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MGNREGA LABOURERS WAGE HIKE

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has approved a double-digit hike in the wages of manual labourers under Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The workers will get a wage hike from Rs. 13 to Rs. 34.

Highlights:

  • The average per day wage rate for unskilled work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will rise 11 per cent from ₹182 to ₹202 for the fiscal year 2020-21.
  • For 2019-20, the average wage rate was almost unchanged, with a rise of just 1.6 per cent.
  • Although the MGNREGA wage notified for 2020-21 is substantially higher, it continues to be 40-50 per cent lower than the minimum wages paid to unskilled agricultural workers.
  • The minimum wages are revised twice a year by the chief labour commissioner, when the variable dearness allowance is adjusted to changes in the consumer price index.”
  • The prevailing rates for unskilled agricultural workers are between ₹347-383 per day, depending on the region of employment.

CPI-linked Changes:

  • The MGNREGA wage revision is linked to the changes in the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Workers (CPI-AL).
  • A committee set up by the government had recommended using CPI-Rural (CPI-R) instead of the existing CPI-AL for revising MGNREGA wages every year.
  • There is a big variation in the wages paid to MGNREGA workers across States.

MGNREGA:

  • MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is the largest work guarantee programme in the world.
  • It was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.
  • It aims at addressing causes of chronic poverty through the ‘works’ (projects) that are undertaken, and thus ensuring sustainable development.

Funding:

  • Funding is shared between the centre and the states.
  • There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour), material and administrative costs.
  • The central government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labour, 75% of the cost of semiskilled and skilled labour, 75% of the cost of materials and 6% of the administrative costs.

NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEMS RESOURCE CENTRE (NHSRC)

Why in News?

  • The National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC) has been designated as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Priority Medical Devices and Health Technology Policy.

Highlights:

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) formally announced the re-designation of the NHSRC as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Priority Medical Devices and Health Technology Policy.
  • Previously, NHSRC as a collaborating centre has supported WHO in formulating technical specifications for medical devices such as oxygen concentrators and resuscitation devices and continues to support evaluation of innovations for WHO’s compendium on innovative devices.This year in collaboration with WHO’s country’s office, NHSRC developed a guidance document for the Ministry’s free diagnostics initiative to further strengthen the agenda of Universal access to affordable diagnostics.
  • NHSRC also works with WHO on development of technical specification of Blood pressure measuring devices, In vitro diagnostics and devices for cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC):

  • Established in 2006, the NHSRC’s mandate is to assist in policy and strategy development in the provision and mobilization of technical assistance to the states and in capacity building for the Ministry of Health.
  • It was set up under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Government of India to serve as an apex body for technical assistance.
  • The goal of this institution is to improve health outcomes by facilitating governance reform, health systems innovations and improved information sharing among all stakeholders at the national, state, district and sub-district levels through specific capacity development and convergence models.

AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • In a major move aimed at making Aadhaar making people friendly, the Union Cabinet has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the earlier ordinance.
  • The Ordinance amongst other things envisaged strengthening of the Aadhaar Act as per the directions of the Supreme Court and recommendations of Justice B.N.Srikrishna Committee.

Details of the Amendment Bill:

  • The salient features of the amendments are as follows—
  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder;
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number or its alternative virtual identity.
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years;
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority.
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002; Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities; Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication; Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund; Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, and appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act.

Impact:

  • The decision would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhar.No individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

AAI SIGNS ‘TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AGREEMENT

GS 2 : Governance

Why in News?

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has signed a ‘Technical Assistance Agreement’ with aerospace major Boeing.

Highlights:

  • The agreement aims to develop an air traffic management roadmap which will improve airspace utilization and help maintain efficient aircraft operations.
  • The AAI will use guidance in the modernization of the Indian National Airspace System (NAS).
  • The roadmap is expected to be developed within 18 months and it will be undertaken with a grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
  • In this project, Boeing will also work closely with Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and other airspace stakeholders like the US-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP).

SWACHH BHARAT MISSION IMPACT ON GROUNDWATER

Why in News?

  • Swachhata has affected all aspects of the environment – be it groundwater, surface water, soil or air – as well as health and well-being of the communities in ODF regions as per the report published by UNICEF

Environmental Impact study by UNICEF:

  • Under the “Environmental impact of the SBM on Water, Soil, and Food” by UNICEF, groundwater samples were collected and studied from ODF and non-ODF villages of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal
  • The study found that, in terms of faecal contamination, non-ODF villages were, on average:
  • 25 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated (12.7 times more from contaminants traceable to humans alone)
  • 13 times more likely to have their soil contaminated
  • 48 times more likely to have food contaminated and 2.68 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated.
  • The study findings indicated that these substantial reductions may potentially be attributed to the improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices.

IEC footprint study by Gates Foundation:

  • IES stands for Information, Education and Communication
  • The “Assessment of the reach and value of IEC activities under SBM (Grameen)” was conducted by Dalberg, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • It estimated the scale of IEC activities within the Mission and assessed associated monetary and in-kind costs, and outputs such as reach.

The study found that:

  • SBM mobilized a spend equivalent worth INR 22,000 to 26,000 crores in monetary and non-monetary IEC Activities
  • Of this spend equivalent, cash expenditure on IEC activities spent by the Government, private sector, and the development community was estimated to be between INR 3,500 – 4,000
  • An average person living in rural India was exposed to between 2,500 – 3,300 SBM related messages over the last five years

JAN SHIKSHAN SANSTHANS

Why in News?

  •  Fee for SC/ST candidates, who join vocational training under Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS), has been waived off.
  •  These decisions aim to further strengthen the skill ecosystem benefiting those in the underprivileged sections of society.

Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS):

  •  The scheme of JSS was initially launched in 1967 as Shramik Vidyapeeth, a polyvalent or multi-faceted adult education institution.
  •  Formerly under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, JSS was transferred to the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2018.
  •  It was aimed at improving the vocational skills and quality of life of the industrial workers and their family members as well as those persons who had been migrating from rural to urban settings.
  •  Now it has challenging mandate of providing vocational skills to non-literate, neo-literates as well as school drop-outs by identifying skills that have a market in the region of their establishment.

Scope of work of JSS includes:

  •  Develop/Source appropriate curriculum and training modules covering vocational elements general awareness and life enrichment components.

ICMR CALLS FOR COMPLETE BAN ON E-CIGARETTES

GS 2 : Governance – Health & Education

Why in News?

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), based on currently available scientific evidence.
  • Last year, the Centre had issued an advisory recommending a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes in India.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS):

  • ENDS of which electronic cigarettes are the most common prototype, are devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporize a solution the user then inhales.
  • The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavoring agents.
  • ENDS solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.

Why such ban?

  • Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans, which include DNA damage; carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders; and adverse impact on fetal development and pregnancy.
  • ICMR noted that e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, which was highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients such as flavoring agents and vaporizers.

ENDS cannot help quit smoking:

  • The ICMR paper has rejected the argument that e-cigarettes could help smokers quit tobacco consumption.
  • While such benefits have not been firmly established, there is also evidence that there is risk of people continuing to use both them as well as tobacco products.
  • In addition, these devices could encourage non-smokers to get addicted to tobacco.
  • Various flavors and attractive designs are adding to the allure of the devices, and there was an increasing trend of using e-cigarettes among youth and adolescents in many countries.
  • They increase the likelihood to experiment with regular products and increase the intention to indulge in cigarette smoking.

GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES NEW ‘JAL SHAKTI’ MINISTRY

GS 2 : Governance -Ministries & Departments Of The Government

Why in News?

Fulfilling its poll promise, the government has launched a new unified ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry that is aimed at providing clean drinking water as well as fight India’s water woes.

Jal Shakti Ministry:

  • The new ministry has been formed by merging the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • All water related works will be merged under one ministry.
  • The new ministry will encompass issues ranging from providing clean drinking water, international and inter-states water disputes, to the Namami Gange project aimed at cleaning Gang and its tributaries, and sub tributaries.

Why such move?

  • All water projects are complementary to each other. It’s good to have one ministry to have an integrated data management system.
  • In two separate ministries, there was no integration and one will not know where the gap is.
  • The need of the hour is the creation of water availability data from various resources on both quality and quantity at one platform

WHO OFFICIALLY DECLARES EXCESSIVE GAMING A DISORDER

Why in News?

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared excessive mobile, video gaming as a disorder. Several mental and physical illness issues come up due to excessive gaming.

Highlights:

  • “Gaming disorder” alongside “gambling disorder” has officially placed in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) list of “disorders due to addictive behaviours”.
  • Games like PUBG, Loot Boxes and Blue Whale have a darker side that health professionals can no longer ignore.
  • The International Classification of Diseases – ICD is a foundation for recognition of health issues and trends globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health problems.
  • It is used by medical experts around the globe to detect conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.

Gaming disorder:

  • As per the WHO, Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a model of gaming trend characterized by impaired control over gaming, rising priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
  • Gaming disorder is “characterized by a pattern of persistent and recurring gaming behaviour” where a player begins to give priority to gaming over other daily activities and interest to a point where it begins to affect their relationships, work and education.
  • It has caused doctors in India to sit up and take note.

Why included in ICD-11?

  • A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.
  • The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.

NATIONAL SC-ST HUB

Why in News?

• The National Small Industries Corporation Limited (NSIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) for the year 2019-20.

Highlights:

• Under the scheme of National SC-ST Hub being implemented by NSIC on behalf of the Ministry of MSME.

• To provide assistance to SC/ST entrepreneurs through different interventions and various outreach activities with the overall objectives to increase their participation in public procurement.

National SC-ST Hub:

• The National SC/ST Hub has been set up to provide professional support to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Entrepreneurs to fulfil the obligations under the Central Government Public Procurement Policy for Micro and Small Enterprises Order 2012, adopt applicable business practices and leverage the Stand-Up India initiative.

• The Hub would be implemented by the Ministry of MSME through National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), a public-sector undertaking under the administrative control of this Ministry of MSME.

INTERNATIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF DISEASES (ICD)

Why in news?

  • The World Health Organization has for the first time recognised “burn-out” in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers.

Highlights:

  • It could help put to rest decades of debate among experts over how to define burnout, and whether it should be considered a medical condition.
  • WHO defines burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic
    workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
  • The syndrome is characterised by three dimensions:
  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to
    one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

ICD:

  • The ICD is the global health information standard for mortality and morbidity statistics.
  • WHO was entrusted with the ICD at its creation in 1948.
  • ICD is increasingly used in clinical care and research to define diseases and study disease patterns, as well as manage health care, monitor outcomes and allocate resources.
  • More than 100 countries use the system to report mortality data, a primary indicator of health status. This system helps to monitor death and disease rates worldwide and measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
  • About 70% of the world’s health expenditures (USD $ 3.5 billion) are allocated using ICD for reimbursement and resource allocation.

EQUIP PROJECT

Why in News?

  • Equip stands for Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion
  • The Ministry of HRD plans to launch this ambitious ₹5 lakh crore action plan to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the next five years.

Highlights:

  • The Centre would mobilise money from the marketplace through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  • The joint venture between the HRD Ministry and Canara Bank, set up in 2017, has been tasked with raising ₹1 lakh crore to finance infrastructure improvements in higher education by 2022.

Objectives of the project:

  • The committees have drafted strategy to improve access to higher education, especially for underserved communities:
    • improve the gross enrolment ratio;
    • improve teaching and learning processes;
  • build educational infrastructure.
  • improve the quality of research and innovation;
  • use technology and online learning tools; and

work on accreditation systems, governance structures and financing.

A news NEP:

  • This is being described as the implementation plan for the National Education Policy — a 2014 poll promise from the
  • The last NEP was released in 1986, with a revision in

GROUND WATER ASSESSMENT

GS 2: Governance

Why in news?

The Union Water Ministry is finalising an updated estimate on the state of groundwater reserves in the country.

Highlights:

  • The groundwater assessment was last done in 2013. It is undertaken by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)
  • It is a survey that samples a sliver of blocks in each State and counts how many blocks have critically low levels of water and how many are well-stocked.

Key Findings of Previous Year Reports:

  • In 2013, the CGWB assessed 6,584 units across the country and found 4,520 to be “safe,” 681 to be “semi-critical” 253 to be “critical” and 1,034 to be “overexploited.” About 96 blocks were “saline”.
  • The overall contribution of rainfall to the country’s annual ground water resource is 68%.
  • The share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures taken together is 32%.
  • The national per capita annual availability of water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metres in 2011 — a reduction of 15%.

Concerns:

  • India’s groundwater has been depleting at a worrying rate since 1995
  • In 1995, only 3% of districts had overexploited their groundwater reserves whereas by 2011, that had increased to 15%.

INSURANCE REGULATORY AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Irdai proposes to increase third-party insurance premium for cars, two-wheelers

Highlights:

  • Irdai has proposed to increase the Motor TP premium rates for cars below 1000 cc to ₹2,120 from the existing ₹1,850
  • Irdai has proposed a discount of 15%, on Motor TP premium rates for electric private cars and electric two-wheelers

Third Party Insurance:

  • In case of an accident, there are major chances of injuries and damage. Third-party car insurance covers the damage caused to other people involved in the accident.

IRDAI:

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and reinsurance industries in India
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India
  • The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad
  • IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.

NATIONAL E-VIDHAN APPLICATION (NEVA) PROJECT

GS 2: Governance

Why in news?

Kerala Legislative Assembly recently announced an initiative to digitize all its records and proceedings under its ambitious project called E-Vidhan.

e-Vidhan:

  • It is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) comes under the Digital India Programme.
  • Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) is the ‘Nodal Ministry’ for its implementation in all the 31 States/UTs with Legislatures.
  • The funding for e-Vidhan is provided by the MoPA and technical support by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY).
  • The funding of NeVA is through Central Sponsored Schemee. 60:40; and 90:10 for North East & hilly States and 100% for UTs.
  • To bring all the legislatures of the country together, in one platform thereby creating a massive data depository without having the complexity of multiple applications.

Features:

  • Paperless Assembly or e-Assembly is a concept involving of electronic means to facilitate the work of Assembly.
  • It enables automation of entire law-making process, tracking of decisions and documents, sharing of information.
  • Through the cloud technology (Meghraj), data deployed can be accessed anywhere at any time.
  • Himachal Pradesh is already the first Digital Legislature of the country.

PROJECT ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ FOR APAR IMPLEMENTED

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Project ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) in SPARROW (Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window) for Group ‘B’ and ‘C’ Officers of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) implemented.

Highlights:

  • Online writing of APARs in SPARROW for IRS (C&CE) Officers has already been implemented w.e.f. 2016-17.
  • As part of CBIC’s constant endeavor for better HR management, online writing of APARs in SPARROW has now been launched for Group B & C officers of CBIC.
  • SPARROW-CBIC is one of its kind in terms of Scale/ number of employees covered as far as Central Government Departments are concerned.
  • It brings a complete change in APAR management of such large number of Group ‘B’ & ‘C’ Officers/ Staff of CBIC, which would, in turn, lead to better HR Management.
  • This Project leverages modern technology for enhancing the overall efficiency and morale of the huge workforce working in Central GST and Customs formations of CBIC.
  • The Project is an important milestone in the journey towards digitisation and paper less working.

COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has started a probe against Google for alleged anti-competitive practices with respect to its popular Android platform for mobile phones, an official said on Friday.

Need of Competition Commission of India:

  • Competition is the best means of ensuring that the ‘Common Man’ or ‘Aam Aadmi’ has access to the broadest range of goods and services at the most competitive prices. With increased competition, producers will have maximum incentive to innovate and specialize.
  • This would result in reduced costs and wider choice to consumers. A fair competition in market is essential to achieve this objective.
  • Goal is to create and sustain fair competition in the economy that will provide a ‘level playing field’ to the producers and make the markets work for the welfare of the consumers.

The Competition Act:

  • The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws.
  • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.

Competition Commission of India:

  • The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has been established by the Central Government
  • CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
  • It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

PROJECT SASHAKT

Why in News?

  • Public Sector Banks (PSBs) may now use provisions of Project Sashakt to deal with economically unviable projects where lenders could still initiate corporate insolvency proceedings if there is no other mode of resolution within 180 Days

Highlights:

  • Under the aegis of Project Sashakt, 35 banks have signed an inter-creditor agreement (ICA), which provides the framework to resolve assets through a bank-led resolution approach (BLRA).
  • Under the agreement, if the lead bank is unable to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, the assets will then move to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) Process

Background:

  • The Supreme Court, in its judgement held the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions issued on the treatment of defaults as ‘ultra vires,’ or not valid in respect to the existing legal framework
  • In its ‘Resolution of Stressed Assets–Revised Framework’, the RBI had called on lenders to identify assets “immediately on default,” beginning with loans on which any amount was due from one to 30 Days

What is Project Sashakt?

  • Project Sashakt was proposed by a panel led by PNB chairman Sunil
  • Bad loans of up to ₹ 50 crore will be managed at the bank level, with a deadline of 90
  • For bad loans of ₹ 50-500 crore, banks will enter an inter-creditor agreement, authorizing the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, or refer the asset to
  • For loans above ₹ 500 crore, the panel recom•mended an independent asset management company (AMC), supported by institutional funding through the alternative investment fund (AIF).
  • The idea is to help consolidate stressed

WHATSAPP UNVEILS ‘CHECKPOINT TIPLINE’

Why in News?

  • WhatsApp unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’, where people can check the authenticity of information received as the messaging giant looks to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the

Highlights:

  • Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp.

How does it works?

  • Users in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).
  • Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification
  • centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in a message shared is verified or not. The response will indicate if the information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available. The verification centre, in turn, will be able to review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text. Apart from English, it will cover four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.

Significance:

  • PROTO will also look at working with organisations at the grassroots level to submit misinformation circulating across different regions in India during the election Period
  • The initiative   will   help   create    global   benchmarks    for    those   wishing   to    tackle misinformation in their own Mrkets

DRAFT RULES FOR POULTRY FARMING:

Why in News?

  • Recently draft rules have been laid under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg-laying Hens) Rules, 2019, after High court issued a directive regarding cruelty in poultry

Draft rules for better poultry farming practices:

  • Poultry farms in the country have to have a minimum space of not less than 550 sq
  • They cannot put more than 6-8 birds in a
  • Antibiotics has to be used only for therapeutic purposes and that, too, under supervision by a
  • The policy also bars feeding hens with the remains of dead chicks, thereby preventing diseases to the hens and also benefiting healthy commercial egg production in the
  • Regular inspection of poultry farms by authorised personnel, who should follow proper bio-security
  • No inspector will visit more than one farm within a period of 72 hours for bio-security concerns to prevent the spread of

GUJARAT SALT FOR DE-ICING

Why in news?

  • For the past three years, the salt export from Gujarat has significantly shot up with the major chunk being used in de-icing the roads in the countries reeling under heavy snowfall.

Highlights:

  • Gujarat accounts for 90% of the salt exported from
  • The salt made in Gujarat is routed through China to the European and American countries and Russia due to lesser logistics
  • China also exports its inferior quality salt for de-icing in Polar
  • Generally, the salt export for de-icing starts from the month of September. During this period, the salt export touches around 7-8 lakh tonnes per month from the average four lakh tonnes.

What is De-icing?

  • De-icing is the process of removing snow or ice from the surface of the roads, mostly done by using sodium chloride or other
  • Salt or sodium chloride is preferred as it is
  • This is done to prevent fatal accidents caused by slippery roads in sub-zero

NAMING OF CYCLONES

Why in News?

  • The newest cyclone to emerge out of the Bay of Bengal has been named Before that, there were cyclones Hudhud in 2014, Ockhi in 2017 and Titli and Gaja in 2018
  • Each Tropical Cyclone basin in the world has its own rotating list of
  • For cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the naming system was agreed by eight member countries of a group called WMO/ESCAP and took effect in 2004

Naming a Cyclone:

  • There are five tropical cyclone regional bodies, i.e. ESCAP/WMO Typhoon Committee, WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones, RA-I Tropical Cyclone Committee, RA-IV Hurricane Committee, and RA-V Tropical Cyclone
  • In general, tropical cyclones are named according to the rules at a regional
  • The WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones at its twenty-seventh Session held in 2000 in Muscat, Oman agreed in principal to assign names to the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal

Naming a Cyclone:

  • Bengal and Arabian Sea.After long deliberations among the member countries, the naming of the tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean commenced from September 2004
  • Eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated in the panel and came up with a list of 64 Names
  • If public wants to suggest the name of a cyclone to be included in the list, the proposed name must meet some fundamental criteria, the RSMC website
  • The name should be short and readily understood when Broadcast
  • Further, the names must not be culturally sensitive and should not convey any unintended and potentially inflammatory

How naming takes place?

  • These countries submitted eight names each, which are arranged in an 8×8 table
  • The first cyclone after the list was adopted was given the name in the first row of the first column — Onil, proposed by Bangladesh.
  • Subsequent cyclones are being named sequentially, column-wise, with each cyclone given the name immediately below that of the previous Cyclone
  • Once the bottom of the column is reached, the sequence moves to the top of the next column.
  • So far, the first seven columns have been exhausted, and Fani (again proposed by Bangladesh) is the top name in the last column.
  • The next cyclone will be named Vayu. The lists will wind up with Cyclone Amphan, whenever it comes.

When the lists end?

  • After the 64 names are exhausted, the eight countries will propose fresh lists of names
  • The lists for storms in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins are, however,
  • Exception are, however, made in certain cases — if a storm causes excessive death and destruction, its name is considered for retirement and is not repeated; it is replaced with another name.

Why name cyclones?

  • It is generally agreed that appending names to cyclones makes it easier for the media to report on these cyclones, heightens interest in warnings, and increases community preparedness.
  • Names are presumed to be easier to remember than numbers and technical
  • The practice of naming a storm/tropical cyclone would help identify each individual tropical
  • The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for people to easily understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and
  • It does not confuse the public when there is more than one tropical cyclone in the same area.
  • Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community
  • It’s easier and less confusing to say “Cyclone Titli” than remember the storm’s number or its longitude and latitude.

ICMR LAUNCHES ‘MERA INDIA’ TO ELIMINATE MALARIA BY 2030

Why in News?

  •  The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched the MERA India – a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control – in order to prioritise, plan and scale up research to eliminate the disease from India by 2030.

Malaria Elimination Research Alliance (MERA) India:

  •  The MERA India does not intend to duplicate international efforts rather complement this on a national scale while contributing to the broader global agenda.
  •  The alliance will facilitate trans-institutional coordination and collaboration around a shared research agenda which responds not only to programmatic challenges and addresses gaps in available tools, but also proactively contributes to targeted research.
  •  It aims to harness and reinforce research in coordinated and combinatorial ways in order to achieve a tangible impact on malaria elimination.
  •  The National Vector Borne Diseases Control Program (NVBDCP) of India has developed a comprehensive framework to achieve the overarching vision of “Malaria free India by 2030”.

Background:

  •  Over the past two decades, India has made impressive progress in malaria control.
  •  The malaria burden has declined by over 80 per cent, 2.03 million cases in 2000 to 0.39 million in 2018, and malaria deaths by over 90 per cent, 932 deaths in 2000 to 85 in 2018.
  •  This success has provided a strong foundation for the commitment from the leadership of the government of India to eliminate malaria from India by 2030.

SEMINAR ON ‘USE OF TECHNICAL TEXTILES IN WATER RESOURCES WORKS’ HELD

Why in News?

  •  One day Technical Seminar was organized by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on “Use of Technical Textiles in Water Resources Works”.

Technical Textiles:

  •  A technical textile is a textile product manufactured for non-aesthetic purposes, where function is the primary criterion.
  •  Technical textiles include
  •  Textiles for automotive applications, medical textiles (e.g., implants)
  •  Geotextiles (reinforcement of embankments)
  •  Agro-textiles (textiles for crop protection)
  •  And protective clothing (e.g., heat and radiation protection for fire fighter clothing molten metal protection for welders, stab protection and bulletproof vests, and spacesuits).

Significance of technical textile:

  •  Technical Textiles are being used globally for last several decades.
  •  These materials have provided innovative engineering solutions for several applications in civil and geotechnical engineering, for infrastructure water resources projects.
  •  Even while Technical Textiles have been extensively used in developed as well as many developing countries, India has yet to capitalise the technical, economic and environmental benefits on large scale.
  •  Various parts of India are subjected to floods and environmental degradation.
  •  In some of the terrains, the flood management and control can rely on Technical Textiles tubes, containers and bags.
  •  Technical Textiles have been found to perform better than concrete as water protection
  • component because of permeability, flexibility and ease of underwater placement.

WHO GUIDELINES ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY FOR CHILDREN UNDER 5 YEARS OF AGE

Why in News?

  •  The WHO issued guidelines as part of a campaign to tackle the global obesity crisis and ensure that young children grow up fit and well, particularly since development in the first five years of life contributes to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.

Recommendations:

  •  Infants (less than 1 year) should:
  •  Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  •  Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  •  Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  •  Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times

E-WAY BILL SYSTEM

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Recently, the Finance Ministry has introduced changes in the e-way bill system.

Highlights:

  • The new enhanced system would come with auto-calculation of distance between the source and destination, based on the PIN codes.
  • The user would be allowed to enter the actual distance as per the movement of goods, which will be limited to 10 per cent more than the auto calculated distance displayed.
  • The government has decided not to permit generation of multiple e-way bills based on one invoice. It means if the e-way bill is generated once with a particular invoice number, then none of the parties — consignor, consignee or transporter – can generate another e-way bill with the same invoice number.
  • The enhanced feature would permit extension of validity of the e-way bill when the goods are in transit/movement.
  • The e-way bill portal would also generate a report for users on the list of e-way bills about to expire. This would help the user to analyse the data and ensure that the goods reach the destination within the valid time period.
  • These enhanced features would add value to both, businesses and tax officers as the mixed bag aims at propelling ease of doing business together with acting as a deterrent for tax evaders.
  • Touted as an anti-evasion tool, the electronic way or e-way bill was rolled out on April 1, 2018, for moving goods worth over Rs 50,000 from one state to another.
  • The same for intra or within the state movement was rolled out in a phased manner from April 15.

PAYROLL REPORTING IN INDIA – A FORMAL EMPLOYMENT PERSPECTIVE GS

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

  • The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the press note on Employment Outlook of the country
  • This is done using information on the number of subscribers who have subscribed under three major schemes, namely, the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Scheme, the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme and the National Pension Scheme (NPS).

Employees Provident Fund (EPF):

  • (EPF) is a mandatory savings scheme under the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
  • It is managed under the aegis of Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO). It covers every establishment in which 20 or more persons are employed (and certain other establishments which may be notified by the Central Government even if they employ less than 20 persons each), subject to certain conditions and exemptions as provided for in the Act. The pay ceiling is Rs.15000/- per month. Persons drawing pay above Rs. 15,000 are exempted or can be enrolled with some permission or on voluntary basis.
  • The number of members subscribing to this scheme gives an idea of the level of employment in the formal sector.
  • The data on subscribers-new members, exited members and those subscribers that re-started their subscription is sourced from EPFO.

Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme:

  • The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 is applicable to non-seasonal, manufacturing establishments employing 10 or more workers. For health and medical institutions, the threshold limit is 20 or more workers.
  • ESI Scheme for India is an integrated social security scheme tailored to provide socio-economic protection to the workers in the organized sector and their dependents, in contingencies, such as Sickness, Maternity and Death or Disablement due to an employment injury or occupational hazard.
  • The wage ceiling is Rs.21000/- per month. Subscribers are termed as Insured Persons (IP) and a new IP number can also arise due to change in employment. Employees may cease to pay contribution due to wage exceeding the statutory ceiling of Rs.21000/- per month or owing to resignation, death, retirement or dismissal.
  • Data is sourced from Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the information may have an element of duplication with EPF data and is thus not additive.

NATIONAL PANCHAYATI RAJ DAY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

The National Panchayati Raj Day is celebrated every year in India on 24th April.

Highlights:

  • The Constitution of India recognizes Panchayats as ‘Institutions of self-government’.
  • This day marks the passing of Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from 24 April 1993.
  • The Amendment Act permits states to take steps to organize village panchayats and provide them with necessary powers and authority necessary to facilitate them to function as units of self-government.

National Panchayati Raj Day:

  • The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010.
  • The enactment of the 73rd Amendment Act had led a defining moment in the history of India which helped in the decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
  • In turn, it had led to the institutionalization of Panchayati Raj (PR) through the village, Intermediate and District level Panchayats.

Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992:

  • The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force with effect from 24th April, 1993.
  • It has vested constitutional status on Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • It marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level.
  • The 73rd Amendment 1992 added a new Part IX to the constitution titled The Panchayats covering provisions from Article 243 to 243(O).
  • A new Eleventh Schedule covering 29 subjects within the functions of the Panchayats.
  • It implemented article 40 of DPSP which says that State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE DIGITAL LIBRARY (TKDL)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

  • CSIR jointly with Department of AYUSH (now Ministry) developed the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).

TKDL:

  • A globally recognized proprietary database on Indian systems of medicine for preventing bio-piracy and misappropriation of our traditional knowledge.
  • The objective of the library is to protect the ancient and traditional knowledge of the country by documenting it electronically and classifying it as per international patent classification systems.
  • To facilitate the non-patent database serves to foster modern research based on traditional knowledge, as it simplifies access to this vast knowledge of remedies or practices.

INVESTOR EDUCATION AND PROTECTION FUND (IEPF) AUTHORITY RECOVERS RS 1514 CR OF DEPOSITORS’ MONEY

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

In a major success, the IEPF Authority has been able to enforce The Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Limited to transfer deposits worth about Rs 1514 Cr to IEPF.

Highlights:

  • This depositor’s money was pending with The Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Limited for the last 15 years.
  • This amount was taken by the company by issuing about 1.49 Cr Deposit Certificates and include more than 1 Cr individual investors.
  • The data submitted by the company reveals that 50.77 percent of the total amount was taken in the form of deposit certificates of the value of Rs. 2000 or less. Number wise such certificates form 85.32 percent of the total number of certificates issued.
  • The majority of these investors are common citizens belonging to the lower and middle-income group including daily wage earners, etc.
  • Geographically, the investors involved belong to 30 states and Union territories of the Country. Majority of the investors belong to the state of West Bengal.
  • The Authority has also acted against companies that have transferred the unpaid dividend amount to IEPF but have failed to transfer shares in accordance with section 124(6) of the Act.
  • In some other cases, the companies are showing unclaimed and unpaid amounts in their Balance Sheets but have not transferred such amounts to IEPF even after seven years. Based on the above, the authority has issued more than 4000 notices to the companies under section 206(4) of the Act for calling information.

IEPF Authority:

  • IEPF Authority has been set up under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India as a statutory body under Companies Act 2013 to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund with the objective of promoting Investor’s Education, Awareness and Protection.
  • The Authority takes various initiatives to fulfil its objectives through Investor Awareness Programmes and various other mediums like Print, Electronic, Social Media, and Community Radio etc.
  • The size of IEPF Fund has almost doubled within one year with an accumulated corpus of about Rs 4138 Cr. The companies have also transferred about 65.02 Cr valuing Rs 21,232.15 Cr.
  • Secretary Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairperson of the Authority. Joint Secretary Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Authority.

CONTROLLER GENERAL OF DEFENCE ACCOUNTS (CGDA)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

Shri Rajendra Kumar Nayak took over as the 52nd Controller General of Defence Accounts. He is from the Indian Defence Accounts Service.

Defence Accounts Department (DAD):

  • Defence Accounts Department, with the Controller General of Defence Accounts at its head, functions under the administrative control of the Financial Adviser (Defence Services).
  • The duties of the Defence Accounts Department are broadly audit, payment and accounting of all charges pertaining to the Armed Forces, including bills for supplies and services rendered and for construction/repair works, pay and allowances miscellaneous charges, pensions, etc.
  • The Department is also responsible for the audit of cash and stores account kept by the various units and formations (including arsenals, workshops and storage depots) in the three services and maintenance of pay accounts of Army Officers and combatants of Army.
  • They also maintain Accounts relating to works services and audit the construction and other accounts relating to works project maintained by Military Engineer Services.
  • In addition to the duties mentioned above, the Controller of Defence Accounts function as Local Financial Advisers to the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of Commands, Area Commanders, etc.
  • The Defence Accounts Department comes under the Ministry of Defence with the Controller General of Defence Accounts as the Head of the Department.
  • The organization of the Defence Accounts Department corresponds broadly to the organization of the three Services. In addition, it also caters for the Ordnance Factories.

Namami Gange Gets Global Recognition at World Summit

Why in News?

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

Highlights:

  • The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.
  • The awards recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people, according to NMCG, which is under the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • An integrated mission for Ganga rejuvenation, the Namami Gange programme has a comprehensive multi-sector intervention with multi-stakeholder involvement and adopts a basin-based approach.

Global Water Summit:

  • Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.
  • The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

Namami Gange Programme:

  • Namami Gange Programme is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions.
  • Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

NMCG:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation.
  • Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

Namami Gange Gets Global Recognition at World Summit

Why in News?

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

Highlights:

  • The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.
  • The awards recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people, according to NMCG, which is under the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • An integrated mission for Ganga rejuvenation, the Namami Gange programme has a comprehensive multi-sector intervention with multi-stakeholder involvement and adopts a basin-based approach.

Global Water Summit:

  • Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.
  • The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

Namami Gange Programme:

  • Namami Gange Programme is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions.
  • Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

NMCG:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation.
  • Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

SMALL FINANCE BANKS

Why in News?

  •  Data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show that the small finance banks, in total, saw their deposits grow 31.6% in the third quarter (ended December) of this financial year, compared with the second quarter.

Small Finance Banks(SFBs):

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

Functions of SFBs:

  •  Accept small deposits and disburse loans.
  •  Distribute mutual funds, insurance products and other simple third-party financial products.
  •  Lend 75% of their total adjusted net bank credit to priority sector.
  •  Maximum loan size would be 10% of capital funds to single borrower, 15% to a group.
  •  Minimum 50% of loans should be up to 25 lakhs.
  • How are they different from other commercial banks?
  •  They Cannot open branches with prior RBI approval for first five years.
  •  Cannot lend to big corporates and groups.
  •  Other financial activities of the promoter must not mingle with the bank.
  •  They cannot set up subsidiaries to undertake non-banking financial services activities.
  •  Cannot be a business correspondent of any bank.

DATA USERS’ CONFERENCE DELIBERATES ON STRATEGY AND QUESTIONNAIRE FOR CENSUS 2021

Why in News?

  •  For the first time in the 140 years long Census exercise in India, data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app.

Highlights:

  •  The data users conference is the first formal interaction of the census organization with various stakeholders. The two-day conference is expected to have intensive deliberations on the proposed Strategy and the draft Questionnaire for the 2021 Census.
  •  The results of deliberations will form the basis for finalizing the questions and the methodology for the census.
  •  enumerators would be encouraged to use their own mobile phone for which they would be paid appropriate remuneration or else there is also option to collect and record the data through paper schedules which will eventually be submitted electronically by them.
  • 33 lakh enumerators would be mobilized for data collection for which notification has already been issued.
  •  The reference date is 1st October 2020 for Jammu & Kashmir and snowbound areas of Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand while for the rest of the country the reference date is 1st March 2021.
  •  Census is not just an exercise of headcount but also provides invaluable socio-economic data which forms a credible basis for informed policy formulation and allocation of resources. The changing demographics and socio-economic parameters reflected by the census helps in the reformulation of the country’s plans for the economic development and welfare schemes for its people.
  •  Besides, census data caters to the Constitutional requirement of delimitation of constituencies and reservation of seats for SCs & STs, Union Home Secretary said.

PRADHAN MANTRI FASAL BIMA YOJA

Why in News?

  • The new Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme. It incorporates the best features of all previous schemes and at the same time, all previous shortcomings / weaknesses have been removed. The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as the Modified NAIS

Objectives:

  • 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 Practise
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture Sector

Highlights of the scheme:

    • There will be a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5%. The premium rates to be paid by farmers are very low and balance premium will be paid by the Government to provide full insured amount to the farmers against crop loss on account of natural calamities.
  • There is no upper limit on Government subsidy. Even if balance premium is 90%, it will be borne by the Government
  • Earlier, there was a provision of capping the premium rate which resulted in low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done to limit Government outgo on the premium subsidy. This capping has now been removed and farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction
  • The use of technology will be encouraged to a great extent. Smartphones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting Experiments
  • PMFBY is a replacement scheme of NAIS / MNAIS, there will be exemption from Service Tax liability of all the services involved in the implementation of the scheme. It is estimated that the new scheme will ensure about 75-80 per cent of subsidy for the farmers in insurance Premium

Farmers to be covered:

  • All farmers growing notified crops in a notified area during the season who have insurable interest in the crop are Eligible
  • Compulsory coverage: The enrolment under the scheme, subject to possession of insurable interest on the cultivation of the notified crop in the notified area, shall be compulsory for following categories of farmers:
  • Farmers in the notified area who possess a Crop Loan account/KCC account (called as Loanee Farmers) to whom credit limit is sanctioned/renewed for the notified crop during the crop season. and Such other farmers whom the Government may decide to include from time to
  • Voluntary coverage: Voluntary coverage may be obtained by all farmers not covered above, including Crop KCC/Crop Loan Account holders whose credit limit is not renewed.

Unit of Insurance:

  • The Scheme shall be implemented on an ‘Area Approach basis’ i.e., Defined Areas for each notified crop for widespread calamities with the assumption that all the insured farmers, in a Unit of Insurance, to be defined as “Notified Area‟ for a crop, face similar risk exposures, incur to a large extent, identical cost of production per hectare, earn comparable farm income per hectare, and experience similar extent of crop loss due to the operation of an insured peril, in the notified area

NIRF & ARIIA RANKINGS 2019

Why in News?

  • The President of India has announced the results for National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)-2019 and Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)-2019. These were the fourth edition of NIRF Rankings and first edition of ARIIA ranking.

Highlights:

  • Indian Institute of Madras (IIT Madras) has topped the list in ‘overall category’.
  • 7 IITs are among the first ten position holders whereas JNU, Delhi has secured the seventh rank. IISc Bengaluru has topped ‘University category’. Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has retained its third position in the top 10 universities in the country for the third consecutive

NIRF:

  • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched by the Minister of Human Resource Development on 29th September
  • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the
  • The parameters broadly cover
    • Teaching, Learning and Resources,
    • Research and Professional Practices,
    • Graduation Outcomes,
    • Outreach and Inclusivity and
    • Perception

ARIIA Rankings 2019:

  • IIT Madras has topped the ‘Public funded Institutions Category’.
  • Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu has topped the ‘Private Institutions Category’.

ARIIA:

  • It is an initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Govt. of
  • To systematically rank all the major higher educational institutions and universities in India on indicators related to “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development” amongst students and
  • Major Indicators are:
    • Budget & Funding Support
    • Infrastructure & Facilities
    • Awareness, Promotions & support for Idea Generation &Innovation.
    • Promotion & Support for Entrepreneurship Development
    • Innovative Learning Methods & Courses
    • Intellectual Property Generation, Technology Transfer & Commercialization
    • Innovation in Governance of the Institution
    • ARIIA focuses on quality of innovation and Tries to Measure the real impact Created by These Innovations Nationally and Internationally

SC DIRECTS ECI TO INCREASE RANDOM CHECKING OF VVPAT SLIPS

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The Supreme Court on April 8, 2019 directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase the random checking of VVPAT slips from 1 EVM to 5 EVMs in each assembly of a parliamentary constituency in Lok Sabha Elections 2019.

Highlights:

  • The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that the objective behind the move is to ensure a higher degree of accuracy and conduct free and fair elections.
  • However, the bench did not agree to the request of petitioners to match the VVPAT slips of 50 percent EVMs as it would require huge manpower and is not feasible due to infrastructural difficulties.
  • The Apex Court gave this direction after hearing a petition filed by leaders of 21 Opposition political parties led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.
  • The petitioners were demanding counting and cross verification of the VVPAT slips in at least 50 percent randomly chosen polling stations within each Assembly Constituency.
  • The petitioners also challenged the decision of the Election Commission to verify VVPAT of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency.
  • In a response to this matter, the Election Commission filed counter-affidavit citing logistical difficulties in carrying out 50 percent verification of VVPAT. The commission said that the verification would delay the announcement of results by at least 6 days

VVPAT:

  • The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) is a paper slip generated by the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) every time a voter casts his vote, recording the party to whom the vote was made. The VVPAT slip is kept in a sealed cover.
  • VVPAT slip counting takes place in the VVPAT counting booths under the close monitoring of the returning officer and direct oversight of the observer.

GLOBAL INITIATIVE OF ACADEMIC NETWORKS (GIAN)

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi, had launched a programme under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education. It aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs.

GIAN program:

  • Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education was launched in 2015. It is a program of Ministry of Human Resource and Development.
  • It aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities.

Objectives of GIAN:

  • To increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes.
  • Provide opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas. To provide opportunity to our students to seek knowledge and experience from reputed International faculty. To create avenue for possible collaborative research with the international faculty. Develop high quality course material in niche areas, both through video and print that can be used by a larger body of students and teachers. To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.

NATIONAL SEMINAR ON GREENERY AND LANDSCAPING

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

CPWD organizes National Seminar on “Greenery and Landscaping

Highlights:

  • Green Urban Areas play an important role in the social and natural sustainability and improve quality of life.
  • Greenery and Dense plantation have a major impact on the conservation of energy, and reduce the energy requirement of the building.
  • In order to maintain sustainable environment, pollution free clean air, it is essential to take up the plantation work.
  • Cost of land has increased manifold and high-rise buildings are coming up, people are getting hardly any area for the greenery. Keeping in view the same, plantation, greenery and other environment friendly applications should be planned around the building by way of dwarf trees, small shrubs, ground covers, hanging baskets, creepers, etc.
  • There is need to adopt wood alternative in building construction. Use of alternate materials like Bamboo needs to be encouraged.
  • Orientation and proper training should be imparted to the persons engaged in landscaping and Horticulture, for implementation of the new technologies in this field to save the labour and cost of the project in long run.
  • Emphasis should be given for conserving and transplanting indigenous and grown up trees. Herbal and medicinal plants need to be encouraged. Herbal plants are useful for keeping the life healthy. Application of Organic Manure needs to be adopted for healthy and nutritious food.
  • Water conserving irrigation method like drip irrigation, Sprinkler irrigation and pop up system needs to be adopted. Plants and greenery help in reducing adverse effects of climate change. Therefore, every individual should adopt minimum one tree.
  • Green initiative needs to be taken up on a mission mode by every nation, every city, every society and every individual so that future generations may lead happy and healthy life.

SOLIDARITY HUMAN CHAIN

GS 2: Governance | Health & Education

Why in News?

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with World Health Organization (WHO) formed a Solidarity Human Chain as part of the World Health Day celebrations.

Solidarity Human Chain:

  • It aims to reaffirm their commitment to bridging gaps and working collaboratively towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day.
  • This year’s World Health Day will focus on equity and solidarity.
  • From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the WHO. Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change.

NITI AAYOG & RMI RELEASE TECHNICAL ANALYSIS OF FAME II SCHEME

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

The NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a report on opportunities for the automobile sector and government under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles II (FAME II) scheme.

Highlights:

  • The technical report titled ‘India’s Electric Mobility Transformation: Progress to Date and Future Opportunities’ quantifies the direct oil and carbon savings that the vehicles incentivized under FAME II will deliver.
  • RMI is an Indian and global nonprofit organisation focused on driving the efficient and restorative use of resources. The report also quantifies the catalytic effect that FAME II and other measures could have on the overall Electric Vehicle(EV) market.
  • According to the analysis, if FAME II and other measures – in public and private space – are successful, India could realize EV sales penetration of 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial cars, 40% of buses and 80% of two and three-wheelers by 2030.
  • The FAME II scheme, which was notified by the Union Cabinet in February 2019, aims to further accelerate the government of India’s commitment to a clean mobility future, sees the electrification of transportation as a primary focus area.
  • FAME-II intends to catalyze the market for faster adoption of EVs to ensure durable economic growth and global competitiveness for India’s automotive industry.

Analysis of the report:

  • Effects of FAME II will go beyond the vehicles that are eligible under the FAME II
  • There are considerable energy and CO2 savings associated with the two, three, and four- wheeled vehicles and buses covered by FAME II over their lifetime, as well as the potential savings associated with greater adoption levels by 2030
  • The electric buses covered under FAME II will account for 3.8 billion vehicle kilometres travelled (e-vkt) over their lifetime.
  • In order to capture the potential opportunity in 2030, batteries must remain a key focal point as they will continue to be the key cost driver of EVs.
  • Vehicles eligible under FAME II scheme can cumulatively save 5.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent over their lifetime worth Rs 17.2 thousand crores.
  • EVs sold through 2030 could cumulatively save 474 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) worth INR 15 lakh crore and generate net CO2 savings of 846 million tonnes over their operational lifetime.

Way forward:

  • India needs the auto industry’s active participation to ease electric mobility transition. The auto and battery industries could collaborate to enhance customer awareness, promote domestic manufacturing, promote new business models, conduct R&D for EVs and components, consider new business models to promote EVs
  • The government should focus on a phased manufacturing plan to promote EVs, provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for phased manufacturing of EVs and batteries. Different government departments can consider a bouquet of potential policies, such as congestion pricing, ZEV credits, low emission/exclusion zones, parking policies, etc. to drive adoption of EVs. India’s electric vehicle market is poised for growth with a blend of policies, such as FAME II, and the automotive industry’s willingness to provide new mobility solutions to the citizens of the country. Such a transformation will create enormous economic, social and environmental benefits for the citizens of India.

PROJECT SASHAKT

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues

Why in News?

Public Sector Banks (PSBs) may now use provisions of Project Sashakt to deal with economically unviable projects where lenders could still initiate corporate insolvency proceedings if there is no other mode of resolution within 180 days.

Highlights:

  • Under the aegis of Project Sashakt, 35 banks have signed an inter-creditor agreement (ICA), which provides the framework to resolve assets through a bank-led resolution approach (BLRA).
  • Under the agreement, if the lead bank is unable to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, the assets will then move to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) process.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court, in its judgement held the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions issued on the treatment of defaults as ‘ultra vires,’ or not valid in respect to the existing legal framework.
  • In its ‘Resolution of Stressed Assets–Revised Framework’, the RBI had called on lenders to identify assets “immediately on default,” beginning with loans on which any amount was due from one to 30 days.

What is Project Sashakt?

  • Project Sashakt was proposed by a panel led by PNB chairman Sunil Mehta.
  • Bad loans of up to ₹ 50 crore will be managed at the bank level, with a deadline of 90 days.
  • For bad loans of ₹ 50-500 crore, banks will enter an inter-creditor agreement, authorizing the lead bank to implement a resolution plan in 180 days, or refer the asset to NCLT.
  • For loans above ₹ 500 crore, the panel recom•mended an independent asset management company (AMC), supported by institutional funding through the alternative investment fund (AIF).
  • The idea is to help consolidate stressed assets.

Govt modifies Solar Park Scheme

GS 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development

Why in News?

The government has modified the existing scheme for development of solar parks and ultra mega solar parks in a bid to ease constraints related to availability of land and evacuation infrastructure.

The new guidelines-Mode-7:

  • A new mode is being introduced for development of renewable energy parks (solar/wind/hybrid/other RE parks) through Solar Energy Corporation of India(SECI).
  • SECI will make both government and private land available for successful bidders for setting up projects with the assistance of state government.
  • The state government would be paid a facilitation charge of Rs 0.02 per unit of power being generated in these parks.
  • No fund from Central Financial Assistance (CFA) would be used for the procurement of land.
  • SECI would act as a Solar Power Park Developer (SPPD) and will get the external power evacuation infrastructure of the parks developed by the External Transmission Development Agency such as transmission utilities.
  • SECI would also set up a Payment Security Mechanism to make setting up of renewable projects in such parks more attractive.

Solar Park scheme:

  • Ministry of New and renewable Energy (MNRE) has drawn a scheme to set up number of solar parks across various states in the country.
  • The Scheme proposes to provide financial support by Government of India to establish solar parks.
  • The scheme aim to facilitate creation of infrastructure necessary for setting up new solar power projects in terms of allocation of land, transmission and evacuation lines, access roads, availability of water and others, in a focused manner.
  • The implementation agency would be Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on behalf of Government of India (GOI).
  • The Solar Park is a concentrated zone of development of solar power generation projects
  • The parks will be characterized by well-developed proper infra-structure where the risk & gestation period of the projects will be minimized.
  • At the state level, the solar park will enable the states to bring in significant investment from project developers in Solar Power sector, to meet its Solar Purchase Obligation (SPO) mandates and provide employment opportunities to local population.
  • The state will also be able to reduce its carbon footprint by avoiding emissions equivalent to the solar park’s generated capacity.

NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU (NCRB)

GS 2: Governance

Why in News?

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will celebrate its 34th Inception Day on March 11, 2019.

NCRB:

  • Formed in 1986, based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task force (1985). NCRB is mandated to empower the Indian Police with Information Technology and is responsible for collecting, maintaining and analysing the crime data of the country. It facilitates Investigating Officers with updated IT tools and information in Investigation of Crimes.
  • NCRB is the Nodal Agency for authentic source of data on crime, accidents, suicides, and prisons for policy matters and research.
  • Bureau is also apex nodal agency for all Finger Print related matters including accreditation of Finger Print Experts in the country.
  • Bureau is implementing & monitoring agency for implementation of Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), a Mission Mode Project under the National e-Governance Plan of Government of India.
  • The project aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in the country.

Objectives of NCRB:

  • Create and maintain secure sharable National Databases on crimes and criminals for law enforcement agencies and promote their use for public service delivery
  • Collect and process crime statistics at the national level and create clearing house of information on crime and criminals both at National and International levels
  • Lead and coordinate development of IT applications and create an enabling IT environment for Police organizations
  • National repository of fingerprints of all criminals.
  • To evaluate, modernize and Promote automation in State Crime Records Bureaux and State Finger Print Bureaux. Training and capacity building in Police Forces in Information Technology and Finger Print Science.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS):

Crime and Criminal Information System (CCIS) was implemented at district level during the period 1995-2004. Common Integrated Police Application (CIPA) was implemented at police station level during the period 2004-2009 in three phases. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) is approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 19.06.2009.

Objectives:

  • Creating State and Central levels databases on crime and criminals
  • Enable easy sharing of real-time information/ intelligence across police stations, districts and States.
  • Improved investigation and crime prevention.
  • Improved service delivery to the public/ stakeholders through Citizen Portals
  • Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS):
  • ICJS has been mandated for integrating CCTNS, Police with e-Courts, eprisons, Forensics, Finger Print Bureaux and Prosecution, which are the key components of the Criminal Justice System. Implementation of ICJS will ensure quick data transfer among different pillars of criminal justice system.
  • ICJS is monitored by a committee chaired by Hon’ble Justice Madan B. Lokur of Supreme Court of India. ICJS data exchange matrix between different pillars of criminal justice system has been finalized & coordinated by NCRB.
  • NCRB has also prepared a report on connectivity for all pillars.

BM- GRAMEEN CONFIRMS OVER 96% USAGE OF TOILETS

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19 was conducted by an Independent Verification Agency under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G).

Key findings of NARSS 2018-19:

  • 1% of households were found to have access to toilets during the survey period (the corresponding figure as per the SBMG MIS in November 2018 was 96%)
  • 5% of the people who had access to toilets used them.
  • 7% of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF were confirmed to be ODF. The remaining villages also had sanitation coverage of about 93%.
  • The survey used the PPS (Probability Proportion to Size) sampling methodology, which yields results within a confidence interval of 95%.
  • Data was collected using the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) platform.
  • The survey also covered schools, anganwadis and public/community toilets in these villages.

Success of SBM-G:

  • Since its launch in October 2014, the SBM, the world’s largest sanitation program, has changed the behaviour of hundreds of millions of people with respect to toilet access and usage.
  • 500 million people have stopped defecating in the open since the SBM began, down from 550 million at the beginning of the programme to less than 50 million today
  • Over 9 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Mission.
  • Over 5.5 lakh villages and 615 districts have been declared ODF, along with 30 ODF States and Union Territories.

PRADHAN MANTRI SHRAM YOGI MAAN-DHAN YOJANA

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The central govt. of India has introduced the new pension scheme i.e. Pradhan Mantra Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) for Labour/ Worker in Unorganised Sector. This pension scheme is announced by Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in this Interim Budget 2019-20.

Features of Pradhan Mantra Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) scheme:

  • The scheme is for informal sector or unorganised sector workers.
  • Subscribers to the scheme are assured of a monthly pension of Rs. 3000 per month after they reach 60 years age. The subscribers have to pay a monthly amount of Rs. 100 if the subscriber joins at age 29 and Rs. 55 if the subscriber joins the scheme at 18.
  • The same amount will be matched by the government.
  • The scheme is eligible for persons aged between 18 and 40 and are earning Rs. 15000 are less per month. The scheme is estimated to benefit 10 Crore workers from informal sector.
  • The government has allocated an initial fund of Rs. 500 crore for the scheme.

Unorganised Sector:

  • The unorganized sector in the country constitutes unincorporated entities having less than 10 workers and is owned by individuals or households.
  • The sector also includes people working independently in non-formal work which needs minimal skills. The sector contributes over 50% to the Indian GDP.

Significance of the scheme:

  • It is estimated that over 42 corer workers in India are working in the informal sector.
  • As per the India Labour Market Update of 2016, 82% of the Indian workforce is in unorganised sector.
  • The workers of the sector include street vendors, rag pickers, porters, beedi workers, rickshaw pullers, agricultural labourers etc. The nature of their job and the income they receive are not stable. Often due to non-availability of any laws to protect their interest they are subjected to violation by the employers. These uncertain earnings puts pressure on them financially and need some kind of monetary protection to lead a life with means after their productive years.
  • It is why social security schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan (PMSYM) become necessary where the government is contributing in the premium amount.

THE INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICE

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme, launched in 1975 to tackle under-nutrition, offers nutrition and health services across the continuum of care in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. It was made universal in 2006.

Objectives:

  • To provide food and primary healthcare to children under six as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It also provides pre-school education.

ICDS assessment:

  • Health insurance coverage jumped to 24.3 per cent from 3.7 percent.
  • Illiteracy among mothers fell to 27 per cent from 46.3 per cent.
  • The receipt of supplementary food by mother-child pairs increased to 37.9 per cent from 9.6 per cent. Use of health check-ups increased by 23.5 percentage points
  • Health and nutrition education rose 17.9 percentage points.
  • Children receiving supplementary food monthly went up to 27.6 per cent from 19.1 per cent.

Challenges:

  • The programme hasn’t benefited all social groups equally.
  • Improvements among lower-income groups —traditionally at a disadvantage — were relatively lower than higher-income groups. Lower utilisation and lower expansion of the scheme. The exclusion of the potential beneficiaries.

Construction Technology India-2019 Expo-Cum-Conference

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for continuation of implementation of the following Tertiary healthcare programmes for non-communicable diseases and E-Health upto 2020.

Objectives:

Objective of the umbrella program of tertiary healthcare is to provide support for creation of tertiary care health facilities in the areas of cancer diagnosis & treatment, care for the elderly, trauma and burn injuries, drug dependence, mental health and blindness & visual impairment. It also aims at digitisation of health sector.
• Strengthening of Tertiary Care Cancer facilities Scheme
• National Program for Health Care of the Elderly
• National Program for Prevention & Management of Trauma and Burn Injuries
• National Program for Tobacco Control and Drug Addiction Treatment
• National Mental Health Program
• National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment
• Program for Strengthening of e-Health and Telemedicine Services

Impact:

• The focus under these Programs is:-
• to create required infrastructure at tertiary level for these Programs,
• creation of Centre of Excellences which shall serve as Institutes to set standards and undertake research in these fields besides
• To help in creation of trained manpower in these Programs for the country.

Benefits:

Under these programmes, Tertiary care treatment will be further strengthened to meet the ever-increasing patient load.

Employment Generation:

The Programs are aimed at strengthening of tertiary level healthcare facilities for treatment through capacity building in terms of both infrastructure and human resources. There would be considerable direct and indirect employment generation both for technical and non-technical professionals in the country.

PROMULGATION OF AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2019

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Union Cabinet chaired has approved the promulgation of an Ordinance to make amendments to the Aadhaar Act 2016, Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2005 & Indian Telegraph Act 1885. The amendments proposed are the same as those contained in the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha.

Impact:

  • The amendments would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.
  • Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number of undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

Salient Features:

    The salient features of the amendments are as follows—

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder;
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual;
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years;
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; and the authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government;
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities;
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication;
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund;
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court in its judgement in September. 2018 held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid.
  • However, it read down/struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.
  • Consequently, it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N. Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution.
  • Towards this, the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha. However, before the same could be considered and passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die.

NATIONAL MINERAL POLICY, 2019

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved National Mineral Policy 2019.

Benefits:

The New National Mineral Policy will ensure more effective regulation. It will lead to sustainable mining sector development in future while addressing the issues of project affected persons especially those residing in tribal areas.

Objective:

The aim of National Mineral Policy 2019 is to have a more effective, meaningful and implementable policy that brings in further transparency, better regulation and enforcement, balanced social and economic growth as well as sustainable mining practices.

Importance of new policy:

  • National Mineral Policy, 2019 include the focus on make in India initiative and Gender sensitivity in terms of the vision.
  • In so far as the regulation in Minerals is concerned, E-Governance, IT enabled systems, awareness and Information campaigns have been incorporated.
  • Regarding the role of state in mineral development online public portal with provision for generating triggers at higher level in the event of delay of clearances has been put in place.
  • NMP 2019 aims to attract private investment through incentives while the efforts would be made to maintain a database of mineral resources and tenements undermining tenement systems. The new policy focusses on use coastal waterways and inland shipping for evacuation and transportation of minerals and encourages dedicated mineral corridors to facilitate the transportation of minerals.
  • The utilization of the district mineral fund for equitable development of project affected persons and areas.
  • NMP 2019 proposes a long-term export-import policy for the mineral sector to provide stability and as an incentive for investing in large scale commercial mining activity.
  • The 2019 Policy also introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity that deals with the well-being not only of the present generation but also of the generations to come and also proposes to constitute an inter-ministerial body to institutionalize the mechanism for ensuring sustainable development in mining.

Background:

National Mineral Policy 2019 replaces the extant National Mineral Policy 2008 (“NMP 2008”) which was announced in year 2008.

PRADHAN MANTRI JL-VAN YOJANA

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran AnukoolFasal Awashesh Nivaran) Yojana” for providing financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects using lignocellulosic biomass and another renewable feedstock.

Scheme Highlights:

  • Under this Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 demonstration scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol Projects will be provided a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases:
  • Phase-I (2018-19 to 2022-23): wherein six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.
  • Phase-II (2020-21to2023-24): wherein remaining six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.
  • The scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.

Significance:

  • Meeting Government of India vision of reducing import dependence by way of substituting fossil fuels with Biofuels.
  • Achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets through progressive blending/ substitution of fossil fuels.
  • Addressing environment concerns caused due to burning of biomass/ crop residues & improve health of citizens. Improving farmer income by providing them remunerative income for their otherwise waste agriculture residues.
  • Creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain. Contributing to Swacch Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of non-food biofuel feedstocks such as waste biomass and urban waste.
  • Indigenizing of Second-Generation Biomass to Ethanol technologies.
  • The ethanol produced by the scheme beneficiaries will be mandatorily supplied to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to further enhance the blending percentage under EBP Programme.
  • Centre for High Technology (CHT), a technical body under the aegis of MoP&NG, will be the implementation Agency for the scheme.

Background:

  • Government of India launched Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme in 2003 for undertaking blending of ethanol in Petrol to address environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning, provide remuneration to farmers, subsidize crude imports and achieve forex savings.
  • Presently, EBP is being run in 21 States and 4 UTs of the country. Under EBP programme, OMCs are to blend upto 10% of ethanol in Petrol.
  • The present policy allows procurement of ethanol produced from molasses and non-food feedstock like celluloses and lignocelluloses material including petrochemical route.

FAME INDIA PHASE II

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

  • The Union cabinet chaired has approved the proposal for implementation of scheme titled ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II)’ for promotion of Electric Mobility in the country.
  • This scheme is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India1 which was launched on 1st April 2015.

Highlights:

  • Emphasis is on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport.
  • Demand Incentives on operational expenditure mode! for electric buses will be delivered through State/city transport corporation (STUs).
  • In 3W and 4W segment incentives will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes.
  • In the e-2Ws segment, the focus will be on the private vehicles.
  • Through the scheme, it is planned to support 10 Lakhs e-2W, 5 Lakhs e-3W, 55000 4Ws and 7000 Buses.
  • To encourage advance technologies, the benefits of incentives, will be extended to only those vehicles which are fitted with advance battery like a Lithium Ion battery and other new technology batteries.
  • The scheme proposes for establishment of charging infrastructure, whereby about 2700 charging stations will be established in metros, other million plus cities, smart cities and cities of Hilly states across the country so that there will be availability of at least one charging station in a grid of 3 km x 3 km.
  • Establishment of Charging stations are also proposed on major highways connecting major city clusters.
  • On such highways, charging stations will be established on both sides of the road at an interval of about 25 km each.

Impact:

• The main objective of the scheme is to encourage Faster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and also by way of establishing a necessary charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles. The scheme will help in addressing the issue of environmental pollution and fuel security

SATAT SCHEME

GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Why in News?

SATAT is an initiative aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.

Highlights:

  • SATAT was launched with a four-pronged agenda of-
  • Utilising more than 62 million metric tonnes of waste generated every year in India
  • Cutting down import dependence,
  • Supplementing job creation in the country and
  • Reducing vehicular emissions and pollution from burning of agricultural / organic waste.
  • Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc. After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 90%.
  • Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. CBG can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive.

Significance of CBG:

  • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
  • Additional revenue source for farmers
  • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
  • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
  • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations

Shreyas program

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Human Resources Development has launched the Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS) for providing industry apprenticeship opportunities to the general graduates exiting in April 2019 through the National Apprenticeship Promotional Scheme (NAPS).

Significance of the programme:

  • To make our degree students more skilled, capable, employable
  • It is aligned to the needs of our economy so that they contribute to country’s progress and
    also obtain gainful employment. To fill the gap between education and industry/service sectors on a sustainable basis.

SHREYAS scheme:

  • The program aims to enhance the employability of Indian youth by providing ‘on the job work exposure’ and earning of stipend.
  • The programme basket comprising the initiatives of three Central Ministries, namely
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development,
  • Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and
  • The Ministry of Labour & Employment viz the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), the National Career Service (NCS) and introduction of BA/BSc/BCom (Professional) courses in the higher educational institutions.
  • It is a programme conceived for students in degree courses, primarily non-technical, with a view to introduce employable skills into their learning, promote apprenticeship as integral to education and also amalgamate employment facilitating efforts of the Government into the education system. To clear pathways towards employment opportunities are available to students during and after their graduation.

SHREYAS portal:

  • The portal aims to provide internships to students pursuing general courses, connect recruiters and graduates.
  • Portal will enable educational institutions and industry to log in and provide their respective demand and supply of apprenticeship.
  • The matching of students with apprenticeship avenues will take place as per pre-specified eligibility criteria.
  • The website, shreyas.ac.in, is operational and is already inviting applications from students from non-technical courses such as BA, BSc. BCom et al. Students and alumni can register themselves at the portal which will connect them with apprenticeship programmes and recruiters.

Yuva Sahakar Scheme

Why in News?

  • National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) launched ‘Yuva Sahakar’scheme.

Highlights:

  • To attract youth to cooperative business ventures.
  • It has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme.
  • It would provide more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
  • The funding for the project will be up to 80 percent of the project cost for these special categories against 70 percent for others.
  • The scheme envisages 2 percent less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.
  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.
  • It would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
  • The scheme is expected to meet the needs of youth.

NCDC:

  • The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.
  • It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.
  • It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.
  • Being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, it has also
    initiated Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.

Labour Bureau Files Mudra Job Report

Why in News?

  • The Labour Bureau has completed its survey on employment generated by the MUDRA loan scheme, giving the Centre a potential data tool to combat other reports showing a dismal scenario on jobs.

Highlights:

  • Before stepping down as vice chairman of Niti Aayog in August 2017, Arvind Panagariya, had submitted a report on the recommendations of a task force he had chaired on improving jobs data. One recommendation was to analyse the extent of employment and self-employment generated by MUDRA loans. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.
  • According to reports, a leaked copy of the NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment
    hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.

  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists, however, have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs. “Every new loan certainly doesn’t imply creation of a new job,” ICRIER fellow Radhicka Kapoor, wrote in a working paper titled ‘Waiting for Jobs’.

MUDRA Scheme:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana was introduced in April 2015 as an effort to extend affordable credit to micro and small enterprises.
  • Loans up to Rs. 10 lakh are extended to these non-corporate, non-farm enterprises by the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) through last-mile financial institutions. So far, 15.56 crore loans worth a total of Rs. 7.23 lakh crore have been disbursed. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.

NSSO survey:

  • The NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs.

Chartering Under Revised Guidelines – Ships Built In India To Get Priority

Why in News?

  • The government has revised guidelines for chartering of ships by providing the right-of- first-refusal to ships built within the country, a move to Ships built in India to get priority in chartering under revised guidelines and to promote the Make in India initiative and incentivise shipbuilding activity.
  • Earlier, the right of first refusal was reserved for Indian flag vessels as per relevantprovisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958.

Highlights:

  • Now when a tendering process is undertaken to charter a vessel, a bidder offering a ship built in India will be given the first priority to match L1 quote.
  • It is exected that the initiative will increase the demand for such vessels, providing then with additional market access and business support.
  • The review is also in line with the need to give a long term strategic boost to the domestic shipbuilding industry.
  • The shipping ministry has also laid down eligibility conditions and rules for exercise of the RoFR.
  • One of the rules says: “The RoFR would be exercised only in case the vessel being offered for charter by the lowest bidder has been built outside India.”
  • The government has taken several steps to promote shipbuilding in India, especially by providing long-term subsidy under the Shipbuilding Financial Assistance Policy (2016- 2026).
  • Budgetary provision of $30 crore was earmarked in 2018-19 for providing financial assistance to all Indian shipyards, excluding Defence Shipyards.
  • An amount of $11.89 crore has already been disbursed to three shipyards.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)

Why in News?

  • For the overall empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangajan), a “Regional Conference on Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS”) is being organized by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India at Kolkata.

Highlights:

  • It will cover 13 States of Eastern & North Eastern region namely West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim & Tripura.
  • The stakeholders i.e. the NGOs receiving grant under DDRS, State Government Officers & District level officers will be participating.
  • The objectives of the Conference are to disseminate the provisions of the revised scheme and to sensitize various stakeholders about it.
  • This conference also provides a unique opportunity for interactions amongst all stakeholders.
  • The conference would ensure exchange of cross-sectoral views on the aspects of the efficacy of the scheme as well as the scope of improvements in it.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme:

Objective:

  • To create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
  • To encourage voluntary action for ensuring effective implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Approach:

  • The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation. With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.

Ayushman Bharat Will Not Cover Cataract Ops, Dialysis And Normal Deliveries

Why in News?

  • The National Health Authority (NHA) is planning to remove procedures covered under existing national programmes from the list of packages approved for reimbursement under PMJAY (Ayushman Bharat).
  • Certain procedures like cataract surgeries, dialysis and normal deliveries will not be covered by the flagship health scheme.

Avoiding Duplication:

  • Procedures or diseases for which there is already an existing national programme, do not need to be covered under AB packages.
  • Diseases for which there are existing national programmes and for which treatment is reimbursed under PMJAY for specified rates include tuberculosis, chronic kidney disease (dialysis), leprosy, malaria, HIV-AIDS and mental health disorders.
  • For many diseases like malaria, where surgeries are not established protocol for treatment, PMJAY approves a daily hospitalization cost of Rs 2,000.

1.Cataract

  • Cataract surgeries have topped the list of claims submitted under PMJAY.
  • In the first three months of PMJAY until Nov 2018 — 6,900 claims had been submitted for cataract surgeries.
  • However, they are done for free under the National Blindness Control Programme (NBCP).

2.Normal Delivery

  • The NHA is planning to leave out normal deliveries from the ambit of PMJAY.
  • There are a host of national programmes for mother and child health, high-risk deliveries will continue to be covered.

3.Dialysis

  • The Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme was rolled out in 2016 under which dialysis is already provided free of cost.

Bringing Implants under AB-NHPM

  • The NHA is also in talks with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to negotiate special rates for implants or other devices that are used under PMJAY to further bring down costs.

National e-Governance Awards, 2019

Why in News?

  • With a view to recognize and promote Excellence in the implementation of e-Governance initiatives, the Government of India presents National Awards on e-Governance.

Highlights:

  • The Awards will be given in 6 categories to recognize achievements in the area of e- Governance.
  • This initiative also seeks to disseminate knowledge on effective methods of designing and
    implementing sustainable e-Governance initiatives, to encourage innovations in successful e-Governance solutions and to exchange experiences in solving problems, mitigating risks, resolving issues and planning for success.
  • The National e-Governance Award recognizes some of the best Government to Government (G to G), Government to Citizen (G to C), Government to Business (G to B) initiatives taken by government departments. It also recognizes initiatives in Start ups, Academic Research Institutions as well as initiatives in adopting emerging technologies.
  • The six categories under which Awards will be presented are as follows:-
  • Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering for Digital Transformation.
  • Excellence in providing Citizen-Centric Delivery.
  • Excellence in District level Initiative in e-Governance (i) North-East States + Hilly States (ii) UTs (including Delhi) (iii) Other States.
  • Outstanding research on Citizen Centric Services by Academic/Research Institutions.
  • Innovative Use of ICT in e-Governance solutions by Start ups [Start up as defined by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Government of India]
  • Excellence in Adopting Emerging Technologies.

4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the ‘4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit’.

Highlights:

  • The global intergovernmental meeting on digital health is being hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP)
  • The Ministerial Conclave discussed the implication of digital health interventions to health services accessibility, quality and affordability and explores ways of leveraging digital health technologies to strengthen the healthcare delivery systems globally.
  • The Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP) is an international collaboration of governments, government agencies and multinational organisations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of their citizens through the best use of evidence- based digital technologies.

Health information platform:

  • Platform which Health Ministry is in the process of establishing for interoperability amongst various health IT systems and a pan-India exchange of Electronic Health Records of citizens ensuring privacy, security, and confidentiality of data.
  • The same is to be supplemented by a pan-Indian network of disease surveillance, tele- medicine and tele-radiology and tele-education.

SECOND APEX CONFERENCE OF CEOS OF SMART CITIES MISSION

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is organizing an Apex Conference on Smart Cities Project. The conference will deliberate on various initiatives in regard to Smart Cities Mission.

Details of the Conference:

  • Discussion will be held on subjects like Ease of Living—How Smart Cities Mission is making an impact on ease of living for citizens; Connected Communities—How Smart Cities Mission is creating Connected Communities; Urban Resilience and Sustainability— How Smart Cities Mission is making Indian cities resilient and sustainable; Smart Governance—How Smart Cities Mission is creating a Smart Governance ecosystem in Indian cities etc.
  • Over 130 experts from several countries will participate in the conference. The Conference is expected to chart out a roadmap for implementing Smart Cities mission.

National War Memorial

Why in News?

  • The Prime Minister dedicates the National War Memorial to the nation in a solemn ceremonial function.

National War Memorial:

  • The National War Memorial, near India Gate in New Delhi, is a fitting tribute to our soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation, post-independence.
  • The National War Memorial also commemorates the soldiers who participated and made the supreme sacrifice in Peace Keeping Missions, and Counter Insurgency Operations.
  • The layout of the National War Memorial comprises four concentric circles, namely, the ‘Amar Chakra’ or Circle of Immortality, the ‘Veerta Chakra’ or Circle of Bravery, the ‘Tyag Chakra’ or Circle of Sacrifice, and the ‘Rakshak Chakra’ or Circle of Protection.
  • The National War Memorial complex includes a central obelisk, an eternal flame, and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.

112 Helpline Under The ERSS Launched In 16 States And UTS

Why in News?

  • The 112 helpline which was earlier launched in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland was launched in 16 states and UTs by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS).

Highlights:

  • The 16 states and Union Territories where the helpline was launched were Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh,
  • Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Andaman, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Jammu & Kashmir.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS):

  • The Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) integrates police (100), fire (101) and women (1090) helpline numbers into a single 112 helpline number and the process is on to integrate the health emergency number (108) soon.
  • To access the ERSS, a person can dial 112 on a phone.
  • The person can also press the power button of a smartphone three times quickly to send a panic call to the Emergency Response Centre or long press the ‘5’ or ‘9’ key to activate the panic call from the normal phone.
  • The ERSS can also be accessed through ‘112’ India mobile app, which is available free on Google Play Store and Apple Store or log onto the ERSS website for the respective state and send an emergency email or SOS alert to State Emergency Response Centre.

Eco Circuit

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Tourism will be inaugurating the project ‘Development of Eco Circuit:Pathanamthitta – Gavi – Vagamon – Thekkady’ in Kerala under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.

Highlights:

  • Major works carried out under the project includes Eco Adventure Tourism Park at Vagamon, Cultural Centre at Kadamanitta, Eco Log Huts at Peerumedu, Idukki, Approach Roads, Walking trails, Rain Shelters at Pine Valley Forest, Thekkady, Kumily, Moozhiyar Dam, Penstock and Kakki Dam.

Eco Circuit project:

  • Eco Circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme- Integrated development of theme- based tourist circuits in the country. The Eco tourism circuit aims at creating a positive interface between tourists and nature. For the global and domestic tourists to appreciate the diverse eco-tourism products in India, the circuit aims to create nature and environment friendly destinations.

List of 15 themes:

  • Buddhist, Coastal, Desert, Eco, Heritage, Himalayan, Krishna, North East, Ramayana, Rural, Spiritual, Sufi, Tirthankar, Tribal, Wildlife.

Pmay (U) Mobile Application

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched PMAY (U) Mobile App.

Highlights:

  • The App will allow beneficiaries to capture and upload high resolution photographs of completed houses along with their families.
  • It will also allow uploading of selfies of beneficiaries with their house and a 30 – 60 seconds video clip where beneficiaries share their stories of owning a house under PMAY (U). A one-minute film showcasing the impact of PMAY(U) in the lives of beneficiaries was also released.
  • The film narrates, how PMAY (U) is contributing in transforming the lives of all Indians starting from Kashmir to Kerala and empowering them from different walks of life.
  • It has encapsulated the journeys and emotions of families belonging to different regions of the country who feel connected with a common feeling i.e. the pride of owning their dream house through PMAY (U).

PMAY (U):

  • The PMAY (U) mission was launched on 25th June 2015
  • It aims to provide houses to every eligible urban household in India by the year 2022.
  • The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:
  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource
  • Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.

Fixing National Minimum Wage

Why in News?

  • Expert Committee Submits its Report on Determining Methodology for Fixing National Minimum Wage.

Highlights:

  • There have been several developments since the norms for the fixation of the minimum wages were recommended by the 15th ILC in 1957 and subsequently strengthened by the judgement of the Supreme Court in the judgement of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. case in 1992. The Ministry of Labour and Employment had constituted an expert committee on January 2017, under the Chairmanship Dr. Anoop Satpathy, Fellow, V. V.Giri National Labour Institute (VVGNLI) to review and recommend methodology for fixation of National Minimum Wage (NMW).
  • The Expert Committee had the mandate to examine and review the norms and methodology for fixation of national minimum wage; and determine the base level National minimum wage/wages through an evidence-based approach.

About the report:

  • The report using scientific approach has updated the methodological framework of
    fixation of minimum wages based on the overall guidelines of the ILC 1957 and the Supreme Court Judgment of Workmen v Reptakos Brett & Co. in 1992.
  • The report has undertaken a rigorous and meticulous analysis and has generated a large amount of evidence relating to changes in the demographic structure, consumption pattern and nutritional intakes, the composition of food baskets and the relative importance of non-food consumption items to address the realities in the Indian context by using official data made available by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

Recommended Nutritional intake:

  • Using the nutritional requirement norms as recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indian population, the report has recommended a balanced diet approach which is culturally palatable for fixation of national minimum wage.
  • Accordingly, it has proposed that food items amounting to the level of ± 10 per cent of 2,400 calories, along with proteins ≥ 50 gm and fats ≥ 30 gm per day per person to constitute a national level balanced food basket.

Committee recommendations:

  • On the basis of the aforesaid approach, the report has recommended to fix the need based national minimum wage for India at INR 375 per day (or INR 9,750 per month) as of July 2018, irrespective of sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations for a family comprising of 3.6 consumption unit.
  • It has also recommended to introduce an additional house rent allowance (city compensatory allowance), averaging up to INR 55 per day i.e., INR 1,430 per month for urban workers over and above the NMW.
  • Apart from proposing the level of a single national minimum wage at an all-India level,
    the report has also estimated and recommended different national minimum wages for different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities and as per socio- economic and labour market contexts.
  • For the purpose of estimating national minimum wages at regional levels it has grouped the states into five regions based on a composite index.

Labour Bureau Files Mudra Job Report

Why in News?

  • The Labour Bureau has completed its survey on employment generated by the MUDRA loan scheme, giving the Centre a potential data tool to combat other reports showing a dismal scenario on jobs.

Highlights:

  • Before stepping down as vice chairman of Niti Aayog in August 2017, Arvind Panagariya, had submitted a report on the recommendations of a task force he had chaired on improving jobs data. One recommendation was to analyse the extent of employment and self-employment generated by MUDRA loans. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.
  • According to reports, a leaked copy of the NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment
    hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists, however, have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs. “Every new loan certainly doesn’t imply creation of a new job,” ICRIER fellow Radhicka Kapoor, wrote in a working paper titled ‘Waiting for Jobs’.

MUDRA Scheme:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana was introduced in April 2015 as an effort to extend affordable credit to micro and small enterprises.
  • Loans up to Rs. 10 lakh are extended to these non-corporate, non-farm enterprises by the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) through last-mile financial institutions. So far, 15.56 crore loans worth a total of Rs. 7.23 lakh crore have been disbursed. In December 2017, faced with mounting criticism on the failure to create job opportunities, the Labour Ministry had asked the Labour Bureau to initiate the survey on jobs created through the MUDRA scheme.

NSSO survey:

  • The NSSO’s findings showed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-18.
  • Central government ministers and officials have already attempted to use the MUDRA
    scheme’s performance to combat criticism based on the leaked NSSO job survey report.
  • Some economists have advised caution in the interpretation of MUDRA data, especially as it relates to jobs.

Pm-Kisan Scheme

Why in News?

  • PM to launch PM-KISAN scheme from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM KISAN):

  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) was announced in the interim Budget 2019-20.
  • Under the Scheme, Rs 6,000 will be given per year to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding/ownership of upto 2 hectares.
  • The amount will be given in three installments of Rs.2000 each.
  • The amount will be transferred directly to the bank account of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer. DBT will ensure transparency in the entire process and will save time for the farmers.
  • PM KISAN is a Central Sector scheme with 100% funding from Government of India. The Scheme becomes effective from 1.12.2018 for transfer of benefit to eligible beneficiaries.
  • State Government and UT Administration will identify the farmer families which are eligible for support as per scheme guidelines.

Objectives of the scheme:

  • The Scheme was introduced to augment the income of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs). It is estimated to benefit more than 12 crore small and marginal farmers.
  • The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • This would also protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

Operation Digital Board

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of HRD launched Operation Digital Board to leverage technology in order to boost quality education in the country.

Operation Digital Board:

  • It is a revolutionary step which will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and popularize flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.
  • The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.
  • The process will begin from the coming session of 2019 itself.

Implementation:

1.In Higher Education Institutions (HEIs):

  • UGC will be the implementing agency for ODB in HEIs.
  • UGC will put in place a Portal for all the public funded HEIs to log-in and opt for the scheme giving details of this facility.
  • This can be implemented as a Central scheme under a loan from HEFA.

2.In Schools:

  • Digital / SMART board will be provided in all Government and Government – aided schools having Secondary and Sr. Secondary classes.
  • Nearly 1.5 lakh Secondary / Sr. Secondary schools will be covered under the scheme in collaboration with the State and UTs

Significance:

  • ODB aims at converting a class room into a digital class room.
  • It will make available e-resources at any time and at any place to students.
  • It will also help in provisioning of personalized adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, AI & Data Analytics.

Other technological initiatives:

  • The MHRD has launched of e-Pathshala, DIKSHA, NROER, NPTEL, E-PGpathshala SWAYAM and SWAYAM-Prabha DTH Channels etc.
  • These have provided adequate content of high quality which can be taken to every classroom.
    These pedagogical interventions have raised the standards of teaching, irrespective of the location of the Schools and Colleges.

Hope Portal

Why in News?

  • National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations (NABH) has revamped Entry-Level Certification Process of hospitals to make it simpler, digital, faster and user-friendly.

Highlights:

  • HCOs and small HCOs that want to avail benefits associated with IRDAI and Ayushman
    Bharat. NABH accreditation provides assurance of quality and care in hospitals at par with international benchmarks. NABH has designed an exhaustive healthcare standard for hospitals and healthcare providers that have been accredited as per global standards.
  • The revamped certification process is driven through a new portal called HOPE –Healthcare Organizations’ Platform for Entry-Level-Certification.
  • It is an online platform for smooth and secure registration which provides a self- explanatory questionnaire to be filled by the HCO/SHCOs.
  • It ensures quality at nascent stages by enrolling a wide range of hospitals across the country including Healthcare Organizations (HCOs).
  • HOPE also enables them to comply with quality protocols, improve patient safety and the overall healthcare facility of the organization.

NABH:

  • NABH, a constituent body of QCI, has been working to ensure reliability, efficiency and global accreditation in Indian healthcare sector.
  • It uses contemporary methodologies and tools, standards of patient safety and infection control.

QCI:

  • Established in 1997 Quality Council of India (QCI) is an autonomous organization under the DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is the Quality Apex and National Accreditation Body for accreditation and quality promotion in the country.
  • The Council was established to provide a credible, reliable mechanism for third party assessment of products, services and processes which is accepted and recognized globally.

Development And Welfare Board For De-Notified, Nomadic And Semi-Nomadic Communities

Why in News?

  • Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities.
  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for constitution of Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Communities (DNCs).

Highlights:

  • These communities once branded as criminals under the colonial Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, the communities were ‘denotified’ in 1952.
  • They continue to face stigma till this day.
  • To this end, the condition of the denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic communities merits special attention.
  • The communities which have not been categorised as SC/ST/OBC do not get access to any welfare schemes.
  • The earlier commissions — Renke and Idate — had tried to identify and list these communities but their major recommendations have not been implemented till date.

Welfare Board for DNTs:

  • The Government has decided to set up a Development and Welfare Board under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • While most DNTs are spread across the SC, ST and OBC categories, some DNTs are not covered in any of these.
  • These communities are hard to reach, less visible, and therefore frequently left out.
  • It has, therefore, approved the setting up of a Committee under the Chairpersonship of Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog.
  • It will complete the process of identification of the Denotified, Nomadic and Semi- Nomadic Communities (DNCs) that have not yet been formally classified.

National Commission for DNTs:

  • The Government in July 2014 had constituted National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) for a period of three years to prepare a State-wise list of castes belonging to DNTs.
  • The Commission recommended for the setting of up a Permanent Commission for these communities.
  • Since most of the DNTs are covered in SC, ST or OBC, constitution of a Permanent Commission will not be very effective in implementing development programmes.
  • Rather it will look at grievance redressal and will therefore be in conflict with mandate of existing commissions for SCs, STs and OBCs.

2nd Edition of ISL Dictionary

Why in News?

  • Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment launched the “2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary” brought out by ‘Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC)’ under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), M/o Social Justice & Empowerment.

Highlights:

  • The second edition, dictionary includes total 6000 words under the categories of academic, legal, medical, technical and everyday terms. The ISL Dictionary is also available on ISLRTC’s YouTube channel. It has been made with the involvement of the hearing- impaired community, by giving due consideration to their suggestions and understanding. The videos contain the sign, the English term for the sign and pictures where relevant. A word list is also given with the English and Hindi equivalents of the signs. The dictionary is intended to serve as a resource for ISL teachers, ISL learners, teachers of the hearing impaired, interpreters, parents of hearing-impaired children, researchers, etc. Hearing impaired persons will benefit from this dictionary since they can look up information about a particular sign and its English/Hindi equivalents.

e-Aushadhi Portal

Why in News?

  • Ministry of State (IC) for AYUSH, launched the e-AUSHADHI portal, for online licensing of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs and related matters at New Delhi.

Significance:

  • e-AUSHADHI portal is intended for increased transparency, improved information management facility, improved data usability and increased accountability.
  • Timelines will be fixed for processing of application through this portal with SMS and e-
    mail status updates at each step of the process.
  • It will provide real-time information of the licensed manufactures and their products, cancelled and spurious drugs, contact details of the concerned authority for specific grievances.

Constitutional And Legislative Measures To Protect And Safeguard Land Rights Of Sts

Why in News?

  • The Scheduled Tribes (STs) have been the most marginalized, isolated and deprived population.
  • To protect and safeguarding the land rights and other rights of Scheduled Tribes, following constitutional and legislative measure have been put in place:

Forest Rights:

  • The Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.

Fair Compensation:

  • Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 safeguards against displacement of Scheduled Tribes.
  • Special provisions have been made for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under Sections 41 and 42 of the Act, which protect their interests. The RFCTLARR Act, 2013 also lays down procedure and manner of rehabilitation and resettlement.

PESA Act:

  • The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 , provides that the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas. The actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the State Level.

Fifth Schedule:

  • Constitutional provisions under Schedule – V provide for safeguards against displacement of tribal population because of land acquisitions etc. The Governor of the State, having scheduled Areas, is empowered to prohibit or restrict transfer of land from tribals and regulate the allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribes in such cases. Land being a State subject, various provisions of rehabilitation and resettlement as per the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 are implemented by the concerned State Governments.

Legal Services:

  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides for legal services to members of Scheduled Tribes.

Prevention of Atrocities Act:

  • The SCs and the STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989” has been introduced to prevent
    the commission of offences of atrocities.
  • It aims to provide for the trial of such offences and for the relief of rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Wrongfully dispossessing members of SCs and STs from their land or premises or interfering with the enjoyment of their rights, including forest rights, over any land or premises or water or irrigation facilities or destroying the crops or taking away the produce there from amount to atrocities and are offence.

Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Up-gradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS)

Why in News?

  • Cabinet approves continuation of Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Up- gradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS) beyond 12th Plan for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20

Highlights:

  • The scheme aims at improving the competitiveness of MSMEs by integrating various ongoing schematic interventions.
  • Scheme aims at improving the competitiveness of MSMEs by integrating various ongoing schematic interventions.
  • Hand holding for zero defect zero effect manufacturing (ZED).
  • Increasing productivity through waste reduction (Lean)
  • Design intervention (Design)
  • Cloud computing (Digital MSMEs)
  • Facilitation of intellectual property (IPR)
  • Nurturing new ideas (Incubation)
  • Special provisions have been made in this scheme to promote entrepreneurship for SC/STs, women
  • The scheme through Zero Defect & Zero Effect, component will promote reduction in emission level of greenhouse gases and and improve the competitiveness through reduction in defect / wastage during the manufacturing process of the products.
  • It will also promote the innovation, digital empowerment of MSMEs, design interventions and support the protection of intellectual property of MSMEs.

Benefits:

  • The scheme will facilitate technology up-gradation to MSEs.
  • Improvement in Quality of products by MSMEs,
  • Enhancement in productivity,
  • Reduction in waste and
  • It shall promote a culture of continuous improvement.

Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan Scheme

Why in News?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 19, 2019 approved the launch of ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan’ with the objective of providing financial and water security to farmers.
  • The Central Government will provide a total financial support of Rs 34,422 crore for the scheme.

Significance:

  • The Scheme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions. All three components of the Scheme will save about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.
  • The Component-B of the Scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
  • The scheme will have direct employment potential. Besides increasing self-employment, it will generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.

Components of scheme:

  • The Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan scheme consists of three components:
  • Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralised Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants.
  • Component-B: Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • Component-C: Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • With all these three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022. The Component-A and Component-C will be implemented on pilot mode. The Component-A aims for 1000 MW capacity, while, Component-C aims for the one lakh grid connected agriculture pumps. On the other hand, the Component-B will be implemented in full-fledged manner.

Component-A

  • Under Component A, Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers, cooperatives, panchayats or farmer producer organisations (FPO) on their lands.
  • The power generated will be purchased by the DISCOMs in tariffs determined by respective State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERC). The scheme will open a continuous source of income to the rural land owners.
  • The DISCOMs will be provided with the Performance Based Incentives of Rs. 0.40 per unit for five years.

Component-B

  • Under Component B, individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Under the scheme, the Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in Horsepower (HP) is allowed.

Component C

  • Under Component C, individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme. The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and the excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM. This will help to create an avenue for extra income to the farmers.

Funding of Component-B and Component-C

  • For both Component-B and Component-C, central financial assistance (CFA) of 30 percent of the benchmark cost or the tender cost, whichever is lower, will be provided.
  • The State Government will give a subsidy of 30 percent; and the remaining 40 percent will be provided by the farmer. Bank finance may be made available for meeting 30 percent of the cost. The remaining 10 percent will be provided by the farmer.
  • Higher CFA of 50 percent will be provided for North Eastern States, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

SATH-E Project

Why in News?

  • Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) Project implemented by NITI Aayog.

The SATH-E:

  • An initiative in based on formal agreements with the States and will be funded through a cost-sharing mechanism between NITI Aayog and the participating states.
  • The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership (PFEL) were chosen as knowledge partners for the project facilitating review, data collection and implementation.

  • It aims to transform elementary and secondary school education.
  • SATH-E roadmap refers to a time-bound, goal-driven exercise that will reach its logical culmination by the end of the academic year 2020.
  • It envisages the entire governmental school education system responsive, aspirational and transformational for every child
  • SATH-E aims to create role model States for education and mainstream ‘islands of excellence’ across the country to facilitate qualitative and quantitative transformation of learning outcomes. Marrying technology with need-based, data-driven assessment and a ‘giving it what it takes’ approach – be it innovation, incubation, external third party funding and Public- Private- Philanthropic Partnership (PPPP) experimentation – SATH-E puts the States in the driver’s seat to transform education at scale.

National Policy For Domestic Workers (DRAFT)

Why in News?

  • The Central Government has not enacted any separate law to protect the interest of domestic workers. However, the Ministry of Labour & Employment is considering formulating a National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage.

Highlights:

  • The salient features of the proposed draft National Policy on Domestic Workers are as under:
  • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations.
  • Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits.
  • Right to form their own associations/unions.
  • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
  • Right to enhance their skills
  • Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation.
  • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
  • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies
  • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.

Background:

  • The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 has been enacted for providing social security to all unorganized workers including domestic workers.
  • The Act provides the formulation of social security schemes viz life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits & old age protection.
  • The State Governments are mandated under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 to formulate suitable welfare schemes for the unorganized sector workers including domestic workers relating to provident fund, employment injury benefits housing, education schemes for children, skill up gradation of workers, financial assistance & old age homes.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Why in News?

  • The union government has introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Cinematograph Act and impose strict penalty to combat the menace of film piracy.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019:

  • The Bill seeks to amend provisions of Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to tackle film piracy by including penal provisions for unauthorized camcording and duplication of films. It aims to check piracy, particularly the release of pirated versions of films on the internet that causes huge losses to the film industry and the exchequer.
  • The bill proposes to make film piracy offences punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fines that may extend to 10 lakh or both. The proposed amendment states that any person, who without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, uses any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film, or attempts to do so, or abet the making or transmission of such a copy, will be liable for such a punishment.

Expected Outcomes:

  • The film industry has been demanding for a long time that the government consider amendments to the law preventing camcording and piracy.
  • The proposed amendments would increase industry revenues, boost job creation, fulfil important objectives of India’s National Intellectual Property policy.
  • It will give relief against piracy and infringing content online.

2nd Edition Of Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan Launched

Why in News

  • The Government of Gujarat has launched the second edition of the water conservation scheme- Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.

Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan:

  • The scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state before monsoon to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
  • The scheme involves cleaning and desilting of riverfronts. It also involves sprucing up of irrigation canals. The state government has increased its financial contribution for the scheme to 60 per cent, which meant private groups getting involved would have to give only the remaining 40 per cent.

About the first edition:

  • During the first edition against its anticipated target of 16,616 works of deepening of ponds and lakes across the state, 18,220 works were accomplished.
  • The first edition witnessed an increase in the water storage capacity of more than 11,000 lakh cubic feet rainwater through different sources like ponds, reservoirs, check dams, bori bandh and other.
  • The desilting had also generated a huge amount of loose/soil or clay which can be used by farmers to increase.

National Policy On Electronics 2019

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet on February 19, 2019 approved the National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019), proposed by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
    (MeitY).
  • The 2019 Policy on Electronics proposes to propel the growth of Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) industry in the country. It replaces the National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012).

Objective:

  • The Policy aims to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

National Policy on Electronics 2019:

  • Create eco-system for globally competitive ESDM sector by promoting domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM
  • Provide incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components.
  • Provide special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.
  • Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units
  • Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics such as 5G, loT/ Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Drones, Robotics, Additive Manufacturing, Photonics, Nano-based devices, etc
  • Provide incentives and support for significantly enhancing availability of skilled manpower
  • Special thrust on Fabless Chip Design Industry, Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive Electronics Industry and Power Electronics for Mobility and Strategic Electronics Industry
  • Create Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) to promote the development and acquisition of IPs in ESDM sector. Promote trusted electronics value chain initiatives to improve national cyber security profile. The Policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of ESDM sector in the country.

Targets and Significance:

  • The scheme targets to promote domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-
    chain of ESDM for economic development to achieve a turnover of USD 400 billion by 2025.
  • This will include targeted production of 1.0 billion (100 crore) mobile handsets by 2025 valued at USD 190 billion, including 600 million (60 crore) mobile handsets valued at USD 110 billion for export.
  • The NPE 2019 will lead to formulation of several schemes, initiatives, and projects in consultation with the concerned Ministries and Departments for the development of ESDM sector in the country.
  • It will enable flow of investment and technology, leading to higher value addition in the domestically manufactured electronic products, increased electronics hardware manufacturing in the country and their export.

Govt Issues Guidelines To Set Up Ev Charging Stations

Why in News?

  • In line with the 2030 deadline of 25 percent of vehicles in India to be all-electric, the government has issued new guidelines for strengthening the country EV infrastructure.

Highlights:

  • The MoHUA has made amendments to the Model Building Byelaws (MBBL) 2016 and Urban Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines 2014, making provisions for establishing EV charging infrastructure.
  • The guidelines will act as a guiding document to the state governments and UTs to incorporate the norms and standards of such vehicles in their respective building byelaws.

Charging Stations:

  • It has issued a set of guidelines to set up charging stations for electric vehicles across the country, outlining ways to build such fuelling points every 25 km.
  • For long range and heavy-duty electric vehicles, there should be at least one station on each side of the highway every 100 kilometers. The government has also advocated for charging points in residential areas. It also stated a public charging station should be on both sides of the highways or roads on every 25 km.

Reconstitution Of Indian Council Of Historical Research (ICHR)

Why in News?

  • The Government has reconstituted the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), New Delhi for a period of three years till 2022.
  • Indian Council of Historical Research:

    • The ICHR is an autonomous body of the HRD Ministry, which had been established by an Administrative Order of the then Ministry of Education.
    • The body has provided financial assistance to the historians and direction to the research scholars in their multifarious topics of historical research through established historians and scholars of the country.
    • ICHR disburses funds for carrying out research to Indian as well as foreign scholars on their applications for fellowships, grants, and symposia.

    Objectives:

    • The objectives of the ICHR, as enunciated in the initial pamphlet published by the Department of Education, Government of India in 1972 are as under:
    • to bring historians together and provide a forum for exchange of views between them;
    • to give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history;
    • to promote, accelerate and coordinate research in history with special emphasis on areas which have not received adequate attention so far;
    • to promote and coordinated a balanced distribution of research effort over different areas; and to elicit support and recognition for historical research from all concerned and ensure the necessary dissemination and use of results.

    Cultural Heritage Youth Leadership Programme (CHYLP)

    Why in news?

    • Information was given by Minister of State (independent charge) for Culture, in reply to an Unstarred Question in the Lok Sabha.

    CHYLP Programme:

    • The scheme for Cultural Heritage Youth Leadership Programme (CHYLP) envisaged enriching awareness of Indian culture and heritage amongst the youth in order to promote, understand and develop fondness for India’s rich cultural heritage, with a view to develop appropriate leadership qualities amongst youth.
    • The focus of the programme was to be on less privileged children residing in backward areas by interacting with them in vernacular languages for their better understanding.
    • Intermittently programme was given to Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), an autonomous organization working under the purview of Ministry of Culture.
    • CCRT organized workshops for the scheme. However, to accelerate the process, Museum Division of this Ministry arranged visits of children of unprivileged section of society to museums so that these children may get an opportunity to gain the knowledge relating to the Indian History and Culture and Science.

    National Conference On Unani Medicine

    Why in news?

    • Two-day Conference on Unani Medicine for Public Health inaugurated. Organized by the Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) as a part of 3rd Unani Day celebration here in New Delhi.
    • To pay tribute to Hakim Ajmal Khan, whose birth anniversary is celebrated as Unani Day on 11th February every year
    • Theme: ‘Unani Medicine for Public Health’

    Unani Medicine:

    • Ibn-e- Sina popularly known as Avicenna, one of the greatest scholars of Unani Tibb (medicine), has defined Unani Medicine as “It is the science in which we learn various states of body in health and when not in health and the means by which health is likely to be lost and when lost, is likely to be restored”.
    • Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine is a form of traditional medicine practiced in Middle- East and South-Asian countries. It refers to a tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine, which is based on the teachings of Greek physician Hippocrates and Roman physician Galen and developed into an elaborate medical system in middle age era by Arabian and Persian physicians, such as Rhazes (al-Razi), Avicenna (Ibn-e- Sina), Al-Zahrawi, and Ibn Nafis.
    • It originated in Greece almost 2500 years back, which is herbo- animo- mineral in origin (Approximately 90% herbal, 4-5% animal and 5-6 % mineral).
    • It is not only the original science of medicine but also a rich store house of principles and philosophies of medicine which can be of immense value to the medicine in particular and science in general.

    Govt. Grants Divisional Status To Ladakh

    Why in News?

    • Jammu and Kashmir Governor has granted Ladakh a divisional status, thus creating three administrative units of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in the State.

    The Ladakh Division:

    • The J&K government has approved the creation of a separate administrative and revenue division for Ladakh.
    • It will comprise Leh and Kargil districts, with headquarters at Leh.
    • Earlier, Ladakh was a part of the Kashmir division.
    • Ladakh will now get its own Divisional Commissioner and Inspector General of Police.
    • Ladakh’s Kargil and Leh districts already have separate hill development councils for local administrative powers.
    • The move leaves the Kashmir valley geographically the smallest division at 15,948 sq. km, Jammu division at 26,293 sq. km and Ladakh, the biggest division, at 86,909 sq. km.
    • The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it eligible for establishing a separate division.
    • During the winter months, the entire Ladakh region remains cut-off from the rest of the country for almost six months.
    • A section in Leh also has been demanding Union Territory status.

    National Survey On Extent And Pattern Of Substance Use In India

    Why in News?

    • An addiction plague has steadily swallowed India a/c to a study conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
    • The study, named “National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India” is a
      first of its kind as it gives pan-India and state-level data.

    National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India:

    • The survey report, which was submitted to the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on noted that 5.7 crore people in the country suffered from alcohol related problems.
    • The survey spanned all the 36 states and UTs of India and citizens between the ages of 10 to 75 responded to the questions set in the study regarding substance abuse.
    • The intoxicant categories that were studied are as follows: alcohol, cannabis (bhang and
      ganja/charas), opioids (opium, heroin and pharmaceutical opioids),cocaine
      amphetamine type stimulants (ATS), sedatives, inhalants and hallucinogens.

    Magnitude of Substance use in India:

    1.Alcohol:

    • Of the 16-crore people who consumed alcohol across the country, prevalence of alcohol consumption was 17 times higher among men than among women.
    • More than four lakh children and 1.8 million adults needed help for inhalant abuse and dependence.
    • The male to female ratio of alcohol users in India is 17:1 and most men consume either
      ‘desi’ liquor (30 per cent) or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (30 per cent).
    • A total of 5.2 per cent of the population indulge in harmful alcohol use, means that every third drinker in the country is in dire need of medical help in curing his/her addiction.

    2.Cannabis (Bhang, Ganja & Charas):

    • According to the survey, over 3.1 crore Indians (2.8%) reported to have used any cannabis product in last one year. Although, the usage of Bhang use is more common than Ganja or Charas but in case of addiction, the number of dependent users is higher for addicts of Ganja and Charas. Cannabis consumption is higher than the national average in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
    • In Punjab and Sikkim, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders is considerably higher (more than thrice) than the national average.

    3.Heroin, Opium & others:

    • At the national level, Heroin is most commonly used substance followed by pharmaceutical opioids, followed by opium (Afeem). However, in case of harmful dependence, more people are dependent on Heroin than other similar drugs like Afeem.Of the total 60 lakh users of Heroin and Afeem, majority of them are from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

    4.Sedatives and inhalants:

    • Less than 1% or nearly 1.18 crore people use sedatives, non-medical or non-prescription use. However, what is more worrying that its prevalence is high among children and adolescents. At national level, there are 4.6 lakh children that need help against the harmful or dependence over inhalants.
    • This problem of addiction of children is more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.
    • Cocaine (0.10%) Amphetamine Type Stimulants (0.18%) and Hallucinogens (0.12%) are the categories with lowest prevalence of current use in the country.

    5.Addicts who inject drugs:

    • According to the survey, there are 8.5 lakh people in the country who inject drugs (PWID).
    • Users of opium-based drugs report high incidence of injecting drugs (heroin 46% and pharmaceutical opioids 46%), a large number of these drug users report risky injecting practices.
    • This risky practice more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland.

    Abolition Of Income-Tax Ombudsman And Indirect Tax Ombudsman

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet chaired by PM has approved the proposal for Abolition of Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman and Indirect Tax Ombudsman.

    Highlights:

    • It is an Independent body comprises of former tax officials or Indian Revenue Service Officials formed by the Government, empowered to address and settle tax payer’s grievances.
    • The Ombudsman is governed by, and has to comply with the Income Tax Ombudsman Guidelines, 2006.
    • At present, the Government has set-up Tax Ombudsman at 12 cities namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Pune, Kochi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Bhopal. The Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman was created in the year 2003 to deal with grievances of public related to settlement of complaints relating to Income Tax. However, the Institution of Ombudsman failed to achieve its objectives.
    • It was observed that institution of new complaints has in turn fallen to single digits.
    • Also, tax payers started preferring alternate methods of grievance redressal like CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System), Aaykar Seva Kendras etc.

    Mera Aspataal Application

    Why in News?

    • The Mera Aspataal Initiative was launched precisely to find a mechanism to gauze patient reaction to the services offered in the hospital and help improve the services by taking corrective measures.

    Highlights:

    • The ranking of Hospitals in the Mera Aspataal Application for the facilities is done on the basis of Patient Satisfaction Score (PSS).
    • The PSS is calculated as weighted average of number of satisfied and dissatisfied patients based on the feedback collected in a particular facility.
    • The ranking keeps changing every month based on the feedback received from the patients. National Institute Ranking Framework of Ministry of Human Resource Development, AIIMS, Delhi has been ranked as number one institute.
    • As per performance analysis report of Mera Aspataal for period Sept-2016 to Jan-2019, 24 per cent of patients were dissatisfied with the services offered at the public health facilities. Major Reasons for dissatisfaction were staff behavior, cost of treatment & cleanliness issues and other reasons like, long waiting time, overcrowding, inadequate information, lack of amenities, etc.
    • The patients’ feedback including, areas requiring improvement are shared with the respective State Govts. and Central Govt. hospitals for ensuring remedial follow-up actions.

    Management Of Ground Water

    Why in News?

    • CGWB has been entrusted with the responsibilities of developing & disseminating
      technologies, monitoring national policies for the scientific and sustainable development
      and management of India’s ground water resources.

    Highlights:

    • It periodically takes up various studies which include ground water management studies, exploratory drilling programmes, monitoring ground water level and water quality through a network of ground water observation wells etc.
    • The result collected is shared with the concerned States for taking up suitable ground water specific interventions.

    National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM):

    • The NAQUIM is an initiative of the Ministry of Water Resources for mapping and managing the entire aquifer systems in the country.
    • It maintains the Hydrological Map of India.
    • It was initiated as a part of the Ground Water Management and Regulation scheme to delineate and characterize the aquifers to develop plans for ground water management.

    Objectives:

    • It aims:
    • to identify and map aquifers at the micro level,
    • to quantify the available groundwater resources, and
    • to propose plans appropriate to the scale of demand and aquifer characteristics, and institutional arrangements for participatory management
    • The AQUIM project is implemented in six selected areas in different hydrogeological environs of the country as shown below:

    National Conference Of Micro Missions Of National Police Mission

    Why in News?

    • The conference will discuss the issues of Skills and Competence at the grass-root level, Attitudinal Changes in Police, Gender Sensitization, harnessing technology and Community Policing.

    National Police Mission:

    • The National Police Mission (NPM) was announced in the year 2005 to transform the Police Forces in the country into effective instruments for maintenance of internal security and challenges of the next century, by equipping them with the necessary material, intellectual and organisational resources and to create a “New Vision” for the Indian police.
    • The objective of this Mission is to prepare the police forces for emerging challenges, to bring about specialization in areas like counter terrorism, counter insurgency, cyber and economic crimes, strengthen the metropolitan and rural policing, to bring in attitudinal changes in police by transforming the ‘force psychology’ into ‘service psychology, harness technology in aid of policing and to adopt community policing and ensure effective delivery of services to the citizens.

    Famous projects of the National Police Mission (NPM):

    • NPM has developed 35 projects; some important among them are
    • Transparent Recruitment Process
    • Police- Community Policing
    • Student Police Cadet Programme (this project aims to develop a well-disciplined socially committed young generation of youth through submission to law, practised as a way of life by creating an action force comprising both girl and boy cadets who stay ever ready for rendering their services to the Nation
    • B-Trac (Technology-driven Traffic Management System)
    • Dial 100 – Integrated Emergency Response System,
    • Cyberdome
    • Pre-litigation Counseling Forum
    • Review and Implementation of Rules and Processes for the Internal Management of Prisons and Prisoners.

    INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRES AUTHORITY BILL, 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India through International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.
    • The first IFSC in India has been set up at GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

    Highlights:

    • An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centers by Indian corporate entities.
    • They offer business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centers in the world like London and Singapore.
    • Currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
    • It requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations
      governing financial activities in IFSCs.
    • The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
    • It provides world class regulatory environment to financial market participants.

    Significance:

    • The establishment of a unified financial regulator for IFSCs will result in providing world- class regulatory environment to market participants from an ease of doing business perspective.
    • This will provide a stimulus for further development of IFSCs in India and enable bringing back of financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres to India.
    • This would also generate significant employment in the IFSCs in particular as well as financial sector in India as a whole.

    Features of IFSC Authority Bill, 2019:

    • The Authority shall consist of a Chairperson, one Member each to be nominated by the RBI, the Securities Exchange Board of India SEBI, the IRDAI and the PFRDA.
    • Two members are to be dominated by the Central Government and two other whole-time or full-time or part-time members.
    • The Authority shall regulate all such financial services, financial products and FIs in an IFSC which has already been permitted by the Financial Sector Regulators for IFSCs.
    • The Authority shall also regulate such other financial products, financial services or FIs as may be notified by the Central Government from time to time.
    • It may also recommend to the Central Government such other financial products, financial services and financial institutions which may be permitted in the IFSCs
    • All powers exercisable by the respective financial sector regulatory (viz. RBI, SEBI, IRDAI,and PFRDA etc.) under the respective Acts shall be solely exercised by the Authority in the IFSCs.
    • This is so far as the regulation of financial products, financial services and FIs that are permitted in the IFSC are concerned.
    • The Central Govt. may, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, make to the Authority grants of such sums of money as the Central Government may think fit for being utilized for the purposes of the Authority.
    • The transactions of financial services in the IFSCs shall be done in the foreign.

    Jan Dhan Darshak App

    Why in news?

    • Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance and National Informatics Centre (NIC) has jointly developed a mobile app called Jan Dhan Darshak as a part of financial inclusion (FI) initiative.

    Jan Dhan Darshak App:

    • As the name suggests, this app will act as a guide for the common people in locating a financial service touch point at a given location in the country.
    • will be in a unique position to provide a citizen centric platform for locating financial service touch points across all providers such as banks, post office, CSC, etc.
    • These services could be availed as per the needs and convenience of the common people.

    Salient features of this App:

    • Find nearby Financial touch points, based on current location (Branches/ATM/Post offices)
    • Search by place name
    • Search by place name also available with Voice Interface
    • Phone number of bank branches available in app, with the facility of call button for integrated dialing
    • Users’ feedback will go directly to the concerned bank for carrying out the necessary updation in data on financial touch points.

    Significance of the App:

    • Financial inclusion
    • Digital literacy
    • Reach out to end beneficiaries
    • Transparency in financial transactions
    • Bridging rural urban divide

    Draft National River Ganga Bill, 2018

    Why in News?

    • Draft of “The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill 2018” provides for the constitution of Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force of the union.

    Highlights of the bill:

    • The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
    • Proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500- kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’
    • It lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the uninterrupted, ecological flow of the river.
    • The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorised” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.
    • The Ganga Protection Corps is proposed to be empowered to arrest or caused to be arrested for offence under the Act, and to take the person to the nearest police station. The Court would take cognizance of the offence on the basis of the complaint filed by the officers who are authorized under the proposed Act.
    • The draft Act contemplates certain provisions conferring powers to the “National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga” [National Ganga Council] to arrange to carry out or caused to be carried out impact assessment of certain projects and activities which affect or are likely to affect the flow of water in river Ganga, such as building barrages, deforestation on hill slopes, hydroelectric projects etc.

    National Ganga Council:

    • The National Ganga Council will be overall responsible for the superintendence, direction, development and control of River Ganga and the entire River Basin (including financial and administrative matters) for the protection, prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in River Ganga and its rejuvenation to its natural and pristine condition and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water in the River Ganga and for matters connected therewith.

    National Virtual Library Of India

    Why in News?

    • National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) is a major project set up by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, under the National Mission on Libraries (NML).

    Highlights:

    • The objective of National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) is to facilitate creation of a comprehensive database on digital resources of India on information about India in an open access environment.
    • The main goal of this project is to create, collect, encode, and collate various digital artifacts related to Indian culture, in the form of a portal, and to allow relevant information access through web-based search.
    • This project is an important part of the larger vision of putting information of the entire Indian cultural heritage in the digital web world.

    Vision of NVLI:

    • Allowing easy access to digital information present in the form of books, texts, videos, audios, and similar artifacts in multiple languages
    • Collecting, combining, and standardizing all available digital assets in an easily searchable
      form.
    • Educating people to use the NVLI portal and enabling them to contribute by submitting digital artifacts
    • Ensuring preservation of digital content for the future generation

    Salient features of NVLI are:

    • Federated searching through multilingual user interfaces
    • Virtual learning environment
    • E-Governance platform facilitating data analytics
    • Multilingual searching and retrieval on ontology/thesaurus based
    • The project of creation of National Virtual Library of India had been entrusted to IIT Bombay (in collaboration with C-DAC, Pune and IGNOU, Delhi). The Ministry of Culture

    National Testing Agency Launched Mobile App

    Why in News?

    • National Testing Agency launched Mobile App through which students can practice mock tests.

    Highlights:

    • Through the app students can practice or take mock tests on their own computers or smart phones.
    • NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to acquaint the aspirants, especially those from rural areas with Computer Based Tests (CBTs) to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources.
    • Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’ for visiting the TPCs.
    • The services are provided to the students free of cost.

    NTA:

    • The National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts entrance examinations for admission in higher educational institutions in the country.
    • It will be society registered under Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • Its main purpose is to bring reforms in the education system
    • Establishment of NTA will free CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from conducting various exams and enable them to focus on their core areas and work on improving the quality of education
    • Initially, the CBSE staff will be deployed in this department and but later on the specialised people will be hired in the NTA.

    Digitalisation Of Schools Across The Country

    Why in News?

    • The Central Government has launched an Integrated Scheme for school education- Samagra Shiksha, which subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education, from the year 2018-19.
    • Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) component envisages covering all Government and Government Aided schools from classes VI to XII, subject to the availability of budgetary provision, progress of approved interventions and receipt of proposals from the States/UTs.
    • Various initiatives for providing education through digital means:

      • ICT in Education Curriculum for School System – ICT curriculum for teachers and students has been developed by NCERT.
      • e-pathshala – e-pathshala has been developed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) for showcasing and disseminating all educational e- resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials.
      • National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) – The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) is an initiative to bring together all digital and digitisable resources across all stages of school education and teacher education.
      • SWAYAM:- The ‘Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM)is an integrated platform for online courses, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and covering school (9th to 12th) to Post Graduate Level. It offers online courses for students, teachers and teacher educators. It may be accessed on swayam.gov.in.
      • SWAYAM PRABHA:-A programme for utilization of satellite communication technologies for transmission of educational e-contents through 32 National Channels i.e.SWAYAM PRABHA DTH-TV has been launched.
      • CBSE initiatives:- SARANSH is a tool for comprehensive self-review and analysis for CBSE affiliated schools and parents. It enables them to analyse students’ performance in order to take remedial measures. SARANSH brings schools, teachers and parents closer, so that they can monitor the progress of students and help them improve their performance. It helps schools to compare their performance vis-à-vis all CBSE schools at various levels and also helps parents to compare their ward’s performance within school State, Region and National level. It is currently available for Standards IX – XII.
      • KVS initiatives:- ICT Skills are imparted in all the Kendriya Vidyalayas to the students of classes III to XII. Through e-Classrooms, Digital Language Labs and Computer labs further, a pilot project e-Prajna has been started for providing tablets pre-loaded with e- content in Maths and Science.
    • Operation Digital Board:- An initiative has been taken by Government of India to provide interactive digital boards to nearly 15 lakh classrooms across the country for 9th standard to post graduate level, where they can receive lectures from best teachers/professors and access quality e-content, in order to enhance overall learning process and experience of the students.

    Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana

    Why in News?

    • Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana social security scheme announced in the budget.

    Scheme Highlights:

    • It is a scheme for the unorganised sector workers with monthly income upto Rs 15,000. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated for the Scheme.
    • It shall provide an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 years on a monthly contribution of a small affordable amount during their working age.
    • An unorganised sector worker joining pension yojana at the age of 29 years will have to contribute only Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years. A worker joining the pension.yojana at 18 years, will have to contribute as little as Rs 55 per month only.
    • The Government will deposit equal matching share in the pension account of the worker every month. It is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will avail the benefit is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sectorwill avail the benefit within next five years making it one of the largest pension schemes of the world.

    Kisan Credit Card/Crop Loans Processing And Service Charges Waiver

    Why in news?

  • To provide direct benefit to farmers and ease the pressure on them, the Indian Banking Association today issued advisory guidelines requesting banks to waive off the processing, documentation, inspection, ledger folio charges and all other service charges for Kisan Credit Card /crop loans up to 3 Lakhs.
  • Highlights:

    • In India, Land Holding pattern is dominated by Small and Marginal farmers (SMF) category Roughly 85 per cent of the total operational holding I the country (about 43 percent of the gross cropped area) are in the SMF category.
    • There are around 21.6 crore small and marginal farmers (or 4.3 crore families). Providing timely and affordable credit to this resource constrained group is the key to attaining inclusive growth.
    • The small and Marginal farmers are the most affected during times of floods, droughts, and other natural calamities.
    • As per parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture the losses due to climate change account for overall GDP loss of 1.5% of agriculture economy.
    • The instability in income of the farmers due to various types of risks involved in production, low bargaining power, etc., add more distress to the already affected farmers.

    Kisan credit card:

    • Scheme aims at providing adequate and timely credit support from the banking system under a single window with flexible and simplified procedure to the farmers to meet the short term credit requirements for cultivation of crops, investment credit requirements for agriculture and allied activities and other needs.

    30th National Road Safety Week

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is all set to launch the 30th National Road Safety Week, with a host of initiatives planned for generating awareness and sensitizing people about safe road usage.

    Highlights:

    • Theme for this year campaign: Sadak Suraksha – Jeevan Raksha
    • Minister of Road Transport and Highways will flag off a motor car rally to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • The rally will travel through places historically associated with Gandhiji, both in India, as well as in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and will pass through Sabarmati, Porbandar, Dandi, Yerwada, Sewagram, Jabalpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, ChauriChaura, Champaran, Shantiniketan and Kolkata in India before travelling to Dhaka in Bangladesh. It will conclude at Yangon in Myanmar.
    • During the event MoRTH also launch the dashboard for Road Accident Data of India and its states.
    • The Society of Indian Automobile Industry will also declare 2019 as the Year of Road Safety on the occasion, to underline its commitment and support for promoting safety on Indian roads.
    • Amar Chitra Katha will release a set of comic books on road safety that it has published. This is aimed at creating awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to.
    • In addition to the above, Retro Reflective Stickers on Sadak Suraksha Jeevan Raksha will be launched on the occasion.

    National Testing Agency Launched Mobile App

    Why in News?

    • National Testing Agency launched Mobile App through which students can practice mock tests.

    Highlights:

    • Through the app students can practice or take mock tests on their own computers or smartphones.
    • NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to acquaint the aspirants, especially those from rural areas with Computer Based Tests (CBTs) to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources.
    • Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’ for visiting the TPCs.
    • The services are provided to the students free of cost.

    NTA:

    • The National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts entrance examinations for admission in higher educational institutions in the country.
    • It will be society registered under Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • Its main purpose is to bring reforms in the education system
    • Establishment of NTA will free CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from conducting various exams and enable them to focus on their core areas and work on improving the quality of education
    • Initially, the CBSE staff will be deployed in this department and but later on the specialised people will be hired in the NTA.

    Centre relaxes environmental clearance for sugar mills

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified a special provision that relaxes norms for getting prior environmental clearance (EC) to sugar manufacturing and distillery projects.

    Highlights:

    • The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 makes it mandatory to get an EC for all new projects, their expansion and modernisation as well as change in product mix.
    • The EC has to be acquired before beginning construction work or preparation of land by the project management, except for securing the land.
    • The latest notification allows all sugar manufacturing and distillery expansion projects to be treated as B2 category under the EIA notification 2006.
    • The new provision applies to all expansion projects of sugar manufacturing or distilleries, having environmental clearances for their present industrial operations and intend to produce ethanol for blending with petrol under the Ethanol Blended with Petrol (EBP) programme.

    EBP programme:

    • Ethanol Blended with Petrol (EBP) programme was launched by the government in 2003 to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.
    • This intervention also seeks to reduce import dependency for energy requirements, and give boost to the agriculture sector.

    The Environment Impact Assessment:

    • It is the assessment of the environmental consequences (positive and negative) of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action.
    • The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project.
    • The EIA notification has three categories; A, B1 and B2.
    • The projects under category A require EC from MoEF&CC.
    • Category B1 projects get the EC from the state/union territory Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
    • Category B2 get EC from the SEIAA, the requirements for getting clearance for such projects is easier than category A or B1 projects.

    India n students to participate in PISA 2021

    Why in News?

    • The HRD Ministry has signed a pact with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the participation of students from Central government schools in PISA-2021.
    • With the signing of the pact, Indian students aged 15 will be able to take the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, which is conducted every three years.

    PISA 2021:

    • It will be a competency-based test, which evaluates the learning level of 15YO students in reading, mathematics and science.
    • The outcomes of the test will be used to do more teacher training programmes and curricular reforms.
    • The questions in the test will be contextualized according to the Indian setting to help students understand them better.
    • Schools run by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and schools in the UTs of Chandigarh will participate.
    • The CBSE and NCERT will be part of the process and activities leading to the actual test.

    Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Signs an MoU with National Council of Applied Economic Research

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Government of India and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to use new data technologies, knowledge generation and knowledge sharing, and capacity building in the field of Official Statistics.

    Significance:

    • The MoU would lead to strengthening and better monitoring of data quality and timeliness of various statistical products and services generated by the Ministry including, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Economic Census, Price Statistics, Index of Industrial Production (IIP), and Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), etc.

    Highlights of the MoU:

    • Business Process Review (“BPR”) of the existing official statistics system and development of an information and communication technology (“ICT”) plan for mainstreaming data integration across various domains and agencies.
    • Using technology for survey instruments and processing of data for large scale surveys and data analytics.
    • Creation of a national data warehouse to integrate administrative statistical datasets available up to the local Government level.
    • Leveraging administrative data to improve the quality and coverage of core statistics with technical support and collaboration with data producers.
    • Setting up common standards and protocols for data collection, its quality, meta-data and use across line ministries and sub-national entities.
    • Development of new ICT based framework for measurement of social and economic indicators in the emerging knowledge-based economy.
    • Capacity building for statistical activities including big data analytics, technical reporting, etc.

    ICAR launches National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP)

    Why in News?

    • The ICAR has recently launched Rs 1100 crore ambitious National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) to attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country.

    Highligts:

    • This project will be funded by the World Bank and the Indian Government on a 50:50 basis.
    • The objective of the NAHEP for India is to support participating agricultural universities and ICAR in providing more relevant and higher quality education to Agricultural University students.
    • In addition, a four year degree in Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Forestry has been declared a professional degree.
    • In order to promote the participation of students in agricultural business, Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) scheme is being run.
    • Under this, practical experience of agriculture and entrepreneurship is provided to undergraduate students.

    Yuva Swabhiman Yojana

    Why in news?

    • The Madhya Pradesh government has announced the launch of a scheme to ensure temporary employment to the youths from the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the urban areas.

    Yuva Swabhiman Yojana:

    • The Scheme would guarantee 100 days of employment every year to the EWS youths.
    • During their employment, youths would be given skills training of their choice, so that they can take benefits of the available job opportunities.
    • While those in rural areas get employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the urban poor youth are left out.
    • This scheme will effectively cover them.

    Highest Civilian honour – Bharat Ratna 2019

    Why in News?

    • The President, Ram Nath Kovind conferred the 2019 Bharat Ratna Award, country’s highest civilian honour, on former president and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee.

    Highlights – awardees:

    • The award was also conferred on RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh and singer Bhupen Hazarika, both posthumously.
    • Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who was the 13th President of India and served from 2012 until 2017, had served under Indira Gandhi. He was also the Finance Minister under the premiership of Manmohan Singh.
    • Nanaji Deshmukh, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 94, was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1977 to 1979 representing the Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh. He also served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005. His contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in villages.
    • Bhupen Hazarika, who died in 2011, was the legendary singer-composer from Assam. As put by PM Narendra Modi, “songs and music of Bhupen Hazarika are admired by people across generations. From them radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood.”

    Bharat Ratna Award:

    • Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India that was instituted on January 2, 1954 by the order of Rajendra Prasad, the former President of India.
    • Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence, but constitution prohibits using the award name as title.
    • The award is conferred in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or gender.
    • The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the union government expanded the criteria to include any field of human endeavour in 2011.
    • Recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year.
    • Recipients receive a certificate signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion and award does not contain any monetary grant.
    • The award can also be bestowed posthumously, as per the provision inserted in January 1966.
    • The former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first individual to be honoured posthumously in 1966.
    • The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna were C Rajagopalachari, scientist C V Raman and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1954.

    Quality of medical education Ranking

    Why in news?

    • The Union health ministry plans to grade and rank government-run medical colleges to improve the quality of medical education.

    Highlights:

    • Proposed mandatory grading of all government medical colleges and for private institutions grading will be done at a later stage. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), which grades IIMs in a similar manner, had started ranking medical colleges on its own in 2018. Ranking of medical colleges will be done on the basis of choices of students during counselling.

    Significance:

    • With good ranking and grades, the medical colleges will compete for best facilities.
    • Improve the quality of medical education.
    • The move will help in establishing the reputation of medical colleges on an international level.

    NIRF parameters:

    • Teaching, learning and resources, research and professional practices, graduation outcomes, outreach and inclusivity, and perception.
    • The significant sub-parameters are student strength, including doctoral students, faculty-student ratio, total budget and its utilization, research and professional practice,
    • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and patents filed, published, granted and licensed, percentage of women, economically and socially challenged students, and facilities for physically challenged students.

    eCourts Services through Common Service Centres

    Why in News?

    • To provide efficient and time-bound access to the Courts services to litigant public, who are on the other side of the digital divide and don’t have access to internet, the Department of Justice has decided to deliver eCourts services to them through around 2 lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs).

    Highlights:

    • The rural reach of the CSC’s is extensive, envisaging a minimum of one CSC in each Gram Panchayat, thus enabling eCourts services to reach all corners of the country.
    • The collaboration between Department of Justice and Common Service Centers would thus mean that litigants can access easily, and readily case status information available on eCourts database from any CSC.
    • To ensure affordability, Department of Justice has decided not to charge any fee from the customers for eCourts related services delivered through CSC’s.

    Significance of eCourts:

    • The Government of India had initiated second phase of the eCourts project as one of the National e-Governance projects.
    • Computerizing district and subordinate courts of the country through installation of case information software, hardware and local area network in courts.
    • They are also being connected on Wide Area Network through a dedicated network offering bandwidth upto 100 Mbps.
    • eCourts services have now been successfully rolled out through SMS, email, web, mobile app etc. benefiting millions of litigants and advocates.

    Common Service Centres:

    • Common Services Centre (CSC) programme is an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), Government of India.
    • CSCs are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
    • They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods.

    National Girl Child Day

    Why in news?

    • The Women & Child Development Ministry will celebrate National Girl Child Day (NGCD) on 24th January, 2019. The programme will also observe anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme.

    Theme:

    • The theme of this NGCD is “Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow” and celebrating with objectives of generating awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and create a positive environment around valuing the girl child.

    Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP):

    • BBBP Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% financial assistance for District level component and the fund are directly released to the DC/DM’s account for smooth operation of the Scheme.
    • BBBP is a comprehensive programme to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum.
    • The Child Sex Ratio (CSR), defined as number of girls per 1000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years.
    • The specific objectives of the scheme include preventing gender biased sex selective elimination; ensuring survival and protection of the girl child and ensuring education and participation of the girl child.

    International day of the girl child: October 11:

    • It is an international observance day declared by the United Nations; it is also called the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl.
    • The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender.
    • This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage.

    ECI reaffirms Non – Tamperability of EVMs

    Why in News?

    • In wake of rumours about EVMs tampering and manipulating, ECI rules out all such possibilities.

    EVMs:

    • The ECI-EVMs are stand-alone machines designed to connect only amongst ECI-EVM units (Ballot Unit, Control Unit and VVPAT) through cables that remain in full public view. There is no mechanism in them to communicate with any device through wireless communication on any Radio Frequency. All their versions are regularly and rigorously tested against low to high wireless frequencies. These tests include and go beyond the standard tests specified for electronic equipment’s
    • They are regularly tested for proper functioning under all kind of operating conditions.
    • They are also regularly tested for code authentication and verification.

    VVPAT:

    • In the context alleging about the two side printing of VVPAT paper which allegedly retains lower tampered print while the front side print as verified by the voter, getting erased.
    • VVPATs use thermal printers which can print only on one side of thermal paper.
    • The print is fully visible through the viewing window.
    • The paper rolls used in VVPATs have only one-sided thermal coating and hence can be printed only on one side.
    • The VVPAT paper print lasts atleast for five years.

    EVMs and VVPATs Non-Tamperable:

    • Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, are the sole manufacturers of EVMs and now also VVPATs.
    • They also reaffirmed that all the TEC prescribed Standard Operating Procedures are scrupulously adhered to and observed.
    • It is however reiterated that while ECI-EVMs might malfunction sometimes like any other machine due to component failures and stop working, but even such a malfunctioning ECI-EVM would not record any vote incorrectly.
    • It is reaffirmed that ECI-EVMs are not tamperable.

    India ranks 80th on Global Talent Competitive Index 2019

    Why in News?

    • Global Talent Competitive Index (GTCI) for 2019 was recently released.

    India’s Progress:

    • At 80th rank, India moves up one position on the Global Talent Competitive Index (GTCI) 2019, according to a report.
    • According to the report, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to attract and retain talent. There is a need to address its poor level of Internal Openness in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerances towards minorities and immigrants. China emerged as the best performer among the BRICS countries, with an overall position of 45th.
    • However, India performed better than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing talent and access to growth opportunities.

    Global Performance:

    • Switzerland followed by Singapore, the US, Norway and Denmark were in the top five on the list.
    • In the top ten of talent competitiveness ranking, only two non-European countries can be seen: Singapore and the USA.
    • This underlines that Europe remains a talent powerhouse, but also that countries with great universities and a strong education sector are best at attracting talents.

    GTCI:

    • Launched for the first time in 2013, the GTCI is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.
    • It is released by INSEAD business school in partnership with Tata Communications and Adecco Group.
    • The report measures levels of Global Talent Competitiveness by looking at 68 variables such as ease of ease of hiring, gender earnings gap, and prevalence of training in firms.

    Creation of the National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT)

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved the creation of National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT).

    Highlights:

    • Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal is the forum of second appeal in GST laws and the first common forum of dispute resolution between Centre and States.
    • The appeals against the orders in first appeals issued by the Appellate Authorities under the Central and State GST Acts lie before the GST Appellate Tribunal, which is common under the Central as well as State GST Acts.
    • GSTAT shall be presided over by the President and shall consist of one Technical Member (Centre) and one Technical Member (State) and the appellate Tribunal shall be situated at New Delhi.
    • Being a common forum, GST Appellate Tribunal will ensure that there is uniformity in redressal of disputes arising under GST, and therefore, in implementation of GST across the country.

    Bharat Parv 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with other central Ministries is organizing the 4th edition of ‘Bharat Parv’ event showcasing the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat at Red Fort as a part of Republic Day 2019 Celebrations.

    Objective:

    • The prime objective of organizing the event is to generate a patriotic mood promote the rich cultural diversity of the country and to ensure wider participation of the general public.

    Highlights:

    • The Bharat Parv event includes display of Republic Day Parade Tableaux, Performances by Armed Forces Bands, Cultural Performances from different regions of country, Multi-Cuisine Food Court, Craft Mela and Photo Exhibition by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). It will also include cultural performances choreographed in Folk and Tribal Dances and Music arranged through North Zonal Cultural Centre as well as performances by cultural troupes from different States and Union Territories. The Food Court will have stalls set up by States/UTs.
    • Moreover, National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) will showcase street food from different regions as well as by Institutes of Hotel Management and ITDC.
    • There will also be Theme State Pavilions where each State will showcase their strengths along with tourism products.

    World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019

    Why in News?

    • Union Ministry for AYUSH will inaugurate the 2nd World Integrated Medicine Forum 2019 on the ‘Regulation of Homeopathic Medical Products; Advancing global collaboration’.

    Highlights:

    • The organizers of the forum are the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, under the Ministry of AYUSH.
    • International drug regulators dealing with homeopathic/traditional medicines from various countries are expected to participate. The regulation of homeopathic medicinal products is highly variable worldwide, ranging at a national level from highly advanced to none whatsoever. There is a tension between different regulatory needs: on the one hand there is a need for standardization, harmonization and reducing complexity;
    • On the other hand there is need for a pluralistic regulatory system, which respects the specific characteristics of homeopathy as a holistic, patient-centred medical system.
    • The forum will explore and illustrate the potential benefits and pitfalls of bi-lateral/multilateral collaboration and advance global cooperation on a synergistic basis.

    Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas – 2019

    Why in news?

    • The stage is all set for the beginning of 15th edition of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas at Varanasi.
    • The theme for PBD 2019 is “Role of Indian Diaspora in building New India”.

    Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas:

    • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated once in every two years to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots. During the Convention, selected overseas Indians are also honored with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.

    Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award:

    • The Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award PSBA is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indian. It will be conferred by the President of India to selected NRIs, PIOs, organisation or institution established and run by the NRIs who have made significant contribution to various fields both in India and abroad.

    National Museum of Indian Cinema

    Why in news?

    • Hon’ble PM Modi has inaugurated the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) in Mumbai.

    National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC):

    • The state-of-the-art Museum aims to take its visitors through an absorbing journey of over a century of Indian cinema in a story telling mode with the help of visuals, graphics, artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia expositions.
    • The creation of the Museum has been guided by the Museum Advisory Committee headed by Shri Shyam Benegal.
    • The Museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century historic palace Gulshan Mahal – in the Films Division campus in Mumbai.

    New Museum Building has four Exhibition Halls which encapsulate:

    • Gandhi & Cinema: It not only depicts the movies made on the life Mahatma Gandhi but also showcases the deep impact his life had on cinema.
    • Children’s Film Studio: it gives visitors, particularly children, an opportunity to explore the science, technology and art behind filmmaking.
    • Technology, creativity & Indian cinema: it showcases the creative use of technology by Indian film makers over the years to produce cinematographic impact on the silver screen.
    • Cinema across India: it showcases the charismatic kaleidoscopic presence of the vibrant cinematographic culture across India.

    Gulshan Mahal:

    • It is an ASI Grade-II Heritage Structure which has been restored as part of the NMIC project.
    • The displays present here showcase the journey of over a hundred years of Indian cinema.
    • It is divided into 9 sections viz. The Origin of Cinema, Cinema comes to India, Indian Silent Film, Advent of Sound, The Studio Era, The impact of World War II, Creative Resonance, New Wave and Beyond and Regional Cinema.

    Significance of Indian Cinema:

    • The Indian Cinema has a big role in enhancing India’s soft power, its credibility and building the Brand India across the world.
    • Through Cinema important social issues such as sanitation, women empowerment, sports etc are now reaching to people. Cinema plays an important role in nation Building and strengthens the feeling of Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat. The film Industry has a huge potential of contributing in the growth of Tourism in the country.
    • Government is working to provide facility of ‘Ease of Filming’ by putting in place a Single Window Clearance system, for Film Shooting approvals in different parts of the country.
    • It is also working on amending Cinematograph Act 1952 to check the problem of Film Piracy.

    Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA)

    Why in News?

    • Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) is a support scheme of Odisha whose primary targets are small farmers, cultivators and landless agricultural labourers.
    • The scheme involves payments to encourage cultivation and associated activities.

    Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA):

    • Odisha would spend Rs 10,180 crore over three years until 2020-21 in providing financial assistance to cultivators and landless agricultural labourers benefitting 92% of the cultivators in the state and including every category from big farmers to landless cultivators.
    • The government would provide Rs 10,000 per family as assistance for cultivation, Rs 5,000 each in the Kharif and Rabi seasons, for five cropping seasons between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
    • The financial assistance under the scheme is not linked to the quantum of land owned.
    • The scheme also targets landless households, specifically SC and ST families as they will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 for activities like goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and fishery.
    • The Scheme also provides a life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh and additional personal accident coverage of the same amount for 57 lakh households.
    • The Scheme also proposes interest-free crop loans up to Rs 50,000.
    • The scheme is proposed as an alternative to the demand of farm loan waiver.
    • The scheme strives to target rural activities as a whole by supporting farming on a small scale, sharecropping, fishing and animal herding which doesn’t get covered under loan waiver schemes.

    Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana

    Why in News?

    • The Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY), the flagship scheme of the Union Government for employment generation, crossed the milestone of one crore beneficiaries on January 14, 2019.

    Highlights:

    • The scheme was announced on August 07, 2016 and is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO).
    • Under the scheme, Government is paying full employers’ contribution of 12 percent towards Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ Pension Scheme both for a period of 3 years.
    • The new employees who are registered with the EPFO on or after April 1, 2016, with salary up to Rs. 15,000 per month are covered under the scheme.
    • During 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 (up to January 15, 2019), 33,031, 30,27,612, and 69,49,436 beneficiaries respectively, have been enrolled with EPFO under the PMRPY.
    • The numbers of establishments who have been benefitted during the implementation of the scheme are 1.24 lakh.

    Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY):

    • The Scheme has been designed to incentivise employers for generation of new employment, where the Union Government pays the full employer’s contribution towards EPF and EPS with effect from April 1, 2018. Earlier the benefit was applicable for employer’s contribution towards EPS only.
    • PMRPY has a dual benefit – on the one hand, the employer is incentivised for increasing the employee base in the establishment through payment of EPF contribution of 12 percent of wage, which otherwise would have been borne by the employer, and on the other hand, a large number of workers find jobs in such establishments.
    • A direct benefit of the scheme is that these workers have access to social security benefit through Provident Fund, Pension and Death Linked Insurance.
    • The terminal date for registration of beneficiaries through an establishment under the PMRPY is March 31, 2019. The entire system of availing of the scheme is online and AADHAR based with no human interface in the implementation of the scheme.

    National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018 – 2023)

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted a five-year action plan for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country, dumping a long-pending draft policy on the matter.

    National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023):

    • It aims to employ a multi-pronged strategy — involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families — to address the issue.
    • The objective is to create awareness and educate people about the ill-effects of drugs abuse on the individual, family, workplace and the society at large in order to integrate them back into the society.
    • The ministry has planned several measures for controlling sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by cyber cell, under the national action plan.
    • It includes holding awareness generation programmes at schools, colleges, universities, workplaces and for police functionaries, paramilitary forces, law enforcement agencies, judicial officers and Bar council, among others. Plans are also afoot for awareness generation through social, print, digital and online media, and engagement of celebrities, besides strengthening the national toll-free helpline for drug prevention. It also calls for persuading principals, directors, vice chancellors of educational institutions to ensure that no drugs are sold within/nearby the campus. It also includes identification of vulnerable areas based on survey, skill development, vocational training and livelihood support of ex-drug addicts through National Backward Classes Finance and other Development Corporations and continuous research on drug use pattern.

    Other Initiatives:

    • The ministry, in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) under the AIIMS, is also conducting a national survey on the extent and pattern of substance abuse.
    • A steering committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry, and with representatives from the Ministries of Health, HRD, WCD, MHA, Skill development and Entrepreneurship, among others.
    • The committee will hold quarterly meetings to monitor effective implementation of the NAPDDR.
    • As a part of the plan, module for re-treatment, ongoing treatment and post-treatment of addicts of different categories and age groups will be developed and database on substance use will be maintained.

    Womaniya on Government e Marketplace’ initiative National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018 – 2023)

    Why in news?

    • The Union Government on January 14, 2019 launched the ‘Womaniya on Government e Marketplace (GeM)’, an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) to sell handicrafts, handloom, accessories, and other products directly to Government departments and institutions.
    • The Womaniya on GeM initiative aims to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.

    Highlights:

    • India has approximately 500 million Internet users and nearly 54 percent of them are more than 25 years of age with higher discretionary income and likely to transact more online. Women constitute 33 percent or 143 million Internet users and control 44 percent of household spending in India.
    • Nearly 80 percent women-owned establishments in India are self-financed and more than 60 percent of 8 million units are owned and led by women entrepreneurs from socially-challenged sections.
    • Since women tend to invest up to 90 percent of their earnings back in their families to provide better nutrition, health care and education to their children, their economic empowerment is essential for poverty alleviation which would be made possible through Womaniya initiative.
    • Womaniya on GeM will spur hyper-local economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs and address goals and objectives under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
    • Products like handicrafts and handloom, accessories, jute and coir products, home decor and office furnishings are categorised for ease-in-procurement.
    • The initiative aligns with Government’s initiatives for MSMEs, especially to reserve 3 percent in government procurement from women entrepreneurs.

    Government e Marketplace:

    • Government e Marketplace is a 100 percent government owned company setup under the aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs.
    • GeM was setup in 2016 and has 731,431 product categories, with 180,862 registered sellers and 32,114 government buyers.
    • Since inception, GeM has processed 1,171,761 orders worth Rs 16,976 crores in gross merchandise value. The platform offers online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all central government departments and state governments, public sector units and affiliated bodies.
    • It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement of goods and services and eliminate corruption.

    Performance Grading Index (PGI)

    Why in News?

    • The PGI is for the purpose of grading States and UTs on their performance across 70 indicators on school education.

    Highlights:

    • The Index will grade States and UTS thus allowing for more than one State/UT to occupy the same grade, and therefore all States and UTS to ultimately reach the highest level.
    • The PGI has been conceptualised as a tool to encourage States and UTS to adopt certain practices like online recruitment and transfer of Teachers, electronic attendance of Students & Teachers etc., The PGI has seventy (70) indicators divided into two categories viz Outcomes and Governance processes. The first category is divided into four domains viz. Learning outcomes, Access outcomes, Infrastructure and Facilities and Equity outcomes; The second category is about Governance processes which covers attendance, teacher adequacy, administrative adequacy, training, accountability and transparency.
    • The total weightage under PGI is thousand points. Each indicator has been given either twenty or ten points.

    National Youth Parliament Festival 2019

    Why in News?

    • Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports launched the National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 at New Delhi, thereby beginning the celebration of the National Youth Day 2019.
    • National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 is organised on the theme of “Be The Voice of New India” and “Find solutions and contribute to policy”.

    Highlights:

    • Youth in the age bracket of 18-25 years are invited to participate in the District Youth Parliaments. This is done in order to hear the voice of youth in this age bracket who are allowed to vote but cannot contest in elections.
    • The National Youth Parliament Festival will also encourage the youth to engage with public issues, understand the common man’s point of view, form their opinion and express these in an articulate manner.
    • Relevant and effective voices on the vision of New India would be captured and documented to make these available to policy makers and implementers to take it forward.
    • The National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 will be conducted at three levels:
      • District Youth Parliament (DYP) at the district level.
      • State Youth Parliament (SYP) at the State Level.
      • National Youth Parliament (NYP) at the National Level
    • The best three speakers at the National Youth Parliament will be awarded Rs. 2 Lakhs, Rs. 1.50 Lakhs and Rs. 1 Lakh respectively by the Prime Minister.

    Web Wonder Women Campaign

    Why in News?

    • The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on January 9, 2018 launched an online campaign, ‘Web – Wonder Women’ also known as ‘#www’.
    • The Campaign aims to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change through the social media itself.

    Highlights:

    • Through the ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’, the Ministry and the Campaign’s Partners aim to recognise the strength of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive campaigns to steer a change in society.
    • The Campaign will recognise and acknowledge the efforts of these meritorious Women.
    • The Campaign invites Entries through nominations from across the world as per the laid out criteria. Nominations will be open till January 31, 2019.
    • Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination.
    • The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialised panel of judges.
    • Nominations have been invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, and fashion among others.

    Recombinant ELISA Kits

    Why in News?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers released recombinant Enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA) kits: one for Glanders and other for Equine Infectious Anaemia.
    • Both these diseases are notifiable diseases in India and require special diagnosis for control and eradication in the country.

    ELISA KIT:

    • National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE) has been able to develop a recombinant Hcp1 antigen ELISA as an alternate to complement-fixation test (CFT). The ELISA has been duly validated in India and the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) Reference Laboratory, Germany.

    Glanders Disease:

    • Glanders is a fatal infectious and notifiable disease of equines including horses, donkeys and mules. The disease is caused by a bacterium known as Burkholderia mallei and has zoonotic potential. The organism is also considered as potential bio-weapon and categorized under ‘Tier 1 Select Agent’.

    Equine Infectious Anaemia(EIA):

    • Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) is a chronic, debilitating and persistent infectious disease of equines caused by a retrovirus. It is an OIE (Office International des Epizooties) notifiable disease. NRCE has also developed recombinant p26 protein-based ELISA as an alternative to Coggin’s test. This technology will provide sustainable and homogeneous source of antigen and harmonized protocol to ensure regular surveillance of EIA.

    First Swadesh Darshan Project in Meghalaya

    Why in news?

    • The Chief Minister of Meghalaya, inaugurated the project “Development of North East Circuit: Umiam (Lake View) – U Lum Sohpetbneng- Mawdiangdiang – Orchid Lake Resort” implemented under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

    Darshan Project:

    • The project “Development of North East Circuit: Umiam (Lake View) – U Lum Sohpetbneng- Mawdiangdiang – Orchid Lake Resort” was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism.
    • Under this project the Ministry of tourism has developed facilities like Traditional Healing Centre, Tribal Rejuvenation Centre, Tourist Information Centre, Multipurpose Hall, Log Huts, Cafeteria, Sound and Light show, Souvenir Shops, Water Sports Zone, Zip Line, Canopy Walk, Trekking Routes, Cycling Track, Last Mile Connectivity, Caravan Parking, Public Toilets, and Solid Waste Management.

    Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

    • It is one of the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritised manner.
    • Under this scheme the Government is focussing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering the economic growth.

     

    The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill – 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Bill has been formulated recognizing the need for regulation of the use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology, for establishing the identity of missing persons, victims, offenders, under trials and unknown deceased persons.
    • The Bill will add value in empowering the criminal justice delivery system by enabling the application of DNA evidence, which is considered the gold standard in crime investigations.

    Purpose of the bill:

    • The purpose of this Bill is to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
    • The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
    • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in this country, there is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable, and furthermore that the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

    Components of the bill:

    • Establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board;
    • Accreditation of DNA laboratories undertaking DNA testing, analysing, etc.;
    • Establishment of the National and Regional DNA Data Banks, as envisaged in the Bill, will assist in forensic investigations.
    • This will aid in scientific up-gradation and streamlining of the DNA testing activities in the country with appropriate inputs from the DNA Regulatory Board which would be set up for the purpose.
    • This will aid in scientific up-gradation and streamlining of the DNA testing activities in the country with appropriate inputs from the DNA Regulatory Board which would be set up for the purpose.

    Law in place in other countries:

    New national policy for domestic workers

    Why in News?

    • According to National Sample Survey (NSSO Statistics-2011-2012, 68th round) it is estimated 39 lakh people are employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
    • The Ministry of Labour & Employment is considering formulating a National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage.

    Draft policy for domestic workers:

    • In a bid to give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions, labour ministry is drafting the national policy.
    • As per the National Sample Survey, there are an estimated 39 lakhs people employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
      • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations
      • Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits
      • Right to form their own associations/unions
      • Right to minimum wages, access to social security
      • Right to enhance their skills
      • Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation
      • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
      • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of private placement agencies
      • Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic worker

    Menstrual Hygie ne for Adolescent Girls Scheme

    Why in news?

    • To address the need of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls residing primarily in rural areas, Government of India is supporting the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme.

    Menstrual Hygiene Scheme:

    • Under the scheme, funds are provided to States/UTs through National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins packs.
    • It would thus make its provision to rural adolescent girls at subsidized rates as per proposals received from the States and UTs in their Programme Implementation Plans.

    Objectives:

    • Increasing awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
    • Improving access to and use of high quality sanitary napkins by adolescent girls in rural areas
    • Ensuring safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner
    • Provision of funds to ASHAs to hold monthly meeting with adolescents to discuss issues related to menstrual hygiene.

    Other initiatives:

    • A range of IEC material has been developed around Menstrual hygiene Scheme, using a 360 degree approach to create awareness among adolescent girls about safe & hygienic menstrual health practices.
    • It includes audio, video and reading materials for adolescent girls and job-aids for ASHAs and other field level functionaries for communicating with adolescent girls.
    • ASHAs across the country are trained and play a significant role in promotion of use and distribution of the sanitary napkins.
    • Department of Health Research, under the Ministry of Health, is involved in assessment of all newer, alternative, environment friendly menstrual hygiene products to look into their safety and acceptability features.

    Science Communicators Meet

    Why in news?

    • As a part of the on-going Indian Science Congress, 2019, Science Communicators’ Meet was inaugurated by the Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad at Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar.

    India’s achievements:

    • India’s ranking in global innovation index has jumped from 81st in 2015 to 60th in 2017 and 57th in 2018.
    • India is now at the 6th position in scientific publications and 10th in patent filing.
    • Digital payments have surged to 8 folds in the last five years to 2070 crores. There has been 2048% growth in Aadhar Enabled Payment System transactions while transactions in UPI grew 1500 times in the last 24 months.

    Aim of the Science Communicators’ Meet:

    • The aim of the Science Communicators’ Meet is to cultivate and build up a more closely knit science communication community in the country responsible for disseminating science information to all stakeholders. The specific objective of the meet is to bring different science communicators together to discuss the development and optimum utilization of existing & new media and arenas in order to strengthen the dialogue between the research community and the society. The Communicators’ meet will provide opportunities for practitioners of science communication to discuss communication strategies receive critical feedback and spread the scientific way of thinking among people and make science accessible to them.

    Women Science Congress:

    • Minister of Textiles & Industry Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani inaugurated the Women’s Science Congress as a part of the on-going Indian Science Congress,2019 with the focal theme
    • “Future India: Science and Technology. The Women’s Science Congress has been organised to showcase the contribution of women in Science, Technology and the Society.

    Year End Review of Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – Nationa l Rural Livelihoods Mission

    Why in news?

    • Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) seeks to reach out to 8-9 crore rural poor households and organize one woman member from each household into affinity-based women SHGs and federations at village level and at higher levels.

    Progress:

    • During 2018-19: 588 additional blocks have been covered under “Intensive” implementation strategy of DAY-NRLM bringing the cumulative total to 5054 blocks.
    • During the year 2018-19so far, over 73 lakh households have been mobilized into 6.75 lakh SHGs. The SHG-Bank Linkage programme has seen tremendous growth year on year under DAY-NRLM. During this financial year, about 17.57 lakh SHGs have accessed credit of Rs. 27911 crore up to October, 2018.

    Non-Farm Livelihoods:

    • Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana (AGEY) is a programme to provide safe, affordable and community monitored transport services to rural areas. The vehicles are owned and operated by members of Self-Help Group (SHG) networks and operate in regions which are not served by regular transport services. 624 routes are currently served by AGEY across the country.
    • Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP), the sub-scheme under DAY-NRLM develops an eco-system for supporting small businesses in rural areas. The eco-system has components for providing business support services, mentorship, seed capital, training & capacity building on business and technical aspects and marketing support.

    Farm Livelihoods:

    • This year, DAY-NRLM has taken up promotion of organic farming with women SHG members across the country. Under organic farming initiative, a total of 1646 number of organic village clusters have been identified by 28 States/UTs.
    • Ensuring Food & Nutritional Security is one of the stated objectives of all farm livelihoods interventions and in order to make sure that this objective is met, agri-nutri gardens at Mahila Kisan household level are being promoted.
    • As linking small and marginal producers with the market is a critical gap, value chain development through the promotion of producer collectives is a critical component of the implementation strategy under Farm Livelihoods. In the year 2018-19, three Mahila Milk Producer Companies (MMPCs) have been operationalized in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

    CIC gets four Informa tion Commissioners

    Why in news?

    • The government has appointed four new Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission.

    Central Information Commission:

    • The Central Information Commission has been constituted with effect from 12-10-2005 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities.

    Powers and Functions:

    • The Commission has certain powers and functions mentioned in sections 18, 19, 20 and 25 of the RTI Act, 2005. Adjudication in second appeal for giving information
    • Direction for record keeping. Suo motu disclosures receiving and enquiring into a complaint on inability to file RTI, etc. Imposition of penalties and Monitoring and Reporting including preparation of an Annual Report
    • The decisions of the Commission are final and binding.

    Composition:

    • The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
    • CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

    Centre to introduce Commercial Space Activities Bill

    Why in News?

    • The Centre is likely to introduce a Bill to commercialise space activities in the budget session this year.

    Space Activities Bill 2017:

    • It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
    • The Bill aims to facilitate the overall growth of space activities in India with higher order participation of public, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.
    • The Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
    • As few start-ups in India have shown interest in space activities there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
    • It will help the Centre establish a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body to authorize and license space activities.

    Provisions of the Bill:

    • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
    • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
    • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
    • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
    • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
    • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity. It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
    • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

    Issues with the Bill:

    • The Bill does not address space-based activities separately.
    • Instead, it tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go.
    • In fact, the very definition of “space activity” could throw up complications.
    • The definition puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
    • The Bill could also affect navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.

    Cabinet approves high level committee to implement Clause 6 of Assam Accord

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a High Level Committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

     

    Highlights:

    • Clause 6 of the Assam Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
    • The Committee shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The Committee will hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
    • The Committee will also assess the requirement of measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam, quantum of reservation in employment under Government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people
    • The Composition and Terms of Reference of the Committee will be issued separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is expected that the setting up of the Committee will pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and will help fulfil longstanding expectations of the Assamese people.
    • The Cabinet also approved the establishment of a Bodo Musuem-cum-language and cultural study center, modernization of existing All India Radio Station and Doordarshan Kendra at Kokrajhar and naming a Superfast Train passing through BTAD as ARONAI Express. Relevant Ministries will take the required actions to implement these decisions.
    • The Bodos are an ethnic and linguistic community centered on the Udalguri and Kokrajhar of Assam. They are largest of the 18 ethnic sub-groups within the Bodo -Kachari group.

    Assam Accord:

    • The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
    • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
    • Some of the key demands were – All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
    • Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship. A parallel package for the economic development of Assam, including a second oil refinery, a paper mill and an institute of technology, was also worked out.
    • The central government also promised to provide ‘legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage’ of the Assamese people.
    • Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented, which has kept some of the issues festering.

    Section 6A of Citizenship Act, 1955 and Assam Accord:

    • The section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 contains the provisions with respect to citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord (1985).
    • This section was introduced through an amendment made in 1985, in the Citizenship Act, 1955.
    • The section 6A of the act says that all those who came to Assam on or after 1 January, 1966, but before 25th March, 1971 from the specified territory (it includes all territories of Bangladesh at the time of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985), and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section-18 for citizenship. Therefore, this act fixes March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.

    ISRO launches Samwad with Students on New Year Day

    Why in News?

    • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched a new platform called ‘Samwad with Students’ on January 1, 2018 in Bengaluru, as part of its enhanced outreach programme.
    • Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India in activities concerning space science to capture their scientific temperament. The new conversation mission aims to inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.

    Significance:

    • The ISRO Chairman used the platform to explain to the students the importance of the Indian space programme and its benefits to the society at large.
    • He wanted them to take up science and mathematics with absolute seriousness which would enable them to take up challenging careers.

    Highlights:

    • He explained that space missions are very complex in nature and totally different from terrestrial systems, as they have to work in extreme environments more often.
    • Upon asked how the students could contribute to ISRO’s missions, Dr. Sivan told the students that when they complete their studies with a focus on fundamentals of science, then they could get back to ISRO and help solve problems.
    • On the sidelines, the students and teachers also interacted with ISRO scientists and engineers.

    Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana

    Why in news?

    • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

    Objectives:

    • Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive s so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child.
    • The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW& LM).

    Benefits under PMMVY:

    • Cash incentive of Rs 5000 in three instalments i.e. first instalment of Rs 1000/ – on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) / approved Health facility as may be identified by the respective administering State / UT, second instalment of Rs 2000/ – after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC) and third instalment of Rs 2000/ – after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis – B, or its equivalent/ substitute.
    • The eligible beneficiaries would receive the incentive given under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for Institutional delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6000 / – .

    Target beneficiaries:

    • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, excluding PW&LM who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
    • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for first child in family
    • The date and stage of pregnancy for a beneficiary would be counted with respect to her LMP date as mentioned in the MCP card.

    Case of Miscarriage/Still Birth :

    • A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once.
    • In case of miscarriage/still birth, the beneficiary would be eligible to claim the remaining instalment(s) in event of any future pregnancy.
    • Thus, after receiving the 1st instalment, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage, she would only be eligible for receiving 2nd and 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionality’s of the scheme. Similarly, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage or still birth after receiving 1st and 2nd instalments, she would only be eligible for receiving 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionality’s of the scheme.
    • Case of Infant Mortality:A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once. That is, in case of infant mortality, she will not be eligible for claiming benefits under the scheme, if she has already received all the instalments of the maternity benefit under PMMVY earlier.
    • Pregnant and Lactating AWWs/ AWHs/ ASHA may also avail the benefits under the PMMVY subject to fulfilment of scheme conditionality’s.

    Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins initiative

    Why in news?

    • The Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins initiative has been launched by three oil marketing companies – IOCL, BPCL and HPCL.

    Highlights:

    • The mission, which forms part of the CSR initiative of OMCs in Odisha, is aimed to educate women on female hygiene and health, improve accessibility to low cost eco-friendly sanitary pads and boost rural employment and economy.
    • The three companies will set up 100 manufacturing units at the Common Service Centres (CSC) covering 93 Blocks across 30 districts of Odisha at an estimated cost of ₹2.94 crore.
    • At least 10 Ujjwala beneficiary women will get employment at each CSC. Each facility will have a capacity to produce 1,200-2,000 pads per day and will have a sterilisation room to ensure that the napkins are sterilised before they are packed for use by rural women.
    • The CSCs are also being provided with raw material, enough to make 45,000-50,000 pads. These napkins will be priced at ₹40 per pack, each containing eight pads.
    • The Ujjwala pads will be made of virgin wood pulp sheet, non-woven white sheet and a gel sheet which are all biodegradable in nature and will leave minimal carbon footprint.

    “One District, One Product” Scheme

    Why in News?

    • The Government of Uttar Pradesh has initiated “One District, One Product” Scheme to encourage indigenous and specialized products and crafts of the state.
    • The scheme aims to capitalize the rich heritage of the Uttar Pradesh by reviving them through modernization and publicisation to enhance the reach of these products.

    Highlights:

    • Uttar Pradesh is a vast state with vast diversity in all facets of life. The diversity of products and crafts in UP is breath-taking.
    • The vast diversity encompasses the ancient and nutritious Kala namak rice, the rare and intriguing wheat-stalk craft, world-famous chikankari and zari-zardozi work on clothes, the intricate and stunning horn and bone work that uses the remains of dead animals rather than live ones, a nature-friendly replacement for ivory.
    • Many of these rich traditions are facing the existential threat.
    • The One District, One Product aims to revive these traditional heritages by reviving them through modernization and publicisation.

    Objectives of the scheme:

    • Preservation and development of local crafts / skills and promotion of the art.
    • Increase in the incomes and local employment (resulting in decline in migration for employment).
    • Improvement in product quality and skill development.
    • Transforming the products in an artistic way (through packaging, branding)
    • To connect the production with tourism (Live demo and sales outlet – gifts and souvenir)
    • To resolve the issues of economic difference and regional imbalance
    • To take the concept of ODOP to national and international level after successful implementation at State level.

    PM inaugurates Rice Research Institute

    Why in news?

    • The International Rice Research Institute South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC) in Varanasi was dedicated to the nation by PM.

    IRRI SARC:

    • With an aim to double farmers’ income the 6th IRRI SARC campus will serve as a hub for rice research and training in South Asia and SAARC region.
    • The major aim of IRRI is to improve livelihood and nutrition, abolishing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition among those countries which depend on rice-based agri-food systems.
    • This new Centre is expected to improve crop production, seed quality and the nutritional value of rice.
    • It will also work with national partners to enhance farmers’ knowledge and income and deliver advanced research, teaching and services in the connection.
    • It will also teach scientists and agriculture leaders about the latest technologies and innovations for sustainable farming; and laboratories for digital crop monitoring and assessment, and demonstration fields where variety testing is conducted.
    • IRRI SARC facilities will include the Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA), a suite of modern laboratories where rice grains are assessed for: quality and nutritional value and sensory evaluations for grain taste, texture, and aroma are conducted; on-site facilities.
    • This centre will catalyze South-South collaboration, strengthen the research expertise and capacity of rice-growing countries in the region, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

    International Rice Research Institute:

    • The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines.
    • IRRI is known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s which preempted the famine in Asia.
    • The Institute, established in 1960 aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.
    • It advances its mission through collaborative research, partnerships, and the strengthening of the national agricultural research and extension systems of the countries IRRI works in.
    • It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research center in Asia.
    • IRRI’s semi-dwarf varieties, including the famous IR8 saved India from famine in the 1960s.

    Railways to grant fare concession to transgender senior citizens

    Why in news?

    • The Indian Railways announced on December 27, 2018 that it has decided to grant 40-per-cent concession in passenger fares to transgender senior citizens.
    • The concession will be applicable to those of the third gender, who are aged 60 years or above. It will be available from January 1, 2019.

    Highlights:

    • The Indian Railways offers concessions on ticket prices to 53 different categories, ranging from 10-100 per cent.
    • The railways grants 40 per cent concession in fares to men aged 60 years or above and 50 per cent concession in fares to women aged 58 years or above.
    • The students going to their hometown or educational tours can avail a concession of 50 per cent in fares for the second and sleeper class, while students belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community can avail a concession of 75 per cent.
    • Similarly, government school students in rural areas are eligible to get a concession of 75 per cent in second class for a study tour or an entrance examination once a year.
    • Those appearing for UPSC and Central Staff Selection Commission can also avail a concession of 50 per cent on the fares.
    • Industrial labours and farmers, who wish to visit agricultural exhibitions, can also avail a 25-per-cent concession on second-class and sleeper-class tickets.
    • In addition, foreign students studying in India are also eligible for a 50-per-cent concession in the second and sleeper class.
    • Apart from these, senior citizens, who book their railway tickets online, now have the option to choose between 100-per-cent concession, 50-per-cent concession and no concession.
    • Though a column for transgender (T) was introduced in the reservation form, the concession was not admissible to them.

    National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2018

    Why in News?

    • The Cabinet today approved the draft National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2018, which seeks to replace the existing regulator Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM) with a new body to ensure transparency.

    Highlights:

    • The draft bill provides for the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting overall education of Ayurveda, under Board of Ayurveda and Unani, Siddha &Sowarigpa under Board of Unaini, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
    • There are two common Boards namely, Board of assessment and rating to assess and grant permission to educational institutions of Indian systems of Medicine and Board of ethics and registration of practitioners of Indian systems of medicine to maintain National Register and ethical issues relating to practice under the National Commission for Indian Medicine.
    • It also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam, which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses. Further, a teacher’s eligibility test has been proposed in the Bill to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.
    • The draft bill is aimed at bringing reforms in the medical education of Indian medicine sector in lines with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for Allopathy system of medicine.
    • The proposed regulatory structure will enable transparency and accountability for protecting the interest of the general public. The NCIM will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.

    North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS)

    Why in News?

    • North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 covers eligible industrial units in the manufacturing and service sectors Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim to promote industrialization and boost employment and income generation.

    Significance Of NEIDS:

    • Promote industrialization: It will promote industrialization in North Eastern Region (NER) states including Sikkim and will boost income generation and will boost income generation and employment.
    • Promote employment: For this, government is incentivizing primarily MSME Sector through this scheme. It is also providing specific incentive through scheme to generate employment.
    • Benefits to industrial units: It will provide various incentives and benefits to all eligible industrial units. The overall cap for benefits under all components of incentives will be of Rs. 200 crores per unit.

    Central Capital Investment Incentive:

    • Central Capital Investment Incentive for Access to Credit (CCIIAC):30% of investment in Plant and Machinery with upper limit of Rs.5 Crore on the incentive amount per unit.
    • Central Interest Incentive (Cll): 3% on working capital credit advanced by eligible Banks and Financial institutions for first 5 years from date of commencement of commercial production.
    • Central Comprehensive Insurance Incentive (CCII): Reimbursement of 100% insurance premium on insurance of building and Plant & Machinery for 5 years from date of commencement of commercial production.
    • Goods and Service Tax (GST) Reimbursement: Reimbursement upto the extent of central government share of CGST and IGST for 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.
    • Income-Tax (IT) Reimbursement: Reimbursement of centre’s share of income tax for first 5 years including year of commencement of commercial production by unit.
    • Employment Incentive (EI): The Government will pay 3.67% of employer’s contribution to Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in addition to its bearing 8.33% Employee Pension Scheme (EPS).
    • Transport Incentive (TI): Indian Railways will provide 20% of cost of transportation including subsidy currently provided for movement of finished goods by rail. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will provide 20% of cost of transportation for finished goods for movement through inland waterways. Airport nearest to place of production will provide 33% of cost of transportation of air freight on perishable goods (defined by IATA) to any airport within country.

    DIPP Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge Awards Presented

    Why in news?

    • As part of the Swachhta Pakhwada held from, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) organized a Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge. Four areas of sanitation, waste management, water and wastewater management and air management were selected for the grand challenge.

    Objective of the award:

    • This was organized to reward innovative solutions by DIPP recognized Start-ups in the country.
    • Unique solutions were received from start-ups who had also filed for intellectual property rights.

    Swachhata Pakhwada:

    • It was started in April 2016 with the objective of bringing a fortnight of intense focus on the issues and practices of Swachhata by engaging GOI Ministries/Departments in their jurisdictions.
    • An annual calendar is pre-circulated among the Ministries to help them plan for the Pakhwada activities.
    • They are monitored closely using online monitoring system of Swachhata Samiksha where action plans, images, videos related to Swachhata activities are uploaded and shared.
    • After the observation, Ministries/Departments announce their achievements through a press conference and other communication tools.
    • For the Pakhwada fortnight, observing ministries are considered as Swachhata Ministries and are expected to bring qualitative Swachhata improvements in their jurisdictions.

    NITI Aayog releases Second Delta Ranking under the Aspirational Districts Programme

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog will release the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP)

    Delta Ranking:

    • The ranking will measure the incremental progress made by districts.
    • The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through key performance indicators.
    • The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
    • The rankings, for the first time, will also factor in inputs from household survey conducted by NITI Aayog’s knowledge partners, namely, TATA Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
    • The first Delta ranking for the Aspirational Districts was released in June 2018.

    Best performing Districts:

    • Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu has shown the most improvement overall, followed by Nuapada district in Odisha, Siddarthnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Aurangabad and Koraput in Odisha.
    • These districts have championed the development narrative in fundamental parameters of social progress.
    • Nagaland’s Kiphire district, Jharkhand’s Giridih, Chatra in Jharkhand, Hailakandi in Assam, and Pakur in Jharkhand have shown least improvement.

    Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP):

    • The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is an essential retreat from India’s previous development strategies in its ownership, scope, and scale based on “One-size-fits-all” approach
    • 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following:
    • o deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census,
      o key health and education performance indicators and the state of basic infrastructure.

    • A minimum of one district was chosen from every State.
    • The areas under the programme that have been targeted for transformation are education, health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure and skills.
    • There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme.
    • Its aim is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently.

    Year End Review-2018: Ministry of Tourism

    Why in news?

    • Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) launched “Adopt a Heritage Project” to provide world class tourist facilities at the various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments and other tourist sites
    • The project plans to entrust heritage sites/monuments and other tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of various tourist amenities

    Bharat Parv:

    • The prime objective of organizing the event is to generate a patriotic mood, promote the rich cultural diversity of the country, to ensure wider participation of the general public and to popularize the concept of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’, ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ and ‘Tourism for All’

    India Toursim Mart 2018:

    • The First edition of the India Tourism Mart 2018 was organized by the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and State Governments/Union Territory Administrations.
    • India Tourism Mart provided a platform to different tourism stakeholders for interacting and conducting business with foreign buyers.

    Incredible India Mobile app:

    • The Incredible India Mobile App showcases India as a holistic destination, revolving around major experiences, such as spirituality, heritage, adventure, culture, yoga, wellness and more.
    • The mobile app has been designed keeping in mind the preferences of the modern traveler and follows the trends and technologies of international standards. The app has been equipped with features to assist the traveller in each phase of their journey to India.

    Year End Review 2018 Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare

    Why in News?

    • The Government has set a target of doubling of farmers’ income by the year 2022. The Government has constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee to examine issues relating to doubling of farmers’ income and recommend a strategy to achieve doubling of farmers’ income in real terms by the year 2022.

    Seven sources of income growth:

    • The committee has identified seven sources of income growth-
    • o Improvement in crop and livestock productivity.
      o Resource use efficiency.
      o Increase in the cropping intensity.
      o Diversification towards high value crops.
      o Improvement in real prices received by farmers.
      o Shift from farm to non-farm occupations.
      o Savings in the cost of production.

    Initiatives Taken:

    • Launch of eNAM initiative to provide farmers an electronic online trading platform.
    • Implementation of flagship scheme of distribution of Soil Health Cards to farmers so that the use of fertilizers can be optimized.
    • “Per drop more crop” initiative under which drip/sprinkler irrigation is being encouraged for optimal utilization of water.
    • Encouraging contract farming through the State Governments by promulgating of Model Contract Farming Act.
    • 22,000 Gramin Haats are to be upgraded to work as centers of aggregation and for direct purchase of agricultural commodities from the farmers.
    • “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)” under which organic farming is being promoted. North East is being developed as organic hub.
    • Under “Har Medh Par Ped”, agro forestry is being promoted for supplementing farm income, increase risk management and climate resilient agriculture as an important component of Integrated Farming Systems.
    • A revised farmer friendly “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)” have been launched. The scheme covers various types of risks from pre-sowing to post harvest and the farmers have to pay very nominal premium.
    • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was amended to exclude bamboo from the definition of ‘trees’. Henceforth bamboo grown outside forest area will not be regulated under the provisions of felling and transit rules. As a corollary the restructured National Bamboo Mission was launched for development of the value chain of bamboo as a measure to strengthen rural economy by linking the producer (farmer) to markets (industry).
    • Launch of PM-Asha scheme which will ensure MSP to farmers for oilseeds, pulses and copra.
    • Foreseeing high potential in fisheries sector, a Blue Revolution with multi dimensional activities mainly focusing on fisheries production, both inland and marine is being implemented.
    • The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), one of the eight Missions under the PM’s National Action Plan on Climate Change is anchored in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
    • Rashtriya Gokul Mission has been implemented to enhance milk production and productivity of bovines and to make milk production more remunerative to the farmers.
    • National Livestock Mission has been implemented to increase productivity and genetic improvement of livestock.
    • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is notified by the Government for certain crops. Giving a major boost for the farmers income, the Government has approved the increase in the MSPs for all Kharif & Rabi crops for 2018-19 season at a level of at least 150 percent of the cost of production.

    Mahila Kisan Diwas:

    • Mahila Kisan Diwas was organised and the focus of the event was to learn and address issues and constraints related to women farmers in Agriculture; Animal Husbandry, Dairying, Fisheries and other off-farm activities and their access to institutional credit and micro-financing and building agri-enterprises.

    National Food Security Mission:

    • NFSM programme is being implemented in 638 districts of 29 states of the country for increasing the production and productivity of food grain crops (rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals & nutri-cereals) through area expansion and productivity enhancement, restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level and enhancing farm level economy to restore confidence amongst the farmers.

    RKVY-RAFTAAR:

    • The governemnet recently approved Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to be continued as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) for the next three years, i.e, 2017-18 to 2019-2020. RKVY Raftaar has the objective of making farming a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmers’ effort, risk mitigation and promoting agribusiness entrepreneurship. RKVY-RAFTAAR funds would be provided to the States as 60:40 grants between Centre and States while 90:10 for North Eastern and Himalayan States through various means.

    Micro Irrigation Fund:

    • In order to achieve the objective of enhancing water use efficiency in agriculture sector and bring about desired growth, Finance Minister announced in the Union Budget for 2017-18 setting up of a dedicated fund in NABARD titled “Micro Irrigation Fund”.
    • The main objective of the fund is to facilitate the States in mobilizing the resources for expanding coverage of Micro Irrigation by taking up special and innovative projects and also for incentivizing micro irrigation beyond the provisions available under Per Drop More Crop (PDMC) component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) to encourage farmers to install micro irrigation systems.

    Krishi Unnati Mela:

    • A National level 3rd Krishi Unnati Mela was organized and the objective of the mela was to create widespread awareness about the latest agricultural technological developments and receive feedback from the agricultural community, which helps in designing and shaping the Institute’s future research strategy.

    Soil Health Card Scheme:

    • Soil Health Card Scheme is under implementation in the country since February 2015 to provide Soil Health Card to all farmers in the country. Soil Health Card will provide information to farmers on soil nutrient status of their soil and recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrient to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility. Soil Health card will be issued every 2 years for all land holdings in the country.

    Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER):

    • Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has launched a Central Sector Scheme entitled “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” for implementation in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
    • The scheme aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification and creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.

    Aadhaar not mandatory for admission in schools

    Why in news?

    • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asserted that schools cannot make Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identifier a pre-condition for student admission.
    • UIDAI warned that doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.

    Highlights:

    • UIDAI cleared that asking for Aadhaar cards for admissions is not as per the provisions of law and doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.
    • However, there have been reports of certain schools insisting on Aadhaar as one of the documents required for student admission.
    • The Aadhaar issuing body said that it is aware of such reports and has asked all the schools to ensure that no child is denied admission for not having the identification card.
    • UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that in fact, schools should admit children without Aadhaar and ensure that children are given Aadhaar once they are in schools by arranging special camps for them.
    • UIDAI cleared that despite this, should certain schools continue to insist on Aadhar then, it would clearly be seen as a case of contempt of court.
    • The word of caution from UIDAI comes at a time when admissions to the nursery and entry-level classes have just begun in over 1,500 private schools in Delhi.

    Islands of Andaman to be renamed after Netaji Bose

    Why in news?

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will rename three islands of Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on December 30, 2018. These three islands are – Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island.

    Highlights:

    • These islands will be renamed during PM Modi’s visit to Port Blair to mark the 75th Anniversary of hoisting of the National Flag at Port Blair by freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose.
    • Renaming the Ross Island as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep,Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.
    • Bose had hoisted the flag at Port Blair on December 30, 1943, as he believed that Port Blair was the first territory to be freed from British rule.
    • This was done after the Japenese captured that area during the time of the Second World War.

    EC prohibits tobacco use in polling booths during Lok Sabha elections

    Why in News?

    • The Election Commission of India (ECI), for the first time, has banned all kinds of tobacco in polling booths during the general elections in 2019. The move is aimed at effectively implementing tobacco control laws across the nation.
    • The Commission has asked all states and UTs to issue instructions to all the district electoral officers-cum-district magistrates to ensure prohibition of not just smoking but also the use of chewable tobacco in all polling booths in the country.

    Highlights:

    • All the polling booths in country to be declared tobacco free and not just smoke free so use of bidi, cigarette, gutkha, scented/ flavoured chewable tobacco are prohibited in all polling booth.
    • As per the guidelines, each polling booth will have a banner put up.
    • The presiding officer of each polling booth will be nominated as nodal officer for ensuring tobacco-free status at their booths.
    • All district tobacco control cells will supervise and monitor this campaign to sensitise people on ill effects of tobacco.
    • The move comes after Delhi government’s Health Department approached the Commission seeking declaration of all polling stations as tobacco-free zones rather than just declaring them as smoke-free as it used to be in previous elections.
    • It is stated that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and pre-mature death and major threat to the present and future health of any population.

    Governing council to boost shipments

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has proposed to establish a governing council to ensure efficient delivery of all export-related interventions, as a part of its action plan to boost shipments from micro, small and medium enterprises.

    Highlights:

    • Under MSMEs’ action plan, the National Resource Centre for MSME Exporters will engage with various international agencies including UN organisations to promote procurement from Indian MSMEs and further enhance their capabilities.
    • The ministry has recommended a detailed analysis of various trade agreements, including FTAs and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, to identify areas of concern for MSMEs in the strategic action plan titled ‘Unlocking the Potential of MSME Exports’.
    • It said a study will be conducted of special economic zones and export promotion zones in the country to reassess their role and objectives as these are an essential constituent of Foreign Trade Policy and it is important to harness their potential.
    • Further, a tech-enabled online portal shall be developed featuring country-wise list of global products and services in demand and information on how to enter specific foreign markets. It will also have details on loans and credit offered by various financial institutions.
    • A formal platform may also be created by the ministry to ensure that it is involved in all bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations which have an impact on the enterprises.
    • A guide or handbook shall also be developed to help the export community to understand the processes involved in the export business and access the potential markets.
    • The guide will comprise practical information which will be useful for exporters.

    Press freedom under attack around the world in 2018: Death Watch Data

    Why in news?

    • Press freedom faced a slew of attacks around the world in 2018, as political leaders unwilling to accept scrutiny increasingly jail, prosecute or undermine the credibility of critical journalists.

    Death Watch Data:

    • The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) is organisation of editors, journalists and media executives in its Death Watch’ said as many as 78 journalists were killed in 2018
    • IPI has been compiling annual data on the killings of journalists since 1997 as part of its press freedom and safety of journalist programmes.
    • The Death Watch data for 2018 show that as many as 28 reporters and journalists were killed in targeted attacks during the year, while 11 died covering armed conflict.
    • There is a growing movement, including in countries once seen as guarantors of fundamental rights, aimed at destroying the press as an institution of democracy.
    • This atmosphere of intolerance toward independent journalism is putting the lives and freedom of journalists at risk and threatening the public’s right to know.

    Global Trends:

    • 2018 witnessed an overall decline in the state of press freedom worldwide amid a trend of increased harassment and intimidation of journalists and attacks on independent media.
    • Mexico and Afghanistan were the deadliest countries for journalists were overall, with 13 deaths each.
    • Investigations in a large number of cases are slow and tardy, due in many cases to a lack of political will to bring the killers and perpetrators to justice.

    10 Central agencies to snoop on any computer

    Why in News?

    • The Union government has notified 10 Central Agencies, giving them the power to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in “any” computer system in India. The Cyber and Information Security Division under the Home ministry issued this notification.

    Highlights:

    • The 10 agencies authorised by the central government are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu & Kashmir, the North-East and Assam) and the Delhi Police.
    • As per the government, the notification fulfills the requirement under Rule 4 of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Description of Information) Rules, 2009, under which the government has to list the number of agencies permitted for the interception, monitoring, and decryption of any data.
    • The Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary law in India to handle cybercrime and to deal with electronic commerce.
    • Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 includes provides for the interception and monitoring along with decryption for cyber-crime investigations. The Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, has been notified by the government under Section 69.
    • This notification by the government has caused quite an uproar in the Indian Parliament. The opposition has termed the recent order as unconstitutional and an attack on the Fundamental Rights of the citizens.

    NITI Aayog Releases SDG India Index, 2018

    Why in news?

    • The NITI Aayog has released the Baseline Report of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which comprehensively documents the progress made by India’s States and UTs towards implementing the 2030 SDG targets.

    SDG India Index:

    • The Index was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Global Green Growth Institute and United Nations in India and was launched by NITI Aayog.
    • NITI Aayog has the twin mandate to oversee the implementation of SDGs in the country, and also promote Competitive and Cooperative Federalism among States and UTs.
    • The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between these mandates, aligning the SDGs with the PM’s clarion call of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
    • It embodies the five Ps of the global SDG movement – people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace.

    Significance:

    • The SDG India Index tracks progress of all States and UTs on 62 Priority Indicators selected by NITI Aayog, which in turn is guided by MoSPI’s National Indicator Framework comprising 306 indicators.,
    • The Index spans 13 out of 17 SDGs.
    • Progress on SDGs 12, 13 & 14 could not be measured as relevant State/UT level data were not available and SDG 17 was left out as it focuses on international partnerships.
    • A composite score was computed between the range of 0-100 for each State and UT based on their aggregate performance towards achieving 13 SDGs
    • If a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies that it has achieved the 2030 national targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the distance to target achieved.

    Performance of states:

    • Top Performing states are Himachal Pradesh, Kerala & Chandigarh with SDG India Index Score Range 42-69 & 57-68 respectively.
    • Himachal Pradesh ranks high on providing clean water & sanitation, in reducing inequalities & preserving mountain ecosystem.
    • Kerala’s top rank is attributed to its superior performance in providing good health, reducing hunger, achieving gender equality & providing quality education.
    • Chandigarh leads because of its exemplary performance in providing clean water & sanitation, affordable & clean energy, generating decent work & economic growth, & providing quality education.

    Integrated Government Online Training Programme (iGOT)

    Why in News?

    • The iGOT (Integrated Government Online Training Programme) developed by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, was launched.

    Significance:

    • The National Training Policy-2012 mandates that all civil servants will be provided with training to equip them with the competencies for their current or future jobs.
    • The current structure of training for Government servants including domestic and foreign training is mostly available to very small section of the government servants.
    • The outreach of the existing training setup is very limited in view of the large workforce employed in various States/UT Governments.

    IGOT Programme:

    • To provide a broad training eco-system creating synergies across various premier training institutes of the country and to cater the training needs which can encompass all the officials in the entire hierarchy of Central and State Governments.
    • The IGOT will augment the existing training mechanism with online module-based training coupled with certification on flexitime basis.
    • The training will be focussed and targeted to the requirement of the officials
    • The e-Learning mode provides unparalleled opportunities for training to a large number of civil servants scattered all over the country.
    • The latest technologies make available vast resources of learning material and online courses, providing the individuals enormous choices and flexibility in learning.
    • It will provide a single point of access to the repository of training resources.
    • The training courses under this programme will be accessible through DoPT’s web portal.
    • The initiative aims at “Competent Civil Services for Good Governance”

    RTI Portal on Judgments/Orders of various courts

    Why in News?

    • The RTI Portal on Judgments/Orders of Supreme Court, High Courts and CIC has been developed by the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM), New Delhi.

    Highlights:

    • This Portal will provide a learning environment for all stakeholders under which a repository on the landmark cases on the RTI will be available in one place.
    • The Portal also makes available the gist of the replies given by Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs), First Appellate Authorities as well as the Supreme Court.
    • It will be helpful in learning the latest trends of implementation of RTI Act as the judgments/orders given by Central Information Commission, High Courts and Supreme Court are always a crucial source to track the developments on this subject.

    ICAT Certification

    Why in News?

    • International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) launched the Certification with high security features in order to prevent use of forged certificates in New Delhi.

    ICAT Certification:

    • This is a first of its kind initiative taken by any automotive certification agency in India for enhancing the security of the Central Motor Vehicles Rule certificates.
    • These certificates include Type Approval Certificates (TAC) and Conformity of Production (COP) Certificates for vehicles, engines and components.
    • The new ICAT certificate format consists of nine new and unique security features incorporated in the certificate.
    • The most important security feature is the paper itself on which the certificate is to be printed as it is a special paper which is made especially according to ICAT’s specific requirements.
    • The certificates will be printed using special printers which have been imported by ICAT for this very purpose.
    • With the new high security features it will become difficult to forge or counterfeit the ICAT certificate.
    • While some of the security features are generic in nature, the other features are specific for each certificate i.e. the contents or the information covered through these features will be specific for that particular certificate.
    • Some of the features are visible only through ultraviolet light.
    • The unique features in the certificate are as listed below:
    • oHigh security paper
    • oPrinting using the ultraviolet ink
    • oTroymark
    • oMicroprint
    • oPantograph
    • oReverse Pantograph
    • oSecure code
    • oPrint code
    • oDigitally printed stamp and seal of ICAT

    ICAT:

    • International Centre for Automotive Technology is located at Manesar in Gurugram district of Haryana state of India.
    • ICAT is the premier certification agency authorized by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers situated within India and abroad.,
    • In addition to the certification services, ICAT is providing extensive testing services for product development and validation.

    Acceptance of vehicle documents, driving licence in electronic format

    Why in News?

    • The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry asked states to facilitate acceptance of driving licence and other documents such as vehicle registration certificates in electronic format by enforcement agencies.
    • The Ministry, while issuing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to states, said that the vehicle owners can also show their documents including driving licence, RCs and insurance certificates through mobile apps like Digilocker and mParivahan app.

    Significance:

    • The decision is likely to benefit both the enforcement agencies as they need not physically handle any document, their office need not maintain any inventory or record and the citizens as they will escape harassment to collect document after the payment of compounding fees as the challan when disposed would automatically update the record in the Database.
    • The fast, transparent and more accountable system will also ensure real-time availability of offence status to the transport and traffic enforcement officers and the citizens.

    Highlights:

    • The vehicle owners have been permitted to present their important documents such as the certificate of registration, insurance, fitness and permit, driving licence, the certificate for pollution under check and any other relevant documents in electronic format.
    • With this, the vehicle owners may now, not be required to carry the documents in hard formats.
    • People can produce the documents or other information either through the Digilocker app or the mParivahan app.
    • They can download the Driving Licence or the Registration Certificate through these apps and store on their mobile devices.
    • They can also show particulars relating to the Driving Licence or the RC through the mParivahan app on mobile through internet connectivity.
    • The decision would enable the enforcement agencies like traffic and transport departments to simultaneously access the details from the eChallan app, which has data for online verification of vehicle and its licence status.
    • The off-line verification of mParivahan QR Code is also available on the platform. The enforcement agencies can use regular android mobile apps for the purpose.
    • The enforcement agencies can also carry out complete challenging operation including tagging of the Driving Licence or the Certificate of Registration for impounding or suspension.
    • The Transport ministry has urged the states that the standard operating procedure may be adopted for ensuring compliance with the provisions of rule 139 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. The notification to amend the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 to this effect was issued last month.

    Bhasha Sangam Programme

    Why in news?

    • The Department of School Education & Literacy has initiated Bhasha Sangam Programme to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian Languages.

    Bhasha Sangam Programme:

    • The Bhasha Sangam is an initiative under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ which aims to make the students aware about the unique cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of our country.
    • In order to celebrate the unique characteristic of our country, Bhasha Sangam provides an opportunity to schools and educational institution to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian Languages.
    • The objective is to familiarize every child with simple dialogues in all the 22 languages under Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India.
    • They will be taking up one language on each working day, to enhance linguistic tolerance and promote national integration.
    • The initiative has been widely received and accepted by States and UTs in very positive manner and schools are introducing five simple and commonly used sentences as per the convenience of students.

    Lingual provisions:

    • Section 29(2)(F) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 states that “medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue”.
    • The National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005 emphasises the importance of imparting primary education in the mother tongue of the child.
    • Since education is in the Concurrent List, States have the liberty to decide the medium of instruction in schools.

    Three Language Formula:

    • The NCF also states that the ‘Three Language Formula’ is an attempt to address the challenges and opportunities of the linguistic situation in India.
    • As per the ‘Three Language Formula’ the first language to be studied, must be the mother tongue or the regional language.
    • In the case of Hindi speaking States, children learn a language not spoken in their area.
    • Sanskrit may also be studied as a modern Indian language in addition to these languages.

    Eklavya Model Residential Schools

    Why in News?

    • In the context of establishing quality residential schools for the promotion of education, Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) for ST students are set up in States/UTs with provisioning of funds through “Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution”.

    Highlights:

    • EMRS is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (Scheduled Tribes, ST) across India.
    • The establishing of EMRSs is based on demand of the concerned States/UTs with availability of land as an essential attribute.
    • As per the budget 2018-19, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons will have an Eklavya Model Residential School by 2022.

    Objectives of EMRS:

    • Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.
    • Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met,
    • Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
    • Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.

    Expansion of beneficiaries list under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

    Why in News?

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has cleared the proposal to release deposit free LPG connections to poor families, who have not been considered earlier under PMUY on account of their names not been covered in Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC).
    • Poor families who could not get LPG connection under PMUY are now eligible to get a connection subject to fulfilling the eligibility norms and furnishing required documents, they include:
    • oSC/STs households
    • oBeneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin),
    • oBeneficiaries of Antyodaya Anna Yojana(AAY),
    • oForest dwellers,
    • oMost Backward Classes (MBC),
    • oTea & Ex-Tea Garden Tribes,
    • oPeople residing in Islands / river islands

    Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

    • PMUY is a welfare scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to provide LPG connections to families below the poverty line, guided by the strong commitment to bring about changes in the life of poor women and also protect their health.
    • Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is used to identify the beneficiaries (adult woman of a BPL family) and is given a deposit free LPG connection with a financial assistance of Rs.1600 per connection by the centre.
    • This scheme will help prevent pollution and facilitate the healthy atmosphere in the families of poor people.

    AIIMS to be set up under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY)

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of two new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Madurai, Tamil Nadu and Bibinagar, Telangana.
    • The AIIMS will be set up under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

    Facilities:

    • Each new AIIMS will add 100 UG (MBBS) seats and 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) seats.
    • Each new AIIMS will have 15-20 Super Specialty Departments.
    • Each new AIIMS will add around 750 hospital beds.

    Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY):

    • The Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) was announced in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.

    NITI Aayog organizes the Third Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards

    Why in news?

    • The NITI Aayog organized the Third Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards 2018 on December 17, 2018.
    • An online portal for women entrepreneurs was also launched on this occasion.
    • The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu presided over as the chief guest of the event where he launched the WEP Portal 2.0 and conferred WTI Awards 2018.

    Highlights:

    • The Women Transforming India Awards were instituted to recognize and celebrate stories of exemplary women from across India. The theme of this year’s award is “Women and Entrepreneurship.”
    • As many as fifteen candidates have been selected through an extensive six-month-long process for this award.
    • More than 2300 nominations were received for WTI Awards 2018, and through a highly objective and transparent screening process, a total of 15 candidates have been selected for the award.
    • On this occasion, the Women Entrepreneurship Platform-an online portal has also been launched by the NITI Aayog. This online portal will help to realize the dreams of Women Entrepreneurs across India.
    • The Women Entrepreneurship Platform seeks to transform the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country and shall be a one-stop resource center for future and budding women entrepreneurs.
    • It seeks to act as a medium for various stakeholders in the economy to come together and offer integrated services such as Incubation Support, Mentorship, Funding avenues, Compliance, Marketing Assistance, etc.

    Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP):

    • On November 28-30, 2017, NITI Aayog, Government of India in partnership with the Government of the United States of America hosted the 8th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad, India with the overarching theme of ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’. To take the idea forward, CEO, NITI Aayog announced setting up of Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) to promote and support established as well as aspiring women entrepreneurs in India.
    • WEP is the first of its kind unified access platform which enables meeting of several stakeholders in the entrepreneurial space on a single platform, work in collaboration with various partner organizations to provide a wide range of support services to women entrepreneurs under various service verticals of WEP.
    • WEP partners such as Google, CRISIL, SIDBI, NIC, NASSCOM, UN India Business Forum, WEE Foundation, SEWA bank, MannDeshi Foundation, Shopclues,etc. to WEP registered women entrepreneurs under verticals such as Financial Assistance and Funding Support, Entrepreneurship Skilling, Incubation and Acceleration, Compliance Assistance, Marketing Assistance and a dedicated vertical for Social Entrepreneurship.

    IMPRESS Scheme

    Why in News?

    • IMPRESS” scheme has been launched to promote Social Science Research in the country by ministry of human resource development.

    IMPRESS Scheme:

    • Under the Scheme, 1500 research projects will be awarded for 2 years to support the social science research in the higher educational institutions and to enable research to guide policy making.
    • Research in social science is essential for progress of the society and the research carried out under IMPRESS scheme will be used to understand and solve problems facing the society.
    • Indian Council of Social Science and Research (ICSSR) will be the project implementing agency.
    • The broad objectives of the scheme are:
    • To identify and fund research proposals in social sciences with maximum impact on the governance and society.
    • To focus research on (11) broad thematic areas such as : State and Democracy, Urban transformation, Media, Culture and Society, Employment, Skills and Rural transformation , Governance, Innovation and Public Policy, Growth, Macro-trade and Economic Policy, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Environment, Science and Education, Social Media and Technology, Politics, Law and Economics. The sub- theme areas will be decided on the basis of Expert Groups’ advice before notifying the scheme and calling for applications.
    • To ensure selection of projects through a transparent, competitive process on online mode
    • To provide opportunity for social science researchers in any institution in the country, including all Universities (Central and State), private institutions with 12(B) status conferred by UGC.
    • ICSSR funded/ recognized research institutes will also be eligible to submit research proposals on the given themes and sub-themes.

    PM inaugurated 175 Km of sewerage network in Prayagraj

    Why in news?

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16, 2018 inaugurated various projects worth Rs 199.65 crore under Namami Gange Programme in Prayagraj, including 175 KM of sewerage network.

    Sewerage network:

    • The projects will prevent 7.8 crore litres of sewage from flowing untreated into Ganga River every day. Now, this untreated sewage water will be carried every day to existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) at Salori, Kodra & Ponghat for treatment.
    • Prime Minister Modi also laid the foundation stone for two projects in the Trans Ganga/Yamuna area under ‘One City-One Operator Scheme’ with sanctioned cost of Rs 767.59 crore.
    • The project is based on Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode that includes Operations and Maintenance of the entire sewerage infrastructure for 15 years.
    • These projects include Intersection and diversion (I&D) of sewage network, 7 sewage pumping stations and 3 STPs of total capacity 72 million litres per day (MLD).
    • These 3 STPs of 72 MLD capacity will be – Naini (42 MLD), Phaphamau (14 MLD) and Jhusi (16 MLD).
    • With these projects, there will be comprehensive sewerage coverage of Prayagraj, including areas on the other side of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
    • The sanctioned projects will also involve rehabilitation and operations and maintenance of existing sewage treatment infrastructure at the cost of Rs 904 crores.
    • Rehabilitation projects include six existing STPs with a total capacity of 254 MLD located at Naini, Numayadahi, Rajapur, Kodra, Ponghat and Salori and operations and maintenance of 10 existing sewage pumping stations.

    India Post ventures into new arena of e-market place

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of State for Communications (Independent Charge), launched the e-Commerce Portal of the Department of Posts (DoP).

    Highlights:

    • It will provide an e-Market place to sellers especially to rural artisans/self-help groups/ women entrepreneurs/State and Central PSUs/Autonomous Bodies etc. to sell their products to buyers across the Country.
    • The small and local sellers (who were left) will now, by leveraging the vast physical and IT network of DoP, be able to maximize their reach and retailing power.
    • The buyers can access the products of their choice displayed by sellers on the portal and place online orders by making digital payments.

    Other Initiatives:

    Post Office Core Banking Solution (CBS):

    • It also launched the internet banking facility for Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) customers which are under Core Banking Solution (CBS).
    • Now, around 17 Crore POSB accounts will be intra-operable and customers can also transfer funds online to RD and PPF accounts of Post Offices.
    • This facility will help customers to do their transactions without physically visiting post offices.

    Deen Dayal SPARSH:

    • The Department of Posts had launched a scholarship program for school children called Deen Dayal SPARSH (i.e., Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude & Research in Stamps as a Hobby).
    • To bring philately to the mainstream of the education system and incentivizing it, in 2017.

    India Post:

    • India Post is a Central Postal System of Government of India that was founded on 1st April 1854.
    • It works under the Ministry of Communications of the Government of India.
    • The postal system of India is one of the widely distributed networks in the world.
    • India is divided into 23 postal circles headed by Chief Postmaster.
    • Indian Post is providing its services in Philately, Army Postal Service, Electronic Indian Postal Order, Postal Life Insurance, Postal Savings, Banking, Data collection, e-commerce and Railways.

    Analytical report of the National Health Profile-2018 released

    Why in news?

    • The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare has released an Analytical Report of the National Health Profile-2018 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI).

    Analytical Report of National Health Profile – 2018:

    • The report indicates that significant progress has been made in the country for various health outcomes, which is an encouraging sign.
    • The Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
    • CBHI has been publishing National Health Profile every year since 2005 and this is the 12th.

    National Health Resource Repository (NHRR):

    • The Union Health Ministry June 2018, has launched the first ever registry in the country registry of authentic, standardised and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare.
    • To create a reliable, unified registry of country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas.
    • The ISRO is the project technology partner for providing data security.
    • Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, more than 20 lakh healthcare establishments such as hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census, which will capture data on more than 1,400 variables.
    • The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has looped in key stakeholders, including leading associations, allied ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.
    • NHRR will be the ultimate platform for comprehensive information of both, Private and Public healthcare establishments including Railways, ESIC, Defense and Petroleum healthcare establishments.

    Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission

    Why in News?

    • The Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is under implementation across the country (launched in 2016).
    • It is a unique programme, designed to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth.

    Objective:

    • It aims to spur social, economic and infrastructure development in rural areas by developing a cluster of 300 Smart Villages over the next years across the country.

    Key features:

    • National Rurban Mission(NRM) NRM through development of rurban growth clusters aims at catalyzing overall regional growth for simultaneously benefiting the rural as well as urban areas of the country.
    • Envisages institutional arrangements both at the State and Centre in order to ensure smooth implementation of the Mission.
    • The State Governments would identify the clusters which have latent potential for growth in accordance with the Framework for Implementation prepared by the Union Ministry of Rural Development.
    • States government will prepare Integrated Cluster Action Plans for Rurban Clusters. It will be comprehensive plan documents detailing out the strategy for the cluster development.
    • The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with different population and follow administrative convergence units of Gram Panchayats.
    • Population Constrains: Coastal and plain areas must have population of about 25000 to 50000. Hilly, desert or tribal areas must have 5000 to 15000.
    • There will be a separate approach for selection of clusters in Tribal and Non-Tribal Districts.

    Funding Support:

    • There is a funding support of up to 30% of the estimated investment for each Rurban cluster, given as Critical Gap Funding (CGF), while 70% of the funds is mobilized by the States through convergence with synergic State and Central programmes and private investment and institutional funding.
    • The CGF is now shared between the Centre and the State in a ratio of 60:40 for Plain area States and 90:10 for Himalayan and NE States.

    India, ADB sign USD 60 Million loan agreement to reduce floods in Assam

    Why in news?

    • India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on December 13, 2018 signed a USD 60 million loan agreement to reduce floods and the riverbank erosion in Assam.
    • This Tranche 2 loan is part of the USD 120 million multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) of the ADB for the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program. The program was approved by the ADB Board in October 2010.

    Objective:

    • The loan agreement aims to continue financing riverbank protection works, renovation of flood embankments, and community-based flood risk management activities in critically flood-prone areas along the Brahmaputra River in Assam.

    Highlights:

    • The loan will have a 20-year term, including a grace period of 5 years.
    • It includes an Annual Interest Rate determined in accordance with ADB’s lending facility based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and a commitment charge of 0.15 percent per year.
    • It will fund a combination of structural and nonstructural measures in the three subproject areas of Palasbari-Gumi, Kaziranga, and Dibrugarh along the Brahmaputra River.
    • It includes 20 km of riverbank protection works and upgrading of 13 km of flood embankments.
    • The non-structural measures will cover community involvement and community-based flood risk management activities through establishing and training disaster management committees.
    • It will continue to support the institutional capacity development of the autonomous bodies, namely, Flood and River Erosion Management Agency of Assam (FREMAA), and Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), as the executing and implementing agencies for this Project.

    Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program:

    • The Program is aimed at increasing the reliability and effectiveness of flood and riverbank erosion risk management systems in flood-prone areas of Assam.
    • It aims to strengthen the disaster preparedness of the communities, and developing institutional capacity and knowledge base for flood forecasting.

    Online portal “ENSURE” To Connect with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare launched a portal ENSURE – National Livestock Mission-EDEG to connect the subsidy payment under livestock sector to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
    • The online portal “ENSURE” (https://ensure.nabard.org) has been developed by NABARD and operated under the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries.

    Entrepreneurship Development and Employment Generation (EDEG):

    • Under the Mission’s component EDEG, subsidy payment for activities related to poultry, small ruminants, pigs etc., through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) goes directly to the beneficiary’s account.
    • To make it better, simpler and transparent, the NABARD has developed an online portal “ENSURE” which makes the information related to beneficiary and processing of application readily available.

    Significance of the portal:

    • The flow of information/funds will be quicker and more accountable.
    • The burden of extra interest due to delay in the disbursal of the subsidy would now be reduced.
    • Accessing the portal will be on real-time basis and list of beneficiaries can be easily prepared.

    Online Assurances Monitoring System

    Why in News?

    • The union govt. has inaugurated the Online Assurances Monitoring System (OAMS), developed by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA).

    Online Assurances Monitoring System (OAMS):

    • Different Ministers, while giving replies to questions or making statements in Parliament, given assurances on the floor of the House.
    • This system has made the information regarding assurances given on the floor of the Houses of Parliament paperless and available in digital format.
    • The MPA takes such assurances from the proceedings of the House, based on the guidelines for this purpose, and sends the extract of those assurances to the concerned Ministries for their fulfilment.
    • Information regarding OAMS, including data and figures, will available on the web portal oams.nic.in.

    Significance:

    • With OAMS, all assurances being taken out by the Ministry through e-Office would be reflected on this system and various Ministries/Departments.
    • This would encompass various actions related to Parliamentary Assurances including sending implementation reports, request for dropping, request for extension and decision thereon.
    • Hereafter, physical communication would not be accepted.

    Need for online monitoring of Assurances:

    • A number of problems arise in the process of fulfilment of assurances due to human factors and non-compliance of guidelines, making the process less transparent.
    • Hence, the need arose for an online assurances monitoring system to track the exact status of pending assurances and expedite their fulfilment.
    • Since 2007, a total of 26,830 assurances given by the Ministers on the floor of the Houses were culled out by the MPA.
    • Out of these 21,439 assurances have been fulfilled and 1,903 have been dropped, leaving a total of 3,488 assurances still pending for compliance.

    Khelo India Youth Games

    Why in news?

    • After the first edition of the Khelo India School Games 2017, the second edition, the games has become an initiative of the Central Government, has expanded in its scope, and will allow participants to compete in two categories (under 17 and under 21).
    • Talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels by the High-Powered Committee will be provided annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.
    • Khelo India School Games are a part of the Khelo India programme.
    • It consists of 16 disciplines which includes Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Shooting, Swimming, Volleyball, Weightlifting, and Wrestling.

    Khelo India programme:

    • The Khelo India programme has been introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports in India and establish India as a great sporting nation.
    • It will be a Central Sector Scheme (Scheme implemented by the Central Government machinery and 100% funding by the union government).
    • It is a Pan India Sports Scholarship scheme covering the 1000 most deserving and talented athletes across the sports discipline, every year.
    • It is an unprecedented scheme, a first-ever plan to be implemented for creating a long-term development pathway for athletes.
    • To enable the sportsman to pursue both studies and sports, the program aims at identifying and promoting 20 Universities in the country as centres of sporting distinction.
    • To ensure maximum entries for organized sports competitions, the programme encourages the school and colleges to organize programmes of high standards.
    • Forming an active population with a healthy lifestyle is also the focus of this programme.
    • The aim is to impact the whole of sports ecosystem inclusive of sports economy, competition structure, talent identification, coaching and infrastructure.
    • The programme plans to engage youth living in deprived and disturbed areas into sporting activities so that they will be mainstreamed into the process of nation-building and weaned away from disruptive activities.

    FAME-India Scheme

    Why in News?

    • To promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure sustainable growth of the same, Department of Heavy Industry is implementing FAME-India Scheme Phase – I [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India] from 1st April 2015.
    • The scheme was initially up to 31st April 2017, has been extended up to 31st March 2019 or till Notification of FAME-II, whichever is earlier.

    FAME India:

    • FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.
    • Vehicles in most segments – two wheelers, three wheelers, electric and hybrid cars and electric buses obtained the subsidy benefit of the scheme.
    • FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.

    Objectives:

    • Provide fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric technologies vehicles in the country.
    • Incentivise all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses.

    FAME-India Scheme Phase – II:

    • The scheme proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport and
    • It seeks to encourage adoption of EVs by way of market creation and demand aggregation.
    • 100% FDI by automatic route is permitted in the automobile sector.
    • Further, the sector is deregulated, both private sector and public sector are free to carry out investment in the automobile sector, including for manufacturing of Electric Vehicles and E-Buses.

    Water Conservation Fee (WCF)

    Why in news?

    • In order to comply with various directions of the Hon’ble NGT and to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction, the Central Ground Water Authority, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction.
    • The revised guidelines aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country.

    Ground water extraction in India:

    • It is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, accounting for nearly 228 BCM (Billion Cubic Meter), which amounts to 90% of the annual ground water extraction.
    • The remaining 10% of extraction (25 BCM) is for drinking & domestic as well as industrial uses.
    • Industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5% of the annual ground water extraction in the country.
    • India is the largest user of ground water in the world, extracting ground water to the tune of 253 bcm per year, which is about 25% of the global ground water extraction.

    Water Conservation Fee (WCF):

    • The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction and is designed to progressively increase from safe to over-exploited areas and from low to high water consuming industries as well as with increasing quantum of ground water extraction.
    • The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as act as a deterrent to large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas.
    • The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.

    Revised guidelines:

    • They are encouraged to use recycled and treated sewage water by industries, provision of action against polluting industries, mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders.
    • Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units.
    • Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.

    Exemptions:

    • As per the revised guidelines, exemption from requirement of NOC has been given to
    • o Agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water,
      o Individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and
      o Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment or during mobilization in forward locations

    • Other exemptions (with certain requirements) have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defense and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.

    Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA):

    • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country.
    • CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.

    ‘MedWatch’ Mobile Health App

    Why in news?

    • On the occasion of 86th anniversary, the Indian Air Force has launched an innovative mobile health App named ‘MedWatch’ in keeping with the PM’s vision of Digital India, Ayushman Bharat and Mission Indradhanush.

    MedWatch:

    • The app is conceived by the doctors of IAF and developed in house by Directorate of Information Technology (DIT) with zero financial outlay.
    • It will provide correct, Scientific and authentic health information to air warriors and all citizens of India.
    • The app is available on www.apps.mgov.gov.in and comprises of host of features like information on basic First Aid, Health topics and Nutritional Facts.
    • It includes reminders for timely Medical Review, Vaccination and utility tools like Health Record Card, BMI calculator, helpline numbers and web links.

    1st International Conference on Sustainable Water Management

    Why in news?

    • The first International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ began on December 10, 2018 at Indian School of Business (ISB) in Mohali, Punjab.
    • The conference is being organised by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) under the aegis of the National Hydrology Project of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
    • The theme of the international conference is ‘Sustainable Water Management’.

    Objective:

    • To foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, the scientific and academic communities, so as to promote sustainable policies for water management.
    • To create awareness of water-related problems, motivate commitment at the highest level for their solution and thus promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.

    Highlights:

    • The conference is expected to witness participation from a number of experts and delegates from reputed organisations from both within India and other countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Spain, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.
    • The experts will deliver their experience and expertise in the use of state of art technology to the stakeholders for sustainable development of water resources.
    • The participation in the conference is by invitation and more than 400 delegates have been registered.
    • Overall, around 20 companies and organisations will be putting up stalls in the exhibition to showcase their activities in the area of sustainable water resources management.
    • The conference is the first in the series of conferences being organised in India under the aegis of the ongoing National Hydrology Project.
    • The hydrology project is being implemented by the Bhakra Beas Management Board with financial assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources.

    National Hydrology Project:

    • It is a World Bank Board sponsored project to strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess water situation in their regions in India.
    • The project aims to scale up the successes achieved under Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II to cover the entire country including the states of Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.
    • Apart from benefitting the states in further upgrading and completing their water monitoring networks, the project aims to help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs.
    • The project includes setting up of national flood forecasting systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins.
    • It will have the potential to help communities to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.

    World Bank assisted project SMART launched in Maharashtra

    Why in news?

    • Maharashtra Government has launched World Bank assisted- State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to transform rural Maharashtra.

    Highlights:

    • This project aims to revamp agricultural value chains, with special focus on marginal farmers across 1,0000 villages.
    • This initiative is in line with Union Government’s step towards doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
    • The launch of the project was followed by signing of 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between big corporates and farmers producer groups.

    State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project:

    • The objective of this project is to create and support value chains in post-harvest segments of agriculture, facilitate agribusiness investment, stimulate SMEs within the value chain.
    • It will also support resilient agriculture production systems, expand access to new and organised markets for producers and enhance private sector participation in the agribusiness.
    • The project will be implemented in 10,000 villages of total 40,913 villages in states with objective to achieve sustainable farming within the next three years.
    • It will cover almost one-fourth of Maharashtra.
    • Its focus is on villages which are reeling under worst agriculture crisis compounded by lack of infrastructure and assures value chains to channelise farm produce.
    • The project will be implemented in 10,000 villages comprising 10,000 gram panchayats which were shortlisted by state government based on multiple parameters of socio-economic backwardness in terms of development and growth.

    Significance of the project:

    • The project is a giant step towards transformation of rural economy and empowerment of farmers and also sustainable agriculture through public-private partnership (PPP) model.
    • It seeks to sure higher production of crops and create robust market mechanism to enable farmers to reap higher remunerations for the yield.
    • It unites agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them a common platform.

    Ministry of New and Renewable Energy conferred Skoch Award for National Significance.

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been conferred the Skoch Award for National Significance.

    Highlights:

    • The award has been conferred considering its purpose and critical role played in installing about 73 GW renewable energy capacity in the country.
    • With 21 per cent of total installed capacity, within the year renewable energy grossed one billion units of electricity in the country.
    • Today, India ranks 4 in the world in wind energy capacity and 5th in solar & total renewable energy capacity installed in the world.
    • India has played a critical role in setting up of international solar alliance. Further, India moved a resolution during the first meeting for making it a global initiative.

    Skoch Group:

    • Skoch Group is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth.
    • According to their website they have instituted India’s highest independent civilian honours in the field of governance, finance, technology, economics and social sector.

    SKOCH Award:

    • It celebrates excellence of governance delivery by domain departments.
    • This includes having sufficient familiarity, capacity and knowledge about the functionality of their systems, processes and outcomes.

    Cabinet approves Agriculture Export Policy 2018

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the Agriculture Export Policy in line with the government’s commitment to double farmer’s income by 2022.
    • The Cabinet has also approved the proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Commerce as the nodal Department with representation from various line
    • Ministries/Departments and Agencies and representatives of concerned State Governments, to oversee the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy.

    Highlights:

    • The Government has come out with a policy to double farmers’ income by 2022. Exports of agricultural products would play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.
    • In order to provide an impetus to agricultural exports, the Government has come out with a comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” aimed at doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains.
    • The Agriculture Export Policy has the following vision: “Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.”

    Objectives of the Agriculture Export Policy:

    • To double agricultural exports from present ~US$ 30+ Billion to ~US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime.
    • To diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables.
    • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports.
    • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
    • To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest.
    • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.

    PRASAD Scheme: Centre includes Gangotri, Yamunotri in Uttarakhand

    Why in news?

    • Union Government has included Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttrarakhand, Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and Parasnath in Jharkhand under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) to develop pilgrimage and heritage destinations in the country. With the new additions, the number of sites under PRASAD has now reached to 41 in 25 states.

    PRASAD Scheme:

    • It was launched in 2014-15 by Union Ministry of Tourism.
    • It aims at the integrated development of pilgrimage destinations in planned, prioritised and sustainable manner to provide a complete religious tourism experience.
    • It focuses on the development and beautification of the identified pilgrimage destinations.

    Objectives of PRASAD Scheme:

    • Harness pilgrimage tourism for its direct and multiplier effect upon employment generation and economic development.
    • Enhance tourist attractiveness in sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in the religious destinations.
    • It also seeks to promote local art, culture, handicraft, cuisine, etc.

    Funding:

    • Under this scheme, Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments for promoting tourism at identified destinations.
    • For components within public funding under this scheme, Central Government will provide 100% fund.
    • For improved sustainability of the project, it also seeks to involve Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well.

    Infrastructure development under this scheme includes:

    • Development of entry points (road, rail and water transport), last mile connectivity, basic tourism facilities like Information/interpretation centers, ATM/ money exchange.
    • Development of eco-friendly modes of transport, lighting and illumination with renewable energy sources, drinking water, parking, toilets, waiting rooms, first aid centers, craft bazars/haats/souvenir shops/cafeteria, rain shelters, telecom facilities, internet connectivity etc.

    Hassle free Visa regime

    Why in news?

    • The Union Home Secretary Shri Rajiv Gauba has said that creating a simple and hassle free Visa regime is the government’s objective to facilitate arrival and stay of foreign travelers into the country.
    • He also highlighted various policy initiatives taken to liberalize the Visa regime, taking into account the concerns and suggestions made by various Ministries and stakeholders, including Ministries of Civil Aviation, Tourism, Health, Higher Education etc.

    Highlights:

    • Emphasizing that India has the potential to become a global hub for Education and Tourism called for a change in the mind-set at the Field level to make foreigners feel welcomed in the country. A friendly Visa regime is also a part of ‘Ease of doing Business.
    • The same time, security should also be strengthened, using technological tools. Citing the recently launched e-FRRO module which provides 27 Visa related services to foreigners, it has been very successful and has obviated the need for foreigners to visit FRRO Offices for extending their stay, change of Visa status etc.
    • e-Visa facility now covers 166 countries and foreigners can obtain online Visa within 72 hours for travel related to Tourism, Business, Health, Medical Attendant and Conference purposes.
    • The number of Visas issued through e-Visa system is now approximately 40% of the total number of Visas issued and the figure is soon expected to cross the 50% mark, which is an indication of its popularity. Our e-Visa regime is one of the best in the world.
    • Highlighting some of the other Visa liberalization measures, Relaxation introduced in grant of Internship Visa which can be obtained by a student while still pursuing a course in the country without remuneration, Extension of Business Visa beyond five years, Conversion of Visa into medical category in an emergency for a foreigner who is already in the country and Permission for foreigners who are on long duration Visas to attend conferences.
    • Conference will provide inputs for further reforms in the Visa regime which is an ongoing process. The Conference was attended by Senior Officers from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Civil Aviation, Tourism, Information & Broadcasting, Security Agencies, State Governments and Industry representatives.

    First ever Swadesh Darshan Project in the state of Nagaland

    Why in News?

    • The first Nagaland Swadesh Darshan ‘Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project’ will be inaugurated by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, in the presence of Union Minister of State for Tourism at Kisama Heritage Village in Nagaland on Wednesday.
    • This is the first project to be implemented in the state under Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Union Ministry of Tourism.

    Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project:

    • The project “Development of Tribal Circuit: Peren-Kohima-Wokha” was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism in November 2015.
    • Under the project the Ministry has developed facilities like Tribal Tourist Village, Eco Log Huts, Open Air Theatre, Tribal Rejuvenation Centre, Cafeteria, Helipad, Tourist Interpretation Centre, Wayside Amenities, Last Mile Connectivity etc.
    • In addition to this, the Ministry has also sanctioned another project in Nagaland “Development of Tribal circuit: Mokokchung–Tuensang-Mon” which is under progress.

    Swadesh Darshan scheme:

    • India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country
    • This can be achieved only through an integrated approach by providing engaging experiences for distinct categories of tourists i.e. Domestic and International
    • In due recognition to this the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism (MoT) launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme (Central Sector Scheme) for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country in 2014-15
    • Various themes which are unique and specific to the area can include beaches, culture, heritage, wildlife etc.
    • Such theme based tourist circuits are developed in a manner that supports communities, provides employment and fosters social integration without comprising upon the environmental concerns and provides unique experiences to the tourists.

    NCW to support Northeast livelihood programmes for women

    Why in news?

    • The National Commission for Women (NCW) has decided to support northeast livelihood programmes for women, particularly for those falling under the younger age group, through skill development and specialised training.

    Objective:

    • The main aim behind the move is to empower the young women as individuals and enable them to earn a living for themselves.

    Highlights:

    • The DoNER Ministry has said that the National Commission for Women can supplement its efforts and resources in carrying forward several of the women-oriented projects that have already been undertaken by the Ministry and the North-Eastern Council.
    • In this regard, the DoNER Minister of State made a special mention of a number of Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women doing a commendable work in the region.
    • The DoNER Ministry also assured the NCW that the PSUs working under it will offer their collaboration and cooperation in women-oriented welfare programmes in the region.
    • Besides, during the meeting between the NCW and the DoNER Ministry, the issue of Northeast women, particularly of younger age groups, living in metros like Bengaluru and Mumbai was also discussed.
    • Though the women in the northeast are quite unbound as far as their contribution in outdoor work is concerned, there is still scope for raising the levels of education among them, especially among women living in remote and rural areas.
    • The livelihood programmes will impart skill training to these women in order to make them self-reliant.

    National Commission for Women (NCW):

    • The NCW is a statutory body generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
    • It was established in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
    • The objective of the NCW is to represent the rights of women in the country and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
    • It recommends remedial legislative measures, advise Government on all policy matters affecting women and facilitate redressal of grievances related to women.

    Digital Sky Platform launched for registration of drones, pilots, and operators

    Why in news?

    • In August 2018, India had announced the release of its Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) to enable safe flying of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems) in India.
    • Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), also known as drones, are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications.

    Digital Sky Platform:

    • The Digital Sky Platform is a first of its kind that implements ‘no permission, no take-off’ (NPNT) – a novel system of software-based self-enforcement to minimize deviations from the CAR.
    • The regulations has to come in effect from December 1, allowing the industry time to ready themselves for the launch.
    • For micro and above categories, operators and pilots are required to register on the Digital Sky Portal.
    • The platform has begun accepting registrations of users.
    • Payments for Unmanned Aerial Operator’s Permit (UAOP) and Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) will be accepted through the Bharat Kosh (bharatkosh.gov.in) portal.

    Permissions to fly in different zones:

    • To get permissions, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.
    • Green zones – Flying in the green zones, requires only intimation of the time and location via the portal or the app.
    • Yellow zones – Permission will be required for flying in yellow zones.
    • Red zones – Flights will not be allowed to fly.

    How to get permissions?

    • To get permissions to fly, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.
    • Flying in the ‘green zones’ will require only intimation of the time and location of the flights via the portal or the app.
    • Permissions will be required for flying in ‘yellow zones’ and flights will not be allowed in the ‘red zones’.
    • The location of these zones will be announced soon. Permission, if granted, will be available digitally on the portal.
    • If a drone does not have permission to fly, it will not be allowed to take-off under the policy of No Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT).

    Drone 2.0 Framework:

    • The Minister for Civil Aviation has constituted a task-force on the recommendation of Drone Policy 2.0 under the chairmanship of the Minister of State.
    • This task-force which is expected to release their final report by the end of this year.
    • Drone 2.0 framework for RPAS are expected to include regulatory architecture for autonomous flying, delivery via drones and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights.

    FSSAI launches Heart Attack Rewind Campaign for elimination of trans-fat

    Why in News?

    • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a new mass media campaign in order to create awareness about trans fats and eliminate them in India by 2022.

    Objective:

    • It will support FSSAI’s global target of eliminating trans-fat in India by 2022, a year ahead of global target by World Health Organization (WHO). It is in line with FSSAOI’s objective to get Freedom from ‘Trans Fat: India@75′.

    Heart Attack Rewind Campaign:

    • It is a 30-second public service announcement to be broadcast in 17 languages for a period of four weeks on YouTube, Facebook, Hotstar, and Voot.
    • It will also be placed on outdoor hoardings and run on radio stations in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
    • The campaign will warn citizens about the health hazards of consuming trans fats and offer strategies to avoid them through healthier alternatives.
    • This campaign will concentrate on the demand side (consumers), who in turn, will push the supply side (food manufacturers) to come up with various strategies in order to reduce and later replace trans fats.

    Significance:

    • Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans fats.
    • Since the impact of trans fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.
    • In May this year, the WHO released a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.
    • Since then, a lot of countries have made efforts to reduce the levels of trans fats and in some cases, have completely banned them.
    • India is also moving towards same by first reducing the levels from 5 per cent to 2 per cent and then altogether by 2022.

    Trans Fats:

    • Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
    • Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

    Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

    • FSSAI is a nodal statutory agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health in India hrough regulation and supervision of food safety.
    • It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and operates under aegis of Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

    Industrial Park Rating System Report

    GS 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

    Why in news?

    • The Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu, released the report prepared by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, on Industrial Park Rating System.
    • Significance of the report:
    • The Industrial Park Rating System is proposed to be translated into an annual exercise covering all the parks across India.
    • The coverage would be widened and updated to bring in deeper qualitative assessment feedback and technological intervention and develop it as a tool that effectively helps for demand-driven and need-based interventions both by policymakers and investors.

    Key Highlights:

    • To optimise resource utilisation and enhance the efficiency of the manufacturing sector, DIPP launched the Industrial Information System (IIS), a GIS-enabled database of industrial areas and clusters across the country in May 2017.
    • The portal serves as a one-stop solution to the free and easy accessibility of all industrial information including availability of raw material – agriculture, horticulture, minerals, natural resources, distance from key logistic nodes, layers of terrain and urban infrastructure.
    • The Ministry has undertaken the exercise of studying infrastructure across states and in 3354 industrial clusters in order to assess the quality of infrastructure in industrial parks, to ensure that India moves into the top 50 countries in Ease of Doing Business.
    • The portal has been actively used by the State Governments and Industrial Development Corporations over the last one year and they have nominated over 200 parks for assessment along the above parameters.
    • The database includes 3000 parks and all the industrial parks will be rated on the following 4 points:
      • Internal infrastructure
      • External infrastructure
      • Business services and facilities
      • Environment and safety management

    eDrishti software launched to help Railways Minister keep track of punctuality of train

    Why in news?

    • Indian Railways unveiled ‘eDrishti’ software that will help Union Railway Minister to keep track of punctuality of trains as well as freight and passenger earnings and much more from anywhere in the country.
    • The software has been developed by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) to help Minister keep track of all information related to Indian Railways, one of the world’s largest rail networks.

    eDrishti software:

    • Using this software, Railway Minister can track any information with just a click of mouse — whether from his office or while on the move.
    • It will also enable Minister to know at any given point of time day’s freight and passenger earnings, freight loading and unloading, punctuality, progress of major projects, public grievances, movement of trains across the country, details of railway stations and much more.
    • It also has been connected with base kitchens of Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC) as many complaints comes regarding the quality of food served on trains.
    • Through live video, Minister will be able to monitor the goings on in IRCTC kitchens.
    • It will also provide the live status of reserved and unreserved passengers travelling on trains besides providing the exact location of trains at any point of time

    AirSewa 2.0

    GS 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

    Why in News?

    • Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha on November 19, 2018 launched the upgraded version of AirSewa 2.0 web portal and mobile app in New Delhi.
    • AirSewa 2.0 operates through interactive web portal as well as through a mobile app for both android and iOS platforms.
    • AirSewa 2.0:
    • A need was felt for development of an upgraded version of AirSewa to provide a superior user experience with enhanced functionalities.
    • Major improvements include features such as secure sign-up and log-in with social media, chatbot for travellers support, improved grievance management including social media grievances, real-time flight status and details flight schedule.
    • Features of the Portal:
    • It will offer passengers a convenient and hassle-free air travel experience.
    • The web portal and application will help to capture air travellers’ feedback for policy interventions.
    • The focus is on improving the quality of services so that passengers who are travelling have a safe and comfortable experience.

    Addressing Passenger’s Grievances:

    • Air passengers face issues like flight delays, problem in refunds, long queues, inadequate facilities at airports and complaints of lost baggage.
    • The Ministry launched AirSewa web portal and mobile app in November 2016 to address this need.
    • The AirSewa 1.0 was received well, with around 30,000 app downloads and around 75,000 web portal hits since its launch.
    • It has helped significant number of air passengers to get their concerns resolved with 92 % closure rate for grievance solutions.
    • In addition to grievance redressal, AirSewa also provides real-time flight status and flight schedules.

    Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

    Why in news?

    • The Union Home Ministry has launched Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) for Himachal Pradesh.

    Emergency Response Support System (ERSS):

    • Central Government has allocated ₹321.69 Crore under Nirbhaya Fund for implementation of ERSS project across the country.
    • Himachal Pradesh is the first state to launch pan-India single emergency number ‘112’ under ERSS.
    • Under this project, a single number based 112 emergency services which will connect to Police, Fire, Health and other help lines through an Emergency Response Centre in the State.
    • The service also includes a ‘112 India’ mobile app integrated with Panic Button of smartphones and ERSS State website for ease of citizen in availing immediate assistance.
    • To increase the effectiveness of Emergency Response, the ERC has also been integrated with Location Based Services provided by Telecom Service Providers.
    • The ‘112 India’ mobile app will be subsequently rolled out in all States & Union Territories to help people across the country access the unified emergency services.

    SHOUT feature:

    • To ensure safety of women, a SHOUT feature has been introduced in ‘112 India’ mobile app.
    • It helps seek immediate assistance from registered volunteers in the vicinity apart from the immediate assistance from Emergency Response Centre.
    • Nirbhaya Fund:
    • In order to eradicate violence against women and girls, Central Government has set up Nirbhaya Fund.
    • It is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.It can be utilized for projects for women safety and security.
    • Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal authority for appraising/recommending the proposals/schemes to be funded under Nirbhaya fund.

    ‘Heli-Clinics’ for remote areas

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister has mooted “Heli-Clinics”/Helicopter Clinics for remote areas, which could help to provide specialized medical care to people living in inaccessible hilly terrains of the States like Jammu & Kashmir and Northeast.

    Highlights:

    • Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empaneled hospitals across the country.
    • Ayushman Bharat will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.
    • One of the core principles of Ayushman Bharat is to co-operative federalism and flexibility to states.
    • For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
    • States would need to have State Health Agency (SHA) to implement the scheme.
    • In partnership with NITI Aayog, a robust, modular, scalable and interoperable IT platform will be made operational which will entail a paperless, cashless transaction
    • In the last four years, which include opening of Dialysis Centres in every district hospital, setting up of Wellness Centres and, launch of “Ayushman Bharat”.
    • The Minister emphasized the need to incentivize medical practitioners to go to remote rural areas and to provide adequately satisfactory facilities for the government doctors to be able to serve in the rural areas.

    Ayushman Bharat:

    • Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
    • Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes – RashtriyaSwasthyaBimaYojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).

    Information Platform to monitor public health surveillance – IHIP

    Why in news?

    • Union Health Secretary did soft-launch of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) segment of Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) in seven states today.
    • The first one-of-its-kind initiative by the Government of India, IHIP uses the latest technologies and digital health initiatives.

    Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP):

    • IHIP is real time, village-wise, case based electronic health information system with GIS tagging which will help in prompt prevention and control of epidemic prone diseases.
    • The initiative will provide near-real-time data to policy makers for detecting outbreaks, reducing the morbidity and mortality and lessening disease burden in the populations and better health systems.
    • The primary objective of IHIP is to enable the creation of standards compliant Electronic Health Records (EHRs) of the citizens on a pan-India basis.
    • The EHRs aims to build a comprehensive Health Information Exchange (HIE) as part of this centralized accessible platform.
    • The success of this platform will depend primarily on the quality of data shared by the states.
    • For effective implementation of the platform, 32,000 people at the block level, 13,000 at the district level and 900 at the state level have been trained.

    Union Cabinet nod for term extension of OBC panel

    Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended the term of Commission constituted to examine the Sub-Categorization within Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the Central List for a total of six months beyond 30th November 2018 and till 31st May 2019. It is the fourth extension which has been given to the commission for the submission of its report on the creation of quotas with quotas.
  • Highlights:

    • With the approval of President, a five-member commission was constituted under article 340 of the constitution by the Union Government in October 2017.
    • This commission is headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice (Retd.) G Rohini. The report of the commision is likely to recommend sub-quotas for the extremely backward classes in the OBCs.
    • The article 340 of the constitution was used to constitute landmark Mandal Commission in 1979 which recommended 27 percent reservation for the socially and educationally backward classes in higher education and government jobs.
    •    In 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended for OBCs to be categorized under the extremely backward, more backward classes and backward classes.
    • Around 11 states have already sub-categorized OBCs for their state services. The Union Government is adopting the same methodology for the central OBC list.

    Mandate of Sub-categorisation commission:

    • It is tasked to examine extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among castes included in broad category of OBC in central government jobs and educational institutions especially with reference to OBCs included in Central list.
    • It is also tasked to take up exercise of identifying respective castes, sub-castes, communities’ synonyms in Central List of OBCs and classify them into their respective sub-categories. It is mandated was to work out mechanism, norms, criteria and parameters, in scientific approach, for sub-categories.
    • It is mandated was to work out mechanism, norms, criteria and parameters, in scientific approach, for sub-categorization within such OBCs.

    “She- Box “ Awareness programmes on Sexual Harassment at Workplace

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has empanelled institutions and organisations to conduct awareness exercises on the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, in order to ensure security of women at all workplaces.
    • Around 223 institutes and organisations have been empanelled from across the country to impart training in local languages as of November 2018.

    Key Highlights:

    • The empanelled institutes will be required to submit quarterly reports through SHe-Box, an online complaints portal, of all the training programmes and workshops conducted by them under the SH Act.
    • The empanelled institutes, organisations and companies have so far organised over 700 capacity building exercises that were attended by nearly 50,000 participants.
    • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 mandates all the workplaces that include any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit with more than 10 workers to constitute an Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) to receive complaints of sexual harassment.
    • The complaints can be registered on SHe-Box, a single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment.
    • Any woman facing sexual harassment at workplace can register her complaint through the portal.
    • Once a complaint is submitted on the online portal, it will be directly sent to the authority concerned having jurisdiction to take action in the matter.
    • The WCD Ministry has published a handbook and training module on the SH Act to provide information about the provisions of the Act in an easy-to-use practical manner.
    • The private organizations are encouraged to customise the Training Module as per their extant service rules and disciplinary procedures prescribed therein.

    She-Box:

    • The comprehensive online complaint management system- ‘SHe-Box’- was launched by WCD Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi on November 7, 2017 for women working in both public and private organisations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.
    • The portal was launched to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (SH Act), 2013.
    • The SH Act defines “sexual harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner, to cover circumstances of implied or explicit promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment or humiliating treatment, which can affect her health or safety.

    Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018 for regulation and standardisation of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals.

    Highlights:

    • The Bill provides for setting up of an Allied and Healthcare Council of India and corresponding State Allied and Healthcare Councils which will play the role of a standard-setter and facilitator for professions of Allied and Healthcare.
    • The Bill also empowers the Central and State Governments to make rules.
    • Central Govt. has the power to issue directions to the Council, to make regulations and to add or amend the schedule.

    Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill:

    • The bill provides for the establishment of central and corresponding state allied and healthcare councils and 15 major professional categories including 53 professions in allied and healthcare streams.
    • It provides for structure, constitution, composition and functions of the central council and state councils such as framing of policies and standards, regulation of professional conduct, creation and maintenance of live registers, provisions for common entry and exit examinations.
    • The professional advisory bodies under central and state councils will examine issues independently and provide recommendations relating to specific recognised categories.
    • The bill will also have an overriding effect on any other existing law for any of the covered professions.
    • The state council will undertake recognition of allied and healthcare institutions.
    • The clause of offences and penalties has been included in the bill to check mal¬practices. The bill also empowers the central and state governments to make rules.
    • Under the bill’s provisions, the central government will also have the power to issue directions to the council, to make regulations and to add or amend the schedule.
    • The bill calls for the constitution of an interim council within 6 months of its passing, which will hold the charge for a period of two years until the establishment of the Central Council.
    • ·The council at the centre and the states are to be established as body corporate with a provision to receive funds from various sources.
    • The councils will also be supported by central and state governments respectively through grant-in-aid as needed. However, if the state government expresses inability, the central government may release some grant for initial years to the state council.

    Composition of the Council:

    The central council:

    • Comprises of 47 members, of which 14 members shall be ex-officio representing diverse and related roles and functions and remaining 33 shall be non-ex-officio members who mainly represent the 15 professional categories.

    The state council:

    • It is also envisioned to mirror the central council, comprising 7 ex-officio and 21 non-ex officio members and a chairperson to be elected from amongst the non-ex officio members.

    Targets:

    • An Interim Council will be constituted within 6 months of passing of the Act holding charge for a period of two years until the establishment of the Central Council.
    • The Council at the Centre and the States are to be established as body corporate with a provision to receive funds from various sources.
    • Councils will also be supported by Central and State Governments respectively through Grant-in-aid as needed. However, if the State Government expresses inability, the Central Government may release some grant for initial years to the State Council.

    Mission RakshaGyan Shakti Launched

    Why in News?

    • The Union Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched ‘Mission RakshaGyanShakti’ on November 27, 2018. The programme will aim to strengthen the Intellectual Property Right (IPR) culture in the indigenous defense industry. It was started by the Department of Defence Production for enhancing the self-resilience in the defense sector.

    Objective:

    • Mission RakshaGyan Shakti will aim to give a boost to IPR culture in the defence sector.
    • Under this programme, the Internet Protocol system will be strengthened in the defence manufacturing sector of the country.
    • The programme will be implemented with the coordination of the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA).
    • The end objective of the programme is to inculcate IP culture in Indian defence manufacturing ecosystem.

    Highlights:

  • In the event organised on the launch of the programme, the inventions, and innovations of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and Ordnance Factories (OFs) in the area successful IPR applications filing were showcased.
  • India has always been a knowledge hub since ancient times, but due to lack of awareness on modern legal framework for protection of IP rights, the nation’s knowledge and creativity have often not been utilised to its full potential.
  • Intellectual Property Right:
  • According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), IPRs are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.
  • The Intellectual Property Right has emerged as a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity.
  • It was highlighted the need to migrate from the culture of seeking Transfer of Technology (ToT) from foreign sources to generating Intellectual Property in India, to achieve the goal of self-reliance in Defence sector.
  • An IP Facilitation Cell was established in April 2018, which has worked tirelessly to achieve ambitious targets of training 10,000 personnel of OFB and DPSUs on IPR and facilitate filing of at least 1,000 new IPR applications.
  • Sangai tourism festival

    Why in news?

  • The annual Sangai Festival was celebrated in northeastern state of Manipur. It is grandest festival of state named after state animal, Sangai, the critically endangered brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur.
  • The festival is labelled as the grandest festival of the State today and helps promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination. Every edition of the festival showcases the tourism potential of the state in the field of Arts & Culture, Handloom, Handicrafts, Indigenous Sports, Cuisine, Music and Adventure sports of the state etc.
  • Sangai Tourism Festival:

    • The ‘Festival’ is named after the State animal, Sangai, the brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur.
    • It was started in 2010 and has grown over years into big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world.
    • The focus areas of festival reflect Manipur’s rich cultural heritage and love for art of various tribes inhabiting state. It also showcases ‘RasLeela’, state’s classical dance form along with various other folk dance performances like Bamboo dance, Maibi dance, Kabui Naga dance, Lai Haraobadance,etc.
    • Indigenous sports will also be a major highlight of the State’s biggest tourism festival this year. Manipur’s famous martial arts- Thang Ta (a combination Spear & Sword skills), Yubi-Lakpi (a game played with greased coconut like rugby), MuknaKangjei (a game that combines hockey and wrestling), and SagolKangjei- Modern Polo (believed to have evolved in Manipur) will all form part of the festival.

    Sangai Deer:

    • Sangai Deer (Rucervuseldii) also called the Dancing Deer. It is the state animal of Manipur.
    • Once it was found across Manipur Valley in abundant now only its remaining natural habitat is found in KeibulLamjao National Park (KLNP), only floating national park in the world.
    • It is listed as critically endangered species by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). KLNP is floating biomass in Manipur’s Loktak Lake.
    • It is known around the world for its unique composition which is made up of biomass vegetation (locally called phumdis) that floats on surface of lake.

    HAUSLA 2018

    Why in news?

    • The National Festival for Children of Child Care Institutions (CCIs)– “Hausla 2018” of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) was inaugurated by the Secretary, Shri Rakesh Srivastava, in New Delhi.

    Highlights:

    • The inter-Child Care Institution festival is witnessing participation of more than 600 Children drawn from CCIs from 18 states in the various events like painting competition, athletics meet, football, chess competition and speech writing as part of the Festival.
    • The idea behind the entire event is to provide a national platform for the children from CCIs across India to showcase their talent, to make them realise the hidden talent they possess and to help take it forward in their life.
    • This event would instil confidence in them to achieve greater heights in life.
    • The event shall inspire children of Child Care Institutions so that they can reach the National Stage for expressing their capabilities. The theme for the event is “Child Safety”.

    Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund – Blue Revolution mission

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare at his inaugural address on Fifth World Fisheries Day, said that under the Blue Revolution scheme, 29,128 hectares has been developed for aquaculture and fishermen are being benefitted. And 7441 traditional boats have been modernized and converted into motorized boats.

    Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF):

    • Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) will create employment opportunities to over 9.40 lakhs fishers/ fishermen/ fisher folks and other entrepreneurs in fishing and allied activities and attract private investment in creation and management of fisheries infrastructure facilities.
    • FIDF would help in the creation of fisheries infrastructure facilities both in marine and inland fisheries sectors.
    • It aims to achieve a sustainable growth of 8% to 9% in a move to augment fish production to the level of about 20 million tonnes by 2022-23.

    World Fisheries Day & Forum:

    • It is celebrated to commemorate the event of meeting of the working fishermen and women representing ‘World Forum of Fish Harvesters & Fish Workers’ from 18 countries in New Delhi on November 21, 1997.
    • World Fisheries Forum (WFF) was established to advocate a global mandate of sustainable fishing practices and policies.
    • World Forum of Fish Harvesters & Fish Workers (WFF) is an international organization that brings together small scale fisher organization for the establishment and upholding of fundamental human rights, social justice and culture of artisanal/small scale fish harvesters and fish workers, affirming the sea as source of all life and committing themselves to sustain fisheries and aquatic resources for the present and future generations to protect their livelihoods.

    Draft witness protection scheme

    Why in News?

    • The Supreme Court of India on November 19, 2018 said that it would direct all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

    Background:

    • The issue of witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving a self-styled preacher.
    • The court had asked the Centre to a draft scheme for witness protection in the country as specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.
    • The SC was told that the draft scheme has now been finalised and would be made into a law in due course.
    • However till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

    Witness Protection Scheme-2018:

    • To enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigations without fear of intimidation or reprisal.
    • To ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination
    • To promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance to criminal law enforcement agencies and the overall administration of Justice.
    • To give witnesses the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and Judicial Authorities with full assurance of safety.
    • To identify a series of measures that may be adopted to safeguard witnesses and their family members from intimidation and threats against their lives, reputation and property.

    Other Provisions:

    • Witness Protection Fund means the fund created for bearing the expenses incurred during the implementation of Witness Protection Order passed by the Competent Authority under this scheme;
    • Witness Protection Order means an order passed by the Competent Authority detailing the steps to be taken for ensuring the safety of witness from threats to his or his family member’s life, reputation or property. It also includes interim order, if any passed, during the pendency of Witness Protection Application;
    • Witness Protection Cell means a dedicated Cell of State/UT Police or Central Police Agencies assigned the duty to implement the witness protection order. It shall be responsible for the security as per witness protection order

    Proposed Rights to be entitled to the Witness:

    • Right to give evidence anonymously
    • Right to protection from intimidation and harm
    • Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect of privacy
    • Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime
    • Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings
    • Right to transportation and lodging arrangements

    International Tourism Mart

    Why in news?

    • The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura and the North Eastern States is organizing the 7th “International Tourism Mart” in Agartala, Tripura.

    Objective:

    • The objective of IMT will be to create annual Global Tourism Mart for India in line with major international travel marts being held in countries across the world.
    • It will provide platform for all stakeholders in tourism and hospitality industries to interact and transact business opportunities.
    • It will provide platform for States to showcase their products to international buyers, opinion makers and bloggers and attract more tourists to their respective states.

    International Tourism Mart -7th edition:

    • The 7th edition of the International Tourism Mart, an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
    • It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.
    • The event has been planned and scheduled to facilitate interaction between buyers, sellers, media, Government agencies and other stakeholders.
    • The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis. The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.

    Institution’s Innovation Council

    Why in news?

    • The Union Human Resource Development Ministry launched the ‘Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) Program’ in Delhi on November 21, 2018.
    • The program was launched under Innovation Cell of the ministry which was established by the MHRD at AICTE with an aim to systematically foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions in the country.
    • Objective of the council:
    • The main purpose behind the formation of the network of Institution’s Innovation Councils (IICs) is to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years.

    Highlights:

    • The programs will help in institutionalizing innovation and developing a scientific temperament in the country.
    • More than 1000 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have already formed IICs in their campuses and enrolled for the IIC network managed by MHRD’s Innovation cell to promote innovation through multitudinous modes leading to an innovation promotion eco-system in their campuses.
    • The programs will help Indian universities are in setting up research centers which will help to encourage researches and innovative studies.
    • The program will help for the educational advancement in higher education by encouraging best practices in innovation and advance research.
    • Before this, the Innovation Cell of the MHRD has undertaken many initiatives in this direction such as implementing programs like Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievement (ARIIA), and Smart India Hackathon (SIH)- 2019.

    World Toilet Day

    Why in News?

    • The Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) will celebrate the World Toilet Day with mass awareness and mobilization activities across States and districts.
    • The day’s main focus is to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030.
    • This is part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: sanitation and water, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water for all by 2030.

    Highlights:

    • The focus is on usage of toilets, which is closely linked to the Prime Minister’s call for a Swachh Bharat by October 2019.
    • The key objective of the observance is to engage with communities and reaffirm the national resolve to sustain the Sanitation achievement.
    • The 2018 theme of the International Day is ‘toilets and nature’. This year’s campaign is based on the narrative: When nature calls, we have to listen and act.
    • The theme focuses on the need to build toilets and sanitation systems that work in harmony with the environment.
    • Organizing grassroots activities involving district, block and panchayat level teams, swachhagrahis and swachhata champions.
    • In recognition to the work done by the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Toilet Summit.

    AadiMahotsav

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister for Tribal Affairs inaugurated the “AadiMahotsav” a National Tribal Festival to celebrate, cherish and promote the spirit of tribal craft, culture, cuisine and commerce.
    • The theme of the festival is: “A Celebration of the Spirit of Tribal Culture, Craft, Cuisine and Commerce”.

    AadiMahotsav:

    • The Mahotsav comprises of display and sale of items of tribal art and craft, tribal medicine & healers, tribal cuisine and display of tribal folk performance, in which tribal artisans, chefs, folk dancers/musicians from 23 States of the country are participating and providing glimpse of their rich traditional culture.
    • The Mahotsav features exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts, art, paintings, fabric, jewellery and much more through 100 stalls. Over 200 tribal artisans and artists from different States creating a Mini-India are participating in the festival.
    • Tribal artisans, chefs, folk dancers/musicians from 23 States of the country shall participate and provide glimpse of their rich traditional culture.
    • Over 200 tribal artisans and artists from different States creating a Mini-India will be participating in the festival.

    Significance of the festival:

    • The Adivasi way of life is guided by primal truths, eternal values and a natural simplicity.
    • The greatness of the tribes lies in this that they have managed to retain the primal skills and natural simplicity.
    • This quality gives their arts and crafts a timeless appeal. So, this festival seeks to channelize and promote their natural skills and provide then sources of income.
    • The Government has formed the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) for achieving this. TRIFED is working in this this direction and now has embraced e-commerce and digital platforms to take the business forward.

    ISPRL signs MoU with ADNOC to explore storage of crude oil

    GS 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

    Why in news?

    • ·         Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. (ISPRL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to explore storage of crude oil at Padur underground facility in Karnataka.
    • ·         This follows arrival of final shipment of initial delivery of ADNOC crude to be stored in another ISPRL underground facility in Mangaluru, which will store 5.86 million barrels.

    Highlights of the MoU:

    • The MoU mandates ADNOC to store crude oil at the Padur Strategic Petroleum Reserve which has a storage capacity 2.5 million-tonne (~17 million barrels) capacity for emergency needs.
    • ADNOC will store crude in two compartments at Padur.
    • ADNOC is the only foreign oil and gas company, so far to invest, by way of crude oil in India’s strategic petroleum reserves program.
    • This will help to ensure energy security to India and enable ADNOC to efficiently and competitively meet Indian market demand.

    Petroleum Reserves Program Phase 1:

    • Under the Phase I of Strategic Petroleum Reserves Program, SPRL has already built 5.33 million tons of underground storage capacity at three locations, Visakhapatnam (1.33 million tons), Mangalore (1.5 million tons) and Padur (2.5 million tons), that can meet around 10 days of the country’s oil needs.
    • In June 2018, Government announced phase II of program for creation of two new reserves, a 4-million-tons storage facility at Chandikhol in Odisha, and an additional 2.5-million-tons facility at Padur.
    • The combined strategic reserve capacity of existing and newly announced facilities will be 15.33 million tons and will provide around 22 days of emergency coverage for India’s crude oil requirements.
    • ISPRL is Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

    YuvaSahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme

    Why in News?

    • To cater to the needs and aspirations of the youth, the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) has come up with a youth-friendly this scheme for attracting them to cooperative business ventures.
    • The newly launched scheme would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
    • The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC.

    Funding:

    • The funding for the project will be up to 80% of the project cost for these special categories as against 70% for others.
    • The scheme envisages 2% less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.

    Eligibility:

    • It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
    • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible.

    Sahakar 22:

    • The NCDC, being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, has embarked on Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.
    • To achieve the Mission of New India by 2022 in Cooperatives, through Doubling The Farmers Income, NCDC would launch a new Mission Mode activity,
    • SAHKAR 22 would include:
      • FOCUS 222: Converge NCDC assistance for Cooperatives in 222 Districts
      • PACS HUB: Transform PACS and other Coops as APNA KISAN Resource Centres
      • AENEC: ACT East and North East Coops
      • CEMtC: Centres of Excellence to Market through Coops
      • SAHAKAR PRAGYA:LaxmanraoInamdar National Academy for Cooperative Research & Development as Capacity Development base for SAHKAR 22

    NCDC:

    • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
    • The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.
    • It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.
    • It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.

    MNRE circulates draft Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS)

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, in consultation with National Institute of Wind Energy, has prepared a draft of new Scheme called Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS) incorporating various guidelines Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS).
    • Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS):
    • The IWTCS is a consolidation of relevant National and International Standards (IS/IEC/IEEE), Technical Regulations and requirements issued by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), guidelines issued by MNRE and other international guidelines.
    • It also incorporates various best practices from other countries to ensure the quality of the wind energy projects.
      • The draft Scheme enlists the guidelines for the benefit of all the stakeholders from concept to lifetime of wind turbine including:
      • Indian Type Approved Model (ITAM),
      • Indian Type Certification Scheme (ITCS),
      • Wind Farm Project Certification Scheme (WFPCS)
      • Wind Turbine Safety & Performance Certification Scheme (WTSPCS)

    Why need such Scheme?

    • Wind sector in India is growing at a rapid pace with increased utilization of wind energy for the power development.
    • The modern wind turbines have higher dimensions and capacity and improved Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF) along with technological improvements.
    • Under these developments, there was a need for comprehensive document which provides the complete technical requirements which shall have to be complied by the wind turbines for the safe and reliable operation by all the stakeholders.
    • Also, there is a need for technical regulations.

    UNESCO Asia-Pacific award for conservation

    Why in news?

    • Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched two new initiatives LEAP and ARPIT.
    • Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP):

    • LEAP is a three weeks Flagship leadership development training programme (2 weeks domestic and one week foreign training) for second level academic functionaries in public funded higher education institutions.
    • The main objective is to prepare second tier academic heads who are potentially likely to assume leadership roles in the future.
    • The programme would provide senior faculty, with high academic credentials, the required leadership and managerial skills including skills of problem-solving, handling stress, team building work, conflict management.
    • It will also focus on developing communication skills, understanding and coping with the complexity and challenges of governance in HEIs, financial & general administration.
    • The implementation of LEAP Programme will be through 15 NIRF top ranked Indian Institutions.
    • The foreign Universities identified for the training are also within the top 100 in the world global rankings.

    Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT):

    • ARPIT is a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 15 lakh higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.
    • For implementing ARPIT, 75 discipline-specific institutions have been identified and notified as National Resource Centres (NRCs) in the first phase.
    • They are tasked to prepare online training material with focus on latest developments in the discipline, new & emerging trends, pedagogical improvements and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum.
    • The course is a 40 hour module with 20 hours of video content and 20 hours of non-video content. They are offered in a highly flexible format and can be done at one’s own pace and time.
    • There are built-in assessment exercises and activities as part of the academic progression in the course.
    • At the end of the course, there will be a terminal assessment which can be either online or a written examination.
    • All faculties who have successfully completed the online refresher course will be certified.

    Global Digital Content Market 2018

    Why in News?

    • The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP is hosting a conference on Global Digital Content Market (GDCM) 2018 in New Delhi.
    • Global Digital Content Market (GDCM) 2018:
    • The conference will feature sessions on music, film, broadcasting and publishing, as well as collective management, emerging models and the implications for the market and policy makers.
    • India has been chosen as a host nation for the conference by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) due to the strong creative industry in the country in films, music and media.
    • The focus for this year’s conference is the Asia Pacific region.

    Aim and Objectives:

    • GDCM is a platform to discuss vital issues and enhance development of the digital and IP generating industries such as publishing, films, music, and gaming all of which are major contributors to the Indian GDP.
    • The aim of GDCM 2018 is to give industry stakeholders a platform to come together and discuss new avenues in the films, music, gaming and creative industry.
    • It shall also discuss points of challenge that is presented due to the changing creative landscape because of the disruption brought about by digital technologies.

    Digital Content Copyrights and India:

    • GDCM 2018 is the second edition of the conference. The first conference was held in Geneva 2016.
    • It is organised by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva.
    • The aim of GDCM is to ensure that a creative artist continues to be protected and receives better remuneration on the digital platform.
    • India has recently approved accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) that has increased the coverage of protection of copyrights in the international IP regime.
    • This will bring the Indian creative industry under and international copyright system, secure distribution of their work and provide them with a level playing field.
    • India’s rank in the Global Innovation Index 2018 has improved by 24 places from that of 2015 and now ranks 57th.
    • India is the top-ranked economy in Central and Southern Asia and has now outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita for seven years in a row.

    The Key Initiatives of Government

    National LED Programme:

    • It is to ensure promotion of energy efficiency in the country.
    • It has two components – Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP) and Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP).
    • DELP – UJALA Scheme was launched to provide LED bulbs to domestic consumers.
    • SLNP – It aims to replace conventional street light with smart and energy efficient LED street lights by March, 2019.
    • The project is funded by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of the Union Ministry of Power.

    UJALA Scheme:

    • UJALA – UnnatJyoti by Affordable LEDs for All is an energy efficiency scheme to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and help preserve environment.
    • Under this scheme, LED bulbs at 40% of the market price will be distributed to every grid connected consumer.
    • It is implemented by the Electricity Distribution Company and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL).

    Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY):

    • It is to provide financial and operational turnaround of power distribution companiesandaims at long term affordable and accessible 24×7 power supply to all.
    • It has target of making all DISCOMs profitable by 2018-19 through four initiatives such as Improving operational efficiencies of Discoms, Reduction of cost of power, Reduction in interest cost of Discoms, Enforcing financial discipline on DISCOMs through alignment with state finances.
    • Under this programme, States shall take over 75% of DISCOM debt over two years i.e 50% of DISCOM debt shall be taken over in 2015-16 and 25% in 2016-17.
    • Government of India will not include the debt taken over by the states as per the above scheme in the calculation of fiscal deficit of respective states in the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17.
    • States will issue non-SLR including SDL bonds in the market or directly to the respective banks / financial institutions (FIs) holding the DISCOM debt to the appropriate extent.
    • DISCOM debt not taken over by the state shall be converted by the banks / FIs into loans or bonds.

    Mobile Applications launched by Ministry of Power:

    • GrameenVidyutikaran (GARV) app to help citizens track rural electrification under DDUGJY.
    • VidyutPravah app to provide real time information of electricity price and availability
    •   URJA (Urban JyotiAbhiyaan) app for Urban Power Distribution Sector to enhance Consumer Connect, Project Monitoring of projects and providing information on the monthly performance on parameters like Consumer complaints redressal, Release of New service connection etc.
    • E-Tarang app to monitor the real time status of Transmission System.
    • E-Trans app to help in better price discovery in respect of Inter State Transmission projects.
    • Logistic Efficiency Enhancement Programme (LEEP):
    • The programme is aimed at enhancing the freight transportation in India through improving cost, time, tracking and transferability of consignments through infrastructure, procedural and Information Technology (IT) interventions.
    • The parks are expected to serve four key functions – freight aggregation and distribution, multimodal freight movement, storage and warehousing, and value-added services such as custom clearances.

    Kaushal Panjee:

    • Kaushal Panjee (Skill Register) is a mobilisation platform for skill development.
    • The skill register aims to be citizen centric end-to-end solution to aid mobilization of candidates for DeenDayalUpadhyayaGrameenKaushalyaYojana (DDU-GKY) and Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETI).
    • It facilitates mobilization through Self Help Group members, Gram Panchayat Functionaries, Block Officials, and Common Service Centres and directly by the candidate.
    • RSETIs and DDU-GKY Partners can access the Kaushal Panjee to connect with the mobilized rural youth.
    • Kaushal Panjee is connected to the Social Economic Caste Census 2011 which will help the States plan and target their mobilizations based on the socio-economic profile of households in their State.

    Government approves mechanism for sale of enemy shares

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved a mechanism for sale of enemy shares which at the current price is estimated at around Rs 3,000 crore.
    • Sale proceeds are to be deposited as disinvestment proceeds in the government account maintained by the Ministry of Finance. The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management has been authorised to sell the shares.
    • A total number of 6,50,75,877 shares in 996 companies of 20,323 shareholders are under the custody of Custodian of Enemy Property of India (CEPI).
    • The decision will lead to monetisation of movable enemy property lying dormant for decades and the proceeds will be used for development and social welfare programmes.

    Enemy properties:

    • Enemy properties were those left behind by the people who took citizenship of Pakistan and China. There are 9,280 properties left behind by Pakistani nationals and 126 properties which belonged to Chinese nationals, a ministry official said.
    • The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.
    • A list of all vested enemy properties (movable and immovable) shall be prepared by the custodian for its submission to the Central government within three months from the publication of this order.
    • For the purpose of valuation of the immovable enemy property, a valuation committee will be constituted at the district level with the district magistrate as the chairman besides two other official members.
    • The committee shall consider the circle rate of the area where the property is situated or a rate fixed by the district administration as a mode of valuation of the property along with other valuation modes.
    • The custodian will prepare and submit the state-wise list of the enemy properties along with their valuation to the Central government within one month from the date of receipt of the valuation report from the valuation committee.
    • mong the 9,280 properties left behind by Pakistani nationals, the highest 4,991 properties are located in Uttar Pradesh followed by West Bengal which has 2,735 such estates. There are 487 such properties in Delhi. Among the 126 properties left behind by Chinese nationals, the highest 57 are located in Meghalaya followed by West Bengal with 29.

    Global Cooling Innovation Summit, New Delhi

    Why in News?

    • Two-day summit will be inaugurated by Union Science & Technology Ministry in New Delhi.
    • The Summit is a first-of-its-kind solutions-focused event that will bring together leaders from around the world to explore means and pathways to address the climate threat that comes from the growing demand from room air conditioners.

    Global Cooling Prize:

    • The Global Cooling Prize – Mission Innovation challenge aims to spur development of a residential cooling solution that has at least five times (5x) less climate impact than today’s standard.
    • It is a competition with global reach and participation to achieve dramatic breakthroughs in cooling technologies.
    • The competition aims to develop a cooling technology that requires radically less energy to operate, utilizes refrigerants with no ozone depletion potential and with low global warming potential, and has the potential to be cost-effective at scale.

    Global IT Challenge for Youth with Disabilities, 2018

    GS 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

    Why in News?

    • The event is being organised by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

    Highlights of the event:

    • India is hosting the event in collaboration with Government of Korea and Rehabilitation International (RI).
    • The Global IT Challenge for disability is a capacity building project that helps youth with disabilities to overcome their limitations and challenges for a better future through access to ICT.
    • It will alleviate the digital divide and expand participation of youth with disabilities in the society.
    • It propagates implementation of United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – Article 21 relates to access to information.
    • The competition will be held on the following aspects:-
    • E-tool (competition on application of MS-Excel, MS-Word etc) – individual event
    • E-life map challenge (ability to respond to specific situation) – individual event
    • E-creative (ability to create animated story or game) – group event (country wise)
    • E-content (ability to make video) – group event (country wise)

    Participation:

    • About 100 youth with disabilities in the age group of 13-21 years in the category of visual disability, hearing disability, locomotors disability and developmental disorder from 18 will participate.
    • These youths with disabilities have been selected on the basis of National IT Challenge conducted through National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra in June, 2018.

    ICT for the Divyangjans:

    • There are about 1 billion i.e. about 15% of the world population persons with disabilities.
    • Majority of this population live in developing countries with low ICT development indexes.
    • Because of this information divide, persons with disabilities are being excluded from society suffering inequality and poverty.
    • The Global IT Challenge was initially designed to enhance the information utilisation skill of youths with disabilities and to encourage their social participation.
    • The event started in the year 1992 in Korea. Subsequently it expanded to the neighbouring countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region and since 2011 it has become a global event.

    The Key Initiatives of Government

    GS 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

    NaiManzil:

    • It aims to engage constructively with Poor Minority youth and help them obtain sustainable and gainful employment opportunities that can facilitate them to be integrated with mainstream economic activities.
    • Integrated Skill Training is being provided to the youth in market driven skills.
    • The other objectives include, raise awareness and sensitization in health and life skills, Mobilize school dropout minority youths with formal education and certification upto level 8th or 10th through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) or other State open schooling systems.
    • It was launched for the first time in J&K in 2016, where girls from minority communities are being imparted three-month skill development training in seven identified sectors relevant to the region.

    DeendayalUpadhyay Gram JyotiYojana (DDUGJY):

    • It is the flagship programme of Ministry of Power to provide 24X7 power supply to rural areas.
    • It focuses on feeder separation (rural households & agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission & distribution infrastructure including metering at all levels in rural areas.
    • his will help in providing round the clock power to rural households and adequate power to agricultural consumers.
    • Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana (RGGVY) has been subsumed in it.
    • Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) – It isto provide 24×7 power supply in the urban area.
    • Remote Village Electrification Programme (RVEP) is a scheme implemented by Ministry of New & Renewable energy in various states to provide basic lighting through Renewable Energy Sources in unelectrified villages and hamlets of electrified census villages.

    Ayurveda Day

    Why in News?

    •  Ministry of AYUSH observes Ayurveda Day every year on Dhanawantari Jayanti (Dhanteras).

    Ayurveda Day:

    • This year Ayurveda Day was observed on 5th November 2018.
    • On this occasion, Ministry also organised a “National Seminar on Entrepreneurship and Business Development in Ayurveda” in association with NITI Aayog.
    • The seminar is expected to develop awareness among stakeholders about the business opportunities, encouraging young entrepreneurs to use of modern technologies and modern innovations in business development in the sector and to highlight opportunities at a global level.

    AYUSH-Health Management Information System (A-HMIS):

    • It is a dedicated software application for Electronic Health Record (EHR) for the AYUSH systems of Healthcare.
    • A-HIMS was launched across 15 AYUSH units in different parts of the country in the first phase on 5th November 2018.
    • It is expected to revolutionise the way Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy are practised in the country, by inducting modern IT-solutions into these systems.

    UTS on Mobile

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of Railways has introduced Unreserved Mobile Ticketing with a view to promote three C’s– Cashless transactions, Contact less ticketing and Customer convenience and experience.

    UTS on Mobile:

    • Booking of unreserved tickets on all non-suburban sections across all Zonal Railways has been made available from November , 1st.
    • It enables seamless booking of unreserved tickets all over Indian Railways which will obviate the need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing the tickets.
    • The facility of booking unreserved tickets, including season tickets and also platform tickets is available through the ‘UTSONMOBILE’ app available for Android, IOS and Windows phones.

    Details of the app:

    • ‘UTSONMOBILE’ application is available for Android, IOS, Windows phones and can be downloaded from Google play or window store.
    • It is developed by Indian Railway- CRIS.

    Features:

    • The process of ticket booking involves downloading the application and registration by furnishing the requisite details.
    • After successful registration, the user is given credentials to book ticket through this application within the ticketing area and outside the Geo-fenced area.
    • Geo-fenced area is station premises and train route within which ticket cannot be booked.
    • The facility of making payment through all types of digital modes i.e. debit card, credit card, net-banking, UPI and other e-wallets has been introduced.

    Benefits:

    • Mobile Ticketing shall promote 3C’s- Cashless transactions, Contact less ticketing and Customer convenience.
    • Seamless booking of unreserved tickets all over Indian Railways.
    • Obviate the need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing the tickets and enhance the experience for booking unreserved tickets – journey, season tickets, platform tickets.
    • Environment friendly.

    1st Annual Senior Care Conclave

    Why in News?

    • The ‘1st Annual Senior Care Conclave’ was recently organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
    • The event marked release of a CII Report “Igniting Potential in Senior Care Services”.
    • It urged corporates to explore opportunities of investment in the emerging field of Senior Care.

    Healthcare inititatives for Ageing Population:

    • The National Programme for the Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE) addresses various health related issues of the elderly.
    • The programme is State oriented and basic thrust of the programme is to provide dedicated health care facilities to the senior citizens (>60 year of age) at various levels.
    • The basic aim of the NPHCE Programme is to provide dedicated, specialized and comprehensive health care to the senior citizens at various levels of state health care delivery system including outreach services.
    • Preventive and promotive care, management of illness, health manpower development for geriatric services, medical rehabilitation & therapeutic intervention and IEC are some of the strategies envisaged in the NPHCE.
    • The NPHCE was launched in 100 identified districts of 21 States and Eight Regional Geriatrics Centres in selected medical colleges as referral units during the 11th Plan period.
    • Two National Centres for Ageing (NCA) in AIIMS Delhi and Madras Medical College, Chennai have been sanctioned to be developed as centres of excellence for geriatrics.

    Vehicle Location Tracking Devices and Emergency Buttons to be mandatory

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has mandated that all new public service vehicles except auto rickshaws and eRickshaws, registered on and after 1st January 2019, will have to be equipped with Vehicle Location Tracking (VLT) with emergency buttons.
    • In case of older public service vehicles –those registered up to 31″December, 2018, the respective State/ UT Governments will notify the date by which these vehicles have to install them.

    VLT Command Centres:

    • Command and Control Centres will be setup by the State or VLT manufacturers or any other agency authorised by the State Government.
    • These centres will provide interface to various stakeholders such as state emergency response centre, the transport department or RTOs, Transport Ministry, device manufacturers and their authorised dealers, testing agencies, permit holders, etc.
    • These centres will also provide feed to the VAHAN data base or the relevant data base of the State with regard to the over speeding, device health status.
    • The details of each VLT device will be uploaded on the VAHAN database by the VLT device manufacturer using its secured authenticated access.

    More thrust on VLTs:

    • The VLT device manufacturers or their authorised dealers will install the VLT devices in public service vehicles and register the devices along with details of vehicle on the corresponding backend systems in real-time.
    • The public service vehicle owners have to ensure that the VLT devices installed in their vehicles are in working condition and regularly send required data to the corresponding backend system through cellular connectivity.
    • VLT device manufacturers will get their devices tested for conformity of production every year after the first certification, from the testing agencies referred to in rule 126 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules,1989.
    • The State or Union Territories will publish Internet Protocol address (IP address) and Short Message Service Gateway (SMS gateway) details of their respective emergency response system.

    INDIA TO RECEIVE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S TOP ENERGY POLICY PRIZE

    Why in News?

    • Minister of Railways and Coal will receive the University of Pennsylvania’s top prize in energy policy for his leadership in reforming India’s power sector through various initiatives.

    Carnot Prize:

    • The Carnot Prize is intended to honour those leading revolutions in energy policy to further progress and prosperity.
    • The ministry is being recognised for directing a fast-track effort to electrify 18,000 villages in remote parts of India, helping bridge the country’s vast energy divide. The Carnot Prize is named in memory of French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which is recognised as the first statement of what, is now known as the second law of thermodynamics.
    • Carnot recognised that the power of the steam engine would produce a great revolution in human development.

    Recognizing Indian efforts:

    • The 2018 Carnot Prize is a recognition of India’s efforts, as the nation charts the path towards eliminating energy poverty with sustainable energy solutions.
    • The rural electrification drive gave a significant breakthrough to the mission of ‘24×7 Affordable, Environment Friendly Power for all’, as India eliminated decades of darkness in more than 19,000 villages April, 2018.
    • With the Saubhagya Programme, the last-mile connectivity to every household in the villages is being fast tracked, with 51% of the 3.1 crore rural households electrified.
    • The massive thrust to green energy is reflected in India’s 175 GW target by 2022, being the world’s largest renewable expansion programme with 72 GW already achieved.
    • As solar and wind energy market prices achieve parity in India with record low tariffs, renewables are set to become the mainstay of development in the coming years.
    • With the vision of “one world, one sun, one grid” of PM Modi India is playing its role as a committed solar leader through steady progress on all green energy goals.
    • In the last four years, energy efficiency has become a people’s movement in India, making the Government’s UJALA scheme the world’s largest LED distribution programme.
    • Along with private sector participation, 130 crore LED bulbs have been distributed, making India brighter and cleaner.

    KEY INITIATIVES OF GOVERNMENT

    National Biopharma Mission:

    • The mission is aimed at accelerating biopharmaceutical development in a bid to create a globally competitive biopharmaceutical industry.
    • It is targeted to increase India ‘s share in the global biopharmaceutical market to 5 per cent from the current 2.8 per cent.
    • This brings together industry and academia to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the bio-pharmaceutical sector.
    • The mission will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
    • It is expected to bring together expertise from national and international corridors to provide strategic guidance and direction to move promising solutions through the product development value chain.
    • The flagship program is run in collaboration with the World Bank and will be implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public-Sector Enterprise set up by DBT.

    SANKALP and STRIVE:

    • Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) aimed at providing market relevant training to youths across the country.
    • Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) aimed at improving the quality and the market relevance of vocational training provided in ITIs.
    • The project will also strengthen the apprenticeship programme through industry-cluster approach.

    Both Schemes are under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and supported by World Bank loan assistance.

    • The two schemes will help in setting up national body for vocational education – Vocational Education and Training (VET).
    • VET shall regulate accreditation and certification in both long and short term thereby bringing about uniformity in vocational training.
    • SANKALP is a centrally sponsored scheme and STRIVE is a central sector scheme.

    Portal PENCIL:

    • PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) is an electronic platform for no child labour developed by the Labour Ministry.
    • The portal creates a robust implementing and monitoring mechanism for enforcement of the legislative provisions of National Child Labour Policy (NCLP).
    • Since the subject of labour is in the concurrent list, the enforcement of the policy depends on respective state governments.
    • This online portal aims to connect the Centre to the state government, district and to all project societies for effective implementation of NCLP.
    • The portal has a component of child tracking system.

    Atal Tinkering Labs:

    • Niti Aayog brainchild Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has selected additional 1,500 schools across the country to establish Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs).
    • ATLs are play workspaces fitted with state-of-the-art technologies like 3D printers, robotics, sensor technology kits, Internet of things (IoT), miniaturised electronics.
    • The labs are designed to spur the spark of creativity, and go beyond regular curriculum and text book learning.
    • AIM will enhance the coverage of ATLs to over 98 per cent smart cities and 93 per cent districts.
    • The addition of these schools will give a major boost to realise the vision of the mission to cultivate one million children in India as the innovators of tomorrow.

    Main Nahin Hum Portal and App:

    • PM Modi has launched the “Main Nahin Hum” Portal and App for IT Professionals.

    It works on the theme “Self4Society”

    The portal will enable IT professionals and organizations to bring together their efforts towards social causes, and service to society, on one platform.

    • The portal is expected to help catalyse greater collaboration towards the service of the weaker sections of society, especially by leveraging the benefits of technology.
    • It is also expected to generate wider participation of interested people who are motivated to work for the benefit of society.

    SRISTI:

    • SRISTI – Sustainable Rooftop Implementation for Solar Transfiguration of India is a proposed scheme by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
    • The proposed scheme will incentivise the installation of roof top solar projects in India.
    • It aims to achieve a national solar rooftop target of 40 GW by 2021-22.
    • Under SRISTI, a central financial assistance will be provided only for installation of roof top solar plants in residential sectors.
    • Once approved, the concept will acts as a basis for phase – II of solar rooftop power programme.

    Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS):

    • The scheme aims to provide a special incentive package to boost domestic electronic product manufacturing sector and move towards Union Government ‘s goal of Net Zero imports’ in electronics by 2020.
    • It promotes large scale manufacturing in the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector by:
    • Providing subsidy for capital expenditure upto 20% for investment in SEZ and 25% in non-SEZs.
    • Providing reimbursement of duties and central taxes for projects with high capital investments.
    • The incentives will be available for investments made within 5 years from the date of approval of the project.
    • Unit receiving incentive will provide undertaking to remain in commercial production for at least 3 years.

    Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK):

    • The scheme entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions to an absolutely free and no expense delivery including C- section.
    • All expenses are borne by the government.
    • A pregnant woman is also entitled to free transport from home to the government health facility.
    • Entitlements include free drugs and consumables, free diagnostic, free blood, free diet up to 3 days for normal delivery and 7 days for C-section.
    • Similar entitlements have been put in place for all sick newborns accessing public health institutions for healthcare till 30 days after birth.
    • It also provides for free transport from home to institution, between facilities in case of a referral and drop back home.
    • This initiative will also help in reducing maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.

    IMPRESS scheme:

    • Union HRD Ministry has launched the web portal of IMPRESS scheme with an aim to build a research ecosystem in educational institutions.

    The scheme:

    • The objective of Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences (IMPRESS) is to identify and fund research proposals in social sciences with maximum impact on the governance and society.
    • The Indian Council of Social Science and Research (ICSSR) will be the project implementing agency.
    • Provide an opportunity for social science researchers in any institution in the country which includes all universities (central and state) and also a few private institutions meeting the requirement.
    • It will focus on broad thematic areas such as state and democracy, urban transformation; media, culture and society; employment, skills and rural transformation; governance; innovation and public policy; macro-trade and economic policy and social media and technology.
    • The scheme will be implemented till March, 2021.

    Cyber swachhta Kendra:

    • It is a malware analysis centre aims to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections in India and to notify, enable cleaning and securing systems of end-users to prevent further infections.
    • The systems will be scanned by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) for free of all those users who register to the CSK website.
    • This centre will work in coordination with the internet service providers (ISPs) and Industry.
    • This Kendra will also enhance awareness among citizens regarding botnet and malware infection along with measures to be taken to secure their devices.
    • It is part of Digital India initiative

    Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana:

    • The Cabinet Committee has approved the renaming of SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) as “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana.
    • It is the new Central Sector Scheme that aims to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease Agriculture waste.
    • The implementation period of the scheme is 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle.
    • It is a comprehensive package to give a renewed thrust to the food processing sector in the country.
    • The implementation of this scheme will result in creation of modern infrastructure, growth of food processing sector and providing better prices to the farmers.

    ELECTORAL BOND SCHEME 2018

    Why in news?

    • Government of India has notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018.

    Provisions of the scheme:

    • Electoral Bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. A person can buy Electoral Bonds either singly or jointly with other individuals.
    • Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
    • The Electoral Bonds shall be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account.State Bank of India has been authorised to issue and encash Electoral Bonds. Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue.

    Benefits:

    • Transparency in electoral funding
    • Cashless transactions
    • Easy and Quick medium of electoral donations

    Terms and Conditions:

    • It may be noted that Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue. No payment shall be made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period.
    • The Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day.

     

    CVC OBSERVES VIGILANCE AWARENESS WEEK 2018

    Why in News?

    • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) observes the Vigilance Awareness Week every year during the week in which the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (31st October) falls with the theme this year will be “Eradicate Corruption-Build a New India.
    • This year the event seeks to motivate stakeholders to collectively participate in the fight against corruption and also aims at raising public awareness regarding the consequences of corruption.

    Awareness activities:

    • Activities to be conducted include taking of the Integrity Pledge by all employees.
    • A new feature is the establishment of ‘Integrity Clubs’ in schools and colleges to cultivate ethical values in the leaders of tomorrow.
    • “Awareness Gram Sabhas” are also organized for dissemination of awareness in Gram Panchayats to sensitize the rural citizens about the ill-effects of corruption.
    • In 2017, 67,131 such Gram Sabhas were organized during the Vigilance Awareness Week.
    • Seminars, discussions and other outreach events are also organized involving the private sector, professional associations, trade unions and associations for wide participation of all sections of civil society.
    • Organizations also conduct activities with high visibility and public appeal such as walkathons, marathons, cycle rallies, human chains, street plays and other public functions in various cities and towns across the country.

    Central Vigilance Commission (CVC):

    • It is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption. In 2003, the Parliament enacted a law conferring statutory status on the CVC.
    • It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority, charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India.
    • It advises various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.

    NATIONAL MONITORING FRAMEWORK ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the constitution of a High-Level Steering Committee for periodically reviewing and refining the National Indicator Framework (NIF) for monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with associated targets.

    Highlights:

    • Measures to mainstream SDGs into on-going national policies, programmes and strategic action plans to address the developmental challenges.
    • Statistical indicators of NIF will be the backbone of monitoring of SDGs at the national and state level and will scientifically measure the outcomes of the policies to achieve the targets under different SDGs.
    • Based on statistical indicator, the MoSPI will bring out national reports on implementation of SDGs.
    • The Report will facilitate assessment of progress, identify challenges and give recommendations for follow up at the national level.
    • High Level Steering Committee will review the National Indicator Framework on regular basis for its improvement.
    • Data source Ministries / Departments will be responsible for providing regular information to MoSPI on these indicators at required intervals and disaggregation for national and sub-national reporting of SDGs.
    • Advanced IT tools will be used for close and effective monitoring.

    Major impact:

    • SDGs integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. It intends eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world with basic motto of ‘SabkaSaathSabkaVikash’. SDGs with 17 Goals and 169 Targets intend for promotion of sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems. NIF will help in outcome-based monitoring & reporting on progress on SDGs at National level.

    Sustainable Development Goals:

    • The UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years.
    • The 17 SDGs came into force with effect from 1stJanuary, 2016.
    • They are not legally binding; the SDGs have become de facto international obligations and have potential to reorient domestic spending priorities of the countries during the next fifteen years.Countries are expected to take ownership and establish a national framework for achieving these Goals. Implementation and success will rely on countries’ own sustainable development policies, plans and programmes. Countries would be responsible for follow-up and review at the national level, with regard to the progress made in implementing the Goals and targets. Actions at the national level to monitor progress under SDGs will require quality, accessible and timely data.

    TRANSFORMATION OF ASPIRATIONAL DISTRICT PROGRAMME

    Why in News?

    • The ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ initiative aims to remove this heterogeneity through a mass movement to quickly and effectively transform these districts.

    Highlights:

    • It aims to quickly and effectively transform some of India’s most underdeveloped districts.
    • It will identify areas of immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
    • The broad ideas of the programme include –
      • Convergence of central and state schemes
      • Collaboration of central, state level ‘prabhari’ (in-charge) officers and district collectors
      • Competition among districts
      • The states are the main drivers in the programme.
      • Deliberately, the districts have been described as aspirational rather than backward
    • The motive is to view them as areas of opportunity and hope rather than of distress and hopelessness.

     

    Districts selection:

    • The 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government.
    • This was in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index.
    • The parameters included are –
    • Deprivation enumerated under Socio-Economic Caste Census
    • Key health and education performance indicators
    • State of basic infrastructure

    Progress monitoring:

    • NITI Aayog in partnership with the government of Andhra Pradesh has created a dashboard.
    • Monitoring the real-time progress of the districts.
    • District collectors of all the aspirational districts can input the latest available data of their respective district
    • The dashboard will also be open to the public

    Significance of ADP:

    • This is the first time India’s most backward districts are being focussed.
    • ADP is a better vision of how public services are best delivered to those who need them the most. Achieving success in this programme necessitates the contribution of all 3 tiers of government. ADP takes the principle of competitive federalism down to district administrations.
    • This will bring new ideas and fresh energy from non-government institutions, to join the “official” efforts. With real time data in ADP, those on the ground level can alter strategies after accurate feedback.
    • The ADP reorients how government does its business of delivering development.

     

    Prabhari Officer:

    • Each district has a prabhari (in-charge) officer:
      •   Assigned from the Centre (of additional secretary or joint secretary rank)
      •   Assigned from the State (of the rank of Secretary to State government)

    NITI LECTURE SERIES

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog is organizing the fourth edition of NITI Lecture Series with theme this year is “AI for ALL: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Inclusive Growth”.

    NITI Lecture Series:

    • The ‘NITI Lectures: Transforming India’ are being held annually since 2016 featuring eminent speakers from across the world.
    • The aim of the series is to enable learning, both at the Centre & States, from successful development practice world over.
    • With the vision of disseminating cutting-edge, innovative ideas in development policy to India, the NITI Lectures are attended by the Government’s top decision makers.
    • Through the lectures, NITI Aayog has been bringing policy makers, academics, experts and administrators of global repute to India.

    AI ecosystem in India:

    • Union Budget-2018 mandated NITI Aayog to come up with a national programme on employing AI towards national development.
    • NITI has, since, published a National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
    • The Strategy is termed #AIForAll as it is focused on leveraging AI for inclusive growth in line with the Government policy of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
    • NITI Aayog has signed Statements of Intent (SoI) with industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft and IBM to enable use of artificial intelligence in key, high gain sectors of social development – healthcare, agriculture, smart mobility, education and infrastructure.
    • Example: India’s diversity of languages is bridged by creating a AI based digital “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat” platform using Natural Language Processing (NLP).
    • NLP is a system of protocols which allow machines or computers to understand and interact with human speech and symbols.

    Focus on R&D:

    • Recognising the importance of research and its commercial adoption in success of AI, NITI has also proposed setting up of Centre of Research Excellence (CORE).
    • It aims to focus on developing better understanding of existing core research.
    • Besides this, the Aayog also recommends setting up of International Centres of Transformational AI with a mandate to develop and deploy application-based research in collaboration with private players.

    Hurdles for AI in India:

    • Aiming to put AI to use for all and across sectors, NITI has identified barriers that need to be addressed to achieve success in the use of AI.
    • These include lack of expertise, absence of enabling data ecosystem, high resource cost and low awareness, privacy and security issues and absence of collaborative approach to adoption and application of AI.

    WATER DISINFECTION SYSTEM “ONEERTM”

    Why in News?

    • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) has developed a Drinking Water Disinfection System with trade name OneerTM.

    OneerTM:

    • It is useful for continuous treatment of water and eliminates all disease-causing pathogens such as virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and cyst.
    • It provides safe drinking water to domestic and communities settings as per National and International standards prescribed for potable water (BIS, WHO etc.).
    • It will provide access to safe and clean drinking water at a cost of just 2 Paise / Ltr.

    Significance of the development:

    • A large proportion of India’s rural community is consuming water that does not meet the WHO drinking water quality standards.
    • According to the World Health Organization, access to safe drinking-water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection.
    • The Community level model is of 450 LPH capacities which can be scaled up to 5000 to 1 lakh L/day; and is also maintenance and membrane free.
    • The technology will be helpful especially for rural people since it can be solar powered and this development is in line with the ‘Make in India’ Mission.

    POCSO Act

    Why in News?

    • The government has clarified that there is no time bar on reporting crimes related to child sexual abuse.
    • Survivors of child sexual abuse can file a police complaint after they become adults.
    • The WCD Ministry has recently consulted Ministry of Law in view of the overriding provisions of the POCSO Act over other criminal laws and provisions of mandatory reporting of such offences.

    No time limit for reporting cases under POCSO Act:

    • The POCSO Act does not provide for any period of limitation for reporting the child sexual offences.
    • Now any victim, at any age, can complain the sexual abuse faced by him/her as a child.
    • Ministry urged the victims to report the cases through POCSO e-Box.

    Need for the move?

    • Children are often unable to report such crimes as the perpetrator in most cases is either a family member, a relative or closely known person.
    • Studies have also shown that the child continues to carry the trauma of sexual abuse till very late in life.
    • In order to overcome this trauma many grown up people have started coming out to report the abuse faced by them as children.

    Significance:

    • This is an important step for survivors of child abuse, who may try to file a complaint as adults but are turned away at police stations.
    • The development assumes significance after considering the fact that on many occasions children are unable to report crimes that they suffered as the perpetrator in many cases happens to be from the family itself or any other known person. Several cases have been reported where the victims have grown up and understood the crime.

    POCSO Act:

    • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), Act 2012, came into force on 14.11.2012. It is a gender neutral Act which has been enacted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.The POCSO Act, 2012 defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.

    Strategic Petroleum Reserves

    Why in News?

    • India is planning to forge partnerships with private players to build out its strategic petroleum reserves within the coming year. It is seeking $1.5 billion of investments from global oil producers and traders to build additional emergency crude reserves that will act as a buffer against volatility in oil prices.
    • The plan is to build underground caverns that can hold a combined 6.5 million tons of crude at two locations.

    SPR and Facilities so far:

    • India has built 5.33 million tons of underground reserves in three locations, including Padur, under an earlier phase that can meet 9.5 days of the country’s oil needs. The government purchased crude to fill the caverns in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and half of another facility in Mangalore in Karnataka, while leasing out the other half to Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.
    • Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves, which was formed in 2006, is scouting investors to fill the caverns at Padur. It will hold roadshows in New Delhi, Singapore and London this month to draw investors for the new caverns as well as filling the Padur facility.

    Need for strategic oil reserves:

    • In 1990, as the Gulf war engulfed West Asia, India was in the throes of a major energy crisis. By all accounts India’s oil reserves at the time were adequate for only three days. While India managed to avert the crisis then, the threat of energy disruption continues to present a real danger even today. It is unlikely that India’s energy needs will dramatically
    • move away from fossil fuels in the near future. Over 80% of these fuels come from imports, a majority of which is sourced from West Asia. This is a major strategic risk and poses a massive financial drain for an embattled economy and its growing current account deficit.
    • To address energy insecurity, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government mooted the concept of strategic petroleum reserves in 1998. Today, with India consuming upwards of four million barrels of crude every day (January 2015 figures), the case for creating such reserves grows stronger.

    SPR programme:

    • To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi).
    • These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions. In the 2017-18 budget, it was announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase. The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

    #SELF4SOCIETY APP & ASK DISHA

    Why in News?

    • #Self4Society app, developed by MyGov, has been launched by the government to help coordinate volunteer work undertaken by professionals.

    #Self4Society App:

    • This platform will help to create better synergies among so many CSR and other initiatives and lead to a much better outcome of the efforts of professionals.
    • Companies have observed that a spirit of service and volunteering improves employee satisfaction and reduces employee attrition.
    • The app will have incentives, gamification and intra- and inter-company competitions, and social networking.
    • The volunteer time for the government’s flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat is expected to increase.
    • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot– Ask Disha ((Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime) to help its users answer various queries.

    Ask Disha:

    • The chatbot is special computer programme designed to simulate conversation with users, especially over the internet.
    • The first-of-its-kind initiative by IRCTC is aimed at facilitating accessibility by answering users’ queries pertaining to various services offered to railway passengers.
    • The chatbot is voice enabled and will support several regional languages in the near future. It will offer greatly improved and intuitive customer support by answering customer queries pertaining to all aspects of the services that IRCTC provides.
    • The essential features of AskDisha include ability to quickly answer to customer queries, ability to provide round-the-clock customer support, ability to multitask, zero waiting
    • time for query to get answered and overall ability to provide customer with stress-free experience and overall customer satisfaction.

    PRADHAN MANTRI BHARTIYA JANAUSHADHI PARIYOJANA

    Why in News?

    • The Union Home Ministry has inaugurated the two-day conference on “CCTNS–Good practices and Success Stories” organised by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).
    • Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS): The CCTNS is a project under Indian government for creating a comprehensive and integrated system for effective policing through e-Governance.
    • The system includes nationwide online tracking system by integrating more than 15,000 police stations across the country. The project is implemented by National Crime Records Bureau.
    • The concept of CCTNS was first conceived in the year 2008 by the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai attacks.

    Functioning of CCTNS:

    • CCTNS aims to integrate all the data and records of crime into a Core Application Software (CAS), which is presently spreading across 29 states and 7 union territories of India.
    • CAS was developed by the Bangalore based IT firm, Wipro.
    • It needs to integrate different software and platforms followed by different states and to digitise records of those states which have not digitized their police records.
    • The project also involves training of police personnel and setting up of citizen portal to provide services to citizens.
    • CAS was developed by the Bangalore based IT firm, Wipro.
    • It needs to integrate different software and platforms followed by different states and to digitise records of those states which have not digitized their police records.
    • The project also involves training of police personnel and setting up of citizen portal to provide services to citizens.

    WEB PORTAL OF THE SCHEME FOR PROMOTION OF ACADEMIC AND RESEARCH COLLABORATION (SPARC)

    Why in news?

    • The Govt. in August 2018 had sanctioned the SPARC scheme with IIT Kharagpur as the National Coordinating Institute to implement the SPARC programme.

    SPARC Portal:

    SPARC scheme aims at improving the research ecosystem of India’s higher educational institutions by facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions and the best institutions in the world.

    • Under this Scheme, 600 joint research proposals will be awarded for 2 years to facilitate strong research collaboration between Indian research groups with the best in class faculty and renowned research groups in the leading universities of the world.
    • The collaboration will conduct research in areas that are at the cutting edge of science or with direct social relevance to the mankind, specifically India.

    Salient Features of SPARC Scheme:

    • This scheme will improve research ecosystem of India’s higher educational institutions by facilitating academic and research collaborations/
    • The Indian institutions will include those from top-100 or category-wise top-100 in NIRF (including such Private Institutions which are recognized under 12(B) of UGC Act)].
    • The foreign institutions will be from top-500 overall and top-200 subject-wise institutions listed in QS World University Ranking) from 28 selected nations.
    • As per the criteria mentioned above, 254 top Indian Institutes and 478 top ranked global Institutes have been already identified.

    Areas of the Research:

    • A set of 5 Thrust Areas has been identified for collaboration under SPARC.
    • They are Fundamental Research, Emergent Areas of Impact, Convergence, Action-Oriented Research and Innovation-Driven. Each Thrust Area will have a Section Chair. The role of Section Chair of each Thrust Area is to review shortlist and recommend the potential joint-proposals submitted under SPARC scheme.
    • The role of a Nodal Institutions will be to help, handhold and coordinate with willing Participating Indian (PI) Institutions to forge alliance with the Institutions of concerned participating foreign country.

    Academic Activities under SPARC:

    • SPARC proposes to enable productive academic cooperation by supporting the following critical components that can catalyse impact making research:
      • Visits and long-term stay of top international faculty/researchers in Indian institutions to pursue teaching and research,
      • Visits by Indian students for training and experimentation in premier laboratories worldwide
      • Joint development of niche courses, world-class books and monographs, translatable patents, demonstrable technologies or action-oriented research outcomes and products
      • Publication, Dissemination and Visibility through a high profile annual international conference in India.

    INDIA WINS COMMONWEALTH ASSOCIATION FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT AWARD

    Why in News?

    • India’s Unnayan Banka and Unified Agriculture Markets initiatives have won the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) award.

    Details of the award-winning Initiatives:

    • The initiative entitled “Unnayan Banka- Reinventing Education Using Technology of Banka District, State of Bihar has been awarded under the Category “Innovation Incubation”. “Unnayan Banka” is an initiative which envisages “Quality education for all’ especially for those at the bottom of the Pyramid, using latest technologies. It’s a holistic model of overall development of youths from Education to Employability. Another initiative entitled “Unified Agriculture Markets” of Co-operation Department of Government of Karnataka has also been selected under the Category ‘Innovation in Public Service Management’.
    • This initiative has also been awarded the overall Gold Award for CAPAM Awards, 2018.

    CAPAM Awards:

    • CAPAM is a non-profit association representing an international network of over 1100 senior public servants, Heads of Government, leading academics and researchers located in over 50 different countries across the Commonwealth.
    • The association is guided by international leaders who believe in the value of networking, knowledge exchange and the promotion of good governance for the betterment of citizens in the Commonwealth countries. CAPAM has been announcing its International Innovations Awards (IIA) Programme bi-annually, since 1998. The CAPAM Awards celebrate the spirit of innovation in the public service by recognizing organizations that have made significant contributions to improve governance and services in the public sector.

    PRADHAN MANTRI BHARTIYA JANAUSHADHI PARIYOJANA

    Why in News?

    • The Central Warehouse of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana at Bilaspur, Gurugram. It is setup by the Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI).

    Highlights:

    • The hi-tech Central Warehouse would facilitate seamless distribution of Jan Aushadhi generic medicines to all PMBJP Kendra functional across the country.
    • The Digital Cash Management System for Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), to be implemented as a partnership between BPPI and Bank of Baroda was inaugurated.
    • This System will be implemented at all PMBJP Kendras for purchasing medicines and cashless payment system with BPPI.

    PMBJP:

    • The Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pari yojana is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.

    PMBJK:

    • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra (PMBJK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.

    BPPI:

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

    Saubhagya scheme

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of Power and New & Renewable Energy has announced an award scheme under Saubhagya to felicitate the DISCOMs / Power Department of the States and their employees for achieving 100% household electrification in their area of operations. It includes cash prize and certificate of appreciation.

    Significance of the Scheme:

    • Providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural areas
    • Providing Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) based standalone system for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible villages / habitations, where grid extension is not feasible or cost effective.
    • Providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining economically poor un-electrified households in urban areas. Non-poor urban households are excluded from this scheme.
    • There are around 4 Crore un-electrified households in the country and they are targeted for providing electricity connections by December 2018.

    SAUBHAGYA Scheme:

    • Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – ‘Saubhagya’ was launched in September, 2017.
    • Under Saubhagya free electricity connections to all households (both APL and poor families) in rural areas and poor families in urban areas will be provided.
    • Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) has been designated as nodal agency for the Saubhagya scheme.
    • The scheme aims to achieve universal household electrification in all parts of the country at a cost of Rs 16,320 crore, including Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 12,320 crore from the government.
    • All DISCOMs including Private Sector DISCOMs, State Power Departments and RE Cooperative Societies shall be eligible for financial assistance under the scheme in line with DDUGJY.
    • The prospective beneficiary households for free electricity connections under the scheme would be identified using SECC 2011 data. However, un-electrified households not covered under SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill.

    Award scheme:

    • Awards would be provided for achieving 100% household electrification at DISCOM/Power Department level of the States. Eight States which have already achieved more than 99% household electrification prior to launch of Saubhagya (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu), are ineligible for participation under the award scheme. All the remaining States and their Discoms are eligible for the award.
    • Award will be given in three categories:
      • DISCOMs / Power Departments of Special Category States (which includes seven North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K and Uttarakhand)
      • DISCOMs / Power Departments of other than Special Category States (which includes Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh,Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) having more than 5 Lakh un-electrified households
      • DISCOMs / Power Departments of other than Special Category States having less than 5 Lakh un-electrified households.

    SWASTH BHARAT YATRA NATIONAL CAMPAIGN

    Why in News?

    • The Union Government has launched a national campaign ‘Swasth Bharat Yatra’ on occasion of World Food Day that is observed on 16 October to sensitise people about eating safe food and be healthy.
    • The campaign has been launched in association with states and led by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

    Swasth Bharat Yatra national campaign:

    • Under this campaign, a pan-India cycle rally is being organized to create consumer awareness about eating safe and nutritious food for becoming healthy and combating food adulteration.
    • In this rally, about 7,500 cyclists are expected to participate in over 18,000 km travelling across six tracks through almost every state and UT over 100 days to propagate a powerful message ‘Eat Right India’.
    • The cyclathon will culminate in the national capital on January 27, 2019.
    • This campaign will not only mobilise masses but also create a large pool of local community to sustain this movement.

    World Food Day:

    • World Food Day is celebrated on October 16 every year to raise awareness on the issues of poverty and hunger. World Food Day was established by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in November 1979 and since then the day is celebrated worldwide by many organisations that are concerned with food security.

    Revised CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws

    Why in News?

    • The Union HRD Ministry has released the new CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws to ensure speed, transparency, hassle-free procedures and ease of doing business with the CBSE.

    What is Bye-laws?

    • CBSE is a national level Board conducting examinations for Classes X and XII.
    • It affiliates schools across India and abroad upon fulfilment of various conditions as prescribed in its Affiliation Bye Laws.
    • The Affiliation Byelaws in position were first made in the year 1988 and were last modified in the year 2012.

    What’s special with new Bye-laws?

    • The new byelaws denote a major shift from the highly complex procedures followed earlier, to a simplified system based on preventing duplication of processes.
    • There is duplication of processes at CBSE and state government level.
    • For issuing recognition under RTE Act and NOC, the state education administration verifies various certificates to be obtained from local bodies, revenue department, cooperatives department, etc.
    • The CBSE re-verifies them after applications are received. This is very long drawn process.
    • Therefore, to prevent this duplication, schools will now be required to submit only two documents at the time of applying for affiliation, instead of 12-14 documents being submitted earlier.
    • These documents will include a document vetted by the head of district education administration validating all aspects such as building safety, sanitation, land ownership, etc, and a self-affidavit where the school would certify its adherence to fee norms, infrastructure norms, etc.

    Expected benefits:

    • As a result of this major change CBSE shall not revisit any of the aspects vetted by the state during inspection.
    • The delay due to scrutiny and non-compliance of deficiencies in these documents shall be drastically curtailed.

    Other major benefits include:

      • Inspection of schools will now be outcome-based and more academic and quality Outcome based Inspection
      • The inspection will focus on academic excellence and progress of students over time, innovations and quality of pedagogy, capacity of teachers and teacher training etc.
    • This will not only help the Board and the school to track students’ progress over time, but will also identify areas that would need further efforts.
      • The inspection will focus on academic excellence and progress of students over time, innovations and quality of pedagogy, capacity of teachers and teacher training etc.
      • This will not only help the Board and the school to track students’ progress over time, but will also identify areas that would need further efforts.

      Provision of mandatory training

      • The new affiliation bye laws also lay thrust on achieving academic excellence through mandatory teacher training.
      • Even the Principals and Vice Principals of every school are expected to undergo two days mandatory training on an annual basis.

      Focus on Innovation and Conservation

      • A special category of innovative schools has been added to include specialized schools which will implement innovative ideas in the fields of skill development, sports, arts, sciences, etc.
      • The byelaws encourage schools to promote environmental conservation through harnessing solar energy, rain water harvesting, greening of campus, recycling and segregation of waste, Swachhata on campus, etc.

      Ensures Transparency in Fee structures

      • Regarding fee, the provisions include full fee disclosure to be made and no hidden charges to be levied by schools in the garb of fees.
      • The byelaws clearly state that fee is to be charged as per the regulation of the government and fee revision shall be subject to laws, regulations and directions of the government.
      • Way Forward:
      • CBSE has 20783 schools affiliated to it in India and 25 other countries, with over 1.9 crore students in these schools, and more than 10 lakh teachers.
      • The revised bye laws will positively impact the existing and future schools by easing procedures and redirecting their focus towards improving the quality of education.

    National Policy on Electronics 2018

    Why in News?

    • Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued draft ‘National Policy on Electronics 2018’ (NPE 2018) for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) Sector of India.

    Highlights of the policy:

    • Aim: To promote domestic manufacturing in entire value-chain of ESDM sector for spur economic development in the country. It also aims to double the target of mobile phone production from 500 million units in 2019 to 1 billion by 2025 to meet objective.
    • Promoting ease-of-doing business for the entire electronic system design manufacturing or ESDM sector.
    • Encouraging industry-led research and development and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics.
    • The policy targets production of one billion mobile handsets by 2025
    • Push the start-up ecosystem in emerging technology areas.
    • Provision of suitable direct tax benefits.
    • Replacing the M-SIPS (Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme) with schemes that are easier to implement such as interest subsidy and credit default guarantee, etc.
    • The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) will “coordinate with the concerned ministries/departments to provide incentives to industry for rapid and robust expansion of electronics hardware manufacturing within the country.

    PROJECT ARYA

    Why in News?

    • To attract the youth of the country towards agriculture, a project called ‘Arya’ is being run through Krishi Vigyan Kendras and the Farmer Fest program.

    Highlights:

    • Skill development internships for youth are provided at the graduation level.
    • Startups in the fields of seed and plant production, food processing and post-mortgage management, veterinary, farm machinery, poultry, fish production, biological products and bioplasty. Implemented by ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

    Objectives:

    • To attract and empower the Youth in Rural Areas to take up various Agriculture, allied and service sector enterprises for sustainable income and gainful employment in selected districts, To enable the Farm Youth to establish network groups to take up resource and capital-intensive activities like processing, value addition and marketing, and
    • To demonstrate functional linkage with different institutions and stakeholders for convergence of opportunities available under various schemes/program for sustainable development of youth

    Online Assurances Monitoring System

    Why in News?

    • The union govt. has inaugurated the Online Assurances Monitoring System (OAMS), developed by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA).

    Online Assurances Monitoring System:

    • This system has made the information regarding assurances given on the floor of the Houses of Parliament paper less
    • It is available in digital format.
    • All assurances being culled out by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs through e-Office would be reflected on this system and various Ministries/Departments, Lok Sabha Secretariat and Rajya Sabha Secretariat would communicate for all purposes through this system.
    • This would encompass various actions related to Parliamentary Assurances including sending implementation reports, request for dropping, request for extension and decision thereon. Here after, physical communication would not be accepted.

    Imbibing Accountability:

    • With OAMS, all assurances being taken out by the Ministry through e-Office would be reflected on this system and various Ministries/Departments. This would encompass various actions related to Parliamentary Assurances including sending implementation reports, request for dropping, request for extension and decision thereon.
    • Hereafter, physical communication would not be accepted.

    Why need online monitoring of Assurances?

    • A number of problems arise in the process of fulfilment of assurances due to human factors and non-compliance of guidelines, making the process less transparent. Hence, the need arose for an online assurance monitoring system to track the exact status of pending assurances and expedite their fulfilment.
    • Since 2007, a total of 26,830 assurances given by the Ministers on the floor of the Houses were culled out by the MPA. Out of these 21,439 assurances have been fulfilled and 1,903 have been dropped, leaving a total of 3,488 assurances still pending for compliance.

    Beyond Dispute: The SBM Facts

    Why in News?

    • The Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) recently launched the 150th birth year celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, as the Mission enters its fifth and final year of implementation. The SBM has transformed into a massive Jan Andolan.
    • However, some recent reports have sought to undermine the progress made by the SBM on the ground, with incorrect claims. In this regard, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation presents the following clarifications highlighting the success of the mission.

    Imbibing Behaviour Change:

    • The SBM has shown tremendous progress these last 4 years leading to massive behaviour change campaign and people’s movement underway on the ground. Since the inception of the program, the rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39% in October 2014 to 95% today.
    • Nearly 8.7 crore household toilets have been constructed under the Mission.
    • As a result, 25 States/Union Territories, 529 districts, and 5,09,067 villages have declared themselves as free from open defecation.

    Flagged by World Bank:

    • The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) conducted under the World Bank support project found that 93.4% of the households in rural India who have access to a toilet use it.
    • It confirmed that behaviour change is happening on the ground.
    • The survey covered 92040 households in 6136 villages across States and UTs in India.

    Seamless Funding:

    • The Swachh Bharat Mission is the world’s largest public funded sanitation program.
    • Between the Centre and State, over Rs. 1 lakh crore would have been allocated for the Mission in 2019.
    • In addition to the budget allocation of ₹15,000 crore this year (FY 2018-2019), ₹15,000 crore has been further allocated through Extra Budgetary Resources.

    Communication strategy:

    • Behaviour Change Communication is undertaken under the SBM at the ground level and is complemented with mass media at the national level as well.
    • For example, mass media campaigns such as Darwaza Band communicates the messages of women empowerment, promotion of twin pit toilets and usage of toilets.
    • While the SBM foot soldiers, Swachhagrahis, participate in the triggering of communities for behaviour change and sustaining improved behaviors through Inter-Personal Communication.
    • There are currently over 5 lakh Swachhagrahis across the country undertaking behaviour change interventions at the grassroots.

    Water for ODF:

    • A policy decision has been taken under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) to prioritize the provision of piped water supply (PWS) for villages that become ODF. of the 5 lakhs plus ODF villages, translating to 14.13 lakh habitations, 6.16 habitations have PWS through public stand posts. The remaining are being covered on priority. At a technical level, the SBM promotes the use of the rural pan, a steep slope pan, which requires no more than 1-1.5 litres of water for every use of the toilet, addressing challenges related to scarcity of water.

    ODF-Quality:

    • A strong parallel focus is being maintained on the quality of the work on the ground and sustaining progress much after the program reaches its goal in 2019.
    • Verification of all ODF declared villages is very unique to SBM as multiple rounds of verification are carried out for the village by the districts and States.
    • Within 90 days of declaration, verification is done for each household in the village.
    • Another round of sustainability verification is done 180 days after the first round.

    Impact of SBM:

    • A recent WHO study reports that SBM would have led to saving of 300,000 lives by 2019 and around 150,000 lives would be saved annually thereafter.
    • In a report titled ‘The Financial and Economic Impact of SBM in India (2017)’ UNICEF estimated that a household in an ODF village in rural India saves Rs. 50,000 every year.
    • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has released a study that shows significant improvements in diarrhoea prevalence and stunting among children in ODF villages, compared to nearby non-ODF villages.
    • The Swachh Bharat model of sanitation has led India into a sanitation revolution, and the country is on track for an ODF India by October 2019.

    Methanol Cooking Fuel Program of India

    Why in News?

    • Signifying a paradigm shift towards the use of alternate cooking fuel technology, the Namrup-based Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) has rolled out the country’s first methanol-based cooking fuel project-‘Green and Clean Fuel Pilot Project on Methanol Cooking Stove’.

    Methanol Cooking Fuel Program:

    • Northeast and Assam Petro-chemicals, a state-owned company is launching Asia’s first cannisters based and India’s first “Methanol Cooking Fuel Program”.
    • 500 households inside the Assam Petro Complex will be the first pilot project, scaling it to 40,000 households in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Goa and Karnataka.
    • Assam Petrochemicals Limited has been manufacturing methanol for the last 30 years and is in the process of upgrading their 100 TPD methanol plant to 600 TPD by Dec 2019. The safe handling cannister based cooking stoves are from Swedish Technology and through a Technology transfer a large-scale cooking stove manufacturing plant will come up in India.
    • In the next 18 months it will be producing 10 lakh Cook stoves and 1 Crore Cannisters per year.

    Fueling the North East:

    • The cost of energy equivalent of one cylinder of LPG for Methanol is Rs. 650, compared to Rs. 850 per cylinder resulting in a minimum of 20% Savings.
    • For instance, in Manipur the cost of transportation of LPG is Rs. 200, whereas same cost for Methanol will be Rs. 12.
    • This provides for an excellent alternative as household fuel and commercial, institutional and fuel for restaurants.

    Why Methanol?

    • Methanol can be used as an energy producing fuel, transportation fuel and cooking fuel, cutting down India’s oil import bill by an estimated 20% over the next few years. Unlike CNG, using methanol as a transportation fuel would require minimal alteration in the vehicles.
    • Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer smog-causing emissions — such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter — and can improve air quality and related human health issues.
    • Methanol is most commonly produced on a commercial scale from natural gas. It can also be produced from renewable sources such as biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.
    • As a high-octane vehicle fuel, methanol offers excellent acceleration and power. It also improves vehicle efficiency.

    Benefits of the Fuel:

    • Methanol is a promising fuel as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels.
    • This technology is very unique as it handles methanol extremely safely, does not need regulator or any piping system.
    • The cooking medium can directly substitute LPG, Kerosene, Wood, Charcoal and any other fuel for cooking.
    • The gaseous form, Methanol – DME, can be blended in 20% ratio with LPG.
    • 2 litres canisters can last for full five hours on twin burners and 8 such Canister’s as rack can last for one month for a family of three.

    NAREDCO signs MoU with Housing Ministry

    Why in News?

    • Realtors body National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to provide skill training and jobs in the construction sector for 2.5 lakh poor people.
    • The partnership will strengthen skill trainings and employment opportunities in the construction sector for urban poor under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission.

    Memorandum:

    • The two objectives of this MoU are to provide employment to urban poor waiting to enter construction sector and up-skill the semi-skilled construction workers working on construction sites to skilled category.
    • NAREDCO will ensure implementation of this initiative through training providers.
    • It will deliver majority of fresh and upskilling training programme at the construction sites.
    • The training curriculum under this initiative will range from minimum 10 days (80 hours) to maximum of 6 months.
    • Through this collaboration around 2,50,000 urban poor will be trained.

    National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO):

    • It is an autonomous self-regulatory body under Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
    • It was established in 1998 and is headquartered in New Delhi.
    • It serves as the apex national body for real estate industry and provides single platform for Government, industry and public to discuss various problems and opportunities face to face for speedy resolution of issues.
    • Its mandate also includes to induce transparency and ethics in the real estate business and transform unorganized Indian real estate sector into a matured and globally competitive business sector

    India’s First Global Skills Park

    Why in News?

    • Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $150 million Loan Agreement in today to establish a Global Skills Park (GSP) in Madhya Pradesh.

    Global Skills Park (GSP):

    • It is the First Multi-Skills Park in India, to enhance the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) System in the State and create a more skilled workforce.
    • The Project will help improve the quality and relevance of the State’s TVET programs.
    • It will help impart advanced job-ready skills training of international standards that can meet the employment needs of the State’s emerging sectors.
    • The Project will engage international TVET partners to support advanced training at the GSP who will bring global best practices in TVET management, training infrastructure, industry cooperation, and quality assurance.

    GSP campus:

    • The new GSP campus, which will be established in Bhopal will consist of core Advanced Training Institutes including the Center for Occupational Skills Acquisition and the Center for Advanced Agricultural Training as well as other support services.
    • The sole aim is focussed on entrepreneurship, training of trainers, and skill-related research.
    • The campus will have training facilities focusing on skills for manufacturing, service, and advanced agricultural jobs, benefitting about 20,000 trainees and trainers.
    • The Project will also help in modernizing 10 industrial training institutes across the state by renovating training infrastructure and upgrading skills courses to align with industry and market needs.

    Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) – Ease of Doing Business

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of Corporate Affairs has launched another process re-engineering by making incorporation of Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) through a complete online system through a web service titled “RUN-LLP (Reserve Unique Name – Limited Liability Partnership)”and an e-form titled “FiLiP (Form for incorporation of Limited Liability Partnership.

    New initiatives – Significance:

    • With the initiatives launched by Ministry of Corporate Affairs, one can start business by incorporating a company through an on-line process without visiting any Government office.
    • This was achieved in January, 2016 by establishing Central Registry Centre (CRC) for on-line incorporation of the company and reserving its unique name.
    • Two on-line forms that were introduced for the purpose are Simplified Proforma for Incorporating Company Electronically (SPICe) and Reserve Unique Name (RUN).

    What is a Limited Liability Company?

    • A limited liability company is a corporate structure whereby the members of the company are not personally liable for the company’s debts or liabilities.
    • They are hybrid entities that combine the characteristics of a corporation and a partnership or sole proprietorship.
    • In these the liability of each partner is limited to his share as written in the agreement.

    RUN-LLP (Reserve Unique Name – Limited Liability Partnership):

    • The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has contributed significantly towards ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the country with a new initiative.
    • A company can now be incorporated in less than two days along with allotment of PAN, TAN, DIN and Unique Name through the online process.
    • It has launched process re-engineering by making incorporation of Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) through a complete online system.
    • It is web service titled RUN-LLP (Reserve Unique Name – Limited Liability Partnership).
    • Name can be allotted to LLP through an e-form titled “FiLiP (Form for incorporation of Limited Liability Partnership).

    Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility-2018 (HLC-2018

    Why in News?

    • The government has constituted a High-Level Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility-2018 (HLC-2018) under the Chairmanship of Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).
    • It is aimed to review the existing framework, guide and formulate the roadmap for a coherent policy on CSR.

    Reviewing the CSR Framework:

    • According to MCA, the Committee will review the existing CSR framework as per Act, rules and circulars issued from time to time and recommend guidelines for better enforcement of CSR provisions.
    • It will also analyse outcomes of CSR activities/programmes/projects and suggest measures for effective monitoring and evaluation of CSR by companies.
    • Suggestions are also expected on innovative solutions, use of technology, platform to connect stakeholders, and social audit.

    CSR Framework in India:

    • The provisions of section 135 of Companies Act, 2013 pertaining to CSR w.e.f 2014 with a view to promoting responsible and sustainable business through inclusive growth.
    • As per the said section, the companies having Net worth of INR 500 crore or more; or Turnover of INR 1000 crore or more; or Net Profit of INR 5 crore or more during any financial year shall be required to constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Board
    • The four years of implementation have enabled compilation of data on the number of companies complying with CSR provisions, funds allocated and spent across various sectors, geographical spread of CSR spending, etc.
    • The existing provisions of in Companies Act, 2013 with respect to CSR fully empower the Board of a Company to decide on their CSR Policy, approve projects and oversee implementation.

    Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention

    Why in News?

    • The Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention is being organised by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to mark the beginning of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, also coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • Fifty-three Ministers of Sanitation from around the world and more than 160 international representatives from 68 countries are participating in the convention. The international conference brings together Sanitation Ministers and other leaders in WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) from around the world.

    Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention:

    • The President has inaugurated the MGISC organised by the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry to mark the beginning of the 150thbirth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • The MGISC is a four-day convention which includes more than 160 international representatives from 68 countries.
    • It aims to share sanitation success stories and lessons from the participating countries.

    Reality Check on ODF status:

    • India is close to becoming open defecation free.
    •  The rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39% in October 2014 to 94.44% as of 30 September 2018.
    •  Nearly 86.5 million household toilets have been constructed under the Mission.
    •  25 States/Union Territories, 509 districts, and 500,000 villages have declared themselves free from open defecation.
    •  The number of people practicing open defecation in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014, to less than 150 million till date.

    SATAT Initiative

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has launched the SATAT initiative to promote Compressed Bio-Gas as an alternative, green transport fuel.

    Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT):

    • • Titled SATAT, the initiative is aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.
    • This initiative holds great promise for efficient municipal solid waste management and in tackling the problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions.
    • Use of CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil imports and in realising the Prime Minister’s vision of enhancing farmers’ income, rural employment and entrepreneurship.

    Benefits of the initiative:

    • There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:
      • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
      • Additional revenue source for farmers
      • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
      • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
      • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
      • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations

    MoHUA partners with Google to launch

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, under the aegis of Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM – U), has partnered with Google to launch the Loo Review campaign to encourage all local guides in India to rate and review public toilets on Google Maps.

    Locating Public Toilets on G-maps – Objectives:

    • • The campaign is aimed to encourage all local guides in India to rate and review public toilets on Google Maps.This campaign will allow all citizens to locate public toilets in their cities on Google Maps, Search and the Assistant and also provide feedback on the same.
    • 500+ cities in India with more than 30,000 toilets with the name of “SBM Toilet” are currently live on Google Maps.The joint campaign to be run throughout October and November 2018 is an effort to increase the awareness and ease of locating public toilets across India.
    • Local Guides are people who share reviews, photos, and knowledge on Google Maps to help people explore the world.

    Benefits of the campaign:

    • One of the objectives of the SBM- U is to provide sanitation coverage through public toilet facilities across cities in India for achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
    • There is now a need to ensure that the ODF status is sustained through continuous usage and proper maintenance of public toilets.
    • • The ‘Public toilets near me’ feature will benefit citizens, particularly women and senior citizens, who often find it difficult to find access to clean toilets in the public space.
    • The feedback provide by local guides through the Loo Review campaign will press upon the Urban Local Bodies to take proactive steps to improve public toilet facilities across the country.

    Indo-us joint military exercise ‘YUDH ABHYAS 2018’

    Why in News?

    • The joint military training Exercise YudhAbhyas 2018 will be conducted between India and the United States in Himalayas at Chaubattia, Uttarakhand from September 16 to 29, 2018.
    • Exercise YudhAbhyas is a series of one of the longest running joint military training and a major ongoing bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and the US.
    • This will be the 14th edition of the joint military exercise hosted alternately by both countries. The two-week exercise will witness participation of about 350 personnel of the US Army and similar strength of Garud Division of the Indian Army.

    Highlights of the Exercise YudhAbhyas:

    • Exercise YudhAbhyas will provide an opportunity to the armed forces of both countries to train in an integrated manner at Battalion level with joint planning at Brigade level.
    •  Multiple scenarios will be rehearsed during the joint exercise with a view to understand each-other’s organisational structure and battle procedures.
    •  The exercise is an ideal platform to learn from each-other’s experiences of planning and execution of operations.
    • Both the armies will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed operations for neutralisation of threats of varied nature.
    • The combined exercise will simulate a scenario where both nations are working together in counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment in mountainous terrain under UN charter.
    •  Experts from both sides will hold expert academic and military discussions to share each other’s experiences on varied topics for mutual benefit.

    East Asia Summit

    Why in News?

    • 15th ASEAN Economic Ministers – India Consultation was recently held in Singapore. Singapore is currently holding the Chair of ASEAN.

    Significance of the meet:

    • ASEAN has emerged as the second largest trade partner of India in 2017-18 with bilateral trade valued at USD 81.33 billion, comprising 10.58% of India’s total trade with the world.
    •  The ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) presented their recommendations to the forum  to sustain the momentum of trade and investment in the region.
    •   Issues related to promoting connectivity, collaboration on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development, blue economy, healthcare, and tourism as well as women and youth economic empowerment were discussed.

    Outcomes of the meeting:

    • The meeting attended by Economic Ministers from 10 ASEAN countries took stock of the current level of trade and economic engagement between India and ASEAN and reaffirmed the commitment to further strengthen ASEAN-India economic relations.
    •   It was also announced in the Singapore meeting that the next ASEAN-India Business Summit will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November 2018 with the theme “Towards Building Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and India in the Era of the 4th IR and Digital Economy”.
    •  It will be followed by the 4th India-ASEAN Dialogue Partner Expo and Summit scheduled for 21-23 February 2019, in New Delhi.
    •   Issues related to promoting connectivity, collaboration on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development, blue economy, healthcare, and tourism as well as women and youth economic empowerment were discussed.

    East Asia Summit:

    •  Established in 2005, EAS allows the principal players in the Asia-Pacific region to discuss issues of common interest and concern, in an open and transparent manner, at the highest level.
    •  The membership of EAS consists of ten ASEAN Member States (i.e. Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam), Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the USA.
    • EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.
    •  The six priority areas of EAS are – Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. India endorses regional collaboration in all six priority areas.
    •   Following the 12th EAS in November 2017 in Manila, Philippines and following the adoption of the Manila Plan of Action for Maritime Cooperation.
    • In 2009, the EAS endorsed the proposal for the revival of Nalanda University by former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

    Global sanitation convention

    Why in News?

    • Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will organize a global sanitation convention to mark the beginning of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.

    Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention (MGISC):

    • It will be a 4-day international conference that will bring together Sanitation Minsters and other leaders in WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) from around the world.
    •  The Convention will culminate on 2nd October, Gandhi Jayanti, which is also celebrated as the Swachh Bharat Diwas.
    • Several mass mobilization events and campaigns are being planned across the States in the run up to this Day.
    • The global Convention will be aimed at sharing sanitation success stories and lessons across all participating countries.
    • The success of the Swachh Bharat Mission will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6.2), i.e. to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all.

    Department of Official Language

    Why in News?

    • The Union Home Minister chaired first review meeting of the Department of Official Language of MHA to discuss the functioning and issues related to implementation of Hindi language in official work.

    Promoting Hindi in Official Work:

    • The Minster was informed that the department has developed a computer software called “Kanthasth”.
    • It will be used for translating the all kinds of official files from English to Hindi and vice versa to make the translation work simpler and quicker.
    • The Official language department has uploaded a dictionary of more than 15000 scientific and technical words on their website for technical usage.
    •  The Dept. has developed the Lila Mobile App for making the learning of Hindi language easier, which was launched on the occasion of Hindi Diwas last year.
    • The Department has also started a virtual video conferencing for teaching Hindi in all the  Indian language.

    “Pravah” Mobile App:

    • An E-learning platform called the “Pravah” also being developed by the department for use in 16 Indian languages including English.
    • It will be launched on Hindi Diwas on 14th September, 2018.
    • Anybody can learn Hindi through his mother tongue with the help of this E-learning platform.

    Department of Official Language, MHA:

    • With a view to ensuring compliance of the constitutional and legal provisions regarding official language and to promote the use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union, the Department of Official Language was set up in June 1975.
    • It is as an independent Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • The Department has been making efforts for accelerating the progressive use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union.
    • In accordance with the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, this Department has been entrusted with the following items of work:
      • Implementing the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Official Language and the provisions of the Official Languages Act, 1963 (19 of 1963), except to the extent such implementation has been assigned to any other Department.
      • Prior approval of the President for authorising the limited use of a language, other than English, in the proceedings in the High Court of a State.
      • Nodal responsibility for all matters relating to the progressive use of Hindi as the Official Language of the Union including Hindi Teaching Scheme for Central Government Employees etc.
      • Constitution and cadre-management of the Central Secretariat Official Language Service.
      • Matters relating to the Central Translation Bureau.
      • Matters relating to the Regional Implementation Offices.
      • Matters relating to the Committee of Parliament on Official Language.

    E-VBAB network & pan-African e-Network project

    Why in News?

    • Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL) signed an agreement with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for the implementation of e-VBAB Network Project.
    • The two separate platforms,  will link various educational institutions and hospitals in India and the participating African countries.

    E-VBAB Network Project:

    • E-VBAB Network Project is primarily a technological upgrade and extension of the Pan-African e-Network Project (Phase 1) which was implemented in 48 partner countries across Africa from 2009 till 2017.
    • The Phase 1 of the Project successfully imparted tele-education and tele-medicine by linking educational institutions and hospitals in India with those from the participating African countries.
    • The flagship e-VBAB project is a step towards capacity building in the field of education and medical science for all the 54 African Nations.
    • It is fully funded by MEA, GoI and is envisaged to be implemented in 9 months followed by 5 years of operations and maintenance.
    • The project aims to provide an opportunity for local employment and opens the door for access to education and medical expertise from India to African students, doctors, nurses and paramedical staff.
    • It will also give an opportunity for Global acceptance of Indian University Education system and Indian medical Health services.

    Pan-African e-Network project:

    • Pan African e-Network project is an ICT project between India and the African Union that seeks to connect the 55 member states of the Union through a satellite and fibre-optic network to India and
    •  It is aimed to enable access and sharing of expertise between India and African states in the areas of tele-education, telemedicine, Voice over IP, infotainment, resource mapping, meteorological services, e-governance and e-commerce services.
    • The e-network is made up of a large undersea cable network and satellite connectivity provided through C-Band transponders of the INTELSAT-904 or RASCOM satellites.
    • The project is often described as Africa’s biggest ever in the ICT sector and is expected to extend ICT infrastructure to rural and previously underserved areas.
    • The idea for the project came from the then President A P J Abdul Kalam who proposed such a network during his address to the Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg in 2004.
    • The project is seen as an example of India furthering its economic and strategic interests in Africa through the use of soft diplomacy and has been acclaimed as an instance of South-South cooperation, helping to overcome the digital divide in Africa.

    Internal security Indo-Mongolia joint exercise nomadic elephant-2018

    Why in News?

    •  Indo-Mongolia joint exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018 has commenced at Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) Five Hills Training Area, Ullanbaatar.
    • The 12 days long joint exercise is an annual, bilateral exercise since 2006 which is designed to strengthen the partnership between Indian Army and Mongolian Armed Forces.
    • The exercise will see them improve their tactical and technical skills in joint counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations in rural and urban scenario under United Nations mandate.

    Details of the Exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018:

    • The Indian contingent is represented by a contingent of 17 PUNJAB Regiment while the Mongolian contingent is represented by Unit 084 of the Mongolian Armed Forces.
    • During the exercise both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenario.
    • Experts from both sides will also hold detailed discussions to share their experience on varied topics for mutual benefits.
    •  The exercise will contribute immensely in developing mutual understanding & respect for each other’s military and also facilitate in tackling the world-wide phenomenon of terrorism.

    India and the un to sign a five-year sustainable development framework (2018-2022)

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog and United Nations are set to sign the Government of India-United Nations Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF) for 2018-2022.

    India-UNSDF (2018-2022):

    • The Framework outlines the work of UN agencies in India, to support the achievement of key development outcomes that are aligned to the national priorities.
    • The NITI Aayog is the national counterpart for the UN in India for the operationalization of the UNSDF.
    •  Nineteen (19) UN agencies have signed on the UNSDF 2018-2022.

    United Nations Sustainable Development Framework:

    • The UNSDF 2018-22 comprises of seven priority areas that outline the work that UN agencies will undertake jointly or individually, fully aligned with the priorities of the GoI.
    • The seven priority areas outlined in the UNSDF are:
    • Poverty and Urbanization;
    • Health, Water, and Sanitation;
    • Education and Employability;
    • Nutrition and Food Security;
    • Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Disaster Resilience;
    •  Skilling, Entrepreneurship, and Job Creation;
    •  Gender Equality and Youth Development.

    India-Bangladesh jointly unveil e-plaques for two projects

    Why in News?

    • PM Modi, and the Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, jointly unveiled e-plaques for two projects, via video conference.
    • The projects include: (a) India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (b) Dhaka-Tongi-Joydebpur Railway Project
    • India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline:
    •  The 129 km pipeline will connect Siliguri in West Bengal in India and Parbatipur in Dinajpur district of Bangladesh.
    •  The Rs 346 crore project will be completed in 30 months and the capacity of the pipeline will be one million metric tonnes per annum.
    • The oil pipeline will supply high speed diesel to Bangladesh which is currently transported through cross-border train from Numaligarh refinery.
    •  Of the total length, 124 km will be constructed in Bangladesh and 5 km in India.
    • The cross-border connectivity projects through Bangladesh complement India’s Act East Policy and aim to smoothen connectivity with landlocked NE India.

    Dhaka-Tongi-Joydebpur Railway Project:

    •  80 km of the two new dual gauge rail lines would be constructed on the Dhaka-Tongi route while a 12.28 km new dual gauge railway double line on the Tongi-Joydevpur route.
    •  The railway project will bring relief to road traffic in Bangladesh.

    India to use Chittagong and Mongla Ports:

    • With these ports the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram will have another mode of transport, making the region more accessible.
    • These accesses are granted as per GATT rules.
    • The agreement, effective for five years initially, will be renewed automatically for another five years.
    • While the pact will be signed between Bangladesh and India, later Nepal and Bhutan can join.

    India focus country in IZMIR international trade show

    Why in News?

    • India was the focus country of 87th Izmir International Trade Show held in Izmir, third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul and Ankara from from 7th to 11th September, 2018. Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) had led 75-member Indian delegation for this trade show.
    • The delegation had several B2B meetings and business tie-ups with members of the Turkish business community.

    Source India Pavilion:

    • India is the Focus Country in the trade show with a standalone pavilion named ‘Source India’.
    • The India Pavilion is a multi-product pavilion, including companies displaying products like ceramics, cereals and mechanical appliances.
    • These events serve the purpose of opening new areas for co-operation in trade and investment between India and the rest of the world.

    India- Turkey Trade:

    • Bilateral trade between the two countries was $7 billion in 2017, an increase of 8% over the previous year.
    • There is a huge potential for tie-ups between Indian and Turkish agriculture and food processing sectors.
    •  The collaborations may range from farming technology, high yielding varieties, farm machinery, food processing and cold storage.

    Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI):

    •  TPCI is an apex trade and investment promotion organization notified in the Foreign Trade Policy. TPCI is also recognized and supported by the Department of Commerce, Govt. of India.
    •  It provides policy suggestions which are essentially based on inputs collated from research and industry stakeholders.
    • Aim: To accelerate India’s global trade through advanced research and trade promotion.
    • Working: Creating global platform for the industry by organizing seminars, trade shows and business delegations through measures such as-
    •  Advanced Trade Research: – Supporting India’s trade policy and economic diplomacy through research.
    • Trade Promotion: – Exploring international trade opportunities in untapped markets and promoting new exporters.
    •  Trade Facilitation: – Identifying bottlenecks and bridging the gap between industry and authority by continuous interaction.
    •  Investment Promotion: – Exploring scope and facilitating investment in potential business and sectors.

    India to participate in g-20, trade and investment ministerial meeting in Argentina

    Why in News?

    • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry will participate in the G-20, Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting, being held in Mar del Plata in Argentina.

    G-20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting:

    • The meeting will provide an opportunity for a dialogue on current developments in international trade and its implications for the global economy.
    •  Trade and investment must benefit all and countries must jointly address both the opportunities and challenges of globalization, innovation and technological advancements.
    •  India looks forward to work along with other countries to reform WTO and ensure that it continues to be an engine for global trade.
    •  Further, the key issues that will be discussed include global value chains, the new industrial revolution and the international trade outlook.
    • The multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges in the wake of protectionist measures by some countries, which is not compatible with the WTO.

    G-20:

    • G-20 is made up of 19 countries and the EU.
    • The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
    • The other invited members are Chile, Netherlands, Spain and representatives of regional groups of Jamaica, Rwanda, Singapore and Senegal.
    •  G-20 members represent 75% of international trade, half of foreign direct investment flows, half of foreign flows and 80% of global production.

    Centenary of the battle of Haifa celebrated

    Why in News?

    • The Embassy of India held a ceremony in Haifa to mark the Centenary of the Battle of Haifa when on 23 Sep 1918; Indian soldiers from the Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad Lancers liberated the city of Haifa.

    Battle of Haifa:

    •  Owing to its rail and harbour, Israeli port city of Haifa was a strategic supply base.
    • In addition to Haifa, the Allied Forces also engineered a plan to annexe Nazareth and Damascus in present-day Israel and Syria.
    • On September 23, 1918, the 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade comprising lancers from the regiments of princely states of Jodhpur and Mysore inflicted heavy assault on positions held by Ottoman Turks in and around the city of Haifa.
    • Eventually, the Indian cavalry brigades fighting under the leadership of British General Edmund Allenby helped liberate Haifa from the clutches of the Turkish-German forces.
    •  A total of 1,350 German and Ottoman prisoners were captured by the two Indian regiments.

    Significance of Haifa war:

    • The victory was more special as the Indian soldiers were armed only with lances (a kind of spear) and swords while the Turks had in their possession advance artillery and machine guns.
    •  The Indian troops displayed exemplary cavalry skills and valour during what was considered to be the last major cavalry campaign in military history.
    • No more remarkable cavalry action of its scale was fought in the whole course of the campaign.

    Haifa War in news:

    • As a symbolic gesture of friendship with Israel, India renamed the iconic Teen Murti Chowk, a war memorial, during the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Haifa Chowk.
    • Every year on September 23, the Indian Army celebrates ‘Haifa Day’ to commemorate the war dead during the Battle.

    ASEM conference on ‘global ageing and human rights of older persons’

    Why in News?

    • Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment left for Seoul (Korea) for the 3rd ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Conference on ‘Global Ageing and Human Rights of Older Persons’.
    • The experience gained from the Conference will be beneficial for Policy formulation and implementation for welfare of senior citizens.

    3rd ASEM Conference:

    • The 3-day Conference will reaffirm the universal value of the human rights of older persons.
    •   It aims to share information on discrimination against the elderly and exemplary cases of long-term and palliative care in Asia and Europe.
    •  It will also discuss operation and tasks of the ASEM Global Ageing Centre as an implementing institution for mutual cooperation among ASEM members for the protection and promotion of the human rights of older persons.

    Asia–Europe Meeting:

    • The ASEM is an Asian–European political dialogue forum to enhance relations and various forms of cooperation between its partners.
    •  It was officially established on 1 March 1996 at the first summit in Bangkok, Thailand, by the then 15 members of the European Union (EU) and the European Commission, the then 7 members of the ASEAN and the individual countries of China, Japan, and Korea.
    •  A series of enlargements saw additional EU members join as well as India, Mongolia, Pakistan and the ASEAN Secretariat in 2008, Australia, New Zealand and the Russian Federation in 2010, Bangladesh, Norway, and Switzerland in 2012 as well as Croatia and Kazakhstan in 2014.
    • The main components of the ASEM process rest on the following 3 pillars:
      • Political & Security Pillar
      • Economic & Financial Pillar
      • Social, Cultural & Educational Pillar

    Indo-Kazakhstan joint exercise KAZIND 2018

    Why in News?

    • India, Kazakhstan joint army exercise KAZIND 2018 will be conducted between Indian and Kazakhstan Army in Otar region, Kazakhstan from 10 to 23 September 2018.
    •  This will be third joint military exercise between two countries which have a history of extensive cooperation in the defence arena.
    • The second edition of the exercise was held in India in 2017.

    Enhancing Defense cooperation – KAZIND 2018:

    • The aim of the exercise is to build and promote bilateral army to army relations and exchange skills and experiences between armies of both countries.
    • The exercise will also serve as a platform for exchange of drills and procedures.
    •   It will also follow graduated continuum from orientation to full scale mock exercise with an aim of achieving optimum integration among the two armies through enhanced mutual comprehension of each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures.
    • It will also set stage for greater defence cooperation and consequently manifest in stronger ties between two countries.
    •  Kazakhstan Army will also get vast knowledge from the experience and expertise of Indian troops in counter insurgency operations.

    International aviation Summit

    Why in News?

    • The International Aviation Summit is being held New Delhi. The summit has been jointly organised by the Airports Authority of India, Ministry of Civil Aviation and International Air Transport Association (IATA).

    Summit Key Highlights:

    • Union Minister for Civil Aviation revealed that the Civil Aviation Ministry is coming up with Vision 2035 under which it plans to build 100 new airports across India in the next 10-15 years with an investment of USD 60 billion and address the major issues concerning aviation industry such as airport infrastructure, taxation and use of technology.
    • The airports will be constructed through a public-private partnership. The Minister also said that India’s economy is poised to grow to USD 10 trillion by 2035 and aviation sector will be one of the major contributors to that growth.
    • The Indian Government is preparing for a massive air traffic surge to handle as many as 100 crore passengers in next 15-20 years, much above the 50 crore trips a year as predicted by IATA. According to IATA, India is expected to overtake Germany, Japan, Spain and the UK within the next ten years to become the world’s third largest air passenger market.

    Challenges to growth of the sector:

    • India’s aviation industry is showing contrast as on one hand there are infrastructural and economic issues plaguing the sector while on the other, airline companies are busy buying planes to meet the demand.
    • With a surge in domestic air travel demand in India, the country’s airlines are gearing up for a rise and have ordered around 1,000 aircraft over the next eight years. But despite traffic growth, the financial outlook for domestic airlines has deteriorated dramatically since January.
    •   Imposing GST on international air tickets is being seen as a violation of international standards. The GST rate is 5% and 12% on economy and business class tickets respectively.

    IATA:

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

    Indian relations BIMSTEC summit: Kathmandu declaration

    Why in News?

    •  The 4th BIMSTEC Summit concluded in Kathmandu on August 31, 2018 with the signing and adoption of the Kathmandu Declaration by all the seven members. The member states have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a Bimstec Gird Interconnection to enhance energy cooperation among the member states.
    •  The theme of the fourth BIMSTEC summit is ‘Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region’.

    BIMSTEC:

    • The BIMSTEC is a regional grouping comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal.
    • BIMSTEC came into existence in 1997, through the Bangkok Declaration. The main objective of the group is technical and economic cooperation among South Asian and Southeast Asian countries along the rim of the Bay of Bengal.
    •  BIMSTEC has 14 priority areas of cooperation, namely i) Trade and Investment ii) Technology iii) Energy iv) Transportation and Communication v) Tourism vi) Fisheries vii) Agriculture viii) Cultural Cooperation ix) Environment and Disaster Management x) Public Health xi) People-to-People Contact xii) Poverty Alleviation xiii) Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime xiv) Climate Change.
    • With the focus on trade, regional connectivity and countering terrorism, the grouping accounts for 22 percent of the global population and has a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion.
    •  Nepal has assumed the chairmanship of BIMSTEC since 2014. It will hand over the responsibility to Sri Lanka to conduct the fifth summit of the BIMSTEC.

    Kathmandu Declaration:

    •  The Declaration stresses on ending poverty from the region by 2030 in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
    • The declaration includes issues such as agricultural technology exchange, fight against terrorism, gradual reduction of the impact of climate change, increase trade and investment, and ease the visa processing for the people of BIMSTEC member states.
    •  It strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism.
    •  It underlines the importance of multidimensional connectivity as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity of the region.
    •  It highlights the importance of trade and investment as one of the major contributing factors for fostering economic and social development in the region.

    Importance of BIMSTEC for India:

    • BIMSTEC assumes significance for India in terms of New Delhi’s Act East Policy and Neighbourhood First Policy, with northeastern India acting as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
    •  With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) virtually rendered ineffective as a bloc largely due to non-cooperation on the part of Pakistan on issues like connectivity and counter-terrorism, India has been giving more importance to BIMSTEC.
    • Highlights of the summit:
    •  BIMSTEC Summit is the highest policymaking body in the BIMSTEC process and is comprised of heads of state/government of member states.
    •   The two-day summit witnessed participation from all member states and held discussions on trade, security, and development of the region.
    • Though BIMSTEC has 14 priority sectors, the summit has integrated two more priority sectors- Mountain Economy and Blue Economy.
    •  It is the fourth BIMSTEC Summit whose theme is “Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region”.
    •  The first BIMSTEC summit was held in Thailand in 1997, second in 2008 in India and third in 2014 in Myanmar.

    Key Issues:

    •  A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation along with a customs cooperation agreement and a motor vehicles agreement.
    • This year, the summit has two main agendas- Mutual legal assistance treaty to check terrorism and other crimes and enhancing connectivity in the region including coastal shipping.
    • PM Narendra Modi talked about trade connectivity, economic, connectivity, transport connectivity, digital connectivity or people to people connectivity.
    •  The foreigner’s secretaries of the BIMSTEC members states reviewed the progress achieved guidance to the future works of the regional grouping.

    INDIA’S stand:

    • PM Modi interacted with all the leaders of BIMSTEC “to further enrich our regional cooperation, enhance trade ties and advance collective efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous Bay of Bengal region”.
    • India emphasized its “sincere and abiding” commitment to work with the BIMSTEC member states to make the region safer, stronger and prosperous.
    •  Connectivity: PM Modi stressed on boosting connectivity between the member states on different fronts. He said India is willing to encourage coastal shipping and motor vehicle agreements among BIMSTEC members.
    •  Climate-smart farming: PM Modi also talked about the effects of climate change on farming and urged the member countries to work together to counter global warming. Specifying the need to counter the effects of climate change on farming, he announced that India will organize an International Conference on the issue of climate-smart farming.
    • Digital Connectivity: On digital connectivity, India remains committed to propagating the country’s national knowledge network to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. PM expressed hope that all BIMSTEC countries will become part of India Mobile Congress being organized in Delhi in October.
    •  Science and Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER): India proposed to extend the initiative called Science and Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER) to BIMSTEC member nations.
    •  Invitation & proposal: PM also extended an invitation to BIMSTEC members for being part of the International Buddhist conclave to be held next years and he also proposed that a special forum for women parliamentarian from BIMSTEC countries should be formed.
    • A slew of Initiatives: PM also announced a slew of initiatives for BIMSTEC members including scholarships, research fellowship, and short-term training courses.
    • 24 scholarships were announced to researchers, students, and professors from BIMSTEC members at India’s North Eastern Space Application Centre.
    •  30 scholarships to students from BIMSTEC nations at Nalanda University
    •  12 research fellowships for advanced medicine was also announced apart from 100 short-term training courses on Tourism, Environment, Disaster Management, Agriculture, Renewable energy, trade etc.

    National digital communications policy-2018

    Why in News?

    • As the present world has entered the era of modern technological advancements in the Telecom Sector such as 5G, IoT, M2M etc.
    •  A need was being felt to introduce a ‘customer focused’ and ‘application driven’ policy for the Indian Telecom Sector, which can form the main pillar of Digital India.
    • Hence the Union Cabinet has approved the National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP-2018) and re-designation of the Telecom Commission as the “Digital Communications Commission”.

    National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) -2018 :

    • The NDCP-2018 envisions supporting India’s transition to a digitally empowered economy and society by fulfilling the ICT needs of citizens and enterprises by establishment affordable digital communications infrastructure and services.
    •  The ‘Customer focused’ and ‘application driven’ NDCP-2018 shall lead to new ideas and innovations, after the launch of advanced technology such as 5G, IOT, M2M, etc. which shall govern the telecom sector of India.
    • The key objectives of the policy which are to be achieved by 2022 are:
      • Broadband for all;
      • Creating four million additional jobs in the Digital Communications sector;
      • Enhancing the contribution of the Digital Communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP from ~ 6% in 2017;
      • Propelling India to the Top 50 Nations in the ICT Development Index of ITU from 134 in 2017;
      • Enhancing India’s contribution to Global Value Chains; and
      • Ensuring Digital Sovereignty.

    Major Features of the Policy:

    •  Provide universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen
    • Provide 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022
    •  Ensure connectivity to all uncovered areas
    •  Attract investments of USD 100 billion in the Digital Communications Sector
    • Train one million manpower for building New Age Skill
    • Expand IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices
    •  Establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards the privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals.

    Strategy envisioned in the Policy:

    • Establishment of a National Digital Grid by creating a National Fibre Authority;
    •  Establishing Common Service Ducts and utility corridors in all new city and highway road projects;
    •  Creating a collaborative institutional mechanism between Centre, States and Local Bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardization of costs and timelines;
    •  Removal of barriers to approvals; and
    • Facilitating development of Open Access Next Generation Networks.

    Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojna

    Why in News?

    • The Employee’s State Insurance (ESI) has approved a scheme named ‘Atal BimitVyaktiKalyanYojna’ for Insured Persons (IP) covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.

    Atal BimitVyaktiKalyanYojna (ABVKY):

    • The change in employment pattern and the current scenario in India which has transformed from a long term to fixed short term engagement in the form of contract is considerable.
    • Taking this into account ESI has approved ABVKY for Insured Persons (IP) covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948.
    •  This scheme is a relief payable in cash directly to their Bank Account in case of unemployment and while they search for new engagement.
    •  ESI has approved the proposal for reimbursement of Rs. 10/- per person to the employers to encourage the seeding of Aadhar (UID) in ESIC database of their workers and their family members.
    •  It will curtail the multiple registrations of same Insured Persons and thus enable them to avail the benefits requiring longer contributory conditions.

    Other Initiatives of ESIC:

    • ESIC has approved the proposal for relaxing the eligibility conditions for availing Super Specialty treatment from earlier insurable employment of 2 years to 06 months with contribution requirement of only 78 days.
    • Besides, the eligibility for availing Super Specialty treatment for dependents of Insured Person has now been relaxed to insurable employment of one year with 156 days of contributions.
    • This relaxation will immensely help the Insured Persons and their beneficiaries to avail Super Specialty treatment free of cost as per revised eligibility.
    • ESI Corporation has approved the proposal for increasing the Funeral Expenses from existing Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 15,000/- being paid on the death of Insured Person.

    ESI:

    •  ESI is self-financing social security and health insurance scheme for Indian workers.
    •   It is autonomous corporation by statutory creation under Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
    • It is managed by Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) according to rules and regulations stipulated there in the ESI Act 1948.

    Dam rehabilitation and improvement project

    Why in News?

    • The CCEA has approved the Revised Cost Estimate of Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) at the revised cost of Rs 3466 crore with the financial assistance of the World Bank.

    Significance of the Project:

    • The project will improve the safety and operational performance of selected existing dams and mitigate risks to ensure safety of downstream population and property.
    •  The primary beneficiaries are both urban and rural communities dependent on reservoir and downstream communities, who are prone to risk associated with dam failure or operational failure.
    •  Further effectiveness of Dam Safety Organisations will be increased to take the lead to make dams safe from structural and operational point of view through capacity building of staff and officials.

    Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP):

    • DRIP is a state sector scheme with central component to improve safety and operational performance of selected dams, along with institutional strengthening with system wide management approach.
    • The project was launched in 2012 by Central Water Commission (CWC) under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation with assistance from World Bank.
    • The states included are Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand.
    •  DRIP envisages following objectives: –
      • Component-I: – Rehabilitation of Dam and its Appurtenant Structures,
      • Component-II: – Institutional Strengthening and
      • Component-Ill: – Project Management.

    MSME loans approval portal

    Why in News?

    • ·         The Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs has launched a transformative initiative in MSME credit space.

    Fastest Credit facility for MSMEs:

    • The web portal psbloansin59minutes.com will enable in principle approval for MSME loans up to Rs. 1 crore within 59 minutes from SIDBI and 5 Public Sector Banks (PSBs).
    • The Portal sets a new benchmark in loan processing and reduces the turnaround time from 20-25 days to 59 minutes.
    •  Subsequent to this in principle approval, the loan will be disbursed in 7-8 working days.

    “PSBLoansin59min” Portal:

    •  It is one of its kind platforms in MSME segment which integrates advanced fintech to ensure seamless loan approval and management.
    • The loans are undertaken without human intervention till sanction and or disbursement stage.
    • A User-Friendly Platform has been built where MSME borrower is not required to submit any physical document for in-principle approval.
    • The solution uses sophisticated algorithms to read and analyse data points from various sources such as IT returns, GST data, bank statements, MCA21 etc. in less than an hour while capturing the applicant’s basic details.
    • The system simplifies the decision-making process for a loan officer as the final output provides a summary of credit, valuation and verification on a user-friendly dashboard in real time.

    The key features of the contactless platform include:

    • Majority stake of SIDBI & big 5 PSBs- SBI, Bank of Baroda, PNB, Vijaya and Indian Bank.
    •  A first for MSME borrowers-Connect with multiple banks without visiting the branch.
    •  Only Platform in the market with a Banker Interface which covers the Branch Level integrations (with maker-checker-approver) in tune with current systems of PSBs.
    •   Only Platform that enables Bankers to create Loan Products in line with the Scoring models & assessment methods within their approved credit policy.
    • Only Platform that has an integrated GST, ITR, Bank Statement Analyzer, Fraud Check and Bureau Check.
    • Only Platform that has been integrated with CGTMSE for checking the eligibility of Borrowers.

    Postal transportation of sputum

    Why in News?

    • A pilot project for utilising services of Department of Post for transport of sputum specimen for TB Diagnosis was launched by the Health Ministry.

    TB Sputum Test:

    • The sputum test is often the first TB test to be used in countries with a high rate of TB infection.
    •  Sputum is a thick fluid that is produced in the lungs and the airways leading to the lungs.
    •  A sample of sputum is usually collected by the person coughing.
    •  Sputum microscopy is inexpensive and simple, and people can be trained to do it relatively quickly and easily.
    •   In addition the results are available within hours.

    Why postal transportation of Sputum?

    • Most of the patients are not diagnosed because the specimen does not reach the laboratory due to non-availability of specimen transport mechanisms.
    • Transport of collected specimen also spares the patient’s from travelling to the reference laboratory.
    •  Prompt transport of specimen followed by efficacious testing will enable appropriate management of the TB patients and reduced disease transmission.

    Nikshay Version 2.0:

    •  The web-based application of Revised National Tuberculosis Programme, Nikshay Version 2.0 with better user interface and data structures, was also launched.
    • The web-application is also designed to be mobile friendly, enabling data entry also from the mobile browser.

    ‘E-SAHAJ’ portal for grant of security clearance

    Why in News?

    • The Government has launched an online ‘e-Sahaj’ portal for grant of Security Clearance. The portal will facilitate an applicant to submit application online and also to view the status of his application from time to time.

    Significance of the portal:

    • The introduction of the online portal is expected to make the process of security clearance much faster, transparent and easy to monitor.
    •  The various functionaries would be able to access the application and documents online and take timely decisions.

    National Security Clearance:

    • MHA is the nodal Ministry for security clearances in certain sensitive sectors before issue of licence/permit, permission, contract etc, to companies/ bidders/individuals by the administrative Ministry.
    • The objective of national security clearance is to evaluate potential security threats, including economic threats, and provide risk assessment before clearing investment and project proposals in key sectors.
    • The aim is to strike a healthy balance between meeting the imperatives of national security and facilitating ease of doing business and promoting investment in the country.

    E-Sahaj Portal:

    • The portal will facilitate an applicant to submit application online and also to view the status of his application from time to time.
    • The clearance has become standardized, resulting in a process which will be faster, transparent and easy to monitor.
    •  Various functionaries can access the application and documents online and take timely decisions.
    •  MHA has cleared about 1,100 cases of security clearance in the past one year.
    • Although the given timeline is 90 days, MHA strives to decide Security Clearance cases in 60 days (average time per case in 2018 is 53 days), which is being reduced further.

    All India pension Adalat

    Why in News?

    •  The All India Pension Adalat was inaugurated on September 18, 2018 by the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh in New Delhi.
    • The Pension Adalat, being organised by the Department of Pension & Pensioners Welfare (DoP&PW), is one of the largest exercises for pensioners’ welfare ever undertaken by the Government as part of good governance dedicated to central government pensioners.

    Pension Adalats:

    •  The Grievance Portal for the Central Government pensioners is also called CPENGRAMS.
    • The Pension Adalats are being set up with the objective of bringing on a common table the aggrieved pensioner, the concerned department, the bank or CGHS representative so that such cases can be settled across the table within the framework of extant rules.
    • Pre-Retirement Counselling (PRC):
    •  Besides the Pension Adalat, a Pre-Retirement Counselling (PRC) was also conducted for the Central Government employees who are about to retire in the next six months.
    • The objective of the PRC Workshop is to create awareness about post-retirement entitlements as well as to educate.
    • Them on advance planning for retirement including medical facilities and participation in voluntary activities after retirement.

    Anubhav Awards:

    • Under Anubhav, the retiring employees give an account of their experiences during service.
    • These experiences are an important account for research and resource for administrative reference and thus will help in improving our working.
    •  The Anubhav scheme was instituted at the call of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in the year 2015.
    • Till date, more than 5,000 contributions have been made for Anubhavs by Government employees from 91 Departments.

    Other reforms for Pensioners:

    •  A number of reforms have been undertaken by the Government to facilitate the pensioners.
    • One of the main initiatives taken was to fix the minimum pension at Rs 1,000.
    • Other initiatives such as Bhavishya, Sankalp, Jeevan Praman-digital life certificates, doing away with the obsolete laws and self-attestation, among others have also been taken.
    • A mechanism has been put in place where pensioner will get PPO on the day of his retirement.

    Government Initiated Consolidation – Amalgamated Entity to be India’s third largest bank

    Why in News?

    • The Alternative Mechanism comprising of its Chairperson, the Union Finance Minister decided that Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank may consider their consolidation.
    •   It will be the First-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India, with a combined business of Rs. 14.82 lakh crore, making it India’s Third Largest Bank.

    Impact of the Merger:

    • It will help create a strong globally competitive bank with economies of scale and enable realization of wide-ranging synergies.
    •  Leveraging of networks, low-cost deposits and subsidiaries of the three banks has the potential for substantial rise in customer base, market reach, operational efficiency, wider products and services, and improved access for customers.
    •  Some of the strengths of the envisaged amalgamated entity are—
    •  Provision Coverage Ratio (PCR) at 67.5% is well above Public Sector Banks (PSBs) average (63.7%), and steadily increasing
    •  Net NPA ratio at 5.71% significantly better than PSB average (12.13%), and declining further
    • Gross NPAs for the combined entity have started declining (decline of Rs. 1,048 crore in Q1)
    •  Cost to income ratio of the combined entity at 48.94% better than the PSB average of 53.92%
    • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CRAR) at 12.25% is significantly above the regulatory norm of 10.875%, and stronger amalgamated bank will be better positioned to tap capital markets

    Combined range of Services:

    • Dena Bank’s strength in MSME will further augment the strength of the other two to position the amalgamated bank for being an MSME Udyamimitra
    •  Larger distribution network will reduce operating and distribution costs with benefits for the amalgamated bank, its customers and their subsidiaries
    • Global network strength of Bank of Baroda will be leveraged to enable customers of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank to have global access.

    National scholarship portal Mobile App

    Why in News?

    •  Union Minority Affairs Minister launched the country’s first National Scholarship Portal mobile app that would make the government welfare schemes more accessible to needy students.
    • This app will ensure a smooth, accessible and hassle-free scholarship system for students from poor and weaker sections.

    National Scholarship Portal:

    • The students will get all the information regarding various scholarships on this mobile app.
    •  They will be able to apply for scholarships through the app.
    • The students can also upload necessary documents on this app; can check the status of their application and scholarship disbursement status etc.
    • All the scholarships are being given directly into the bank accounts of the needy students under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode through the National Scholarship Portal.
    •  It has ensured that there is no scope for duplication and leakage.

    Success of such Scholarship:

    •  During the last four years, about three crore students belonging to the poor and weaker sections of minorities have benefited from various scholarship programmes.
    •  The beneficiaries include about 1.63 crore girls.
    • The school dropout rate among Muslim girls, which was earlier more than 70 per cent, has now been reduced to about 35-40 per cent due to awareness and educational empowerment programmes.

    National Conference of District Disability

    Why in News?

    • The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is organizing a ‘National Conference of District Disability Rehabilitation Centres’.
    • The participants in this one-day conference include District Magistrates of 263 districts where DDRCs have been set up, Principal Secretaries Social Welfare, reputed NGOs, District Social Welfare officers, eminent Doctors etc.

    District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC):

    • DDRC provide comprehensive services to persons with disabilities and facilitate creation of infrastructure and capacity building at the district level for awareness generation, rehabilitation and training of rehabilitation professionals.
      • 310 districts have been identified and 263 DDRCs have been set up
      • Awareness generation, early intervention and assessment of the need of assistive devices to divyangjans.
      • Therapeutic services such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy etc. to divyangjans through rehabilitation professionals.
      • Equipment for rehabilitation services.
      • Cost norms of the Scheme has been revised and enhanced to 2.5 times.

    First tribal circuit project under Swadesh darshan

    Why in News?

    • The Minister of State for Tourism will inaugurate the project for Development of Tribal Circuit in Chhattisgarh under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
    • This is the second project under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme being inaugurated in the country.

    Particulars of the Project:

    •  The project covers thirteen sites in Chhattisgarh i.e. Jashpur, Kunkuri, Mainpat, Kamleshpur, Maheshpur, Kurdar, Sarodadadar, Gangrel, Kondagaon, NathiyaNawagaon, Jagdalpur, Chitrakoot, Tirthgarh.
    •  Chhattisgarh is known for its exceptional scenic beauty and uniquely rich cultural heritage and has always been synonymous with tribes and tribal culture.
    •  The project aims to acknowledge the sovereignty of tribes, promote the rich and diverse primitive assets in the state.
    •  Major components sanctioned include eco log huts, craft haats, souvenir shops/ kiosk, tourist reception & facilitation centres, open amphitheatre, tribal interpretation centres, workshop centres, tourist amenities centres etc.
    •  These components are perceived to improve existing tourist facilities and enhance the overall tourist experience thereby help in getting more visitors which in return will increase job opportunities in the area.

    Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

    • Swadesh Darshan Scheme is one of the flagship schemes of the Ministry of tourism, for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritized manner.
    • The scheme was launched in 2014 -15 as a Central Sector Scheme.
    •  It aims for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country.
    •  “Development of North East Circuit: Imphal&Khongjom” is the first project implemented under the Scheme.
    •  Development of Tribes and Tribal Culture is one of the prime areas of focus for the Ministry of Tourism.
    • Under the tribal circuit theme of the scheme the Ministry has sanctioned 4 projects to Nagaland, Telangana and Chhattisgarh for Rs. 381.37 Crores.

     

    Un interagency task force (UNIATF) award

    Why in News?

    •  Shri Manoj Jhalani, Additional Secretary & Mission Director (NHM), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been conferred with the prestigious UNIATF Award for his outstanding contribution towards prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and related SDGs.

    India’s efforts for prevention and control of NCDs:

    •  It is in recognition of Government of India’s efforts made in the field of prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases.
    •  National Programme to control NCDs has been scaled up by more than eight times in the past four years and covers all the 36 States/Union Territories now.
    • The govt. has also initiated population level prevention, control, screening and management initiative in almost 200 districts under NHM which will cover people above 30 years of age.
    • When fully rolled out, the population-based screening will reach over 500 million adults with health promotion, risk reduction, screening, early detection and management of common NCDs.
    •  Free diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, referral and back referral have been integrated into the program with an IT platform developed through a multi-stakeholder partnership.
    • The intervention also forms the core of Ayushman Bharat, comprehensive primary health care program.

    Addressing multi-sectoral nature of Health issues:

    • The risk factors of NCDs are multi-sectoral and many of the interventions to control these lies outside the health sector.
    •   A National Multi-sectoral Action Plan has been developed which outlines the interventions for different sectors of the Government an