Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th February 2019

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  • February 17, 2019
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th February 2019



Aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – India and Pakistan relations; Terrorism and Security issues

In news:

  • India officially cancelled the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan and warned of more measures in response to its support for terrorist groups targeting India.
  • India hiked import duty on Pakistani goods to 200 per cent. (India used to import fresh fruits, cement, petroleum products and mineral ore among others)
  • Slapping an import duty of 200 per cent effectively means almost banning the imports from Pakistan.

Do you know?

  • India granted the MFN status to Pakistan way back in 1996, but the neighbouring country had not reciprocated.
  • Under the MFN pact, a WTO member country is obliged to treat the other trading nation in a non-discriminatory manner, especially with regard to customs duty and other levies.
  • India imported goods worth $488.5 million in 2017-18 and exported goods worth $1.92 billion.
  • India mainly exports raw cotton, cotton yarn, chemicals, plastics, manmade yarn and dyes to Pakistan.
  • Despite Pulwama attack, no change in China’s stance on Masood Azhar.
  • Chinese foreign ministry made it clear that it would not support India’s efforts to persuade the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council to list Azhar as a global terrorist.


Vande Bharat Express or ‘Train 18’ launched

In news:

  • Vande Bharat Express or ‘Train 18’, India’s first semi-high speed train, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New Delhi railway station.
  • It can attain a top speed of 160 km per hour. However, its top speed would be restricted to 130 km per hour.
  • It is a self-propelled train set and doesn’t have a locomotive.

Pic: https://d39gegkjaqduz9.cloudfront.net/TH/2019/02/16/CNI/Chennai/TH/5_09/ae39f23e_1b40c3b4_101_mr.jpg

Person in news: Dr. Helen Hobbs

Why in news?

  • Hobbs, who won the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, discovered a mutation in a gene called PCSK9, which particularly protects African-Americans against heart disease.
  • The PCSK9 discoveries led to the development of PCSK9 inhibitors, said to be the most effective drugs to lower cholesterol — or low density lipoprotein (LDL) — since statins.
  • Statins are a class of lipid-lowering medications. They reduce cardiovascular disease and mortality in those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Hobbs opted to look for rare genes that dramatically influenced cholesterol levels. Several years of her efforts led to the discovery of rare mutations in the PCSK9 gene.

Antibiotic resistance genes in High Arctic region

In news:

  • We had read that a new study had found traces of antibiotic resistance genes in the High Arctic region, including the ‘superbug’ or the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 protein (coded by blaNDM-1 gene), which was first detected in urban India in 2008.
  • Researchers who took soil samples in 2013 from the Kongsfjorden region of Svalbard – a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean – found “comparatively localised” levels of blaNDM-1, which poses no health threat.
  • However, they say the “detection reinforces how rapidly AR (antibiotic resistance) can globalise”, the study states. (Indication of the globalisation of antimicrobial resistance)



TOPIC:General studies 2

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • India and the World 

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and bilateral ties with India


  • In 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave itself a goal and a promise in the form of Vision 2030.
  • Saudi Vision 2030 is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to –

  • Focus more towards sustainable development.
  • Focus on massive projects directed towards building a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
  • Get ready for the Post-Oil Age by transforming/diversifying its economy.
  • It aims to attract $427 billion in private investments over the next decade to diversify the economy and create 1.6 million new jobs through the National Industrial Development and Logistics Programme.
  • Make Saudi Arabia a global innovation hub.
  • Transform into an advanced knowledge-based economy built on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Do you know?

  • According to World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2018’ report, Saudi Arabia has instituted the largest number of business reforms among countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as of July 2017.
  • Starting a business in the Kingdom now requires only one step and one day!

India and Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia sees India as an important partner in its pursuit for development and stability.
  • Ties between both the countries trace their roots to the third millennium BC.
  • Nearly 3 million Indians form the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom.
  • India has also seen its Haj quota increase consecutively during the last two years.

Bilateral trade potential

  • India and Saudi Arabia have more opportunities today to tap into than ever before.
  • Saudi Arabia and India can engage in a host of new areas such as information and communications technology (ICT), health care, defence, biotechnology, education and infrastructure among others.
  • India is one of the top countries on the Kingdom’s preferred list with great potential for investment in organic and food processing industries.
  • Energy partnership – Saudi Aramco to invest more in Indian companies and value chain from oil supply, marketing and refining to petrochemicals and lubricants. For instance, $44 billion integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, being jointly developed by Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and a consortium of Indian public sector units (PSUs).
  • India and Saudi @ recent G20 summit – Both sides agreed to set up a high-level mechanism to boost concrete actions in terms of investment, technology and manufacturing across various sectors.


  • Saudi Arabia and India have a historic opportunity to collaborate in shaping the future of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia regions.
  • Combining their respective strengths will pave the way for endless possibilities and accomplishments for the benefit of both the regions.

Connecting the dots:

  • Saudi Arabia and India have a historic opportunity to collaborate in shaping the future of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia regions. Critically analyse.


TOPIC:General studies 2

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • India and the World 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

How Swachh Bharat changed India and became a global inspiration?


  • Nigeria has an estimated population of 191million as of 2018.
  • Located in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is a large country with tremendous natural and human resources.
  • However, Nigeria faces a critical challenge in its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.
  • National access to improved water supply was from 40 per cent in 1990 to 69 per cent in 2015.
  • Access to piped water on premises declined from 32 per cent in 1990 to 7 per cent in 2015 in urban areas.
  • The national access to basic sanitation stands at a low level of 33 per cent. Nigeria ranks second worst open defecating country in the world (after India).
  • Experts are worried that Nigeria may overtake India as number one in open defecation.

Schemes/policies adopted by Nigeria

Country made several efforts towards improving access to sanitation.

  • Adoption of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach to scale up sanitation in rural areas.
  • National and sub-national specific roadmaps were developed on lines of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
  • It aims to eliminate open defecation in the country by 2025.
  • A new programme, Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) was developed in 2016 to improve the situation and bring sector actors together.

However, the operationalisation of the roadmaps across the country was slow and inconsistent.

Nigeria inspired by Swachh Bharat Mission

  • They both share similarities, which include a large population, decentralised government structure and WASH challenges.
  • Nigeria had participated in Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference (MGISC) and was inspired by India’s sanitation story (Swachh Bharat Mission) which has drastically reduced practicing open defecation.
  • The acceptance that a toilet is important and needs to be discussed, not just locally, but nationally, was a watershed moment in India’s journey to successfully ending open defecation.
  • Nigeria also wanted an initiative that would create a mass movement, with every citizen effectively mobilised for action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Like India, Nigeria has been able to demonstrate a high-level political will for the WASH sector.

On the lines of Swachh Bharat Mission,

  • In November 2018, Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency and launched a new National Action Plan for the sector.
  • Nigeria proposed an 18-month emergency phase, five-year recovery phase and 13-year revitalisation strategy for the sector.
  • It also proposed the establishment of a National WASH Fund to incentivise reform and infrastructure revitalisation.

Do you know?

  • India’s on-going Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has led to a reduction in the number of people practising open defecation.
  • In the past four years, over 50 crore people have shunned the practice of open defecation. Rural India’s sanitation coverage has gone up from 39% in 2014, at the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, to over 93% today.
  • India is on its way to becoming Open Defecation Free by 2019.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6.1 and 6.2 deals with water and sanitation respectively.


India has now become the global leader of the war against open defecation. Several countries want to learn from India’s experience and implement similar programmes in their countries.

SBM stands to inspire other countries and is a testimony to the global community that the SDG targets are achievable provided there is strong political resolve, the strategy is appropriate, resources are adequately deployed and the population is sufficiently mobilised.

Following India’s example, Nigeria hopes to end the practice of open defecation and to become the next shining example to countries in the African region and across the world.

Connecting the dots:


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)


  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) Svalbard was in news recently. Where is it located?

  1. Balkans
  2. Scandinavia
  3. Carpathian Mountains
  4. Baltic Region

Q.2) Kongsfjorden region of Svalbard was in news for –

  1. Global Seed Vault was launched in 2018
  2. ‘Superbug’ or the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 protein (coded by blaNDM-1 gene) was detected recently
  3. Norway and Russia signed Svalbard Treaty to make the region visa-free zone
  4. Warmer winters due to climate change

Q.3) PCSK9 inhibitors was in news recently. It is associated with –

  1. Effective drugs to lower cholesterol
  2. Innovative rice intensification
  3. China’s Chang’e 4 expedition
  4. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Q.4) The indigenously-manufactured Train 18 has been named as –

  1. Vande Bharat Express
  2. Shrestha Bharat Express
  3. GatiMann Express
  4. Talgo Express

Q.5) With regard to WTO and its functioning, consider the following statements:

  1. Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to a country by another country ensures preferential treatment, lower tariffs and removal of other trade barriers between the two member countries.
  2. Dispute settlement process in WTO is rule based and transparent and ensures ‘compliance of verdict’ on member countries.
  3. Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) is a tool for protecting interest of farmers and poor from volatility of international trade in agricultural commodities.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 2 only
  4. 1 and 3 only


 On the Silk Route trail

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 Re-imagining Delhi

Indian Express

Rash U-turns, half-baked plans

Indian Express

J&K and the AfPak hyphen

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