Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 25, 2017

General Studies-I
Indian Heritage and Culture
Exhibition “Traditional Head Gear of India” Begins in National Museum

An exhibition entitled “Traditional Head Gear of India” organised by the National Museum in National Museum Complex, Janpath, New Delhi was inaugurated. This small exhibition is arranged to showcase printed turban, embroidered dopalli and Maratha stitched cap and zardozi cap.  Pagdi, pag, turban, topi, cap, headgear are the part of daily men’s attire, sometimes women too, along with Indian traditional wear. These were specially designed for occasional and ceremonial bases.

Headgears signify the social, religious and economical status of a user in the society. From muslin, cotton, silk and wool, variety of materials have been used for most ornamental and intricately decorated headgears and later on jewels were also added to ornate it. Each phase of Indian history show some distinct or peculiar style of wearing pag for example; Maurya-Sunga period evidences show the tying of pag in two stages, top-knot for covering the hair bun and then covers the head.

During the medieval period also we witnessed the interesting types of headgear such as; Akbar’s ‘atpati turban’, was famous which was like a loosely worn, carefree style turban. It is believed that Shah Jahan introduced the ‘turban band’, which was tied above the band to secure the turban. It is believed that Aurangzeb use to make his own cap. The last Mughal ruler Bahadurshah Zafar’s ‘Chugani’ or ‘Chaugoshia’ cap has four raised points. Around late 19th and early 20th century ‘do-palli’ or ‘round cap’ or ‘topi’ in the northern region became very popular for daily as well as occasional uses. The ‘do-palli’, means two layered cap, which were stitched from one side and worn on the head, while the ‘topi’ remains circular and covers the entire head, which often been known as skull cap. Nizam’s in Hyderabad (South-India) introduced in ‘dastar’ which was the neatly arranged turban, looks like a stitched cap. During his period as per the status of minister the colour of dastar was decided especially for courtly attire. Famous Maratha’s turban and Rajput turbans had their distinct feature for fabric, colour, design and ornamentation. They introduced the stitched headgear with full head covering, little fabric hanging at the back and the third is hangings, which use to be pearls to semi-precious stones and glass beads.

Spreading of Indian Culture 

The Indian culture has manifested in various realms across Asia and beyond. Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to disseminate Indian Culture across the world which inter alia includes signing of multilateral and bilateral agreements on cultural relations, promotion of Indian culture through Festival of India in foreign countries, providing assistance to Indo Foreign Friendship Cultural Societies in foreign countries for cultural activities. Various activities taken up in the financial year 2016-17 include holding of Festival of India in 18 countries, sanction of an amount of Rs 11.56 crores to Indo-Foreign Friendship Cultural Societies in foreign countries, Signing of Agreements on bilateral cultural relations with 7 countries etc.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations which is also mandated to foster and strengthen cultural relations with other countries has sponsored 166 groups from India during the last one year to 88 countries. They have established 37 Indian Cultural Centres in various countries to promote Indian Culture abroad.

Yoga in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage 

Yoga was inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the 11th session of Intergovernmental Committee held from 28th November to 02nd December, 2016 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The inclusion of Yoga on the UNESCO’s Representative List will contribute to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general and raise awareness of its importance at the local, national and international levels as its practice is universal and widespread cutting across community, class, income, gender, faith and age. Additionally, Yoga’s inscription on the Representative List will promote respect for cultural diversity and human creativity as it will create a commonality and a bond between and across practitioners, transmitters and the diverse communities and individuals that follow the practice.

Promotion of Traditional Art and Folk Art 

To protect, preserve & promote various forms of traditional art and folk art throughout the country, the Government of India has set up seven Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) with headquarters at Patiala, Nagpur, Udaipur, Allahabad, Kolkata, Dimapur and Thanjavur.

To develop traditional art across the country including the State of Andhra Pradesh, these ZCCs are implementing a number of schemes viz. Award to Young Talented Artistes, Guru Shishya Parampara Scheme, Theatre Rejuvenation Scheme, Research & Documentation Scheme, Shilpgram Scheme, Octave and J&K Festivals and National Cultural Exchange Programme (NCEP).

No State/UT-wise funds are provided for promotion of traditional art and folk art. However, annual grant-in-aid is provided to all these 7 ZCCs by Government of India for carrying out various cultural activities throughout the country for this purpose.

Project Mausam 

Project ‘Mausam’ is the initiative of Ministry of Culture to be implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the nodal agency with research support of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and National Museum as associate bodies. This project aims to explore the multi-faceted Indian Ocean ‘world’–collating archaeological and historical research in order to document the diversity of cultural, commercial and religious interactions in the Indian Ocean. It also aims to promote research on themes related to the study of Maritime Routes. Main objective of the project is to inscribe places and sites identified under Project Mausam as trans-national nomination for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The project was launched in June, 2014 during 38th session of the World Heritage Committee.

List of Indian Ocean countries identified under Project Mausam are:
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Réunion Island (French Department), Indonesia, Iraq, Iran (Islamic Republic), Jordan, Kuwait, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, United Republic of Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Yemen.

Protection of Dialects

The Government of India has initiated a Scheme known as “Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India’ (SPPEL), being implemented by Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore. This scheme aims at protection, preservation and documentation of all the mother tongues/languages of India which are spoken by less than 10,000 people. Dialects being part of a language are covered under this programme. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has a Scheme for “Establishment of Centres for Endangered Languages” under which centres were approved in respect of nine Central Universities. Further the UGC has been implementing a scheme namely ‘Funding support to the State Universities for study and research in indigenous and endangered language in India’’ under which seven Universities were approved for grants. In addition, a collaborative project between Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda and BHASA, a Non Governmental Organisation working for Promotion and Preservation of Indigenous and Endangered languages was approved by UGC.

Changes in critical geographical features
Rise in Average Temperatures

Average Temperature during last ten years (2007 to 2016) was 26.10 C. Rise in the average temperature was 0.51 C during this period. Spatial pattern of trend in mean annual temperature anomalies, for the period 1902-2012, suggests significant positive (increasing) trend (0.5 C in general with few pockets of 1.0 C) over most parts of the country except some parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bihar, where significant negative (decreasing) trend was observed.
The latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (2014) highlights that mean surface temperature of the globe has risen by 0.85 C + 0.18 C. However, all India mean temperature has risen around 0.64 C over the last 110 years.

Following steps have been undertaken in the area of Climate Change:
i) Launched a high-priority Programme to address the Science issues of Global and Regional Climate Change (GRCC) with a well-equipped state-of-the-art Center for Climate Change Research (CCCR) at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune for interdisciplinary research and training in the area of science of climate change.
Development of Earth System Model (ESM) has been taken up for generating future climate change scenarios. Currently, CCCR is leading “Co-ordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX)” for the South Asian region under the aegis of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The CORDEX program provides an important framework for a co-ordinated set of downscaled regional climate simulations for both the historical past and future decades. Training workshops are also conducted for end-users, stakeholders in the South Asian region.
ii) The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) released in 2008 by Government of India. Outlines eight missions in specific areas of Solar Energy, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic knowledge for Climate Change. Eight National Missions form the core of the National Action Plan, representing multipronged, long term and integrated strategies for achieving key goals in the context of climate change.

Rise in Global Sea Levels 

According to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that global mean sea level had risen by 0.19m over the period 1901-2010 with a rate of global averaged sea level rise of 1.7 mm/year between 1901 and 2010 within which an accelerated rate of 3.2 mm/year was noticed between 1993 and 2010. The estimates made for the period 1993-2010, using the remote sensing satellite data and in-situ measurements of tide gauges, are found to be 3.2 ± 0.5 mm/year and 2.8 ± 0.8 mm/year, respectively. Recent studies by Indian Scientists reveal that the trend of sea level rise in the north Indian Ocean is slightly higher than the global estimate of 3.2 mm per year.
The possibility of sea level rise in the next ten years is about 3.2 cm in the north Indian Ocean, if the sea level acceleration remains similar to 3.2 mm per year.
A number of studies have been undertaken using remote sensing techniques in the past for assessment of the shoreline changes; mapping and delineation of entire coastal wetlands including beach vegetation, bio-shields, sea grass, opening of lagoons in certain cases and small islands etc. including their regeneration/preservation. The Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management (ICMAM), Directorate of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has carried out mapping and demarcating of multi-hazard coastal vulnerability for the entire coast of India. The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has been implementing an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan for India instead of uniform Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) framework. Accordingly, the Central Government has issued CRZ-2011 notification with a view to ensure livelihood security to the fisher communities and other local communities, living in the coastal areas, to conserve and protect coastal stretches, its unique environment and its marine area and to promote development through sustainable manner based on scientific principles taking into account the dangers of natural hazards in the coastal areas, sea level rise due to global warming.
As a part of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, the MoEFCC has been implementing the four components, namely,

(i) National Coastal Management Programme;

(ii) ICZM-West Bengal;

(iii) ICZM-Orissa;

(iv) ICZM-Gujarat.

The national component includes

(a) Demarcation of hazard line for mapping the entire coastline of the mainland of the country;

(b) establishment of a National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in Chennai with its regional centres in each of the coastal States/Union territories to promote research and development in the area of coastal management including addressing issues of coastal communities.

India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlines a strategy that aims to enable the country adapt to climate change and enhances the ecological sustainability of our development path. Appropriate protection measures arising out of the coastal erosion are addressed jointly by respective state governments and the Coastal Protection and Development Advisory Committee (CPDAC) of the Central Water Commission.

General Studies-II
Development in various sectors: Tourism
Beach Tourism Zones

The Ministry of Tourism has launched Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 2014-15 for integrated development of Theme-Based tourist Circuits in the country. Coastal Circuit which includes inter-alia beach destinations has been identified as one of thirteen thematic circuits for development under this scheme. The Ministry of Tourism promotes India as a holistic destination as part of its on-going activities by releasing advertising campaigns in various media under the Incredible India brand-line, through its website, production of publicity and promotional material and through promotional activities undertaken by the overseas India
Cleanliness and maintenance of beaches is the responsibility of the respective State Governments/ UT administrations. However, Ministry extends Central Financial Assistance under the Swadesh Darshan scheme for Beach Cleaning Equipment as one of the admissible components to promote cleanliness of beaches

Ramayana and Krishna Circuits 

Ramayana Circuit and Krishna Circuit are among the thirteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

The Ministry of Tourism has initially identified fifteen destinations for development under the Ramayana Circuit theme namely Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringverpur & Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh), Sitamarhi, Buxar & Darbhanga (Bihar), Chitrakoot (Madhya Pradesh), Mahendragiri (Odisha), Jagdalpur (Chattisgarh), Nashik & Nagpur (Maharashtra), Bhadrachalam (Telangana), Hampi (Karnataka) and Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu).

Similarly, twelve destinations have been identified for development under Krishna circuit namely Dwarka (Gujarat), Nathdwara, Jaipur & Sikar (Rajasthan), Kurukshetra (Haryana), Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon & Govardhan (Uttar Pradesh) and Puri (Odisha).

Swadesh Darshan scheme and PRASAD Scheme

Under the scheme ‘Swadesh Darshan’ and ‘PRASAD’, the Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations, for various tourism projects.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme: 
Under this scheme, 13 thematic circuits have been identified for development, namely North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.

Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) Scheme:
This scheme focusses on development and beautification of the identified pilgrimage destinations. Under this scheme, 13 cities namely Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Dwarka, Gaya, Kamakhaya, Kancheepuram, Kedarnath, Mathura, Patna, Puri, Varanasi and Velankanni have been identified for development.

General Studies-III
Marketing of agricultural produce
Spices Exports

The spices exports from the country have touched an all-time high during 2016-17. The export of spices & spice products from the country for the last 3 years is given below:

2014-15 – 893920 Tons – Rs.14900 crore

2015-16 – 843255 Tons – Rs.16238 crore

2016-17 – 947790 Tons – Rs.17665 crore

No targets are fixed by the government for export of spices as the production and export of spices are dependent upon various factors such as climatic conditions, market forces, domestic and international demand, etc.

Spices Board is implementing the “Export Oriented Production, Export Development & Promotion of Spices” Scheme wherein assistance is provided to cultivators of cardamom for production of quality planting materials, replanting of old and uneconomic gardens, new planting, irrigation development programme, improved curing facilities, farm mechanization, etc. for boosting production.

In addition, Spices Board implements several programmes for spices farmers which, inter alia, include development of infrastructure for common processing facilities in Spice Parks, adaptation of upgraded technology in spice processing, setting up of quality evaluation labs for sampling and testing of the export consignments for meeting quality specifications of consuming countries, assistance to farmers on post-harvest quality improvement, imparting training to farmers in Good Agricultural Practices etc.

Science & Technology; Space
Setting up of a High Altitude Cloud Observatory Near Munnar, Kerala

A high altitude cloud physics observatory has been established at Munnar (Kerala), in Western Ghats, the region which is gateway for the monsoon of India.
High altitude cloud physics observatory at Munnar is used to observe cloud and rain processes over that region with state of the art observations. Such facility will enable understanding of rainfall distribution and will allow better characterization of rainfall processes in the numerical models used for prediction of monsoon rainfall.
It is expected that long term monitoring of cloud and rainfall processes will enable for accurate representation of cloud micro-physical process in forecast models to improve over all skill of rainfall prediction for severe weather phenomena viz, heavy rainfall, thunderstorm etc., not only over Kerala but for the whole country.
High altitude cloud physics laboratories are functional at Mahabaleshwar (Konkan) and Munnar (Kerala) to study the monsoon cloud microphysics process modulated by the Western Ghats only and hence no such additional facility are contemplated.
Studies were undertaken in four climate sensitive regions of the country, viz. Himalayan Region, Western Ghats, North Eastern Region, Coastal Areas to assess the possible impacts on the four sectors viz. agriculture, water, forests and health and associated ecosystem. A Report entitled, Climate Change & India: A 4X4 Assessment – A Sectoral and Regional Assessment of Impact of Climate Change in 2030s, has been released by the Government during November, 2010 under the aegis of the Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (INCCA).

Outer Space Treaty – 50 years

The Outer Space Treaty, which laid the foundation for an international space law, came into force in October 1967, following a feverish, decade-long space race between the Cold War rivals, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
Formulated to bar its signatory countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit of the Earth, on the Moon or any other celestial body or the outer space, the treaty aimed to get the countries to use space exploration for peaceful purposes.
The space race itself is an important segment in the history of mankind, one that intensified the Cold War rivalry as a fight for supremacy in space became a matter of pride for both the countries. The race resulted in the setting of new benchmarks by the superpowers in the late 1950s and 1960s. There were many ‘firsts’ that came up during this period, like the successful test of the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in 1957, the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite (Sputnik 1) in 1957 and the first successful orbiting of earth by an animal (Laika, sent by Sputnik 2) in 1957. NASA, which became operational in 1958, was a partly a product of this rivalry.
The space race left a wider impact in the field of technology, spawning pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites and unmanned space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human space flight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.
The two countries’ zeal to outperform each other quite beneficial to the progress of science in general, despite the work cultures of the space organisations being poles apart. However, the space programmes of both the superpowers were not just for civilian purposes; they were as much about military supremacy. The idea was to battle through display of power without having to fight an actual war. At this point, the United Nations had to step in, in order to ensure that outer space didn’t become a battleground for these superpowers, and the Outer Space Treaty was born.
The space race didn’t have an end date, and, in many ways, it still continues. But the ‘space rivalry’ definitely ended to an extent in 1975, with the Apollo-Soyuz Joint Test mission through which three U.S. astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts became part of the first joint space flight.
The space race left a legacy in the field of space research worldwide. As the pioneers of space missions, both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. helped their allies build their own individual space missions by training their scientists and engineers; transferring technology to them; and allowing their researchers to come to their space laboratories to learn and improve on their existing knowledge and skills.

First meeting of Islands Development Agency (IDA) 

The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh chaired the first meeting of the newly constituted Islands Development Agency (IDA). The IDA was set up on June 01, 2017 following the Prime Minister’s review meeting for the development of islands.
The Union Home Minister presented the vision for developing India’s maritime economy while preserving the natural eco-system and addressing the security concerns. He emphasized upon the need for sustainable development of Islands with people’s participation.
The CEO, NITI Aayog made a detailed presentation on the current status and the way forward for holistic development of identified islands. He informed that Concept Development Plans and Detailed Master Plans are being prepared for identified islands with principles of sustainability, people’s participation, eco-system preservation and determination of carrying capacity as the guiding principles. Such an exercise is being taken up for the first time in the country.
Admiral D.K. Joshi, former Navy Chief and Vice Chairman of IDA suggested taking up suitable interventions for sustainable implementation of planned projects.
During the meeting, the progress being made for the formulation of integrated master plans and other matters concerning the islands development were reviewed. It was also decided that Lt. Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Administrator of Lakshadweep Islands will be included as members of IDA.
After detailed consultations with key stakeholders, 10 islands namely Smith, Ross, Aves, Long and Little Andaman in Andaman & Nicobar and Minicoy, Bangaram, Suheli, Cherium and Tinnakara in Lakshadweep have been identified for holistic development in the first phase.  With this meeting, the efforts for holistic development of Islands of India received a major boost.
Other Members of the IDA including Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Secretary (Environment, Forests and Climate Change), Secretary (Tourism) and Secretary (Tribal Welfare) also participated in the meeting.

Human Resources
Rationalisation of Labour Laws

The Second National Commission on Labour has recommended that the existing Labour Laws should be broadly grouped into four or five Labour Codes on functional basis. Accordingly, the Ministry has taken steps for drafting four Labour Codes on Wages; Industrial Relations; Social Security & Welfare; and Safety and Working Conditions respectively, by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalizing the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws. The draft codes are at pre-legislative consultation process. These legislative initiatives will improve the wage security, job security and social security of the workers.
The Ministry is implementing the National Career Service (NCS) Project as a Mission Mode Project for transformation of the National Employment Service to provide a variety of employment related services. The NCS is an online Portal ( for providing employment services like registration of candidates and employers, posting of vacancies, job matching etc. The NCS presently has over 3.86 Cr job seekers and 14.8 lakh employers on the Portal.

ILO Fundamental Conventions 

India has ratified six out of the eight core/fundamental International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. These are the

  1. Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29),
  2. Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105),
  3. Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100),
  4. Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111),
  5. Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).

India has not ratified the core/fundamental Conventions, namely

  1. Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and
  2. Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

The main reason for non-ratification of ILO Conventions No.87 & 98 is due to certain restrictions imposed on the Government servants. As communicated by Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT), the ratification of these conventions would involve granting of certain rights that are prohibited under the statutory rules, for the Government employees, namely, to strike work, to openly criticize Government policies, to freely accept financial contribution, to freely join foreign organizations etc.
In India we ratify an ILO Convention only when the national laws are brought fully into conformity with the provisions of the Convention in question.
Government of India has been taking various pro-active steps to examine the prospects of ratifying Conventions No. 87 & 98, including holding regular discussions on the issue with the stakeholders. The matter has also been widely discussed in the meetings of the Tripartite Committee on Conventions (COC). A meeting under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Labour & Employment) is scheduled on 09.08.2017 along DOPT and ILO to further look into the matter, including international practices. Ratification of ILO Convention is a voluntary process and no time frame has been agreed for the same.

Global Conventions on Child Labour 

After the enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, Government has recently ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 138 concerning minimum age for employment and No. 182 concerning prohibition and elimination of worst forms of child labour.

Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 stipulate to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms. In order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal with respect to eradication of child labour, Government has already strengthened the legislative framework by completely prohibiting child labour upto 14 years in all forms and prohibiting employment or work of adolescent in hazardous occupations & processes. Subsequently the ratification of two core ILO Conventions regarding child labour would further strengthen the commitment of Government for effective enforcement of the provision of Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.

The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2017

Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill, 2017, aims to establish a legal framework for consolidation of related laws to replace the age old archaic laws with modern Indian legislation and to confer admiralty jurisdiction on all High Courts of the coastal states of the country.
The bill repeals the five different Admiralty Acts which are 126 to 177 years old. The Bill provides for prioritization of maritime claims and maritime liens while providing protection to owners, charterers, operators, crew members and seafarers at the same time.
As per the new Bill, High Courts of all the coastal states shall exercise admiralty jurisdiction over maritime claims which include several aspects not limited to goods imported and chattel as earlier, but also other claims such as payment of wages of seamen, loss of life, salvages, mortgage, loss or damage, services and repairs, insurance, ownership and lien, threat of damage to environment etc. The Bill accords highest priority to payment of wages of the seafarers. The Bill also provides for protection against wrongful and unjustified arrest and has provision for transfer of cases from one High Court to other High Court.

Economic development
Measures to Improve Balance of Trade

Based on the applications filed by the domestic industry (DI) for imposition of anti-dumping duty on imports from various countries including China PR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand etc., Directorate General of Anti-dumping & Allied Duties (DGAD) initiated anti-dumping investigations on imports from various countries.
From time to time, DGAD receives applications from domestic producers for imposition of anti-dumping duty on various products. After detailed investigations, preliminary/final findings are issued by DGAD based on which, Department of Revenue imposes provisional/definitive anti-dumping duties.
Efforts are being made to increase overall exports by diversifying the trade basket with emphasis on manufactured goods, services, resolution of market access issues and other non-tariff barriers. This is done through bilateral meetings and institutional dialogues. Indian exporters are encouraged to participate in major trade fairs in China to show-case Indian products. Further, many measures have been taken to overcome the overall trade deficit. These include implementation of Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) and Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS), implementation of NiryatBandhu Scheme, Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) clearance project as part of ‘Ease of doing Business’, Interest Equalization Scheme in pre and post shipment credit, Special Advance Authorization Scheme, Trade Infrastructure for Export Promotion (TIES) Scheme etc. The Foreign Trade Data Dashboard-Trade Analytics has been launched on 10.10.2016. It aims at providing easy access to India’s export/import and balance of trade data in visual analytic format to all the stakeholders including public. It provides an overview of India’s trade dynamics for last five years.


Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 24, 2017

General Studies-III
Indian Economy
Monetary Policy Committee

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India that is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India. The meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee are held at least 4 times a year and it publishes its decisions after each such meeting.

The committee comprises of six members – three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India. They need to observe a “silent period” seven days before and after the rate decision for “utmost confidentiality”. The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee. Decisions are taken by majority with the Governor having the casting vote in case of a tie.

The committee was created in 2016 to bring transparency and accountability in fixing India’s Monetary Policy. Minutes are published after every meeting with each member explaining his/her opinions. The committee is answerable to the Government of India if the inflation exceeds the range prescribed for three consecutive months.

The MPC, which has the responsibility of achieving a set inflation target, should submit a report to the government in case of failure to achieve the required target. In such instances, the report shall be sent to the central government within one month from the date on which the bank has failed to meet the inflation target.

Payments bank: for the informal sector

How is a payments bank different from a commercial bank?

There are two kinds of banking licences that are granted by the Reserve Bank of India – universal bank licence and differentiated bank licence. Payments bank comes under a differentiated bank licence since it cannot offer all the services that a commercial bank offers. In particular, a payments bank cannot lend. It can take deposits upto Rs.1 lakh per account and it can issue debit cards but not credit cards. Commercial banks in India like State Bank of India or ICICI Bank, do not have any such restrictions.

What is the objective of a payments bank?

The main objective is to further financial inclusion by providing small savings accounts and payments/remittance services to migrant labour workforce, low income households, small businesses and other unorganised sector entities.

Besides remittance, can payments bank undertake any other activity?

A payments bank can work as a business correspondent (BC) of another bank. They can also distribute simple financial products like mutual fund units and insurance products.

How many payments banks have commenced operations?

Out of the 11 entities that received in-principle licence for opening payments bank, 7 entities received the final licence. Four payments banks have started operations — Airtel Payments Bank, India Post Payments Bank, Paytm Payments Bank and Fino Payments Bank.

What is the minimum capital requirement for a payments bank?

RBI has mandated the minimum paid-up equity capital for payments bank at Rs.100 crore.

Where can a payments bank deploy its deposits?

Apart from maintaining Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), these entities have to invest a minimum 75% of demand deposit balances in Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR)-eligible government securities or treasury bills with maturity of up to one year and hold a maximum of 25% in current and time/fixed deposits with other commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management.

Who all are eligible to set up a payments bank?

RBI permits non-bank Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers, individuals and professionals, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), corporate business correspondents (BCs), mobile telephone companies, super market chains, companies, real sector cooperatives that are owned and controlled by residents and public sector entities to apply for a payments bank licence. Setting up of a joint venture by a promoter with an existing commercial bank is also allowed.

Bio-diversity; Environment
Tiger reserves: Economic and environmental win-win

A detailed report of 2015 titled: “Economic Evaluation of Tiger Reserves in India: A VALUE+ Approach” (available free on the net as ) and the recent research publication: “Making the Hidden Visible: Economic Valuation of Tiger Reserves in India” point out that an economic analysis helps in determining the quantity of goods such as fuel wood, and fodder that can be allowed for extraction by local communities, based on trade-offs with other services. Such economic analysis also highlights why such “large” areas are reserved for preserving fierce animals like the tiger, when we need more land for human use.

What is the total amount of land set apart for the 18 ranges as tiger reserves?

It is 68,000 square km, which is about 2% of the area of India – set apart for the nation’s pride animal. A tiger reserve is not just for the tiger. The six reserves (Corbett, Kanha, Kaziranga, Periyar, Ranthambore, Sunderbans) that the team has studied house many other animals such as the elephant, rhino, langur, barasingha, mongoose, river dolphin, olive ridley turtle, crocodile — not to speak of the millions of herbs, plants and trees.

What is the point in saving tigers? Why save this ferocious animal at all?

Tigers are what conservationists call “umbrella” species. By saving them, we save everything beneath their ecological umbrella – everything connected to them – including the world’s last great forests, whose carbon storage mitigates climate change.

What all does a tiger reserve offer?

The 2017 paper above lists the following: (1) employment generation, (2) agriculture (incidentally the famous IR-8 rice was discovered from the wild rice plants found in one such reserve), (3) fishing, (4) fuel wood, (5) fodder and grazing, (6) timber, (7) pollination of plants, (8) kendu leaves, (9) carbon storage and sequestration (vital for climate protection against global warming), (10) water and its purification by filtering organic wastes, (11) soil conservation, (12) nutrient cycling, (13) moderation of extreme events such as cyclone storms, flash floods, and (14) tourism, education, research and development, and spiritual ones (like visiting temples within some of them).

The approach, termed VALUE+, that the group uses has two components. The VALUE part indicates that the annual cost of putting together and maintaining the above six tiger reserves is about Rs.23 crores. But then, what about the “flow benefits”? Take the Periyar Tiger Reserve as an example. VALUE estimates that this Reserve generates Rs.17.6 billion (or Rs.1.9 lakhs per hectare) per year. How? For example it helps provide water to Tamilnadu districts, amount to Rs.4.05 billions/year. Or, take the famous Corbett Park (which is supposed to have the “maneaters of Kumaon”). Its flow benefit per year is Rs.14.7 billion (Rs.1.14 lakhs per hectare). And it provides water to some parts of Uttar Pradesh (at Rs.1.61 billion per year) and Delhi (Rs.530 million per year). In effect, the ratio of benefits to management costs is anywhere from 200 to 530. It is worth investing and managing reserves! And the + sign part in the study highlights benefits for which a monetary number is currently not possible (such as the “umbrella” mentioned above).

Science & Technology developments; Space
Long Baseline Neutrino Facility

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), formerly the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) is a proposed neutrino experiment with a near detector at Fermilab and a far detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility which will observe neutrinos produced at Fermilab. It will fire an intense beam of trillions of neutrinos from a production facility near Fermilab (in Illinois) over a distance of 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) to an instrumented multi-kiloton volume of liquid argon located at the Sanford Lab in South Dakota.

The primary science objectives of DUNE are:

  • A comprehensive investigation of neutrino oscillations to test CP violation in the lepton sector
  • Determine the ordering of the neutrino masses
  • Search for neutrinos beyond the currently known three (electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, tau neutrinos)

Neutrinos created by the LBNF beamline will lead straight through the earth’s mantle as they can pass easily through soil and rock — or kilometres of solid lead — as they rarely interact with the matter. No tunnel is needed for these ghostly particles.

Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, a billion times more abundant than the particles that make up stars, planets and people. Each second, a trillion neutrinos from the sun and other celestial objects pass harmlessly and unnoticed through your body — and everything else. Although neutrinos are all around us, they interact so rarely with other matter that they are very difficult to observe, and consequently, they are completely harmless.

Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 23, 2017

General Studies-III
Biodiversity; Environment
A Sunderbans denizen staves off extinction

Batagur baska, the 60-cm-long turtle that is presumed extinct in several Southeast Asian countries, is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its Red List of threatened species. The tiger, by comparison, is endangered.

For the past ten years, officials of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve with support from experts at Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), have coordinated a recovery program for what is described as the world’s second most endangered turtle, through captive conservation breeding. The Yangtze giant soft shell turtle, Rafetus swinhoei, is considered the most endangered freshwater turtle.

The terrapin, has a river estuarine habitat. Their population had been decimated due to habitat loss and clandestine harvesting. Three fresh water ponds in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve will house the rare Northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), whose presence in the wild in West Bengal and Odisha had declined to undetectable levels a decade ago.

Of six large fresh water turtles of the genus Batagur, three are found in India. Batagur kachuga (Redcrowned roofed turtle) and Batagur dhongoka (Threestriped roofed turtle) are found in the tributaries of the Ganga, such as Chambal. The Northern river terrapin is the most endangered of the three species, and their long-term fortunes depend on an ecologically functional colony getting re-established in the wild.

Turtle Survival Alliance

The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is an action-oriented global partnership that is committed to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century. To achieve this, the TSA:

  • Creates breeding programs, including building facilities, for critically endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises
  • Conducts field research
  • Develops conservation plans and puts those plans into action
  • Promotes conservation awareness among local communities
  • Provides support, knowledge, training and resources to conservation partners around the world
  • Advocates for greater enforcement of wildlife laws


Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 22, 2017

General Studies-II
Issues relating to Health
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)

The objective of the scheme is making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Jan Aushadhi Medical Store”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.

BPPI (Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India), under the administrative control of the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals& Fertilizers, Government of India will be the implementation agency for the PMJAY.

BPPI has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Government of India, with the support of all the Pharma CPSUs for coordinating procurement, supply and marketing of generic drugs through the Jan Aushadhi stores.

All State Governments shall be directed to open Jan Aushadhi stores in Government run hospitals and medical colleges.

Memorandum of Understanding shall be entered into with reputed organisations / NGOs / Trusts / Charitable institutions for opening large number of Jan Aushadhi stores across the country.

Applications shall be invited through press media from Private hospitals and other institutions / registered medical practitioners / individual entrepreneurs for opening Jan Aushadhi stores.

All PSUs having township shall be approached to open Jan Aushadhi stores in their township.

To further ensure viability of running Jan Aushadhi stores, possibilities of establishing Jan Aushadhi stores in Kisan Centres / Common Service Centres / other different retail outlets shall be encouraged.

Jan Aushadhi Stores at Railway Stations

‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Government of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendras known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendras. Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers has, in view of Railways’ pan-India reach, approached Ministry of Railways for proliferation of such kendras over Railway network. The two Ministries have, in principle, agreed to set up such kendras at Railway premises.

At present, 22 exclusive chemist stalls and 15 chemist corners are operational on Indian Railways. Besides, medicines for common ailments and painkillers, which do not normally require doctor’s prescription, are also being sold through existing 339 miscellaneous article stalls at various Railway Stations.

Prevalence of underweight and stunting among children has come down as per NFHS-4

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, aiming at holistic development of Children below 6 years of age and Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers, by providing a package of six services comprising (i) Supplementary nutrition (ii) Pre-school non-formal education (iii) Nutrition and health Education (iv) Immunization (v) Health check-up and (vi) Referral services through Anganwadi Centres at grassroots level. Three of the six services viz., immunization, health check-up and referral services are related to health and are provided by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through NRHM & Public Health Infrastructure. The services are provided through 13.54 lakh Anganwadi centres located across the country. Cost of implementation of the Scheme is shared by the Center and States/UTs as per ratio decided by the Government from time to time.

As per “The State of the World‘s Children 2016” Report published by United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which is based on 2005-2006 data, India ranks 10th in terms of underweight prevalence and 17th in terms of stunting prevalence in the world. However, as per the 4th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) based on 2015-16 data the prevalence of underweight and stunting has come down to 35.7% & 38.4% from 42.5% & 48% NFHS-3.

The Government is implementing several schemes and programs like Anganwadi Services and Scheme for Adolescent girls under Umbrella ICDS to address the problem of malnutrition.

General Studies-III
Awareness in the fields of IT; cyber security
India to host Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) 2017

GCCS is a prestigious international conference that aims at encouraging dialogue among stakeholders of cyberspace, which has been taking place since 2011. Incepted in 2011 in London, GCCS witnessed a participation of 700 global delegates. It helped in setting up rules and guidelines for the editions to follow. The second conference was held in 2012 in Budapest with focus on relationship between internet rights and internet security and was attended by 700 delegates from nearly 60 countries. The third edition of GCCS was held in 2013 in Seoul with participation from 1600 delegates. The conference built on the themes such as Economic Growth and Development, Social and Cultural Benefits, a Safe and Secure Cyberspace, Cybercrime and International Security.

The fourth version GCCS 2015 was held on April 16-17, 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands. Nearly 1800 members from nearly 100 countries participated in this conference and over 60 countries participated with delegations led at Ministerial level. The conference focused on Freedom, Security and Growth in cyber space. GCCS 2015 was a program designed as high level stock taking exercise and to generate input for other ongoing processes rather than an independent norm setting initiative. The launch of Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) was main deliverable of the conference for capacity building in cyber space.

The GCCS 2017 is themed on “Cyber4All: An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace”. The GCCS 2017 will take place on the 23rd and 24th of November, 2017 in Aero City, New Delhi.

The goal of GCCS 2017 is to promote an inclusive Cyber Space with focus on policies and frameworks for inclusivity, sustainability, development, security, safety & freedom, technology and partnerships for upholding digital democracy, maximizing collaboration for strengthening security and safety and advocating dialogue for digital diplomacy’.

Infrastructure: Railways; Roads
Railway Zones and Divisions in India

At present there are 17 Railway Zones and 68 Divisions in the country. The details are given below:

S.NO.      RAILWAY ZONES Headquarter           DIVISIONS 
1. Central Railway Mumbai Mumbai (CST), Bhusawal, Nagpur, Solapur, Pune.
2. Eastern Railway Kolkata Asansol, Howrah, Malda, Sealdah.
3. East Central Railway Hajipur Danapur,Dhanbad,Mughalsarai, Samastipur,Sonpur.
4. East Coast Railway Bhubaneswar Khurda Road, Sambalpur, Waltair.
5. Northern Railway New Delhi Ambala, Delhi, Lucknow, Moradabad, Ferozpur.
6. North Central Railway Allahabad Allahabad, Agra, Jhansi.
7. North Eastern Railway Gorakhpur Lucknow,Izzatnager,Varanasi.
8. Northeast Frontier Railway Guwahati Katihar, Alipurduar, Rangiya, Lumding, Tinsukia.
9. North Western Railway Jaipur Ajmer, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur.
10. Southern  Railway Chennai Chennai, Madurai, Palghat, Trichy, Trivandrum, Salem.
11. South Central Railway Secunderabad Guntakal, Guntur, Hyderabad, Nanded,Secunderabad,Vijayawada.
12. South Eastern Railway Kolkata Adra,Chakradharpur, Kharagpur, Ranchi.
13. South East Central Railway Bilaspur Bilaspur, Nagpur, Raipur
14. South Western Railway Hubli Bangalore, Hubli, Mysore
15. Western Railway Mumbai Mumbai(Central),Vadodara, Ratlam,Ahmedabad,Rajkot, Bhavnagar.
16. West  Central  Railway Jabalpur Bhopal, Jabalpur, Kota.
17. Metro Railway Kolkata Not applicable.

Dedicated Freight Corridors

Ministry of Railways have sanctioned implementation of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs), namely, Western DFC (1504 km) and Eastern DFC (1856 km). The commissioning of Western and Eastern DFCs (excluding few sections) is targeted in phases by 2019/2020.

Western DFC covers Dadri-Rewari-Phulera-Ajmer-Marwar- Palanpur – Ahmedabad –Vadodara – Surat- Valsad-Vasai Road and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Mumbai through the States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Eastern DFC covers Ludhiana-Ambala-Saharanpur-Meerut-Khurja-Kanpur-Allahabad-Mughalsarai-Sonnagar through the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The funding of the project is through World Bank loan ( US $ 2.725 billion) for the Eastern DFC , and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan (Rs.38,722 crore) for the Western DFC.

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
NITI Aayog’s Strategy Paper on Resource Efficiency (RE)

NITI Aayog in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH had prepared a Strategy Paper on Resource Efficiency.

Resource Efficiency is a key element of Sustainable Development. This is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 12 which aims to Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. Eight other SDG goals (2, 6, 7,8,9,11,14 and 15) also have a bearing on resource efficiency.

There is a global commitment to achieving resource efficiency in order to establish sustainable consumption and production patterns. It is also a priority for the Government of India, and is reflected in various policies/programme announcements like Make in India, Zero Effect-Zero Defect Scheme, Smart Cities, Swach Bharat, and Ganga Rejuvenation Mission.

Economic Development
WCO lauds India’s trade facilitation plan

India’s National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP), which aims to reduce cargo release time for exports and imports as part of measures intended to boost trade, has been described by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) as a ‘best practice’ that other nations can adopt.

The WCO emphasised the fact that as many as 51 of the 76 activities mentioned in the NTFAP go beyond the implementation requirements of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The NTFAP, which is to be implemented between 2017 and 2020, is part of India’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business ranking in the World Bank’s annual report. While India’s overall rank in the report is 130, it ranks 144 out of 190 nations in the report’s ‘Trading Across Borders’ category.

The TFA — meant to ease Customs norms for faster flow of goods across borders — had come into effect in February 2017.

The WCO — the international body supporting the uniform implementation of the TFA across the globe — has 182 member nations (including India) that manage more than 98% of world trade.

World Customs Organization (WCO)

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is an intergovernmental organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The WCO is noted for its work in areas covering the development of international conventions, instruments, and tools on topics such as commodity classification, valuation, rules of origin, collection of customs revenue, supply chain security, international trade facilitation, customs enforcement activities, combating counterfeiting in support of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), drugs enforcement, illegal weapons trading, integrity promotion, and delivering sustainable capacity building to assist with customs reforms and modernization. The WCO maintains the international Harmonized System (HS) goods nomenclature, and administers the technical aspects of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements on Customs Valuation and Rules of Origin.

More at:

Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 21, 2017

General Studies-I
Modern Indian History
Bicentenary Celebration of Paika Rebellion of Odisha

Pre-dating what has been popularly regarded as the fist war of independence in 1857, the Paika Bidroha (Paika Rebellion) of 1817 in Odisha briefly shook the foundations of British rule in the eastern part of India. Paikas were essentially the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during times of war while taking up cultivation during times of peace. They unfurled the banner of rebellion against the British under the leadership of Baxi Jagandhu Bidyadhara as early as 1817 to throw off the British yoke.

Rulers of Khurda were traditionally the custodians of Jagannath Temple and ruled as the deputy of lord Jagannath on earth. They symbolised the political and cultural freedom of the people of Odisha. The British, having established their sway over Bengal Province and Madras Province to the north and south of Odisha, occupied it in 1803.The Gajapati King of Odisha Mukunda Deva-ll was a minor then and initial resistance by Jai Rajguru, the custodian of Mukunda Deva-II, was put down brutally and Jai Rajguru was torn apart alive. A few years later, it was the Paikas under Baxi Jagabandhu, the hereditary chief of the militia army of the Gajapati King, who rose in rebellion, taking support of tribals and other sections of society. The rebellion started in March 1817 and spread quickly. Though Paikas played a larger role in the rebellion against the British, it was by no means a rebellion by a small group of people belonging to a particular class. The tribals of Ghumusar (part of present day Ganjam and Kandhmal Districts) and other sections of the population actively took part in it. In fact, the Paika Bidroha got the opportune moment to spread when 4OOtribals of Ghumsar entered Khurda protesting against the British rule. The Paikas attacked British symbols of power, setting ablaze police stations, administrative offices and the treasury during their march towards Khurda, from where the British fled. The Paikas were supported by the rajas of Kanika, Kujang, Nayagarh and Ghumusar and zamindars, village heads and ordinary peasants. The rebellion quickly spread to Purl, Pipli Cuttack and other parts of the province. The British were initially taken aback and then tried to regain lost ground but faced stiff resistance from the rebelling Paikas. Many a battle ensued with some victories to the rebels, but the British finally managed to defeat them within three months.

Widespread suppression followed with many killed and imprisoned. Many more were tortured. Some rebels fought a guerilla war till 1819 but were captured and killed. Baxi Jagabandhu was finally arrested in 1825 and died in captivity in 1829. Though the Paika Bidroha enjoys a cult status in Odisha with children growing up with stories of the brave fight against the British, it has unfortunately received less attention at the national level than it should have got.While the reasons can be many for such scant attention to such a significant event of the history in India, it is heartening that the Government of India has decided to give the event its due recognition by commemorating its 200 anniversary in a befitting manner.

General Studies-II
Issues relating to Health
Half of HIV-infected get treatment now: UNAIDS

For the first time since the global onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the scales have tipped in favour of patients. The latest UNAIDS report reveals that more than half of all People Living with HIV (PLHIV) now have access to HIV treatment.

Further, globally AIDS-related deaths have almost halved since 2005.

The 2015 target of 15 million people on treatment has been met and the 2020 target is to double that number to 30 million. As of last year, 19.5 million of the 36.7 million HIV+ patients had access to treatment. Deaths caused by AIDS have fallen from 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016.

The majority of the cases — nearly 95 per cent of the cases in 2016 — were concentrated in just 10 countries, India being one of them. India has 2.1 million people living with HIV, with 80,000 new infections annually, as of 2016. In 2005, the annual incidence was 1,50,000 people.

India is the country where most new HIV infections are occurring in the Asia-Pacific region. While India has made big progress with new infections dropping significantly, the emergence of HIV in some locations that were earlier considered ‘not high-burden’ areas is a cause for concern.

While the world seems to be on track to reach the global target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020, access to medicines remains a major barrier and India plays a special role. The report states that although important progress has been made in improving access to medicines for people living with HIV, insufficient availability and poor affordability of essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries remain major barriers.

Actions focused on the intersections between intellectual property rights, innovation, and public health are vitally important for resolving market failures in medicine development and manufacture, unmet needs for research and development, and pricing.

This is especially true in light of the concentration of the generic pharmaceutical industry in India, and the global AIDS response’s continued reliance on the Indian industry, which supplied nearly 90% of antiretroviral medicines in low- and middle-income countries in 2015.

The report, Ending AIDS: Progress towards the 90–90–90 target, is the annual scorecard for progress.

In 2016, 1.8 million people became infected with HIV. While this is a drastic decline from the peak of the epidemic in 1997 when 3.2 million got infected, experts maintain that since 2010, the decline in new infections has only been 16%.

Going by this trend, the global target of reducing the figure to 500,000 a year by 2020 — adopted as a global target by UNAIDS in 2013 — seems unattainable.

The idea behind the 90-90-90 target is to diagnose 90% of people who are HIV positive; get 90% of the diagnosed HIV+ people on antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those on antiretrovirals should be virally suppressed. This is attained when an HIV+ patient’s viral load reaches an undetectable level, curbing transmission.

Issues relating to Education/Human Resources
Promotion of Indigenous Sports

Several indigenous sports such as Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Ball Badminton, Mallakhamb, Atya Patya, Sqay and Kalariyappattu are supported under the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations.

For preservation and promotion of indigenous sports, need based financial assistance is provided under the flagship programme of ‘Khelo India’. This scheme, inter-alia, provides for conducting sports competitions in two age groups of (i) under 14 and (ii) under 17 all over India to encourage mass participation of both boys and girls in sports. This scheme includes a provision that States may decide including regional/indigenous/local popular games as part of competition.

Under the “Indigenous Games and Martial Arts” (IGMA) component of the National Sports Talent Contest (NSTC) Scheme of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), for revival of traditional games popular in the country, SAI has adopted 10 schools having a total strength of 159 trainees (78 boys & 81 girls) and the trainees under the scheme are provided with stipend, sports kit, insurance. Annual grant to the school for purchase of sports equipment and for organizing competition for scouting talent is also given. The sports disciplines covered under the IGMA are Archery, Gatka, kabaddi, kalarippayattu, Mukna, Thang-Ta, Silambam, Khomlainai and Mallakhamb.

Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY)

PMVVY is a Pension Scheme announced by the Government of India exclusively for the senior citizens aged 60 years and above. The Scheme can be purchased offline as well as online through Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India which has been given the sole privilege to operate this Scheme.

Following are the major benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY):

Scheme provides an assured return of 8% p.a. payable monthly (equivalent to 8.30% p.a. effective) for 10 years.

Pension is payable at the end of each period, during the policy term of 10 years, as per the frequency of monthly/ quarterly/ half-yearly/ yearly as chosen by the pensioner at the time of purchase.

The scheme is exempted from Service Tax/ GST.

On survival of the pensioner to the end of the policy term of 10 years, Purchase price along with final pension installment shall be payable.

Loan upto 75% of Purchase Price shall be allowed after 3 policy years (to meet the liquidity needs). Loan interest shall be recovered from the pension installments and loan to be recovered from claim proceeds.

The scheme also allows for premature exit for the treatment of any critical/ terminal illness of self or spouse. On such premature exit, 98% of the Purchase Price shall be refunded.

On death of the pensioner during the policy term of 10 years, the Purchase Price shall be paid to the beneficiary.

General Studies-III
Investment models
NCAER State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI) ranking

The State Investment Potential Index released by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) ranks the competitiveness of Indian States on six pillars: land, labour, infrastructure, economic climate, political stability and governance, and business perceptions; and 51 sub-indicators.

The six pillars are classified under four broad categories: factor-driven (land and labour), efficiency-driven (infrastructure), growth-driven (economic climate and political stability and governance), and perceptions-driven (ranking of business climate built on firm surveys). According to NCAER, the unique feature of the index is the integration of industry perceptions of the investment potential and the business climate of a State along with the fundamentals likely to drive investment decisions in that State.

Gujarat has retained the top position in the list of 21 states and UTs with most investment potential. Gujarat is followed by Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

While Gujarat topped in economic climate and perceptions, Delhi ranked one in infrastructure. While Tamil Nadu topped the chart in labour issues, Madhya Pradesh ranked one in land pillar.

According to the report, Tamil Nadu has lost its position among the top three States in overall ranking, primarily on account of falling short on the pillar relating to perceptions, in which surveyed firms reported facing constraints on land, labour, infrastructure, economy and governance issues.

The major strength of Tamil Nadu is industrial parks, technically educated workforce and per capita Gross State Domestic Product, the NCAER pointed out.

Awareness in the field of Space
Indian Satellites in Outer Space

At present, there are 42 Indian satellites operational in orbit.

Out of these 42 satellites, 15 satellites are used for communication, 4 for meteorological observations, 14 for earth observations, 7 for navigation and 2 for space science purposes. During FY 2016-17, the total revenue accrued from communication satellites through leasing of INSAT/ GSAT transponders is Rs. 746.68 crore.

With respect to earth observation satellites, the annual income from sale of remote sensing satellite data is Rs. 25.17 crores. The data and value added services derived from earth observation, meteorological, communication & navigation satellites are used to support various applications viz. resource monitoring, weather forecasting, disaster management, location based services, including societal applications.

Indian Economy
National Trade Facilitation Action Plan released

The Union Minister of Finance released the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan, which aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, co-ordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.

The objectives to be achieved by National Action Plan are improvement in ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost, move towards paperless regulatory environment, transparent and predictable legal regime and improved investment climate through better infrastructure.

The Action Plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, DGFT etc in time bound manner. The Co-ordination among all the stakeholders is the key to achieve the objective of Trade facilitation.

The Action Plan not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but they go beyond the ambit of TFA per se, which have been defined as TFA Plus category. The Action Plan covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructures leading to ports and the infrastructure within ports, airports, ICDs, Land Customs stations that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries like Shipping, Civil Aviation, Railways, Road transport and Highways, Home Affairs, Finance, Commerce etc have been assigned specified targets.

All actions covered under the plan have been categorized by prioritizing the activities into short term, midterm and long term. The National Plan would be monitored by the Steering Committee (the operational arm of the NCTF) chaired by the Revenue Secretary and the Commerce Secretary. The plan would be reviewed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Infrastructure: Energy
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana

The Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana in 2015 for rural areas having following objectives:

To provide electrification to all villages
Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers
Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply
Metering to reduce the losses

The earlier scheme for rural electrification viz. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) has been subsumed in the new scheme as its rural electrification component.

The Ministry of Power has launched a new app, GARV-II app to provide real-time data of all six lakh villages of the country. The app is envisaged to ensure transparency in the implementation of rural electrification programme.

Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) programme

The scheme was initially launched as Domestic Efficient Lighting Program (DELP) in 2015.

The main objective is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and help preserve environment. UJALA scheme aims to promote efficient use of energy at the residential level; enhance the awareness of consumers about the efficacy of using energy efficient appliances and aggregating demand to reduce the high initial costs thus facilitating higher uptake of LED lights by residential users.

An ordinary bulb is an extremely energy inefficient form of lighting with just 5% of the electricity input converted to light. Efficient light bulbs like Light-emitting Diode (LEDs) consumes only one-tenth of energy used by ordinary bulb to provide the same or better light output. However, high cost of LEDs has been a barrier in adoption of such efficient lighting systems.

The scheme is implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL). EESL is promoted by Ministry of Power, Government of India as a Joint Venture company of four Central Power Sector undertakings viz. NTPC Ltd, PFC, REC, and Power Grid.

Energy Efficient Lighting Programme was first launched in Puducherry on February 7, 2014. The project replaced about 6.5 lakhs bulbs and about 40.11 Million units per annum were saved. The programme was rebranded as Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme in 2015.

The scheme urges the people to use LED bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs, tube lights and CFL bulbs as they are more efficient, long lasting and economical in their life cycle duration.

Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY)

The Ministry of Power, Govt. of India launched Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) during November, 2015.

The scheme envisages:

Financial Turnaround
Operational improvement
Reduction of cost of generation of power
Development of Renewable Energy
Energy efficiency & conservation

It allows state governments, which own the distribution companies, to take over 75 percent of their debt as of September 30, 2015, and pay back lenders by selling bonds. Discoms are expected to issue bonds for the remaining 25 percent of their debt.

Infrastructure: Roads and Railways
Setu Bharatam project

Setu Bharatam was launched during March 2016, with an aim to make all national highways free of railway crossings by 2019 to prevent the frequent accidents and loss of lives at level crossings.

Under the project, as many as 208 rail over and under bridges (ROBs/RUBs) would be constructed at unmanned railway crossings on national highways and 1,500 dilapidated British-era bridges would be widened, rehabilitated or replaced in a phased manner.

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has also established an Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) at the Indian Academy for Highway Engineer in Noida, U.P. The aim is to carry out conditions survey and inventorization of all bridges on National Highways in India by using Mobile Inspection Units.

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.

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
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.


Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 19, 2017

General Studies-I
Indian Heritage
Measures Taken by Government to Protect Ancient and Traditional Knowledge of Indigenous Medicinal Systems

Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a pioneering Indian initiative to prevent exploitation and to protect Indian traditional knowledge from wrongful patents mainly at International Patent Offices. India’s rich and time-tested traditional medicinal knowledge which exists in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Tamil etc. is neither accessible nor comprehensible for patent examiners at the international patent offices. TKDL contains Indian traditional medicine knowledge available in public domain and pertains to classical/ traditional books related to Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha in a digitized format and is available in five international languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese).

Till date 3,35,260 formulations have been transcribed, 220 wrongful patent filings have been prevented and 12 patent offices have been provided access to TKDL database namely European Patent Office, US Patent Office, Japanese Patent Office, German Patent Office, Canadian Patent Office, Chile Patent Office, Australian Patent Office, CGPDTM (India), UK Patent Office, and Malaysian Patent Office, Rospatent (Russia)and Peru Patent Office.

Under the Scheme funds are provided only to CSIR, the implementation agency of the TKDL Project. No funds have been allocated/ released to any State under the Scheme.

Besides setting up of TKDL, Yoga has since been inscribed in UNESCO’s representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Indian Patent Office has also brought out Guidelines for processing Patent Applications relating to Traditional Knowledge and Biological Material to help Patent examiner to analyze what constitutes novelty and inventive step in Traditional Knowledge (TK) related invention.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists

UNESCO established its lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring the better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. This list is published by Intergovernmental Committee for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the members to this are elected by States parties meeting in UN general assembly. Through a compendium of the different oral and intangible treasures of humankind worldwide, the program aims to draw attention to the importance of safeguarding intangible heritage, which UNESCO has identified as an essential component and as a repository of cultural diversity and of creative expression.
The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took effect.

As of 2010 the programme compiles two lists. The longer Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity comprises cultural practices and expressions that help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance. The shorter List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is composed of those cultural elements that concerned communities and countries consider require urgent measures to keep them alive.

General Studies-II
Important International institutions, agencies
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world. In addition to its core work resolving consensus-driven international SARPs and policies among its Member States and industry, and among many other priorities and programmes, ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.

The ICAO conducts audit in areas related to legislation, organisation, licensing, operation, airworthiness, accident investigation, air navigation and aerodromes.

Indian Constitution
Aadhaar: 9-judge Bench to consider whether privacy is a basic right

A nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will hear the question whether privacy is a fundamental human right and is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The nine judges will be Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.K. Agrawal, Rohinton Fali Nariman, A.M. Sapre, D.Y. Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S. Abdul Nazeer.
The decision was taken by a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Khehar is on the basis of a bunch of petitions contending that the Aadhaar scheme, is a violation of the citizens’ right to privacy. The petitioners have argued that right to privacy is part of Article 21, the right to life, and interspersed in Article 19, though not explicitly stated in the Constitution.

Two judgments of the Supreme Court — the M.P. Sharma case verdict pronounced by an eight-judge Bench in 1954 shortly after the Constitution came into force in 1950 and the Kharak Singh case verdict of 1962 by a six-judge Bench — had dominated the judicial dialogue on privacy since Independence. Both judgments had concluded that privacy was not a fundamental or ‘guaranteed’ right.

Though smaller Supreme Court Benches have, over the years, differed and held that privacy is indeed basic to our Constitution and a fundamental right, the arithmetical supremacy of the MP Sharma and Kharak Singh cases continues to hold fort.

Now, by forming a Bench of nine judges, Chief Justice Khehar’s Supreme Court has decided to determine once and for all whether privacy is negotiable or not. The nine-judge Bench seeks to bring a quietus to the divergent judicial pronouncements of the past.

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. The agreement is scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2017. RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement which includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.

In 2017, prospective RCEP member states accounted for a population of 3.4 billion people with a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP, PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 39 percent of the world’s GDP, with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than half that amount.

JITSIC Tackling Global Tax Risks 

India participated in the fourth Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) meeting reconvened in Paris to pursue the work on the Panama Papers in the last week of June 2017. Based on legal instruments under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Council of Europe Multilateral Convention and tax treaties, a number of countries shared information in confidential Competent Authorities sessions, on structures that facilitate, enable and promote tax avoidance / evasion. India also shared its experience in this regard.

Demonstrating the value and strength of JITSIC, 30 project participant countries have continued to exchange, analyse and act on information about taxpayers and intermediaries connected to Mossack Fonseca. In the past six months, more than 570 requests for information have been sent to 32 countries. India has also sent several requests for information to various jurisdictions in the Panama Paper cases since the last meeting in January 2017.

JITSIC members have established the capability to allow for fast, effective and coordinated multilateral responses to any future data leaks and are sharing the same. JITSIC will continue to identify more arrangements as countries continue their investigations and share intelligence and new data comes to light. Collaboration with JITSIC has been useful for India in its fight against offshore tax evasion.

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
National Board for Promotion and Development of Yoga & Naturopathy (NBPDYN)

The Ministry of AYUSH has constituted a National Board for Promotion and Development of Yoga & Naturopathy (NBPDYN) for regulation of education and practice of Yoga and Naturopathy.

The Ministry of AYUSh constituted a Task Force to promote AYUSH system in the country. In its recommendations, it suggested to constitute a National Board for Promotion and Development of Yoga & Naturopathy under the Chairmanship of Secretary (AYUSH) with the following objectives:

i. To enhance the quality of Yoga & Naturopathy education, training, therapy and research;

ii. To develop human resource in Yoga & Naturopathy;

iii. To develop standards for Yoga & Naturopathy training and practices for voluntary adoption;

iv. To promote accreditation frame work relating to Yoga and Naturopathy for voluntary implementation by institution including drafting of curriculum and syllabus for various degrees, diploma and programmes;

v. To promote, propagate Yoga & Naturopathy at International level;

vi. To institute national awards for outstanding for outstanding contribution to Yoga & Naturopathy;

vii. To develop methods of competence, and evaluation of Yoga & Naturopathy practitioners

National Bamboo Mission renamed as National Agro-Forestry & Bamboo Mission (NABM)

National Bamboo Mission has been renamed as National Agro-Forestry & Bamboo Mission (NABM) and is being implemented as per the set objectives and targets of the Mission.
Under the Mission, 108 nos. of markets (Bamboo wholesale & retail markets near villages, etc.) have been established for providing marketing avenues to bamboo farmers for their raw bamboo as well as finished products.  Besides, efforts are being made to popularize bamboo products through participation in domestic/national/international trade fairs. Under the Mission, Steps have already been taken & are being taken to provide assistance to farmers/bamboo growers for nursery establishment, plantations in non-forest area, imparting training for preparation of nurseries & bamboo plantations, establishing of bamboo markets for farmer products, etc.

Farmers Welfare Schemes

Government of India is according high priority for welfare of the farmers and is implementing several farmers’ welfare schemes to revitalize agriculture sector and to improve their economic conditions. The Government has rolled out a number of new initiatives like Soil Health Card Scheme, Neem Coated Urea, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), National Agriculture Market (e-NAM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Interest Subvention Scheme.  These schemes are for the benefit of all farmers.

The details of the schemes are as below:

(i)         Soil Health Card Scheme: Launched in 2015, the scheme has been introduced to assist State Governments to issue Soil Health Cards to all farmers in the country.  The Soil Health Cards provide information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil alongwith recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility. Against target of 12 crore Soil Health Cards, so far 9 crore (76%) cards have been distributed to farmers.

(ii)        Neem Coated Urea (NCU): Scheme being promoted to regulate use of urea, enhance availability of nitrogen to the crop and reduce cost of fertilizer application.  NCU slows down the release of fertilizer and makes it available to the crop in an effective manner. The entire quantity of domestically manufactured and imported urea is now neem coated. The reports from field are positive. The expected saving is 10% of urea consumption, thereby resulting in reduced cost of cultivation and improved soil health management.

(iii)       Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana  (PKVY): Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is being implemented with a view to promote organic farming in the country.  This will improve soil health and organic matter content and increase net income of the farmer so as to realise premium prices. Under this scheme, an area of 5 lakh acre is targeted to be covered though 10,000 clusters of 50 acre each.

(iv)       Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY): Launched on 1st July, 2015 with the motto of ‘Har Khet Ko Paani’, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is being implemented to expand cultivated area with assured irrigation, reduce wastage of water and improve water use efficiency. PMKSY not only focuses on creating sources for assured irrigation, but also creating protective irrigation by harnessing rain water at micro level through ‘Jal Sanchay’ and ‘Jal Sinchan’.  Micro irrigation is also incentivized through subsidy to ensure ‘Per drop-More crop’.

(v)       National Agriculture Market (e-NAM): The National Agriculture Market scheme (e-NAM) envisages initiation of e-marketing platform at national level and to support creation of infrastructure to enable e-marketing in 585 regulated markets across the country by March 2018. This innovative market process is revolutionizing agri markets by ensuring better price discovery, bringing in transparency and competition to enable farmers to get improved remuneration for their produce moving towards ‘One Nation One Market’.

(vi)       Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)/ Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS):  Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) & Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS) were launched from Kharif 2016 to provide comprehensive crop insurance coverage from pre-sowing to post harvest losses against non-preventable natural risks.  These schemes are only risk mitigation tools available to farmers at extremely low premium rates payable by farmers at 2% for Kharif crops, 1.5% for Rabi Crop and 5% for annual commercial/horticultural crops.  The balance of actuarial premium is shared by the Central and State Governments on 50 : 50 basis.  The schemes are voluntary for States and available in areas and crops that are notified by the State Governments.    Further, the schemes are compulsory for loanee farmers and voluntary for non-loanee farmers.

(vii)    Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS): The Government provides interest subvention of 3% on short-term crop loans up to Rs.3.00 lakh.  Presently, loan is available to farmers at an interest rate of 7% per annum, which gets reduced to 4% on prompt repayment.  Further, under Interest Subvention Scheme 2016-17, in order to provide relief to the farmers on occurrence of natural calamities, the interest subvention of 2% shall continue to be available to banks for the first year on the restructured amount. In order to discourage distress sale by farmers and to encourage them to store their produce in warehouses against negotiable warehouse receipts, the benefit of interest subvention will be available to small and marginal farmers having Kisan Credit Card for a further period of upto six months post harvest on the same rate as available to crop loan. Agriculture is a State subject and the State Governments are primarily responsible for the growth and development of agriculture sector in their respective States. The Government supplements the efforts of States through appropriate policy measures and budgetary support.  Presently the approach of the Government of India has shifted from production centric to income centric platform in the agriculture sector and the above schemes are being implemented for making farming viable.

Auto Mission Policy

The Department of Heavy Industry has finalised the Automotive Mission plan 2016-26 (AMP 2026) jointly with Indian Automobile Industries after series of consultations with other stakeholders including Government departments including Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways to achieve following objectives.

i. To propel the Indian Automotive industry to become the engine of the “Make in India” programme.

ii. To make the Indian Automotive Industry a significant contributor to the “Skill India” programme.
iii. Promote safe, efficient and comfortable mobility for every person in the country, with an eye on environmental protection and affordability through both public and personal transport options.

iv. To seek increase net exports of the Indian Automotive industry several fold.

v. Promote comprehensive and stable policy dispensation for all regulations impacting the industry.

AMP 2026 seeks to define the path of evolution of the automotive ecosystem in India including   specific regulations and policies that govern research, design, technology, testing, manufacturing, imports/exports, sales, use, repair, and recycling of automotive vehicles, components and services. This includes new technologies like electric vehicles and associated infrastructure and new fuel efficiency regulations as well.

FAME India

As a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP 2020), the Government of India formulated a scheme namely Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric vehicles in India [FAME-India] for a period of 6 years, till 2020, wherein it is intended to support the hybrid /electric vehicle market development and its manufacturing eco-system to achieve self-sustenance at the end of the stipulated period. The scheme is one of the green initiatives of the Government of India, which will be one of the biggest contributors in reducing pollution from road transport sector in near future.

The scheme has 4 focus areas i.e. Technology Development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

Market creation through demand incentives is aimed at incentivizing all vehicle segments i.e. 2-Wheelers, 3-Wheeler Auto, Passenger 4-Wheeler Vehicles, Light Commercial Vehicles and Buses. The demand incentive is available for buyers (end users/consumers) in the form of an upfront reduced purchase price to enable wider adoption.  Under FAME India Scheme, 148275 electric/hybrid vehicles (xEVs) have been given direct support by way of demand incentives amounting to Rs. 192.56 Crore (Approx) since its launch on 1st April 2015 and till 30th June 2017. This has resulted in approximately fuel saving of 13553917 litre and CO2 reduction of 33971052 Kg.

Schemes for Minorities in Rural areas

This Ministry of Minority Affairs is currently implementing the following schemes/programmes in the country, including rural areas, for upliftment of the minorities, namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains:-

(1)        Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme

(2)        Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme

(3)        Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship Scheme

(4)        Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority

(5)        Free coaching and allied Scheme

(6)       “Padho Pardesh”– Scheme of Interest Subsidy on Educational Loans for Overseas Studies for the Students belonging to the Minority Communities

(7)       Support for students clearing Prelims conducted by UPSC, SSC, State PublicService Commission (PSC) etc. (Nai Udaan)

(8)        Jiyo Parsi

(9)        Nai Roshni

(10)      Seekho Aur Kamao

(11)      Nai Manzil

(12)      USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development)

(13)     Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MsDP), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, is implemented in 710 Minority Concentration Blocks, 66 Minority Concentration Towns & Clusters of Contiguous Villages. This programme provides financial support for creation of assets for education (viz., school buildings, ACRs, Polytechnics, ITIs , Hostels, etc.), Health Centers, Sadbhav Mandap, Drinking Water Project, Road, Income Generation Projects etc. to States/UTs.

(14)      Grants-in-Aid to NGOs/Trust/Society {implemented through Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF)}.

(15)      Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for Meritorious Girls belonging to the Minorities(implemented through MAEF).

(16)      Gharib Nawaz Skill Development Training for providing short-term job oriented skill development courses to youths belonging to minority communities (implemented through MAEF).

(17)      In addition, National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC), a CPSE under this Ministry, provides concessional loans to minorities for self-employment and income generating ventures. The schemes of NMDFC are implemented through respective State Channelizing Agencies.

Commercial Transport Scheme in Ganga River

The Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) is being implemented with the technical and investment support of the World Bank to strengthen the navigation capacity and promote transportation of cargo and passengers on National Waterway-1, on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly River System. The project has been appraised by the Public Investment Board, at an estimated cost of Rs. 5,369.18 crore, and is scheduled to be completed by 2021-22. The project includes construction of multimodal terminals at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Sahibganj in Jharkhand and Haldia in West Bengal, and a new navigational lock at Farakka in West Bengal.

General Studies-III
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space
Indian Weather Forecast System

India Meteorological Department (IMD) operates a dedicated weather and climate monitoring, detection and warning services useful for various sectors of economy. Monsoon prediction and the weather forecasting systems in the country are comparable to the best in the world. However, efforts are continuously being made to further enhance the level of efficiency of the forecasting systems.
Government has initiated a comprehensive modernization programme for IMD covering

(i) up-gradation of observation systems

(ii) advanced data assimilation tools

(iii) advanced communication and IT infrastructure

(iv) high performance computing systems and

(v) intensive/sophisticated training of IMD personnel.

Forecasts, early warning of severe weather events and advisories are issued by IMD at national, state and district levels. In order to provide early warning of severe weather events, IMD has setup a network of State Meteorological Centres to have better coordination with the state and district level agencies.

To improve the prediction of Monsoon, National Monsoon Mission was launched in 2012. Under the National Monsoon Mission initiative, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Noida have embarked upon to build state-of-the-art coupled ocean atmospheric models for (i) improved prediction of monsoon rainfall on extended range to seasonal time scale (11 days to one season) and (ii) improved prediction of temperature, rainfall and extreme weather events on short to medium range time scale (up to 10 days) so that forecast skill gets quantitatively improved further for the operational services of IMD.

Through Indo-US collaboration, a “Monsoon Desk” has been set up for working jointly for improving seasonal forecast of Indian monsoon rainfall. Through this forum, Indian and US Scientists are exchanging their ideas and sharing their expertise. This effort has led to appreciable improvements in the efficiency of models in making better forecasts.

The monsoon forecast for the country is prepared by Climate Prediction Unit of Climate Research and Services Division (CR&S), IMD, Pune. The present long range forecast system based on the statistical models has shown some useful skill in predicting all India seasonal rainfall including the deficient monsoon season rainfall during 2015. However, in order to overcome the limitations of the statistical models used so far, a state of the art dynamical prediction system was implemented by MoES for generating operational long range monsoon forecasts.

The Gramin Krishi Mausam Seva (GKMS) of IMD has been successful in providing the crop specific advisories to the farmers through different print/visual/Radio/IT based media including short message service (SMS) and Interactive Voice Response Service (IVRS) facilitating for appropriate field level actions. Weather forecast based agro-meteorological advisories are disseminated through Kisan portal launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and also under public private partner. At present, the GKMS products are disseminated through SMS and IVRS to about 21million farmers in the country. As per the recent National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report, farming community of the country is using the GKMS service products of India Meteorological Department (IMD) for critical farm operations Viz. (i) Management of sowing (Delayed onset of rains); (ii) Changing crop variety (Delay in rainfall); (iii) Spraying Pesticides for disease control (occurrence of rainfall); (iv) Managing Irrigation (Heavy rainfall Forecast).

The third party assessment by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) on the agromet services provided by the ministry concluded that the annual economic benefit for the farmers cultivating 4 principal crops (Wheat, Rice, Sugarcane and Cotton) was Rs 42,000 Crore in 2015.

Indigenization of technology
Conversion of Sea Water Into Drinking Water

The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), an autonomous body of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has indigenously developed and demonstrated Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) technology for conversion of sea water to drinking water. Three desalination plants each with a capacity of 1 lakh litre of potable water per day, based on LTTD technology have been successfully commissioned by NIOT one each at Kavaratti, Minicoy, and Agatti islands of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. Recently, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has approved the proposal of Lakshadweep Administration for establishment of 6 LTTD plants each with capacity 1.5 lakh liters per day in the islands of Amini, Androth, Kadamat, Chetlat, Kalpeni and Kiltan of Lakshadweep.

One experimental LTTD plant using condenser waste heat from power plant was set up at North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS).

The experimental LTTD plant uses the surface seawater to condense the vapours generated from the thermal effluent to produce potable water as well as boiler quality water.

Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 18, 2017

General Studies-I
Geography of the World
Indonesia renames part of South China Sea

Indonesia has named waters in its exclusive economic zone that overlap with China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, putting it in dispute with many southeast Asian nations, and has carried out extensive land reclamation and construction on reefs and atolls to bolster its claims.

Philippines also has claims to the South China Sea. Though Philippines won a resounding victory over China last year in an arbitration case, China continues to defy the decision.

General Studies-II
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate
Higher outlay for health needed: WHO

According to a publication in the medical journal The Lancet, the world’s low- and middle-income countries must invest an additional $371 billion per year or $58 per person on health by 2030, in order for the world to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The analysis, called SDG Health Price Tag, estimates the costs of achieving the health targets in the SDGs in 67 low- and middle-income countries that account for 75% of the world’s population. It showed that the achievement of universal health coverage and SDG targets could prevent 97 million premature deaths globally between now and 2030.

Universal health coverage is ultimately a political choice. It is the responsibility of every country and national government to pursue it. Meeting the SDGs called for higher investments in health, so that health spending as a proportion of gross domestic product in these 67 countries increased from the present average of 5.6% to 7.5%. India currently spends 1.09% of the GDP on health, which is among the lowest in the world.

The SDG Health Price Tag models two scenarios: an ‘ambitious’ scenario in which investments are sufficient for countries to attain the health targets in the SDGs by 2030, and a ‘progress’ scenario, in which countries get two-thirds or more of the way to the targets. In both, systemic investments such as employing more health workers; building and operating new clinics, hospitals and laboratories; and buying medical equipment account for about 75% of the total funds. The remaining costs are for medicines, vaccines, syringes and others.

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources
Innovation in Higher Education

Innovation and upgradation of infrastructure in higher education institutions is an on-going endeavour and the Central Government is making a constant effort in this direction.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) under the Scheme “General Development Assistance” provides financial assistance to eligible Central Universities, Deemed Universities, State Universities and colleges. The main objective of the grant, inter-alia, is to set up new infrastructure and strengthen/upgrade existing infrastructural facilities in the institutions.

Further, in order to encourage innovation and infrastructure development, the UGC has launched various schemes and initiatives such as Universities with Potential for Excellence (UPE), Centre with Potential for Excellence in Particular Area (CPEPA), Special Assistance Programme (SAP), Research Projects, Basic Science Research and Inter-University Centres.

The Central Government has launched several new initiatives viz. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), Impacting Research Innovation & Technology (IMPRINT), Uchchatar Avishkar Yojna (UAY), Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) & Global Research Interactive Network (GRIN) in the field of education to encourage innovation and research in the country.

The initiative of SWAYAM has been launched which intends to provide massive open online courses (MOOCs) for the students across the country with the objective of expanding the reach of quality education to the students using the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools.

Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), financial support is provided to improve infrastructure availability in the State Higher Educational Institutions and also to promote research and innovation.

Development of MSMEs

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has been implementing various schemes and programmes for development and promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) across the country. The major schemes / programmes include Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), Credit Guarantee Scheme, Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme (CLCSS), National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme (NMCP), Micro & Small Enterprises – Cluster Development Programme (MSECDP), Performance & Credit Rating Scheme, Marketing Assistance scheme, International Cooperation Scheme, Assistant to Training Institutions etc. All plan schemes implemented by Ministry of MSME are Central Sector Schemes.

General Studies-III
Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Conservation
Eco-bridges for the movement of tigers

In a first of its kind, Telangana State will have eco-friendly bridges over a canal cutting across the tiger corridor linking the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra with the forests in Telangana’s Kumram Bheem Asifabad district. The intervention requires the laying of fertile soil to grow grass and plants over the structure, so that fragmentation of the reserve forest is camouflaged.

The ‘eco-bridges’ will be constructed at key spots along the 72 km-long, and at some places over a kilometre wide, right flank canal of the Pranahita barrage in the Bejjur and Dahegaon mandals.

The concept emerged after visits by experts from the Wildlife Board of India and the Wildlife Institute of India. They were concerned about the large-scale destruction of pristine forest along the corridor, which would result in cutting off tiger movement between TATR and Bejjur.

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Malaria drug shields foetus from Zika

Commonly used malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can effectively block the Zika virus from crossing the placenta and getting into the foetus and damaging its brain, say researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, U.S. The drug already has approval for use in pregnant women.

The placenta acts as a barrier to protect the developing foetus from disease-causing organisms. It prevents pathogens from reaching the foetus through a form of a garbage recycling system that removes some components of cells, termed autophagy. While infections often ramp up this recycling system to get rid of any pathogens, the effects of autophagy on Zika infection and its impact on transmission of the virus past the placenta were earlier not known. The Zika virus actually manipulates the garbage recycling system to its own advantage. The Zika infection ramps up autophagy. When a drug that inhibits or suppresses this ramping up is used, the virus can be blocked from infecting the foetus.

The Zika virus activates the genes related to autophagy thereby heightening the destructive recycling system activity. But treating the cells with drugs that inhibit autophagy resulted in significant decrease in Zika virus replication about two days after infection. On the other hand, when drugs that promote the cell recycling process were administered, the virus multiplied and caused increased viral infection.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which inhibits the cell recycling response, has been approved for use in pregnant women but only for a short duration of time. But with Zika virus infection even during the third trimester causing foetal damage, the treatment has to be for a long time in the case of Zika virus. However, the risk of long-term treatment with the drug [Hydroxychloroquine] is still not known.

Indigenization of technology and developing new technology
“Sohum”- An innovative Newborn hearing screening Device

The indigenously developed newborn hearing screening device – SOHUM was formally launched by the Minister of State for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences. The newborn hearing screening device developed by School of International Biodesign (SIB) startup M/s Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt. Ltd.

This innovative medical device has been developed under Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India supported (SIB). SIB is a flagship Program of the DBT aimed to develop innovative and affordable medical devices as per unmet clinical needs of India and to train the next generation of medical technology innovators in India, it is a valuable contribution to the Make in India campaign of the Government. This Program is implemented jointly at AIIMS and IIT Delhi in collaboration with International partners. Biotech Consortium India Limited manages techno-legal activities of the Program.

Sohum is a low cost and unique device which uses brainstem auditory evoked response, the gold standard in auditory testing to check for hearing response in a newborn. As of now, this technology is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many. Start-up Sohum has made the technology appropriate for the resource constrained settings and aims to cater to nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.

One of the most common birth disorders – congenital hearing loss – is a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. These factors are mostly associated with resource-poor economies such as India where, unlike advanced healthcare systems, hearing impairment goes undiagnosed. Thus, when it is discovered at 4+ years, it’s too late to reverse the damage and this leads to a host of problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness; all of which have a deep impact on the child, emotionally and economically life-long.

Globally, 8,00,000 hearing impaired babies are born annually of which, nearly 1,00,000 are in India. And all this preventable damage needs is early screening, which can facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation. Sohum team has come up with a screening device to facilitate the routine screening of newborn babies – with the potential to help children at a key stage of their development.

The portable Sohum Hearing Screening measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes placed on the baby’s head. When stimulated, they detect electrical responses generated by the brain’s auditory system. If there is no response, the child cannot hear. The battery-operated device is non-invasive, which means babies do not need to be sedated, which is the current, and risky, testing in process at present. Another key advantages over other testing systems is the patented, in-built algorithm that filters out ambient noise from the test signal. This is important because health clinics can be incredibly crowded and noisy. The device has been installed in five clinical centers who are currently running the hearing screening program. The aim is to screen two percent of hospital-born babies in the first year, before scaling up. The project has ambitious plans – to help every baby born in India be screened.


Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 17, 2017

General Studies-II
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
Soil Health Card Scheme

It is a scheme launched by the Government of India in February 2015. Under the scheme, the government issues soil cards to farmers which will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilisers required for the individual farms to help farmers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs. All soil samples are to be tested in various soil testing labs across the country. Thereafter the experts will analyse the strength and weaknesses (micro-nutrients deficiency) of the soil and suggest measures to deal with it. The result and suggestion will be displayed in the cards. The government plans to issue the cards to 14 crore farmers.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). The Scheme envisages–

  • Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
  • The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.
  • To raise farmer’s income and create potential market for traders.
  • To motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) has been formulated with the vision of extending the coverage of irrigation ‘Har Khet ko pani’ (‘Water for every field’) and improving water use efficiency ‘More crop per drop’ in a focused manner with end to end solution on source creation, distribution, management, field application and extension activities.

PMKSY has been formulated amalgamating ongoing schemes viz.

  • Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR,RD&GR);
  • Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) of Department of Land Resources (DoLR); and
  • On Farm Water Management (OFWM) of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC).

The primary objectives of PMKSY are to attract investments in irrigation system at field level, develop and expand cultivable land in the country, enhance ranch water use in order to minimize wastage of water, enhance crop per drop by implementing water-saving technologies and precision irrigation.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

PMFBY is a new Crop Insurance Scheme. It replaced the previously existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) as well as the Modified NAIS. The objectives of the scheme are:

  • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
  • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.

89th foundation day of ICAR celebrated

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare , Government of India. Formerly known as Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, it was established on 16 July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in pursuance of the report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. The ICAR has its headquarters at New Delhi.

The Council is the apex body for co-ordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country. With 101 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread across the country this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.

The ICAR has played a pioneering role in ushering Green Revolution and subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development that has enabled the country to increase the production of foodgrains by 5 times, horticultural crops by 9.5 times, fish by 12.5 times, milk 7.8 times and eggs 39 times since 1951 to 2014, thus making a visible impact on the national food and nutritional security. It has played a major role in promoting excellence in higher education in agriculture. It is engaged in cutting edge areas of science and technology development and its scientists are internationally acknowledged in their fields.

General Studies-III
Bio diversity
Bengal’s medicinal plants face threat

The West Bengal Forest Department on Friday came out with a unique publication that provides details on 581 species of medicinal plants found across different regions of south Bengal.

The plants are being conserved in situ, that is, where the plants are naturally found, at four medicinal plant conservation areas (MPCA) across south Bengal. Collections from two ex-situ (conserving in an area where the plants were not originally found) conservation sites have also been included in the book titled ‘Medicinal Plant Resources of South Bengal’.

Out of 20,000 medicinal plants listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), India’s contribution is about 5,000 species.

Increasing use of medicinal plants as raw materials by different pharma companies has pushed many of these species to the brink of extinction.

A large number of plants compiled in the book are from the Amlachati Medicinal Plant Garden, which boasts of the largest collection of medicinal plants in the country.

Asparagus officinalis is used for the treatment of jaundice and rheumatism
Asparagus racemosus is not only used to treat human ailments but also that of cattle
The roots of Gloriosa superba have certain anti-carcinogenic and anti-malarial properties, and is widely sought after by pharma companies.
The bark of the medium-sized evergreen tree Saraca asoca (commonly called Asok tree), which is a threatened tree species classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, is used in the treatment of a number of ailments, including heart disease.
Cassia fistula (amaltus) fruit has medicinal properties for treating skin diseases in humans.

Science and Technology- developments and their applications
Super-flexible and strong artificial silk developed

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed super-stretchy and strong artificial silk, composed almost entirely of water, which may be used to make eco-friendly textiles and sensors.

The fibres, which resemble miniature bungee cords as they can absorb large amounts of energy, are sustainable, non-toxic and can be made at room temperature. The fibres are spun from a soupy material called a hydrogel, which is 98% water. The remaining 2% of the hydrogel is made of silica and cellulose, both naturally available materials, held together in a network by barrel-shaped molecular structures known as cucurbiturils.

The extremely thin threads are a few millionths of a metre in diameter. After the hydrogel is stretched for roughly 30 seconds, the water evaporates, leaving a strong fibre. They can support stresses in the range of 100 to 150 megapascals, which is similar to other synthetic and natural silks. The fibres are capable of self-assembly at room temperature, and are held together by supramolecular host, where atoms share electrons.

Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 16, 2017

General Studies-II
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors; development and management of Social Services relating to Human Resources
Second Anniversary of Skill India Mission celebrated

Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) here today celebrated the second anniversary of Skill India Mission on the World Youth Skills day.

SKILL INDIA Mission was launched by MSDE on the occasion of the first ever World Youth Skills Day on 15th July 2015. The Mission has been developed to create convergence across sectors and States in terms of skill training activities.

Key institutional mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the Mission have been divided into three tiers, which will consist of:

  • a Governing Council for policy guidance at apex level;
  • a Steering Committee; and
  • a Mission Directorate (along with an Executive Committee) as the executive arm of the Mission.

Mission Directorate will be supported by three other institutions:

  • National Skill Development Agency (NSDA)
  • National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and
  • Directorate General of Training (DGT)

Seven sub-missions have been proposed initially to act as building blocks for achieving overall objectives of the Mission. They are:
(i) Institutional Training, (ii) Infrastructure, (iii) Convergence, (iv) Trainers, (v) Overseas Employment, (vi) Sustainable Livelihoods, (vii) Leveraging Public Infrastructure.

National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC)

National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1963 as a statutory Corporation under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Functions of NCDC:

Planning, promoting and financing programmes for production, processing, marketing, storage, export and import of agricultural produce, food stuffs, certain other notified commodities e.g. fertilisers, insecticides, agricultural machinery, lac, soap, kerosene oil, textile, rubber etc., supply of consumer goods and collection, processing, marketing, storage and export of minor forest produce through cooperatives, besides income generating stream of activities such as poultry, dairy, fishery, sericulture, handloom etc.

NCDC also assists different types of cooperatives by expanding its financial base. NCDC could finance projects in the rural industrial cooperative sectors and for certain notified services in rural areas like water conservation, irrigation and micro irrigation, agri-insurance, agro-credit, rural sanitation, animal health, etc.

Loans and grants are advanced to State Governments for financing primary and secondary level cooperative societies and direct to the national level and other societies having objects extending beyond one State. Now, the Corporation can also go in for direct funding of projects under its various schemes of assistance on fulfillment of stipulated conditions.

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