04th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Sunita williams’ (Facts that could be asked in prelims)
Issue: Indian-origin US astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA today for its first human spaceflight programme since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft.
About the mission
The space agency announced that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX. The missions will mark the first crewed launches from US soil since the end of the space shuttle programme seven years ago.
‘Extra-solar planetary’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The extrasolar object, about a dozen times more massive than Jupiter, is located some 20 light-years from Earth, showed the findings made using the US National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) telescope.
About this new discovery
- The strange object, called SIMP J01365663+0933473, has a magnetic field more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s
- The object was originally detected in 2016 as one of five brown dwarfs the scientists studied with the VLA to gain new knowledge about magnetic fields and the mechanisms by which some of the coolest such objects can produce strong radio emission.
‘Digital Economy’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Sushil Modi-led ministerial panel today approved a proposal for incentivizing digital payments through Rupay card and BHIM app by way of cashbacks. Once implemented, customers making payments using Rupay card or BHIM UPI will get a cashback of 20 per cent of the total GST amount, subject to a maximum of Rs 100.
Why provide a cashback now?
To provide cashback to users of Rupay and BHIM is intended to encourage use of digital mode of payment, especially in semi-urban and rural areas.
The move will have a revenue impact of Rs 1,000 crore annually, to be shared equally between the Centre and states.
All Jan-Dhan account holders have Rupay cards, which has been launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). BHIM, a mobile app developed by NPCI, is based on United Payment Interface (UPI) for cashless payments.
‘India-US ties’ (GS2: Bilateral ties)
Issue: India has become the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) status after the US issued a federal notification to this effect, paving the way for high-technology product sales to New Delhi, particularly in civil space and defence sectors.
Significance of this move
India is the 37th country to be designated the STA-1 status by the United States. The federal notification, issued on Friday, gains significance as the Trump Administration made an exception for India, which is yet to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Traditionally, the US has placed only those countries in the STA-1 list who are members of the four export control regimes: Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), Australia Group (AG) and the NSG.
By placing India in the STA-1 list, the United States has acknowledged that for all practical purposes India adheres to the export control regimes of the NSG. This exception for New Delhi is intended to send a strong political message to China and the world, taking into account that America’s closest ally Israel is yet to be given this status, primarily because it is not a member of these multilateral export control regimes.
About Export Control Regimes
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was established in April 1987 by the G7 countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a payload of 500 kg for a distance of 300 km.
India formally applied for membership to the group in June 2015, with active support from France and the United States, and officially became a member on 27 June 2016 with the consensus of the 34 member nations
- Wassenaar arrangement
The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) with 42 participating states including many former Comecon (Warsaw Pact) countries.
The Wassenaar Arrangement was established to contribute to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations. Participating states seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities.
It is the successor to the Cold War-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, and was established on 12 July 1996, in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, which is near The Hague.
Every six months member countries exchange information on deliveries of conventional arms to non-Wassenaar members that fall under eight broad weapons categories: battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), large-caliber artillery, military aircraft, military helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems, and small arms and light weapons.
- Australia Group
The Australia Group is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) and an informal group of countries (now joined by the European Commission) established in 1985 (after the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984) to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons
The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in September 1989. With the incorporation of India on January 19, 2018, it now has 43 members
Today, members of the group maintain export controls on a uniform list of 54 compounds, including several that are not prohibited for export under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons. Delegations representing the members meet every year in Paris, France.
- Nuclear Supplier Group
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multilateral export control regime and a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 and first met in November 1975. The test demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development. Nations already signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment, materials or technology.
‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana achieved 5 core mark.
Modi Government launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) on 1st May, 2016 and it is implemented by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas through its Oil Marketing Companies i.e., IOC, BPCL and HPCL through their network of distributors across the country.
About the scheme
PMUY aims at providing clean-cooking fuel to the poor households, which are otherwise vulnerable to various health hazards associated with indoor air pollution and bringing in qualitative charges in the living standards. PMUY is under implementation in the all the States/UTs. Beneficiaries are identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census List-2011 and in such cases where names are not covered under SECC list, beneficiaries are identified from seven categories which includes SC/ST households, beneficiaries of PMAY(Gramin), Antyodaya Anna Yojana, Most Backward Classes, Forest Dwellers, Resident of Islands/River Islands and Tea Garden & Ex-tea Garden Tribes.
PMUY has been recognised by World Health Organisation as one of the decisive intervention by the Government to address the Indoor Air Pollution which accounts for nearly 10 lakh deaths in a year in the country.
‘Nirbhaya fund’ (GS2: Issue related to Human resources)
Issue: The Government has recently appraised projects on safe city worth Rs. 2,919.55 Crores under the Nirbhaya Fund for eight major cities of the country to make them safer for women.
What is Nirbhaya fund?
Nirbhaya Fund is an Indian rupee 10 billion corpus announced by Government of India in its 2013 Union Budget. According to the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, this fund is expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, along with several other concerned ministries, will work out details of the structure, scope and the application of this fund.
‘Vidyalakshmi portal’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: Vidya Lakshmi Portal 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.
About the portal
Vidya Lakshmi is a first of its kind portal for students seeking Education Loan. 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).The portal has been developed and being maintained by NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited. Students can view, apply and track the education loan applications to banks anytime, anywhere by accessing the portal. The portal also provides linkages to National Scholarship Portal.
‘Banking sector woes’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Government has taken note of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings, a prominent global rating agency, which states, inter-alia, that “the worst is almost over for India’s banks”
Other observations made by the agency
It further states that India is at the tail-end of its bad-loan recognition problem as a stringent non-performing loan recognition coupled with tighter yet faster resolution under India’s new bankruptcy law and rebounding corporate profits, will help banks gradually recover from a protracted bad-debt cycle and the Government’s ongoing recapitalization programme of Rs 2.1 lakh crore will help shore up depleted capital positions of the banks
It also states that the Government is working on a four-pronged strategy to improve the health of the banking sector: recognition, resolution, recapitalization and reform (“4Rs)
‘Polluted cities’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: 14 cities of India – namely Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Varanasi, Patna, Delhi, Lucknow, Agra, Gurgaon, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Jaipur, Patiala & Jodhpur are included in the list of 20 cities, which have recorded high levels of PM2.5
Steps being taken by the government to combat this challenge
- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has formulated National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) for abatement of air pollution in the country.
- NCAP aspires to strengthen the ongoing government initiatives targeted towards prevention, control and mitigation of air pollution.
- it lays down a comprehensive framework for management of air quality in the country by augmentation of existing air quality monitoring network, introduction of rural monitoring stations and devising air quality management plans for non-attainment cities based on detailed source apportionment (identification of pollution sources) studies for each city.
‘Greenhouse gas emissions’ (GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: Emphasizing that India’s emission intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has reduced by 12% between 2005 and 2010 in line with our voluntary goal of reducing emission intensity of GDP by 20-25% by 2020 over 2005 level
Greenhouse gases (GHG) emission inventory for the country is prepared according to the requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
These estimates are based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations, set up at the request of member governments, dedicated to the task of providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts. It was first established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly
The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change. The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [i.e., human-induced] interference with the climate system”
‘Market Intervention Scheme’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: All the agricultural and horticultural commodities for which Minimum Support Price (MSP) are not fixed and are generally perishable in nature are covered under Market Intervention Scheme (MIS).
Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) is a price support mechanism implemented on the request of State Governments for procurement of perishable and horticultural commodities in the event of a fall in market prices. The Scheme is implemented when there is at least 10% increase in production or 10% decrease in the ruling rates over the previous normal year.
Market Intervention Scheme works in a similar fashion to Minimum Support Price based procurement mechanism for food grains, but is an ad-hoc mechanism.
Its objective is to protect the growers of these horticultural/agricultural commodities from making distress sale in the event of bumper crop during the peak arrival period when prices fall to very low level. Thus it provides remunerative prices to the farmers in case of glut in production and fall in prices.
Proposal of MIS is approved on the specific request of State/Union Territory (UT) Government, if the State/UT Government is ready to bear 50% loss (25% in case of North-Eastern States), if any, incurred on its implementation. Further, the extent of total amount of loss shared is restricted to 25% of the total procurement value which includes cost of the commodity procured plus permitted overhead expenses.
The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation is implementing the scheme.
‘E-Pashu Haat portal’ (GS3: E-governance)
Issue: Government has launched e-Pashu Haat portal (www.epashuhaat.gov.in) for connecting breeders and farmers of indigenous breeds.
About the portal
Through the portal farmers can obtain information on location of quality indigenous germplasm in the form live animals, semen doses and embryos. This portal is playing crucial role in development and conservation of indigenous breeds.
Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is implementing this programme
‘Bengaluru Tech Fest’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: The Department of IT and BT will organize the 21st edition of its flagship technology event ‘Bengaluru Tech Summit’ from November 29 to December 1 this year at Bengaluru Palace.
The theme is ‘Innovation and Impact’, and the event will include multi-track conference, business-to-business expo, thought leaders conclave as well as opportunity for startups to showcase their innovation
Bengaluru Tech Summit will provide a platform for knowledge-sharing on emerging technologies such as Blockchain, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotics
Priority will also be given to skill development and ₹500 crore is earmarked for this purpose.
‘Western Ghats’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: With just 20 days left for Karnataka to submit its revised recommendations on the demarcation of the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) in the Western Ghats in the State
If Karnataka fails to respond by August 25 — the deadline fixed by the Centre — the demarcation recommended by the Kasturirangan Committee would be deemed as final.
The Centre had sought the views of Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission after its chairman Madhav Gadgil, was an environmental research commission appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India. The commission submitted the report to the Government of India on 31 August 2011.
The Gadgil panel had recommended a blanket approach consisting of guidelines for sector-wise activities, which could be permitted in the ecologically sensitive zones. The Gagdil Committee report was criticised for being excessively environment-friendly and not in tune with the ground realities
The Kasturirangan committee report has sought to balance the two concerns of development and environment protection, by watering down the environmental regulation regime proposed by the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel’s Gadgil report in 2012. The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report. A crucial report on Western Ghats prepared by K. Kasturirangan-led high-level working group (HLWG) has recommended prohibition on development activities in 60,000 km2 ecologically sensitive area spread over Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
‘Swach Bharath Gramin’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: It is estimated that the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) will result in preventing more than three lakh deaths due to diarrhoea and protein-energy malnutrition between 2014-October 2019, notes a World Health Organisation (WHO) report
Observations made in the report
- The progress report on potential health impact from increased sanitation coverage through the SBM-G, conducted by the WHO for the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, said India’s rural sanitation coverage escalated to 89.07% till August 2.
- The report notes that under the SBM-G, 19 States and Union Territories were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) and 7.9 crore toilets were built, while 421 districts were declared ODF.
- The WHO study showed that before the initiation of SBM-G, unsafe sanitation caused 199 million cases of diarrhoea annually and that by 2019, the initiative aims to achieve 100% sanitation coverage.
- The report further estimated that 14 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) can be avoided between 2014 and 2019.
‘National Sports University’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: A Bill to establish a National Sports University in Manipur to promote sports education was passed by the Lok Sabha
What the bill says?
- University would be set up in Manipur at a cost of ₹524 crore to promote sports coaching and research.
- A sportsperson will be the university vice chancellor, while its academic council will also comprise sports personalities
- The proposed university would also function as the national training centre for select sports disciplines by adopting best international practices.
- Among other things, the legislation proposes to empower the university to establish ‘Outlying Campuses’ throughout the country and also outside India.
‘Deliberative democracy’ (GS2: Legislature)
Issue: Rajya Sabha members have sought that the sittings of Parliament be extended to a minimum of 120 days a year, and suggested that the salary and allowances of members who disrupted proceedings should be deducted on that particular day.
Other suggestions made by some members
- The members also discussed advancing working hours by an hour, to 10 a.m.
- Some of them expressed concern over frequent adjournments and disruptions, and said that the loss of working hours should be compensated either by adding more hours to that day or by working on additional days during a session.
- The members expressed their opinion during a debate on a private member’s legislation — Parliament (Enhancement of Productivity) Bill, 2017