Daily Current Affairs : 6th and 7th February

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Shri Ram Janma Bhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust
  2. Cooperative Bank Regulation
  3. Vivad se Viswas Scheme
  4. Select Committee Recommendation on Surrogacy bill
  5. Supreme Court Panel on Prison reforms
  6. Functions and Powers of State and Central Pollution Control Board
  7. Monetary Policy
  8. Long Term Repo Operation
  9. Parliamentary Panel Recommendation to curb Child Pornography

1 . Shri Ram Janma Bhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust


Context : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved a scheme for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya by setting up an autonomous trust, Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, to take forward the process as per the Supreme Court’s orders. 

About the Trust

  • There will be 15 trustees in Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust out of which one trustee will always be from Dalit society.
  • Trust will be headed by former Attorney General and Supreme Court Lawyer K Parasaran
  • The government had decided to transfer the entire 67.703 acres to the trust.
  • Trust will be fully autonomous to take any decision regarding the construction of temple
  • Two prominent practising Hindus will be nominated by the board of trustees. Two Hindu IAS officials below the rank of Joint Secretary to the government will be appointed by the Centre and the U.P. government. Ayodhya District Collector will be the ex-officio trustee.

2 . Cooperative Bank Regulation


Context : In the wake of the recent Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank crisis, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Banking Regulation Act to bring 1,540 cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulation.

Background

  • Cooperative banks have 8.6 lakh account holders, with a total deposit of about ₹5 lakh crore.
  • The proposed amendments, along with the government’s decision to increase the insurance cover on bank deposits from ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh, have been brought to strengthen the financial stability of cooperative banks and boost public confidence in the banking system.
  • In the PMC Bank case, the RBI had to step in last year after massive irregularities in its loan accounts were detected. The regulator had to place a withdrawal limit for account holders, which led to a major public strife and protests by them.

About the Amendments

  • Administrative matters would continue to be under the Registrar, Cooperative. However, cooperative banks would be regulated under the RBI’s banking guidelines. Their auditing would also be done as per its norms.
  • Qualifications would be laid down for appointments, including that of Chief Executive Officers. Prior permission from the RBI would be required for the appointment of key positions. The regulator would deal with issues such as loan waivers.
  • The RBI would also have powers to supersede the board of any cooperative bank in financial distress. These measures would be implemented in a phased manner

3 . Vivaad se Vishwas Bill 2020


Context : Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday introduced in the Lok Sabha the much-awaited ‘Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas’ Bill 2020 to provide for resolution of disputed direct taxes.

Background

  • The tax litigation process in India is time-consuming and cumbersome. A plethora of cases is pending before various appellate forums and a humongous amount is locked up in appeals.
  • As on November 30, 2019, the amount of disputed direct tax arrears stood at ₹9.32 lakh crore, and considering the profuse amount of time and resources tax disputes consume, a dispute-litigation scheme was the need of the hour for both taxpayers and the government.

About the Scheme

  • The Bill provides a lucrative option to the taxpayers to settle their cases pending before the Commissioner (Appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, High Court or Supreme Court as on January 31, 2020, irrespective of whether the demand in such cases is pending or has been paid.
  • The pending appeal may be against disputed tax, interest or penalty in relation to an assessment or reassessment order or against disputed interest/ fee where there is no disputed tax. In fact, an appeal may even be against tax determined on defaults in respect of tax deducted/collected at source.
  • Taxpayers willing to settle disputes under the scheme shall be allowed a complete waiver of interest and penalty if they pay the entire amount of tax in dispute up to March 31, 2020, after which 10 per cent additional disputed tax will have to be paid over and above the tax liability.
  • Further, where the tax arrears relate to disputed interest or penalty only, then 25 per cent of disputed penalty/interest will have to be paid only while settling appeals relating to interest/penalty if payment is made up to 31st March 2020, beyond which the same shall be enhanced to 30 per cent.
  • The scheme would not apply where tax in arrears related to assessments in the nature of search and requisition.

4 . Select Committee Recommendation on Surrogacy bill


Context : The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha and the committee has held ten meetings since the Bill was referred to it by the Lok Sabha on November 21, 2019.

Details of the Recommendation

  • Stating that requiring the surrogate mother to be a “close relative” potentially restricts the availability of surrogate mothers, affecting genuinely needy persons, the Committee has recommended the removal of this requirement from the Bill. A willing woman shall act as surrogate mother and be permitted to undergo surrogacy procedures as per the provisions of this Act.
  • It also advocated omission of the five-year time limit before seeking surrogacy.
  • The other major recommendation concerns deleting the definition of “infertility” as “the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse” on grounds that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.
  • In order to protect the interests of the child born through surrogacy, the Committee recommended that the order regarding the parentage and custody of the child, issued by a Magistrate, shall be the birth affidavit for the surrogate child.
  • As a general recommendation, the Select Committee said that the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill (ART), which is awaiting Cabinet approval, may be taken up before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, since the ART Bill primarily deals with technical, scientific and medical aspects, including the storage of embryos, gametes, oocytes, etc. as contained in the Surrogacy Bill.
  • The committee has also advocated that ‘single Indian woman’ like a widow or a divorcee in the age group of 35 to 45 years may also be allowed to avail surrogacy.
  • The panel also proposed that a provision be included in the Bill allowing persons of Indian origin (PIOs) to avail surrogacy in the country after obtaining a certificate of recommendation from the Surrogacy Boards.

5 . Supreme Court Panel on Prison reforms


Background

  • The court had in September 2018 appointed the Justice Roy Committee to examine the various problems plaguing prisons, from overcrowding to lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole.
  • Besides Justice Roy, a former Supreme Court judge, the members included an IG, Bureau of Police Research and Development, and the DG (Prisons), Tihar Jail.
  • The decision was in reaction to a letter written by former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti highlighting the overcrowding of prisons, unnatural deaths of prisoners, gross inadequacy of staff and the lack of trained staff.

Key Recommendations

  • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
  • The Justice Amitava Roy (retd.) Committee concluded that most prisons are “teeming with undertrial prisoners”, whose numbers are highly disproportionate to those of convicts. It said there should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners. This is not the case now. Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of over-crowding.
  • Another recommendation is for the use of video-conferencing for trial. “Physical production in courts continued, which however remains far below the aspired 100% in several States, mainly because of unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation
  • The report described the preparation of food in kitchens as “primitive and arduous”. The kitchens are congested and unhygienic and the diet has remained unchanged for years now.

6 . Functions and Powers of State and Central Pollution Control Board


About CPCB and SPCB

  • Chapter II of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 deals with the constitution of Central board, State Boards and their functions. According to Section 3 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Central Board is constituted by the Central Government and is called Central Pollution Control Board.
  • The Central Board shall be considered as a body corporate having perpetual succession with the power to acquire, hold and dispose of property. According to Section 3(3) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, it can also enter into contract with any person or party. It can sue or be sued in the name of Central Board.
  • According to Section 4, the State Boards shall be constituted by the State Government and it shall be called as State Pollution Control Board. Every State Board shall be considered as a body corporate having perpetual succession with the power to acquire, hold and dispose of property.
  • It can also enter into contract with any person or party. It can sue or be sued in the name of State Boards.
  • According to Section 4(4) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, no State Board shall be constituted for a Union Territory. In relation to a Union Territory, the Central Board shall exercise the powers and perform the functions of a State Board for the Union Territory. The Central Board, in relation to any Union Territory, may also delegate any of its functions to such a person or body of persons as the Central Government specify.

Functions of CPCB

According to section 16 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Central Board has been assigned to discharge the functions as follows:

  • Advise the Central Government : The Central Pollution Control Board can advise the Central Government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of water pollution.
  • Co-Ordination with State Board : Central Pollution Control Board is to Co-ordinate the activities of the State Boards and resolve dispute among them.
  • Technical Assistance/Guidance to State Boards : Central Pollution Control Board is to provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigations and research relating to problem of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
  • Training Programme : Central Pollution Control Board is to plan and organize the training of persons engaged or to be engaged in programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
  • Organising : Comprehensive Programme Central Pollution Control Board is to organise through mass media a comprehensive programme regarding the prevention and control of water pollution.
  • Functions as State Board : By the Amending Act, 1988, the Central Board can perform such of the functions of any State Board as may be specified in an order made under section 18(2) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 i.e., “power to give directions”-“every State Board shall be bound by such directions in writing as the Central Government or the State Government may give to it.
  • Publication of Statistical/Technical Data : Central Pollution Control Board is to Collect, compile and publish technical and statistical relating to water pollution and the measures devised for its effective prevention and control and prepare manuals, codes or guides relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents and disseminate information connected therewith.
  • Laying Down Standard for A Stream/Well : Central Pollution Control Board is to lay down, modify or annul, in consultation with the State Government concerned the standards for a stream or well.
  • Execution of Programme at National Level : Central Pollution Control Board is to plan and cause to be executed by a nationwide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.

Powers of the Central Pollution Control Board

The Central Pollution Control Board is vested with the following powers:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board is empowered by Section 18 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 to give directions to the State Pollution Control Boards.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board has powers to perform any of the functions of the State Pollution Control Board in case of non-compliance of any directions given by the Central Pollution Control Board. Role of Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Board and NGOs 119
  • The Central Pollution Control Board is empowered to issue directions under section 33A of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 to direct the closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process or the stoppage or regulation of supply of electricity, water or any other service.

Functions of SPCB

  • Planning Comprehensive Programme : The State Pollution Control Board is to plan a comprehensive programme for the prevention, control or abatement of pollution of streams and wells in the state and to secure the execution thereof.
  • Advisory functions : The State Pollution Control Board is to advise the state government on any matter concerning the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
  • Dissemination of Information : The State Pollution Control Board is to collect and disseminate information relating to water pollution and the prevention, control or abatement thereof.
  • Investigation and research : The State Pollution Control Board is to encourage, conduct and participate in investigation and research relating to problems of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
  • Organising training programme : The State Pollution Control Board is to collaborate with the Central Board in organising the training of persons engaged in programmes relating to prevention, control or abatement of water pollution and to organise mass education programmes relating thereto.
  • Inspection of sewage/trade effluents plants : The State Pollution Control Board is to inspect sewage or trade effluents works and plants for the treatment of sewage and trade effluents, and to review plans, specifications or other data relating to plants setup for the treatment of water, works for the purification thereof and the system of the disposal of sewage or trade effluents or in connection with the grant of any consent as required by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • Lay down Standards for Causing Discharge of Water : The State Pollution Control Board is to lay down, modify or annul effluents standards for the sewage and trade effluents and for the quality of receiving waters resulting from the discharge of effluents and to classify water of the state.
  • Economical Methods of Treatment of Sewage : The State Pollution Control Board is to evolve economical and reliable methods of treatment of sewage and trade effluents, having regard to the peculiar conditions of soil, climate and water resources in different regions.
  • Methods Regarding Utilization of Sewage : The State Pollution Control Board is to evolve methods of utilization of sewage and suitable trade effluents in agriculture.
  • Methods of Disposal of Sewage : The State Pollution Control Board is to evolve efficient methods of disposal of sewage and trade effluents on land, as are necessary on account of the predominant conditions of scant stream flows that do not provide for major part of the year, the minimum degree of dilution.
  • Laying Down Standards for Treatment of Sewage : The State Pollution Control Board is to lay down the standards of treatment of sewage and trade effluents to be discharged into any particular stream taking into account the minimum fair weather dilution available in that stream and the tolerance limits of pollution permissible in the water of the streams after the discharge of suit effluents.
  • Advisory Functions : The State Pollution Control Board is to advise the state government about the location of any industry the carrying out of which is likely to pollute a stream or well Besides the aforesaid statutory functions, the State Board is also to perform functions as may be prescribed from time to time, or may be entrusted to it by the Central Pollution Control Board or the State Government

Powers of the State Pollution Control Board

The State Pollution Control Board has the following powers conferred on it by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974:

  • Power to obtain information (Section 20)
  • Power to take samples of effluents for analysis (Section 21)
  • Power of entry and inspection (Section 23)
  • Power to impose restriction on new outlets and new discharges (Section 25)
  • Power to refuse or withdraw consent for the establishment of any industry, etc. (Section 27)
  • Power to carry out certain works (Section 30)
  • Power to carry out emergency operations in case of pollution of stream or well (Section 32)
  • Power to make applications to the courts for restraining apprehended pollution of water in streams or wells (Section 33)
  • Power to give directions (Section 33A)

7 . Monetary Policy


Context : The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided at a meeting on Thursday to keep the interest rates unchanged in the wake of a rise in inflation, but emphasised that there would be space for rate reduction.

Details of the Policy Review Meeting

  • This is the second straight policy review meeting where the rates have been kept unchanged.
  • The RBI reduced the rates by 135 bps between February and October 2019 before pressing the pause button in the December policy review. 
  • Thursday’s decision was unanimous among all six members of the MPC. 

Measure taken to ease lending

  • It is an effort to ensure better monetary policy transmission The central bank took two measures that could ease lending rates further.
    • One, it opened a window to extend ₹1 lakh crore to the commercial banks at the repo rate, which is 5.15%.
    • Second, banks have been exempted from maintaining the cash reserve ratio — which is 4% of the net demand and time liabilities now — for home, auto and MSME loans that are extended from January 31 to July 31.

Long Term Repo Operation

  • The central bank also decided that from the fortnight beginning February 15, the RBI will conduct term repos of one-year and three-year tenors for up to a total of ₹1 lakh crore at the policy repo rate.
  • The move, aimed at improving monetary transmission, will help banks raise funds at the repo rate viz. 5.15%. “Since June 2019, the RBI has ensured that comfortable liquidity is available in the system in order to facilitate the transmission of monetary policy actions and flow of credit to the economy. These efforts are being carried forward with a view to assuring banks about the availability of durable liquidity at a reasonable cost
  • Banks have, so far, reduced interest rate by 69 bps in response to a 135 bps rate cut by the RBI between February and October 2019.

8 . Long Term Repo Operation


About Term Repos

  • Term Repos refers to repos that have a fixed maturity longer than one day.
  • If the period is fixed and agreed in advance, it is a term repo, where either party may call for the repo to be terminated at any time, though it may require one or two days’ notice.
  • Since October 2013, the Reserve Bank has introduced Term Repo under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) for 14 days and 7 days tenors for banks (scheduled commercial banks other than RRBs) in addition to the existing daily LAF (repo and reverse repo) and Marginal Standing Facility (MSF).
  • The aim of term repo is to help develop inter-bank money market, which in turn can set market based benchmarks for pricing of loans and deposits, and through that improve transmission of monetary policy.
  • Term repo auctions are conducted on e-kuber platform through electronic bidding as is done in the case of auctions under Open Market Operations (OMO) .
  • The total amount of liquidity injected through term repos is limited to 0.75% of Net Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL) of the banking system. Banks would be required to place their bids with the term repo rate that they are willing to pay to RBI for the tenor of the repo expressed in percentage terms up to two decimal places. While the 14 day term repo of tenor would be conducted every reporting Friday, the 7 day term repo would be conducted on every non-reporting Friday.
  • In case the notified amount for the 14-day term repo is not fully subscribed, a 7-day term repo would be conducted on the following Friday for the remaining un-subscribed amount. In case of full subscription in the 14-day term repo, there will be no 7 day term repo auction on the following Friday.

Benefits

  • Term repo rate is superior to the overnight policy rate since it allows market participants to hold central bank liquidity for a relatively longer period, thereby enabling them to on lend/repo term money in the inter-bank market and develop market segments and yields for term transactions.
  • Term repos can wean away market participants from the passive dependence on the RBI for cash/treasury management.
  • Overnight repos under the LAF have effectively converted the discretionary liquidity facility into a standing facility that could be accessed as the first resort, and precludes the development of markets that price and hedge risk. Improved transmission of monetary policy thus becomes the prime objective for setting the 14-day term repo rate as the operating target instead of the weighted average call money rates.

What is LTRO?

  • Under LTRO, RBI will conduct term repos of one-year and three-year tenors of appropriate sizes for up to a total amount of Rs 1 lakh crore at the policy repo rate.

Why did RBI introduce LTRO?

  • RBI introduced LTRO with a view to assuring banks about the availability of durable liquidity at reasonable cost relative to prevailing market conditions, and to further encourage banks to undertake maturity transformation smoothly and seamlessly so as to augment credit flows to productive sectors.

When will LTRO start?

  • RBI said they will conduct LTRO from the fortnight beginning on February 15, at the policy rate.

How will it work?

  • It is a measure that market participants expect will bring down short-term rates and also boost investment in corporate bonds. These new measures coupled with RBI’s earlier introduced ‘Operation Twist’ are an attempt by the central bank to manage bond yields and push transmission of earlier rate cuts.

What was the immediate impact of LTRO?

  • Shorter duration government bond yields plunged on Thursday after the Reserve Bank of India announced Long Term Repo Operation.

What did experts say?

  • Analysts termed it as a masterstroke by Governor Shaktikanta Das. According to B Prasanna of ICICI Bank NSE -0.95 % , besides lowering rates in the short end of the sovereign curve, LTRO is also likely to lower corporate bond yields, deposit rates and lending rates. Lakshmi Iyer of Kotak Mahindra AMC said LTRO is a ‘masterstroke’, which is a step tow

9 . Parliamentary Panel Recommendation to curb Child Pornography


Context : A parliamentary panel has recommended a code of conduct for Internet service providers (ISPs) and strengthening the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to curb child pornography.

Key Recommendations

  • Among its key recommendations is a code of conduct or a set of guidelines for ensuring child safety online. It puts a greater onus on ISPs to identify and remove child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as well as report such content and those trying to access them to the authorities under the national cybercrime portal.
  • It has also called for strengthening the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) so that it can serve as the nodal body for curbing child pornography. “It should be empowered suitably to deal with the added responsibilities. The capabilities required in the NCPCR should include technology, cyberpolicing and prosecution,” the panel has proposed along with an inter-ministerial task force.
  • The committee has delved into great detail in using technology to curb circulation of child porn such as breaking end-to-end encryption to trace its distributors of child pornography, mandatory applications to monitor children’s access to pornographic content, employing photo DNA to target profile pictures of groups with CSAM, some of which are likely to lead to concerns over privacy and misuse.

10 . Air corridors with Central Asian Nations


Context : Apart from developing trade via the Chabahar port in Iran, India would like to explore setting up “air corridors” with five Central Asian nations

Need of the air corridor

  • While flying time from Delhi to most of the Central Asian destinations is two hours, it may take two months for containers sent overland from India to reach these places,
  • Availability of air corridors can boost trade in perishable goods, agricultural and food products
  • Lack of “overland connectivity had kept the total trade between India and Central Asia quite low at approximately $2 billion a year.

About the Air Corridors

  • The air corridors — similar to what India established in 2018 with Afghanistan — would include regular cargo flights with special clearing and customs facilities to expedite the movement of goods, especially fresh fruit and other agricultural produce.

Importance

  • At present, most of the trade between Central Asia goes via Bandar Abbas in Iran, northern Europe or China. In recent years, the government has been seeking to develop more direct routes from Chabahar, a trilateral arrangement with Iran and Afghanistan, the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and becoming a part the Ashgabat Agreement.

Ashgabat Agreement

  • Ashgabat Agreement envisages facilitation of transit and transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
  • The Ashgabat Agreement has Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as founding members. Kazakhstan has also joined this arrangement subsequently.
  • The Ashgabat Agreement aims to develop the shortest trade route between Central Asian countries and Iranian and Omani ports.
  • The transit agreement provides for a transit corridor across Central Asia and the Middle East through the continuous landmass between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran before reaching the Persian Gulf and into Oman.

Benefits for India

  • It would enable India to utilise this existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interaction with the Eurasian region.
  • This would synchronise efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity.
  • It would diversify India’s connectivity options with Central Asia and have a positive influence on India’s trade and commercial ties with the region.

About INSTC

  • The INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor) is a multi-modal trade transport network that includes rail, road, and water transport from Mumbai in India via Bandar Abbas in Iran to Moscow in Russia.
  • The concept was initiated by Russia, India, and Iran in September 2000 to establish transportation networks among the member states and to enhance connectivity with the landlocked region of Central Asia.
  • The INSTC envisages movement of goods from Mumbai (India) to Bandar Abbas (Iran) by sea, from Bandar Abbas to Bandar-e-Anzali (an Iranian port on the Caspian Sea) by road, and then from Bandar-e-Anzali to Astrakhan (a Caspian port in the Russian Federation) by ship across the Caspian Sea, and thereafter from Astrakhan to other regions of the Russian Federation and further into Europe by Russian railways.
  • INSTC could facilitate India’s economic integration with Eurasian economies and other countries in surrounding regions.

11 . Facts for Prelims


Brihadeshwara Temple

  • The Sri Brahadeeswarar Temple (also spelt Brihadisvara, and called Peruvudaiyar Koyil, which translates simply to ‘Big Temple’) is the most famous of the many temples in Thanjavur.
  • The temple, one of the world’s largest and grandest, was built between 1003 AD and 1010 AD by the great Chola emperor Raja Raja I (c. 985-1014 AD).

Intellectual Property Index

  • International IP Index released by Global Innovation Policy Center or GIPC of the US Chambers of Commerce.
  • India’s slipped to 40th position on the International Intellectual Property (IP) Index, which analyses the IP climate in 53 global economies
  • India’s score, however, increased from 36.04 per cent (16.22 out of 45) in 2019 to 38.46 per cent (19.23 out of 50) in 2020, a 2.42 per cent jump in absolute score. However, India’s relative score increased by 6.71 per cent

Lucknow Declaration 

  • India and several African countries have pledged to deepen cooperation to combat the growing threat of terrorism and preserve maritime security by sharing information, intelligence and surveillance, in a joint deceleration adopted at the first India – Africa Defence Ministers’ conclave at the Defexpo 2020.
  • The dialogue was attended by 12 Defence Ministers and 38 countries were represented at the Conclave.
  • The Lucknow Declaration said “We condemn, in the strongest terms, the growing threat of terrorism and acknowledge that it constitutes a major threat to peace and security in the region. We urge all countries to take resolute action in rooting out terrorism in all forms and manifestations, terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and eliminating financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists. We understand the need for all countries to ensure that all territory under their control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries in any manner,” emphasising the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence.
  • The Declaration also called for strengthening the UN Counter-Terrorism mechanisms and to ensure strict compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions regime on terrorism.
  • The Declaration said that it seeks to increase cooperation in securing sea lines of communication, preventing maritime crimes, disaster, piracy, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing through sharing of information and surveillance.

Christina Koch

  • NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth from the International Space Station, where she set the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman.
  • Koch arrived along with Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of European Space Agency.
  • Koch launched on March 14, 2019 and completed 328 days in space. The previous longest single spaceflight by any woman was 289 days by Peggy Whitson, also an American, who set that record in 2017. Among Americans across genders, just Scott Kelly (340 days) is ahead of Koch. The world record across genders is 438 days by Valery Polyakov of Russia.
  • One particular research project Koch participated in is the Vertebral Strength investigation, which better defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae. 
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