1) Which veteran molecular biologist led the Award Wapsi programme in 2015?
a. Pushpa Bhargava
b. CNR Rao
c. Birbal Sahni
d. G Madhavan Nair
ANSWER: Pushpa Bhargava
Veteran molecular biologist and a vehement critic of genetically modified crops, Pushpa Mittra Bhargava, died at his home in Hyderabad on 1st Aug 2017. He was 89. He is survived by a son and daughter.
Dr Bhargava, while active, had recently developed kidney complications and was undergoing dialysis.
Bhargava was the founding director of the CCMB, Hyderabad.
Though Bhargava had ceased to be an active researcher for over 20 years, he remained engaged with issues in science and policy.
A strident critic of multinational seed companies, Bhargava was opposed to the introduction of genetically modified crops - from cotton to brinjal and, most recently, transgenic mustard - in India.
His argument was that these crops posed health hazards and required decades more of tests before possible clearance.
He had led what came to be called the Award Wapsi programme in 2015 when scientists and litterateurs returned their awards against what they called rising tide of intolerance in the country.
In 2015, Bhargava was among the scientists who returned his Padma Bhushan - in solidarity with writers and artistes - protesting the “climate of religious conservatism” and underlined by incidents such as the murder of scholar, M.M. Kalburgi, and the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.
Bhargava also moved the Supreme Court against an initiative by former education minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, to introduce astrology in universities.
Prior to the CCMB there was no lab for research on cell, DNA and molecular biology. Public understanding of science, interaction with government and policy makers was his forte. He was a great talent scout.
Bhargava was chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill 2013.
The Bill was the culmination of a 15-year struggle as he mobilised and marshalled support by meeting legislators and policy makers.
The draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2016.
However, Bhargava opposed the ban on surrogacy, instead calling for protection of the rights of surrogate mothers.
Bhargava was also vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission.
In his role as a founder director of CCMB, he also invigorated the art scene in Hyderabad by inviting artistes from across the country and creating a residency programme.
Scientists and officials of CCMB expressed their grief at the demise of Mr. Bhargava.
2) What is the name of the portal launched on Aug 1 to provide a platform for selling agricultural produce?
The government on Aug 1, 2017 launched a portal, e-RaKAM, to provide a platform to sell agricultural produce.
The portal is a joint initiative by state-run-auctioneer MSTC and Central Warehousing Corporation arm CRWC.
Launching the portal with Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said aim was to auction 20 lakh tonnes of pulses in the first phase through the platform.
The initial hurdles will be there as most of the farmers are illiterate and are in bad condition, Paswan said, as per a joint statement issued by MSTC and CRWC.
It added that now various crops whose price increases due to rainfall or bad weather conditions, will be managed and get the market.
He said even transport will face initial hurdles that will be sorted out over time.
E-RaKAM is a first-of-its-kind initiative that leverages technology to connect farmers of the smallest villages to the biggest markets of the world through internet and e-RaKAM centres.
E-RaKAM is developed by MSTC Limited and supported by marketing & logistics partner CRWC Limited.
E-RaKAM is a digital initiative bringing together the farmers, FPOs, PSUs, civil supplies and buyers on a single platform to ease the selling and buying process of agricultural products.
Under this initiative, e-RaKAM centres are being developed in a phased manner throughout the country to facilitate farmers for online sale of their produce.
The statement said farmers would be paid through e-Payment directly into their bank accounts.
3) India has ranked as the 60th exporter among 130 nations of ICT in which UN index?
a. Global Innovation Index
b. Global Digital Index
c. Global Integration Index
d. Global Technology Index
ANSWER: Global Innovation Index
India has been ranked the top exporter of information and communication technology services in a new UN report which highlighted the rise of the country as an emerging innovation centre in Asia.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in its 10th edition of the ‘Global Innovation Index (GII)’ ranked India 60th on its list of 130 most innovative countries in the world.
The report, co-authored by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD, added that India maintains its top place in Central and Southern Asia, moving up six spots - from 66th last year to 60th this year overall.
It further said that a group of nations including India, Kenya, and Viet Nam are outperforming their development-level peers.
According to the UN agency, rich countries continue to dominate global innovation in terms of most new products and services, with Switzerland at the top for the seventh year running and high-income economies taking 24 of the top 25 spots - China is the exception at 22, moving up three places in the last 12 months.
India performed well on a number of parameters, coming on the top spot in ICT services exports, 10th in category of graduates in science and engineering, 27th on e-participation.
It also ranked 14th on the presence of global research and development companies, 33rd on government’s online service, 32nd in general infrastructure, 18th on creative goods exports, 30th on knowledge impact and 29th on intellectual property payments.
India is 2nd in innovation quality for the second consecutive year.
However in some categories it has ranked comparatively low, including 106th on political stability and safety, 121st on business environment, 114th on education.
It also ranked 104th on pupil-teacher ratio at the secondary level, 109th on use of ICT, 108th on environmental performance, 114th on ease of starting a business and 118th on ease of paying taxes.
The report said India outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita for seven years in a row. India has shown improvement in most areas, including in infrastructure, business sophistication, knowledge and technology and creative outputs.
The report stated that as demonstrated in the GII for some years, India has “consistently outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita. Recently it made important strides in innovation input and output performance.
“India is now in the top half of the GII rankings.
The continual improvement of India in terms of investment, tertiary education, the quality of its publications and universities, its ICT services exports, and its innovation clusters deserves mention.
GII: Know More
- Each year, the GII surveys some 130 economies using dozens of metrics.
- This ranges from patent filings to education spending providing decision makers a high-level look at the innovative activity that increasingly drives economic and social growth
- For the last ten years, it has observed an innovative capacity gap between developed and developing nations and lacklustre growth rates for research and development activities at both the government and corporate levels.
4) India is being allowed to construct which hydroelectric plants by World Bank in August 2017?
d. Both a and b
e. All the above
ANSWER: Both a and b
India is allowed to construct hydroelectric power facilities on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers with certain restrictions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), the World Bank has said.
The World Bank’s comments came as officials from India Pakistan concluded the secretary-level talks over the IWT.
Pakistan opposes the construction of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants being built by India in Jammu and Kashmir.
Noting that the two countries disagree over whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the treaty, the World Bank said the IWT designates these two rivers as well as the Indus as the “Western Rivers” to which Pakistan has unrestricted use.
Among other uses, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers subject to constraints specified in annexures to the treaty, the Bank indicated in its fact sheet.
It noted that the talks on the technical issues of the IWT took place this week "in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation".
The parties have agreed to continue discussions and reconvene in September in Washington DC.
In the lengthy fact sheet, the World Bank said Pakistan asked it to facilitate the setting up of a Court of Arbitration to look into its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power projects.
On the other hand, India had asked for the appointment of a neutral expert to look into the issues, contending the concerns Pakistan raised were "technical" ones.
The IWT was signed in 1960+ after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.
The World Bank's role in relation to "differences" and "disputes" is limited to the designation of people to fulfill certain roles when requested by either or both of the parties, the fact sheet said.
The two countries last held talks over the two projects in March this year during the meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in Pakistan.
Pakistan had approached the World Bank last year, raising concerns over the designs of two hydroelectricity projects located in Jammu and Kashmir.
It had demanded that the World Bank, which is the mediator between the two countries under the 57-year-old water distribution pact, set up a court of arbitration to look into its concerns+ .
The international lender had in November 2016 initiated two simultaneous processes for appointing neutral expert and establishing of a court of arbitration to look into technical differences between the two countries in connection with the projects.
The simultaneous processes, however, were halted after India objected to it.
After that, representatives of the World Bank held talks with India and Pakistan to find a way out separately.
The talks between the two nations over the treaty come amid tensions between them after a number of terror attacks in India by Pakistan-based terror groups.
5) RBI cut repo rate to ___ on Aug 2, 2017.
a. 5.5 percent
b. 5.75 percent
c. 6 percent
d. 6.5 percent
ANSWER: 6 percent
The RBI has cut the repo rate by 25 bps to 6%. This was on expected lines as market consensus predicted a 25 bps cut.
Reverse repo rate has also been cut by 0.25 per cent to 5.75 per cent.
The six member monetary policy committee voted on the basis of a majority for a cut. Dr. Chetan Ghate, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Viral V. Acharya and Dr. Urjit R. Patel were in favour of the monetary policy decision.
Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of 50 basis points and Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra voted for status quo.
The cut in rates comes against the backdrop of slowing credit growth, very low inflation and low economic growth.
Retail inflation has fallen to a five year low of 1.5 per cent in June and expected to remain soft for a while longer. Bank credit is growing at just a little over 6 per cent year on year.
The economy has slowed down through the past five quarters from a high of 9.1% registered in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016 to a level of 6.1% in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017.
Factory activity contracted to an 8-year low with the purchasing managers’ index at just 47.9 points in July.
The RBI noted in its statement that actual headline inflation for Q1 has tracked projections of being in the range of 2 to3.5 per cent in the first half of the year.
Looking ahead, as base effects fade, the evolving momentum of inflation would be determined by
(a) the impact on the CPI of the implementation of house rent allowances (HRA) under the 7th central pay commission (CPC);
(b) the impact of the price revisions withheld ahead of the GST; and
(c) the disentangling of the structural and transitory factors shaping food inflation.
It noted that there are several factors contributing to uncertainty around this baseline inflation trajectory.
It flagged its concern that implementation of farm loan waivers by States may result in possible fiscal slippages and undermine the quality of public spending, entailing inflationary spillovers.
It said that the timing of the States’ implementation of the salary and allowances award is critical–it is not factored into the baseline projection in view of lack of information on their plans.
If States choose to implement salary and allowance increases similar to the Centre in the current financial year, headline inflation could rise by an additional estimated 100 basis points above the baseline over 18-24 months, the statement noted.
Some moderating forces are also at work, the RBI indicated.
First, the second successive normal monsoon coupled with effective supply management measures may keep food inflation under check.
Second, if the general moderation of price increases in CPI excluding food and fuel continues, it will contain upside pressures on headline inflation.
Third, the international commodity price outlook is fairly stable at the current juncture.
RBI Retains GVA outlook
- The RBI noted that high levels of stress in twin balance sheets - banks and corporations - are likely to deter new investment.
- The real estate sector also may see delayed project launches as a new regulatory framework comes into play.
- The states’ finances could come under pressure with farm loan waivers and limit fresh capacity expansion.
- It said however there were upsides to the baseline projections emanating from good monsoon progress, a good kharif harvest, boost to rural demand, step up in rural allocations, and the positive impact of GST.
- The rising probability of another good kharif harvest, the boost to rural demand from the higher budgetary allocation to housing in rural areas, the significant step-up in the budgetary allocation for roads and bridges, and the growth-enhancing effects of the GST spur investment.
- External demand conditions are gradually improving and should support the domestic economy, although global political risks remain significant.
- Keeping in view these factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 is retained at 7.3%."
The RBI's Monetary Policy committee was cautious in expressing its view that while inflation has been soft, it still remained to be seen whether it was transient or whether the 'a more durable disinflation was underway'.
The MPC noted that some of the upside risks to inflation have either reduced or not materialised- (i)
the baseline path of headline inflation excluding the HRA impact has fallen below the projection made in June to a little above 4 per cent by Q4;(ii)
inflation excluding food and fuel has fallen significantly over the past three months; and,(iii)
the roll-out of the GST has been smooth and the monsoon normal.
- It said, that consequently, some space has opened up for monetary policy accommodation, given the dynamics of the output gap and accordingly decided to reduce the policy repo rate by 25 basis points.
- Noting, however, that the trajectory of inflation in the baseline projection is expected to rise from current lows, the MPC decided to keep the policy stance neutral and to watch incoming data.
- The MPC remains focused on its commitment to keeping headline inflation close to 4 per cent on a durable basis, the statement said.
6) South Asia is home to which percentage of the world’s population?
South Asia, home to one-fifth of the world’s population, could see humid heat rise beyond survivable levels by century’s end if nothing is done to halt global warming, researchers said on August 2, 2017.
The study in the journal Science Advances warned of “summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection”.
The research is based on two climate models. One is a “business-as-usual” scenario in which little is done to contain climate change.
The second is aimed at limiting temperature rise to well below 2°C, as pledged by more than 190 nations under the 2015 Paris climate accord.
The study is the first of its kind to look not just at temperatures, but at the forecast of “wet-bulb temperature”, which combines temperature, humidity and the human body’s ability to cool down in response.
The survivability threshold is considered to be 35°C, or 95°F.
Under a business-as-usual scenario, “wet-bulb temperatures are projected to approach the survivability threshold over most of South Asia, and exceed it at a few locations, by the end of the century,” said the report.
About 30% of the population in the region would be exposed to these harmful temperatures, up from 0% at present, said the report.
The densely populated farming regions of South Asia could fare the worst, because workers are exposed to heat with little opportunity for escape into air-conditioned environments.
Deadly heat waves could begin within as little as a few decades to strike regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, including the fertile Indus and Ganges river basins that produce much of the region’s food supply, as per the report.
In 2015, the fifth deadliest heat wave in modern history swept over large parts of India and Pakistan, killing some 3,500 people.
But researchers said their models gave cause for hope, too.
Under the scenario in which steps are taken to limit warming over the coming decades, the population exposed to harmful wet-bulb temperatures would increase from 0% to just 2%.
Temperatures would still reach dangerous levels (over 31°C), but would not be quite so close to the fatal threshold.
South Asia: Know More
- South Asia or Southern Asia is a term used to represent the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan SAARC countries and, for some authorities, adjoining countries to the west and east.
- Population: 1.749 billion (2013)
- GDP (Nominal): $2.9 trillion
7) US President Donald Trump has signed new sanctions on which country into law on Aug 2, 2017?
a. North Korea
d. Both a and c
ANSWER: Both a and c
US President Donald Trump has signed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia into law on Aug 2, 2017.
The US Congress voted last week by overwhelming margins for sanctions to punish the Russian government over interference in the 2016 presidential election, annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and other perceived violations of international norms.
Mr. Trump, who has made clear he wanted to improve relations with Russia, reluctantly accepted the new congressional sanctions, which also included Iran and North Korea.
The Bill had enough support in Congress to override a presidential veto.
Mr. Trump’s signing of the Bill followed some conflicting signals from the administration in recent days about the sanctions.
Iran: Know More
- Iran is an Islamic republic on the Persian (Arabian) Gulf with historical sites dating to the Persian Empire.
- Extensive marble ruins mark Persepolis, the empire’s capital founded by Darius I in the 6th century B.C.
- The modern capital, Tehran, is home to opulent Golestan Palace, seat of the Qajar Dynasty (1794 - 1925), plus modern landmarks such as the 435m-high Milad Tower.
- Capital: Tehran
- Currency: Iranian rial
- President: Hassan Rouhani
- Supreme leader: Ali Khamenei
- Official language: Persian
8) Who has been confirmed as the new FBI director in August 2017?
a. Steve Bannon
b. James Comey
c. Anthony Scaramucci
d. Christopher Wray
ANSWER: Christopher Wray
The Senate has confirmed Christopher Wray to lead the FBI, replacing James Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump amid the investigation into Russia meddling in last year’s presidential election.
The vote was 92-5 for Wray, a former high-ranking official in President George W Bush’s Justice Department who oversaw investigations into corporate fraud.
Wray, 50, inherits an FBI at a particularly challenging time given Trump’s ousting of Comey, who was admired within the bureau.
Wray won unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, with Republicans and Democrats praising his promise never to let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission.
Asserting his independence at his confirmation hearing, Wray said: “My loyalty is to the Constitution and the rule of law. Those have been my guideposts throughout my career, and I will continue to adhere to them no matter the test.”
Trump fired Comey in the midst of his 10-year term as the FBI was investigating Russia’s role in the election and possible ties to Trump campaign officials.
9) National Book Trust is celebrating how many years of the organization in 2017?
a. 65 years
b. 50 years
c. 55 years
d. None of the above
ANSWER: None of the above
A two-day national seminar was organized by the National body for book promotion and publication, National Book Trust, under Human Resource Development Ministry to coincide with the 60 Years programme of the Trust.
Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister of State of Human Resource Development indicated that the Government of India is working on finalizing a National Book Promotion Policy, which will take care of providing a policy direction to the whole spectrum of book publication, writing and distribution in order to promote a culture of reading in the society.
The significant role is played by National Book Trust, India in creating a culture of reading and re-affirmed the commitment of the Government of India to support its endeavours to meet its avowed objectives.
Geographically India is surrounded by sea from three sides and its boundaries are open. We have been attacked several times by foreign invaders since ancient times and for about 200 years we were ruled by the British, even then we were able to preserve our culture and literature.
Moving ahead in empowering India because of wisdom provided by our ancient texts and sense of nationalism in our literature, the importance of printed books will not diminish.
On this occasion NBT books in Hindi tiled Aapki Sehat, authored by Dr Vijay Mittal and Dr Shyama Prasad: Ek Shikshak, authored by Ms Namrata Sharma were also released.
The speakers on the occasion included well-known writers - Dr Neerja Madhav, Dr Reeta Shukl, Dr Advaita Kala and Ms Malti Joshi.
They said that women writers like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Mahadevi Verma through their writings on nationalism tried to awaken the people of India.
10) Indian telecom industry indicated India has which rank in terms of total internet users?
The Indian telecom industry has seen a paradigm shift from a voice centric market to a data-centric market.
While voice business still contributes a large chunk towards operator revenues, data revenues have shown an exponential growth trajectory over the last few years.
Towards the close of 2016 the number of internet subscribers in India was 391.50 million making India globally the 2nd highest in terms of internet users.
Mobile data traffic also grew by 76 per cent in India in 2016 primarily attributed to increased smart phone penetration.
This growing usage of smart phones, especially in urban areas, has increased the usage of internet on hand-held devices.
In 2016, 559 megabytes of mobile data was generated per month by an average smart phone, up from 430megabytes per month in 2015.
Consumption of video content is also forecasted to be 75 percent of India’s mobile data traffic by 2021, compared to 49 percent in 2016.
Advancements in innovative IoT technologies, like health monitors, smart transport, smart meters among others, is projected to result in 21 per cent increase in M2M services.
These advances will result in a significant growth of mobile data, and as the telecom sector moves to newer technologies, TSPs will need to identify innovative avenues to monetise this data opportunity.
The Indian Telecom Market is expected to cross the INR 6.6 trillion revenue mark by the year 2020.
The Minister said that Indian Government had launched the ‘Digital India’ initiative in July 2015 which had three broad targets -
- Digital Infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen,
- Governance and Services on Demand
- Digital empowerment of citizens.
One of the projects under the ‘Digital India’ initiative was ‘BharatNet’, launched to deploy high-speed optical fibre cables to connect 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayat across the country by 2018.
This project would also help in increasing the fiberized sites in India which currently stands at less than 20 per cent as compared to other developed countries.
The project is being implemented in Phases, with more than 100,000 gram panchayats connected under Phase-I as of July 2017 and states like Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh neared 100 per cent completion.Major Achievements of the Indian Telecom Ministry
- Over 400 million internet users
- FDI quadrupled in FY2016-17 recording inflow of approximately USD 5.6 billion
- Greater than 20 per cent tower sites now diesel free
- Rural Tele density increased by 30 per cent over the last five years
- More than 3/4th of the data consumption was from 3G/4G
- Telecom industry generates over 4 million jobs direct and indirect
- LTE device ecosystem grew by 270 per cent from 2015
- 38 new mobile manufacturing units set up since September 2015
- 30 new locations added to ‘Smart City’ mission in June 2017, total count reaches 90 smart cities
- The government, is also working aggressive to connect 54,000 unconnected villages and would speed up its efforts after getting due reports from all states.
- There is the inter-ministerial group to look into the financial health of the sector.
- The new Telecom Policy will be a key building block for achieving the growth target of 10 percent from the current 7.6 percent as Telecom and IT are the two sectors contributing to 16.5 percent to the GDP, and there are immense possibilities for it to go up to 25 percent.
11) Where was the 7th meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers held from 1 to 2 August 2017?
d. Rio De Janeiro
The 7th Meeting of BRICS Trade Ministers was held in Shanghai from 1-2 August.
A six-member delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, along with Ambassador J.S. Deepak, participated in the meetings.
Mr. Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce from China, presided over the meetings.
The other delegations were represented by Mr. Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry (South Africa), Mr. Marcelo Maia Tavares de Araujo, Secretary of Commerce and Services of Ministry of Industry (Brazil) and Mr Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development (Russia).
A collective courtesy call on Vice Premier Wang Yang was also organized for the BRICS Trade Ministers.
Separately, a bilateral meeting between Commerce and Industry Minister (CIM) and Chinese Commerce Minister was also held.
- The Ministers adopted the following documents at the conclusion of the meeting:
- 7th BRICS Trade Ministers’ Joint Statement
- BRICS Trade in Services Cooperation Roadmap
- BRICS E-Commerce Cooperation Initiative
- BRICS IPR Cooperation Guidelines
- Framework on strengthening the Economic and Technical Cooperation of BRICS Countries
- Terms of Reference (ToR) of BRICS Model E-Port Network
- Outlines for BRICS Investment Facilitation