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Current Affairs - 11 August 2018

NATION

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve enters UNESCO list
  • The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve (KBR) of Sikkim, the highest biosphere reserve in the country that includes the third highest mountain peak in the world, Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), has been included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WHBR).
  • The decision was taken at the International Coordinating Council of Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme, UNESCO, in its 30th Session held at Palembang, Indonesia, last month.
  • The biosphere reserve comprises 41% of the entire geographical area of the mountain State.
  • The Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP), which comprises the core area of the KBR, was inscribed as India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site” on July 17, 2016.
  • The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots that has good species diversity with high levels of endemism, with many mountains, peaks, lakes, caves, rocks, stupas (shrines) and hot springs.
  • According to the Sikkim Forest Department, there are 4,500 species of flowering plants in the KBR, including 424 medicinal plants and 36 rhododendrons, 60 species of primulas and 11 varieties of oaks .
  • Many species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act have their home in the KBR. This includes the Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Beer and herbivores species of Musk deer, Great Tibetan Sheep, Blue Sheep, Boral and Barking Deer. 
  •  India has 18 biospheres reserves, of which 11 have been included in the WNBR.
  • The last biosphere reserve to be included was the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in Kerala in 2016. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was the first reserve from the country to be included in the WNBR. 
Bill to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce
  • The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 introduced in the Lok Sabha seeks to strike down leprosy as a ground for seeking divorce. The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Law.
Centre launches portal for scientific research, funding
  • The Union science ministry’s communication wing, Vigyan Prasar, has launched the India Science Technology and Innovation portal
  • Currently the portal can be queried for information about the organisations carrying out research, those funding them, international collaborations, the scientists involved in the research, the states in which they are being carried out, their achievements and impact.
  • The portal follows a launch this week of India Science (indiascience.in), an Internet-based science channel, to showcase the developments in science and technology in India.
  • Both the portal and the channel are part of a push by the Science Ministry to improve its public outreach. 
Women’s group backs amendments to talaq Bill
  • The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved three amendments to the Bill.
  • The Muslim women’s rights group spearheading the movement against instant divorce has welcomed the amendments to the triple talaq Bill
  • The women’s rights group said that the changes made to the proposed law are in consonance with their demands and therefore they hoped that the move will “put to rest all opposition to the bill and the law will become reality soon”.
  • The NGO has demanded that the government lay down an elaborate procedure for divorce based on the talaq-e-ehsan method which involves reconciliation, mediation and dialogue between the husband and wife over a minimum period of 90 days. 
  • The amended Bill is now expected to be placed in the Upper House in the winter session and once it is passed there it will have to go back to the Lok Sabha for approval of the amendments as the original Bill had already been passed by the Lower House.
Two MPs bring private Bill against lynching
  • Ahead of the government which is still consulting stakeholders to cast a law against lynching, Shashi Tharoor, Lok Sabha member of the Congress, and K.T.S. Tulsi, a nominated Rajya Sabha member, introduced a private member’s Bill in Parliament .
  • Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not allow Mr. Tharoor to table the Bill in the Lok Sabha, arguing that law and order was a State subject and it was not for the Lok Sabha to debate it. Mr. Tulsi’s Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
  • A special law was needed to deal with lynching, though most of the crimes were covered by the Indian Penal Code, Mr. Tulsi said. 
  • The Bill introduced by the two gives a detailed definition of what constitutes lynching.
  • It suggests that the minimum punishment should be seven-year jail term and the highest, life imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the offence. It has provisions to deal with “creation of a hostile environment”. They include incidents where a Minister felicitates a lynching accused.
  • The two will send their draft to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
For four million, another chance to make it to NRC
  • Some 2,500 Nagarik Seva Kendras (NSKs) in Assam began issuing claim, objection and correction forms for people excluded from the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30.
  • Nearly 40 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants had been left out of the complete draft because of the lack of sufficient documentary evidence of their citizenship.
  • They can reapply through the claims form, while those whose names have been misspelt can use the correction form.
  • Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government had completed only 30% of the work related to the NRC.
  • The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) has asked the NRC authorities to designate officers who can read Hindi and Urdu documents submitted by applicants at the Kendras. 

WORLD

U.S. cuts training for Pak. military
  • President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programmes that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.
  • The move, which has not been previously reported, is one of the first known impacts from Mr. Trump’s decision this year to suspend U.S. security assistance to Pakistan to compel it to crack down on Islamic militants.
  • Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to further look to China or Russia for leadership training.
  • The effective suspension of Pakistan from the U.S. government’s International Military Education and Training programme (IMET) will close off places that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year.

ECONOMY

IIP surges to five-month high of 7%
  • Growth in industrial activity picked up to a five-month high of 7% in June, driven by an across-the-board acceleration in growth rates including in sectors such as manufacturing, electricity, infrastructure, and capital and consumer goods.
  • The Index of Industrial Production registered a growth rate of 7% in June, rising from 3.93% in May. Within this, the manufacturing sector grew 6.9% in June, an increase from 3.66% in May.
  • The primary goods segment within the IIP registered a growth rate of 9.28% in June, up from 5.74% in May. Capital goods witnessed a similar acceleration in growth rates, coming in at 9.62% in June up from 6.92% in the previous month. 
  • The infrastructure sector showed strong growth of 8.53% in June, up from 7.42% in May.
  • Consumer goods saw growth accelerating to 5.92% in June from 1.57% in May.
  • Within this, consumer durables witnessed a strong surge, registering a growth rate of 13.1% in June, up from 6.39% in May.
  • Consumer non-durables, however, grew only 0.47% in June, although this reversed the contraction of 2.06% witnessed in the previous month. 
Godrej, U.K.’s GKN Aerospace sign pact for helicopter tanks
  • Godrej Aerospace, a unit of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., has signed an agreement with U.K.-based GKN Aerospace, a premier aerospace supplier, for the manufacture of specialised helicopter fuel tanks.
  • Neel Ghai, group head of supply chain, special products group, GKN Aerospace, said the partnership “will help keep us at the forefront of this technology.”

SPORTS

Pranjala and Rutuja prevail in final
  • Third-seeded Indian duo of Y. Pranjala and Rutuja Bhosale shocked top-seeded pair of Naiktha Bains of Australia and Barbora Stefkova of Czech Republic 2-6, 6-0, [10-6] in the women’s doubles final of the ITF $25,000 tennis tournament

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