Daily Current Affairs : 18th July

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. ICJ verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav
  2. Mind Machine interface
  3. Bimal Jalan Committee
  4. Appropriation Bill
  5. Dam safety Bill
  6. Ploonet
  7. Ramanujan Machine

1 . ICJ verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav

Context : In a major verdict that accepted India’s plea that former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav’s trial under espionage and terror charges in Pakistan violated international law, the International Court of Justice ruled that Pakistan should “review and reconsider” his conviction and death sentence.

Background of the case

  • Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested by the Pakistani government for ‘spying’ and allegedly plotting terror acts in Balochistan, and India had made several appeals to Pakistan for access to Mr. Jadhav
  • Subsequently, Pakistan held a secret trial of Mr. Jadhav in a military court, where evidence and processes were not made public. On May 8, 2017, after the Pakistani court convicted and sentenced Mr. Jadhav, India went to the ICJ as a last resort of appeal.

About the Verdict

  • All 16 judges on the UN judicial organ’s panel ruled unanimously that the ICJ’s jurisdiction held over the case.
  • On six other contentions, including on the comprehensive violation of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan, the immediate granting of consular access to Mr. Jadhav, an “effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence”, and a continued stay of execution, the ICJ panel ruled 15-1 in India’s favour. Pakistani Judge, Justice Jillani, was the lone dissenter on those rulings.

Details of the Verdict on specific arguments

On Pakistan’s failure to provide consular access

  • The Court is of the view that the alleged failure by India to cooperate in the investigation process in Pakistan does not relieve Pakistan of its obligation to grant consular access under Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and does not justify Pakistan’s denial of access to Mr Jadhav by consular officers of India.

On exception to granting consular access in cases of espionage

  • The Court thus concludes that, when interpreted in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the Vienna Convention in their context and in the light of its object and purpose, the Convention does not exclude from its scope certain categories of persons, such as those suspected of espionage.

On Pakistan not informing Jadhav of his rights

  • Pakistan consistently maintained that the Convention does not apply to an individual suspected of espionage. The Court infers from this position of Pakistan that it did not inform Mr Jadhav of his rights under Article 36, paragraph 1 (b), of the Vienna Convention, and thus concludes that Pakistan breached its obligation to inform Mr Jadhav of his rights under that provision

On delay by Pakistan in informing India about Jadhav’s arrest and detention

  • Pakistan claims that at the time of his arrest on 3 March, 2016, Mr Jadhav was in possession of an Indian passport bearing the name “Hussein Mubarak Patel”. In the circumstances of the present case, the Court considers that there were sufficient grounds at the time of the arrest on 3 March, 2016 or shortly thereafter for Pakistan to conclude that the person was, or was likely to be, an Indian national, thus triggering its obligation to inform India of his arrest.
  • There was a delay of some three weeks between Mr Jadhav’s arrest on 3 March, 2016 and the notification made to India on 25 March, 2016. The Court recalls that “neither the terms of the (Vienna) Convention as normally understood, nor its object and purpose, suggest that ‘without delay’ is to be understood as ‘immediately upon arrest and before interrogation’.”

2 . Mind Machine Interface

Context : Futurist entrepreneur Elon Musk late on Tuesday revealed his secretive Neuralink startup is making progress on an interface linking brains with computers, and said they hope to begin testing on people next year.

About Mind Machine Interface

  • Neuralink unveiled an early version of a tiny sensor with hair-thin strands that could be implanted in a brain through a small incision by a robot built for the high-precision task. They are tiny electrodes and the robot is delicately implanting them
  • The chip will communicate wirelessly with an earpiece, which relays information to a smartphone application
  • For now, the goal is to let a person with the implants control a smartphone with thought, but the technology could eventually extend to other devices such as robotic arms
  • An early focus of the team is using the technology to address brain diseases and paralysis, but the longer aim is to make implants so safe, reliable and easy that they could be elective surgery options for people seeking to enhance their brains with computing power

3 . Bimal Jalan Committee

Context : Bimal Jalan Committee on treatment of Reserve Bank of India’s reserves is likely to recommend a transfer of a specified quantum of RBI reserves to the government over two or three tranches over the next few years.


  • The government and the RBI have been at loggerheads over the issue of how much of the central bank’s reserves can be transferred to the Centre.
  • The government view has been that the RBI’s reserves constitute 27% of its total assets, a much higher proportion than the global norm of 14%.
  • As a means to reach a resolution on the issue, the central bank, in December, constituted a committee under former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan.

Details of the committee

  • The committee was to keep in mind the statutory mandate under the RBI Act that the profits of the RBI be transferred to the government after it made provisions ‘which are usually provided by the bankers’.
  • Against this background, the committee was tasked with reviewing the status, need, and justification of the various provisions, reserves and buffers currently provided for by the RBI, and also review the global best practices followed by central banks in making provisions for the risks that central bank balance sheets are subject to.
  • The committee was also tasked with suggesting an “adequate level” of risk provisioning that the RBI should maintain, and determining whether the RBI’s current reserves were surplus of this or lower. If they are surplus, then the committee also had to come up with a suitable profits distribution policy.


  • The treatment of the RBI’s reserves is a matter of great importance at a time when the central government has committed to a fiscal deficit target of 3.3% in financial year 2019-20, and a further tightening to 3% the next year.
  • With tax revenues falling short of expectations, any off-Budget receipts from the RBI will be welcomed by the Centre.

4 . Appropriation Bill

Context : The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Appropriation (No.2) Bill-2019 allowing the Union government to withdraw ₹98.18 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenditure during 2019-20. 

About Appropriation Bill

  • Appropriation Bill gives power to the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for meeting the expenditure during the financial year. 
  • Post the discussions on Budget proposals and the Voting on Demand for Grants, the government introduces the Appropriation Bill in the Lok Sabha.
  • It is intended to give authority to the government to withdraw from the Consolidated Fund, the amounts so voted for meeting the expenditure during the financial year. 
  • Both Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill are money bills.

5 . Dam safety Bill

Context : The Centre is set to introduce the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 in Parliament after it was cleared by the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). The Bill provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams across the country.  The Bill also provides for the institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of such dams.

About Dam Safety Bill

  • Applicability of the Bill: The Bill applies to all specified dams in the country.  These are dams with: (i) height more than 15 metres, or (ii) height between 10 metres to 15 metres and subject to certain additional design and structural conditions.
  • National Committee on Dam Safety: The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety.  The Committee will be chaired by the Chairperson, Central Water Commission.  All other members will be nominated by the central government, and include: (ii) up to 10 representatives of the central government, (iii) up to seven representatives of the state governments (by rotation), and (iv) up to three dam safety experts.
  • Functions of the Committee include: (i) formulating policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and (ii) analysing causes of major dam failures and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.
  • National Dam Safety Authority: The Bill provides for a National Dam Safety Authority.  The Authority will be headed by an officer not below the rank of an Additional Secretary who will be appointed by the central government.  Functions of the Authority include: (i) implementing the policies formulated by the National Committee on Dam Safety, (ii) resolving issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state, (iii) specifying regulations for inspection and investigation of dams, and (iv) providing accreditation to agencies working on construction, design, and alteration of dams.
  • State Dam Safety Organisation: The Bill provides for the establishment of State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs) by the state governments.  All specified dams situated in a state will fall under the jurisdiction of that state’s SDSO.  However, in certain cases the National Dam Safety Authority will act as the SDSO.  These include cases where a dam: (i) is owned by one state but situated in another state, (ii) extends over multiple states, or (iii) is owned by a central public sector undertaking
  • Functions of the SDSOs include: (i) keeping perpetual surveillance, inspecting, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams, (ii) keeping a database of all dams, and (iii) recommending safety measures to owners of dams
  • State Committee on Dam Safety: The Bill provides for the constitution of State Committees on Dam Safety by the state governments.  Functions of the Committee include: (i) reviewing the work of the SDSO, (ii) ordering dam safety investigations, (iii) recommending dam safety measures and reviewing the progress on such measures, and (iv) assessing the potential impact on upstream and downstream states.  These states will also have their representatives on the State Committee.
  • Change in functions of the bodies: Functions of: (i) the National Committee on Dam Safety, (ii) the National Dam Safety Authority, and (iii) the State Committees on Dam Safety have been provided in Schedules to the Bill.  The Bill specifies that the central government can amend these Schedules through a notification, if deemed necessary.
  • Obligations of dam owners: The Bill requires the owners of specified dams to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.  This unit will inspect the dams: (i) before and after the monsoon season, and (ii) during and after every earthquake, flood, or any other calamity or sign of distress.  Dam owners will be required to prepare an emergency action plan, and carry out risk assessment studies for each dam at specified regular intervals.  Dam owners will also be required to prepare a comprehensive dam safety evaluation of each dam, at regular intervals, through a panel of experts.  The evaluation will be mandatory in certain cases such as major modification of the original structure, or an extreme hydrological or seismic event.
  • Offences and penalties: The Bill provides for two types of offences.  These are: (i) obstructing a person in the discharge of his functions, and (ii) refusing to comply with directions issued under the Bill.  Offenders will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine, or both.  If the offence leads to loss of lives, the term of imprisonment may be extended up to two years.  Offences will be cognizable only when the complaint is made by the government, or any authority constituted under the Bill.

6 . Ploonet

About Ploonet

  • Ploonet is the new word the scientific community has come up with to describe a moon that becomes a planet.
  • A moon can become a planet if it leaves the orbit of its parent planet and takes up residence in a stable orbit around its star.
  • At this point, this orbiting rock is neither a moon nor a planet, hence the term, ploonet.
  • This theory explains why astronomers have not been able to find moons that orbit other exoplanets that are gas giants, like Neptune, Jupiter, and Saturn.

About the Research

  • In the last decades over 4,000 exoplanets were discovered and confirmed while a similar number of candidates were identified. Astronomers were surprised when they observed that a large number of giant exoplanets which are classified as hot Jupiters are located very close to their host stars.
  • The planetary formation was quite impressive in this case since some computer simulations inferred that massive planets could migrate closer to their stars.
  • During the migration stage, a large number of forces is involved in a conflict, and their power will increase as the planet goes closer to the final position near the star.
  • Recent research suggests that when a planet gets too close to the host star, the gravity of the latter could push some of the moons into a new orbit around the central star, changing their status to ploonets. If they manage to collect some material as they travel, they may evolve into fully-fledged small planets.

7 . Ramanujan Machine

Context : Scientists from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology have developed a concept they have named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician. It is not really a machine but an algorithm, and performs a very unconventional function.

What it does

  • With most computer programs, humans input a problem and expect the algorithm to work out a solution. With the Ramanujan Machine, it works the other way round.
  • Feed in a constant, say the well-know pi, and the algorithm will come up with a equation involving an infinite series whose value, it will propose, is exactly pi.
  • Over to humans now: let someone prove that this proposed equation is correct.

Why Ramanujan

  • The algorithm reflects the way Srinivasa Ramanujan worked during his brief life (1887-1920). With very little formal training, he engaged with the most celebrated mathematicians of the time, particularly during his stay in England (1914-19), where he eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society and earned a research degree from Cambridge.
  • Throughout his life, Ramanujan came up with novel equations and identities —including equations leading to the value of pi — and it was usually left to formally trained mathematicians to prove these.
  • In 1987, two Canadian brothers proved all 17 of Ramanujan’s series for 1/pi; two years earlier, an American mathematician and programmer had used one of these formulas to calculate pi up to over 17 million digits, which was a world record at the time (Deka Baruah, Berndt & Chan; American Mathematical Monthly, 2009).

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