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Indian Polity / Governance

CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF (CDS)

Context:

  • The Creation of the post, Chief of Defence Staff erodes civilian supremacy over the defence establishment

The Outline of India:

  • In 1947 Lord Ismay, the Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India, recommended a three-tier higher defence management structure to Prime Minister.
  • Three committees were constituted:
    • The defence committee of cabinet preside over by the Prime Minister
    • The Defence Minister’s Committee chaired by the Defence Minister
    • The chief of Staff Committee integrated into the military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat.
  • The chair of the committee was rotational, with Service Chief longest in the committee becoming the chairperson.
  • This procedure is operational into the middle of 1950s despite the commander-in-Chief only being an invitee to the Defence Committee of Cabinet.
  • After the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet first morphed into the Emergency Committee of Cabinet and then later into the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs’.It is now the Cabinet Committee on Security, or CCS. This system has served India well over the years.

Kargil Review Committee (KRC):

  • The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganisation of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters”.
  • The Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations, proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat.

About CDS:

  • The CDS will be ranked as four-star General.
  • He will head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), which is created in the Ministry of Defence.
  • He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Raksha Mantri [RM] on all tri-Services matters.
  • He will be a Permanent Chairman to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
  • He will function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • He will be above the three Service Chiefs, as a part of higher-level military reforms.
    • The three Chiefs will continue to advise RM on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services. CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.”

About the Contradiction and the Design Flaw:

  • As Secretary in charge of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) having superintendence over the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, there would be an implied subordination of the three service chiefs to the CDS notwithstanding any declaration to the contrary.
  • As Secretary of the DMA, the CDS is tasked with facilitating the restructuring of military commands, bringing about jointness in operations including through the establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • The CDS, as Permanent Chairperson of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, would outrank the three service chiefs even though theoretically all are four stars.
  • The advice of the CDS could override the advice of the respective Service Chiefs on critical tactical and perhaps even strategic issues.
  • The reporting structure of the three services to the Defence Minister would now be through the CDS; if not immediately it would become the norm over time.
  • Currently, the service chiefs report directly to the Defence Minister, in practice all files and decisions are routed through the Defence Secretary.
  • The fact is that the defence of India is managed by the three services who would now report to the DMA. Since the DMA would exercise control over the three services, it virtually makes the CDS the ‘Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces’.

INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRES AUTHORITY BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has recently approved International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019 which seeks to establish a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India.

Background Information:

  • Before learning about International Financial Services Centres Authority, we should be aware of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) first of all.

What is the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC)?

  • IFSC is a jurisdiction that provides financial services to resident and non-resident Indians in foreign currencies.
  • IFSC will be a deemed foreign territory dealing in foreign currency. The units in IFSC will be recognised as non-resident entity under the FEMA regulations of Reserve Bank of India.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

Objective of setting up IFSC:

  • The aim is to develop a world-class smart city that becomes a global financial hub with the development of an International Financial Services Centre.
  • The government is also trying to bring back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres by local corporate entities and overseas branches or subsidiaries of financial institutions (FIs) to India.
  • It would also provide Indian corporate easier access to Global Financial Markets.

Who can set up offices in IFSC?

  • Entities regulated by RBI, Securities & Exchange Board of India, and the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India can set up offices in IFSC. For instance, banks, insurance companies, stock broking firms, alternate investment funds and investment advisors, among others, can be part of it.
  • The key aim of GIFT City is to bring global financial services on-shore which are currently being rendered from other overseas jurisdictions

IFSC as per Special Economic Zone Act, 2005:

  • The Central Government may approve the setting up of an International Financial Service Centre in a Special Economic Zone and may prescribe the requirements for setting up and operation of such centre.
  • The Central Government shall approve only one International Financial Services Centre in a Special Economic Zone.

Services provided by IFSC:

  • Fund-raising services for individuals, corporations and governments.
  • Asset management and global portfolio diversification undertaken by pension funds, insurance companies and mutual funds.
  • Wealth management.
  • Global tax management and cross-border tax liability optimization, which provides a business opportunity for financial intermediaries, accountants and law firms.
  • Global and regional corporate treasury management operations that involve fund-raising, liquidity investment and management and asset-liability matching.
  • Risk management operations such as insurance and reinsurance.
  • Merger and acquisition activities among trans-national corporations.

The International Financial Services Centres Authority.

  • The above bill seeks to setup this authority with the following features:

1. Composition of the Authority:

  • Consisting of a Chairperson, one Member each to be nominated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), two members to be nominated by the Central Government and two other whole-time or full-time or part-time members.

2. Functions of the Authority:

  • Regulate all such financial services, financial products and FIs in an IFSC which has already been permitted by the Financial Sector Regulators for IFSCs.
  • Regulate such other financial products, financial services or FIs as may be notified by the Central Government from time to time.
  • Recommend to the Central Government such other financial products, financial services and financial institutions which may be permitted in the IFSCs.

3. Powers of the Authority:

  • 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 in so far as the regulation of financial products, financial services and FIs that are permitted in the IFSC are concerned.

4. Processes and Procedures:

  • The processes and procedures to be followed by the Authority shall be governed in accordance with the provisions of the respective Acts of Parliament of India applicable to such financial products, services or institutions, as the case may be.

5. Grants by the Central Govt.

  • 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.

6. Transactions in Foreign Currency

  • The transactions of financial services in the IFSCs shall be done in the foreign currency as specified by the Authority in consultation with the Central Govt

Who is Covered?

  • The Bill will be applicable to all International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) set up under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005.
  • The first IFSC in India has been set up at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar.

Need for and the benefits of a Unified Authority:

  • Currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
  • The dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination. It also 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.
  • Therefore, a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India would provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants. This also essential from an ease of doing business perspective.
  • Further, this would also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective. The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in-sync with the global best practices.

CONSTITUTION (126TH AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

Why in News?

  • The Constitution (126th amendment bill), 2019 was introduced recently in the Lok sabha which seeks to extend the reservation provided to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes for another 10 years (i.e. till 2030).

Why a New Amendment Bill is Needed?

  • The reservation being provided to the SC, ST and nomination of Anglo-Indians in Lok sabha and state Legislatures under article 334 is about to end by January 25, 2020. The new bill is introduced to continue the reservation of seats for another 10 years (that is till January, 25, 2030).
  • Since the amendment involves the changes in Art 334, a constitutional Amendment bill under Art 368 has been introduced.

Key Features of the Bill:

  • The bill provides for the extension of reservations for the SC and ST for the next years (i.e. till 2030) in Lok Sabha and state legislatures. This bill does this by amending the Article 334.
  • But the bill does not provide for the nomination of Anglo-Indians in legislatures. This means that nomination of Anglo-Indians will effectively end by Jan 25, 2020.
  • The reason given by the government for this is the very minimal strength of Anglo-Indian citizens in India (only 296 members).

Current Reservation Scenario:

  • The population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India in percentage terms is 16.2% and 8.2% as per 2011 census.
  • Currently, Reserved Seats for SC in Lok Sabha: 84. Reserved Seats for ST in Lok Sabha: 47
  • Allocation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha are made on the basis of proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State concerned to that of the total population.
  • Out of 545 seats in Lok sabha, 2 seats has been reserved for Anglo Indians through Nominations.

Background Information:

About Article 334:

  • Article 334 of the Indian Constitution lays down that the provisions for reservation of seats and special representation of Anglo-Indians, SC and ST in Central and state legislatures.
  • Article 334 of the Indian Constitution had originally required the reservation of elected seats to cease in 1960 (only for 10 years after the commencement of constitution), but this was extended to 1970 by the 8th Amendment.
  • The period of reservation was then extended successively till 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 by the 23rd, 45th, 62nd and 79th Amendments respectively. Finally the 95th Amendment extended the period of reservation to 2020.

Ninety-fifth constitutional Amendment Act:

  • The Ninety-fifth Amendment of the Constitution of India, 2009, extended the period of reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and representation of the Anglo-Indians in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies for another ten years, i.e. up to 26 January 2020.

The full text of Article 334 of the Constitution, after the 95th Amendment, is given below:

  • Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Part [Part XVI], the provisions of this Constitution relating to—
  • a) The reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States; and
  • b) The representation of the Anglo Indian community in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States by nomination, shall cease to have effect on the expiration of a period of Seventy Years from the commencement of this Constitution.

NATIONAL DATA WAREHOUSE

GS 2 : Governance – Ministries & Departments Of The Government

Why in News?

  • The statistical reforms are necessary for ensuring responsiveness to the changing needs of society.
  • The statistics ministry said that it proposes to set up a NDW with a view to leveraging big data analytical tools to further improve the quality of macro-economic aggregates.
  • Here technology will be leveraged for using big data analytical tools for further improving the quality of macro-economic aggregates.
  • Efforts are also on to evolve a legislative framework under which the National Statistical Commission (NSC) may function with independence and give holistic guidance for improving the national statistical system.

Why such move?

  • Over a period of time, there have been increasing demands on the statistical system for the production of relevant and quality statistics.
  • MoSPI has been criticised in some sections for the quality of macro-economic data.
  • The Ministry said revision in GDP estimates occur when data coverage from administrative sources improves over time and these improvements get well documented.
  • Consequently, the initial estimates of GDP tend to be conservative.
  • To improve this, it would require concomitant changes in the sectoral data flows and associated regulatory framework in the data source agencies to facilitate the use of more macro modelling techniques.

Recent initiatives:

  • The Ministry has been accommodating these demands by optimizing the available resources and use of technology.
  • The recent step for the merger of CSO and NSSO was aimed at leveraging the strengths of the two organisations so that it can meet the increasing demands, MoSPI said.

COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA (CCI)

Why in news?

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) celebrated its 10th Annual Day which marks the notification of the substantive enforcement provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.

Competition Commission of India (CCI):

  • Competition Commission of India is a statutory body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India.
  • They prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.
  • The idea of Competition Commission was conceived and introduced in the form of The Competition Act, 2002.
  • A need was felt to promote competition and private enterprise especially in the light of 1991 Indian economic liberalisation.

Objectives:

  • Make the markets work for the benefit and welfare of consumers.
  • Ensure fair and healthy competition in economic activities in the country for faster and inclusive growth and development of the economy.
  • Implement competition policies with an aim to effectuate the most efficient utilization of economic resources.
  • Develop and nurture effective relations and interactions with sectoral regulators to ensure smooth alignment of sectoral regulatory laws in tandem with the competition law.
  • Effectively carry out competition advocacy and spread the information on benefits of competition among all stakeholders to establish and nurture competition culture in Indian economy.

LAUNCH OF FOURTH SCORPENE CLASS SUBMARINE – VELA

Why in news?

  • Vela, the fourth Scorpene class submarine being constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited for the Indian Navy, was launched. MDL is one of the India’s leading shipyards with a capacity to meet requirements of the Indian

Scorpene class:

  • The Scorpène-class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent
  • Jointly developed by the French Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN) and the Spanish company Navantia, and now by Naval Group
  • These submarines can undertake multifarious tasks typically undertaken by any modern submarine which include anti-surface as well as anti-submarine
  • In 2005, India chose the Scorpène design; purchasing six submarines. The first Scorpène submarine, named INS Kalvari, was undocked for the purpose of starting sea trials in April 2015 and will be delivered in September
  • The transfer of technology involves appropriate technical support by Naval Group to MDL in the field of construction, integration and tests of the submarines in India
  • This will be done by transfer of technical data package to MDL through information
  • system as well as on job training to MDL’s personnel on critical technologies.

HIGH SECURITY NUMBER PLATES

Why in News?

  • The issuing of certificate of registration (RC) for all classes of motor vehicles has been blocked from 2nd May 2019 in the country for not integrating High Security Registration Plates (HSRP) with the ‘Vahan’

Highlights:

  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) has taken this step to curb vehicle theft and enable easier tracking of lost and stolen
  • The new amendment of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 has made it mandatory for all vehicles sold on or after April 1, 2019 to be pre-fitted with High Security Registration Plates (HSRP).

High security Registration Plates:

  • The high security number plates are made of aluminum and come with reflective
  • The plates are tamper-proof equipped with a chromium-based and self-destructive hologram, which is hot stamped on the
  • In addition, a sticker on the plate carries all the essential details including the vehicle’s engine and chassis number and laser-branding of a 10-digit permanent identification number.
  • With the use of the high security plate throughout the country, the details about the car, engine and the chassis number will be stored in the national
  • Through this centralized record of bikes and cars, it would be easy to identify any vehicles.

NGT FORMS CENTRAL MONITORING COMMITTEE TO CHECK RIVER POLLUTION

Why in News?

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to make over 350 river stretches across the country pollution free

Objectives:

  • The committee has been composed to monitor pollution of rivers, as it has caused serious threat to the safety of water and Environment
  • Besides checking river pollution, the central monitoring committee will coordinate with the River Rejuvenation Committees of the states and oversee the execution of the action plans, taking into account the timelines, budgetary mechanism and other factors

Composition of committee:

  • The committee would comprise a representative of NITI Aayog, secretaries of Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Environment, the director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board
  • The Chairman of CPCB will be the nodal authority for Coordination
  • The chief secretaries of the states will act as the nodal agency at the state level
  • Functions of committee:
  • To undertake a national initiative by way of preparation and enforcement of a national plan to make river stretches pollution free
  • Ite will also coordinate with the RRCs of the States and oversee the execution of the action plans, taking into account the timelines, budgetary mechanism and other factors

National Policy on Software Products – 2019

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

Why in News?

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Policy on Software Products – 2019 to develop India as a Software Product Nation.

Highlights:

  • To promote the creation of a sustainable Indian software product industry, driven by intellectual property (IP), leading to a ten-fold increase in India share of the Global Software product market by 2025.
  • To nurture 10,000 technology startups in software product industry, including 1000 such technology startups in Tier-II and Tier-III towns & cities and generating direct and in-direct employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.
  • To create a talent pool for software product industry through up-skilling of 1,000,000 IT professionals,
    motivating 100,000 school and college students an generating 10,000 specialized professionals that can provide leadership.
  • To build a cluster-based innovation driven ecosystem by developing 20 sectoral and strategically located software product development clusters having integrated ICT infrastructure, marketing, incubation, R&D/testbeds and mentoring support.
  • In order to evolve and monitor scheme & programmes for the implementation of this policy, National Software Products Mission will be set up with participation from Government, Academia and Industry.

Major impact:

The Software product ecosystem is characterized by innovations, Intellectual Property (IP) creation and large value addition increase in productivity, which has the potential to significantly boost revenues and exports in the sector.

Implementation strategy and targets:

The Policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of Software products sector in the country as per the roadmap envisaged therein.

Gem Start-up Runway and SWAYATT Initiative

Why in News?

  • Launched on 19th February 2019, “StartUp Runway” is a unique concept initiated by GeM
    to promote entrepreneurship through innovation.
  • This program is an opportunity for Startups to reach out to the Government Buyers by offering products and services that are unique in concept, design, process and functionality.

Highlights:

  • DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) certified Startups are invited to offer their products/services for procurement on GeM.
  • It seeks to support technology development, research and innovation by ensuring a conducive policy environment for industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
  • It aligns with Government’s philosophy to turn Job-seekers into job-creators.

SWAYATT Initiative:

  • It is an initiative to promote Start-ups, Women and Youth Advantage Through eTransactions on Government e Marketplace (GeM).
  • This will bring together the key stakeholders within the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem to Government e-Marketplace the national procurement portal.

Government e-Marketplace:

  • GeM is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for Extension of tenure of the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis(NCSK) beyond 31.3.2019 for three years.

Highlights:

  • The major beneficiaries of the proposal would be the Safai Karamcharis and persons engaged in manual scavenging in the country since the NCSK will work for their welfare and upliftment.
  • The number of Manual Scavengers identified under the MS Act Survey as on 31.01.2019 is 14226 and under the National Survey undertaken by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment at the behest of NITI Aayog is 31128 on 31.01.2019.

NCSK:

  • The NCSK has been giving its recommendations to the Government regarding specific programmes for welfare of Safai Karamcharis, study and evaluate the existing welfare programmes for SafaiKaramcharis, investigate cases of specific grievances etc.
  • Also as per the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and
    their Rehabilitation Act, the NCSK has been assigned the work to monitor the implementation of the Act, tender advice for its effective implementation to the Centre and State Governments and enquire into complaints regarding contravention/non- implementation of the provisions of the Act. Though the Government has taken many steps for the upliftment of the SafaiKaramcharis, the deprivation suffered by them in socio-economic and educational terms is still far from being eliminated.
  • Further the practice of manual scavenging is still prevalent in the country and its eradication continues to be an area of the highest priority for the Government.

Background:

  • The NCSK was established in the year 1993 as per the provisions of the NCSK Act 1993 initially for the period upto 1997. Later the validity of the Act was initially extended upto 2002 and thereafter upto 2004. The NCSK Act ceased to have effect from 2004. After that the tenure of the NCSK has been extended as a non-statutory body from time to time. The tenure of the present Commission is upto 31.3.2019.

THE CONSTITUTION (SCHEDULED TRIBES) ORDER (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2018’ FOR REVISION IN LIST OF SCHEDULED TRIBES OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Polity/Governance

Why in news?

The Union Cabinet (chaired by Prime Minister) has approved the introduction of The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in the Parliament for certain amendments in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 so as to modify the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) of Arunachal Pradesh.

Changes made in list of Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are:

  • Deletion of ‘Abor’ in serial No. 1, as it is the same as ‘Adi’ in Serial No. 16.
  • Replace ‘Tai Khamti’ instead of ‘Khampti’ at serial No. 6.
  • Inclusion of ‘Mishmi-Kaman’ (Miju Mishmi), Idu (Mishmi) and Taraon (Digaru Mishmi) in serial No. 8.
  • Inclusion of Monpa, Memba, Sartang, Sajolong (Miji) in serial No. 9 in lieu of ‘Momba’.
  • Inclusion of ‘Nocte’, ‘Tangsa’, ‘Tutsa’, ‘Wancho’ in lieu of ‘Any Naga Tribes’ in serial No.
    • 10 in list of Scheduled Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

Scheduled Tribes:

  • A tribe is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect. A tribe possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity.
  • The nature of what constitutes an Indian tribe and the very nature of tribes have changed considerably over the course of centuries. Constitution of India has recognized tribal communities in India under ‘Schedule 5’ of the constitution. Hence the tribes recognized by the Constitution are known as ‘ Scheduled Tribes’.
  • The Constitution ensures certain protection and benefits for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
  • Social and political mobilisation has led to the increase of number of STs 225 in 1960 to 700 today.
  • As the number of communities demanding ST status expands, it brings the criteria of the recognition and the legitimacy of the process under scrutiny. The Constitution only states that STs are specified by the President after consultation with the Governor. It does not define or specify a particular criterion.

Criterion for STs:

According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the criterion includes

  • Indication of primitive traits
  • Distinctive culture
  • Geographical isolation
  • Shyness of connect with the community at large &
  • Backwardness

Fame India Phase II

Why in News?

  • Indian Prime Minister will launch the second phase of the FAME India scheme on September 7, 2018. The scheme offers incentives for mass adoption of electric vehicles with an outlay of Rs 5,500 crore.
  • The Prime Minister will unveil the scheme at the inaugural session of ‘MOVE’ – the global mobility summit, which will be organised in New Delhi from September 7-8.
  • The summit will see in attendance several global CEOs from the automotive sector.

Key Highlights :

  • The modalities of the scheme have been finalised by an inter-ministerial panel and it will soon be placed before the union Cabinet for approval.
  • The second phase of the scheme spanning five years will offer a subsidy to all categories of electric vehicles, including two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers including taxis and electric buses that are used in public transportation.
  • The main aim of the scheme is to promote green vehicles and check pollution. It will also envisage setting up a massive charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles.
  • However, strong hybrid vehicles, which were entitled to incentives in the ongoing pilot phase of the scheme, will not be able to avail (SOPs) in the second phase.

Which vehicles are covered under FAME India phase I?

  • At present, the incentive is being offered on purchase of strong hybrid and electric cars, two-wheelers and three-wheelers under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Strong) Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME India) scheme.
  • Under the scheme, depending on technology, battery-operated scooters and motorcycles are eligible for incentives ranging from Rs 1,800 to Rs 29,000, while in three-wheelers it is between Rs 3300 and Rs 61000.
  • Automotive manufacturers claim the incentive from the government at the end of each month.

Background:

  • The FAME India scheme was launched by the Indian Government in 2015 to promote eco-friendly vehicles.
  • In April, the Union government had extended the ongoing phase 1 of the FAME India scheme by six months till September-end or till its second phase is approved.
  • The first phase of the scheme was initially proposed for two years till March 31, 2017 but was extended twice for six months up to March 31, 2018.

Access to Andaman Eased

Why in News?

The Union government has decided to exclude 29 inhabited Andaman & Nicobar Islands from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime, subject to certain conditions, to boost tourism and overall development of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime

  • RAP regime has been notified under Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.
  • Under it, foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless Government is satisfied that there are extra-ordinary reasons to justify their visit.
  • Every foreigner, except citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area, is required to obtain special permit from competent authority having power to issue such permits to foreigner, seeking it.
  • Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.

List of the islands permitted for foreigner’s visit include:

  • East Island, North Andaman, Smith Island, Curfew Island, Stewart Island, Land Fall Island, Ayes Island, Middle Andaman, Long Island, Strait Island, North Passage, Baratang, South Andaman, Havelock, Neil Island, Flat Bay, Little Andaman, Chowra, Tillang Chong Island, Teressa, Katchal, Nancowry, Kamorta, Pulomilo, Great Nicobar, Little Nicobar, Narcondam Island and Interview Island.
  • Foreigners will also be allowed to visit 11 uninhabited Islands, to be notified by Andaman and Nicobar Islands Administration, only for day visits.

Exceptions:

  • Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals having their origin in these countries would continue to require RAP to visit Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In such cases, RAP may be granted only after obtaining prior approval of the ministry of home affairs.
  • For visiting Mayabunder and Diglipur, citizens of Myanmar will continue to require RAP which shall be issued only with the prior approval of the MHA.

NCRB to track complaints on sexual violence

Why in News?

  • Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has designated National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) as nodal authority to curb online child pornography, sexual violence and rape videos. It was decided by high-level meeting to discuss recommendations on ways to curb “sexual violence” videos involving women and children.

Curbing Sexual Violence:

  • To curb easy availability of online child porn and gang rape videos, the Centre has designated the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to act on such online content either on the basis of complaints or by taking suo motu cognizance.
  • Under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000, the MHA designated “NCRB, to be the agency of the MHA to perform the functions under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 79 of Information Technology Act, 2000 and to notify the instances” as per the earlier order.
  • The discussions were held ahead of the upcoming hearing before the Supreme Court on a plea by NGO Prajwala highlighting the availability of child porn and rape videos online
  • The apex court in its last hearing had warned social media websites of imposing a fine of Rs 5 lakh each per day till they developed a fool proof mechanism to prevent uploading of objectionable material.
  • It directed the ways to filter objectionable materials, including rape videos on laptops and smartphones.

Child Pornography still out of control:

  • While there are certain restrictions on accessing child pornography on desktop computers, the search engines and social media have not been able to curb it on laptops and smartphones.
  • A hash value (code) for all such videos and child sexual abuse material has been generated and shared with the content service provider which is being used to identify such videos online.
  • NCRB has been mandated to launch an online portal for receiving complaints and acting on them.
  • A list of 500 key words used in searching such child porn and rape videos has also been compiled and will be shared with the ISPs, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, WhatsApp and Microsoft,” said an official.

States demanding Policing reform:

  • The States urged the Centre to bring amendments to the Information Technology Act, 2000 and authorize a sub inspector (SI) level officer to investigate cases under IT Act.
  • Only an inspector level officer can investigate IT related offences.

National Crime Records Bureau:

  • The NCRB is a government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • NCRB is headquartered in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendation of the Task force and National Police Commission by merging the Directorate of Coordination and Police Computer (DCPC), Statistical Branch of BPR&D, Inter State Criminals Data Branch of CBI and Central Finger Print Bureau of CBI.
  • NCRB brings out three annual reports i.e. Crime in India, Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India and Prison Statistics India. These reports are principal reference points for police officers, researchers, media & policy makers.
  • Besides, the Bureau is also collecting Crime Statistics and Anti-human Trafficking statistics on monthly basis. The complete software package of ‘Monthly Crime Statistics’ has been released in the month of December, 2016.
  • It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was also able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice.

POSHAN MAAH (National Nutrition Month)

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India had recently organized an orientation workshop for various stakeholders participating in the Poshan Maah (National Nutrition Month) being celebrated in the month of September.
  • The month-long intensive campaign will be undertaken with an aim of reaching every household with message of nutrition — ‘har ghar poshan tyohar’ (every house a celebration of nutrition).

National Nutrition Month:

  • It will promote antenatal care, breastfeeding, fight anaemia, convey messages about importance of nutrition for girls and right age of marriage, deliver messages about importance of growth monitoring and also promote hygiene and sanitation.
  • It will be jointly organised by NITI Ayog, Ministries of Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare, Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Housing and Urban Affairs, Human Resources Development (HRD), Information and Broadcasting, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Tribal Affairs, Minority Affairs and AYUSH.

Poshan Maah:

  • The primary objective of the celebration of Poshan Maah is to take the messages of POSHAN to the grass root level.
  • The programme- an initiative of WCD Ministry and NITI Aayog is supported by 18 line Ministries/Departments/Government Organizations.
  • It seeks to synergise all efforts by leveraging technology and intends to take nutrition awareness to the level of Jan Andolan or People’s Movement.
  • The programme focuses on 8 themes – Antenatal Care, Optimal Breastfeeding (Early & Exclusive), Complementary Feeding, Anemia, Growth Monitoring, Girls-education, diet, right age of Marriage, Hygiene & Sanitation, Food Fortification.

POSHAN Abhiyan:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched on 8th March, 2018.
  • Objectives: The programme through use of technology, a targeted approach and convergence strives to reduce the level of Stunting, Under-nutrition, Anemia and Low Birth Weight in Children, as also, focus on Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers, thus holistically addressing malnutrition.
  • Aims: POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to ensure service delivery and interventions by use of technology, behavioural change through convergence and lays-down specific targets to be achieved across different monitoring parameters over the next few years.
  • Coverage: To ensure a holistic approach, all 36 States/UTs and 718 districts will be covered in a phased manner by the year 2020.

Commerce ministry developing national logistics portal

Why in News?

  • A National Logistics Portal is being developed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to ensure ease of trading in the international and domestic markets.
  • The portal will link all the stakeholders of EXIM, domestic trade and movement and all trade activities on a single platform.

Objective of the portal:

  • The portal’s main objective will be to fulfil the commitment of the Union Government to enhance trade competitiveness, create jobs, boost India’s performance in global rankings and pave the way for India to become a logistics hub.

Key Highlights of the portal:

  • The National Logistics Portal will be a single window online marketplace for trade, which will connect businesses, create opportunities and bring together various ministries, departments and the private sector.
  • It will bring together all the concerned stakeholders including traders, manufacturers, logistics service providers, infrastructure providers, financial services, Government departments and groups and associations on one platform.
  • The portal’s creation was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during this year’s budget speech.
  • The portal will be implemented in phases and will fulfil the commitment of the Government of India to enhance trade competitiveness, create jobs, boost India’s performance in global rankings and pave the way for India to become a logistics hub.

India’s logistics sector:

  • The Indian logistics sector is highly defragmented and complex with more than 20 government agencies, 40 partnering government agencies (PGAs), 37 export promotion councils, 500 certifications, 10000 commodities and 160 billion market size.
  • It also involves 12 million employment base, 200 shipping agencies, 36 logistic services, 129 ICDs, 168 CFSs, 50 IT ecosystems and banks & insurance agencies.
  • According to the estimates of the Economic Survey 2017-18, the worth of Indian logistics market would be around USD 215 billion in next two years compared to about USD 160 billion currently and also will provide livelihood to more than 22 million people and improving the sector will help facilitate 10 per cent decrease in indirect logistics cost leading to 5- 8 per cent growth in exports.

International Buddhist conclave 2018

Why in News?

  • The President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the “International Buddhist Conclave (IBC), 2018” and  also launched the Ministry of Tourism website on important Buddhist sites – indiathelandofbuddha.in and a new film showcasing the Buddhist sites in the country on the occasion

6th International Buddhist Conclave (IBC), 2018:

  • The theme of the conclave is “Buddha Path – The Living Heritage”
  • The aim of the Conclave is to showcase and project the Buddhist Heritage in India and boost tourism to the Buddhist sites in the country and cultivate friendly ties with countries and communities interested in Buddhism.
  • The Ministry of Tourism will launch its website in and a new film showcasing the Buddhist sites in the country.
  • The Ministerial level delegation from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka will participate along with delegates from 29 countries in the conclave.

International Buddhist Conclave:

  • The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, has been organizing the International Buddhist Conclave biennially.
  • The earlier International Buddhist Conclaves were organized in New Delhi and Bodhgaya (February 2004), Nalanda and Bodhgaya (February 2010), Varanasi and Bodhgaya (September 2012), Bodhgaya and Varanasi (September 2014) and in Sarnath/Varanasi and Bodhgaya (October 2016).
  • IBC 2018 will have a religious / spiritual dimension, an academic theme and a diplomatic and business component.
  • The Ministry has planned to organize an ‘Investors’ Summit’ during the Conclave to attract investments in developing world class infrastructure at Buddhist sites.

Buddhist Heritage in India:

  • The most precious gift that the Ancient India has given to the World is, the Buddha and his Path, which is, the Eight-fold Path, in Pali language, Aṭṭhangiko Maggo.
  •  The Buddha Path provides quality of life based on Values as moral principles, or other ideas that guide our choices; Right beliefs, connection to nature and place with spirituality; Way of Life, daily practices, good habits and inspiring traditional skills for mental growth, thereby, making it the Living Heritage.
  •  On the other hand, the ‘Buddha Path’ also refers to the Eight Great Places of Buddhist Heritage, (referred in Pali as Aṭṭhamahāṭhānāni).
  •  These Eight Places are connected with the important events of the life of the Buddha from the time of his Birth, Enlightenment, Teaching Dhamma to suffering humanity, till he passed away, Mahāparinirvāna, at the age of 80 years.

Post matric scholarship for other Backward classes students for studying in India

Why in News?

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for continuation and revision of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of “Post Matric Scholarship for Other Backward Classes Students for studying in India” (PMS-OBC) till 2020.

PMS-OBC:

  • PMS-OBC is flagship scheme of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, in operation since 1998-99.
  • It fully centrally sponsored scheme that aims to provide financial assistance to OBC students studying at post-matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education.
  • It enables approximately 40 lakh OBC students to pursue higher study after class X per year.

The revised PMS-OBC:

  • The revised scheme will cover larger numbers of eligible and deserving poor OBC students who will be able to pursue higher studies
  • It will ensure effective implementation, achieve de-duplication and enhanced monitoring.
    • The revision in the PMS-OBC scheme to ensure effective implementation and better monitoring of the schemes includes:
    • Annual parental income will be increased from Rs. One Lakh to Rs. 1.5 lakh.
    • 30% of the funds allocated earmarked for girl students and 5% for students with disabilities.
    • Disbursement of scholarships through Aadhaar seeded bank accounts.
    • Since the Scheme is funds-limited, central assistance shall be released according to the Notional Allocation. The concept of Committed Liability shall not apply to States/UTs for releases.

UMANG

Why in News?

Recognizing the importance of reaching out to the consumers and to safeguard their interests, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has now integrated its Mobile Apps namely DND 2.0 & MyCall with UMANG Platform.

TRAI MyCall App

  • It is an intuitive and user-friendly application for Crowdsourced Voice Call Quality Monitoring.
  • It helps Mobile phone users to rate their experience about voice call quality in real time and help TRAI gather consumer experience data along with Network data.
  • How it works?
    • A pop-up requests the user to rate the call after it ends. Callers simply select their rating in the form of stars and indicate if the calls were made in indoor, outdoor or while travelling. Callerscan also provide additional details such as noise or audio delay or mark a call-drop.

DND 2.0 App:

  • DND (Do Not Disturb) Services App enables smart phone users to register their mobile number under DND and report spam messages or calls to avoid Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC)/Telemarketing Calls/SMS.
  • All about UMANG App:
  • The UMANG App was launched with an aim to make the government accessible on the mobile phone of the citizens.
  • UMANG stands for ‘Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance’ and is envisaged to make e-governance.
  • Umang is an initiative to promote Digital India program.
  • The app was developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD).

Key features of UMANG App:

  • The UMANG App provides a unified approach where you can install one application to avail multiple government services.
  • It contains 162 services of 33 departments or applications and 4 States.
  • It is a single mobile app that have an access to 1200 services of various government offices from Centre, State and utility services.
  • It provides all pan India e-Gov services like Aadhaar and Digilocker on one single platform.
  • Whether one needs to pay utility bills, file income tax, book a gas cylinder, know about your Provident fund account or have Aadhaar related query, UMANG provides all these services.

Swachh Survekshan 2019, ODF+ & ODF ++ protocols and SWACHH MANCH web portal

Why in News?

  • Swachh Survekshan 2019, ODF+ & ODF ++ Protocols and Swachh Manch Web Portal
  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is set to launch the Swachh Survekshan 2019.
  • Parallelly, a slew of new initiatives under the SBM-Urban as well as the Ease of Living Index will also be launched.

Success of Swachh Bharat:

  • The recently concluded Swachh Survekshan 2018 ranked 4,203 Cities.
  • Swachh Survekshan has caught the imagination of citizens and stakeholder alike: in 2016, 1 lakh citizens provided their feedback in the survey.
  • In 2017, nearly 20 lakh citizen feedback was received. 2018 garnered feedback from 38 lakh citizens, a milestone to the way in which the SBM has become an integral part of citizens’ mental maps.
  • The survey has already succeeded in fostering a spirit of healthy competition among towns and cities to improve their service delivery to citizens, towards creating cleaner cities.

Highlights of Swachh Survekshan 2018:

  • 79% of residents find their area cleaner than last year.
  • 73,875 waste pickers provided formal livelihood.
  • In 137 cities, > 60% of the bulk garbage generators are doing on-site composting.
  • 33% cities of >1 lakh population have ICT based monitoring of their Community and Public Toilets.

Swachh Survekshan 2019:

  • With an aim to increase the coverage of the ranking exercise MoHUA now proposes to conduct its fourth survey – Swachh Survekshan 2019 to rank all cities under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U).
  • The distinctive features of the survey includes encouraging large scale citizen participation, ensuring sustainability of initiatives taken towards garbage free and open defecation free cities, providing credible outcomes which would be validated by third party certification etc.
  • The Swachh Survekshan 2019 toolkit that will be launched will contain the detailed survey methodology and component indicators with scores to help cities to prepare themselves for taking the survey.

SBM ODF+ and ODF++ Protocol:

  • The SBM ODF+ protocol focuses on sustaining community/ public toilet usage by ensuring their functionality, cleanliness and maintenance.
  • The SBM ODF++ will focus on achieving sanitation sustainability by addressing complete sanitation value chain, including safe containment, processing and disposal of faecal sludge and septage.
  • The ODF+ and ++ protocol and toolkit to be launched will detail out the necessary conditions to be achieved by cities for declaring themselves as ODF+ and ODF++, along with the detailed steps required for third party certifications.

Swachh Manch web portal:

  • It is a web-based platform which aims to bring together every stakeholder contributing to the Swachh Bharat Mission under a common platform.
  • It will allow stakeholders to create/invite/participate in volunteering opportunities around neighbourhoods.
  • It will enable uploads of pictorial evidence of citizens and organizations participating in the initiatives, as well as record the number of hours volunteered, as acknowledgement of citizens’/organisations’ efforts and contributions to the cause of ‘swachhata’.
  • The Swachh Manch will also be integrated with the existing Swachhata App to act as a citizens’ grievance redressal platform.

Ease of Living Index:

  • The Ease of Living assessment standards are closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will provide a strong impetus to India’s effort for systematic tracking progress of SDGs in the urban areas.
  • It will also be launched along with an Ease of Living Index dashboard.
  • Apart from presenting the overall national ranking of 111 cities, the dashboard will present ranking of the cities across pillars, category, geographical zone and population classifications.
  • This framework comprises four pillars namely Institutional, Social, Economic and Physical which are further broken down into 15 categories and 78 indicators.
  • The dashboard will also have a comparison feature that will allow users to analyse the performance across cities on various liveability parameters.

Strategic partnership (SP) model – procurement of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy

Why in News?

  • The Union Defence Ministry gave its approval for the acquisition of 111 utility helicopters for Navy at an estimated cost of over Rs 21,000 crore.
  • This is the first project under the MoD’s prestigious Strategic Partnership (SP) Model that aims at providing significant fillip to the Government’s ‘Make in India’ programme.

What is Strategic Partnership (SP) model?

  • The strategic partner model is intended to enhance competition, increase efficiencies, facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology, create a tiered industrial ecosystem, ensure development of a wider skill base, trigger innovation and enable participation in global value chains as well as promote exports.
  • Under the model, the government intends to boost private sector participation and create domestic expertise in four key areas, namely, fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armoured vehicles and main battle tanks.
  • One company would be selected for each area based on its competence, which would then tie up with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer selected through the procurement process, to build the platform in India with significant technology transfer.

Significance:

  • The SP model, if implemented well, is likely to have a number of benefits for both the private sector and the larger Indian defence industry.
  • From the private sector’s point of view, the biggest benefit would be the opportunity to participate in some big-ticket contracts – estimated to be worth over two lakh crore rupees in the initial phase of execution ¬– which were hitherto reserved for the DPSUs and OFs.
  • Bridging the trust gap: At the same time, the model would also go a long way in bridging the long-standing trust gap between the Indian private sector and MoD, with the latter perceived to be friendlier toward public sector entities.
  • Strategic Partners, being private sector companies, are expected to exploit their dynamism, competitiveness, profit orientation, and exposure to the civilian sector for efficient utilisation of the technology, manpower and infrastructure developed in the process.
  • The model has a long-term vision of promoting India as a manufacturing hub for defence equipment thus enhancing self-sufficiency and establishing an industrial and R&D ecosystem, capable of meeting the future requirements of the Armed Forces.

Key Highlights:

  • The procurement of the naval utility helicopters will be the first project under the ambitious strategic partnership (SP) model that provides for roping in private firm to build select military platforms in India in partnership with foreign defence manufacturers.
  • The utility helicopters will be used in attack missions as well as for search and rescue and surveillance operations.
  • The DAC also granted approval to other procurement proposals worth Rs 24,879.16 crore, which include one on buying 150 indigenously designed and developed 155 mm advanced towed artillery gun systems for the Indian Army at an approximate cost of Rs 3364.78 crore.
  • These gun systems have been indigenously designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and will be manufactured by production agencies nominated by DRDO.
  • The DAC also approved a proposal to procure 24 naval multi-role helicopters (NMRH), which will have the capability to engage in anti-submarine warfare. The helicopters are an integral part of frontline warships such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes.
  • Besides this, the DAC also approved procurement of 14 vertically launched short-range missile systems, among which 10 will be indigenously developed. The systems will help boost the self-defence capability of ships against anti-ship missiles.

New central sector scheme for promoting pharmacovigilance of Ayush drugs

Why in News?

To prevent misleading of customers, the AYUSH Ministry has introduced a new Central sector scheme promoting pharmacovigilance of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy (ASU&H) drugs.

Scheme for Pharmacovigilance of ASU&H drugs:

  • Prime objective of the scheme is to develop the culture of documenting adverse effects and undertake safety monitoring of ASUH drugs and surveillance of misleading advertisements appearing in the print and electronic media.
  • The scheme intends to facilitate the establishment of three-tier network of National Pharmacovigilance Centre (NPvCC), Intermediary Pharmacovigilance Centres (IPvCCs) and Peripheral Pharmacovigilance Centres (PPvCC).
  • All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH, has been designated as National Pharmacovigilance Centre for coordinating various activities of the initiative.

Implementation of Scheme:

  • In the initial phase of implementation, five National Institutes of AYUSH are designated as the Intermediary Pharmacovigilance Centres.
  • Another forty-two institutions of AYUSH having clinical facilities are designated as Peripheral Pharmacovigilance Centres
  • These will take up the work of reporting, documentation, analysis, causality assessment of the adverse reactions and events associated with the consumption of ASUH drugs.
  • It is intended to have more such centres across the country and achieve the target of 100 peripheral Pharmacovigilance centres by 2020.
  • Representatives of Central Drug Standards Control Organisation as the national drug regulatory authority and the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission being the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmacovigilance in the country are associated in the initiative as mentor and guide.

Significance of the scheme:

  • The quality issues and safety concerns of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy Drugs have been raised from various sources.
  • The Ministry felt it necessary in the interest of Public Health to oversee the impact of ASU&H Drugs consumed by the people from the perspective of their safety profile.
  • Similarly, publicizing improper drug information in the form advertisements is a matter of concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the interest of AYUSH drug consumers.
  • Pharmacovigilance initiative will facilitate detection of potentially unsafe ASU&H medicines and misleading advertisements for taking regulatory action against them.

NITI Aayog Identified 117 Districts as Aspirational Districts for RUSA Scheme

Why in News?

  • NITI Aayog has identified 117 districts as ‘Aspirational Districts’ for Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).
  • These districts have been selected on the basis of the composite index which includes published data of deprivation enumerated under Socio-Economic Caste Census, Health & Nutrition, Education and Basic Infrastructure.

Opening of new Model Degree Colleges (MDCs):

  • During the second phase of RUSA, central assistance is provided for opening of new Model Degree Colleges(MDCs) in these  ‘Aspirational Districts’ and in unserved & underserved districts in North Eastern and Himalayan States.
  • The central support provided under the component of new MDCs is infrastructural in nature in which funds are released for creation of Colleges with requisite infrastructure such as appropriate number of class rooms, library, laboratory, faculty rooms, toilet blocks and other essential requirements for technologically advanced facilities.
  • Further, under this component, a commitment is given by the State Governments that all recurring expenditure (including salaries) in respect of the MDC being established, will be borne by the respective State Government.
  • Additionally, under a separate component of RUSA viz., Faculty Recruitment Support, central support is provided for creation of additional posts of Assistant Professors.

RUSA Scheme:

  • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
  • The salient objectives of RUSA are to
  • Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
  • Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
  • Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
  • Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
  • Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
  • Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
  • Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in unserved & underserved areas.
  • Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons

SEVA BHOJ YOJNA – Scheme

Why in News?

  • Union Ministry of Culture has launched- ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’– a scheme to reimburse central share of CGST and IGST on food, prasad, langar or bhandara offered by religious and charitable institutions.
  • The ‘Seva Bhoj Yojna’ has a total outlay of Rs 325.00 crore for financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20

Key Highlights

  • The scheme will compensate the religious and charitable institutions of the Central Government share of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST)
  • It mainly aims to lessen the financial burden on religious and charitable bodies that provide food, prasad, langar and bhandara free-of-cost without any discrimination to the public.
  • The religious or charitable institutions such as temples, gurudwaras, mosques, churches, dharmik ashram, dargah, matth, monasteries that have been in existence for at least three years before applying for financial assistance under the scheme will be eligible for getting benefits under the scheme.
  • The Ministry will enroll the eligible religious and charitable institutions for a time period ending with the financial year 2019-20 and subsequently, the enrolment may be renewed by the Ministry, depending on the performance evaluation of the institutions.

Beneficiaries:

  • The charitable religious institutions including temples, gurudwara, mosque, church, dharmik ashram, dargah, monasteries, which fulfill the following criteria are eligible for the grant:
  • The institutions that have been in existence for at least five years before applying for financial assistance/grant.
  • The institutions that serve free food to at least 5000 people in a month.
  • The institutions covered under Section 10 (23BBA) of the Income Tax Act or those registered as Society under Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860) or as a Public Trust under any law for the time being in force of statuary religious bodies constituted under any Act or institutions registered under Section 12AA of Income Tax Act.

Selection criteria:

  • All Eligible religious and charitable institutions first must register with Darpan portal of NITI Aayog and get Unique ID generated by it.
  • Thereafter, they shall enroll themselves in CSMS Portal on the Ministry of Culture’s website in prescribed format. The applications will be examined by committee constituted for purpose.
  • On basis of recommendation of committee, competent authority in Ministry of Culture will register these institutions for reimbursing claim of CGST and Central Government share of IGST paid on mentioned specific items.

Government Announces regulations for drones

Why in News?

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) for civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) commonly known as drones.

Drones registration rules:

  • Drone Regulations 1.0 will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018.
  • These are intended to enable visual line-of-sight daytime-only and a maximum of 400 ft altitude operations.
  • Airspace has been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission).

Digital Sky Platform:

  • The Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT)
  • The UTM operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths.
  • Users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners
  • For every flight (exempted for the nano category), users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process permits or denies the request instantly .
  • To prevent unauthorized flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off.

Key features of Drone Regulations 1.0:

  • As per the regulation, there are 5 categories of RPAS categorized by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large.
  • All RPAS except nano and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies are to be registered and issued with Unique Identification Number (UIN).
  • Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required for RPA operators except for nano RPAS operating below 50 ft., micro RPAS operating below 200 ft., and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies.
  • The regulation defines “No Drone Zones” around airports; near the international border, Vijay Chowk in Delhi; State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations/vital and military installations; etc.

No Drone Zones:

  • The regulation defines “No Drone Zones” around airports; near international border, Vijay Chowk in Delhi; State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations/vital and military installations; etc.

Why it took multiple years to put-out regulations on drones?

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been working really hard to establish a world leading drone ecosystem in India. The purpose necessitates the development of global standard drone regulations that would permit the commercial application of various drone technologies.
  • The preparation of drone regulations through a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) took multiple years as:
    • Drone technologies have been evolving very rapidly
    • Many countries are still experimenting with their drone regulations and no ICAO stands have been developed
    • India’s security environment necessitates extra precautions.

Rajasthan First State to Implement Biofuel Policy

Why in News?

  • Rajasthan has become the first State in the country to implement the national policy on biofuels.
  • The policy lays emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds and establish a Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to promote research in the fields of alternative fuels and energy resources.

Details:

  • Under this policy, State Government will lay emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds and establish Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to promote research in fields of alternative fuels and energy resources.
  • Biodiesel plant of capacity of eight tonnes per day already has been installed in the State with financial assistance of Indian Railways.
  • State government will give emphasis to promote marketing of biofuels and generate awareness about them.
  • State Rural Livelihood Development Council will also encourage women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to explore the scope for additional income through supply of biodiesel

National Policy on Biofuels- 2018

  • The policy categorises of biofuels into first generation (1G), second generation (2G) and third generation (3G) to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • It seeks to help farmers dispose of their surplus stock in an economic manner and reduce the country’s oil import dependence.
  • It has expanded the scope of raw materials for ethanol production by allowing use of sugarcane juice, sugar containing materials like sweet sorghum, sugar beet, starch containing materials like corn, cassava, damaged food grains like broken rice, wheat, rotten potatoes which are unfit for human consumption, for ethanol production.
  • It also encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil, short gestation crops.

Salient Features of the Policy:

 

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

Expected Benefits

  • Import dependency: The policy aims at reducing import dependency.
  • Cleaner environment: By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.
  • Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
  • Employment Generation: One 100klpd 2G bio refinery can contribute 1200 jobs in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.
  • Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same.

Launch of National mission on GEM

Why in News?

  • The National Mission on Government e Marketplace (GeM) will be launched on September 5, 2018 to accelerate the adoption and use of GeM by major central ministries, state governments and their agencies.

Objective:

  • The main aim of the mission is to promote inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in public procurement and achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction.

Key Highlights:

  • The mission will be launched at the respective state headquarters by the Chief Ministers during the 6 weeks’ special drive beginning from September 6 to October 15, 2018.
  • It will cover important sectors and flagship programmes, the launch of IEC campaign along with training on usage of GeM for buyers and sellers, buyer registration drive to on board government agencies and vendor registration drive with a special focus on MSMEs.
  • Its implementation will help increase overall efficiency and lead to cost saving on government expenditure in procurement.

Government e Marketplace:

  • It is an online marketplace to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
  • 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.
  • The e-marketplace completed two years in 2018 and on August 26, 2018, it crossed Rs 10,800 crore in terms of value and 6.96 lakh in terms of volume of transactions through the platform.
  • The platform has more than 1.35 lakh sellers offering 4.43 lakh products and around 26,500 organisations as buyers.
  • While all States and Union Territories are buying through the platform, 25 States and UTs have already signed an MoU to make procurement through GeM mandatory. It has led to an overall average saving in cost of procurement to the tune of about 25 per cent.

New specific health warning on Tobacco products packs

Why in News?

  • The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on August 20, 2018 notified new sets of specified health warnings for all tobacco product packs.
  • The new set of health warnings was notified through an amendment in the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008.

Specified health warnings:

  • The government released two separate set of images. The first set will be used on tobacco products for a period of 12 months, beginning from September 1, 2018.
  • All tobacco products manufactured or imported or packaged on or after September 1, 2018 shall display first set of image and those manufactured or imported or packaged on or after September 1, 2019 shall display second set of image.
  • Any person engaged directly or indirectly in the production, supply, import or distribution of cigarettes or any tobacco products shall ensure that all tobacco product packages have the specified health warnings exactly as prescribed.
  • Violation of any provision is a punishable offence with imprisonment or fine as prescribed in Section 20 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

Violation is Punishable offense:

  • Any person engaged directly or indirectly in the production, supply, import or distribution of cigarettes or any tobacco products shall ensure.
  • That all tobacco product packages shall have the specified health warnings exactly as prescribed.
  • Violation of the above-mentioned provision is a punishable offence with imprisonment or fine as prescribed in Section 20 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

India Post Payments Bank

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for revision of the project outlay for setting up of India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) from Rs. 800 crore to Rs. 1,435 crore.

India Post Payment Bank Project:

  • The IPPB is aimed to provide modes of payments/financial services through its technology enabled solutions which will be distributed by the post employees/last mile agents transforming them from mail deliverer to harbinger of financial services.
  • The IPPB shall pay incentive/commission to the last mile agents ( Postal Staff and Gramin Dak Sewaks) directly in their accounts for providing IPPB services so as to motivate them to promote IPP8 digital services to the customers.
  • A part of commission to be paid by IPPB to Department of Posts will be used for increasing the wherewithal of Post office

Project Key highlights:

  • IPPB services shall be available at 650 IPPB branches and 3250 Access Points from 1st September 2018 and in all 1.55 lakh post offices (Access Points) by December 2018.
  • The project will generate new employment opportunity for about 3500 skilled banking professionals and other entities engaged in propagating financial literacy across the country.
  • The objective of the project is to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man; spearhead the financial inclusion agenda by removing the barriers for the unbanked and reduce the opportunity cost for the under banked populace through assisted doorstep banking.
  • The project will supplement Government’s vision of “less cash” economy and at the same time promote both economic growth and financial inclusion.
  • The robust IT architecture of IPPB has been built taking into consideration bank grade performance, fraud and risk mitigation standards and in line with the best practices from payments & banking domain.

Homeopathy Central Council Amendment Bill – 2018

Why in News?

  • Lok Sabha has passed the Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill 2018.
  • It seeks to replace the Central Council of Homoeopathy (CCH) with a board of governors and is aimed at bringing accountability and quality in homeopathy education system.

Key features of the Bill:

Supersession of the Central Council:

  • It amends the 1973 Act to provide for the supersession of the Central Council with effect from May 18, 2018.
  • The Central Council will be reconstituted within one year from the date of its supersession.
  • In the interim period, the central government will constitute a Board of Governors, which will exercise the powers of the Central Council.

Board of Governors:

  • The Board of Governors will consist of up to seven members including: (i) persons of eminence in the field of homoeopathy education, and (ii) eminent administrators, appointed by the central government.
  • The central government will select one of these members as the Chairperson of the Board. With regard to policy decisions, the directions of the central government will be final.

Permission for existing homoeopathy colleges:

  • The Bill states that: (i) if any person has established a homoeopathy medical college, or (ii) if an established homoeopathy medical college has opened new courses or increased its admission capacity before the Ordinance was promulgated, it will have to seek permission from the central government within one year.
  • If the person or homoeopathy medical college fails to seek such permission, then any medical qualification granted to a student from such medical college will not be recognised under the Act.

Vidya Lakshmi Portal for Education Loan

Why in News?

As part of its digital initiative, Karnataka Bank has integrated its education loan scheme/s with Vidya Lakshmi Portal.

Vidya Lakshmi Portal- Highlights:

  • Vidya Lakshmi Portal provides a single window for students to access information and make application for Educational Loans provided by Banks.
  • This portal has been developed under the guidance of Department of Financial Services (Ministry of Finance), Department of Higher Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development) and Indian Banks Association (IBA).
  • Students can view, apply and track the education loan applications to banks anytime, anywhere by accessing the portal
  • It was launched by the Government on August 15, 2015 to ensure that students can avail loans easily through single window system of banks for education loans.
  • Banks follow Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) guidelines in this regard which stipulates that education loan applications have to be disposed off, in the normal course, within a period of 15 to 30 days.

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