Current Affairs summary 3 Sept

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1. RBI working on measures to further beef up cyber security in FY 19

• In view of growing incidents of cyber frauds, the Reserve Bank is working towards further enhancing security mechanism as part of its agenda for this fiscal, especially when digital transactions are witnessing a significant rise.

• The central bank’s agenda for 2018-19 include, enhanced level of protection against cyber risks to ensure continuous protection against the changing contours of internet-based security threats.

• The RBI’s report said the 2018-19 agenda include taking effective steps to “further enhance” the levels of protection against cyber risks.

• The RBI will proactively initiate the process of developing a cybersecurity culture, endeavor to make cybersecurity a responsibility and ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of information system and resources.

• An Audit Management Application portal to handle various supervisory functions of the cybersecurity and information technology examination cell in the Reserve Bank and to fully automate monitoring of returns has been envisaged in order to facilitate consistency and efficiency of the offsite monitoring mechanism.

• New private sector and foreign banks accounted for 36 percent each of all cyber frauds reported in debit, credit and ATM cards, among others.

• Given the increasing popularity of digital payments, data protection and cybersecurity norms were strengthened, and Know Your Customer norms were modulated further to make them more effective.

• With the emerging threat landscape, where organized cybercrime and cyber warfare are gaining prominence, the RBI is working towards ensuring continuous protection against the changing contours of cybersecurity threat.


2. India made rapid progress in increasing access to sanitation in schools: UN report

• India has made rapid progress in increasing access to sanitation in schools, the United Nations said in a report, noting that the proportion of schools without any sanitation facility has decreased at a fast pace in the country.

• A new joint UN agency study, ‘Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: 2018 Global Baseline Report,’ says that good hygiene facilities in schools provide the basis of a healthy learning environment, and that girls are more likely to attend when they are on their period.

• The annual report is produced by the World Health Organization/UN Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme, or JMP, which has been monitoring global progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) since 1990.

• It looks at the progress made towards reaching the targets of two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation), and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all).

• WASH in schools programmes provide an entry point for the education, awareness-raising and behaviour change required to achieve the SDG6 target of ending open defecation by 2030, the report said.

• Between 2000 and 2016, the proportion of schools in India without any sanitation facility decreased even faster than the proportion of the population practising open defecation.

• Based on these trends, the JMP estimates that almost all schools in India had some type of sanitation facility in 2016, while 10 years earlier half the schools in India reported having no sanitation facility at all. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of school-age children in India increased from 352 million to 378 million.

• The report said that a recent survey in India also collected information on the availability of facilities for menstrual hygiene management. The proportion of schools with bins with lids for the disposal of sanitary materials varies widely across states in India, from 98 per cent in Chandigarh to 36 per cent in Chhattisgarh. Mizoram is the only state where more than 50 per cent of schools have a functional incinerator for the disposal of sanitary waste.

• It said the Government of India issued national guidelines on menstrual hygiene management in 2015 but a survey in 2016-2017 showed that only two thirds of schools in India provide menstrual hygiene education with wide variations between states.

• The repot further said that millions of children globally are going to school without basic hygiene facilities, and the goal of universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene remains “a huge challenge”.

• Over 30 per cent of schools worldwide do not provide safe drinking water; a third of schools do not provide the most basic of toilet facilities (such as septic tank, pit latrines or composting toilets); and nearly 900 million children go to schools with no handwashing facilities with soap and water.

• Universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene in schools is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but achieving this ambitious target presents a huge challenge. The JMP has designed tools to make it easier to track progress across countries, towards a basic level of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene service.


3. Indo-US homeland security officials discuss draft plan on six areas

• Ahead of the maiden two-plus-two dialogue between India and the United States, top homeland security officials of the two countries have worked on a draft plan related to six areas, including anti-terror cooperation in intelligence sharing, terror financing and cyber security.

• During the Indo-US Homeland Security Dialogue, held recently, senior officers deliberated on a draft work plan relating to the activities of the six sub-groups, an official privy to the development said Monday.

• The six sub-groups formed under the Indo-US homeland security dialogue cover the areas of (i) Illicit finance, Illegal smuggling of cash, financial fraud and counterfeiting, (ii) cyber information, (iii) megacity policing and sharing of information among federal state and local partners, (iv) global supply chain, transportation, port, border and maritime security, (v) capacity building and (vi) technology upgradation.

• Cooperation in matters related to counter terror initiatives and intelligence sharing were given stress during the recent meeting.

• Both the sides agreed to work out the modalities to address these issues and agreed to maintain sustained interactions to enhance security cooperation between the two countries.

• The Indo-US homeland security dialogue was launched in 2010 as the mechanism to a sequel to the signing of the India-US counter-terrorism initiative.

• The maiden two-plus-two dialogue between India and the United States is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on Thursday.

• US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be meeting their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, to discuss enhancing America’s engagement with India on critical diplomatic and security priorities.


4. Green Tribunal steps in to conserve Ghats

• The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal from giving environment clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.

• The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.

• The Madhav Gadgil – led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report had created a political furore in the State with most of the political parties and a section of the church opposing it.

• The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.

• The Principal Bench of the panel, which permitted the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) to re-publish the draft notification in Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26, ordered that the matter may be finalized within six months. It also ordered that the draft of the republished notification be placed on the record of the tribunal.

• Pulling up the ghats States for the delay in filing objections regarding the notification, the tribunal observed that the ‘delay on account of objections of states may not be conducive to the protection of the eco-sensitive areas’ and the matter must be finalized at the earliest.

• The WGEEP had earlier proposed ‘much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone’ though the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group, also appointed by the MoEF and CC to look into the WGEEP report, had reduced it. The Ministry had accepted the Kasturirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.

• The principal Bench of the tribunal, which noted that the ecology of the Western Ghats region was under serious stress, also highlighted the fact that Western Ghats region was one of the richest biodiversity areas which needed to be conserved.


5. UN begins talks on treaty to protect imperiled high seas

• United Nations has kicked off talks on a 2020 treaty that would regulate the high seas, which cover half the planet yet lack adequate environment protection.

• Four sessions of talks, each lasting two weeks, are planned to take place over two years, with the goal of protecting marine biodiversity and avoiding further pillaging of the oceans.

• The negotiations will relate to spaces beyond national jurisdictions, or areas that belong to no country in particular.

• Talk will focus on ‘the high seas and the international zone of marine waters, or about 46% of the planet’s surface.’

• In 1982, the UN adopted the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but left the high seas from restrictions.

• The convention took effect in 1994, without the participation of the US.

• Since then, shipping routes have expanded considerably, and the resources of the ocean deep have aroused significant interest, whether by fishing or mineral extraction.

• Marine life is already reeling from the impact of industrial fishing, climate change and other extractive industries. We have a shared responsibility to protect our global ocean before it is too late.

• Talks will focus on creating protected areas on the high seas, more sharing of maritime resources and technology, and research on environment impacts.

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