14th February, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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India State of Forest Report, 2017
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Though India has seen an increase in its forest cover by 1%, this is mainly due to monoculture plantations than revival of forests. We have to evolve a strategy to revive forests at the earliest
India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations that are favored by even forest development corporations in many States. Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed. The latest assessment categorizes more than 300,000 sq km of area as open forests with a tree canopy of 10-40%. These lands provide the opportunity to bring back diverse, indigenous trees. Such a measure, combined with a policy against allowing open cast mining, can bring about a renaissance. Dedicated efforts will be required to protect the precious forests of the Northeast.
Some more information on the report:
It is a report which is released by Ministry of Environment and Forests. This report shows that there is an increase of 1,001 sq.km of tree cover in India. However, the report also shows a declining trend of tree cover observed in Kodagu and Shivamogga. The 19th edition of the report, brought out by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), tabulates tree cover every two years using satellite imagery. Karnataka ranks second in our country in terms of an increase in tree forest cover. India ranks 10th in the world, with 24.4% of land areas under forest and tree cover. The goal of the Indian government since 1998 is to increase this to 33%. Andhra Pradesh has shown the most increase in its forest cover followed by Karnataka and then Kerala
(GS3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life)
Issue: We share information about our identity on the internet and through various digital transactions. It is believed that social media and networking service companies employ infinite ways to slice and dice data, which itself is quite daunting as at every step, there is potential to make huge mistakes. Careful data mining from Big Data might help understand our behavior in order to facilitate planning. But there are examples of blunders being made with a load of information at one’s fingertips. Hence, Big Data should be employed with utmost care
What is Big Data?
Big data is often characterized by 3Vs: the extreme volume of data, the wide variety of data types and the velocity at which the data must be processed. Although big data doesn’t equate to any specific volume of data, the term is often used to describe terabytes, petabytes and even exabytes of data captured over time.
Such voluminous data can come from myriad different sources, such as business sales records, the collected results of scientific experiments or real-time sensors used in the internet of things. Data may be raw or preprocessed using separate software tools before analytics are applied.
Big Data and challenges in India context
Some of the S&T challenges that researchers across the globe and as well as in India facing are related to data deluge pertaining to Astrophysics, Materials Science, Earth & atmospheric observations, Energy, Fundamental Science, Computational Biology, Bioinformatics & Medicine, Engineering & Technology, GIS and Remote Sensing, Cognitive science and Statistical data. This challenge requires development of advanced algorithms, visualization techniques, data streaming methodologies and analytics. The overall constraints that community facing are
- The IT Challenge: Storage and computational power
- The computer science :Algorithm design, visualization, scalability (Machine Learning, network & Graph analysis, streaming of data and text mining), distributed data, architectures, data dimension reduction and implementation
- The mathematical science: Statistics, Optimization, uncertainty quantification, model development (statistical, simulation) analysis and systems theory
- The multi-disciplinary approach: Contextual problem solving
To tap the analytics momentum, India now needs to build a sustainable analytics eco-system that brings in a strong partnership across the industry players, government, and academia. Some of the key actions for analytics eco-system in India would be around.
- Talent Pool – Create industry academia partnership to groom the talent pool in universities as well as develop strong internal training curriculum to advance analytical depth.
- Collaborate – Form analytics forum across organization boundaries to discuss the pain-points of the practitioner community and share best practices to scale analytics organizations.
- Capability Development – Invest in long term skills and capabilities that forms the basis for differentiation and value creation. There needs to be an innovation culture that will facilitate IP creation and asset development.
- Value Creation – Building rigor to measure the impact of analytics deployment is very critical to earn legitimacy within the organization.
Broad contours of ‘Department of Science and Technology’ (DST) initiated ‘Big Data Initiative’ (BDI) programme
- To promote and foster Big Data Science, Technology and Applications in the country and to develop core generic technologies, tools and algorithms for wider applications in Govt.
- To understand the present status of the industry in terms of market size, different players providing services across sectors/ functions, opportunities, SWOT of industry, policy framework (if any), present skill levels available etc.
- To carryout market landscape survey to assess the future opportunities and demand for skill levels in next 10 years
- To carryout gap analysis in terms of skills levels and policy framework.
- To evolve a strategic Road Map and micro level action plan clearly defining of roles of various stakeholders – Govt., Industry, Academia, Industry Associations and others with clear timelines and outcome for the next 10 years.
(GS3: Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security)
Issue: The plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on February 21 and 23 will decide on a resolution sponsored by four countries — the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany — to name Pakistan in its public statement as a country that had not taken sufficient steps to counter money laundering and terror financing.
If the resolution is passed it would the first time ever when four countries had nominated any country for censure
The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF), also known by its French name, Groupe d’action financière (GAFI), is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering. In 2001 the purpose expanded to act on terrorism financing. It monitors countries’ progress in implementing the FATF Recommendations by ‘peer reviews’ (‘mutual evaluations’) of member countries. The FATF Secretariat is housed at the headquarters of the OECD in Paris.
FATF was formed by the 1989 G7 Summit in Paris to combat the growing problem of money laundering. The task force was charged with studying money laundering trends, monitoring legislative, financial and law enforcement activities taken at the national and international level, reporting on compliance, and issuing recommendations and standards to combat money laundering. At the time of its formation, FATF had 16 members, which by 2016 had grown to 37.
In its first year, FATF issued a report containing forty recommendations to more effectively fight money laundering. These standards were revised in 2003 to reflect evolving patterns and techniques in money laundering.
The mandate of the organization was expanded to include terrorist financing following the September 11 terror attacks in 2001. India is one of the members of the FATF
In addition to FATF’s “Forty plus Nine” Recommendations, in 2000 FATF issued a list of “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories” (NCCTs), commonly called the FATF Blacklist. This was a list of 15 jurisdictions that, for one reason or another, FATF members believed were uncooperative with other jurisdictions in international efforts against money laundering (and, later, terrorism financing). Typically, this lack of cooperation manifested itself as an unwillingness or inability (frequently, a legal inability) to provide foreign law enforcement officials with information relating to bank account and brokerage records, and customer identification and beneficial owner information relating to such bank and brokerage accounts, shell company, and other financial vehicles commonly used in money laundering.
The effect of the FATF Blacklist has been significant, and arguably has proven more important in international efforts against money laundering than has the FATF Recommendations. While, under international law, the FATF Blacklist carried with it no formal sanction, in reality, a jurisdiction placed on the FATF Blacklist often found itself under intense financial pressure.
‘Defense Acquisition Council’
(GS3: Security Challenges)
Issue: The Defense Acquisition Council recently approved procurement of machine guns and sniper rifles. Along with them it also gave approval for ‘MAREECH’, an advanced torpedo decoy system. It is developed by Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)
The Government has set up a Defense Acquisition Council headed by the Defense minister for decision making in regard to the totality of the new planning process.
Which inter-alia involves according ‘in principle’ approval of Capital Acquisitions in the long term perspective plan and for each Capital Acquisition Programme
The decision flowing from the Defense Acquisition Council is to be implemented by the following 3 Boards –
- Defence Procurement Board headed by the Defence Secretary
- Defence Production Board headed by the Secretary (Defence Production)
- Defence Research & Development Board headed by the Secretary (Defence Research & Development)
‘RAABTA’ (Facts for Prelims)
Issue: A new initiative to connect Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims was recently started in the Valley. On the occasion of Herath (Shivratri) on Tuesday, greeting cards were sent out, as part of the initiative, with warm wishes for the festival.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scrapped corporate debt restructuring (CDR), strategic debt restructuring (SDR), sustainable structuring of stressed assets (S4A) and joint lenders forum (JLF) schemes to restructure defaulted loans. These measures will ensure the restructuring process is of internationally accepted standards
The central bank withdrew a host of norms such as SDR and S4A, and made the process time-bound. The new rules stipulate that starting 1 March, lenders must implement a resolution plan within 180 days for accounts of at least Rs 2,000 crore.
The large accounts are mainly those where banks have initiated resolution and are classified as restructured standard assets. Indian banks are sitting on a stressed assets pool of over Rs10 trillion.
What are NPA?
A nonperforming asset (NPA) refers to a classification for loans on the books of financial institutions that are in default or are in arrears on scheduled payments of principal or interest. In most cases, debt is classified as nonperforming when loan payments have not been made for a period of 90 days. While 90 days of nonpayment is the standard period of time for debt to be categorized as nonperforming, the amount of elapsed time may be shorter or longer depending on the terms and conditions set forth in each loan.
At 9.9 per cent ratio, India has been ranked fifth on the list of countries with highest Non-Performing Assets (NPAs), and is on top spot among the BRICS nations
Solving this problem is the need of the hour in Indian economy
‘Crop Residue burning’
(GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: The Indian government’s plan to spend $230 million over two years to prevent crop residue burning is below the spending estimates of its policy advisors for the task and may do little to cut the air pollution that envelops the capital region of Delhi.
The planned expenditure is far less than the $600 million per year that Niti Aayog, a government policy advisory group, estimated last November needed to be spent to prevent farmers from burning the crop waste left over after harvesting.
The crop stubble burning caused one-quarter of the air pollution that blanketed Delhi in November, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change told parliament last week. The particles from the stubble burning combine with industrial pollution, vehicle exhaust and dust to cover the region every year as winter approaches and wind speeds drop.
The proposed plan would give money to farmers in three states bordering Delhi—Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh—to cover 80% of the cost of machinery to remove the crop stubble
Though the programme has laudable objectives some believe the allocation to this programme is far too less.
‘Youth Festival 2018’ (facts for Prelims)
The first ever National Youth Fest organized by the Indian Red Cross Society in the country on February 13th. The Youth Fest provided participants an opportunity to understand different humanitarian activities of the Red Cross. Indian Red Cross Society which is the largest statutory humanitarian organization in India. Indian Red Cross Society will turn 100 years ‘young’ in 2020. The activities included in the festival were providing relief in times of disasters and other emergencies, promoting accessibility to health services and to safe and healthy living, and working to reduce stigma and discrimination for better integration of disadvantaged people.
‘Global Theatre Olympics’ (facts for Prelims)
It is for the first time in the history of independent India that a theatre festival of such a large magnitude is being organized. The 51 days long event will travel to 17 Indian cities with 450 shows, 600 ambience performances and 250 power packed youth forum shows. 25000 artists from across the globe will participate in the festival which will conclude on 08th February, 2018 with a grand ceremony at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai
About Theatre Olympics
The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 at Delphi, Greece. Being an international theatre festival, the Theatre Olympics presents some of the greatest theatre practitioners from around the world. It is a platform for theatrical exchange, a gathering place for students and masters, where a dialogue despite ideological, culture and language differences is encouraged. Since 1993, the Theatre Olympics has been held seven times in the following countries: Japan (1999), Russia (2001), Turkey (2006), South Korea (2010), China (2014), Poland (2016). The theme of the latest edition of Theatre Olympics being held in India is “Flag of Friendship”. This most awaited event of world theatre in India attempts to bring all the creative minds from across the globe to this ‘NatyaMahakumbh’.
The National School of Drama is the torchbearer of theatre in India and has trained some of the most respected actors and theatre stalwarts of all time. Established in 1959, it has a proud legacy spanning over six decades of theatrical perfection. Hosting the 8th Theatre Olympics adds another feather to the cap of this history institution.