CENTRE FOR RESEARCH & PLANNING

CONTEXT

CJI of India Ranjan Gogoi announced setting up of Centre for Research & Planning (CRP) which would act as a think tank for SC and would help SC.

Main focus area of CRP’s research

  • Contribution of the Supreme Court of India to the development of law.

  • Judgments in Simple English: CRP will prepare summaries of key judgments in non-technical language.

  • Independent: The press-release states that CRP will be "independent and bias free" and present research on all "major points of view".

  • Open to Public: All research output will be published on a "permanent and accessible database".

Significance

  • This is a much-needed step to Make Knowledge more accessible and Streamline working of SC by taking some of work off the plate of judiciary and providing crucial inputs on matter of importance/debates.

  • An important area which the think tank seeks to work towards is to translate Supreme Court’s judgments into simple English which is easily understandable to the common man. This is important for effective access to justice and simplifying law jargon into understandable terms.

Conclusion

  • Many Judgements have to decide the present and govern future Rapid Technological and business changes have left a hole/gray area which needs to be addressed and can be tackled via this institution.

  • While this is a laudable step, so issues like Independence, composition, mandate of the CRP is a concern so as they do not end up without bringing any change. It is also a concern that it may overlap and overstep functions of Indian Law Institute (ILI) and National Judiciary Academy (NJA), Bhopal, The Law Commission in some areas.

ELECTORAL BONDS

CONTEXT

SBI recorded a sale of Electoral Bonds worth 400 Cr in the month of October.

  • The GoI has notified the sale of electoral bond by SBI through its 29 authorized branches.

  • These SBI branches are in cities like New Delhi, Gandhinagar, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Kolkata and Guwahati.

WHAT ARE ELECTORAL BONDS?

  • An Electoral Bond is just like a promissory note that will be payable to bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by a citizen of India or anybody incorporated in India.

  • The bonds are issued in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and are available at specified branches of State Bank of India.

  • They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account which can be donated to the party of their choice.

  • The Parties who receive the donations in the form of electoral bonds can cash them via the party’s verified account within 15 days.

  • Conditions for Electoral Bonds –

    • Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.

    • The bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October as specified by the Central Government. An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of Lok Sabha elections.

  • Donations made through Electoral Bonds would be tax deductible. A donor will get a deduction and the recipient, or the political party, will get tax exemption, provided returns are filed by the political party.

APPOINTMENT OF CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER AND ELECTION COMMISSIONERS

CONTEXT

Recently, the Supreme Court has referred Article 324(2) to a five-judge Constitutional bench, while hearing a PIL demanding for the establishment of a fair procedure to appoint Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).

HOW ARE CEC AND ECS APPOINTED IN INDIA?

  • India CEC and ECs are appointed in accordance with the provisions of Article 324 of the Constitution.

  • According to Article 324(2) –

    • The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix and the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.

    • The appointment of the CEC and other ECs shall be made by the President.

    • When any other Election Commissioner is so appointed the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as the Chairman of the Election Commission.

  • In practice the selection of the Election Commissioner is made by the Cabinet in pursuance of the Transaction of Business Rules of 1961.
  • Parliament also passed the Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Conditions Of Service) Act, 1991 which now regulates the composition of the Election Commission.

  • Service Conditions of the CEC and ECs –

    • CEC is appointed by the President and can be removed by the President in a manner as the Judges of High Court.

    • The Service conditions cannot be varied to the disadvantage of CEC and ECs.

    • ECs and other regional ECs can be removed by the President on recommendation of CEC only.

  • According to the conventions, in order to be appointed as a member of Election Commission a person must be well versed in the areas of administration
  • The Supreme court in 2017, while hearing a similar petition had voiced an opinion that the CEC and ECs appointed so far have had an unblemished track record but there is no harm legislating a law to formalize the procedure.

NEED FOR A LAW FOR APPOINTMENT OF ECI

  • The Constitution has not prescribed any qualifications such as legal, educational, administrative or judicial for the members of the Election Commission.

  • The Constitution has not specified the terms of the members of the Election Commission.

  • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government or from participating in politics.

DRAFT NATIONAL RIVER GANGA (REJUVENATION, CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT) BILL, 2018

CONTEXT

In 2016, A panel headed by Justice Girdhar Malviya had submitted the draft of this bill. A revised version of this draft bill is currently in circulation among different Ministries for gathering comments and is expected to be tabled in the parliament during this winter session.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL:

  • River Ganga will be declared as “National River”.

  • The Centre will take control of management, regulation and development of the Ganga.

  • Constitution of National Ganga Council and National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.

  • National Ganga council will have a panel of five experts and can issue orders to ban any activity that can cause pollution and close or regulate, industries, construction of dams and other structures that can affect the continuous flow of the river.

  • Establishing Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) which will have the powers to arrest the offenders committing the offences listed in the bill.

  • The manpower for GPC will be provided by Ministry of Home Affairs and will be working under National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.

  • 2 to 5 years of imprisonment or fine up to Rs. 50,000 for offences like commercial fishing, pollution of the river and constructing illegal structures on the flood plains.

  • The offences under this bill as listed as cognisable offences.

  • There is ambiguity about how major issues like building barrages to divert the flow of the river, dredging to make way for inland water ways, hydroelectric projects that affect the flow and largescale deforestation will be tackled under this bill.

NOTA STRENGTHENED

CONTEXT

Maharashtra State Election Commission (MSEC) has notified that fresh polls will be conducted if NOTA gets the most votes.

  • The notification will be applicable to all the polls and by-polls of all Municipal corporations, Municipal councils and Nagar panchayats in Maharashtra.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

  • After the Supreme Court verdict in 2013, MSEC in its earlier order had a clause stating “While announcing the result, without taking into consideration the NOTA votes, the contesting candidate with the highest number of votes must be declared a winner. Even for cases where NOTA has polled more votes than the candidate with the highest votes, there won’t be any restriction in declaring the latter a winner.”

  • MSEC has modified this clause because it believes that it does not truly reflect the voting sentiments. It is of the opinion that majority NOTA votes indicates the fact that the voters are not in favour any candidate and therefore fresh polls have to be conducted by respecting the mandate of the majority.

  • After the modification, NOTA will be treated as a fictional electoral candidate.

  • The modified clause states that “If in any election, all the contesting candidates individually receive lesser votes than the ‘fictional electoral candidate’ i.e. NOTA, then none of the contesting candidates will be declared as elected and fresh elections shall be held for the post.”

  • This modified NOTA rule can also come into effect for the whole country, and especially for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, if the Election commission of India makes changes in its plenary powers under Article 324 and if other State Election Commissions make similar changes in their plenary powers under Article 243.

UN MIGRATION PACT

CONTEXT

Austrian government decided to withdraw from the new migration pact of the United Nations.

What is UN migration Pact?

  • It is the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement under auspices of UN to cover all dimensions of international migration in holistic and comprehensive migration in holistic and comprehensive manner. Its genesis can be found in New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016 by UN General Assembly.

  • The UN pact, which is not binding, addresses issues such as how to protect migrantsand how to integrate them into new countries or how to return them to their originalhome countries.

  • It is also Known as the Global Compact for Migration, was approved by all 193U.N. member nations.

Why Austrian government is backing out?

  • Austria citing concern about its sovereignty and potential restrictions on its freedom to act. In 2015, Austria took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers.

  • There are socio-cultural issues arising due to i immigrants’ getting access to welfare payments and depriving son of soils.

  • Similarly US while backing off cited that rightful defense of the government’s power to determine who can enter the United States. The global approach in the New York declaration is simply not compatible with US sovereignty.

  • The UN document also avoids applying the terms “legal” and “illegal” to migration, raising security bargaining.

  • Others nations like Australia, Hungry, Czech backed out from the pact.

Reasons for migration:

  • To elevate distress due to unemployment or underemployment in agriculture, natural calamities, and input/output market imperfections.

  • Demographic pressures and the impact of climate change on vulnerable societies are likely to drive further migration.

The costs of migration:

  • It can be the source of political tensions and human tragedies

  • Migrants being sold as slaves. Many more are trapped in demeaning, precarious jobs that border on slavery anyway.

  • Security concerns like racial or ethinic attacks.

The benefits of migration:

  • Migrants make huge contributions to both their host countries and countries of origin. Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies. 

  • They take jobs that local workforces cannot fill, boosting economic activity.

  • Migrants also make a major contribution to international development by sending remittances to their home countries.  

Way forward:

A coordinated multinational effort to resolve the thorniest migration issues and work out optimal integration policies doesn’t require a non-binding pact signed by every country. A smaller group of governments willing and able to work on solutions could make binding agreements, which could include some common funding and multinational pilot projects.

RCEP

The RCEP, involving 10 ASEAN members as well as China, Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea, would cover about half the world’s population and a third of its GDP.

EAST ASIA SUMMIT, 2018

Introduction

Prime Minister Modi attended East-Asia Summit, 2018 in Singapore and assures India’s commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific Region. PM reiterated India’s commitment to a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

About East Asia Summit

  • The East Asia Summit is a unique leader-led forum of 18 countries of the Asia-Pacific region formed to achieve the objectives of Regional Peace, Security and Prosperity of the region.

  • Initially it has 16 countries but later it expanded to 8 countries with the addition of United States and Russia in its 6th meeting. It consists of 10 ASEAN Nations – Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos

  • East Asia Summits held annually, as first was held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2005 and its latest edition was recently held at Singapore.

  • India has been participating in the EAS since its very inception in 2005.

Objectives

  • EAS, which is basically an initiative of ASEAN, focuses on peaceful strategic cooperation and dialogue on Political, Economic, Security and other common issues of Asia Pacific region. There are six priority areas within the framework of EAS, these are –Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management and ASEAN Connectivity.

India And EAS

  • India has been participating in East Asia Summit since its inception in 2005. India endorses EAS’s all six priority areas. The 13th edition of East Asia Summit was PM Modi’s 5th summit. PM Modi with other leaders of the grouping discussed Global and Regional issues including Maritime Cooperation.

Way Ahead For India

  • PM Modi in his 9th EAS speech said No other forum brings together such a large collective weight of global population, youth, economy and military strength. Nor is any other forum is so critical for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia-Pacific and the world.”

  • India’s active and greater role in EAS has helped it to take a closer look at the pressing issues in bilateral relations and overall economic and security situation in the region. The participation has also ensured smoothening ties with ASEAN and keeping India’s ACT EAST POLICY active to counterbalance China and maintain Regional Peace.

QUADRILATERAL SECURITY DIALOGUE

CONTEXT

Recently Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD was conducted on the sidelines of East Asia Summit.

WHAT IS QUADRILATERAL?

  • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) is the strategic dialogue between four countries viz. India, United States, Japan and Australia.

  • It was originally initiated in 2007 but later disbanded with withdrawal of Australia.

  • It has been recently revived and is being viewed as response to increased Chinese economic and military power.

Need for setting up of the Quad

  • To counter China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

  • To ensure freedom of trade and navigation through indo-pacific waters, particularly South China sea.

  • It will increase connectivity in the region and provide economic opportunities.

  • Rising strategic & economic importance of Indo-Pacific region for different countries. Foreg; US pivot to asia policy hinges on Indo-pacific region.

What are its objectives?

  • It is a development and collaborative initiative with the objective of promoting stability and maritime alliance in IOR, trade and commerce.

  • Ensure freedom of navigation in Indo-Pacific region and maintain its hegemony in India Ocean where China is forming string of pearls.

  • The other objective behind forming this group is to give a collective voice to Asian democracies to counter China’s assertiveness.

  • In recent times, China has been following aggressive policy in South China Sea, border areas (Doklam), OBOR project, support to North Korea, and has been successful in creating a rift among ASEAN nations too because of its superior economic and strategic power.

Significance for India:

  • Facing a huge power deficit, India needs partnerships to balance China.It thus provides New Delhi a powerful platform to advance its interests in East Asia and strengthen Act East Policy.

  • It will deepen India’s ties with US, Australia and Japan with benefits in diplomatic leverage and sharing of burden in defence.

  • It will also provide India significant chance in shaping US policies in Afghanistan-Pakistan to the benefit of India.

  • It helps India and other three Nations to counter China’s OBOR. As India refused to join OBOR it helps India to connect with other markets like Central Asian and South East Asian markets

Negative impact of quad for India:

The initiative has some negative implications like:

  • It further hampers the bilateral relations between India and China. Further India can be easy target in China’s US rivalry.

  • Rivalry with China will expose India to criticism from neighboring countries for involving outside powers in the region.

  • It goes against Non-Alignment movement which is India’s initiative

  • Quad may affect India-Russia relations and gave further impetus to improve China-Russia relations, which will impact India.

  • While the quadrilateral grouping will bring developmental projects, it will considerably erode India’s primacy in the neighborhood region.

  • While India has impeded Chinese desires to have a diplomatic mission in Bhutan, it would be a challenge if US pursues the same.

  • Similarly, India also runs the risk of seeding ground to Japanese & US Navies in Sri Lanka.

Hurdles on the way of Quad:

  • India may need to enter into formal military arrangements and cooperation, even though this might bring with it the prospect of being dragged into a war not of its making.

  • China is at advantageous position when comes to economic aspects, given its trade ties with Quad and other south Asian neighbors

  • The very challenge before Quad is to handle different approaches of nations with regard to China’s assertiveness.

  • Washington’s indifference to the geopolitics of maritime South Asia.

Way ahead

  • The challenge before the quad grouping lies in finding areas of mutual interest.

  • All the member nations should work with cooperation.

  • Financial institutions like World Bank and Asian Development Bank must focus on infrastructure funding in the region. It will help in counter China’s large scale infrastructure building in countries of Southeast Asia to Africa under the Belt and Road Initiatives to economic growth.

  • India and Japan are already in discussions for the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor which is the step in right direction.

  • Owing to India’s presence and impact in South Asia the neighbourhood first policy should not take backseat.

The three pillars of the Indo-Pacific architecture need to work in coordination-

While the Quad is a crucial pillar of the peace and security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region, it needs to be supported by The EAS which serves the role of the political pillar and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) as the trade and economic pillar.

SRI LANKA POLITICAL CRISIS

CONTEXT

  • The Political Turmoil in Sri Lanka started in the evening of 9th November when Sri Lankan President MaithripalaSrisena dissolved the Parliament thereby sacking PM Wickremesinghe and naming MahindaRajapaksa as the next Prime Minister. The announcement came within hours of Srisisena’s party spokesperson publicly admitting of lack of majority in Parliament.

  • The crisis is the result of tussle between Srisena and Wickremesinghe over crucial political matters of the country since they formed government in 2015. The speaker of the house, KaruJaysuria has called the decision of the President as Unconstitutional and called for a floor test to prove majority.

How did it come about?

  • Sri Lanka has been facing a political crisis for a fortnight now, with Mr. Sirisena abruptly sacking his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Mr. Rajapaksa, a former President, apparently defying the Constitution or more specifically, its 19th Amendment — a 2015 legislation that clipped the powers of the President significantly.

  • Resisting Mr. Sirisena’s move, Mr. Wickremesinghe maintained that he was the legitimate Prime Minister and challenged Mr. Rajapaksa to a vote in Parliament to test their claims to majority.

Why does it matter?

  • Both decisions of Mr. Sirisena — sacking Mr. Wickremesinghe and dissolving Parliament — have raised serious questions about constitutional validity.

  • Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister’s office does not fall vacant unless in circumstances of his death, voluntary resignation or loss of majority in a crucial votein Parliament.

  • Since none of these is true in the current situation, a new appointment by the President is constitutionally ruled out.

  • On the dissolution of Parliament, the President does not have the powers to dissolve Parliament within four-and-a-half years of its convening, unless requested by two-thirds of its members, as per the 19th Amendment.

  • The President’s side has invoked Article 33(2) C that lists the powers to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament, in addition to his existing powers.

International Reactions

  • India has followed a “wait and watch approach” and is closely observing the political developments there. New Delhi has called for democratic and constitutional norms to follow to bring normalcy back.

  • The US state department has shown deep concern with Sri Lanka, being a committed trade partner and expected the democratic institutions and processes to be respected.

  • While China has lost Maldives to India last month, with the rise of Rajapaksa, China would expect Sri Lanka to come closer to its orbit.

Way Ahead

  • Amid the Political crisis, the conduct of elections will depend on Election Commission’s Position on the development and possible legal hurdles since Wickramasinghe’s party UNITED NATIONAL PARTY has decided to move to Supreme Court against the sudden dissolution which the call as Unconstitutional.

  • The conduct of elections will depend on the Election Commission’s position on the development and possible legal hurdles.

ASIA PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION (APEC)

Context

APEC members failed to agree on a communique at a summit in Papua New Guinea

What is APEC?

  • The forum initially started as an informal dialogue of economic leaders in 1989 in Canberra, Australia. It was formally established in 1993 with 12 members. Currently, APEC has 21 member economies.

  • It has evolved as pre-eminent economic forum in Asia-Pacific region. It Operates on the basis of non-binding commitment and open dialogue.

  • Decision made within APEC are reached by consensus, and commitment are undertaken on voluntary basis.

Goal and objectives

  • The primary goal of APEC is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • Objectives:

    • Promote free and open trade and investment

    • promote and accelerate regional economic integration

    • encourage economic and technical cooperation,

    • enhance human security,

    • facilitate a favourable and sustainable business environment

Challenges:

  • Trade War: APEC members have a conflicting aims and objectives towards world trade. Rising protectionism and US-China Trade war, threatens economic growth in the region.

  • Creation of Sub-regional Agreement: Many APEC economies seek to reach sub-regional FTA which has undermined the role APEC was originally expected to play. Further, TPP and RCEP has further undercut APEC.

  • Development gaps: The “East-West divide” within APEC has existed since its foundation Exclusive Trade liberalisation policies followed since it’s inception has not produced desired results. Further Critics argue that development gaps between APEC countries have widened over the years.

  • Non-Binding nature: Critics argue that APEC’s non-binding nature has allowed overlapping, and sometimes contradictory, economic and trade agreements to be negotiated.

  • Unclear goals and agenda: Over the years, APEC’s significance has been undermined by the fact that its agenda has been repeatedly changed, depending on the whims and interests of the country presiding over the summit. This has resulted in APEC facing crisis of identity and credibility

  • Exclusion of India: The 6th largest economy, India is not included in APEC. This undermines APEC’s efforts to expand trade and innovation throughout the region.

  • Institutional Support: APEC was formed with the idea of serving as the Pacific’s OECD, but it does not have an OECD-type of independent research and evaluation ability, not to mention policy formulation and recommendation functions.

  • Structural issues: APEC’s original membership was centred on link b/w East Asia and North America. But since the expansion of its membership in 1990’s to countries(latin american, Russia, etc) the internal cohesion began to decrease due to differing interests.

Why has India not got membership of APEC?

  • India has observer status since 2011 & has applied for full membership. In 1997, APEC put a moratorium on new memberships for a ten-year period, extending effectively till 2007.In 2007, APEC decided to extend the moratorium till 2010. However, even after the moratorium expired in 2010, it admitted no new members. The reasons cited for not including India are as follows:

    • India was denied APEC membership in 2007 on the ground that its economy was not integrated into the global system

    • lack of consensus on including any new member

    • fears of disrupting consensus procedures

    • Extra-regional status of India: expanding westward to include India would cast APEC’s geographic net beyond the Pacific Rim.

    • large trade deficit of India

    • APEC members do not view India’s politics and policies as supportive of wide regional integration and wider trade options.

Advantages for India if it joins APEC:

  • Membership in APEC would allow India to negotiate trade, integrate with the global economy, and help boost growth.

  • India will benefit from investments inflows that are crucial for advancements in different sectors of the economy.

  • APEC mechanisms and best practices will help Indian officials and businesses become more competitive and better prepared for the changing global economy.

  • Through its processes and guidelines, APEC will facilitate India’s implementation of the economic reforms it needs to compete.

  • South Asian economic integration is very less as compared to east asia. APEC will provide India to integrate with global economies.

Way Forward

  • APEC should use its collective weight to continue pushing the WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiation forward.

  • The APEC member countries should work together to ensure their collective and individual interests are best represented.

  • APEC leaders must address the problems arising from its membership, institutional structure, modalities of decision making, and leadership as the forum works to redefine its relevance for the future regional architecture.

  • With the rise of India as one of the global economic power and its changing regional economic and political influence, necessitates that India is included APEC. This would ensure a free and open trade and investment in the Indo-Pacific region and foster growth.

G-20

CONTEXT

G-20 summit is going to held in Argentina

More about it

  • The Leaders’ Summit is the most important annual event of the G20, the leading international forum for economic, financial and political cooperation.

  • Leaders will discuss the global economy, the future of labor markets and gender equality issues.

  • They will also talk about macroeconomic policy, the digital economy, reform of the World Trade Organization, financial regulation, taxation and trade issues.

About G-20

  • The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.

  • It seeks to develop global policies to address today’s most pressing challenges.

  • The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • The G20 was born out of a meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors in 1999 who saw a need for a more inclusive body with broader representation to have a stronger impact on addressing the world’s financial challenges.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE SEA CLASH

CONTEXT

Russian border guards intercepted and seized three Ukrainian navy boats off Crimea on 25 November, in a major escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Why did this happen?

  • Two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug were sailing towards the Kerch Strait, the only route for ships to enter the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea.

  • Russia’s FSB border guard force says the flotilla violated Russian territorial waters.

  • But coordinates released later by the FSB and Ukraine confirm that the Russian attack happened in international waters near the strait.

  • Ukraine calls it Russian aggression, because the Black Sea is free for shipping and annexed Crimea belongs to Ukraine.

  • A 2003 Russia-Ukraine treaty stipulates unimpeded access to the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov.

How serious is this?

  • It is the most dangerous clash at sea off Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

  • Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko urged Nato to send ships to the Sea of Azov, warning of a threat of Russian invasion.

  • Nato shows no sign of doing so – Ukraine is not a member – but supports Ukraine. Western leaders condemned Russia’s actions.

  • Mr Poroshenko has put Ukraine’s border regions under martial law until 26 December and barred Russian men aged 16-60 from entering, except for "humanitarian cases".

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin accused him of staging a "provocation" to boost his poll ratings.

  • Russia is holding the three boats in Kerch. One was rammed by an FSB vessel in the clash.

  • The Russian forces opened fire and several Ukrainian sailors were injured. All 24 are in Russian detention.

How does it affect the conflict?

  • It could flare up again.

  • The pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have Russian heavy weapons; Ukraine has Western support.

  • They have been fighting since April 2014.

  • Russia’s new bridge over the Kerch Strait, opened in May, tightened its grip on Crimea.

  • Russia regularly inspects Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov, an area vital to the Ukrainian economy

UN CENTRAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND

CONTEXT

Venezuela is to receive more than $9 million in assistance from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, according to the official list of 2018 allocations.

More about UN CERF

  • CERF is one of the fastest and most effective ways to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian assistance reaches people caught up in crises.

  • Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 as the United Nations global emergency response fund, CERF enables humanitarian responders to deliver life-saving assistance whenever and wherever crises strike.

  • The fund is replenished annually through contributions from governments, the private sector, foundations and individuals.

  • From the fund’s inception till August 2013, donors include 125 Member States and more than 30 private donors and regional authorities.

E-REGISTRATION FOR JOBS

CONTEXT

Ministry of external Affairs said that e-registration is necessary for jobs is must in 18 countries.

More about it

  • Passport holders with “non-Emigration Check Required (non-ECR)” status will soon have to get themselves registered with the Ministry of External Affairs before taking up jobs abroad

  • The non-ECR category of passengers include Indians paying income tax and those with educational qualification above matriculation.

  • As of now only ECR category passport holders were required to get emigration clearance from the office of the Protector of Emigrants to seek employment abroad.

  • All those seeking employment will have to register online via the website www.emigrate.gov.in.

  • Those failing to register at least 24 hours prior to actual departure will be off-loaded at the airports.

  • For all other visa categories, there is no change in existing procedures.

  • The objective of the directive is to protect workers with higher educational qualification from not getting into blue collar jobs.

  • Previously only ECR stamped passport holders had to go through the mandatory e-migrate registration since 2015.

FORMALIZATION OF INFORMAL WORKFORCE (NEW LABOUR FOR NEW INDIA)

CONTEXT

  • Large section of Indian economy falls in informal or unorganized sector. This has lead to various institutional and structural impediments in targeting them by the govt. and providing various benefits of schemes and program.

  • According to NSSO data, there have been more jobs created in the informal sector than the formal and more than 90% of the population are employed in informal jobs. 

  • India being the third largest economy in the world after US and China in PPP terms therefore to climb up the economic ladder, India needs formalization of the jobs.

INDIA’S MAJOR CHALLENGES DEALING HUMAN RESOURCES

  • Firstly, Indian economy needs to generate employment for about 5-7 million people that enter the workforce annually.

  • Secondly, over 90 percent of the workforce has informal employment, they neither have job security nor social security.

  • Thirdly, increase in infomalisation in the organized sector. As Informal workers are the most vulnerable section and trade unions focusing their attention on only protecting the rights of workers in organized sector.

PROBLEM OF UNORGANIZED SECTOR

HOW THE GOVERNMENT CAN TACKLE THIS?

  • First by increasing the formalization of the Indian economy.

  • Secondly by providing social security to those who are remaining in the informal sector.

FIXED TERM CONTRACT EMPLOYMENT PLAN

  • This is the most important reform as, it fixed that contract workers must be employed under the same working conditions (such as wages, working hours, allowances and other benefits) as permanent workers.

  • Under this plan they are also eligible for all statutory benefits to permanent workman proportionately.

  • This plan also helps in curbing fluctuating climate & seasonality in their business.

  • Allowing fixed-term employment would help employers to respond to the fluctuating demand and seasonality in their businesses and facilitate the direct employment of workers.

STEPS TAKEN FOR FORMALIZATION OF ECONOMY

  • Financial Inclusion: Access to formal credit, banking facilities and impart financial knowledge. The recent push for promoting digital cashless economy, Scehems such as Jan Dhan Yoajana, Bank Mitras, Lead Bank Scheme, Priority Sector Lending are good steps by the governement towards promoting formal economy

  • Land and Tax Reforms: The current laws encourage firms to remain small and does not provide them incentive to grow. For eg: Raising the number of workers in a firm requires governemnt permission which is time consuming and complicated process.

  • Increase connectivity: The high cost of urban living does not promote labour intensive firms .

  • Improve quality of human capital: Boosting education and skill levels will provide necessary foundation for the formalisation of economy. The SSA, Mid Day Meal Schemes, SWAYAM, Skill India Mission are some good initiatives by the Government.

  • Better access to markets and price discovery: It will set a precedent in the formalisation of the agriculture sector which provides the largest informal employment.

  • Other important initiatives:

  • Technology enabled initiative such as Sharm Suvidha portal, Universal account number and national career service portal to impart better accountability.

  • For low labour laws compliance central government allow to persuade self certification & regulate inspection under six labour laws.

  • Government have increased the EPFO coverage.

  • Employee enrollment campaign (EEC) launched by government in 2017 to enroll employess left out of Employee provident fund.

  • Employers provided with waiver of administrative charges, nominal charges at rate of Re 1 per annum and waiver of employees share, if not deducted.

  • Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana launched in 2016 (revised this year) under which the government will pay the full employers’ EPF contribution for three years for new employment.

  • Most importantly, introduction of Universal Access Number eases the fund issues during migration. If a construction worker migrates from one state to another, the benefit of registration will not be lost due to the portability of the UAN. 

  • Amendment of the Payment of Wages Act in 2017, this allows the payment to bank account.

  • Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare, 2017 which consolidate the hitherto fragmented laws into one consolidated law are under consideration by government.

SOME SERIOUS CONCERN REGARDING FORMALIZATION OF ECONOMY

  • Rising unemployment in the Indian youth.

  • Poor condition of the laborers and daily wage earner in term of minimum wages, productivity and working condition.

  • Coping with the lack of living standard in urban centers.

WAY AHEAD

  • Due poorly-designed labour laws, only a small section of India’s labour force has had job security and social security, while majority had neither.

  • India is at the cusp of transformation and requires the necessary push from govt. This can be done by right intent a political will of the nation.

FALLING OF CRUDE OIL PRICES

CONTEXT

  • With global crude oil prices falling significantly in recent weeks from $86.29 to $63.3 per barrel.

  • As a result, Indian petrol and diesel prices have also fallen slightly while the rupee has strengthened against the dollar.

HOW COMMODITY IS REGULATED?

  • The demand for energy (oil) in a particular country is very closely related to economic activities in that country. Generally, spikes and downfall of oil prices is related to law of demand and supply.

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS RESPONSIBLE?

  • US Government sanctions on Iran do not a huge impact on the Iran’s oil production.

  • US Government also liberated waiver offers and allowed India & other 7 countries to continue import from Tehran.

  • Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers, which have been holding back production of oil since 2017, started to produce oil in ample amounts in order to ease consumer worries.

  • Productions in the United States and Russia has been rising faster and same in others like Libya despite unrest.

  • Volume of oil held in the storage tanks around the world are beginning to build again.

  • US- china trade war have tempering effects on the oil price stability in the global market.

  • Demand is low due to weak economic activities in China and all over the world in general.

WHAT ARE ITS IMPLICATIONS?

  • The fall in the prices have been a dramatic shift of sentiment in just about a month. Traders thus fear another supply glut amid dimming demand prospects.

  • A protracted US- China trade war is seen as negative for oil demand.

  • Slowdown in the sales of car in China as well as India is also hurting fuel demand.

  • Lower oil prices means that India’s oil import bill in 2018-19 would be lower than predicted before.

  • The rupee, which was also hovering above 74 a dollar, has gained and is now below 72.

  • Variation in exchange rate also changes oil imports.

CLEANER FUEL MAY MEAN 60-MT LOSS OF DEMAND BY 2035: CRISIL REPORT

CONTEXT

In the recent report released by the CRISIL shows that cleaner fuel demand mean 60 mt loss of demand of conventional fuel by 2035.

BACKGROUND

  • POSITIVE IMPACTS ON INDIA :

    • Less pressure on rupee.

    • Narrowing current account deficit.

    • Lower subsidy bill.

    • Resources can be diverted to other welfare projects.

    • Lower risk of inflation.

    • Increased room for RBI to cut interest rates.

    In 2017-18 India’s petrol consumption was at 26.2 million tones and diesel was 81.1 million tones.

  • The move towards alternate technologies with the aim of reducing carbon emissions will increasingly impact demand for transportation fuels.

DETAILS OF THE REPORT

  • In attempts to use the cleaner fuel in long term cause 55-60 million ton loss of fuel demand for refiners by 2035.

  • Owing to the penetration of the electric vehicle & improvement in vehicle efficiency demand of conventional fuel decreases by 55-60 mt.

    Benefit of cleaner fuel use :

    • Less import of crude oil.

    • More technology evolvement.

    • Ecological friendly.

    • More foreign reserves.

  • CRISIL report projected 7% to 8% compound annual growth rate of fuel consumption by 2020 & 2025 respectively, later it decreases to 2 to 3 percent by 2035.

CAUSE OF CONCERNS

  • With slow down of the fuel demand and reduction of gross refinery margin, refiners are staring at a profitability risk.

  • Subsequent loss in fuel demand would translate into lower revenue potential from gasoline and diesel.

  • Long gestation period of greenfield refinery.

ALTERNATIVES FOR REFINERIES TO SUSTAIN

  • Refineries can opt for export to the neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

  • Refiners can export products like polymers & gycol, where the demand is expected to remain robust.

  • As India is net importer of polymer, exporting offers a huge scope for capacity addition.

  • Demand growth could also arise from continued substitution of metal pipes, and glass and metal containers with plastic ones. Increasing use of plastics for packaging due to their superior quality and cost effectiveness will also prop demand.

CONCLUSION

Stringent targets for improving fuel efficiency in vehicles, rapid shift to alternate technologies like electric vehicles and move towards cleaner fuels are expected to slow down fuel/product demand growth significantly in the medium to long term globally.

WAY AHEAD

  • Given the potential loss in fuel demand, the way forward is further integration of refineries with petrochemical units, and not just co-located refining and petrochemical plants.

  • Integration will not only meet the domestic chemical demand-supply gap, but also push the refining sector towards optimization despite loss in fuel demand by diversifying their portfolio.

GAS GRID: FUEL FOR ALL

CONTEXT

Recently Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for City Gas Distribution (CGD) projects across 129 districts to boost availability of gas supply for half of the country’s population in 26 states and Union Territories in an event.

BACKGROUND

  • The projects, recently awarded by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) would cover 65 Geographical Areas (GAs) under the ninth round of bidding.

  • At each of the GAs across 19 states in India, the authorized entities would also hold their events locally.

  • In 2014, only 66 districts were covered by the CGD network. But today, CGD projects are being implemented in 174 districts.

  • Government decided not only to increase the use and supply of gas, but also to produce gas through agro-wastes and other products and include the same into the CGD network.

ABOUT CITY GAS DISTRIBUTION NETWORK PROJECT

  • It is plan to shift towards a gas-based economy, that will increase the availability of clean cooking fuel or Piped Natural Gas (PNG) and transportation fuel Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for consumers.

  • The project has covered 96 cities and districts covering 46.5 lakh households and 32 lakh CNG vehicles so far.

  • Though this government aimed to extend the reach of Piped Natural Gas (PNG) to one crore houses in the next five years.

  • LNG terminals, a nationwide gas grid and a city gas distribution network are being developed to strengthen the gas infrastructure across the country.

POSITIVE ASPECTS OF PROJECT

  • This will enhancing the domestic production to reduce the energy import bill of the country by at least 10 per cent by 2022.

  • If there is gas grid covering urban areas, then the whole range of industrial activities which today use dirty fuels and pollute the air can switch on to gas reducing air pollution to some extent.

  • This will help to rollout the UJJWALA scheme far more effectively, as people will get access to gas through pipelines easily.

  • This is in consonance with government’s Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan plan.

KEY DRIVING FACTORS

  • Easy availability and accessibility of natural gas.

  • Increasing domestic, industrial and industrial gas connections.

  • Rising clean- energy vehicle.

  • National Energy Storage Mission (NESM).

CHALLENGES

  • Pipeline connectivity needs a right way for uninterrupted supply and affordability.

  • Safety issue and consumer education is cause of concern.

  • Laws with respect to pipelines are quite unfair which need to be revisited.

  • The amount of compensation given to the person under whose land the pipeline is being laid is very less as land cannot be used further for agriculture or construction which of reasonable width.

  • Good outreach of distributer companies to all states and rural areas as petroleum is central subject.

WAY AHEAD

  • As the rollout takes place, the gas availability to the consumers should be done without any glitches.

  • Pricing should be done in such a way so that it does not create distortions or rationing issue.

  • It should be readily available for everyone at affordable price.

  • PPP might be the right way forward but government needs to take leadership in order to see that whole value chain moves in a synchronized manner and ensures commercial viability.

  • Lastly there should be enough LNG terminals, infrastructure, ports and pipelines, which bring gas from the coast.

PROPOSED ACQUISITION OF PFC BY REC

CONTEXT

Recently the cabinet have given the green signal to power Finance Corporation’s takeover of rural electrification corporation.

MORE IN THIS CONTEXT

CCEA gave principle approval to strategic sale of Centre’s 52.63% holding in rural electrification corporation (REC) to Power finance corporation (PFC) along with transfer of management control.

NEED OF THIS STEP

  • As power sector is the major driver of the economy and India’s economy is growing at very fast pace so there is the need to have robust financing and distribution sectors.

  • Both the entities (REC and PFC) are competing in the same domain & driving up the cost of borrowing.

  • PFC, the power sector’s trading financier, is battling threats from non- performing power assets close to 14,000 MW.

  • There is growing need to cater the demand to fund new areas such as transmission links for distributed renewable projects, electric mobility, hybrid storage project etc.

  • Twin balance sheet problems and the SC verdict is still pending regarding insolvency resolution.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • This step allows the combined entity to raise cheap fund & enhance its bargaining power.

  • The acquisition intends to achieve integration across power chain, create economies of scale, obtain better synergies and have enhanced capability to support energy access & energy efficacy by improved capability to finance power sector.

  • It helps in achieving 175 GW green capacity by 2022 easily as it require large investments. Larger enterprises much have larger value.

  • To cater the larger demand of electricity, need of large lender is need of the hour.

  • As there is tripartite agreement between union government, state government and DISCOMS to ensure power for all citizens, this will strengthen the delivery of power distribution system which makes electrification for all objective easily achievable.

  • Government spent Re 13,000 Cr to strengthen delivery of PDS through Deen Dayal Upadhya Yojana, Saubhagya Yojana & integrated power development scheme, all these programs needs modernization & well distribution network.

CONCERNS

  • Power ministry raise concerns that acquiring a controlling stake in PFC would weaken its credit profile.

  • Operational and administrative issues may crop up after the deal.

  • Poor implementation of the proposal can damage fundamentals of both the cos.

  • This will lead to dilution of government stake in NBCFs.

  • Investment banks highlighted the problem of crowding out issue.

  • SC verdict still awaited regarding resolution on insolvency and bankruptcy.

  • Rise of 1.7 lakh crore thermal power NPAs.

WAY AHEAD

  • Power sector is major driver of the economy and economy is growing at fast pace so a larger finance entity is sine qua non.

  • Government is the major shareholder of the companies any step taken by the government it should be in larger interest of nation.

  • Since both the companies operate in the same sector and are NBFCs, Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) nod would be required.

STRESSED POWER PLANTS

CONTEXT

Recently, empowered committee headed by cabinet secretary P K Sinha has suggested strong policy measures to revive stressed power plants with improved coal availability and by ensuring timely payments to stressed power plants.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS BY PK SINHA COMMITTEE

High Level Empowered Committee (HLEC) set up by Government of India in July 2018 has come out with its report on stranded thermal power projects.

  • Committee suggested the policy measures to revive stressed power plants and improve coal availability.

  • Timely payments should be done directly by the banks, if necessary by RBI.

  • In case of default by the DISCOMS, RBI may recover dues from the account of states & pay the financial institutions.

  • Panel proposed that there should be mandatory late payment charge for the DISCOMS.

  • Panel also recommended aggregation of power procurement contracts by a nodal agency on behalf of states for 3-5 years and auctioning them with attached coal supply.

  • The proposal also covers plants selling electricity in the spot market.

  • The committee recommended short-term coal supply for sale of power through power ministry’s DEEP (discovery of efficient electricity price) portal or in the day-ahead market through power exchange.

  • It also recommended that power plants may terminate power purchase agreements (PPAs) with defaulting discoms and be allowed to use the coal supply for electricity supply through short-term PPAs or power exchange for a maximum of two years.

  • Committee recommend enabling state-owned power producer NTPC to aggregate power from stressed plants through a bidding process and offer the same to discoms till its own plants are commissioned.

  • The panel has suggested retiring 10,000-mw old plants in three years, ensuring mandatory payment of late payment surcharge by discoms, and non-cancellation of power, fuel, transmission pacts and all other clearances when a power plant is moved to insolvency court.

  • The committee has asked power and oil ministries to jointly frame a scheme for revival of gas-based power plants on the lines of the earlier e-auction scheme for RLNG (re-gasified liquefied natural gas).

REASONS FOR STRESS IN THESE THERMAL POWER PROJECTS

  • Due prudence not given while considering loan applications.

  • Non-availability of regular fuel supply arrangements

  • Cancellation of coal block and shortfall in supply of coal

  • Lack of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

  • Aggressive bidding by developers in PPA

  • Inability of the Promoter to infuse the equity & working capital

  • Regulatory and Contractual/Tariff related disputes

  • Delays in project implementations leading to cost overrun

  • Change of law in other countries resulting in spike of coal prices making power generation and supply at the contracted rate unviable

  • In the case of the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP), for which bidding took place, several players quoted very aggressively, a decision they have since come to regret. 

Steps Taken by Government to Help Power Sector

  • Deen Dyal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana

  • Garv (Rural Electrification App)

  • UDAY scheme

  • Integrated Power Development Scheme

  • 24X7 Power For All

  • TARANG (Transmission System Monitoring) App

  • SHAKTI coal allocation policy.

  • Tackling NPAs – Power Asset Revival through Warehousing and Rehabilitation (Pariwartan)

OTHER COMMITTEE AND COMMISSIONS RECOMMENDATION

  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy(Chair: Dr. Kambhampati Haribabu) presented its report on ‘Stressed/Non-performing Assets in Electricity Sector’ which noted that there were 34 stressed assets in the sector with an overall capacity of 40 GW and a total outstanding debt of nearly INR 2 lakh crore.

  • A task force should be formed to help power sector come out of the mire of NPAs.

  • Banks should keep in view the factors that are responsible for an asset becoming NPA and try to help the asset to the extent possible in not becoming NPA.

  • The process of grant of loan, supervisory mechanism and its subsequent monitoring should be overhauled and banks should follow credit rating system.

  • National Electricity Policy, 2005 needs to be revisited to address the problems of the electricity sector including clearances, land acquisition, continuance of old and inefficient plants etc.

CONCLUSION

Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that there should be consistency and uniformity regarding orders emanating from the status of change in law.

CREDIT STIMULUS TO MSME SECTOR

CONTEXT

Prime Minister has launched a significant initiative for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Sector.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Loans up to Rs. 1 Crore can be approved in just 59 Minutes so that MSMEs get easy access to credit.

  • 2 % interest subvention for all GST registered MSMEs.

  • For exporters who receive loans in the pre-shipment and post-shipment period, interest rebate from 3% to 5%.

  • All companies with a turnover more than Rs. 500 Crore, should be mandatorily be registered on the Trade Receivables e-Discounting System (TReDS). Joining this portal will give entrepreneurs easy access to access credit from banks.

  • Compulsory 25% procurement by Central Public sector Enterprises from MSME sector.

  • Out of the 25%, 3% is reserved for women entrepreneurs.

  • 20 hubs will be established across the country, and 100 spokes in the form of tool rooms will be created.

  • An Ordinance will be issued for simplifying procedures for minor offences under Companies Act.

WILL IT BENEFIT THE MSME SECTOR?

  • As per the researchers, more than 90% of MSMEs carry out operations in the informal sector. They depend largely on informal credit sources at a very high interest rate. They do not maintain proper documents and records because of these firms find it difficult to get credit from banks. Therefore, there is a possibility that the PM’s initiative for the MSME sector may not reach out to the majority and may stall the expected growth.

  • Also, Former RBI Governor had cautioned the Government that directed lending (as in this case, through CPSEs) can affect proper credit appraisal and result in higher Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) and affect the flow of credit in the coming years.

  • The Government has these challenges to meet and one has to wait and see, how the Government tackles these issues and meets the expected growth trajectory.

NATIONAL FINANCIAL REPORTING AUTHORITY (NFRA)

CONTEXT

The central Government has notified the rules for NFRA.

JURISDICTION OF NFRA:

  • Under Section 132 of the Act, the jurisdiction of NFRA for investigation of Chartered Accountants and their firms can be extended to listed companies and large unlisted public companies.

    • National Financial Reporting Authority is a body mentioned in the Companies Act 2013 for the creation and enforcement of accounting and auditing standards and for overseeing the work of auditors.

    • Members: One chairman, three full-time members and a secretary.

    The regulatory role of ICAI under the provisions of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 will continue in respect of its members in general and specially with respect to audits relating to private limited companies, and public unlisted companies below the threshold limit notified in the rules. ICAI will take up advisory role pertaining to accounting and auditing standards and policies by making its recommendations to NFRA.

  • The Quality Review Board (QRB) will also continue quality audit in respect of private limited companies, public unlisted companies below prescribed threshold and also with respect to audit of those companies that may be referred to the QRB by NFRA.

NFRA RULES:

  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance with accounting standards and auditing standards, overseeing the quality of services and undertaking investigation of the auditors of the listed entities, unlisted entities with a paid-up capital of not less than Rs.500 Crore or annual turnover over of Rs.1000 Crore or those having aggregate loans, debentures or deposits of not less than Rs.500 Crore as of March 31 of the preceding financial year.

  • Monitoring the auditors of banks, insurers, electricity firms and also those body corporates referred to it by the Centre.

  • Maintain details of particulars of auditors appointed by companies;

  • Recommending accounting and auditing standards for approval by the Central government;

  • Co-operation with national and international organisations of independent audit regulators in establishing and overseeing adherence to accounting standards and auditing standards

  • Procedure on disciplinary proceedings: Time-bound disposal (90 days) of the show cause notice through a summary procedure.

EFFECTS OF ESTABLISHING NFRA:

  • Improved foreign/domestic investments and better economic growth.

  • Globalization of business by meeting international practices.

  • Development of audit profession.

ISSUES:

  • The role of QRB may become redundant as NFRA rules also indicate the role in assessing quality of service.

    • It is implemented by the Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI). The nodal agency is National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED).

    • Eligible Organizations: State Agriculture and other Marketing Federations, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO), cooperatives, companies, Self-help groups, food processors, logistic operators, service providers, supply chain operators, retail and wholesale chains and central and state governments and their entities/organizations.

    Disposal of disciplinary cases in 90 days, and that too, through summary proceedings, is going to be a challenging task.

GUIDELINES FOR OPERATION GREENS

CONTEXT

Recently, the guidelines for Operation Greens was published by the Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

OBJECTIVES OF OPERATION GREENS

It was announced in the Budget speech of 2018-19 with an outlay of Rs 500 crores to stabilize the supply of Tomato, Onion and Potato (TOP) crops, so that the TOP crops are available throughout the year and are not affected by price volatility. The following are the major objectives under the scheme:

  • Strengthening TOP production clusters and their Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), and linking them with the market.

  • Price stabilisation by production planning in the TOP clusters and introduction of dual use varieties.

  • Reduction in post-harvest losses.

  • Increase in food processing capacity and value addition in TOP value chain with firm linkages with production clusters.

  • Setting up of a market intelligence network to collect real time data on supply and demand of TOP crops.

GUIDELINES:

Short term stabilization measures: MoFPI will provide 50% subsidy for the following;

  • Transportation of TOP crops from production till storage.

  • Renting/Leasing of storage facilities for TOP crops.

Long Term Integrated value chain development projects:

  • Capacity Building of FPOs & their consortium

  • Quality production

  • Post-harvest processing facilities

  • Agri-Logistics

  • Marketing / Consumption Points

  • Creation and Management of e-platform for demand and supply management of TOP Crops.

PROMPT CORRECTIVE ACTION

Why in news?

The RBI in its central board meeting decided the issue of banks under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) will be examined by Board for Financial Supervision (BFS) of the central bank.

More About it

  • The finance ministry hopes that 3-4 banks would come out of the RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action watch list this fiscal, following the expected modification of guidelines and apparent improvement in bottomline of the public sector banks

  • Of the 21 state-owned banks, 11 are under the PCA framework, which imposes lending and other restrictions on weak lenders.

  • The PCA framework kicks in when banks breach any of the three key regulatory trigger points — namely capital to risk weighted assets ratio, net non-performing assets (NPA) and return on assets (RoA).

What is Prompt Corrective Action?

  • To ensure that banks don’t go bust, RBI has put in place some trigger points to assess, monitor, control and take corrective actions on banks which are weak and troubled.

  • The process or mechanism under which such actions are taken is known as Prompt Corrective Action, or PCA.

Why the need for PCA

  • The 1980s and early 1990s were a period of great stress and turmoil for banks and financial institutions all over the globe.

  • In USA, more than 1,600 commercial and savings banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) were either closed or given financial assistance during this period.

  • The cumulative losses incurred by the failed institutions exceeded US $100 billion.

  • These events led to the search for appropriate supervisory strategies to avoid bank failures as they can have a destabilising effect on the economy

What does the RBI stipulate?

  • RBI has set trigger points on the basis of CRAR (a metric to measure balance sheet strength), NPA and ROA.

  • Based on each trigger point, the banks have to follow a mandatory action plan.

  • Apart from this, the RBI has discretionary action plans too.

  • The rationale for classifying the rule-based action points into “mandatory“ and “discretionary“ is that some of the actions are essential to restore the financial health of banks while other actions will be taken at the discretion of RBI depending upon the profile of each bank

What will a bank do if PCA is triggered?

  • Banks are not allowed to re new or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income.

  • Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs.

  • They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business.

  • RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from interbank market.

NON-BANKING FINANCIAL COMPANIES (NBFCs)

CONTEXT

NBFC Mudra loans grew faster than banks in FY18

More About it

  • According to the 2017-18 annual report of Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY), though NBFCs sanctioned only over ₹27,000 crore of Mudra loans in FY18 against ₹92,492.68 crore by public sector banks, their year-on-year growth was faster.

  • While NBFC Mudra loan sanctions increased ₹21,562.63 crore from a year ago, state-run banks could raise their Mudra loans by only ₹20,539.01 crore in the same period.

PMMY

  • PMMY is a scheme launched in April 2015 for providing loans up to ₹10 lakh to non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises.

  • These advances are classified as Mudra loans and given by commercial banks, regional rural banks (RRBs), small finance banks, cooperative banks, micro finance institutions (MFIs) and NBFCs.

What is a Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC)?

  • A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business but does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.

  • A non-banking institution which is a company and has principal business of receiving deposits under any scheme or arrangement in one lump sum or in installments by way of contributions or in any other manner, is also a non-banking financial company (Residuary non-banking company).

ATAL INNOVATION MISSION

CONTEXT

Cabinet apprised of the MoU between Atal Innovation Mission, India and Fund "Talent and Success", Russia for promotion of science & technology, strong foundation to the collaborative work through exchange of students, teachers, researchers and scientists between both countries

Benefits:

  • The MoU will facilitate promotion of science & technology, strong foundation to the collaborative work through exchange of students, teachers, researchers and scientists between India and Russia.

Major Impact:

  • The MOU will provide a mechanism in taking part in establishing relationships with-schools, universities, cultural institutions, science & technology and specialized education institutions, high-tech companies, startups and innovation centers in both countries.

  • The activities are expected to promote creation of new scientific knowledge, generation of intellectual property, innovations and products development in both countries.

PORTAL FOR AFFORDABLE CREDIT AND INTEREST SUBVENTION ACCESS – PAISA

CONTEXT

National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA), Government of India in 23rd September, 2013 by replacing the existing Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY).

The NULM will focus on organizing urban poor in their strong grassroots level institutions, creating opportunities for skill development leading to market-based employment and helping them to set up self-employment venture by ensuring easy access to credit.

The Mission is aimed at providing shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner.

In addition, the Mission would also address livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors.

A centralized electronic platform for processing interest subvention on bank loans to beneficiaries under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) named “PAISA – Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access”, was launched.

More about it

  • The web platform has been designed and developed by Allahabad Bank which is the Nodal bank.

  • PAiSA is yet another effort by the government to connect directly with the beneficiaries, ensuring that there is greater transparency and efficiency in delivery of services.

  • DBT of subvention on monthly basis under DAY-NULM will give the necessary financial support to small entrepreneurs in a timely manner

  • All 35 states / UTs & all scheduled commercial banks, RRBs and Cooperative Banks are expected to be on board the PAiSA portal the year end.

SAUBHAGYA

CONTEXT

8 States have achieved 100% saturation in household electrification under Saubhagya namely Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar, J&K, Mizoram, Sikkim, Telangana and West Bengal.

Thus total 15 States in the country now have 100 % household electrification.

More About news

  • Saubhagya – ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ was launched in September, 2017 with the objective to provide access to electricity to all the remaining households in the country.

  • as many as 2.1 crore connections have been released under Saubhagya so far.

Award Scheme under Saubhagya:

  • For creating healthy competition amongst various DISCOMs/Power Departments of States, an award scheme has been instituted with awards of more than Rs 300crore to be won by States/Discoms.

  • The first DISCOM/Power Departments to complete 100% household electrification will be felicitated with cash award of Rs. 50 Lakh for the employees and Rs.100 crore grant to be spent for distribution infrastructure.

  • For the purpose of award, States have been divided into 3 categories and award would be given in each of these categories.

  • The States completing 100% household electrification by 31st Dec. 2018 will also receive additional grant of 15% of the project cost (5% for special category States) sanctioned under Saubhagya.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROFILE PROJECT

CONTEXT

Recently, it was reported that Ministry of Environment and Forest are undertaking a project to evaluate National Environmental Health Profile.

B ackground

  • India had released National Clean Air Program recently which aimed at reducing air pollution through various strategies. (As mentioned in the figure).

  • Earlier the environment ministry had announced its targets of 35% reduction of air pollution in the next three years and 50% reduction in the next five years for at least the 100 identified non-attainment cities across India.

  • However, these targets were not released in the main NCAP document for which it was criticised.

  • Ministry after six months released the target to reduce particulate matter (PM) by 30% in five years with 2019 as base year.

  • Now, the government is undertaking the National Environment Health Profile across 20 cities to look into the quantum of health effects arising from environmental exposure.

Details of the National Environment Health Profile

  • This study will be carried out across 20 cities which will be divided into four zones. It will be rolled out across four zones –

    • North Zones – Delhi, Ludhiana, Kanpur and Raipur, while Guwahati will be the referral city.

    • South Zone – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Chennai with Thiruvananthapuram as referral city.

    • West Zone – Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Jaipur and Bhopal with Panjim as referral city.

    • East Zone – Patna, Kolkatta and other two cities will be added later with Shillong as referral city.

  • The city which do not have high pollution level will be taken as referral city and the cities with the higher pollution levels will be taken as test city where the study will be conducted.

  • The Principle investigators will be selected from the 20 cities and they will follow the same protocol and there will be a harmonisation of data.

  • It will be a three-year analysis which will look at patients admitted for acute diseases at the hospital as studying out patients is difficult due to lack of data.

COMMUNITY FOREST MANAGEMENT PLANS

CONTEXT

ISSUES WITH FOREST RIGHTS ACT

  • Communities who depend on the forest for survival and livelihood reasons, but are not forest dwellers or Scheduled Tribes, are excluded from the purview of the Bill.

  • Terms such as "livelihood needs" have not been defined. This could lead to litigation and delay in implementation.

  • The Bill specifies October 25, 1980 as the cut-off date to determine eligibility. However, it does not clarify the kind of evidence that would be required by FDSTs to prove their occupancy.

Gram Sabhas of 20 villages in the Narmada District have drafted community forest management plans, five years after they got their community forest rights titles.

COMMUNITY FOREST MANAGEMENT

  • It’s a collaboration between forest-dependent communities, NGO’s and/or local authorities with the primary objective of achieving sustainable resource management and enhancing livelihood opportunities through shared management and governance of forest resources.

  • The management plan in the Narmada district was drafted by the local communities using their traditional knowledge.

  • It mainly focusses on forest, land and water management.

THE SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS (RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS) ACT, 2006

  • It (FRA) defines three types of rights:

    • individual rights (occupation and cultivation);

    • community rights (grazing, fuelwood collection, fishing, ownership and disposal of non-timber forest produce or NTFP, among others); and,

    • rights to protect, regenerate, conserve and manage community forest resource (CFR) areas.

  • Role of Gram Sabhas (GS):

    • Section 5 and Rules 4(1)(e) and 4(1)(f) of the FRA give Gram Sabhas (GS) the authority to protect wildlife, forests, biodiversity, catchment areas, water sources, ecologically sensitive areas and habitats of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

    • Ensure compliance with decisions taken to regulate access to CFRs and stop any activity which adversely affects wild animals, forests and the biodiversity.

    • GSs are to constitute committees under Rule 4(1) (e) to prepare conservation and management plans for CFRs in order to sustainably and equitably manage CFR areas.

STRICTER NORMS FOR POLLUTION

CONTEXT

Recognizing the pollution concerns, a notification by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has said that the health and environment effects will be considered as the criteria for granting clearances to the power stations.

In another similar development, A recent order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said that the penalty for causing environmental damages for not fulfilling the 100% fly ash disposal criterion should be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) within month and in case of failure to pay the penalty within the time limit, the power plants will have to pay an interest of 12% per annum on the penalty amount.

ENVRIONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

  • It addresses the environmental concerns in developmental activities right at the time of beginning the project, so that the project is carried out in a sustainable way and alternative measures are explored to minimize the environmental harm.

  • According to the notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects-1994 under the provisions mentioned in the Environmental (Protection) Act-1986, A Thermal power plant would need Environmental Clearance to begin the construction of the project.

  • It involves gathering the baseline data of air, soil and other environmental conditions so that an Environmental Management Plan is drafted to monitor whether the power plant is causing harm in a non-sustainable way throughout its construction and operation phase.

  • Health status of the people residing near such projects was neglected in this notification.

WHAT’S NEW IN THE NOTIFICATION BY MOEFCC?

  • The notification by MoEFCC has rightly covered the health aspect and is applicable to coal and lignite based thermal power plants, and also waste to energy plants which are causing health issues on local residents near such projects. It has specified new conditions that require collection of baseline health status and drafting mitigation measures to address endemic diseases.

  • Provisions under the notification:

    • Biannual health check-up of all the workers

    • FLY ASH

      • Fly ash is the residue left from burning coal, which is collected on an electrostatic precipitator.

      • It can be used as prime material in many cement-based products.

      • It can be used as embankment and mine fill.

      Conducting studies on the effects of chronic exposure to noise and air polluting agents.

    • To look into the impact of operation of power plants on agricultural crops and large water bodies once in two years.

EFFECTS OF POLLUTION FROM POWER STATIONS

  • Respiratory, Skin and Mental health issues.

  • Contamination of heavy metals in air, water and soil near such projects.

NGT ORDER ON FLY ASH

Fly ash has been contributing to air and water pollution significantly. Recognizing the concern, NGT has made it legally binding for all the thermal power plants commissioned before the date of the order to ensure 100% fly ash utilization in five years and those commissioned after the date of the order have to ensure 100% compliance within four years after the commissioning of the project. Failure to comply will attract a penalty up to 5 crore Rupees.

HOW DOES FLY ASH CAUSE POLLUTION?

It is a major source particulate matter (PM) 2.5, and travels in the air to settle down on water and other surfaces. Heavy metals and black carbon in the fly ash adversely affect the crops, soil quality and water quality.

IMPACT BASED FORECASTING APPROACH

IMD

  • It undertakes meteorological observations and provides information/forecasting services to activities like agriculture, aviation, shipping etc.

  • It gives warning and advisories during severe weather phenomena.

  • Engages in research in meteorology and its applications.

CONTEXT

IMD has recently developed a new Impact based forecasting approach.

More from the news

  • The Kerala state government had blamed Indian meteorological department (IMD) for lapses in prediction of the rain forecast due to which the state had to witness one of the worst floods in an unprepared manner.

  • To address this lacuna, IMD has come up with a new technology called Impact based forecasting approach (IBFA).

WHAT IS IMPACT BASED FORECAST APPROACH?

  • This approach will help to assess the rise in water level in rivers and reservoirs by rain.

  • Features of IBFA –

  • It will help IMD to monitor the impact of rainfall at the minute level.

  • The “Pre-event Scenario” will help IMD take real time decisions.

  • ZSI

    • It was established in 1916.

    • It is a body under the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change.

    • It promotes survey, exploration and research on species.

    • It publishes Red Data Book which provides details about the species that are facing risks.

    It can generate scenarios which can help in decisions like whether to release water or not from the reservoirs after heavy rainfall.

  • The technique is designed to forecast the expected impact by taking into account hazards, risks and vulnerabilities.

ZSI REPORT ON FAUNA IN ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS

CONTEXT

Zoological survey of India (ZSI) has published a report titled “Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India”. It has compiled a database of fall faunal species discovered in the Andaman and Nicobar Island.

FINDINGS IN THE REPORT

  • Andaman and Nicobar Island has more than 10% of faunal species present in India and the number of species are 11,009.

  • Important Species:

    • Narcondam Hornbill (its habitat is found only in one island).

    • Nicobar Megapode (A bird that build nests on the ground).

    • Nicobar Treeshrew (A small mole-like animal).

    • Long-tailed Nicobar macaque.

    • Andaman day gecko.

    • Dugong (Sea-Cow)

  • Endemism: There are a total of 1,067 endemic species, 36 out 344 bird species, 23 species of reptiles and 8 species of amphibians are endemic. Many of these are placed under threatened category of the IUCN Red List.

  • Critically Endangered species found here are, Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis), Jenkin’s shrew (C. jenkinsi) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica).

  • Scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found here are placed under Schedule I of the WPA.

  • Concerns mentioned in the report:

    • Tourism, Illegal construction and mining are posing a threat to the bio-diversity.

    • Bio-diversity are vulnerable to the volatile climate factors.

    • Some species are restricted to a very small area and thus are more vulnerable to anthropogenic threats.

DANGERS OF NITROGEN POLLUTION

CONTEXT

A report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned about the dangers of chemically reactive forms of Nitrogen that has doubled since the beginning of the 20th century.

WHAT IS NITROGEN POLLUTION?

It is a situation where chemically reactive forms of Nitrogen create adverse effects on the environment due to over usage of Nitrogen in human activities. Nitrogen in fertilizers, vehicular and industrial emissions lead to degradation of air, water and soil quality.

EFFECTS OF NITROGEN POLLUTION

  • Nitrogen oxides reduce air quality by creating surface level ozone.

  • Ammonia in the particulate matter exacerbates respiratory illnesses and cancer.

  • Nitrates in the water bodies contribute to Eutrophication in lakes and coastal areas, which adversely impacts fisheries and drinking water quality.

  • Nitrogen contributes to acidification of land and water bodies. This can be detrimental to marine species and corals.

  • Nitrous oxide as a Greenhouse gas is 300 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Thus, it contributes significantly to Global warming and Climate Change.

MEASURES TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM:

  • Limiting the use of Nitrogen in Agriculture and Industries.

  • Monitoring and Reporting of Nitrogen Pollution.

  • National policies to regulate Nitrogen Pollution and the usage of Nitrogen.

VIRTUAL CLIMATE SUMMIT

CONTEXT

A virtual summit called Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) was recently hosted by Marshall Islands in order to reduce carbon foot print. This event will be the first online global political meeting.

Notable participants in the summit were the French President, Canadian Prime Minister and UN Secretary-General. The virtual summit’s main aim is to encourage the international community to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

ABOUT THE SUMMIT

2018 CVF Summit is organized as part of the Talanoa Dialogue, which serves as an agreed mechanism for the promotion of enhanced national action by all nations party to the Paris Agreement by 2020.

This Summit is an opportunity for all nations to show leadership and commit to raising their level of ambition in solidarity with the most vulnerable.

BASIC MINISTERIAL MEETING

COP

  • The Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.

  • The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in March, 1995. The COP meets in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat, unless a Party offers to host the session.

CONTEXT

The 27th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change was held on November 19th-20th in New Delhi.

BASIC COUNTRIES

They are a bloc of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – formed by an agreement on 28 November 2009. The four committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

  • Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have reached a level similar to when the sea levels were 10 to 20 metres higher than the current sea level, a few million years ago.

  • Earth-Warming gases have increased to 41% higher than what it was in 1990. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer.

  • Global Warming and Climate change are leading to melting of ice caps and severely violent weather events due to which Bank of England witnessed a record $140 billion in insurance losses for the year 2017.

  • Therefore, reducing Carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases are the need of the hour and needs to be the top priority.

  • The BASIC countries argued for a just implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement that incorporates the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities of developing and developed nations.

  • They said that even though the developing countries have contributed very less to the climate change, they are very ambitious towards taking measures to cut down on emissions.

  • There is a feeling among the developing countries that developed nations are not being responsible enough to take the necessary steps required to curb emissions that were contributed majorly by them. President Trump withdrawing from Paris Agreement is a perfect example for this.

  • Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts and they will have to bear the extra brunt if developed countries don’t take up the responsibilities.

  • The high-level dialogue and its outcome will offer a preview to the negotiating positions of Brazil, South Africa, India and China at the upcoming Conference of the Parties or CoP24 to the UNFCCC in Katowice, Poland.

ACROSS

CONTEXT

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved continuation of the nine sub-schemes of the umbrella scheme "Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)" during 2017-2020 at an estimated cost of Rs. 1450 crore.

More About Across

  • ACROSS scheme pertains to the atmospheric science programs of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and addresses different aspects of weather and climate services, which includes warnings for cyclone, storm surges, heat waves, thunderstorms etc.

  • Each of these aspects is incorporated as nine sub-schemes under the umbrella scheme "ACROSS" and is implemented in an integrated manner through the aforesaid four institutes.

  • The ACROSS scheme consists of nine sub-programmes which are multi-disciplinary and multi institutional in nature and will be implemented in an integrated manner through IMD, HIM, NCMRWF and INCOIS.

  • As the objective of the ACROSS scheme is to provide a reliable weather and climate forecast for betterment of society, the scheme will aim at improving skill of weather and climate forecast through sustained observations, intensive R & D, and by adopting effective dissemination and communication strategies to ensure its timely reach to the end-user of all services like Agro-meteorological Services, Aviation service, Environmental monitoring services, Hydro-meteorological services, climate services, tourism, pilgrimage, mountaineering etc.,

  • It will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its institutes namely India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Service(INCOIS).

  • The CCEA also approved establishment of National Facility for Airborne Research (NFAR) with a financial commitment of Rs 130 crore during 2020-21 and beyond.

NANOSHEET

CONTEXT

A group of Indian scientists has developed a nanosheet which can also act like a chemical reducing agent.

More about it

  • During experiments, researchers noticed that boron nanosheets could remain afloat in water for long durations.

  • The nanosheets, they found, remained afloat due to hydride groups borrowed from water.

  • This observation led them to a new idea — using nanosheets in place of sodium borohydride, a popular reagent used to chemically reduce gold salt.

  • “The formation of nanohybrids with gold and graphene provides the proof of concept that the inherent reducing character of these nanosheets can be availed to create diverse mixed-dimensional heterostructures in solution”

  • This research has the potential to open up new avenues in organic synthesis that will be crucial for pharmaceutical and polymer industries.

MARITAN RIVER DELTA

CONTEXT

NASA has picked an ancient river delta as the landing site for its uncrewed Mars 2020 rover, to hunt for evidence of past life on the earth’s neighbouring planet

More about it

  • MARS 2020

    Mars 2020 is designed to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis, perhaps by the later 2020s.

    Mars 2020 will use the same sky crane landing that successfully delivered NASA’s unmanned Curiosity rover to a location called Gale Crater on Mars back in 2012.

    Even though the Red Planet is now cold and dry, the landing site, Jezero Crater, was filled with a 500-meter deep lake that opened to a network of rivers some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago.

  • The delta is a good place for evidence of life to be deposited and then preserved for the billions of years that have elapsed since this lake was present,

  • Experts believe the 45-km wide basin could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other signs of microbial life.

  • At least five different kinds of rocks, including “clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life,” are believed to lie in the crater, just north of the Martian equator

  • Carbonate rock is produced by the interaction of water, atmospheric gases and rock, and leaves clues about habitable environments.

QUADRICYCLES

CONTEXT

Quadricycles can now be bought for personal usage with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways notifying insertion of the item ‘Quadricycle’ as a ‘non-transport’ vehicle under the Motor Vehicles Act 1988.

What is Quadricycle?

  • “A quadricycle is a vehicle of the size of a three-wheeler but with four-tyres and is fully covered like a car.

  • It has an engine like that of a three-wheeler.

  • This makes it a cheap and safe mode of transport for last-mile connectivity.

  • Bajaj Auto is the only company that makes the vehicle named ‘Qute’, which it exports to countries like Turkey.

MICROBIOME

CONTEXT

  • Pune hosted an international conference on microbiome research — a field of study that is still in its infancy in India.

  • That could be set to change, with a proposed project that would study and map the human microbiome across the country

What is Microbiome?

  • The human body carries diverse communities of microorganisms, which are mainly bacterial.

  • These are referred to as “human microbiome”.

  • These organisms play a key role in many aspects of host physiology, ranging from metabolism of otherwise complex indigestible carbohydrates and fats to producing essential vitamins, maintaining immune systems and acting as a first line of defense against pathogens.

More about it

  • Research on the human microbiome has thrown light on various aspects — how different parts of the human body are occupied by characteristic microbial communities, and how various factors contribute in shaping the composition of the microbiome, including the genetics, dietary habits, age, geographic location and ethnicity.

  • These studies laid a strong foundation to decipher the microbiome’s implications on health and a wide range of diseases

GLOBAL WARMING

CONTEXT

  • According to Scientist Spraying sun-dimming chemicals high above the earth to slow global warming could be “remarkably inexpensive”, costing about $2.25 billion a year over a 15-year period.

  • The geo-engineering technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) could limit rising temperatures that are causing climate change

About Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)

  • The ability of stratospheric sulfate aerosols to create a global dimming effect has made them a possible candidate for use in solar radiation management climate engineering projectsto limit the effect and impact of climate change due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.

  • Delivery of precursor sulfide gases such as sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide (H 2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) by artillery, aircraft and balloons has been proposed.

  • It presently appears that this proposed method could counter most climatic changes, take effect rapidly, have very low direct implementation costs, and be reversible in its direct climatic effects.

What is Global Warming?

  • Global warming is the term used to describe a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to be permanently changing the Earth’s climate.

INSIGHT

CONTEXT

  • NASA’s spacecraft after six month of its launch landed on the MARS. It was NASA’s ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes. NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover

More About It

  • The three-legged InSight spacecraft reached the surface after being slowed by a parachute and braking engine

  • Updates were coming in via radio signals that take more than eight minutes to cross the nearly 100 million miles (160 million kilometres) between Mars and Earth.

  • InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas with few, if any, rocks.

InSight Programme

InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

  • It will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

  • It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.

GENE-EDITED BABIES

CONTEXT

According to a claim of Scientist, World’s first gene-edited baby has been created in the China

More About it?

  • This kind of gene editing is banned in most countries as the technology is still experimental and DNA changes can pass to future generations, potentially with unforeseen side-effects.

  • Gene editing itself is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer.”

What is Gene Editing?

  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.

  • These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.

  • Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.

  • A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.

  • The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated a lot of excitement in the scientific community because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

PSLV C 43

CONTEXT

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C43) successfully launched 31 satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) today in Sriharikota.

More About the Launch

  • The PSLV-C43 lifted off at 9:57:30 (IST) from the First Launch Pad and injected India’s Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) into a 645 km sun-synchronous polar orbit

  • Later, 30 foreign satellites were injected into their intended orbit after restarting the vehicle’s fourth stage engines twice

  • Satellites from Australia, Columbia, Malaysia and Spain were flown aboard PSLV for the first time.

  • These foreign satellites launched are part of commercial arrangements between Antrix Corporation Limited and customers.

  • After separation, the two solar arrays of HysIS were deployed automatically and the ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network at Bengaluru gained control of the satellite.

  • The satellite will be brought to its final operational configuration in the next few days.

What is HysIS?

  • HysIS is an earth observation satellite built around ISRO’s Mini Satellite2 (IMS-2) bus weighing about 380kg.

  • The mission life of the satellite is five years.

  • “HysIS is a state-of-the-art satellite with many indigenous components developed by SAC, Ahmedabad and SCL

  • The primary goal of HysIS is to study the earth’s surface in both the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Data from the satellite will be used for a wide range of applications including agriculture, forestry, soil/geological environments, coastal zones and inland waters, etc

What is PSLV?

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is a four stage launch vehicle with a large solid rocket motor forming the first stage, an earth storable liquid stage as the second stage, a high performance solid rocket motor as third stage and a liquid stage with engines as fourth stage.

DOWNLOAD Doc File