MASTER STROKE 03

MASTER STROKE 03 : CURRENT AFFAIRS

1ST  JUNE TO 15TH  JUNE 2018

 

PM MODI’s Singapore visit:

 

§  The two countries signed an agreement between their navies on mutual coordination, logistics and services support for visits of naval ships, submarines and naval aircraft including ship borne aviation assets.

§  India has formalised a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) in nursing with Singapore which would allow nurses trained in seven nursing institutions across India to gain employment in the South-East Asian country.

§  India and Singapore recently concluded the second review of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

 

PM’s Shangri-La Dialogue address

§  India and China must work together

Singapore, for centuries has been a gateway for India to the broader east.  We have a growing political, economic and defence ties with each Southeast Asian country.

§  Global transit routes must be peaceful

The Indian Ocean IS the lifeline of global commerce. India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is a positive one and it has many elements. India stands for a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it.

§  Globalisation key to development

§  Equal access as a right

The Prime Minister also called for equal access as a right under international law to the use of common spaces on sea and in the air that would require freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.

 

 

 

THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2016

§  Introduced on July 19 in the Lok Sabha, the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. In other words, it amends the Citizenship Act of 1955.

§  The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported.

§  It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least 11 to six years for such migrants. The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.

§  The Citizenship Amendment Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.

HOW  ONE GET INDIAN CITIZENSHIP?

§  Anybody who is born in India, has an Indian parent, or has lived in India for over 11 years, is eligible for Indian citizenship. At present, illegal migrants to do not fit this category.

NOTE: The Bill also seeks to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders if they violate any law.

 

Opportunity Rover

  • was launched by NASA in 2003 to land in red planet Mars.
  • The rover landed in 2004 and begin traversing the planet in search of signs of past life.
  • It was originally planned for 90-day mission. But it has far outlasted its planned mission by 55 times longer than originally planned.

 

 

Warli Art

  • Warli is a tribal art form that was mostly created by the Adivasis of the Western Ghats.
  • It is one of the oldest art forms in India that originated in Maharashtra and is still practiced.
  • The Warli tribe, which does these paintings, is one of India’s largest tribes located on the outskirts of Mumbai.
  • Their culture basis itself around the concept of Mother Nature; therefore, elements of nature serve as focal points for Warli paintings.
  • These artists used to use the clay walls of their huts as a canvas for their paintings.
  • These paintings use a set of geometric shapes – circle, triangle and square.

 

 

Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D)

  • Union Home Minister recently exhorted the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) to work towards imparting training in soft skills to all the policemen in the country.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs de-merged NCRB from BPRD recently.
  • The Government of India formally established the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), under the Ministry of Home Affairs giving a new orientation to then existing Police Research and Advisory Council (1966).
  • BPR&D was to directly participate in police functions and suggest reforms.
  • Its primary objective was to modernize police force

 

 

Norman AI

  • Norman is an artificial intelligence (AI) system created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • It is also known as the first psychopathic artificial intelligence.
  • The goal is to explain in layman’s terms how algorithms are made, and to make people aware of AI’s potential dangers.
  • Norman represents a case study on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence gone wrong when biased data is used in machine learning algorithms,

 

 

  • The Chakr Innovation’s device captures emissions from diesel generators and turns it into ink.Developed by Indian scientists.

 

 

 

PMI OR A PURCHASING MANAGERS’ INDEX (PMI)

is an indicator of business activity — both in the manufacturing and services sectors. It is a survey-based measure that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before. It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.

The PMI is derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample,  are asked whether key indicators such as output, new orders, business expectations and employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them

The PMI is usually released at the start of the month, much before most of the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth becomes available. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity. Economists consider the manufacturing growth measured by the PMI as a good indicator of industrial output, for which official statistics are released later. Central b ..

What does it mean for financial markets? 

The PMI also gives an indication of corporate earnings and is closely watched by investors as well as the bond markets. A good reading enhances the attractiveness of an economy vis-a- vis another competing economy.

 

TELANGANA GOVERNMENT AND AGA KHAN TRUST ARE WORKING TO RESTORE HYDERABAD’S 17TH CENTURY BADSHAHI ASHOORKHANA.

Hyderabad’s 17th century Badshahi Ashoorkhana(house of mourning):The 400-year old Ashoorkhana was built by Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah.It was a house of mourning, where large congregations of Muslims gathered in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain during the month of Muharram.

 

Odisha government has launched “GOPABANDHU SAMBADIKA SWASTHYA BIMA YOJANA” for working journalists.

§  Gopabandhu Das (1877–1928) was a social worker, reformer, political activist, journalist, poet and essayist from Odisha. He was popularly known as Utkalamani (Jewel of Utkal or Orissa).

§  He won election to the Legislative Council that had been created in 1909 under the terms of the Morley-Minto Reforms.

He started a discussion group, called Kartavya Bodhini Samiti (Duty Awakening Society)

 

 NUCLEAR CAPABLE LONG RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE AGNI-5 FROM DR ABDUL KALAM ISLAND OFF THE ODISHA COAST.

Agni-5 Ballistic Missile:

§  It is a surface-to-surface missile which can carry nuclear warhead weighing 1.5 tonnes to a distance of over 5,000 km and is the longest missile in India’s arsenal capable of reaching most parts of China.

§  The missile features many new indigenously-developed technologies, including the very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS), and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) which improves the accuracy of the missile.

 

 

Iceberg B-15

  • Iceberg B-15 broke away from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf 18 years ago in 2000.
  • It measured about 296 km long and 37 km wide.
  • It is the largest iceberg ever recorded and could be nearing the end of its voyage.

 

 

  • A new mission plan named K2 “Second Light” was presented for consideration in 2013 by NASA.
  • The K2 mission represents a new concept for spacecraft operations that enables continued scientific observations with the Kepler space telescope.
  • K2 would involve using Kepler’s remaining capability, photometric precision of about 300 parts per million, to collect data for finding and studying more exoplanets.

 

 

  • Environmental DNA or eDNA is DNA that is collected from a variety of environmental samples such as soil, seawater, or even air rather than directly sampled from an individual organism.
  • In other words, Environmental DNA (eDNA) is genetic material that persists in an environment and is derived from organisms living there.
  • Researchers have recently been using eDNA to detect the presence of macro-organisms, particularly those living in aquatic/semiaquatic ecosystems.
  • Indian softshell turtle (Vulnerable) and South Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle (Endangered) were the species whose presence was confirmed by this technique.
  • Due to the ritual nature of Ponds, scientists were denied complete access to these ponds and so this technique was used.

 

THE THREE SCIENCE FELLOWSHIPS,

  1. Ramanujan Fellowship of the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB),
  2. Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)
  3. INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The schemes cover all major disciplines of science.
  • The Ramanujan Fellowship is meant for brilliant scientists from all over the world to take up scientific research positions in India.
  • The Ramalingaswami Re-entry Faculty Fellowship of DBT was meant to bring back Indian scientists working abroad so that they can pursue their research interests of national relevance.
  • INSPIRE Faculty Scheme opens up an ‘Assured Opportunity for Research Career (AORC)’ for young researchers in the age group of 27-32 years.

These schemes were aimed at reversing brain drain.

 

  • Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI), Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu and RAASI Solar Power Pvt Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Agreement for transfer of technology for India’s first Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Battery project.
  • CECRI is under Central Science and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • CSIR-CECRI has set up a demo facility in Chennai to manufacture prototype Lithium-Ion cells.
  • It has secured global IPRs with potential to enable cost reduction, coupled with appropriate supply chain and manufacturing technology for mass production.
  • Currently, Indian manufacturers source Lithium Ion Battery from China, Japan and South Korea among some other countries.
  • India is one of the largest importers and in 2017, it imported nearly 150 Million US Dollar worth Li-Ion batteries.
  • Li-Ion batteries have applications in Energy Storage System – from hearing aid to container sized batteries to power a cluster of villages etc.,
  • Lithium-ion batteries can power any electrical application without the need of physical wires-means wireless.

 

seqFISH

  • Scientists have developed a new technique called seqFISH that enables them to image 10,421 genes at once within individual cells.
  • seqFISH (sequential fluorescence in situ hybridisation), is a major advance in being able to identify what goes on across the genome in hundreds of different cells at once.
  • Previously, researchers could only image four to five genes at a time in cells with microscopy.
  • Using the newly developed intron seqFISH technique, each intron is labelled with a unique fluorescent barcode, enabling it to be seen with a microscope.
  •  First, a gene will be read and copied into a precursor messenger RNA, or pre-mRNA, like jotting a quick, rough draft.
  • This molecule then matures into a messenger RNA, or mRNA, akin to editing the rough draft.
  • During the “editing” process, certain regions called introns are cut out of the pre-mRNA.
  • An intron is any nucleotide sequence within a gene that is removed by RNA splicing during maturation of the final RNA product.

 

 

(Na-Mica-4) and (C18-Mica-4)

  • Scientists have identified absorbent materials that can help soak up pollutants found in urban waste water in less than 24 hours.
  • Highly-charged expandable synthetic mica (Na-Mica-4), and one obtained from cation exchange with organo-functionalised mica (C18-Mica-4) are the two phyllosilicates used.
  • Phyllosilicates are a subclass of silicates and include common mineral in very different environments.
  • A significant correlation between the physical chemical properties of the selected criteria and emerging pollutants and the adsorption to the material was established.
  • With the personal care products, two synthetic preservatives (methylparaben and propylparaben), were analysed with the material both widely used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

 

 

Chhau dance

  • Recently the distinctive Chhau mask of Purulia, West Bengal was awarded the Geographic Indication tag.
  • The traditional rural craft of making masks is an integral component of the semi-martial art dance form of Chhau.
  • Chhau dance is a tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes.
  • Its three distinct styles hail from the regions of Seraikella (Jharrkhand) , Purulia (West Bengal) and Mayurbhanj (Odisha), the first two using masks.
  • In 2010 the Chhau dance was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

 

 

 

CHANDRABHAGA BEACH ON THE KONARK COAST OF ODISHA WILL BE THE FIRST IN ASIA TO GET THE BLUE FLAG CERTIFICATION.

 

Blue flag project:was Launched in December 2017 by the Environment Ministry, the prime objective of the project is to enhance standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches. Under the project, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme.

 

Criteria for certification:

To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism-related conditions. The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. For example- a beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system. Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities. The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area.

 

Twelve more beaches in the country are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an Environment Ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, in accordance with the Blue Flag standards.

SOCIETY OF INTEGRATED COASTAL MANAGEMENT (SICOM)

has been established under the aegis of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change.The main objective of the Centre is to promote research and development in the area of coastal management including addressing issues of coastal communities.It also supports implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) activities in India and implements the World Bank assisted India ICZM Project.

 

 

ENSEMBLE PREDICTION SYSTEMS (EPS)

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has commissioned two very high resolution (12 km grid scale) state-of-the-art global ENSEMBLE PREDICTION SYSTEMS (EPS) for generating operational 10-days probabilistic forecasts of weather. The EPS involves the generation of multiple forecasts using slightly varying initial conditions.

 

Ensemble forecasting provides localised predictions of a 12 km resolution compared to 23 kilometers in the earlier system. The new model has been developed jointly by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting. With this new model, India joins the US with a model that predicts with a 12 km resolution. Only the ‘European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast’ has a, better, nine-kilometer resolution.

 

Berne Convention

  • The World Intellectual Property Organization has notified a declaration referring to the deposit by the Government of the Republic of India of its instrument of ratification on the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works 1886.
  • Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.
  • The Convention is open to all States and Instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Director General of WIPO.
  • The Convention deals with the protection of works and the rights of their authors.
  • It is based on three basic principles
  1. principle of national treatment
  2. principle of automatic protection
  3. principle of independence of protection
  • It contains a series of provisions determining the minimum protection to be granted, as well as special provisions available to developing countries that want to make use of them.
  • The Appendix to the Paris Act of the Convention also permits developing countries to implement non-voluntary licenses for translation and reproduction of works in certain cases, in connection with educational activities.

 

 

Coral fertility treatment

  • A coral fertility treatment designed to help heal damaged parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of success.
  • The experimental process known as “coral IVF” is working on a small scale that showed the result.
  • The program is one of a number of experimental projects underway in Australia to try to find ways to save what’s left of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

 

 

Women’s Safety XPRIZE

  • New Delhi based Leaf Wearable have won a million dollar prize by developing a wearable smart device that women can use to send out emergency alerts if threatened or assaulted.
  • It was inspired to find solutions for women safety following the Nirbhaya incident in 2012.
  • The prize was given for their project ‘Safer Pro’, an enhanced new version of their earlier smart safety devices.
  • The million dollar prize instituted by eminent Indian-American philanthropists Anu & Naveen Jain called ‘Women’s Safety XPRIZE’.
  • The Jains, prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists, partnered with non-profit organisation XPRIZE to create the Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE aimed at addressing the safety of women and girls by leveraging technology.

 

 

Operation NISTAR

  • The Indians who were stranded in Socotra island after cyclone Mekunu hit the area were evacuated by INS Sunayna in an operation  “Nistar”.
  • The cyclone Mekunu had badly hit various parts of Oman and the Socotra Island.
  • Socotra also called Soqotra is located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea.
  • It is the largest of four islands of the Socotra archipelago.
  • The territory is located near major shipping routes and is officially part of Yemen, and had long been a subdivision of the Aden Governorate.

 

FINANCIAL LITERACY WEEK:

To emphasize the importance of financial literacy, RBI is observing Financial Literacy Week in the month of June.

Focus: It will focus on creating awareness among customers of banks about financial products and services, good financial practices and going digital.

Theme: Consumer protection.

 

Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory

India’s First Advanced Forensic Lab dedicated to women related cases will be set up in Chandigarh.

Background: Forensic science plays a vital role in the criminal justice delivery system by providing investigators with scientifically based information through the analysis of physical evidence. With increasing reports of crime against women such as sexual assault, foeticide, homicide etc. there is an increasing demand for better scientific analysis of physical evidence. Scrutiny by Hon’ble courts demands more admissible, accurate and powerful forensic proof for human individualisation.

 

 

All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)

§  The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federations in India.

§  It was founded in 1920 in Bombay by Lala Lajpat Rai, Joseph Baptista, N. M. Joshi, Diwan Chaman Lall and a few others.

§  Until 1945 when unions became organised on party lines, it was the primary trade union organisation in India. Since then, it has been associated with the Communist Party of India.

§  AITUC is a founder member of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

 

 

AMENDMENTS IN IRWA

proposed changes:

§  Amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS, MMS etc.

§  Amendment in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device or in.

§  Insertion of a new definition to define the term publish.

§  Amendment in section 4 to include that No person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form:

§  Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

§  Creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women (NCW). This Authority will be headed by Member Secretary, NCW, having representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.

§  This Centralised Authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcasted or publication and investigate/ examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.

 

The government has launched the ‘JANAUSHADHI SUVIDHA’, the Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin, under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). Jan Aushadhi Suvidha comes with a special additive, which makes Sanitary napkin biodegradable when it comes in contact with oxygen after being discarded. unhygienic aids cause fungal infections, Reproductive Tract Infection, Urinary Tract Infection, Cervical cancer and also make women vulnerable to infertility.

 

‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. Of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra. Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra (PMBJK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.

Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.

 

 

TAXING INTERNATIONAL TICKETS UNDER GST

International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently opposed India for taxing international tickets as GST included international air tickets also.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 280 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. Formed in April 1945, it is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, which was formed in 1919. IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. It also provides consulting and training services in many areas crucial to aviation. It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

 

MoEFCC and TERI have entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a RESOURCE EFFICIENCY CELL in the Ministry with  main objective to provide a platform to mainstream resource efficiency in public policy.

§  NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India have released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency. The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.

§  This strategy is the first policy document to emphasize resource productivity in the country. The Strategy emphasizes on Sustainable Public Procurement (SSP) as an action agenda which will be the market transformation tool to transform to a resource efficient economy.

§  It is developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Indian Resource Panel (InRP) in April 2017.

What is Resource Efficiency

§  Resource efficiency in simple sense is making more with fewer materials. In practice, through a life-cycle approach, it leads to minimizing impact on environment & the associated societal burdens, transforming ‘waste’ into ‘resources’ fostering circular economy, and strengthening resource security.

§  Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability is a global priority and SDGs commitment and 11th Five year plan also clearly enunciate importance of Resource efficiency (RE).

 

GANGA PRAHARIS

GANGA PRAHARIS are new grassroot-level volunteers to protect the bio-diversity of river Ganga. They are roped-in by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun as part of the “Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation” project being sponsored by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the aegis of the Namami Gange programme. They are reaching to each and every house in areas along river Ganga to educate them about the importance of protecting river’s bio-diversity.

 

 

Changi base:

Changi naval base: Changi Naval Base (CNB) is the latest naval facility of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and was built to replace Brani Naval Base. Modi ji visited changi.

 

OP Nistar: It is an evacuation of Stranded Indians from Socotra, Yemen. 38 Indian nationals were stranded on the Yemeni island of Socotra in the aftermath of cyclone Mekenu.

 

 

Article 35A

The Centre has decided not to file any “counter-affidavit” on Article 35A, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition. The Supreme Court has scheduled further hearing for August 6.

 

 

 

The Eleventh edition of GeoIntelligence Asia 2018 is being  organised by GeoSpatial Media and Communication with Directorate General of Information System as Knowledge Partners and Military Survey as Co-organisers at DELHI.

The seminar brings together the military, security officials including BSF and Police Forces, Government and industry together to examine the latest technology solutions and on the critical role of geospatial technology in military and security applications.

Theme: ‘GeoSpatial: A Force Multiplier for Defence and Industrial Security’.

Geospatial intelligence is a critical foundation for many aspects of defense and internal security. It offers the capability of monitoring, predicting and countering threats, while helping strategize and support various field operations.

§  It facilitates multi-source information sharing and integration across agencies and organizations by providing a common framework on which other information is based.

§  Geospatial data is invaluable to the border security operations, to deliver accurate situational awareness information, enabling quick and secure decision-making, while mitigating risks, and increasing national security.

 

 

Maternal mortality ratio

  • As per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) data, the MMR (number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births) has dropped from 167 (in 2011-2013) to 130 for the country.
  • This 28% drop is an achievement arising from painstakingly reducing the MMR in each of the States.
  • The SRS segments States into three groups:
  1. “Empowered Action Group” (EAG) — Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand and Assam
  2. “Southern States” — Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu
  3. “Others” — the remaining States and union territories.
  • The highest reduction from the last SRS is with the EAG States at 23%, a drop from 246 (2011-2013) to 188, while the Other States have dropped by 19%, taking the MMR down from 115 in 2011-2013, to 93 now.
  • Kerala remains at the top with an MMR of 46 (down from 61).
  • Maharashtra retains its second position with 61, but the pace of fall has been much lower, dropping from 68 during 2011-13.

Highest mmr: assam.

 

  •  Ministry of Shipping has cleared a project for setting up an exclusive, fully mechanized handling facility for fertilizer cargo at Deendayal Port in Kandla.
  • Kandla, also known as the Deendayal Port Trust is a seaport in Kutch District of Gujarat state in western India, near the city of Gandhidham.
  • It is located on the Gulf of Kutch.
  • It is one of major ports on west coast.

 

 

Milankovitch cycles

  • Earth’s movement in space is influenced by the other astronomical bodies that exert force on it, like other planets and the Moon.
  • This helps determine variations in the Earth’s rotation around and wobble on its axis, and in the orbit the Earth traces around the Sun.

 

 

National Career Service Project

  • The Ministry of Labor and Employment is implementing the National Career Service (NCS) project as a mission mode project.
  • It is to provide a variety of employment related services like career counseling, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, apprenticeship, internships etc
  • It has a rich repository of career content of over 3000 occupations.
  • The NCS project has also been enhanced to interlink all employment exchanges with the NCS Portal so that services can be delivered online.
  • The scheme provides for part funding to states for IT up gradation and minor refurbishing of employment exchanges and for organizing job fairs.

 

 

Deccan Queen

  • The introduction of ‘’Deccan Queen’’ between the two premier cities of Maharashtra on 1st June 1930 was a major landmark in the history of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.
  • The Great Indian Peninsula Railway is the forerunner of the Indian Railways.
  • This was the first deluxe train introduced on the railway to serve two important cities of the region and was aptly named after Pune, which is also known as ‘’Queen of Deccan’’ (‘’Dakkhan ki Rani’’).

 

 

 

National Bio-fuel Policy – 2018

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.

Salient Features:

  1. The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  2. The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  3. Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  4. With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
  5. The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
  6. Roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels has been captured in the Policy document to synergise efforts.

Expected Benefits:

  • Reduce Import Dependency: One crore lit of E10 saves Rs.28 crore of forex at current rates. The ethanol supply year 2017-18 is likely to see a supply of around 150 crore litres of ethanol which will result in savings of over Rs.4000 crore of forex.
  • Cleaner Environment: One crore lit of E-10 saves around 20,000 ton of CO2 emissions. For the ethanol supply year 2017-18, there will be lesser emissions of CO2 to the tune of 30 lakh ton. By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.
  • Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
  • MSW Management: It is estimated that, annually 62 MMT of Municipal Solid Waste gets generated in India. There are technologies available which can convert waste/plastic, MSW to drop in fuels. One ton of such waste has the potential to provide around 20% of drop in fuels.
  • Infrastructural Investment in Rural Areas: It is estimated that, one 100klpd bio refinery will require around Rs.800 crore capital investment. At present Oil Marketing Companies are in the process of setting up twelve 2G bio refineries with an investment of around Rs.10,000 crore. Further addition of 2G bio refineries across the Country will spur infrastructural investment in the rural areas.
  • Employment Generation: One 100klpd 2G bio refinery can contribute 1200 jobs in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.
  • Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same. Also, farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Thus conversion of surplus grains and agricultural biomass can help in price stabilization.

Background:

In order to promote biofuels in the country, a National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009. Globally, biofuels have caught the attention in last decade and it is imperative to keep up with the pace of developments in the field of biofuels. Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation. Biofuels programme in India has been largely impacted due to the sustained and quantum non-availability of domestic feedstock for biofuel production which needs to be addressed.

Assessment: Food grains can now be used for producing ethanol during surplus production years, according to the national policy on biofuels that was approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

The policy has expanded the scope of raw materials that can be used for producing ethanol, including sugarcane juice, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, corn, cassava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, and rotten potatoes unfit for human consumption. Currently, ethanol is mainly produced from molasses.

Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee,” an official statement said.

Food for fuel has often been a controversial policy matter across the globe as many believe using grains for ethanol raises food inflation risk.

By limiting use of grains for fuel production only in surplus production years, the government has tried to limit the risk.

India has for years trailed the official target of blending 5 percent ethanol and biodiesel in petrol and diesel respectively to cut pricey oil import and save foreign exchange. The current blending ratio is about 2% for petrol and less than 0.5% for diesel.

India imports 83 percent of its domestic crude oil requirement.

“With a thrust on advanced biofuels, the policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol biorefineries of Rs 5,000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels,” the statement said.

The policy has also encouraged setting up of supply chain mechanisms for bio-diesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil, and short gestation  crops.

The ethanol supply year 2017-18 is likely to see a supply of around 150 crore litres of ethanol which will result in savings of over Rs 4,000 crore of forex and help ?cut carbon dioxide emission by 30 lakh tonne, the statement said.

At present state oil companies are in the process of setting up twelve 2G bio refineries with an investment of around Rs 10,000 crore.

 

current scenario

  • The government estimates that ethanol supply of around 150 crore litres in 2017-18 could save foreign exchange worth over Rs. 4,000 crore.
  • Sugar industry is the key ethanol supplier for fuel blending at present, but prices offered to them for ethanol isn’t attractive.
  • Hence, they’ve preferred to sell off their stock to better remunerative alcohol and other industries, which has been constraining supply for blending.
  • Currently, rising oil prices are putting increasing pressure on the economy.
  • In this backdrop, the government has mooted the new “National Biofuel policy” for encouraging Ethanol use, which gives some solace.
  • The policy’s focus has been in addressing the supply side issues involving bio-fuels, which has long been a constraint in domain.

the new policy envision:

  • The new policy explores a wider variety of raw materials to be used as inputs to produce ethanol (which is to be blended with petrol).
  • Apart from sugarcane – government plans to include corn, damaged food grains, potato and even municipal solid waste as ethanol sources.
  • These changes are likely to reduce the cost of producing bio-fuels and improve affordability for consumers, particularly during oil price hikes.
  • The Centre hopes the new policy will also benefit farmers, who will be able to sell various types of agricultural waste to industry at remunerative prices.
  • It will also serve as an incentive for farmers to not burn their stubble and other farmland waste, which has become a menace in the regions around Delhi.
  • The policy also envisions a budget of 5,000 crores for supply chain infrastructure enhancement in the bio-fuel sector.

way ahead?

  • Any bio-fuel policy must be strongly backed by sufficient technology and production scale in order to be financially feasible and implementable.
  • Given the current market dynamics, sugar industry’s share in the bio-fuel mix is unrivalled – thereby underscoring the need for better pricing for ethanol.
  • The consideration for using food grains is a tricky one as food supply chains might get affected if there aren’t proper checks.
  • While source diversification is indeed a positive, proper enhancement of supply-chain infrastructure to reach the final consumer will prove vital.
  • The government should also take steps to remove policy barriers that have discouraged private investment in building supply chains.

 

 

 

  • Rampant industrialisation on the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans is causing irreparable damage, with oil levels in waterbodies rising six-fold and the temperature by over four degrees, pushing wildlife to the edge and reducing the fish population by half.
  • The region currently has over 300 industrial units, including 190 of what are called “severe” units like oil refinery and a cement plant.
  • There is a loss in habitat.

 

 

2018 IBSA MINISTERIAL MEET WAS RECENTLY HELD IN PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA.

The outcome of this meeting was a document titled IBSA Declaration on South-South Cooperation. This document calls for contribution of each of the member of IBSA forum to contribute to greater understanding of development cooperation as a common endeavour of the global south.

 

About IBSA forum:

The establishment of IBSA was formalised by the Brasilia Declaration of 6 June 2003. IBSA is a coordinating mechanism amongst three emerging countries, three multi ethnic and multicultural democracies, which are determined to:

§  Contribute to the construction of a new international architecture.

§  Bring their voice together on global issues.

§  Deepen their ties in various areas.

 

The success of IBSA reflects an important demonstration effect. It demonstrates, most vividly, the desirability and feasibility of South-South cooperation beyond the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training. IBSA success in contributing to discourse on global issues also shows the importance of engaging with the countries of the South.

 

 

  • According to the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kerala’s fisheries sector is suffering a huge economic loss owing to uncontrolled juvenile fishing.
  • Apart from loss to the economy, juvenile fishing badly affects the biological factors of fish ecosystem.
  • Unfavorable climatic conditions following El Nino had badly affected the spawning and growth pattern of oil sardine.

 

 

GOVERNMENT’S PLAN ON AIR INDIA DISINVESTMENT

  • In June 2017, Union government announced its intention to divest a controlling stake in Air India.
  • As a response unsolicited interest poured in from airlines and various ground handling firms, both domestic and international, for specific pieces of the flag carrier.
  • On March 28 this year, the government came out with a preliminary document seeking bids.
  • In 19 days that followed, it received over 160 queries from various parties seeking clarifications about the disinvestment process.
  • But after all this activity, the government recently announced that at the end of the deadline for submitting Expressions of Interest (EoIs), it had received no bids from any entity to acquire 76% stake in Air India.

What are technical difficulties involved in air India bidding?

  • Air India has Rs 33,000-crore debt that was to be bundled with the firm which is seen to be a major hurdle.
  • AI has the largest number of employees per aircraft among Indian airlines.
  • AI had 26,978 employees (including permanent, contractual, casual, and on-deputation staff) which is 234 employees per aircraft.
  • The employees-per-aircraft ratio is a key metric used in the industry to identify the operational efficiency of an airline.
  • But eventual reduction of contractual employees was one of the measures to be undertaken by Air India as part of its turnaround plan.
  • For which the successful bidder will have to plough significant funds into enterprise-wide restructuring, requiring capital expenditure in enhanced products and services, as well as fleet expansion.

What conditions of the government averted the bidders?

  • It is believed that government’s decision to retain 24% stake that ultimately proved to be the big deterrent.
  • In clarifications sought by interested bidders, government failed to outline its financial objectives and also to explain any non-financial objectives for which the retention of a stake is considered to be important.
  • The Union cabinet’s approval for strategic disinvestment includes only few areas of airline operations and not the complete operations of the airlines.
  • Returning the carrier to profitability is likely to take at least 2-3 years, during which time the new owner will have to absorb a couple of billion dollars of losses.
  • Thus, this leave open the prospect of political interference on strategic and day-to-day matters of the airline operations.

 

  • A recent Research by Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru offers new insights on inter-species social behaviour among animals.

What are the significant revelations of the study?

  • Scientists have tried to get clarity on the difference between mixed-species socialisations and same-species interactions and ascertain the motivation for mixed-species socialising.
  • It was generally thought that in same-species social interactions, all individuals get similar benefits and in mixed-species interactions, different groups get different benefits.
  • But the study revealed that most cases of mixed species socialisation was similar to that of single species groups and the benefits received from both the groups were also similar.
  • Therefore, when the motivation for joining mixed species group rather than same species group were studied, it was found that gaining concrete benefit like having same predator.
  • And quality of such benefit like how soon can an individual spot a predator, were factors for choosing mixed species group.
  • Some birds took into account the cost of competition while deciding whether to join a flock of different species, such as different food habits but share same predator.
  • It was also found that birds considered their flight behaviour and skills while joining another group, so as to coordinate their activities together as a flock.
  • A combination of these and probably more were the motivations behind birds’ decision to restrict themselves to flocks of their own species or join other groups.
  • These revelations would be helpful in protecting the species of the interacting group of any cascading effects if the other group of species become extinct or change behaviour.

 

CONCERNS IN RAILWAYS

  • Departmentalism – The Bibek Debroy Committee refers to the negative aspects of functional specialisation as “departmentalism”.
  • Departmentalism is a major constraint for bringing about rapid change in the Railways organisation.
  • This manifests itself in the form of unhealthy competition amongst departments.
  • Competition – They compete for appropriating a larger share of scarce resources.
  • Competition for usurping a larger share of key general management posts also exists.
  • This is for better access to power, authority etc.
  • Personnel – Narrow departmental goals are pursued at the cost of organisational goals and objectives.
  • Resultantly, there is lack of team work and cohesion.
  • Departmentalism seems to mix up the issue of career progression with the issue of departmental bias.
  • These are related issues, but it’s important to address them separately to find a solution to “departmentalism”.
  • Cadres – Currently the personnel for each of the departments are recruited as distinct cadres.
  • This takes place through the civil services examination for the four non-engineering disciplines.
  • For the five engineering disciplines, engineering services examinations are conducted.

What are the concerns with the recommendations?

  • The Debroy Committee make suggestion for two services, by merging the different cadres.
  • One, recruited through the civil services examination and the other through the engineering services examination.
  • Merger of cadres would help resolve the inter-cadre tussle for top positions.
  • It is also expected to free managerial behaviour of departmental bias.
  • Concerns – However, the departments would still exist, and so would departmental goals.
  • So how far would single cadre or just two cadres lead everyone to work towards the organisational goal is uncertain.
  • Also, there are technical concerns in the merging of the cadre.
  • Decisions taken by non-technical personnel on technical matters would remain a concern.
  • Merged cadres may not necessarily lead to more focus on organisational goals rather than departmental goals.

What is the way forward?

  • The merger of cadres is a major surgical intervention proposed by the Debroy Committee.
  • It is a possibly way of resolving career progression issues but not coordination issues.
  • Strengthening all coordination mechanisms that exist and the creation of such mechanisms where they do not exist is crucial.
  • So, unification of performance metrics across departments and merger of indices of performance is essential.
  • Departments can thus work synchronously towards the goals of the whole organisation.

 

 

IN RECENT TIMES INDIA IS TRYING TO RECALIBRATE ITS RELATION WITH GLOBAL ECONOMIC POWERS.

  • But India approach with US relations is not quite balancing out.

What are the recent events on Indo-US relations?

  • India in the Shangri-La Dialogue spoke of India and the U.S.’s “shared vision” of an open and secure Indo-Pacific region.
  • But India’s views differed so much from US, which seemed clear that New Delhi and Washington no longer see eye-to-eye on this issue, and several others as well.
  • India referred to the Indo-Pacific, a term coined by the U.S. for the Indian and Pacific Oceans region, as a natural geographical region, not a strategic one.
  • US called the Indo-Pacific a “priority theatre” and a “subset of [America’s] broader security strategy” for his military command, now renamed the Indo-Pacific Command.

What foreign policy priorities of India concerns US?

  • India maintains good relation with the U.S., Russia and China in equal measure.
  • Where USA vowed to counter China’s moves in the Indo-Pacific, and U.S. National Defence Strategy puts both China and Russia in its crosshairs as the world’s two “revisionist powers”.
  • A year ago, India seemed clear in its intention to counter China’s growing clout in its neighbourhood, especially post-Doklam, challenge the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and back a Quadrilateral grouping of India, the U.S., Japan and Australia to maintain an open Indo-Pacific.
  • But India’s stand has changed in recent times as the Doklam issue has been buried, the BRI isn’t as much a concern as before.
  • The government’s non-confrontational attitude to the Maldives and Nepal also indicates a softened policy on China in the neighbourhood.
  • Recently India also rejected an Australian request to join maritime exercises along with the U.S. and Japan.
  • Contrast to this is India’s acceptance of military exercises with countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Russia-China led grouping.

What will be implications of India’s policy?

  • US had come to accept India’s diffidence on signing outstanding India-U.S. foundational agreements.
  • US has now confused as India publicly enters the international arena in the corner with Russia and China, while proclaiming its intention to continue energy deals with Iran and Venezuela in defiance of American sanctions.
  • Trade protectionism is clearly the other big point of divergence between India and the U.S., which have in recent months taken each other to the World Trade Organisation on several issues.
  • There has been a surge in disputes between the two countries on the new American steel and aluminium tariffs.
  • USA’s actions on CAATSA and Iran nuclear deal have also had a direct impact on India, given its high dependence on defence hardware from Russia and its considerable energy interests in Iran.

 

 

‘SCIENCE BASED TARGETS

  • Science Based Targets is a joint initiative of CDP, the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF.
  • It is an initiative to drive corporate climate actions globally.
  • It sets emissions reduction targets to ensure that the transformational action is aligned with current climate science.
  • It is ‘science-based’ as it is in line with the scale required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
  • ‘Science-based target setting’ is a way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in transition to a low-carbon economy.

What is the rationale?

  • In 2015 Climate Conference, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement.
  • The goal is to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.
  • This signalled an acceleration in the transition to a low carbon economy.
  • However, the private sector needs to take the lead towards this transition.
  • Science Based Targets is an effort at this front.

What is the significance?

  • India – India has committed to generate at least 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources.
  • A decrease in carbon emission intensity of GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 has also been committed.
  • Indian companies and multinationals operating in India have a major role in this.
  • Sixteen Indian companies have committed to set science-based targets.
  • They have secured themselves competitive advantage in the transition.
  • Some of the world’s biggest companies with significant supply chains in India have also committed.
  • These include Kering, Walmart and others.
  • Global – Unique to the initiative is the criterion that companies need to commit to setting supply chain or ‘scope 3’ targets.
  • If more than 40% of a company’s emissions occur in its supply chain, then it has to commit to reducing those emissions as well as its direct emissions.
  • Notably all companies operate within a value chain.
  • This has the potential to rapidly escalate the impact of science-based target setting on global emissions.

 

FORTIFIED RICE

The government is planning to provide fortified rice (enriched with essential vitamins and minerals) to all the poor under National Food Security Act (NFSA) across the country, which would cost about Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000 crore annually. To begin with the scheme is likely to cover the 115 ‘aspirational’ districts across the country.

The proposal is being prepared with the support of Niti Aayog under the National Nutrition Mission.

 

What is Rice Fortification?

Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health. Rice fortification is the practice of increasing the content of essential micronutrients in rice and to improve the nutritional quality of the rice.

 

Food fortification in India:

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’. These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods. The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.

 

 

METHANOL ECONOMY IN THE COUNTRY IN NEAR FUTURE

The NITI Aayog is working on a roadmap for full-scale implementation of methanol economy in the country in near future, which would not only curb pollution, but reduce India’s dependence on oil imports as well.

 

Methanol is a promising fuel as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels. India imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran at present. Across the world, methanol is emerging as a clean, sustainable transportation fuel of the future.

Unlike CNG, using methanol as a transportation fuel would require minimal alteration in the vehicles.

§  Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer smog-causing emissions — such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter — and can improve air quality and related human health issues.

 

 

§  Methanol is most commonly produced on a commercial scale from natural gas. It can also be produced from renewable sources such as biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.

§  As a high-octane vehicle fuel, methanol offers excellent acceleration and power. It also improves vehicle efficiency.

Methanol burns efficiently in all internal combustion engines, produces no particulate matter, no soot, almost nil SOX and NOX emissions (NEAR ZERO POLLUTION). The gaseous version of Methanol – DME can blended with LPG and can be excellent substitute for diesel in Large buses and trucks.

§  Methanol 15 % blend (M15) in petrol will reduce pollution by 33% & diesel replacement by methanol will reduce by more than 80%.

 

In energy sector:

Other major area where methanol can reduce pollution is the Energy sector. India has an installed capacity of 22000 MW on HFO (Heavy fuel oil) alone. HFO is one of the dirtiest fuel and most countries of the world have abandoned it. The entire HFO usage can be replaced by Methanol. Power Modules of Mobile Towers (about 750000) in India can fully be replaced by Methanol Reformer / Fuel Cell based platforms in the next two years. Diesel industrial Gensets, Gas Turbines running on Naptha, LFOI (Light Fuel Oil) and other dirty fuels can also be fully replaced. Industrial boilers which are running on diesel will also be replaced with Methanol.

The Concept of “Methanol Economy” is being actively pursued by China, Italy, Sweden, Israel, US, Australia, Japan and many other European countries. 10% of fuel in China in transport Sector is Methanol. Methanol Economy, if adopted by India can be one of the best ways to mitigate the Environmental hazards of a growing economy. NITI Aayog is preparing a road map for a full-scale implementation in the near future.

 

CROSS-BORDER ENVIRONMENTALISM CRUCIAL FOR SOUTH ASIA.

 

  • Emerging environmental concerns make cross-border environmentalism crucial for South Asia.
  • It is high time that India recognises this and takes the lead.

What is the emerging threat?

  • Climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia.
  • This is most notably from the rise of sea levels.
  • The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected.
  • But the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas.
  • They include places where the Indus, Irrawaddy and Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea.
  • The distress is paramount in the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.
  • It covers areas from the Brahmaputra basin to the Indus-Ganga plain.

What are the environmental concerns?

  • Water – The subcontinent is running out of water resource.
  • This is due to the demands of industrialisation and urbanisation.
  • It is also due to continuation of colonial model of irrigation based on flooding the fields.
  • Rivers – The economic and demographic forces are arrayed against the rivers and their right-of-way.
  • E.g. Ganga (Uttarakhand), Teesta (Sikkim) have been converted into dry boulder tracts by ‘cascades’ of run-of-river hydroelectric schemes.
  • The tributaries of the Indus were ‘done in’ decades ago through water diversion.
  • Natural drainage – Everywhere, natural drainage is destroyed.
  • Highways and railway tracks are elevated above the flood line, and bunds encircling towns and cities.
  • Reduced flows and urban/industrial effluents have converted great rivers into sewers.
  • Rivers are made to carry hundreds of tonnes of plastics daily into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
  • Climate refugees – The climate change discourse has not evolved enough to address this.
  • Tens of millions of ‘climate refugees’ could en masse move inland.
  • They may be forced to cross national boundaries in the search for survival.
  • E.g. the Farakka Barrage affected the livelihoods in downstream Bangladesh, causing the flood of ‘undocumented aliens’ in India.
  • Glaciers – The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial nature of our rivers.
  • The atmospheric brown cloud is said to be the reason for excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya.
  • The icefalls of the Himalaya could soon transform into waterfalls.

What are the policy shortfalls?

  • Participation – The subcontinental environmental realities demand civic participation.
  • But despite being a vast democracy, the Indian state neglects this factor.
  • Efforts at preserving the forests and landscapes are mostly taken up by the indigenous communities.
  • The urban middle class is not visible in environmentalism, other than in ‘beautification projects’.
  • Governance – The Environment Ministry is invariably the least empowered in the major countries of South Asia.
  • It falls short of coordinating the ecological response.

Why is India’s role crucial?

  • Wildlife, disease vectors, aerosols and river flows do not respect national boundaries.
  • The environmental trends must be discussed at the regional inter-country level.
  • But South Asian societies are apart, when they should actually be joining hands on common ground.
  • India is the largest nation-state of the region, and the biggest polluter.
  • Also, its population is the most vulnerable.
  • Given these, India should take the lead role in cross border environmentalism.

 

ATMOSPHERIC BROWN CLOUD

  • This cloud is made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog.
  • It is the result of stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust.
  • Dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind are sources as well.
  • This high altitude haze covers the Indo-Gangetic plains for much of the dry season.
  • It penetrates deep into the high valleys.
  • It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice.
  • They absorb the heat and melt much faster.

 

THE WORLD BANK HAS APPROVED ATAL BHUJAL YOJANA (ABHY)

The scheme is to be implemented over a period of five years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with World Bank assistance.

 

About Atal Bhujal Yojana:

It is a Rs.6000 crore Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. The scheme aims to improve ground water management in priority areas in the country through community participation.

The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India. They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.

The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.

 

Expected outcomes:

The implementation of the scheme is expected to have several positive outcomes like better understanding of the ground water regime, focused and integrated community based approach for addressing issues related to ground water depletion, sustainable ground water management through convergence of on-going and new schemes, adoption of efficient water use practices to reduce ground water use for irrigation and augmentation of ground water resources in targeted areas.

 

Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating ground water development in 23 States/UTs. As per the assessment of dynamic ground water resources of country carried out jointly by CGWB and State Ground Water Departments, out of the total 6584 numbers of assessment units (Block/ Taluks/ Mandals/ watershed/ Firkka), 1034 units have been categorized as ‘Over-exploited’. This may be due to increase in population, rapid urbanization & industrialization and other related factors.

 

To provide a single-point and real-time source for financial liabilities of a person or entity, the Reserve Bank of India has decided to set up a public credit registry (PCR) in a modular and phased manner. The decision is based on the report of RBI appointed task force led by YM Deosthalee.

The PCR will be the single point of mandatory reporting for all material events for each loan, notwithstanding any threshold in the loan amount or type of borrower. The PCR will serve as a registry of all credit contracts, duly verified by reporting institutions, for all lending in India and any lending by an Indian institution to a company incorporated in India.

Credit information is spread over multiple systems in bits and pieces, making it difficult to get a comprehensive view of the financial liabilities of a person or entity. Also, a comprehensive credit information repository covering all types of credit facilities (funded and non-funded) extended by all credit institutions – commercial banks, cooperative banks, NBFCs, MFIs – and also covering borrowings from other sources, including external commercial borrowings and borrowing from market, is essential to ascertain the total indebtedness of a legal or natural person.

 

§  Currently, there are multiple granular credit information repositories in India, each with distinct objective and coverage. Within the RBI, CRILC is a borrower-level supervisory dataset with a threshold in aggregate exposure of Rs 5 crore. Also, there are four privately-owned credit information companies (CICs) in India.

§  The RBI has mandated all its regulated entity to submit credit information individually to all four CICs. CICs offer, based on this unique access to the credit data, value added services like credit scoring and analytics to the member credit institutions and to the borrowers.

 

INDIA’S PLAN ON SHANGRI-LA DIALOGUE

  • The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is a “Track One” inter-governmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
  • It is attended by defence ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states.
  • The summit serves to cultivate a sense of community among the most important policymakers in the defence and security community in the region.
  • In the recent meet India has referred the concept of the “Indo-Pacific” to India’s relations with Russia, the U.S. and China.
  • India used the dialogue to unveil a seven-point vision for the Indo-Pacific region.
  • While warning the world about the possible return of “great power rivalries”, India emphasised the importance and centrality of the ASEAN in the concept of the Indo-Pacific.

 

 

  • Indian Navy has completed four years of its Green Initiatives Program on World Environment Day.
  • The adoption of a comprehensive ‘Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap’ has put Indian Navy on an ambitious path of synergizing ‘Blue Water capability with a Green footprint’.
  • With an aim to achieve zero carbon foot print, ‘Energy Efficiency’ concept of sustainable green technologies/norms based on GRIHA, LEEDS, Green Fuels, MARPOL compliance and alternative energy resources are being adopted in all future plans.

 

 

NITI AAYOG HAS PUBLISHED AN AMBITIOUS DISCUSSION PAPER ON KICKSTARTING THE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) ECOSYSTEM IN INDIA.

What is Artificial intelligence?

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.
  • It uses computers to mimic human cognitive processes for decision-making.
  • Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include- speech recognition, learning, planning, problem solving.

What is Union government’s decision on AI?

  • The paper published by the Niti Aayog discusses the powers of five sectors agriculture, education, health care, smart cities/infrastructure and transport with AI.
  • It highlights the potential for India to become an AI ‘garage’, or solutions provider, for 40% of the world.
  • The paper recommends AI tools for a range of applications such as reading cancer pathology reports, rerouting traffic in smart cities,  and picking students at high risk of dropping out from school, among them.
  • The paper proposes an institutional structure to get things going including a network of basic and applied research institutions, and a CERN-like multinational laboratory that would focus on global AI challenges.

What are the challenges in achieving India’s goals on AI?

  • These are lofty goals when the present scenario of AI expertise in India is considered.
  • While the paper estimates 50 top notch AI researchers, only 4% of the Indian AI professionals are trained in emerging technologies such as deep learning.
  • According to the H Index which measures how often papers are published, even though India does publish a lot, these publications aren’t very impactful and India is behind 18 countries in the H Index.
  • Therefore it cannot be relied on astechnology has tripped up as often as it has delivered.

 

 

 

INDIA URBAN POLLUTION

  • In India urban pollution is significantly on rise concerning people’s health.
  • India needs to offer monetary incentives and other subsidies to e-vehicle manufacturers to address this issue.

What is the status of pollution in India?

  • The WHO global air pollution database report that ranked 14 Indian cities among the 15 of the world’s most polluted.
  • India’s urban pollution as measured by PM 2.5 level is already about 40 per cent above the global safe limits across major Indian cities.
  • World Bank assesses health and welfare losses at 7.7 per cent of India’s GDP (PPP adjusted).
  • If these costs are unchecked, they will grow sharply in the coming decades.

What are the major contributors of air pollution in India?

  • Domestic Activity –  Usage of kerosene, coal and wood fires for cooking are major contributors on domestic activity.
  • Vehicular pollution – It contributes around 35 per cent of the total PM 2.5 emissions today.
  • Of the total vehicular pollution, 40 per cent to 45 per cent comes from two-wheelers and another 30 per cent to-35 per cent from four wheelers.
  • In a future with internal combustion engines vehicles, urban pollution will continue to remain 25 per cent to 30 per cent above safe global standards because of the growth in automobiles.

What measures needs to be taken?

  • India need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves to reduce the impact from domestic activity.
  • It needs to combine the already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI), with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies.
  • The policy roadmap should encompass three key elements based on global learnings.
  1. Incentives for adoption of alternate mobility technologies like Electric vehicles.
  2. Restrictions on elements that contribute negatively to strategic objectives (such as congestion charges on polluting technologies).
  3. Provision of enabling infrastructure.
  • Thus government needs to drive immediate investments by providing subsidies and tax breaks to local manufacturers along with support for research and development in the e-mobility domain.

 

 

ADIVASIS IN NORTHERN TELANGANA

  • A section of adivasis in northern Telangana districts has boycotted teachers from the Lambada community (Scheduled Tribes).
  • It reveals a conflict between the two groups for the past few months and poses a complex political challenge.
  • Some Adivasi groups have been demanding the exclusion of the Lambada community from the Schedule Tribe (ST) list.
  • They claim that the Lambadas are “cornering” their opportunities in jobs and education.
  • Adding to the tension, the creation of Telangana has offered the Lambadas an advantage and benefits when compared to other tribes.
  • The protests have hit tribal schools hard since majority of teachers  are from the Lambada community.
  • Telangana has a total of 32 tribal communities comprising 9.08% of the state’s population.
  • Lambadas comprise majority (20 lakh out of 30 lakh) of the tribal population.
  • The remaining tribal population are from communities such as Gonds, Guthikoyas, Pardhans, Nayakpods, Kolams, Gotis and several others, which are relatively low in number.
  • The Gond people are Adivasis, originally believed to have spread from central India to parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • The Lambadas have come from different states in the north like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and others.
  • They are listed under BC,OBC and SC in other states.
  • Despite not being tribals they have managed to get listed under the ST category in Telangana.
  • Gond tribals point out that the Lambadas were included in the ST list only in 1976, during the Emergency.
  • Thus, Gonds termed this as unfair through a “backdoor entry”.
  • The boycott in northern Telangana lays bare the political and policy challenge for the state.
  • The absence of teachers has led to poor results and raised the prospect of students dropping out.
  • The boycott deprives tribal children of education which is considered as the most important tool for social and economic mobility.
  • It shows that the claims of relative inequality and discrimination within the Scheduled Caste and Tribe categories have been largely ignored by the government.

 

 

MALDIVES ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH INDIA

 

Various actions of Maldivian administration has put Maldives on a collision course with India.

What are the reasons behind worsening ties?

  • There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties, starting from March 2015.
  • Recently, India criticised the Maldives government for imprisonment of former president and Chief justice for an alleged plot to unseat the then President.
  • India has also showed discontent over the conduct of polls, treatment of the judiciary and, and declaration of a state of emergency.
  • Even the presidential election which India has been calling for is a point of contention.
  • Indian administration cancelled a visit to Maldives in a show of disapproval of actions of Maldivian administration.
  • The strain is now evident in strategic relations and people to people engagement which had been the strongest in the past.
  • Maldives is bolstered by a newly strengthened relationship with china and showed no inclination to heed India’s advice.

What are the impacts of the worsening ties?

  • The Maldives has conveyed to India that it will not extend the lease of Indian helicopters or the visas of personnel manning them.
  • The worsening signals between the two nations has marked downturn in defence cooperation between the two countries, which normally coordinate maritime and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) patrols together.
  • Meanwhile, hundreds of Indians offered employment in the Maldives at resorts, hospitals and colleges have been denied work visas for the past few months.

What measures needs to be taken?

  • Maldivian government must reconsider its policies and revive its co-operation with India.
  • India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly.
  • India’s vocal protests on democratic rights in the Maldives have been at variance with the past policy of taking a more muted line in public while encouraging democracy in official conversations.
  • India’s interventions in the island nation always aimed at strengthening the government there, with any misgivings conveyed only through quiet diplomacy.

 

 

Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy

  • A thematic session on “Sustainable lifestyle towards Enhancing Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy” was hosted at the ongoing World Environment Day celebrations.
  • The session was organised jointly by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
  • A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose).
  • In circular economy we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
  • Resource efficiency means using the Earth’s limited resources in a sustainable manner while minimising impacts on the environment.
  • It allows us to create more with less and to deliver greater value with less input.

 

Global Peace Index (GPI),

Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), world’s leading think tank that develops metrics to analyse peace and quantify its economic value, has released the 12th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), or measure of global peacefulness.

India has moved up four places to the 137th rank among 163 countries. The improvement is due to a reduction in the level of violent crime driven by increased law enforcement. India was ranked 141 last year.

§  India was also among the countries with the biggest decreases in the number of deaths, along with Sri Lanka, Chad, Colombia, and Uganda.

Global performance:

§  Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark also sit in the top five most peaceful rankings.

§  Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, a position it has held for the past five years. Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia comprise the remaining least peaceful countries.

 

 

URBAN CO-OPERATIVE BANKS (UCB) TO CONVERT INTO SMALL FINANCE BANKS (SFB),

The Reserve Bank of India has decided to allow URBAN CO-OPERATIVE BANKS (UCB) TO CONVERT INTO SMALL FINANCE BANKS (SFB), a move aimed at bringing these entities into mainstream banking. It has been decided to allow voluntary transition of UCBs meeting the prescribed criteria into SFBs.UCBs currently face regulation by both the RBI and the respective State governments. By turning into SFBs, they will be regulated only by the RBI.

 

What are small finance banks?

The small finance bank will primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.

What they can do?

§  Take small deposits and disburse loans.

§  Distribute mutual funds, insurance products and other simple third-party financial products.

§  Lend 75% of their total adjusted net bank credit to priority sector.

§  Maximum loan size would be 10% of capital funds to single borrower, 15% to a group.

§  Minimum 50% of loans should be up to 25 lakhs.

 

What they cannot do?

§  Lend to big corporates and groups.

§  Cannot open branches with prior RBI approval for first five years.

§  Other financial activities of the promoter must not mingle with the bank.

§  It cannot set up subsidiaries to undertake non-banking financial services activities.

§  Cannot be a business correspondent of any bank.

 

The guidelines they need to follow:

§  Promoter must contribute minimum 40% equity capital and should be brought down to 30% in 10 years.

§  Minimum paid-up capital would be Rs 100 cr.

§  Capital adequacy ratio should be 15% of risk weighted assets, Tier-I should be 7.5%.

§  Foreign shareholding capped at 74% of paid capital, FPIs cannot hold more than 24%.

§  Priority sector lending requirement of 75% of total adjusted net bank credit.

§  50% of loans must be up to Rs 25 lakh.

 

 THE INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION (ISRO) and Oman signed MOU for peaceful uses of outer space, in February, 2018 at Muscat (Oman’s port capital).

§  This MoU shall enable the following areas of cooperation such as, space science, technology and applications including remote sensing of the earth; satellite based navigation; Space science and planetary exploration; use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and application of space technology.

 

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved procurement of high powered radars for the Indian Air Force and air cushion vehicles for the Army and the Coast Guard together worth over ₹5,500 crore.

The 12 high power radars will be procured indigenously under the ‘Buy (Indian) IDDM’ category.

 

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):

What is it? To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.

Objective: The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.

Functions: The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.

 

Facts for Prelims:

§  A new category of procurement ‘Buy {Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)}’ has been introduced in Defence Procurement Procedure-2016 and the same has been accorded top most priority for procurement of capital equipment.

§  Under the new category, indigenously designed equipment with 40% indigenous content (IC), or equipment not necessarily designed in-house but having a 60% IC, is intended for procurement from the local industry.

 

 

NOT YET READY TO SIGN THE HAGUE TREATY

The government has clarified that it is not yet ready to sign the Hague treaty on inter-country abduction of children by parents fleeing a bad marriage.

A Committee headed by Justice Rajesh Bindal, in April, had submitted its report on legal issues related to Inter-country removal & retention of children to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Committee has recommended that the Government may establish an ‘Inter Country Parental Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority’.

 

 

DAM REHABILITATION AND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Government of India, with assistance from the World Bank, is implementing the DAM REHABILITATION AND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (DRIP), which would be a six-year project. The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission, assisted by a Consulting firm, is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation.

Goals: The project originally envisaged the rehabilitation and improvement of about 223 dams within four states namely, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu and later Karnataka, Uttarakhand (UNVNL) and Jharkhand (DVC) joined DRIP and total number of dams covered under DRIP increased to 250. The project will also promote new technologies and improve Institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels and in some identified premier academic and research institutes of the country.

DHARMA is a web tool to digitize all dam related data effectively. It will help to document authentic asset and health information pertaining to the large dams in the country, enabling appropriate actions to ensure need based rehabilitation.

 

Ministry of Water Resources has accepted two major irrigation projects from states.

§  The Kaleshwaram Project of Telangana: It involves diversion of Godavari water for irrigation and drinking water purposes.

§  The Upper Pravara (Nilwande-II) Project of Maharashtra: It involves diversion water for irrigation and drinking water purposes.

 

Various Flood management schemes approved

§  The Mahananda Flood Management Scheme: Bihar.

§  Seer Khad Project: Himachal Pradesh.

§  Yanam Flood Protection Works: Union Territory Puducherry.

§  Ghatal Master Plan: West Bengal.

 

 

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India in June 2011. The Mission aims at creating efficient and effective institutional platforms of the rural poor enabling them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services.

SARAS Aajeevika Mela is an annual event of DAY-NRLM and it aims to provide a platform to the rural artisans to showcase their skills and products and also develop market linkages for their products.

§  Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana, under DAY- NRLM, aims to provide an alternative source of livelihoods to members of SHGs by facilitating them to operate public transport services in backward rural areas, as identified by the States. It also aims to provide safe, affordable and community monitored rural transport services to connect remote villages with key services and amenities for the overall economic development of the area.

 

 

There are 15 members on the UN Security Council, including the five permanent ones — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 non-permanent members, half of which are elected each year. Each candidate country needed to secure two thirds of the votes in order to clinch a seat.

 

44th annual G7 Summit is being held in Quebec, Canada.

 

 

Scientists have found widespread uranium contamination in groundwater from aquifers across 16 states in India, much above the WHO provisional standard for the country. The main source of uranium contamination was “natural,” but human factors such as groundwater table decline and nitrate pollution could be worsening the problem.

 

WHO prescribed limit:

The WHO has set a provisional safe drinking water standard of 30 micrograms of uranium per litre,.However, uranium is not yet included in the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications.

 

Main factors responsible for uranium contamination:

§  When over-pumping of aquifers’ groundwater occurs and their water levels decline, it induces oxidation conditions that, in turn, enhance uranium enrichment in the shallow groundwater that remains.

§  While the primary source of uranium is geogenic (naturally occurring), anthropogenic (human caused) factors such as groundwater table decline and nitrate pollution may further enhance uranium mobilisation.

§  Other factors include the amount of uranium contained in an aquifer’s rocks; water-rock interactions that cause the uranium to be extracted from those rocks; oxidation conditions that enhance the extracted uranium’s solubility in water; and the interaction of the extracted uranium with other chemicals in the groundwater, such as bicarbonate, which can further enhance its solubility.

 

The Centre has handed over the Deocha-Pachami coal mines to the West Bengal government.

§  It is said to be second largest coal block in the world.The coal block is located in Birbhum district in West Bengal.

As per the new mining law — the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 — which came into effect from January 2015, the non-coal mines have to be auctioned by the respective state governments.

 

World Ocean Day is celebrated every year on June 8th.

Action focus for 2018: preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

The concept of a ‘World Oceans Day’ was first proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a way to celebrate our world’s shared ocean and our personal connection to the sea, as well as to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it.

 

June 10, 2018 marked 100 years since the first women won the right to vote in Britain.

 

BAD BANK’

The concept of having a ‘bad bank’ to take over the troubled loans of public sector banks (PSBs) is being considered by the government to enable them to get back to business. Finance minister Piyush Goyal recently announced that a bankers’ panel would look at the feasibility of setting up a new asset reconstruction company (ARC) or asset management company (AMC) to take over bad loans of PSBs. The panel is headed by Punjab National Bank non-executive chairman Sunil Mehta.

 

Background:

The Bad Bank concept was pioneered at the Pittsburgh-headquartered Mellon Bank in 1988 in response to problems in the bank’s commercial real-estate portfolio. According to McKinsey & Co, the concept of a “bad bank” was applied in previous banking crises in Sweden, France, and Germany.

 

How does a bad bank work?

While the government has not charted out any guidelines on the structure of a bad bank, such an institution would be largely based on the principles of an asset restructuring company (ARC), which buys bad loans from the commercial banks at a discount and tries to recover the money from the defaulter by providing a systematic solution over a period of time. Since a bad bank specialises in loan recovery, it is expected to perform better than commercial banks, whose expertise lies in lending.

 

Why a bad bank is likely to succeed?

§  A single government entity will be more competent to take decisions rather than 28 individual PSBs.

§  Capacity building for a complex workout can be better handled by the government which has regulatory control and has management skillsets in public sector enterprises.

§  Foreign investors with both risk capital and risk appetite would be more in a government- led initiative, knowing that regulatory risks would stand considerably mitigated in various stages of resolution, including take outs.

 

What needs to be done now?

Whether or not the knots in the bad bank idea are sorted out, the government should focus on other reforms as well. One, amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to shield bankers and officers from investigative witch-hunts. Two, back bankers to take demonstrable action against wilful defaulters. And three, take a hard look at what ails the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

 

 

 

Insolvency Code

 

Context: Recently, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his nod to promulgate the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.

 

Significant changes introduced:

1.     Homebuyers as financial creditors:

Homebuyers would now be treated as financial creditors or, in other words, on par with banks, with the power to initiate insolvency proceedings against errant builders. Homebuyers shall have the right to be represented in the committee of creditors (CoC), which takes the key decision regarding revival of the company or its liquidation.

 

2.               Definition of a related party:

The amendment now defines related party in relation to an individual running the firm and they would be barred from bidding for the firm under the resolution process. Prior to the amendment, related party was defined only with reference to a company facing insolvency.

 

3.               Changes in voting share of committee of CoC:

The amendment has changed the voting share required in CoC meetings. For extending the insolvency process beyond 180 days till 270 days and for appointment of the resolution professional (who oversees the process), now a voting share of 66% is sufficient, compared with earlier requirement of 75%. Unless a specific approval is required in the Code, all other decisions of the CoC can be taken with 51% voting share against the earlier norm of 75%.

Withdrawal from the insolvency process is permitted with the approval of 90% of voting share of the CoC.

 

4.               If a financial creditor is a related party:

If a financial creditor (banks and other financial institution) or his authorised representative is a related party to the company facing insolvency, it shall not have any participation or voting during a meeting of the CoC.

However, exemption is provided in case the financial creditor has become a related party on account of conversion or substitution of debt to equity shares or instruments convertible into equity shares prior to the date of commencement of insolvency proceedings.

 

5.               Moratorium period:

For a company under insolvency, a moratorium period is provided during which no parallel proceedings are allowed. Whether such moratorium is available to guarantors of the company was a subject of debate. Now the amendment has said that the moratorium is not available to persons who provided guarantee for the loans availed by the corporate debtor.

 

6.               Tenure of an insolvency resolution professional:

Under the insolvency process, an interim resolution professional (IRP) is appointed first and then, a resolution professional. As per the amendment, the tenure of the IRP would continue till the appointment of the resolution professional (RP), compared with the earlier 30-day fixed tenure. Also, for the appointment of the RP, a written consent from the professional is required in a specified format.

 

 

EPIC 211945201b

ISRO have spotted for the first time a distant planet six times bigger than Earth and revolving around a Sun-like star about 600 light years away. The planet has been named EPIC 211945201b (or K2-236b). The host star is named EPIC 211945201 or K2-236.

§  The planet is smaller in size than Saturn and bigger than Neptune. Its mass is about 27 times Earth’s and six times that of Earth at radius. The scientists estimate that over 60% of its mass could be made up of heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron. With this discovery India has joined a handful of countries which have discovered planets around stars.

§  The discovery was made using a PRL-designed spectrograph, PARAS, to measure and confirm the mass of the new planet.

PARAS is an echelle spectrograph, designed and developed by the members of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Division of PRL.

 

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed a minimum 40% loan component for working capital funding of ₹150 crore and above to bring in greater credit discipline and improve monetary transmission. This will come into effect from October 1 and will be increased to 60% from April 1, 2019.

The working capital requirements of borrowing entities are met by banks through a cash credit limit, which is a revolving facility. The cash credit facility places undue burden on the banks in managing their liquidity requirements, with corresponding repercussions for RBI’s liquidity operations. Currently, banks do not charge any commitment fee and do not maintain any capital on the unknown portion of the cash credit and, thus, it is classified as an unconditionally cancellable facility, which does not have any risk weight under the marking rules.

 

The government is likely to launch a Rs 500-crore credit enhancement fund next month to facilitate infrastructure investments by insurance and pension funds.

 

About the proposed fund:

§  The fund was first announced in the financial budget for fiscal year 2016-17.

§  It will help in upgrading credit ratings of bonds issued by infrastructure companies and facilitate investment from investors like pension and insurance funds.

§  The initial corpus of the fund, to be sponsored by IIFCL (India Infrastructure Finance Company), will be Rs 500 crore, and it will operate as a non-banking finance company.

§  IIFCL will hold a 22.5% stake in the NBFC, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has offered to pick up a 10% stake. State-run SBI, Bank of Baroda and LIC will also have stakes in the firm.

 

 

The government is planning to make all CSCs across the country Business Correspondents of Banks. 2.90 lakh CSCs will be able to work as Business Correspondents (BCs).

 

Who are Business Correspondents?

Business Correspondents are retail agents engaged by banks for providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch/ATM. Banks are required to take full responsibility for the acts of omission and commission of the BCs that they engage and have, therefore, to ensure thorough due diligence and additional safeguards for minimizing the agency risk. Basically, BCs enable a bank to expand its outreach and offer limited range of banking services at low cost, as setting up a brick and mortar branch may not be viable in all cases. BCs, thus, are an integral part of a business strategy for achieving greater financial inclusion.

 

What they can do?

BCs are permitted to perform a variety of activities which include identification of borrowers, collection and preliminary processing of loan applications including verification of primary information/data, creating awareness about savings and other products, education and advice on managing money and debt counseling, processing and submission of applications to banks, promoting, nurturing and monitoring of Self Help Groups/ Joint Liability Groups, post-sanction monitoring, follow-up of recovery.

They can also attend to collection of small value deposit, disbursal of small value credit, recovery of principal / collection of interest, sale of micro insurance/ mutual fund products/ pension products/ other third party products and receipt and delivery of small value remittances/ other payment instruments.

 

Who can be engaged as BCs?- The banks may engage the following individuals/entities as BC:

§  Individuals like retired bank employees, retired teachers, retired government employees and ex-servicemen, individual owners of kirana / medical /Fair Price shops, individual Public Call Office (PCO) operators, agents of Small Savings schemes of Government of India/Insurance Companies, individuals who own Petrol Pumps, authorized functionaries of well run Self Help Groups (SHGs) which are linked to banks, any other individual including those operating Common Service Centres (CSCs).

§  NGOs/ MFIs set up under Societies/ Trust Acts and Section 25 Companies.

§  Cooperative Societies registered under Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Acts/ Cooperative Societies Acts of States/Multi State Cooperative Societies Act.

§  Post Offices.

§  Companies registered under the Indian Companies Act, 1956 with large and widespread retail outlets, excluding Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).

 

Benefits:

§  Corporates with large and widespread retail network bring in larger resources, higher organizational strength and financial backing needed for a large network of BCs besides providing financial security to the bank.

§  Corporates as BC would be more suitable to render banking services in accordance with the bank’s internal policies and standards than individuals and other small entities.

§  Over years, these companies have developed efficient systems of monitoring and control over the retail outlets/franchises, including cash management, which could be used to advantage. These outlets are already dealing with the local population and are familiar with them.

§  The shopkeepers and other retail agents of the large corporates may be more comfortable dealing with the company that they are already used to and familiar with, rather than with the bank.

 

 

Researchers in Germany with the KARLSRUHE TRITIUM NEUTRINO EXPERIMENT have started collecting data to determine the mass of the universe’s lightest particle- neutrino. Those are sometimes called “ghost particles” because they’re so difficult to detect.

§  The KATRIN experiment is currently set up and commissioned on the Campus North of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology.

§  The experiment is a collaboration between national and international partners with currently more than 150 scientists, engineers, technicians and students.

§  KATRIN measures the neutrino mass in a model-independent way via ultrahigh precision measurements of the kinematics of electrons from beta-decay.

 

About Neutrinos:

§  Neutrinos are the most abundant massive elementary particles in nature. Due to their minimalistic properties they are key particles for understanding physics on the smallest scale (elementary particle physics) up to the largest scale – the universe (cosmology).

§  Neutrinos are the only elementary particles of matter, which do not carry electrical or strong charge and thus are blind to the electromagnetic and the strong interaction and cannot be bound.

§  In the context of particle physics they participate only in the weak interaction. This made neutrinos the most prominent candidate to explore with them the properties of the weak interaction.

 

 

Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission

It a science mission of NASA planned for launch in 2024 that will sample, analyze, and map particles streaming to Earth from the edges of interstellar space.

 

About IMAP mission:

§  The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a sort of magnetic bubble surrounding and protecting our solar system. This is the fifth mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program portfolio.

§  Another objective of the mission is to learn more about the generation of cosmic rays in the heliosphere. Cosmic rays created locally and from the galaxy and beyond affect human explorers in space and can harm technological systems, and likely play a role in the presence of life itself in the universe.

§  The spacecraft will be positioned about one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth towards the Sun at what is called the first Lagrange point or L1. This will allow the probe to maximize use of its instruments to monitor the interactions between solar wind and the interstellar medium in the outer solar system.

 

Why study Heliosphere?

This region is where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with material from the rest of the galaxy. This collision limits the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere.

 

 

 

Rail Madad: It is a recently launched App by Indian Railways which aims to expedite & streamline passenger grievance redressal. It is a part of RPGRAMS (Railway Passenger Grievance Redressal and Management System), which has been developed by Northern Railway (Delhi Division).

 

Salient features of Rail Madad application are:

§  Rail MADAD (Mobile Application for Desired Assistance During travel) registers a complaint with minimum inputs from passenger (option of photo also available), issues unique ID instantly and relays the complaint online to relevant field officials for immediate action. The action taken on complaint is also relayed to passenger through SMS, thus fast tracking the entire process of redressal of complaints through digitisation.

§  Rail MADAD also displays various helpline numbers (e.g., Security, Child helpline etc) and provides direct calling facility for immediate assistance in one easy step.

 

 

 

Flood alert has been sounded to people living along River Bhavani banks in Mettupalayam taluk, Tamil Nadu.

About Bhavani river:

§  Bhavani River, is a tributary of the River Cauvery originating from the South West Corner of the Nilgiri hills of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu. It drains Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

§  It is the second longest river in Tamil Nadu. It enters kerala through Palakkad district. It passes through the Silent Valley National Park in Kerala.

§  Twelve major rivulets including West and East Varagar rivers join Bhavani draining the southern Nilgiri slopes.

 

Hurricane Bud:

Context: Hurricane Bud is expected to hit the Pacific coast of Mexico.

 

 

The government has selected ten new iconic sites under Phase III of the flagship project Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

 

Key facts:

§  Phase I iconic places are: Ajmer Sharif Dargah, CST Mumbai, Golden Temple, Kamakhya Temple, MaikarnikaGhat, Meenakshi Temple, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Shree Jagannath Temple, The Taj Mahal and Tirupati Temple.

§  Phase II included Gangotri, Yamunotri, Mahakaleshwar Temple, Charminar, Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assissi, Kalady, Gommateswara, BaidyanathDham, Gaya Tirth and Somnath temple.

§  Phase III includes RaghavendraSwamy Temple (Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh); Hazardwari Palace (Murshidabad, West Bengal); Brahma Sarovar Temple (Kurukshetra, Haryana); VidurKuti (Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh); Mana village (Chamoli, Uttarakhand); Pangong Lake (Leh-Ladakh, J&K); Nagvasuki Temple (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh); ImaKeithal/market (Imphal, Manipur); Sabarimala Temple (Kerala); and Kanvashram (Uttarakhand).

 

About Swachh Iconic Places (SIP):

What is it? Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) is an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission. Initiated as a project to implement Prime Minister’s vision to take iconic places and their surroundings to higher standards of Swachhata, so that all visitors benefit and also take away home the message of cleanliness, Swachh Iconic Places is now in its second phase.

Implementation of the project: SIP is a truly collaborative project with three other central Ministries: Urban Development, Culture, Tourism; all levels in the concerned States and more importantly, Public Sector and Private companies as partners.

 

 

 

Maitri Irrigation Project

 

Context: India has extended a financial aid of about Rs 10 crore to Nepal for the construction of 2,700 shallow tube well irrigation systems to boost agricultural productivity. The assistance has been extended as part of the final payment for the Nepal-Bharat Maitri Irrigation Project.

 

About Maitri irrigation project:

§  The project was launched in January last year to boost growth to the Himalayan nation’s agricultural sector through enhanced facilities.

§  The project is aimed at installing 2,700 shallow tube wells in 12 districts of Nepal.

§  The project would ensure all-season irrigation facility to about 8,115 hectares of farm land, augment productivity of wheat, rice and seasonal fruits, vegetables and other crops, it said.

§  It would also uplift the socio-economic status of farming families in the 12 districts covered under the project.

 

 

EINSTEIN’S THEORY: EARTH IS A FREE-FALLING ELEVATOR:

§  According to Albert Einstein, the earth is a free-falling elevator in Sun’s gravity. He theorised that all objects located in such an elevator would accelerate at the same rate as if they were in a uniform gravitational field or no gravity at all. He also predicted that the properties of these objects relative to each other would remain constant during the elevator’s free-fall.

§  In other words, the general relativity theory carries the principle of local position invariance (LPI), which holds that in a falling elevator, measures of non-gravitational effects are independent of time and place and the test confirmed the same.

 

 

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Viet Nam on Joint issue of postage stamp. Joint Issue depicts Sanchi Stupa of India and Pho Minh Pagoda of Viet Nam.

 

About Sanchi Stupa:

§  When was it built: Commissioned in 3rd century BCE, Expansion/ additions/restoration works/ made in different periods.

§  Who built it: Commissioned by Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty.

§  Where is it located: Located 46 km north-east of Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India.

§  Architectural Style: Buddhist Art and Architecture.

§  Other facts: It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

About Pho Minh Pagoda:

§  The pagoda was originally built during the Ly Dynasty and later expanded in 1262 during the Tran Dynasty.

§  It was a place for high-ranking mandarins and the aristocracy of the Tran Royal Court to worship and lead their religious life.

 

 

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for withdrawal of Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill, 2013 pending in the Rajya Sabha.

 

Background:

The Nalanda University was established on the basis of a Joint Press Statement at the 4th East Asia Summit held in Thailand in October, 2009, which supported its establishment as a non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution. Subsequently, the Nalanda University Act, 2010 was passed by the Parliament and came into effect from 25thNovember 2010.

 

Highlights of Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill, 2013:

§  It establishes Nalanda University in Bihar as a result of decisions taken at the East Asia Summits.

§  Under the Act, the University is a non-profit public-private partnership, supported by each member country as well as other sources. The Bill amends the Act to provide for the Government of India to meet the university’s capital and recurring expenditure to the extent required.

§  The powers of the University are amended to include the power to set up a consortium of international partners to meet the objectives of the University, and appoint persons working in any other University or academic institution, including those located outside India, as faculty of the University.

§  The size of the Governing Board of the University is being increased to include two persons of eminence and two members from the academic faculty of the University. The Bill also makes provision for the appointment of Deans and Provosts.

 

Key facts:

§  Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.

§  The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

§  It was a major Mahavihara or a large Buddhist monastery that also doubled up as an important centre of learning from the 5th to 1200 AD in the erstwhile kingdom of Magadh.

§  The construction of Nalanda university began in 5th century AD and flourished under the Gupta rulers. It came to an end in the 12th century when it was destroyed in 1193 AD by the invading Turkish army led by its commander Bakhtiar Khilji.

§  UNESCO has declared Bihar’s much awaited ancient site – the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara – a World Heritage Site.

 

 

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) for the nomination of the Union Home Minister as ex-officio Chairman of North Eastern Council (NEC). The Cabinet has also approved that Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of DoNER would serve as Vice Chairman of the Council.

Under the new arrangement, Home Minister shall be the Chairman and Minister of DoNER as Vice Chairman, NEC and all the Governors and Chief Ministers of North Eastern States will be Members.

 

Benefits:

§  This would provide a forum for discussing inter-state matters more comprehensively and also consider common approaches to be taken in future.

§  NEC can now also perform the tasks undertaken by the various Zonal Councils to discuss such inter-State issues as drug trafficking, smuggling of arms and ammunition, boundary disputes etc.

§  This repositioning of NEC will help it to become a more effective body for the North Eastern Region. The Council shall, from time to time, review the implementation of the projects/schemes included in the project; recommend effective measures for coordination among the state Governments for these projects etc.

 

About NEC:

§  NEC was established under the North Eastern Council Act, 1971 as an apex level body for securing balanced and coordinated development and facilitating coordination with the States.

§  Subsequent to the Amendment of 2002, NEC has been mandated to function as a regional planning body for the North Eastern Area and while formulating a regional plan for this area, shall give priority to the schemes and projects benefiting two or more states provided that in the case of Sikkim, the Council shall formulate specific projects and schemes for that State.

 

 

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has brought out a new set of regulations to alter the conditions for recruitment and promotion of college and university teachers, so as to make universities more focussed on research and colleges on the teaching-learning process.

 

New norms:

§  Research will no longer be mandatory for college teachers for promotion. However, university promotions will offer weightage to research done. College teachers will be graded on teaching rather than research. College teachers can still do research and earn higher grades for it.

§  Other than research, college teachers can earn grades for other activities too — like social work, helping in adoption of a village, helping students in extra-curricular activities, contributing teaching material to Swayam, the MOOCS platform for online material.

§  College teachers can become professors now. Till now, a college teacher could not rise above the rank of associate professor, the professor post being limited to university departments.

§  To become an assistant professor in a college, the requirement remains the same: Ph.D or NET plus a master’s degree. However, for promotion to the post of associate professor, a Ph.D will be mandatory even at the college level.

§  Indians who had been awarded a doctoral degree from any of the top 500 global universities would be eligible to teach in Indian universities without the requirement of any equivalence certificate or NET as soon as the regulations are notified.

 

University Grants Commission (UGC):

§  The University Grants Commission of India (UGC India) is a statutory body set up in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.

§  It is charged with coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of higher education. It provides recognition to universities in India and disburses funds to such recognized universities and colleges.

 

 

Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis

 

Context: India is hosting the 10th meeting of Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis. India has highest burden of Lymphatic Filariasis and there is need of taking leadership role to Eliminate lymphatic filariasis.

Theme: Celebrating progress towards elimination: Voices from the field on overcoming programme challenges.

 

About Lymphatic Filariasis:

§  LF or commonly known as Elephantiasis is one of the oldest and most debilitating neglected disease, which is currently endemic in 73 countries of the world, including India.

§  LF is a devastating parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes. The parasites are thread-like worms (filariae) that develop in and then damage the human lymphatic system and associated tissues.

§  It is usually contracted in childhood, often before the age of five. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and specialised tissues that are essential to the maintaining the overall fluid balance and health of organs and limbs and importantly are a major component of the body’s immune defence system.

 

Effects:

§  The damage caused by the filaria or adult worms living in the lymphatic system upset this delicate fluid balance and fluid remains in the tissues causing chronic swelling usually of the lower limbs.

§  The disease affects the poorest population in society, particularly those living in areas with poor water, sanitation and hygiene. LF does not kill the affected people, but may cause permanent disfigurement, reduced productivity and social stigma.

 

About GAELF:

It is an alliance of partners from 72 LF endemic national country programmes, NGOs, private sectors, academic and research institutes and international development agencies that assists WHO’s Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.

 

 

NITI Aayog is planning to launch a Composite Water Management Index.

 

Benefits of the Index:

§  The index can be utilised to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.

§  The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.

 

Significance of the index:

§  This index is an attempt to inspire States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water, and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency. It will be a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources.

 

 

Nikkei Asia Prize:

 

Context: Noted social reformer and founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak was recently honored with Japan’s prestigious ‘Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community’. The award was given to him for his significant work in tackling poor hygiene and discrimination.

 

Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community:

§  The Nikkei Asia Prize is an award which recognizes the achievements of people and organizations that have improved the lives of people throughout Asia.

§  The awards were created and presented by Nikkei Inc, one of the largest media corporations in Japan.

§  Launched in 1996, the program honors people in Asia who have made significant contributions in one of the three areas: regional growth; science, technology and innovation; and culture.

§  Former PM Manmohan Singh and Infosys Chairman Narayan Murti are among the few Indians who have won the prize in the past

 

 

Around 20 states have so far signed memoranda of understanding to implement Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission which aims to provide health protection to around 10 crore poor families in the country.

 

Highlights of the scheme:

Coverage: The scheme has the benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme. The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses.

Target: The target beneficiaries of the proposed scheme will be more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on SECC database. Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.

Role of state governments: State Governments will be allowed to expand AB-NHPM both horizontally and vertically. States will be free to choose the modalities for implementation. They can implement through insurance company or directly through Trust/ Society or a mixed model.

Council: For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.

 

Who is eligible?

§  It will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.

§  The different categories in rural area include families having only one room with kucha walls and kucharoof; families having no adult member between age 16 to 59; female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59; disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family; SC/ST households; and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour.

§  Also, automatically included families in rural areas having any one of the following: households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme.

 

Implementation Strategy:

At the national level to manage, an Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Agency (AB-NHPMA) would be put in place. States/ UTs would be advised to implement the scheme by a dedicated entity called State Health Agency (SHA). They can either use an existing Trust/ Society/ Not for Profit Company/ State Nodal Agency (SNA) or set up a new entity to implement the scheme. States/ UTs can decide to implement the scheme through an insurance company or directly through the Trust/ Society or use an integrated model.

 

Benefits of the scheme:

This will lead to increased access to quality health and medication. In addition, the unmet needs of the population which remained hidden due to lack of financial resources will be catered to. This will lead to timely treatments, improvements in health outcomes, patient satisfaction, improvement in productivity and efficiency, job creation thus leading to improvement in quality of life.

 

Way ahead:

The scheme, if implemented properly could be a game changer by enhancing access to health care including early detection and treatment services by a large section of society who otherwise could not afford them. The identification of beneficiaries can be done by linking with Aadhar and similarly following up for services received and health outcomes achieved, thereby helping to monitor and evaluate the impact of the programme.

Ultimately, the scheme could help country move towards universal health coverage and equitable access to healthcare which is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

 

 

 

 According to a new UNICEF analysis, India is among almost 90 countries in the world without national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies.

 

Highlights of the report:

§  Almost two-thirds of the world’s children under one-year-old, nearly 90 million, live in countries where their fathers are not entitled by law to a single day of paid paternity leave.

§  India and Nigeria, which have high infant populations, are among the 92 countries do not have national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies.

§  In eight countries across the world, including the United States which is home to nearly four million infants, there was no paid maternity or paternity leave policy.

§  Other countries with high infant populations, including Brazil and Congo, all have national paid paternity leave policies, albeit offering relatively short-term entitlements.

 

Need for paternity leave:

§  Evidence suggests that when fathers bond with their babies from the beginning of life, they are more likely to play a more active role in the child’s development. Research also suggests that when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term.

§  Also, positive and meaningful interaction with mothers and fathers from the very beginning helps shape children’s brain growth and development for life, making them healthier and happier, and increasing their ability to learn.

 

 

 

 Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array has uncovered convincing evidence for three young planets orbiting within a protoplanetary disk – or planet-forming disk – around an infant star. The star is called HD 163296. It’s 330 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

 

About ALMA telescope:

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

§  ALMA -the largest astronomical project in existence- is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.

§  ALMA allows scientists to unravel longstanding and important astronomical mysteries, in search of our Cosmic Origins.

 

 

The government recently launched Swajal schemes in 115 aspirational districts of the country. It will involve an outlay of Rs 700 crores through flexible-funds under the existing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) budget.

 

What is Swajal?

§  Swajal is a community owned drinking water programme for sustained drinking water supply.

§  Under the scheme, 90% of the project cost will be taken care by the Government and the remaining 10% of the project cost will be contributed by the community. The Operations and management of the project will be taken care by the local villagers.

 

About NRDWP:

The NRDWP was started in 2009, with a major emphasis on ensuring sustainability (source) of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity. NRDWP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with 50: 50 fund sharing between the Centre and the States.

 

 

Mt Deotibba:

An all women Naval mountaineering team recently summited Mount Deotibba.

About Mt Deotibba: Mt Deotibba is the second highest peak (6001M) in the Pir-Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh.

 

 

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