Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 20, 2017


General Studies-II
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Ministry, NITI Aayog moot privatisation of select services in district hospitals

The Health Ministry and the NITI Aayog have developed a framework to let private hospitals run select services within district hospitals, on a 30-year lease. The government will be allowing a single private partner or a single consortium of private partners to bid for space in district level hospitals, especially in tier 2 & 3 cities.

Under this Public Private Partnership (PPP), care for only three non-communicable diseases — cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, and cancer care — will be provided.

According to the draft model contract, private hospitals will bid for 30-year leases over portions of district hospital buildings to set up 50- or 100-bed hospitals in smaller towns across the country. The State governments could lease up to five or six district hospitals within the State. Further, the State governments will give Viability Gap Funding (VGF), or one-time seed money, to private players to set up infrastructure within district hospitals. The private parties and State health departments will share ambulance services, blood banks, and mortuary services.

Concerns:
Under ‘principles’ of the financial structure, the document states that there will be no reserved beds or no quota of beds for free services in these facilities.

Only Below Poverty Line (BPL) patients and those in insurance schemes will be able to access free care. This would effectively exclude hundreds of millions of the Indian population from vital hospital services.

If implemented, these proposals could threaten to take India away from Universal Health Coverage, a key sustainable development goal, rather than towards it.


Cabinet approves IRDAI’s admission as a signatory to IAIS, MMoU

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for IRDAI’s admission as a signatory to International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MMoU).

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors is a global framework for cooperation and information exchange between insurance supervisors. International Association of Insurance Supervisors, Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding is a statement of its signatories’ intent to cooperate in the Field of information exchange as well as procedure for handling information requests. With increasing integration of financial market and growing number of internationally active insurance companies there is an increased need for mutual cooperation and information exchange between insurance industry supervisors. In this background the IRDAI had become a signatory member of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding. In the absence of any bilateral agreements the IAIS, MMoU provides a formal basis for cooperation and information exchange between the Signatory Authorities regarding the supervision of insurance companies where cross-border aspects arise. The scope of the IAIS MMoU is wider than the existing agreements as this agreement also provides for supervision of other regulated entities such as insurance intermediaries under Anti Money Laundering, (AML) and Combating the Finance of Terrorism (CFT).

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI)

In 1999, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) was constituted as an autonomous body to regulate and develop the insurance industry. The IRDA was incorporated as a statutory body in April, 2000. The key objectives of the IRDA include promotion of competition so as to enhance customer satisfaction through increased consumer choice and lower premiums, while ensuring the financial security of the insurance market.


Indian diaspora
Cabinet approves revision of Indian Community Welfare Fund guidelines

The Union Cabinet has approved revision of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) guidelines.

ICWF, set up in 2009, is aimed at assisting Overseas Indian nationals in times of distress and emergency in the most deserving cases on a means tested basis. The revised guidelines being made broad-based seek to expand the scope of welfare measures that can be extended through the Fund. The guidelines would cover three key areas namely:

Assisting Overseas Indian nationals in distress situations;
Community Welfare activities; and
Improvement in Consular services

They are expected to provide Indian Missions and Posts abroad greater flexibility in swiftly addressing to requests for assistance by Overseas Indian nationals.

Apart from assisting Indian nationals in distress abroad, ICWF has been a critical support in emergency evacuation of Indian nationals in conflict zones in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and other challenging situations like assistance extended to undocumented Indian workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Nitaqat drive in 2013 and the ongoing Amnesty drive in 2017.

The scale and speed of these evacuations and assistance rendered through the Fund has been universally appreciated. It has also created a sense of confidence among the migrant workers going overseas about the support they can expect from India during critical times. ICWF stands extended to all Indian Missions and Posts abroad and is primarily funded by levying service charge on various consular services rendered by Indian Missions and Posts abroad.


Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India
Cabinet approves MOC in respect of tax matters between India and BRICS countries

The Union Cabinet has given the approval for the signing of Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) in respect of tax matters between India and the Revenue administrations of BRICS countries namely, Brazil, Russian Federation, China and South Africa

The MoC aims to further promote cooperation amongst the BRICS Revenue administrations in international forum on common areas of interest in tax matters and in the area of capacity building and knowledge sharing. It envisages regular interaction amongst the heads of Revenue administration of BRICS countries to continue discussion on common areas of interest and strive towards convergence of views and meeting of the Experts on tax matters to discuss the contemporary issues in areas of international tax. In addition, the MoC accords confidentiality and protection to information exchanged under this MoC.

The MoC will stimulate effective cooperation in tax matters. The collective stand of BRICS countries can prove to be beneficial not only to these countries but also to other developing countries in the long run in tax matters being steered by the G20.


India and its neighbourhood- relations
Pant-Mirza Agreement

Visits by nationals of India and Pakistan to mutually agreed list of religious shrines in each other’s country are facilitated under the ‘Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines’ signed in September 1974. This includes visits to shrines of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti (Ajmer), Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (Delhi), Hazrat Amir Khusro (Delhi), Hazrat Mujaddid Alf Sani (Sirhind Sharif) and Hazrat Khwaja Alauddin Ali Ahmed Sabir (Kalyar Sharif) in India and Shadani Darbar (Hyat Pitafi), Shri Katasraj Dham (Lahore), Gurudwaras of Shri Nankana Sahib (Rawalpindi), Shri Panja Sahib (Rawalpindi) and Shri Dera Sahib (Lahore) in Pakistan.

Under the Protocol it is the obligation of the concerned country to make every effort to ensure that the places of worship in the agreed list of shrines under the Protocol are properly maintained and their sanctity preserved.


International relations
Diplomatic Missions in Small Countries

The Government of India is expanding ties with small countries and island nations based on its assessment of various relevant factors. The opening of more Missions in such states is under active consideration.

The countries where India does not have resident Mission are: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Gabon, Gambia (Islamic Republic of the), Georgia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated State of), Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Swaziland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, The Holy See, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uruguay and Vanuatu. All these countries are covered by concurrent accreditation.

Since 2007, 23 countries have opened new Embassies in India. These are Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Latvia, Lithuania, Guatemala, Bolivia, Estonia, Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Niger, Togo, Costa Rica, Burundi, Macedonia, Benin, Guinea, Malawi, Malta, Iceland, Botswana, Papua & New Guinea, Bahrain and Georgia. Of these, India does not have resident Mission in Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Latvia, Lithuania, Bolivia, Estonia, Republic of Congo, Togo, Costa Rica, Burundi, Benin, Macedonia and Georgia. Proposal to open new resident diplomatic Missions on reciprocal basis in countries which have resident diplomatic Missions in India is currently under contemplation.



General Studies-III
Infrastructure
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) came into existence on 27th October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation. The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of IWT infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping. The head office of the Authority is at Noida. The Authority also has its regional offices at Patna, Kolkata, Guwahati and Kochi and sub-offices at Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhaglapur, Farakka, Hemnagar, Dibrugarh (Assam), Kollam, Bhubaneswar (Odisa) and Vijaywada (A.P.)

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. About 55 million tones of cargo is being moved annually by Inland Water Transport (IWT), a fuel – efficient and environment -friendly mode. Its operations are currently restricted to a few stretches in the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly rivers , the Brahmaputra, the Barak river, the rivers in Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, inland waters in Mumbai and the deltaic regions of the Godavari – Krishna rivers. Besides these organized operations by mechanized vessels, country boats of various capacities also operate in various rivers and canals. and substantial quantum of cargo and passengers are transported in this unorganized sector as well.


East Coast Economic Corridor (ECEC)

The East Coast Economic Corridor (ECEC) is India’s first coastal economic corridor along its eastern coast, stretching about 2,500 kilometers from Kolkata in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. ECEC’s long coastline and strategically located ports allow multiple international gateways to connect India with global value chains (GVCs) in East and Southeast Asia. While India’s trade with East and Southeast Asia has increased at a rapid pace in the past decade, the bulk of this trade is done through the ports on the country’s west coast. This is largely due to lack of efficient transport networks linking the production clusters in northern and central India to ports on the east coast, and insufficient container capacities at the ports.

ECEC supports the Government of India’s (GoI) Make in India campaign, which aims to boost manufacturing through foreign direct investment. ECEC also aligns with port-led industrialization under the Sagarmala initiative and the Act East Policy by linking domestic companies with the vibrant global production networks of East and Southeast Asia. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supports analytical work for the ECEC to determine the kind of industries, infrastructures, and institutional investments necessary to drive manufacturing-led growth in consultation with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), GoI.


Rail Development Authority

Government has approved formation of a Rail Development Authority (RDA) comprising Chairman and three Members. The objective underlying RDA is to get expert advice/make informed decision on :

(i) Pricing of services commensurate with costs.

(ii) Suggest measures for enhancement of Non Fare Revenue.

(iii) Protection of consumer interests, by ensuring quality of service and cost optimization.

(iv) Promoting competition, efficiency and economy.

(v) Encouraging market development and participation of stakeholders in the rail sector and for ensuring a fair deal to the stakeholders and customers.

(vi) Creating positive environment for investment.

(vii) Promoting efficient allocation of resources in the Sector.

(viii) Benchmarking of service standards against international norms and specify and enforce standards with respect to the quality, continuity and reliability of services provided by them.

(ix) Providing framework for non-discriminatory open access to the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) infrastructure and others in future.

(x) Suggesting measures to absorb new technologies for achieving desired efficiency and performance standards.

(xi) Suggesting measures for human resource development to achieve any of its stated objectives.


Marketing of agricultural produce
North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited (NERAMAC)

NERAMAC was set up to support farmers/producers of north east getting remunerative prices for their produce and thereby bridge the gap between the farmers and the market and also to enhance the agricultural, procurement, processing and marketing infrastructure of the Northeastern Region of India.

Presently it is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Government of India, New Delhi, with its registered office at 9 Rajbari path, Ganeshguri, Guwahati.

To fulfill its prime objectives, NERAMAC is offering helping hand in sourcing and procuring cash crops of the producers by intervening in the market and provide them remunerative prices. It also helps processing units by providing raw materials and arranging packaging materials. NERAMAC has a few retail outlets within the North East region which directly sell various processed and value added products produced locally in the region.

Objectives of NERAMAC

To undertake development and marketing of horticultural products within and outside the north eastern region and the supply of inputs, tools, equipment etc. required for the development of horticulture and agro-based industries whether own or run by the Government, statutory body, company, firm, co-operative or individual.

To undertake, establish, acquire, purchase, sell and manage the projects for the development of horticultural products such as establishment of nurseries and commercial orchards, seed stations etc. and function as agent for the distribution of seeds, plants, processed food and other such products connected with the development of horticultural products.

To manage, promote, aid and expedite the export of raw and finished horticultural produce and equipment and also to import raw and finished horticultural produce and equipment in furtherance of the company’s business.


Disaster and disaster management
Seismic Zones

Earthquake-prone areas of the country have been identified on the basis of scientific inputs relating to seismicity, earthquakes occurred in the past and tectonic setup of the region. Based on these inputs, Bureau of Indian Standards, has grouped the country into four seismic zones, viz. Zone II, III, IV and V. Of these, Zone V is seismically the most active region, while zone II is the least.

Zone – V comprises entire northeastern India, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, part of North Bihar and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Zone – IV covers remaining parts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, Sikkim, Northern Parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, parts of Gujarat and small portions of Maharashtra near the west coast and Rajasthan.

Zone – III comprises Kerala, Goa, Lakshadweep islands, remaining parts of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, Parts of Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka.

Zone – II covers remaining parts of country.


Food processing and related industries in India
Radiation Processing Technology

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing a scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure with the objective of preventing post-harvest losses of horticultural & non-horticultural produce. One of the components of the Cold Chain scheme is the setting up of Irradiation facilities for preservation of the food products including onion, potato etc.

Irradiated food is regulated in the country in accordance with the Atomic Energy (Radiation Processing of Food & Allied Products) Rules 2012 and Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. Food can be irradiated only in a food irradiation plant, which is authorized by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and licensed by the competent Government Authority. The license to carry out food irradiation operation is given only after ascertaining the safety and security of the installation, its suitability to ensure proper process control, and availability of licensed operators and qualified staff. Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT) is providing consultancy services for establishment of food irradiation plant. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is also regulating the food safety aspects of irradiated food products under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2016 and its Regulations there under.


Promotion of Food Processing Industries

Government has approved a new Central Sector Scheme-KISAN SAMPADA YOJANA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) with an outlay of Rs. 6,000 crore for the period 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle to promote food processing in the country.

KISAN SAMPADA YOJANA is an umbrella scheme with the following components:

Mega Food Parks
Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure
Creation / Expansion of Food Processing& Preservation Capacities
Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters
Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure
Human Resources and Institutions

The schemes being implemented under the KISAN SAMAPADA YOJANA are applicable throughout the country and these are not state specific. The schemes are private sector driven and provide freedom to the entrepreneurs to choose the project location based on availability of raw material, techno-economic feasibility and viability of the project.

The govt. has taken several other steps to promote food processing sector in the country. A Special Fund of Rs. 2000 Crore has been setup in NABARD to make available affordable credit to designated food parks and agro-processing units in such designated food parks. Food and agro-based processing units and cold chain infrastructure have been classified under agriculture activities for Priority Sector Lending (PSL) as per the revised RBI Guidelines issued on 23rd April,2015.

As per extant policy, Foreign Direct Investment FDI upto 100%, under the automatic route is allowed in food processing industries. Further, 100% FDI is now permitted under Government approval route for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and/or produced in India.

Ministry of Food Processing Industries has entered into agreements/Memorandum of Understating (MoUs) with France and Italy for bilateral co-operation in the field of Food Processing Sector.


Technology missions
Biotech Kisan programme:

Under the programme, the following eight Biotech Kisan hub’s in seven agro climatic zones are being funded:
· Agro-climatic Zone I: Western Himalayan Region
· Agro Climatic Zone II: Eastern Himalayan Region
· Agro-climatic Zone VI: Trans Gangatic Plains Region
· Agro-climatic Zone VIII: Central Plateau & Hills Region
· Agro-climatic Zone X: Southern Plateau & Hills Region
· Agro-climatic Zone XI: East Coast Plains & Hills Region
· Agro-climatic Zone III: Lower Gangetic Plain

These Biotech Kisan hub’s will understand problems of farmers related to water, soil, seed and marketing and provide solutions with validated technologies. The programme is expected to create strong scientists-farmers interactive platform. Under the programme thematic farmer fellowship as well as fellowships to women farmers (Mahila Kisan Biotech Fellowship) will be awarded. The programme will benefit nearly one lakh twenty thousand farmers.

Cattle Genomics programme:

Programme is currently in research mode. The main objective is to predict breeding values of animal, using DNA level information with performance record, more accurately and identify genetic worth of animal (elite animal) at an early age. The ability to select elite breeding animal at an early age will help in enhancing productivity at farmer’s level in future.


Awareness in the fields of IT, Computers
India hit by 34 ransomware attacks

A total of 34 incidents of infections from the two global ransomware attacks, WannaCry and Petya, were reported to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) by organisations and individuals.

WannaCry and Petya infected thousands of computers worldwide in May and June, respectively. The attackers in both cases had sought about $300 in bitcoin as ransom. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users’ access to affected files by encrypting them until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

As per the information reported to and tracked by CERT-In, a total of 44,679, 49,455, 50,362 and 27,482 cyber security incidents were observed during the years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (till June), respectively. These included phishing, scanning/probing, website intrusions and defacements, virus/malicious code, ransomware, and denial of service attacks.


 

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