators also stuck to.
  • Mumbai Indians were among the first to request the BCCI in the past that they be allowed to play some friendly matches in Canada.

Special Umpire to Monitor 'No Balls'

  •  The 2020 edition of the IPL could have a special umpire just to monitor no balls. The idea was floated and accepted well at a meeting of the IPL Governing Council, chaired by former India batsman Brijesh Patel, at the BCCI HQ.
  • It's still not clear, though, if that 'special umpire' would be the third or fourth umpire, or a new gentleman in the umpiring team altogether.
  • The need for this new rule seems to have been instigated by a number of cases in the last IPL when the umpires didn't give genuine no balls, costing teams matches from a crucial position.
  • A primary case was India and Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli coming down heavily on umpire S Ravi after the final delivery of their match against the Mumbai Indians, bowled by pacer Lasith Malinga, turned out to be 'no-ball' which was not awarded to the losing team.
  • The innovative concept of having such umpires could be tried at any of the domestic tournament before a final call will be taken on it. This isn't the first time that this rule will be applied in top-level cricket— it was implemented by the ICC during the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka too.

Australia's Seven-wicket Victory over Pakistan

  •  Steve Smith struck a sparkling half-century to fire Australia to an emphatic seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in their T20 match in Canberra . 
  • The former captain's unbeaten 80 from 51 balls gave Australia a 1-0 lead in their three-match series after the opener was washed out in Sydney .
  • Australia mopped up Pakistan's modest total of 150 for six with nine balls to spare.
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Guj Terror Law gets Prez Approval

  •  Sixteen years after the Gujarat assembly had passed the controversial anti-terror legislation which was popularly known as GUJCOCA or the Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Act, the law was finally ratified by President Ramnath Kovind.
  • Known as Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GUJCTOC) Act in its new avatar, the law gives extensive powers to the state police to counter terror and organised crime.
  • A confession made before a police official of the rank of SP and above will now be admissible in court as evidence. So far, only confessions before a magistrate were admissible as evidence.
  • GUJCOCA was returned thrice earlier by various presidents and was last amended in 2015.
  • A positive provision of this law is that electronic intercepts, including oral communication, will be admissible as evidence in courts.
  • GUJCTOC Act provides immunity to state government and its officers from legal action for an action that is "done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the Act".
  • Cops now get up to 180 days instead of the stipulated 90 days to file a chargesheet. The accused will not be granted bail until public prosecutor has got a chance to oppose the bail plea.
  • Authorities are empowered to confiscate unaccounted properties of accused. Besides, a witness will get special protection under this Act.
  • The state will set up special courts and appoint public prosecutors to deal with GUJCTOC Act cases.

Maharashtra Procures Manhole- Cleaning Robot- Bandicoot

  •  The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has procured a manhole-cleaning robot called 'Bandicoot', which would help end the practice of manual scavenging.
  • GHMC Mayor B. Rammohan inaugurated the 'Bandicoot' robotic manhole desilting machine at the Biodiversity junction at Gachibowli in the city.
  • The Supreme Court has issued guidelines to all urban local bodies in the country to have "technology-adopted methods" for cleaning manholes and septic tanks.
  • The Raheja Corp., as part of its CSR initiative, funded the project of procurement of the 'Bandicoot' robotic machine at an estimated cost of ₹32 lakh to avoid manual scavenging.
  • The key features of the machine include a complete robotic solution for eliminating manual scavenging and "cleaning sewage in a world class manner using four advanced sewer cameras which work in day and light".
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Rajnath Singh Urges Russian Defence Industries to Jointly Manufacture in India

  •  Union Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday called upon the Russian defence industry to work jointly to modernise India's defence platforms and manufacture equipment to give a massive boost to the two nations' exports to third countries.
  • The defence minister said the Indian government is encouraging Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to make use of the 'Make in India' initiative.
  • Singh was addressing the CEOs of OEMs from the Russian defence industry after jointly inaugurating  the 'India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference' with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov in Moscow.
  • He urged industry leaders to make use of the significant economic reforms undertaken by the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve ease of doing business and opening up the defence manufacturing sector for foreign participation.
  • The defence minister is on a three-day visit to Russia to co-chair the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation.
  • Singh assured that India will provide orders for procurement of agreed quantities at mutually decided price for a period not less than five years.
  • He expressed hope that the manufacturing under the agreement in India will lead to reduction in cost, reduction in timelines of the supplies and progressive indigenisation of spares.

Operation "Maa" by Army in J&K Yields Results

  •  It was a quiet humane operation of approaching "Maa" (mother) launched by Kashmir-based XV Army Corps that saw around 50 Kashmiri youths return to normal life this year, after abandoning the terror groups they had joined.
  • In this operation, the Army, on the directions of General Officer Commanding (GoC) of 15 Corps Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, undertook an exercise in the hunt for missing youths and approached their families.
  • The strategically located 15 Corps, also known as Chinar Corps, is at the forefront in fighting the insurgency in the Valley as well as countering Pakistan's actions on the Line of Control (LoC).

New Firearm Policy in Works

  •  A new firearm policy proposes to bar individuals, with few exceptions, from possessing more than one gun, down from three now, and introduce four different categories of offences that would attract jail term of 10 years besides a fine.
  • The proposed amendments to Arms Act stipulates jail term that can go up to life imprisonment for possession of weapons looted "from armed forces or police", engagement in "organised crime syndicate" or "illicit trafficking", and rash and negligent use of  firearms. 
  • This category of offense has been included in the draft bill to rein in incidents of celebratory firing resulting in deaths, people aware of the development said. Punishment will not be the same for the four new categories of offense.
  • The bill is likely to be tabled before Parliament in the upcoming session starting from November 18, 2019.
  • The proposed amendment would curtail the number of gun licences one can possess to one from existing three.
  • "Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), no person, other than a person referred to in subsection (3), shall acquire, have in his possession or carry, at any time, more than one firearm," the draft amendment states.
  • Earlier, the minimum punishment was five years which may be extended to ten years with a fine.
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Chirag Paswan Chosen as LJP President

  •  After steering the Lok Janshakti Party for 19 years, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan announced that his son Chirag Paswan has been unanimously chosen as the new party president. 
  • The entire episode of passing the baton was smooth as Chirag's name was proposed by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras and received unanimous support from party leaders including newly elected MP, Prince Raj from Samastipur. Prince is son of late Ramchandra Paswan. 

Lindsay Hoyle Appointed as UK Parliament Speaker

  •  British MPs have selected Labour lawmaker Lindsay Hoyle to be parliament's new speaker, replacing John Bercow in a role once little-noticed but now reshaped by the fractious turmoil over Brexit.
  • Hoyle, a Labour MP for 22 years and Bercow's deputy since 2010, beat out six other contenders in a protracted day of voting in the House of Commons, winning the support of 325 of 540 members of parliament in a fourth and final round of votes.

Punit Goenka to Remain Zee's MD

  •  Zee Entertainment's (Zee's) Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Punit Goenka has been reappointed to the position, effective January 1, 2020, as lenders prepare to sell their pledged shares.
  • In principle approval for Goenka's reappointment for a period of five years was finalised by its board of directors in a meeting.
  • Goenka, who is the elder son of Essel group promoter and Zee chairman Subhash Chandra, has been MD of the media firm since January 1, 2010.
  • He was appointed CEO in July 2008 after then CEO Pradeep Guha stepped down. The top-level rejig at that time was viewed as Chandra's attempt to put succession planning in place at Zee, which is the flagship firm of the Essel Group.
  • While Zee is among the leading broadcasters in India, the others being Star, Sony and Viacom18, the firm in the last one year has faced intense scrutiny amid concerns over mounting debt.
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National Nachos Day

  •  On November 6th, National Nachos Day recognizes the snack favored at sporting events across the country. In their purest form, nachos are tortilla chips covered in nacho cheese or other melted cheese and served with salsa.
  • First created sometime around 1943, the popular and loved nachos are of Mexican origin.  
  • History tells us that Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya created the original nachos in 1943. According to his son, his father was the maître d' at the El Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras. One evening after the kitchen staff had left, a group of U.S. Army wives stationed at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass came into the restaurant. After a long day of shopping, they were hungry and asked for a snack.
  • Anaya prepared some tostadas cut into triangles. After topping them with shredded cheese and sliced jalapenos, he heated the dish in the oven. They were such a hit with the Army wives that they named the snack "Nacho's Special" before he could make another batch.
  • Word of the new creation quickly traveled. People from all over tried them, loved them, and over time, the name changed. Eventually, Nacho's special became special nachos.

National Saxophone Day

  •  National Saxophone Day commemorates the birth of the woodwind's inventor, Adolphe Sax, on November 6th.  The saxophone is one of the main instruments in jazz music.
  • Born on November 6, 1814, Adolphe Sax invented many musical instruments including the saxophone.
  • Sax constructed saxophones in several sizes in the early 1840s. On June 28, 1846, he received a 15-year patent for the instrument. 
  • The patent encompassed 14 different versions of the fundamental design, split into two categories of seven instruments each and ranging from sopranino to contrabass.
  • After Sax's patent expired in 1866, several saxophonists and instrument manufacturers implemented their own improvements to the original design and key work.

National Stress Awareness Day

  •  National Stress Awareness Day on the first Wednesday in November aims to identify and reduce the stress factors in your life.
  • Everyone has stress. Some stress is good for us. It helps us to respond to changes in life.
  • Stress is our body's way protecting itself from harm. However, too much stress causes harm to our health and relationships.
  • Identifying the stressors impacting our physical and mental health is important. Sometimes, health problems are the cause.
  • But our health can also be affected by external stressors such as physical abuse, stressful work environments, financial stress, or other family health issues.
  • Once we identify the causes of stress in our lives, we can begin to eliminate or reduce the stress.
  • Develop a routine to help you lessen your tension. Go for a walk, do some deep breathing, get some exercise or a massage or take a long, relaxing bath. 
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Shanta Gokhale to be Honoured with the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement award 2019

  •  Writer Shanta Gokhale will be honoured with the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement award 2019, while poet K Satchidanandan will receive the Poet Laureate award for their work which has made a significant impact in the Indian literary field.
  • Recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Gokhale is a multihyphenate personality. She recently published her memoirs, "One Foot on the Ground: A Life Told Through the Body".
  • Satchidanandan has represented the country at several literary meetings overseas and has headed several national literary institutions.
  • He is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2012.
  • Gokhale will be presented with the award on November 17, 2019, while Satchidanandan will be honoured on November 14, 2019.
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Chhattisgarh Government not Implementing 'Nyay'

  •  The Congress government in Chhattisgarh has decided to put implementation of Nyuntam Aay (Nyay), a major poll plank of the party in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, in abeyance.
  • Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel confirmed that the state government had decided against implementing the scheme, despite a directive from the party high command to Congress-ruled states.
  • The scheme was a promise at the central level. Congress could not win the elections.
  • The Baghel government has been struggling with massive debt since coming to power. Raman Singh-led BJP government's populist schemes ahead of assembly elections, especially free smart phones to women and youth, put huge burden on the exchequer.
  • When Baghel came to power in November 2018, the state government had to deal with a debt of ₹50,000 crore and had to take a loan from the World Bank.
  • The government has also started implementing its promise of 'gothaan', a dedicated place in every gram panchayat for cattle grazing and rest during the day.
  • Though the government says it's in a position to take a loan of ₹12,000 crore, it would not be able to fulfil another cash intensive scheme like Nyay, which was the centerpiece of Congress' Lok Sabha campaign, with a catchy slogan 'Ab Hoga Nyay'.
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Women-only Buses to Hit Roads Soon in Mumbai

  •  More women in Mumbai and suburbs can expect a safer ride with the BEST administration receiving three of 37 Tejaswini buses, to be deployed exclusively for them, within 15 days.
  • As of now, ladies special double-decker bus between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus-National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) runs in the city. 
  • BEST has a ridership of around 33 lakh, of which nearly seven lakh are estimated to be women.
  • The 35-seater non-AC diesel buses, manufactured in Jaipur, cost around Rs 29.5 lakh and are presently parked at the Dharavi depot. The remaining 34 will arrive in December 2019.
  • The state government has under the Tejaswini scheme given a grant of Rs 11 crore. Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport has been running 10 such buses since March 2018.
  • Initially, the buses will run only during peak hours between 7am-11am and 5pm-9pm. If demand swells, the frequency can be increased to non-peak hours. The yellow buses have Tejaswini embossed on them to mark them out for women.
  • A proposal to procure 37 mini non-AC diesel buses for the Tejaswini fleet was cleared by BEST committee in June 2019. This will be the first time in recent months that BEST will purchase its own buses.

Proposal to Ban Junk Food near Schools

  •  In a move to ensure healthy eating among children, the food regulator has come up with draft regulations proposing a ban on sale, advertisement and promotion of unhealthy food— high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS)— in school premises and within 50 metres of the school campus.
  • The draft regulation titled — 'Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and healthy diets for School Children) Regulations, 2019' — also listed measures for monitoring the quality of food supplied to schoolchildren.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has sought public comments on the draft by December 2019, after which it will be finalised for implementation.
  • The proposal also contains guidelines for providing safe and wholesome food to schoolchildren.
  • For instance, it suggests 75-80% of the foods should be cereals, pulses, milk products, eggs, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts etc.
  • It also advises discouraging availability of HFSS foods such as deep fried foods like french fries, fried chips, samosa, chola bhatura, gulab jamun etc., sugar sweetened carbonated or non-carbonated beverages, ready to eat food, noodles, pizzas, burgers, confectionery items, sugar and sugar based products etc.
  • The school authority or business contracted by it and FBOs contracted by department of school education for operation of the mid-day meal scheme will have to "obtain a registration or license"and comply with the hygiene requirements.
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Pushkar Fair 2019 Losing Charm as Cattle Fair

  • One of the world's largest animal fairs is underway in Pushkar, Rajasthan. The fair will go on till November 12, 2019. It has been attracting more tourists but is slowly losing charm as a cattle fair as the number of animals turning up at the event has sharply fallen in the last couple of years.
  • Ironically, it is their status as a state animal that is partly seen as a reason to this. 
  • In 2014, the status of camel as state animal came with a lot of protocols as the state government went on to pass a law banning the slaughter, trade and unauthorised transportation of camels.
  • The animals are not allowed to be sold outside the state, except for agricultural purposes. Though the state launched a scheme to pay Rs. 10,000 to a camel farmer for each calf born, it has now been discontinued. 
  • There has been a decline in the overall population of camels as the utility of the animals as beasts of burden has reduced. 
  • In 1991, India had the seventh largest camel population in the world with more than 10 lakh of them. But it is now ranked outside the top 20 with just 2.5 lakh camels left.
  • But the emphasis on cultural, sports and fun activities curated every year for improving the experience has been a reason for increase in the number of foreign visitors visiting the event.

British Museum Gets Largest no. of Stolen Goods

  •  A leading human rights lawyer has accused the British Museum of becoming "the world's largest receivers of stolen property".
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC, author of the new book "Who Owns History? Elgin's Loot and the Case for Returning Plundered Treasure", wrote a blistering criticism of US and European institutions housing treasures taken from "subjugated peoples" and called for their return.
  • Robertson criticises the British Museum in particular for allowing an unofficial "stolen goods tour" that "stops at the Elgin marbles, Hoa Kakananai'a, the Benin bronzes and other pilfered cultural propriety". The artefacts he refers to are wanted by Greece, Easter Island and Nigeria, respectively, and are the subject of ongoing controversies.
  • "The British Museum acknowledges the difficult histories of some of its collections, including the contested means by which some collections have been acquired such as through military action and subsequent looting", she said.

Thiruvalluvar's Religion a Subject of Scholarly Debate

  •  The ongoing political controversy over the origins of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar is nothing new. The religion to which he belonged has always been a subject of debate among scholars.
  • Even a perusal of four different works does not offer much clarity on the subject. The works are: A History of Tamil Literature, Mu. Varadarajan (Mu.Va), Sahitya Akademi, 1988; Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, Volume-V, Sahitya Akademi, 1992; A History of South India (Fourth Edition), K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Oxford University Press, 2000; and Tamil: A biography, David Shulman, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016.
  • Placing Tirukkural among the works belonging to the post-Sangam era or the period of ethical literature (100-500 CE), Mu. Va. concluded that Thiruvalluvar should have "practised religious eclecticism, maintained unshakeable faith in dharma but should have rejected religious symbols and superstitious beliefs".
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