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Daily Category  (GS PAPER III)

Scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Cluster (APC)

Context:

The government has approved seven projects to create infrastructure for agro-processing clusters under the Scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Cluster (APC).

Scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Cluster:

  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has formulated the Scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Clusters as a sub-scheme of Central Sector Scheme 'Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY)'.
  • The scheme aims at the development of modern infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to set up food processing units based on the cluster approach.
  • The scheme is to be implemented in the area of horticulture/agriculture production identified through a mapping exercise.
  • The clusters will help in reducing the wastage of the surplus produce and add value to the horticultural/agricultural produce which will result in an increase of income of the farmers and create employment at the local level- agro-processing cluster MOFPI.

Components of the Scheme:

  • Basic enabling infrastructure: It will include site development including development of industrial plots, boundary wall, roads, drainage, water supply, electricity supply including power backup, effluent treatment plant, parking bay, weighbridges, common office space, etc.
  • Core infrastructure: The common facilities will be based on the needs of the units which will be set up in these clusters.
    • The common facilities of capital intensive nature may include food testing laboratory, cleaning, grading, sorting and packing facilities, steam generation boilers, dry warehouse, cold storage, pre-cooling chambers, ripening chambers, IQF, specialized packaging, other common processing facilities, etc.

The pattern of Assistance:

  • The Scheme envisages grants-in-aid @ 35% of the eligible project cost in general areas and @ 50% of the eligible project cost in the North East States including Sikkim and difficult areas namely the Himalayan States.

Release of Funds:

  • The first installment of 35% of the total approved grant will be released to the PEA in the designated Bank account after incurring an expenditure of 35% of the bank term loan and 35% PEA contribution/equity on eligible project cost and submission of documents
  • The second installment of 40% of the total approved grant will be released to the PEA in the designated Bank account after incurring an expenditure of 75% of the bank term loan and 75% of PEA contribution/equity on eligible project cost and submission of the documents:
  • The third installment of 15% of the approved grant will be released to PEA in the designated Bank account after incurring an expenditure of 90% of the bank term loan and 90% of PEA’s contribution/equity on eligible project cost and submission of the documents:
  • The fourth & final installment of 10% of the approved grant will be released to PEA in the designated Bank account on completion of the project and submission of documents.

Source: LiveMint

Chang’e-5 Mission

Context:

China has launched its Chang’e-5 Mission to the Moon and will become the first probe in over four decades to bring back samples of lunar rock from a previously unexplored portion of the Moon.

Background:

  • In 2019, China’s Chang’e-4 probe successfully transmitted images from the far side of the Moon which is also referred to as the dark side.
  • It was the first probe to land on the dark side of the Moon.

Chang’e-5 Mission:

  • It is named after the Chinese Moon goddess who is traditionally accompanied by a white or jade rabbit.
  • It is the Chinese National Space Administration’s (CNSA) lunar sample return mission.
  • The goal of the mission is to land in the Mons Rumker region of the moon, where it will operate for one lunar day and return a 2 kg sample of the lunar rock.
  • The mission comprises a lunar orbiter, a lander, and an ascent probe that will lift the lunar samples back into orbit and return them back to Earth.
  • Chang’e-5 comprises a robotic arm, a coring drill, a sample chamber and is also equipped with a camera, penetrating radar, and a spectrometer.

Significance of Lunar Samples:

  • Lunar samples can help to unravel some important questions in lunar science and astronomy, including the Moon’s age, the formation of the Moon, the similarities and differences between the Earth and the Moon’s geologic features.
  • The shape, size, arrangement, and composition of individual grains and crystals in a rock can tell scientists about its history, while the radioactive clock can tell them the rock’s age.
  • As per the Lunar and Planetary Institute, rocks found on the Moon are older than any that have been found on Earth, and therefore they are valuable in providing information about the Earth and the Moon’s shared history.

Source: Indian Express

Draft Environment Impact Assessment Norms

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The publication of the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 in the Gazette was delayed by the COVID-19 emergency by 19 days.

Activists and the public sought an extension to the mandatory 60-day window for public feedback by another 60 days but the Environment Ministry set the new deadline on June 30 thereby limited the extension to only 20 days.

This editorial takes an analytical view of the changes proposed in the EIA norms.

2. BRIEF HISTORY

Far from an improvement, environmental activists have hailed the 2020 draft as a regressive departure from the previous EIA notification of 2006.

2.1 Background of the Act

  • India signed the Stockholm Declaration on Environment in 1972.
  • Being a signatory to the Stockholm Declaration, India enacted the following laws:
  1. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 - to control the pollution of water, and
  2. Air (Prevention and control of Pollution) act, 1981 tocontrol pollution of air.
  • However, it was only after the Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984 that India enacted the Environment Protection Act, 1986 as an umbrella Act for environmental protection

2.2 Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • India notified its first Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) norms in 1994.
  • The norms aimed to set up a legal framework for regulation of activities accessing, utilising, and polluting natural resources.
  • Henceforth, every development project was mandated to undertake the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance.
  • The 1994 EIA norms were replaced by a modified EIA draft in 2006.
  • In early 2020, the government redrafted the 2006 EIA norms to incorporate the amendments and relevant court orders issued since 2006 with a stated aim to make the EIA process "more transparent and expedient.”

3. PROBLEMS WITH THE EIA

3.1 Woes of the Environmentalists

  • The EIA processes and norms are established with an aim to safeguard the environment but environmental activists argue that often the EIA norms fail to achieve its aims and on the contrary achieve the opposite effect by offering a façade of legal paperwork in lieu of various de facto concessions enjoyed by the industrial lobby.
  • Reports on the damaging potential of development projects (impact on the environment) which is the bedrock of the EIA process are made carelessly made and of low quality and the consultancy agencies who prepare these reports are rarely held accountable.
  • Although there is a long list of condition to be met before the clearance is provided, the lack of administrative capacity to ensure compliance renders these conditions meaningless.
  • The government comes out with periodic amendments to exempt one or another category of industry from scrutiny.

3.2 Woes of the Industrialists

  • The developers are of the view that the EIA regime is not in tune with the spirit of liberalisation and has dampened it.
  • EIA norms has led to red tape and rent seeking with increased bureaucratic interference.

4. THE 2020 EIA NORMS

4.1 Issues with the EIA norms

  • The 2020 EIA draft does not provide any remedy for political and bureaucratic interference in the EIA process and in effect on the industries as well.
  • On the contrary, the 2020 EIA draft has provisions to increase the government’s discretionary power while limiting public engagement in safeguarding the environment.
  • Projects related to national defence and security are naturally considered strategic, while for any other project, the government enjoys discretion in assigning the 'strategic' tag. The 2020 draft entails that no information on “such projects shall be placed in the public domain”.
  • This opens a window for summary clearance for any project deemed strategic without having to explain why.
  • In addition to that, the 2020 EIA draft exempts a long list of projects from public consultation. A case in point is of linear projects such as roads and pipelines in border areas, which will not require any public hearing.
  • The ‘border area’ is defined as “area falling within 100 kilometres aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control with bordering countries of India.” This definition covers a majority of the area of the Northeast, which is the repository of the India's richest biodiversity.

4.2 What is exempt from EIA clearance?

  • All inland waterways projects and expansion or widening of national highways are exempted from prior clearance. These are the two major areas of focus by the government. These include roads that cut through forests and dredging of major rivers.
  • The 2020 draft also exempts most building construction projects of built-up area up to 1,50,000 sq. m.
  • This is a reiteration of the Environment Ministry’s December 2016 notification that was set aside by the National Green Tribunal in December 2017 (the government subsequently moved the Supreme Court but did not get any relief).

5. MAJOR CHANGES IN THE NOTIFICATION

  • Two most important changes in the new draft are:
    1. the provisions for post-facto project clearance and
    2. abandoning the public trust doctrine
  • Projects, which have violated the Environment Act, will now be able to apply for clearance, which is a reiteration of a March 2017 notification.
  • The violator will only need two plans for remediation and resource augmentation, which will correspond, to 1.5-2 times “the ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation”.
  • The Supreme Court in an order had held that “Environment law cannot countenance the notion of an ex post facto clearance. This would be contrary to both the precautionary principle as well as the need for sustainable development.”
  • The 2020 draft also has provisions on how the government will take cognisance of such violations.
  • Such violence have either to be reported by a government authority or the developers themselves.
  • In effect, there is no scope for any public complaint about violations, instead the norms rely on the violator to disclose themselves that they have broken the law.

6. CONCLUSION

The 2020 EIA notification has been constructed keeping in mind the aim of facilitating the government’s doctrine of “ease of doing business” but the question, if the draft is aligned to the purpose of Environment Act remains unanswered.

There are some legal impediments on the draft as well, but the story of its legal validity remains to be seen.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment.

EIA is a decision making tool. It compares various alternatives for a project and tries to identify the one with the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

Stages in the EIA

The stages of an EIA process will depend upon the requirements of the country. However, generally the environment impact assessment consists of eight steps used to determine the overall performance of the project.

  1. Screening - determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
  2. Scoping - identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated.
  3. Impact analysis - identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
  4. Mitigation - recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
  5. Reporting- presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties.
  6. Review of EIA - examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
  7. Decision-making - decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
  8. Post monitoring - This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.

Sahakar Pragya

Context:

Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has unveiled 'Sahakar Pragya'.

Sahakar Pragya:

  • It is an innovative capacity building initiative for the farmers associated with such entities in the country.
  • It is part of a series of initiatives taken up by NCDC to strengthen India’s cooperative societies.
  • The 45 new training modules of Sahakar Pragya of the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) will impart training to primary cooperative societies in rural areas of the country.
  • The farmers in primary cooperatives in rural areas of the country would be trained under Sahakar Pragya by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).
  • It embodies enhancing NCDC’s training capacity through an elaborate network of 18 Regional Training Centres across the country.

Need for Sahakar Pragya:

  • India boasts a huge network of over 8.5 lakh cooperative societies with about 290 million members.
  • Nearly 94% of the farmers in India are members of at least one cooperative society.
  • Cooperatives lend strength to farmers to minimize risks in agriculture and allied sectors and act as a shield against exploitation by unscrupulous traders.

SAHKAR MITRA:

  • The “SAHKAR MITRA Scheme on Internship Program” (SIP) is an arrangement where NCDC will provide short-term opportunities to young professionals to acquire learning experience by applying skills and knowledge.
  • The program aims at providing an opportunity for professional graduates to get experience in areas of functioning of NCDC and related aspects of cooperatives.

Sahakar Cooptube NCDC Channel:

  • It is a new initiative by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).
  • It is an initiative towards One Nation One Market with the objective for India to become a food factory of the world.

SAHAKAR-22:

  • SAHAKAR-22 aims to develop cooperatives in Focus 222 districts, including aspirational districts.
  • The objective of the mission is to double the farmers' income by providing new employment opportunities generated through cooperatives.

YUVA SAHAKAR:

  • It is a youth-friendly scheme to meet the aspirations and requirements of the youth.
  • Its objective is to motivate and promote the entrepreneurs of India in the Cooperative Enterprise and those individuals working for the business.

AYUSHMAN SAHAKAR:

  • It is a unique scheme to assist cooperatives to play an important role in the creation of healthcare infrastructure in the country.
  • The AYUSHMAN SAHAKAR scheme would revolutionize the way healthcare delivery takes place in rural areas.
  • Ayushman Sahakar scheme fund would also assist cooperative hospitals to take up medical/Ayush education.

Source: PIB

Negative-yield Bonds (NYBs)

Context:

China had sold negative-yield debt for the first time which saw high demand from investors across Europe.

Negative-yield Bonds (NYBs):

  • The NYBs are debt instruments that offer to pay the investor a maturity amount lower than the purchase price of the bond.
  • The NYBs are generally issued by central banks or governments, and investors pay interest to the borrower to keep their money with them.

Current High Demand for Negative-yield Bonds:

  • The 10-year and 15-year bonds are offering positive returns is a big attraction at a time when interest rates in Europe have dropped significantly.
  • It is important to note that while the majority of the large economies are facing a contraction in their GDP for 2020-21, China is one country that is set to witness positive growth in these challenging times.
  • Europe, the US, and other parts of the world are facing a second wave of Covid-19 cases and China has demonstrated that it has controlled the spread of the pandemic and is therefore seen as a more stable region.

Significance of negative-yielding debt:

  • Bond offers security at a cost: The NYBs that have a minuscule risk of default can be attractive to some investors.
    • The holding of cash in a deposit account with zero or ultralow interest might not be an available alternative to investors when bond yields turn negative.
  • Chance of a quick trading profit: The traders would be willing to buy a negative-yielding bond if they thought that the yield might dive deeper into negative territory.
    • The fixed-income prices and yields move inversely, so if a bond yield gets even more negative, the bond price would rally, allowing the trader to make a profit.
  • Expected currency moves will likely offset the negative yields: People who invest internationally also have to contend with future changes in the value of a currency, or more specifically, the expected movement in the currency’s value.
  • Purchasing power is maintained: The most important reason investors would willingly choose to invest in negative-yielding bonds is when there is deflation or a sustained drop in the price level for goods and services.

Source: Indian Express

World’s Best 100 cities for 2021

Context:

Resonance Consultancy Ltd has released the World’s Best 100 cities for 2021.

Key Highlights:

  • The Resonance Consultancy has ranked the world’s best 100 cities with populations of more than a million.
  • It used a combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors in 25 areas grouped into six core categories.
  • The cities were ranked on the basis of diversity, weather, a number of parks and tourist attractions, the number of social media hashtags and check-ins, and other points.
  • It also included factors like Covid-19 infections as of July, income incongruity, and unemployment for the first time this year to rank these cities. 

Rankings:

  • London claimed the top spot for the sixth year in a row.
  • New York, Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo followed on the second, third, fourth, and fifth positions respectively.
  • Tokyo, Dubai, Singapore, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Madrid are other cities in the top 10 of the World’s Best 100 cities for 2021.

Performance of Delhi:

  • Delhi was ranked at the 62nd position in the list of the world’s best 100 cities for 2021.
  • It is the only Indian city to feature in the list of cities across the world.
  • It has jumped to 62nd place this year from last time’s 81st.
  • India’s Capital was described as one of the few places on earth with the hectic, pulsating pace of Delhi, which explains its 18th spot for Place, including the 29th ranking for Sights & Landmarks.

Source: The Hindu

Bank Moratorium

Context:

On the recommendation of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the central government has imposed a moratorium on Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) for a period of 30 days.

Details:

  • The 94-year-old Lakshmi Vilas Bank based in Karur, Tamil Nadu, has been struggling with losses for three years.
  • Its financial position deteriorated and the regulator placed it under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework, which restricts certain operations depending on the severity of financial stress.
  • The RBI has appointed an administrator for the bank and mooted a merger with the Indian subsidiary of the Singapore-based DBS Bank.

Bank Moratorium:

  • The RBI has the power to ask the government to have a moratorium placed on a bank’s operations for a specified period of time.
  • During the moratorium period, the depositors will not be able to withdraw funds at will.
  • The moratorium period imposes a ceiling that limits the amount of money that can be withdrawn by the bank’s customers.
  • The regulator allows for funds of a larger quantum to be withdrawn in case of an urgent requirement, such as medical emergencies, but only after the depositor provides the required proof.

The imposition of Moratorium:

  • The RBI steps in if it judges that a bank’s net worth is fast eroding and it may reach a state where it may not be able to repay its depositors.
  • The bank is in danger of failing to meet its obligations to depositors when a bank’s assets (mainly the value of loans given to borrowers) decline below the level of liabilities (deposits).
  • A moratorium gives both the regulator and the acquirer time to first take stock of the actual financial situation at the troubled bank.
  • It allows for a realistic estimation of assets and liabilities, and for the regulator to facilitate capital infusion.

Moratorium preventing the ‘run’ on the bank:

  • A moratorium primarily helps prevent what is known as a ‘run’ on a bank, by clamping down on rapid outflow of funds by wary depositors.
  • It does affect depositors who may have placed their retirement with the bank or creditors who are owed funds by the bank but are struggling with the collection.

Source: The Hindu

World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS)

Context

India became the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system recognized by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).

Details:

  • The navigation system can now replace GPS in the Indian Ocean waters up to 1500 km from the Indian boundary.
  • The process of getting the recognition for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System based on satellites of the Indian Space Research Organisation took about two years.
  • The merchant vessels in Indian waters can now use the “modern and more accurate” system as an alternative navigation module.

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System:

  • It is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India.
  • It is designed to provide accurate position information service to assist in the navigation of ships in the Indian Ocean waters.
  • It could replace the US-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Indian Ocean extending up to approximately 1500 km from the Indian boundary.
  • The system is based on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellites that are used for navigation.

Importance of recognition to IRNSS from IMO:

  • The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the IMO recognized the IRNSS as a component of the World-wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) during its 102nd session.
  • With the recognition as a component of the WWRNS, the Indian navigation system is similarly placed as GPS.
  • After the US, Russia, and China have their own navigation systems, India has become the fourth country to have its independent regional navigation system.

Use of IRNSS:

  • All merchant vessels including small fishing vessels are authorized to use the system.
  • The vessels that have transponders installed in them will be tracked by satellite navigation showing the accurate position in the Indian Ocean region.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO):

  • The IMO was established following an agreement at a UN conference held in Geneva in 1948 and the IMO came into existence in 1959.
  • The IMO is the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships.
  • The IMO sets standards for the safety and security of international shipping.

Source: Indian Express

Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite

Context:

Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Sentinel-6 Satellite:

  • The Satellite is a part of the next mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level.
  • It aims to track changes in the oceans on a global scale include the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and OSTN/Jason-2, among others.
  • It has been named after Dr. Michael Freilich, who was the Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division from 2006-2019.

Mission:

  • The mission is called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission.
  • The mission is designed to measure the height of the ocean, which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • It has been developed jointly by the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the EU.

Significance:

  • The satellite will ensure the continuity of sea-level observations into the fourth decade and will provide measurements of global sea-level rise.
  • The high-precision satellite altimeters have helped scientists understand how the ocean stores and distributes heat, water, and carbon in the climate system.
  • The satellite will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help scientists measure the sea surface height.
  • It will also measure water vapor along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.
  • The data it collects will support operational oceanography, by providing improved forecasts of ocean currents, wind, and wave conditions.
  • The data will allow improvements in both short-term forecastings for weather predictions in the two-to-four-week range and long-term forecasting, for instance for seasonal conditions like El Niño and La Niña.

Importance of measuring the height of the ocean

  • It is possible to observe the height of the oceans on a global scale and monitor critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage only from space.
  • In order to measure and track changes in the oceanic heat budget, scientists need to know the ocean currents and heat storage of the oceans, which can be determined from the height of the sea surface.
  • Sentinel-6 can keep up in the air with much-improved capability helping it to monitor seas right up against coastlines better.

Source: Indian Express

ATAL Faculty Development Programmes

Context:

Union Education Minister inaugurated 46 online AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy Faculty Development Programmes (FDPs) to train teachers of higher education institutions associated with All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE).

Key Highlights:

  • The FDPs will be conducted in 22 Indian states.
  • The London-based organization has recognized the FDPs as a world record, under which 1,000 online FDPs in over 100 emerging areas will benefit one lakh faculty members across premier institutions.
  • In 2020-21, new thrust areas in the field of Engineering, Management, Life Skills, Design & Media have been incorporated.
  • The online FDPs will be conducted according to the new National Education Policy (2020).

AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy:

  • The first AICTE Training And Learning (ATAL) Academy and NWRO (Camp Office) of AICTE in Jaipur were announced with the establishment of other ATAL Academy in the country at Jaipur, Vadodara, Guwahati & Trivandrum in 2018.

Mission:

  • To establish AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) cell in all the technical institutions, Universities, Deemed-to-be Universities, and other institutions of technical learning.
  • AICTE will support the establishment of the AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) cell in all the technical institutions, Universities, Deemed to be Universities and other institutions of technical learning.
  • To establish Academies web portal and mobile application for carrying out its operations.
  • To build a database of trainers/experts, Video Repositories, Training materials, and training needs of technical institutions.

Objectives:

  • To set up an Academy which will plan and help in imparting quality technical education in the country.
  • To support technical institutions in fostering research, innovation, and entrepreneurship through training.
  • To stress upon empowering technical teachers & technicians using Information & Communication Technology.
  • To utilize the SWAYAM platform and other resources for the delivery of training.

AICTE:

  • It was set up in November 1945 as a national-level apex advisory body to conduct a survey on the facilities available for technical education.
  • It aims to promote development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner.
  • As stipulated in the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE was vested with:
    • Statutory authority for planning, formulation, and maintenance of norms & standards
    • Quality assurance through accreditation
    • Funding in priority areas, monitoring, and evaluation
    • Maintaining parity of certification & awards
    • The management of technical education in the country
  • The AICTE Act was constituted to provide for the establishment of an All India Council for Technical Education with a view to proper planning and co-ordinated development of a technical education system.

Source: The Hindu

Kala-azar

Context:

A paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases by a team from Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (ICMR) tells the success story of how they eliminated the Kala-azar (Visceral leishmaniasis) from Vaishali, a district in Bihar where the disease is highly endemic.

Key Highlights:

  • The district's integrated control strategy helped reduce the number of cases from 664 in 2014 to 163 in 2016.
  • The Vaishali district has a population of over 35 lakh and about 22% in the district get affected by VL each year.
  • The integrated programme included mapping of the case distribution, early case detection and chemical-based vector control.
  • The study highlighted that a strong supervision and monitoring system is required under which GIS-based mapping, case data management and spatial visualisation system will be used for the proper implementation of control strategies.

Kala-azar:

  • Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is characterized by irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia.
    • Leishmaniasis is caused by the protozoan Leishmania parasites which are transmitted by the bite of infected female phlebotomine sandflies.
  • There are 3 main forms of leishmaniases i.e. visceral (also known as kala-azar, which is and the most serious form of the disease), cutaneous (the most common), and mucocutaneous.
  • Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, the building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanization.

India's position:

  • Under the National Health Mission (NHM), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme coordinates the kala-azar elimination programme in India.
  • India has already missed the kala-azar elimination target thrice in the last decade.
  • The initial deadline set by the National Health Programme (now NHM) was 2010, which was pushed to 2015 in the 12th Financial Plan Document.
  • The deadline was later extended twice to 2017, and then to 2020.
  • The WHO target to eliminate Kala-Azar was 2017.
  • The target is to reduce the incidence of the disease to less than one case per 10,000 population at the sub-district level.

Source: The Hindu

The 15th G20 Summit 2020

Context:

The 15th G20 Summit 2020 chaired by Saudi Arabia was concluded. During the summit, it was decided that the G20 Presidency will be held by Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023, and Brazil in 2024.

  • Theme: "Realising the Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”.

Key highlights:

  • The G20 Leaders’ Declaration was issued which called for coordinated global action, solidarity, and multilateral cooperation to overcome the current challenges and realize opportunities of the 21st century for all.
  • The focus of the G20 Summit was on an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19.
  • The three key agenda items to be addressed under this theme are:
    • Empowering People, by creating the conditions in which all people (especially women and youth) can live, work and thrive;
    • Safeguarding the Planet, by fostering collective efforts to protect our global commons; and
    • Shaping New Frontiers, by adopting long-term and bold strategies to share benefits of innovation and technological advancement.

COVID-19:

  • The EU leaders stressed the need for strong multilateral cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.
  • The EU called on the G20 to provide, before the end of the year, USD 4.5 billion for mass procurement and delivery of COVID-19 tools.
  • G20 leaders committed to sparing no effort to make sure that all people have affordable and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
  • It recommended an International Treaty on Pandemics which could help us respond more quickly and in a more coordinated manner when pandemics occur.

Debt Relief:

  • The G20 leaders were determined to support the most vulnerable and fragile countries, notably in Africa, in their fight against the pandemic.
  • The G20 leaders are committed to allowing countries eligible under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative to suspend official bilateral debt service payments until June 2021.
  • The EU leaders stressed that additional steps might be needed and the summit endorsed the “Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI”, which is also endorsed by the Paris Club.

Climate change and green transition:

  • The EU leaders urged all G20 members to work towards the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • They stressed that the EU leads the way to climate neutrality by 2050 and welcomed that many G20 partners had taken the same commitments.
  • They also promoted a recovery based on green, inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and digital growth in line with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

Global trade and taxation of the digital economy:

  • The G20 leaders recalled their support to the WTO reform process in the lead-up to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. 
  • The leaders also agreed to strive to find a consensus-based solution for a globally fair, sustainable, and modern international tax system by mid-2021, built on the ongoing work of the OECD.

G20:

  • It is the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
  • The G20 brings together the leaders of both developed and developing countries from every continent.
  • The G20 members represent around 80% of the world’s economic output, two-thirds of the global population, and three-quarters of international trade.
  • Members: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union (EU).

Source: PIB

Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG)

Context:

Ministry of Electronics & IT organized an online conference to mark the 3rd anniversary of Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) and the 2000+ services milestone.

Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG):

  • It is a Government of India all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app.
  • It is aimed at providing access to high-impact services of various organizations of the Centre and States.
  • It was developed by National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics & IT.
  • It attained four illustrious awards including the ‘Best m-Government service’ award at the 6th World Government Summit held in Dubai, UAE in 2018.

Objectives:

  • To act as an enabler and facilitator in developing an overall mobile-based service delivery ecosystem in India.
  • Provide easy access for individuals to various services via a single Mobile Application, easy to remember shortcode, and single Toll-Free number.
  • Provide easy discoverability of services, easy manageability, and standardization of service delivery.
  • Provide for quick mobile enablement of e-Gov applications/services of Government departments through easy and fast integration, onboarding, mobile front-end roll-out by bringing their services on this mobile application platform.
  • Provide another value-added service to departments via a common platform through integration with Telecom Service Provider and Payment gateway which will facilitate easy on-boarding of Government departments.

Other details:

  • The key partners of UMANG are Employee Provident Fund Organization, Direct Benefit Transfer scheme departments, Employee State Insurance Corporation, Ministries of Health, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Staff Selection Commission (SSC).
  • UMANG’s international version was launched for selected countries that include the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
    • It will help Indian international students, NRIs, and Indian tourists abroad, to avail of Government of India services, anytime.
    • It will also help in taking India to the world through ‘Indian Culture’ services available on UMANG and create interest amongst foreign tourists to visit India.

Source: PIB

Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI)

Context:

Foreign portfolio investors have staged a remarkable comeback after pulling out a record Rs 61,973 crore from Indian equities in March 2020 dragging down the benchmark indices Sensex and Nifty by 23 %.

Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI):

  • FPI is a form of investment wherein investors hold assets and securities outside their country.
  • The FPI investments could include stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or mutual funds.
  • The reason FPI is watched carefully by experts is that it is an indicator of the stock market’s performance.

Regulation of FPI in India:

  • In India, foreign portfolio investment is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
  • FPI in India refers to investment groups or FIIs (foreign institutional investors) and QFIs (qualified foreign investors).

Benefits of FPI in India:

  • The FPI enhances stock market efficiency and ensures that there is a balance between value and the price of a stock.
  • Foreign portfolio investments boost demand for the stock of companies and help them when it comes to raising capital at low costs.
  • The presence of FPI would mean a significant rise in the depth of the secondary market.
  • It helps an investor add more diversity to their investments and benefit from such a diversification.
  •  A huge advantage of FPI is that it is liquid, ensuring that the investor is empowered and can move fast when there are good opportunities.

Difference between FPI and FDI:

  • The FDI refers to a scenario when a direct business interest is established overseas.
  • An FDI could lead to the transfer of resources, knowledge, and funds and involves a joint venture or setting up a subsidiary. 
  • Foreign direct investment is more long-term and bulkier than foreign portfolio investment.
  • Foreign direct investments are taken up by institutions or venture capital companies whereas the foreign portfolio investment is merely investing in the securities or assets of another country.
  • The FDI is all about active investors whereas the FPI involves investors who are passive.

Source: Indian Express

Indo-Thai Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT)

Context:

The 30th edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) between the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy was conducted. The 30th Indo-Thai CORPAT will contribute towards the Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship with the Royal Thai Navy.

Indo-Thai Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT):

  • The Indian Naval Ship (INS) Karmuk, His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Kraburi, a Chao Phraya Class Frigate along with Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both the navies participated in the CORPAT.
  • The two navies have been carrying out CORPAT along their International Maritime Boundary Line twice a year since 2005.
  • The aim of the Indo-Thai CORPAT exercise is to keep the vital part of the Indian Ocean safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade.
  • CORPAT builds up the understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitates the institution of measures to prevent and suppress Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery, and piracy.
  • CORPAT enhances the operational synergy by the exchange of information for the prevention of smuggling, illegal immigration, and for the conduct of SAR operations at sea.
  • The other countries with which India conducts CORPAT exercise are Bangladesh (IN-BN CORPAT) and Indonesia (IND-INDO CORPAT).

INS Karmuk:

  • It is an indigenously built Kora-class missile corvette.
  • It is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation, communication, and radar systems and boasts of contemporary Surface-to-Surface missiles.

 Source: PIB

Time Use Survey

Context:

The all India Time Use Survey, 2019 has recently been published by the Government of India. The survey has covered the entire country for the first time.

Time Use Survey:

  • It provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities.
  • Objective: To measure the participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
  • The survey is an important source of information on the time spent in unpaid care-giving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service-producing activities of the household members.
  • It also provides information on time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members” 

Average time spent:

  • The average Indian woman spends 243 minutes, a little over four hours, on these, which is almost ten times the 25 minutes the average man does.
  • An average Indian woman spends 19.5% of her time engaged in either unpaid domestic work or unpaid caregiving services.
  • Men spend just 2.5% of a 24-hour period on these activities. In every other group of activities – from employment and learning to socializing, leisure, and self-care activities like sleeping and eating – men spend a higher share of their daily time than women.
  • There seems to be an inverse relationship between age and the amount of time spent by women on household chores, but a direct one between age and the time spent by men on these.
  • While women above the age of 60 see a sharp fall in their domestic work burden, men tend to devote a greater time to domestic work when they cross 60.

Other key findings:

  • Total percentage of employed population: As much as 2 % of persons who were of the age of six years or above were engaged in employment and related activities in the country in 2019.
  • The proportion of males and females: 57.3 % of males were engaged in employment and related activities while the proportion was 18.4 % for females in the country.
  • Women in rural areas: In rural areas, the proportion of women engaged in employment and related activities was higher at 19.2 % compared to 16.7 % in cities.
  • Gainful employment: The proportion of males above the age of six years engaged in gainful employment or related activities was higher in cities at 59.8 compared to 56.1 % in rural areas.
  • Unpaid domestic services: 53.2 % of participants in the survey were engaged in unpaid domestic services for household members. The proportion of females in the category was higher at 81.2 % compared to 26.1 % for males. This figure for both men and women is higher in rural areas.

Source: The Hindu

India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit

Context:

Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg addressed the first-ever India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit.

  • Luxembourg is a landlocked country in northwestern Europe.
  • It is bordered by Belgium on the west and north, France on the south, and Germany on the northeast and east.
  • Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the four official capitals of the European Union.

Key Highlights:

Economic Relationship:

  • MoU between India International Exchange (India INX) and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: It provides for cooperation in the financial services industry, maintenance of orderly markets in securities respective country, ESG (environmental, social and governance) and green finance in the local market.
    • The two leaders welcomed the signing of cooperation agreements by the Luxembourg Stock Exchange with State Bank of India and the India International Stock Exchange.
  • MoU between Invest India and Luxinnovation: It is aimed at supporting and developing mutual business cooperation between Indian and Luxembourg companies, including promotion and facilitation of inbound FDI.
    • It is aimed at the importance of green financing to promote green growth and sustainable development.
  • The leaders looked forward to the 17th Joint Economic Commission between India and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union to review the economic and trade relations.
  • Luxembourg as a leading international financial centre in Europe can act as an important bridge to help connect India’s financial services industry with international markets and reach European and global investors.

Space:

  • The summit noted with satisfaction that the Luxembourg based space companies had begun utilizing the services of India for launching their satellites into space.
  • The leader of Luxembourg welcomed the successful launch of the PSLV-C49 mission by ISRO which included 4 satellites from Luxembourg.

Health and Education:

  • The leaders noted with satisfaction the ongoing collaboration in the field of neurodegenerative diseases between the National Brain Research Centre and the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine.

EU-India relations:

  • The two leaders acknowledged the importance of the India-EU Strategic Partnership rooted in shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights, for contributing to a safer, greener and more stable world.
  • The leaders acknowledged that developing the India-EU economic relations will be important in the context of post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Source: PIB

Regional Rapid Transit System Project (RRTS)

Context:

The government of India and the New Development Bank signed an agreement for USD 500 Million to Provide Fast, Reliable, Safe and Comfortable Public Transport System in the National Capital Region.

Details:

  • NDB funds will be utilized for procuring signaling, telecommunication, and train control system with advanced features such as automatic train operation, automatic train protection, automatic train supervision, and integration with platform screen doors.
  • The Project can serve as a demonstration for developing high capacity rapid urban transit corridors in other urban areas of India.

Significance:

  • The NCR is among the world’s largest urban population and also a major economic center of India. Due to the lack of efficient public transport options, the number of private vehicles in NCR has increased.
    • The daily passenger traffic along the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor is estimated at 0.69 million, of which 63% utilize private vehicles for commuting.
  • Due to traffic congestion, it can take about 3 to 4 hours to travel between Delhi and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh by road during peak hours.
  • Rapid growth in vehicular traffic has made NCR one of the most polluted regions in the world. By 2030, NCR is projected to become the most populous urban agglomeration in the world.
    • The increased population will increase pressure on basic infrastructures such as housing, water supply, electricity, and transport.
  • The fast transit system will support achieving the goal of sustainable urban development in the NCR region including the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
    • It will activate processes that will enable sustainable economic and social development with environmental protection, for future generations.
  • The environment friendly and very low emission RRTS will carry many times more people at high speed (average speed 100 kmph) while occupying just 3 m space on land thus reducing congestion on the roads. 

New Development Bank (NDB):

  • It is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
  • It was jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
  • It was formed to support infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies for faster development through innovation and cutting-edge technology.
  • Headquarter: Shanghai, China
  • In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the United Nations General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the UN.

Source: The Hindu

Chapare Virus

Context:

Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have discovered that 'Chapare Virus' can be spread through the human-human transmission.

Background:

  • The biggest outbreak of the ‘Chapare virus’ was reported in 2019, when three healthcare workers contracted the illness from two patients in the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
  • The virus is named Chapare after the province in which it was first observed over a decade ago.

Chapare Virus:

  • The Chapare hemorrhagic fever (CHHF) is caused by the same arenavirus family that is responsible for illnesses such as the Ebola virus disease (EVD).
  • It is a rare Ebola-like illness that is believed to have first originated in rural Bolivia in 2004.
  • The arenaviruses like the Chapare virus are generally carried by rats and can be transmitted through direct contact with the infected rodent, its urine, and droppings, or through contact with an infected person.
  • The disease is also known to be most commonly transmitted in more tropical regions, particularly in certain parts of South America where the small-eared pigmy rice rat is commonly found.

Implications of Chapare Virus:

  • It causes a hemorrhagic fever much like Ebola along with abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding gums, skin rash, and pain behind the eyes.
  • Viral hemorrhagic fevers are a severe and life-threatening kind of illness that can affect multiple organs and damage the walls of blood vessels.
  • The scientists have pointed out that the Chapare virus is much more difficult to catch than the coronavirus as it is not transmissible via the respiratory route.

Discovery of Chapare Virus by CDC:

  • The researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that by examining the 2019 outbreak in Bolivia, they had found the virus can spread from person to person, particularly in healthcare settings.
  • The healthcare workers must be extremely cautious while dealing with patients to avoid contact with items that could be contaminated with their blood, urine, saliva, or semen.
  • The researchers also found fragments of genetic entities known as RNA, associated with Chapare, in the semen of one survivor 168 days after he was infected.

Treatment of Chapare Virus:

  • There are no specific drugs to treat the disease but patients generally receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids.
  • The CDC website lists maintenance of hydration, management of shock through fluid resuscitation, sedation, pain relief, and transfusions as the supportive therapy that can be administered on patients suffering from CHHF.

Source: Indian Express

India’s first Convergence Project

Context:

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) and the Department of New & Renewable Energy (DNRE), Goa, have signed a memorandum of understanding to roll out India’s first Convergence Project.

India’s first Convergence Project:

  • Goa is the first state to adopt Convergence.
  • The project will accrue savings of INR 2,574 crores to the State over a period of 25 years.
  • The project will provide clean daytime electricity to farmers as well as energy-efficient pump sets which would reduce the power consumption as well as T&D losses associated with transmitting power to agriculture and rural feeder networks. 
  • Through its convergence initiative, EESL seeks to connect seemingly independent sectors like Solar Energy, Energy Storage, and LED lights to provide solutions.
  • Under this program, EESL is offering convergent interventions, which solve multiple gap areas in the energy ecosystem.

Significance of the Convergence Project:

  • The project is aimed at improving the health of DISCOMs and providing cleaner power.
  • The projects will accelerate the usage of renewable energy sources, especially for agricultural and rural power consumption in the State.
  • The projects will also contribute to the reduction of peak energy demand through the deployment of energy-efficient pumping and lighting thus contributing to overall sustainability.

Source: PIB

Microwave Weapons

Context:

Indian Army has rejected a report published in the British daily newspaper as “baseless and fake”. The report had quoted a Chinese professor to claim that the Chinese army had used “microwave weapons” to drive Indian soldiers away from their positions in eastern Ladakh.

Background:

  • India and China have been locked in a tense standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh for the last six months.
  • The Beijing-datelined report in ‘The Times’ titled “China turns Ladakh battleground with India into a microwave oven”.
  • The Chinese professor quoted in the report claimed that Chinese forces had turned two strategic hilltops occupied by Indian soldiers “into a microwave oven”, forcing them to retreat, and allowing the positions to be retaken without an exchange of conventional fire.

Microwave Weapons:

  • These are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim at highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • Microwave weapons used beams of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation to heat the water in a human target’s skin, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Concerns have been raised on whether they can damage the eyes or have a carcinogenic impact in the long term.

Working of a Microwave:

  • In a microwave oven, an electron tube called a magnetron produces electromagnetic waves (microwaves) that bounce around the metal interior of the appliance, and are absorbed by the food.
  • The microwaves agitate the water molecules in the food, and their vibration produces heat that cooks the food.

Possession of Microwave Weapons:

  • A number of countries are thought to have developed these weapons to target both humans and electronic systems.
  • China had first put on display its “microwave weapon”, called Poly WB-1, at an air show in 2014.
  • The United States has also developed a prototype microwave-style weapon, which it calls the “Active Denial System”.
  • The Active Denial System is needed because it’s the first non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system with an extended range greater than currently fielded non-lethal weapons.

Source: Indian Express

Civil Registration System

Context:

According to a 2018 report on the ‘vital statistics on India based on the Civil Registration System’, Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country. The report was published by the Registrar General of India.

Key Highlights:

  • The ratio was determined on the basis of data provided by 30 States and Union Territories.
  • The requisite information from six States namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal is not available.
  • The number of registered births increased to 2.33 crore in 2018 from 2.21 crore registered births in 2017.
  • The report highlighted that the level of registration of births has increased to 89.3% in 2018 from 81.3% in 2009.

Performance of States and Union Territories:

  • Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland (965) Mizoram (964), Kerala (963), and Karnataka (957).
  • The worst was reported in Manipur (757), Lakshadweep (839), Daman & Diu (877), Punjab (896), and Gujarat (896).
  • Delhi recorded a sex ratio of 929, Haryana 914, and Jammu and Kashmir 952.

Civil Registration System:

  • The history of the Civil Registration System (CRS) in India dates back to the middle of the 19th century.
  • In 1886 a Central Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act was promulgated to provide for voluntary registration throughout British India.
  • CRS in India is the unified process of continuous, permanent, compulsory, and universal recording of the vital events (births, deaths, still-births) and characteristics thereof.
  • The data generated through a complete and up-to-date CRS is essential for socio-economic planning.

Source: The Hindu

Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS)

Context:

Recently, some patients infected with Covid-19 have been found suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS). In India, such cases have been reported since August. A group of neurologists in Mumbai is now mapping these cases and their symptoms. So far, 24 cases have been added to the study.

Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS):

  • Guillain Barre Syndrome is a very rare autoimmune disorder.
  • A disorder in which the immune system, in an attempt to kill the coronavirus, accidentally starts attacking the peripheral nervous system.
    • The peripheral nervous system is a network of nerves that lead from the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body. Attacking them can affect limb functions.

Cause:

  • GBS is caused by bacteria or viral infection.
  • In the past, patients of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome showed GBS symptoms, as did those infected with Zika, HIV, Herpes virus, and Campylobacter jejuni.

Symptoms:

  • The syndrome’s first symptoms are a tingling or itching sensation in the skin, followed by muscle weakness, pain, and numbness.
  • The symptoms may emerge first in feet and hands.
  • A person then starts experiencing reflex loss and paralysis, which may be temporary, but can last for 6-12 months or longer.
  • With Covid-19 a year old, it is still difficult to assess the nature of permanency GBS in such cases may present.

Treatment:

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and sometimes plasma therapy helps recovery in patients with GBS.
  • If a patient is not treated, his condition may deteriorate as there could be a respiratory failure as the worst outcome or weakness and effect on walking and limb movement.
  • Patients cannot be treated at home, they need hospitalization and immunoglobulin or plasma.

GBS Development:

  • In June, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article giving case details of five patients in three hospitals in Italy, who suffered from this syndrome after getting infected by the Sars-CoV-2 virus. Initial symptoms were weakness in the lower limbs and a pricking sensation in the skin.
  • An interval of 5-10 days is noticed between the onset of GBS symptoms and Covid-19 infection, but some doctors say it can also take weeks after Covid-19 infection for a person to develop GBS.
  • The British Medical Journal published a similar case from Japan last month, where a 54-year-old woman developed numbness and weakness and required two-week hospitalization. Tests showed she had pneumonia in the chest, and her Covid-19 report came positive.
  • Various studies have some consensus: the GBS symptoms emerge a few days after the Covid-19 infection. Several patients who have recovered or are about to recover have developed their symptoms, and most have recovered.

Source: The Hindu

Growing Private Role in the Space Sector

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The Government of India recently announced the creation of a new organisation, IN-SPACe as part of its reform to increase private participation in the space sector.

This editorial discusses the objectives of the creation of In-SPACe and the future of space exploration.

2. SETTING UP OF A NEW ORGANIZATION

2.1 Background

  • Recently the government gave the nod the creation of a new organisation to increase the participation of the private sector in India's space initiatives.
  • Setting up of IN-SPACe is an important part of reforms to open up the space sector and make space-based applications and services more widely accessible to everyone.

2.2 About Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe)

  • The new organization is expected to be operational within six months
  • It will assess the needs and demands of private players.
  • It will all cater to the needs of educational and research institutions
  • It will also explore ways to accommodate these requirements in consultation with ISRO.

2.3 Following resources will be made accessible to the concerned entities to enable them to carry out their space-related activities:

  • Ground and space-based ISRO infrastructure
  • Scientific and technical resources of ISRO,
  • Data present with ISRO.

3. NEED OF PRIVATE PARTICIPANTS IN INDIAN SPACE SECTOR

3.1 Present status of Indian Private Industry in Space sector

  • Private industry is already involved in India’s space sector.
  • A major share of manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites today is done by the private sector.
  • The participation of research institutions is also increasing in India's space sector. 
  • But the participation of Indian industry is close to only 3% in a rapidly growing global space economy which was already worth $360 billion.
  • Only two per cent of this market was for rocket and satellite launch services, which require fairly large infrastructure and heavy investment.
  • The remaining 95 per cent related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems.
  • Indian industry remains largely uncompetitive because until now its role has been mainly that of suppliers of components and sub-systems.
  • Indian industries lack the resources and technology required to undertake independent space projects (like that of US companies such as SpaceX) or provide space-based services.

3.2 Growing demand of space based services in India

  • There is also an increasing demand for space-based applications and services in India which ISRO is unable to cater on its own.
  • Today, the need of satellite data, imageries and space technology is required in various sectors as  weather, agriculture, transport, urban development etc.
  • It will act as an interface between ISRO and private parties, and assess how best to utilise India’s space resources and increase space-based activities.

4. BENEFITS ARISIONG OUT OF THE INITIATIVE

4.1 Benefits to Private players

  • Several Indian companies want to grab this growing opportunity of space-based applications and services in India.
  • A few companies are also in the process of developing their own launch vehicle and ISRO is more than willing to help them out.
  • Such launch vehicles will carry satellites and other payloads into space like ISRO’s PSLV.
  • Presently all launches from India takes place through ISRO's rockets, which are different versions of PSLV and GSLV.
  • ISRO is ready to provide all its facilities to private players whose projects had been approved by IN-SPACe.
  • Private companies will also be allowed to even build their own Launchpad within the Sriharikota launch station necessary land for the purpose will be provided by ISRO.
  • IN-SPACe will work as both, facilitator and regulator.

4.2 Benefits to ISRO

  • Involving private players in the Indian space sector has its strategic and commercial advantages.
  • There is need for greater dissemination of space technologies, better utilisation of space resources, and increased requirement of space-based services.
  • Presently ISRO is unable to satisfy this need all by itself.
  • Participation by private industry will also free up ISRO to concentrate on science, research and development, interplanetary exploration and strategic launches.
  • Presently a major share of ISRO’s resources is consumed by routine activities that delay the much more important strategic objectives.
  • An increasing number of private players are launching weather and communication satellites for commercial benefits all over the world and hence, there is no reason why ISRO alone should be launching these satellites.
  • ISRO, like NASA, is essentially a scientific organisation whose main objective is exploration of space and carrying out scientific missions.
  • There are a number of ambitious space missions lined up in the coming years, including a mission to observe the Sun, a mission to the Moon, a human spaceflight, and then, possibly, a human landing on the Moon.

5. NEW SPACE ORGANIZATIONS IN INDIA

5.1 New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • IN-SPACe is the second space organisation created by the government in recent years.
  • The Indian government had announced the setting up of a New Space India Limited (NSIL) in the 2019 budget.
  • NSIL will be a public sector company intended to serve as marketing arm of ISRO.
  • Its main purpose is to market the technologies developed by ISRO and bring it more clients that need space-based services.
  • This marketing role was already being performed by Antrix Corporation, another PSU working under the Department of Space, which still exists.
  • The objectives of these two organisations with overlapping function is still not clear.
  • The government recently said to redefine the role of NSIL from the current supply-driven strategy to a demand-driven approach.
  • It means that instead of just marketing what ISRO has to offer, NSIL would listen to the needs of the clients and ask ISRO to fulfil those.
  • This change in NSIL’s role is part of the reforms that have been initiated in the space sector.

6. CONCLUSION

  • Private players will not take away the share of revenues that ISRO gets through commercial launches.
  • In the coming years, Space-based economy is expected to explode worldwide including India, and both ISRO and private players will gain by joining hands together.
  • ISRO can generate additional revenue by extending its facilities and data to the private players.

Failed Bank

Context:

RBI decided to impose a 30-day moratorium on Lakshmi Vilas Bank Ltd (LVB) and put in place a draft scheme for its amalgamation with DBS Bank India.

Background:

  • As per the RBI, the financial position of the Chennai-based LVB has undergone a steady decline with continuous losses over the last three years eroding the bank’s net worth.
  • The bank has not been able to raise adequate capital to address these issues as it was also experiencing the continuous withdrawal of deposits and low levels of liquidity.

Failed Bank:

  • The closing of an insolvent bank by the regulator is known as a bank failure.
  • The bank deposits are insured by Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) which is a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The account holders who have accounts in the failed bank will not experience any change using the bank with new ownership as they will still have access to their cash and should be able to use their debit cards and cheques.

Safety of Depositors and Financial System during the moratorium:

  • The RBI, which put a cap of Rs 25,000 on withdrawals, has assured depositors of the bank that their interest will be protected.
  • The combined balance sheet of DBS India and LVB would remain healthy after the proposed amalgamation.
  • The Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) reached at 12.51% and Common Equity Tier-1 (CET-1) capital at 9.61%, without taking into account the infusion of additional capital.

Regulatory measures against Bank Failures:

  • In 2004, the RBI announced a moratorium on private sector lender Global Trust Bank, which was then reeling under huge losses and bad loans.
  • The bank was merged with the public sector Oriental Bank of Commerce within 48 hours under an RBI-led rescue plan.
  • In 2020, the RBI has followed a somewhat similar approach on resuscitation of the troubled lenders of Yes Bank and now LVB.
  • The moratorium announcement was followed by a reconstruction plan for Yes Bank and capital infusion by banks and financial institutions, with State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, HDFC, Axis Bank, and others putting in equity capital in the reconstructed entity.

Impact of COVID-19:

  • The Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the banking sector are expected to increase as the pandemic affects the cash flows of people and companies.
  • The impact will differ depending upon the sector, as segments like pharmaceuticals and IT seem to have benefited in terms of revenues.
  • NPA accretion in cash-rich sectors like IT, pharmaceuticals, FMCG, chemicals, automobiles are expected to be smaller when compared to areas like hospitality, tourism, aviation, and other services.
  • The expert committee headed by K V Kamath recently came out with recommendations on the financial parameters required for a one-time loan restructuring window for corporate borrowers under stress due to the pandemic.

Source: Indian Express

Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises

Context:

Ministry of Food Processing Industries inaugurated the capacity building component of the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises (PM-FME Scheme).

Background:

  • The unorganized food processing sector comprising nearly 25 lakh units which contribute to 74% of employment in the food processing sector.
  • Nearly 66% of these units are located in rural areas and about 80% of them are family-based enterprises supporting livelihood in rural households and minimizing their migration to urban areas.
  • The units face a number of challenges such as lack of access to modern technology & equipment, training, access to institutional credit, lack of basic awareness on quality control of products, and lack of branding & marketing skills which limit their performance and growth.

PM-FME Scheme:

  • It is an all India Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, for providing financial, technical, and business support for up-gradation of existing micro food processing enterprises.
  • The Scheme adopts the One District One Product (ODOP) approach to reap the benefit of scale in terms of procurement of inputs, availing common services and marketing of products.
  • The scheme would provide support to FPOs/SHGs/Producer Cooperatives for capital investment along the entire value chain with credit linked grant at 35%.
  • Under the capacity building component of the PM-FME scheme, training of the Master Trainers would be delivered through online mode, classroom lecture and demonstration, and self-paced online learning material.
  • The scheme envisions to directly assist the 2 Lakh micro food processing units over a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25.

Objectives:

  • Support for capital investment for up-gradation and formalization with registration for GST, FSSAI hygiene standards, and Udyog Aadhaar.
  • Capacity building through skill training, imparting technical knowledge on food safety, standards & hygiene, and quality improvement.
  • Handholding support for the preparation of DPR, availing bank loans, and up-gradation.
  • Support to Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), Self Help Groups (SHGs), producers cooperatives for capital investment, common infrastructure, and support branding and marketing.

Significance:

  • The scheme would support the strengthening of backward and forward linkages, provision of common facilities, incubation centers, training, R&D, marketing & branding, provision of which would primarily be for ODOP products.
  • All individuals & institutions members receiving grants would undergo training for up-gradation of their skills.
  • The scheme lays special focus on SCs/STs, women and aspirational districts and FPOs, SHGs, and producer cooperatives.

Source: PIB

UNESCO Global Geoparks

Context:

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has taken various initiatives for the protection of various sites in Visakhapatnam.

Details:

  • The geopark consisting of Erra Matti Dibbalu (red sand dunes), natural rock formations at Mangamaripeta, million-year-old Borra Caves, and volcanic ash deposits.
  • Among the 34 notified National Geological Heritage Monument Sites of India by the Geological Survey of India, is the Erra Matti Dibbalu or coastal red sediment mounds located between Visakhapatnam and Bheemunipatnam.
  • In 2019, INTACH organized a campaign along with the Department of Tourism, Archaeology, and Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority to create public awareness on geo heritage spots in the region.

UNESCO Global Geoparks

  • A UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geoparks are thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process.
  • These are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development.
  • It uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues.
  • UNESCO Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity inside a UNESCO Global Geopark where that activity complies with indigenous, local, regional, and/or national legislation.

Significance:

  • UNESCO Global Geoparks are established through a bottom-up process involving all relevant local and regional stakeholders and authorities in the area.
  • These Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area.
  • The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs, and high-quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through sustainable geo-tourism.

Global Geoparks Network (GGN):

  • It is a legally constituted not-for-profit organization founded in 2004.
  • The membership of GGN is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks.
  • It is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together, exchange ideas of best practices, and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Source: The Hindu

Regulatory Sandbox Programme

Context:

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced the names of two startups that have been selected as a part of its regulatory sandbox programme.

Regulatory Sandbox Programme:

  • A regulatory sandbox is a framework set up by a financial sector regulator to allow small scale and live testing of innovations by private firms in a controlled environment.
  • The sandbox entities are subject to restrictions such as the maximum number of customers served.
  • According to SEBI’s guidelines, all entities registered under the SEBI Act 1992 are eligible for testing in their sandbox even if they use the services of a fintech firm.
  • The IRDAI’s sandbox exclusively looks at products and services in the insurance sector and has set up a panel to review applications.

Significance:

  • It introduces the potential to change the nature of the relationship between regulators and financial services providers toward a more open and active dialogue.
  • Its primary objective is to promote competition and efficiencies in financial services markets through innovation.
  • The regulatory sandboxes allow financial regulators to mitigate future risks by working with fintech innovators by having a ring-side view of the potential problems.

Need for Regulatory Sandboxes :

  • According to NITI Aayog, India is one of the fastest-growing fintech markets globally, and industry research has projected that $1 trillion, or 60% of retail and SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) credit, will be digitally disbursed by 2029.
  • The Indian fintech ecosystem is the third-largest in the world, attracting nearly $6 billion in investments since 2014. Fintech or financial technology companies use technology to provide financial services such as payments, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, among others.
  • Therefore, in order to protect customers and safeguard the interests of all stakeholders, and streamline their influence on the financial system, there is a need for a regulatory and supervisory framework for fintech firms.

Source: The Hindu 

Vulture Action Plan 2020-25

Context:

Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country. The objective of the plan is to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.

  • There are nine recorded species of vultures in India i.e. Oriental white-backed, long-billed, slender-billed, Himalayan, red-headed, Egyptian, bearded, cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.

Background:

  • Since 2006, the ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures and now the plan is to extend the project to 2025. 
  • The crash in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s, and in 2004 the cause of the crash was established as diclofenac.
    • Diclofenac is a veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as gout.
  • The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the DCGI banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year and the decline of the vulture population being arrested by 2011.

Vulture Action Plan 2020-25:

  • The action plan aims to carry forth what has already been set in motion by ensuring that the sale of veterinary NSAIDs is regulated and livestock are treated only by qualified veterinarians.
  • The four rescue centres have been proposed for different geographical areas like Pinjore in the north, Bhopal in central India, Guwahati in Northeast and Hyderabad in South India for treatment of vultures in the country.
  • The plan includes instituting a system with the help of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) which automatically removes a drug from veterinary use, such as Diclofenac if it is found to be toxic to vultures.
  • Under the 2020-25 plan, the ministry will also work for conservation breeding programme of Red-Headed Vulture and Egyptian Vulture, and help states in establishing at least one ‘Vulture Safe Zone’ in each state for the conservation of the remnant population.

Significance:

  • Vultures play a very important role in quickly disposing of carcasses that could harbour millions of pathogenic bacteria and fungus and cause serious implications for human and animal health.
  • The vulture numbers saw a steep slide (90 % in some species) in India since the 1990s in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.
  • Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species (the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures) crashed massively with 99 % of the species having been wiped out.
    • Red-headed vulture: It is listed as critically endangered. Its population is declined by 91%.
    • Egyptian vulture: It is listed as ‘endangered’. Its population is declined by 80%.
    • Himalayan, bearded and cinereous vultures: These are listed as ‘near threatened’.

The Vulture Safe Zone programme:

  • It is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, which has been successful and had three critically-endangered species bred in captivity for the first time.

Source: Indian Express

New Ramsar Sites in India

Context:

Kabartal in Bihar’s Begusarai district and Keetham Lake in Agra have been added to the list of recognized Ramsar sites.

Kabartal:

  • It is a freshwater marsh of North Bihar.
  • It is also known as Kanwar jheel which covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • The site acts as a vital flood buffer for the region besides providing livelihood opportunities to the local communities.
  • Kabartal is also an important stopover along the Central Asian Flyway, with 58 migratory waterbirds using it as a wintering site.

Keetham lake:

  • It is also known as Sur Sarovar which was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1991.
  • The climatic condition of the lake area is typical of Uttar Pradesh plains with hot windy summers and extremely cold winters.
  •  Keetham Lake was named Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, after the great blind poet Surdas, who lived nearby nearly 500 years ago.
  • Sur Sarovar has the biggest Bear Rescue center for rescued dancing bears.

Ramsar Site:

  • Any wetland site which has been listed under the Ramsar Convention with an objective to conserve it and promote sustainable use of its natural resources is called a Ramsar Site.
  • Ramsar Convention was established in 1971 by UNESCO and came into force in 1975.
    • It is also known as the Convention of Wetlands.
  • India is a party to the Ramsar Convention and signed under it on 1st February 1982.

Montreux Record:

  • It is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution, or other human interference.
  • It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

Source: The Hindu

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Context:

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into existence on the sidelines of the 37th ASEAN Summit. RCEP  is a mega trade bloc comprising 15 countries led by China.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP):

  • It is the world's largest free-trade bloc which is comprised of 10 ASEAN members, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • RCEP will account for 30% of the global economy, 30% of the global population, and reach 2.2 billion consumers.
  • The deal marks the first time rival East Asian powers China, Japan, and South Korea have been in a single free trade agreement.
  • RCEP will help reduce or remove tariffs on industrial and agricultural products and set out rules for data transmission.
  • The mega trade bloc is a landmark trade initiative that is expected to boost commerce among the member-countries spread across the Asia-Pacific region.

India's stand on RCEP:

  • India withdrew from RCEP in November 2019 over concerns about cheap Chinese goods entering the country.
  • India raised alarm about market access issues, fearing its domestic producers could be hard hit if the country was flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
  • India highlighted that the present form of the RCEP agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

RCEP's stand on India:

  • The RCEP mentioned that India would have to write expressing “intention” to join the organization to restart negotiation for membership.
  • The RCEP signatory states will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of the RCEP Agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to the RCEP Agreement to the depository of the RCEP Agreement.

Importance of RCEP to China:

  • The RCEP may cement China's position more firmly as an economic partner with Southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea.
  • The existence of RCEP may put the world's second-biggest economy in a better position to shape the region's trade rules.
  • The RCEP could help Beijing cut its dependence on overseas markets and technology, a shift accelerated by a deepening rift with Washington.
  • The United States is absent from both RCEP and the successor to the Obama-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), leaving the world’s biggest economy out of two trade groups that span the fastest-growing region on earth.

Source: The Hindu

Govt Expands the Scope of PM-KUSUM
 

Context:

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has amended the implementation Guidelines of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyaan (PM-KUSUM) Scheme.

Background:

  • The PM-KUSUM Scheme was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2019.
  • It is a scheme for farmers to the installation of solar pumps and grid-connected solar and other renewable power plants in the country.
  • The Scheme consists of three components which include:
    • Component-A includes installation of Decentralized Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants;
    • Component-B includes installation of standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps; and
    • Component-C includes the Solarisation of Grid-connected Agriculture Pumps.

Key Amendments:

Amendments for Component-A:

  • The scope of the PM-KUSUM has been increased by including pasturelands and marshy lands owned by farmers.
  • The size of the solar plant has been reduced so that small farmers can participate and the completion period increased from nine to twelve months.
  • The solar power projects smaller than 500 kW may be allowed by States based on techno-commercial feasibility to support small farmers.
  • There shall be no penalty to Renewable Power Generator (RPG) for the shortfall in solar power generation from minimum prescribed Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF).

Amendments for Component-B:

  • The MNRE will retain 33% of eligible service charges for nation-wide Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities.
  • The ministry may release 50% of eligible service charges for the sanctioned quantity after placement of Letter of Award (LoA) for preparatory activities.
  • The order allows either one or both of the following two categories to participate in the centralized tendering:
    • Manufacturer of solar PV modules or manufacturers of solar pumps or manufacturers of solar pump controllers using indigenous technology.
    • The joint venture of any of the manufacturers mentioned above with system integrators.

Amendments for Component-C:

  • Under Component-C, individual farmers having grid-connected agriculture pumps are being supported to solarise their pumps.
  • The farmers will be provided solar panels and they will be able to use the generated solar power to meet the irrigation needs and sell the surplus solar power.
  • The DISCOMs will buy surplus power from the farmers at the pre-determined rate to be decided by the respective State/SERC.

Source: PIB

Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report (PDPR) 2020

Context:

International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) has released the latest annual Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report (PDPR) 2020.

Key Highlights:

  • The 2020 PDPR focus countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Dominic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Chad, Indonesia, Angola, Tanzania, Somalia, China, Mali, Bangladesh, Niger, and Cote de Ivoire.
  • The report tracked progress by analyzing 10 indicators from the latest available data on how countries are delivering key interventions, including breastfeeding, immunization, care-seeking and antibiotics, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and zinc supplementation, shown to prevent pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths.
  • The overall world’s health systems are falling short of ensuring that children have access to prevention and treatment services.
  • Pneumonia continues to kill more children under five worldwide than any other single infectious disease while diarrheal diseases which is the second leading infectious cause of death of children under 5, claimed the lives of 437,000 young children.
  • Globally, over 1.23 million children died of pneumonia and diarrhea before reaching their 5th birthday which is equivalent to over 141 child deaths per hour or 3,400 deaths per day.

India's performance:

  • India has achieved the global target of 90% coverage for three of the five vaccines whose coverage is monitored in the report.
  • The vaccines are Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine, Measles-containing-vaccine first dose, Haemophilus influenza type B, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and rotavirus vaccine.
  • India’s coverage of rotavirus vaccine increased by 18 percentage points (53% in 2019) and the coverage against pneumococcal pneumonia increased by 9 percentage points (15% in 2019).
  • In 2019, India completed the “100-day agenda” which was an unprecedented national scale-up of the rotavirus vaccine.
  • India is one of just four countries, out of the 15 focus countries, that exceeded targets for exclusive breastfeeding.
  • India failed to reach all four targets for treatment, adding that the treatment for diarrhea had the lowest coverage, with only 51% of children receiving ORS and 20% getting zinc.
  • The report stated that the vaccine expansion will help protect 26 million children born each year against life-threatening cases of rotavirus diarrhoea.

Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report:

  • It is an annual report which tracks progress towards 10 key indicators in the 15 countries with the highest mortality burden of pneumonia and diarrhea in children under 5.
  • In 2009 and 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF published the integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).
  • It is a bold call to action with the goal of achieving a global 75% reduction in the incidence of severe pneumonia and diarrhea in children under 5 by 2025.
  • GAPPD outlines a set of core interventions to successfully prevent, protect, and treat children who are at risk of serious illness or death due to these two diseases.

Source: The Hindu

Leonid Meteor Shower

Context:

According to Norway-based website timeanddate.com, the Leonid meteor showers are currently making their yearly appearance and will reach their peak in India on November 17 and 18.

Leonid Meteor Shower:

  • The Leonids emerge from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which requires 33 years to revolve once around the Sun.
  • The Leonid Meteor is bright and among the fastest moving i.e. traveling at speeds of 71 km per second.
  • The Leonid showers include "fireballs" i.e. bright and large meteors that can last longer than average meteors and "earthgazers" i.e. meteors which appear close to the horizon with colorful and long tails.
  • The meteor showers are named after the constellation they appear to be coming from and the Leonids originate from the constellation Leo 'the Lion' i.e. the groups of stars which form a lion’s mane.

Visibility of a meteor:

  • The meteors are best seen on a cloudless night, when the entire sky is visible and when the Moon is not extremely bright.
  • The chances of a successful viewing are higher from locations far away from the lights of cities.
  • The shower's peak when the Earth passes through the densest part of the debris cloud.

Meteor Shower:

  • The Earth passes through large swathes of cosmic debris on its journey around the Sun and the debris is essentially the remnants of comets i.e. great frigid chunks of matter that leave behind dirty trails of rocks and ice that linger long after the comets themselves have passed.
  • The Earth wades through the cloud of comet waste and the bits of debris create what appears from the ground to be a fireworks display in the sky which is known as a meteor shower.
  •  According to NASA, over 30 meteor showers occur annually and are observable from the Earth.
  • According to the International Meteor Organisation, the showers that are currently active are the Southern Taurids, the Northern Taurids, and the Leonids.

Source: Indian Express

Tristan da Cunha

Context:

Tristan da Cunha was declared the largest fully protected marine reserves in the Atlantic Ocean at 687,000 square kilometres.

Tristan da Cunha:

  • It is the isolated UK Overseas Territory which is home to the world’s most remote human settlement.
  • It is inhabited by less than 300 humans is a small chain of islands over 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic.
  • The mountainous archipelago Tristan da Cunha is home to tens of millions of seabirds and several unique land birds that are comparable to the Galapagos island finches.
  • The island group is also home to the World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands, which is one of the most important seabird islands in the world.
  • The waters around Tristan da Cunha serve as a feeding ground for the critically endangered Tristan albatross and endangered Yellow-nosed albatross.

Significance:

  • After joining the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, it will become the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic and the fourth largest on the planet.
  • Protect marine reserve implies that fishing, mining and any such activities will not be allowed.
  • The Blue Belt Programme provides over 27 million pounds over a period of five years for marine conservation around the UK Overseas Territories and international organisations.
  • The Marine Protection Zone (MPZ) is almost three times the size of the UK and will safeguard the future of sevengill sharks, Yellow-nosed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins.
    • The MPZs involve the management of certain natural areas for biodiversity conservation or species protection and are created by delineating zones with permitted and non-permitted areas within that zone.
  • The Pew Bertarelli project would help Tristan da Cunha protect its waters with technology that uses real-time data to evaluate ocean conditions and human activity such as fishing.

Source: The Hindu

Lonar Lake declared as a Ramsar Site

Context:

The Meteor lake at Lonar in Buldhana district has been declared a Ramsar site by International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Now, the total number of Ramsar sites in India is 41.

  • Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.

Why Lonar Lake has been declared as a Ramsar Site?

  • The lake is part of Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Lonar Lake is the second Ramsar site in the state of Maharashtra after Nandur Madhmeshwar Bird Sanctuary in Nashik district.
  • The lake is home to a large number of species including 160 bird, 46 reptile, and 12 mammal species.
  • The Ramsar status has been achieved due to sustained efforts by a team of Melghat Tiger Reserve that commands and controls the Lonar sanctuary.

Lonar Lake:

  • It is situated in the Deccan Plateau’s volcanic basalt rock which was created by the impact of a meteor 35,000 to 50,000 years ago.
  • The oval-shaped crater, which has a circumference of about five miles at the top, is both saline and alkaline, containing special microorganisms like anaerobes, Cyanobacteria, and phytoplankton. The perennial streams and springs feed into the lake.
  • It is home to a horde of algae and plankton species that thrive in its unusual ecosystem and give the water its vibrant color.
  • Because of its basaltic surface, scientists now use Lonar Lake to study craters and impact structures on other, more difficult to reach places like the Moon and Mars.
  • It was identified as a unique geographical site by a British officer CJE Alexander in 1823 and declared a notified National Geo-heritage Monument in 1979.
  • It was created by an asteroid collision with the earth's impact during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Significance of Ramsar Site status to Lonar Lake:

  • The Lonar will benefit in terms of international publicity and prestige and financial aid through the convention’s grant.
  • The Ramsar status to Lonar Lake would bring access to expert advice on national and site-related problems of Lonar wetlands.
  • The Ramsar status enhances protection for rare and endemic species.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:

  • The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
  • It is the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • All Parties to the Convention have the obligations to include in the List at least one site that meets the criteria established by the Conference of the Parties.
  • It is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Source: Indian Express

15th East Asia Summit 2020

Context:

Union External Affairs Minister of India addressed the 15th East Asia Summit 2020. The minister talked about the growing interest in the region as an integrated and organic maritime space with 10-nation ASEAN at its center.

Key Highlights:

  • The summit was chaired by the Prime Minister of Vietnam.
  • The summit underlined the need for greater international cooperation in the post-COVID-19 world to tackle the challenges cutting across national boundaries such as terrorism, climate change, and pandemics.

Significance:

  • The summit reaffirmed the importance of the EAS as the leaders-led forum to exchange views on strategic issues.
  • It called for the importance of adhering to international law, respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty, and promoting rules-based global order.
  • The summit adopted four statements on marine sustainability; epidemics prevention and response; women, peace and security; and steady growth of the regional economy.
  • The summit discussed ways to strengthen the EAS platform and to make it more responsive to emerging challenges on its 15th anniversary and adopted the Ha Noi Declaration.

East Asia Summit:

  • It was established in 2005 to play a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical, and economic evolution of East Asia.
  • EAS is a premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region dealing with issues relating to security and defense.
  • Its member states include 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Russia.
  • At the 14th East Asia Summit, 2019, India proposed setting up of the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI).
    • The IPOI aims to conserve and sustainably use the maritime domain and to make meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain.

Source: The Hindu

Digital Life Certificate through Postman

Context:

The India Post Payments Bank has successfully launched the initiative of doorstep service for submission of Digital Life Certificate through Postman.

India Post Payment Bank:

  • The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) was set up under the Department of Post, Ministry of Communication.
  • The IPPB was launched as a pilot project in 2017 in Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Raipur (Chhattisgarh) with the objective of being present across India by the FY 2018-2019.
  • The 100% equity of the IPPB is owned by the Government of India.

Importance of India Post Payment Bank:

  • The IPPB aims to provide every household in India access to efficient banking services and enable them to become financially secure and empowered.
  • It is a unique bank in the sense that its focus is on providing doorstep banking services to its customers, even in the remotest areas of the nation.
  • The IPPB presents banking with a difference that aims to provide a simple, inclusive, convenient, and efficient banking system to the nation.
  • The IPPB’s economic and premium technology set up for payment and settlements provides the masses with affordable solutions delivered to the last mile.
  • The IPPB offers best in industry compensation and benefits that include comprehensive medical coverage for your family, leased accommodation, a bouquet of allowances, and necessary reimbursement as per scale.

Services provided by India Post Payment Bank:

  • The IPPB will offer a range of products such as savings and current accounts, money transfer, direct benefit transfer, bill and utility payments, enterprise, and merchant payments.
  • The customers will be able to access all products and services across various channels including over-the-counter services, micro ATM, mobile banking app, text messages, phone calls.
  • The payments bank will also provide access to third-party financial services such as insurance, mutual funds, pension, credit products, and forex.

Difference between India Post Payments Bank and traditional banks:

  • A payments bank is a differentiated bank, offering a limited range of products.
  • The payment banks can accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh per customer.
  • Unlike traditional banks, payment banks cannot issue loans and credit cards.

Source: All India Radio

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)

Context:

Ministry of Home Affairs has issued new rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 and thereby amending the FCRA Rules, 2011.

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA):

  • The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country.
  • The Act, first enacted in 1976, was amended in the year 2010 when a slew of new measures was taken by the Union Home Ministry to regulate foreign donations.
  • The Act is applicable to all associations, groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who intend to receive foreign donations.

Eligibility to register under FCRA:

  • The organization shall be in existence for three years.
  • The organization should have spent a minimum amount of Rs15 lakh on its core activities for the benefit of society during the last three financial years.
  • The registration of an organization is initially valid for five years and it can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.
  • The Members of the legislature and political parties, government officials, judges, and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution.
  • In 2017 the MHA, through the Finance Bill route, amended the 1976-repealed FCRA law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.

Recent Amendments:

  • The new rule has provided that the organizations specified under clauses (v) and (vi) of sub-rule (1) shall be considered to be of political nature, if they participate in active politics or party politics, as the case may be.
  • Clause V of Rule 3 (FCRA 2011) qualified a political group as organizations of farmers, workers, students, youths based on caste, community, religion, language, or otherwise, which is not directly aligned to any political party.
  • The objectives of such a political group as stated in the memorandum of association or activities gathered through other material evidence, including steps towards the advancement of political interests of such groups.
  • Clause VI (FCRA 2011) qualified a group as political if the organization by whatever name called habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like rasta roko, jail bharo, rail roko, bandh, or hartal in support of public causes.

Source: The Hindu

Financial Support to Public-Private Partnerships in Infrastructure

Context:

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved Continuation and Revamping of the Scheme for Financial Support to Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Infrastructure Viability Gap Funding (VGF) till 2024-25.

  • The government has expanded the provision of financial support by means of viability gap funding for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure projects to include critical social sector investments in sectors such as health, education, water, and waste treatment.

Details:

  • The private sector projects in areas like wastewater treatment, solid waste management, health, water supply, and education, could get 30% of the total project cost from the centre.
  • The pilot projects in health and education, with at least 50% operational cost recovery, can get as much as 40% of the total project cost from the central government.
  • The Centre and States would together bear 80% of the capital cost of the project and 50% of operation and maintenance costs of such projects for the first five years.

Significance:

  • The projects of Social Sectors such as Waste Water Treatment, Water Supply, Solid Waste Management, Health, and Education sectors, etc. face bankability issues and poor revenue streams to cater fully to capital costs.
  • The scheme will support demonstration/pilot social sector projects such as Health and Education sectors where there is at least 50% Operational Cost recovery.
  • The aim of the scheme is to promote PPPs in Social and Economic Infrastructure leading to efficient creation of assets.
  • The scheme aims to ensure proper Operation and Maintenance of PPPs in Social and Economic Infrastructure and make the economically/socially essential projects commercially viable.
  • The scheme would be beneficial to the public at large as it would help in the creation of the Infrastructure for the country.

Scheme for Financial Support to PPPs in Infrastructure:

  • It was launched in 2006 by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.
  • Objective: To support infrastructure projects undertaken through PPP mode that are economically justified but commercially unviable.
  • The VGF up to 40 % of the total project cost is provided by the central government and the sponsoring authority in the form of capital grant at the stage of project construction (20 % + 20 %).

Source: PIB

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Spacecraft

Context:

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is all set to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Background:

  • Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA in 2014 to develop transportation systems meant to transfer crew from the US to the ISS.
  • Earlier in May, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS, becoming the first crewed flight to launch from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.

SpaceX-NASA Crew-1 Mission:

  • It is a mission aimed at carrying a crew of four people to the International Space Station (ISS) on a six-month-long mission.
  • The objective of the Commercial Crew Program is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS.
  • The Crew-1 mission will launch the agency’s astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi.
  • The Crew-1 will be the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS.

Objectives of the Crew-1 Mission:

  • The goals of the mission are the same as that of Expedition 1 that lifted off 20 years ago.
  • At the ISS, the Crew-1 team will join members of Expedition 64 and conduct microgravity studies.
  • The mission aims to deliver new science hardware and experiments that they will carry with them to space aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
  • An experiment aboard the Crew Dragon is a student-designed experiment titled, "Genes in Space-7" that aims to understand how spaceflight affects brain function.
  • The mission will enable scientists to understand the physical interactions of liquid, rocks, and microorganisms, experiment on the role of microgravity on human health, and another on how microgravity affects heart tissue.

Source: Indian Express

Operation Thunder 2020

Context:

The India Customs intercepted an 18-tonne shipment of red sandalwood destined for the United Arab Emirates, during "Operation Thunder 2020".

Operation Thunder 2020:

  • It is a month-long operation coordinated by the Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (WCO), which involved law enforcement agencies in 103 countries.
  • The operation was organized against environmental crime.
  • It resulted in large seizures of protected wildlife and forestry specimens and products, triggering arrests and investigations worldwide.
  • The participating countries in Operation Thunder 2020 focused mainly on the species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • "Operation Thunder 2020" is the fourth in a series of "Thunder" operations carried out annually since 2017.

THUNDER Operations:

Operation Thunderbird (2017):

  • It is the code-name for INTERPOL’s multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation.
  • The operation brought about a unanimous approach by the state enforcement agencies in the fight against wildlife crime in India.

Operation Thunderstorm:

  • It targeted the people and networks behind global wildlife crime.
  • It involved police, customs, border, environment, wildlife, and forestry agencies from 92 countries.

Operation Thunderball:

  • It brought INTERPOL and WCO together as joint operational partners on the frontline to ensure wildlife trafficking is addressed comprehensively, from detection to arrest, investigation, and prosecution.
  • The operation saw half a tonne of pangolin parts bound for Asia seized in Nigeria, and the arrest of three suspects in Uruguay attempting to smuggle more than 400 protected wildlife species.

Source: The Hindu

Qilian Mountains

Context:

The researchers have observed that Glaciers in China's bleak Qilian Mountains are disappearing at a shocking rate.

Key Highlights:

  • The largest glacier in the 800-km mountain chain on the arid northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau has retreated about 450 meters since the 1950s.
  • The 20-square kilometer glacier, known as Laohugou No. 12, is crisscrossed by rivulets of water down its craggy, grit-blown surface.
  • The loss of thickness is equally alarming with about 13 meters of ice disappearing as temperatures have risen.
  • The changes in Qilian reflect melting trends in other parts of the Tibetan plateau, the source of the Yangtze and other great Asian rivers.
  • The melting in the mountains could peak within a decade, after which snowmelt would sharply decrease due to the smaller, fewer glaciers.

Reasons: