Current Affairs – 25 & 26 June 2018 (NDA/CDS/AFCAT/CAPF AF GD Y/AA/SSR Exam)

Topic: Women related issues.

‘Women in Prisons’ report

Context: The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has come up with its report titled ‘Women in Prisons’ which aims to build an understanding of the various entitlements of women in prisons, the various issues faced by them and possible methods for resolution of the same.

Highlights of the report- important recommendations:

Who is vulnerable? Women- elderly, disabled, pregnant, mothers who have recently given birth but whose children are not with them in prison, those who have miscarried, or those who have recently undergone abortion.

Arrangements for women with care-giving responsibilities: Prior to their imprisonment, women with care-giving responsibilities must be allowed to make arrangements for their children, and a reasonable suspension of detention may also be provided for this purpose. Provisions for extended and frequent visits, and admission of children into Childcare institutions have also been proposed.

Bail: Bail should be granted to those under-trial women who have spent one-third of their maximum possible sentence in detention, by making necessary changes in Section 436A of the CrPC which provides for release after half of the maximum sentence has been served.

Special care for pregnant and lactating women: A separate accommodation for mothers in post-natal stage to maintain hygiene and protect the infant from contagion, for at least a year after childbirth has been proposed. There are special provisions relating to health and nutrition be made for women who have recently given birth outside prison, or who have undergone abortion or miscarriage. Instruments of restraint, punishment by close confinement or disciplinary segregation should never be used on pregnant and lactating women. Pregnant women must be given information and access to abortion during incarceration, to the extent permissible by law.

Legal aid: To make legal aid more effective, legal consultations must be conducted in confidentiality and without censorship. For persons with language barriers or sensory disabilities, adequate arrangements must be made by the prison administration to ensure that such persons do not face any disadvantage by providing an independent interpreter.

Rehabilitation: A comprehensive after-care programme to be put in place, covering employment, financial support, regaining of child custody, shelter, counselling, continuity of health care services etc. Counselling should also be provided to family members and employers to adequately receive the woman after release.

Grievance redressal: Apart from the prisoner herself, her legal adviser or family members should be allowed to make complaints regarding her stay in prison. An inmate register can also be placed at an accessible spot in the prison for submitting grievances. All official visitors must hold special one-on-one interviews with prisoners away from prison authorities during inspection visits.

Challenges faced by women in prisons:

  • Women in prisons face greater hardships than their male counterparts due to many factors such as social stigma, financial dependence on their families or husbands etc. These difficulties are further exacerbated when the woman has children.
  • Women have to face numerous problems in prisons owing to inadequacy of female staff which often translates to the reality that male staff becomes responsible for female inmates, which is undesirable.
  • Women are not provided with meals that are nutritious and according to their bodily requirements.
  • Women are at a most disadvantageous position when it comes to their reintegration in society after release. Many are abandoned or harassed post-release, mainly due to the stigma attached with incarceration, which is even more pronounced in cases of women.
  • Women also tend to lose ties with their children over the years, due to inadequate child custody procedures. Also, a robust grievance redressal mechanism was required to tackle cases of sexual harassment, violence and abuse against women in jails.

Way ahead:

Reforms are needed for improving the lives of women under incarceration including the elderly and the disabled, addressing a wide range of issues pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth in prison, mental health, legal aid, reintegration in society and their caregiving responsibilities among others. In this regard, changes in the National Model Prison Manual 2016 have also been suggested to bring it in line with international standards and norms.

Stats:

  • As of 2015, there are 4,19,623 persons in jail in India, of which, 17,834 (about 4.3%) are women. Of these, 11,916 (66.8%) are undertrial prisoners.
  • There is an increasing trend in the number of women prisoners – from 3.3% of all prisoners in 2000 to 4.3% in 2015.
  • A majority of female inmates are in the age group of 30-50 years (50.5%), followed by 18-30 years (31.3%).
  • Of the total 1,401 prisons in India, only 18 are exclusive for women, housing 2,985 female prisoners. Thus, a majority of women inmates are housed in women’s enclosures of general prisons.

Sources: pib.


 

 

Van Dhan Vikas Kendras

 

Context: Government proposes to set up 3000 Van Dhan Kendras involving 30,000 SHGs across the country.

About Van Dhan Vikas Kendras initiative:

The initiative aims to promote MFPs-centric livelihood development of tribal gatherers and artisans. It mainstreams the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at grassroots level. Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.

Implementation:

  • The scheme will be implemented through Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level.
  • At State level, the State Nodal Agency for MFPs and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at grassroot level.
  • Locally the Kendras are proposed to be managed by a Managing Committee (an SHG) consisting of representatives of Van Dhan SHGs in the cluster.
  • Composition: As per the plan, TRIFED will facilitate establishment of MFP-led multi-purpose Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, a cluster of 10 SHGs comprising of 30 tribal MFP gatherers each, in the tribal areas.

Significance of MFP:

  • Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas. The importance of MFPs for this section of the society can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines and cash income.
  • It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter gatherers, and the landless. Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend major portion of their time.
  • This activity has strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women. MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.

Sources: pib.


Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (Urban)

Context: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has approved construction of another 3,18,900 affordable houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (Urban) with an investment of Rs 8,692 crore. With this, 51 Lakh Houses have been sanctioned under the scheme in three years of implementation.

About PMAY-Urban:

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Programme launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), in Mission mode envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.

The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:

  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource.
  • Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy.
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors.
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.

Key facts:

  • The beneficiaries are poor and people living under EWS and LIG categories in the country.
  • The scheme is divided into three phases. In the first phase, a total of 100 cities will be covered from April 2015 to March 2017. In phase two, 200 cities will be covered from April 2017 to March 2019. In the third phase, the leftover cities will be covered from April 2019 to March 2022.
  • The government is providing an interest subsidy of 6.5% on housing loans which can be availed by beneficiaries for 15 years from start of loan date.
  • The government will grant Rs 1 lakh to all the beneficiaries of the scheme. In addition, Rs 1.5 lakh will be given to all eligible urban poor who want to construct their houses in urban areas or plan to go for renovation in their existing houses. One can also avail loans under this scheme to build toilets in existing houses.

 

Sources: pib.


Software to help strengthen the implementation of Poshan Abhiyan

Context: ICDS-CAS (Common Application Software)- It is a Specially designed software to help in strengthening service delivery and improving nutrition outcomes through Effective monitoring and Timely interventions in POSHAN Abhiyaan.

Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS):

The POSHAN Abhiyaan empowers the frontline functionaries i.e. Anganwadi Workers and Lady Supervisors by providing them with Smartphones. The Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) especially developed for this purpose enables data capture, ensures assigned service delivery and prompts for interventions wherever required. This data is then available in near real time to the supervisory staff from Sector, Block, District, State to National level through a Dashboard, for monitoring.

POSHAN Abhiyaan:

POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 8thMarch, 2018 in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.

The programme through use of technology, targeted approach and convergence strives to reduce the level of Stunting, Under-nutrition, Anemia and Low Birth Weight in Children, as also, focus on Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers, thus holistically addressing malnutrition.

Sources: pib.


UN MSME Day 2018

Context: UN MSME Day is celebrated on June 27th across the world.

Background:

The General Assembly, in 2017, recognizing the need to improve small business access to microfinance and credit, decided to designate 27 June as Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day. The goal is to encourage member states to facilitate observance of the day by increasing awareness and actions to support small business.

The resolution was introduced by the delegation of Argentina, co-sponsored by 54 member states and adopted without a vote by the 193-member General Assembly on 6 April 2017.

What is a micro-, small, or medium-sized enterprise?

The criteria for defining the size of a business differ from country to country. As a reference, the European Commission’s definition of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises is established according to the number of employees and the annual turnover or balance sheet:

  • Micro-enterprise: fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover (the amount of money taken in a particular period) or balance sheet (a statement of a company’s assets and liabilities) below €2 million.
  • Small enterprise: fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below €10 million.
  • Medium-sized enterprise: fewer than 250 employees and annual turnover below €50 million or balance sheet below €43 million.

The choice of MSME definition could depend on many factors, such as business culture, the size of the country’s population, industry and the level of international economic integration.

Significance of MSMEs:

  • Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are the backbone of most economies worldwide and play a key role in developing countries.
  • According to the data provided by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), formal and informal Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) make up over 90% of all firms and account on average for 60-70% of total employment and 50% of GDP.
  • These types of enterprises are responsible for significant employment and income generation opportunities across the world and have been identified as a major driver of poverty alleviation and development.
  • MSMEs tend to employ a larger share of the vulnerable sectors of the workforce, such as women, youth, and people from poorer households. MSMEs can even sometimes be the only source of employment in rural areas. As such, MSMEs as a group are the main income provider for the income distribution at the “base of the pyramid”.

How they contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals?

  • Micro-, small and medium sized enterprises are vital in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular in promoting innovation, creativity and decent work for all.
  • Efforts to enhance access to finance for SMEs across key sectors of national economies are an important element of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG targets 8.3 and 9.3 call for enhancing the access of SMEs to financial services. In addition, SMEs are an important element in the implementation of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).

Sources: pib.


Topic: Infrastructure- energy.

Global solar bank

Context: ISA is planning global solar bank to finance $150 billion of power projects.

World Solar Bank:

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) plans to approach multilateral development banks (MDBs) such as Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to specifically finance solar projects. This SPV aimed at financing $150 billion would become a World Solar Bank.

Background:

The proposal for a World Solar Bank comes against the backdrop of ISA’s mission to undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology. It needs to mobilize more than $1,000 billion of investments by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy and pave the way for future technologies.

About ISA:

The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.

  • Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
  • What it does? As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
  • When it entered into force? When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.

Way ahead:

The ISA is not only expected to spur innovation in the RE space but also help make India a technological hub with independent manufacturing capabilities of RE equipment like solar panels, rather than being dependent on imports, through initiatives like ‘Make in India’. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is expected to play a role in “marrying Indian tech and finance capabilities with specific projects around the world”.

India announced a goal of obtaining 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 at the Paris climate change summit. It is close to achieving 20 GW grid connected solar power generation capacity this fiscal year (2018), in pursuit of achieving its target of 100 GW by 2022.

Sources: livemint.

Current Affairs – 24 June 2018 (NDA/CDS/AFCAT/CAPF AF GD Y/AA/SSR Exam)

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

India, Bangladesh Navies to join hands

Context: India and Bangladesh have agreed to institute a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) as an annual feature between the two Navies.

Significance of this move:

  • The commencement of CORPAT is a major step towards the enhanced operational interaction between both Navies.
  • It is aimed to consolidate bilateral defense relations between India and Bangladesh and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation.

Facts :

The Navy regularly conducts CORPATs with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. It also conducts EEZ surveillance of Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles on their request.

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) scheme

Context: In an attempt to promote solar energy, the Gujarat government has announced Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) scheme under which farmers would be encouraged to generate electricity and sell their surplus to power distribution companies.

Highlights of the project:

  • Under the first phase of project, the state government would provide financial assistance to 12,400 farmers out of the state’s total 15 lakh farmers to generate an estimated 175 MW of power.
  • The state government and the Centre would jointly share 60% of the cost of installing a solar generating unit in the fields, while the farmers would need to chip in only 5%. The remaining 35% would be in the form of a loan by the state government at the rate of four to 4.5%.
  • The government would also enter in a 25-year power purchase agreement with the farmers. Till the farmers repay their loan, the distribution companies would buy electricity from them at the rate of Rs 7 per unit and at Rs 3.5 per unit once the loans are settled. After that, the farmers would get ownership of the solar system.

Significance of the project:

At present, the farmers consume power purchased from power companies. The project will help them set up solar systems in their fields. After they consumer power according to their requirement, they can sell the surplus back to the distribution companies.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Context: The board of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved $100 million investment in the National Infrastructure and Investment Fund (NIIF).

What is AIIB?

  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond.
  • It is headquartered in Beijing.
  • It commenced operations in January 2016 and has now grown to 84 approved members from around the world.
  • By investing in sustainable infrastructure and other productive sectors today, it aims to connect people, services and markets that over time will impact the lives of billions and build a better future.

Various organs of AIIB:

Board of Governors: The Board of Governors consists of one Governor and one Alternate Governor appointed by each member country. Governors and Alternate Governors serve at the pleasure of the appointing member.

Board of Directors: Non-resident Board of Directors is responsible for the direction of the Bank’s general operations, exercising all powers delegated to it by the Board of Governors. This includes approving the Bank’s strategy, annual plan and budget; establishing policies; taking decisions concerning Bank operations; and supervising management and operation of the Bank and establishing an oversight mechanism.

International Advisory Panel: The Bank has established an International Advisory Panel (IAP) to support the President and Senior Management on the Bank’s strategies and policies as well as on general operational issues. The Panel meets in tandem with the Bank’s Annual Meeting, or as requested by the President. The President selects and appoints members of the IAP to two-year terms. Panelists receive a small honorarium and do not receive a salary. The Bank pays the costs associated with Panel meetings.

Significance of AIIB:

The United Nations has addressed the launch of AIIB as having potential for “scaling up financing for sustainable development” for the concern of global economic governance. The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to ​2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.

About NIIF:

  • NIIF was set up in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable greenfield, brownfield and stalled projects in the infrastructure sector. NIIF will invest in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.
  • The corpus of the fund is proposed to be around Rs40,000 crore, with the government investing 49% and the rest to be raised from third-party investors such as sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds, endowments etc.

Facts :

  • India is hosting the annual meeting of AIIB for the first time in June 2018.
  • India is the second largest shareholder in AIIB after China and is also the largest recipient of funds from the multilateral agency.
  • Nearly 25% of the total funds committed by AIIB have been committed for projects in India, both in the government sector and the private sector.

Sources: the hindu.


 

OPEC agrees to increase oil production

Context: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has agreed to increase its daily output to address the problem of rising crude oil prices. The cartel’s output would be increased by about a million barrels a day beginning in July.

What necessitated this move?

Countries across the world have been vocal in recent months about the need to bring down rising oil prices that threaten to put the global economy under stress. Emerging markets such as India that have been affected by the rising cost of oil imports, have also been exerting pressure.

Implications:

The present deal could help the Saudis appease major oil consumers to some extent. Meanwhile, Iran, which has been opposed to raising OPEC output as it would lower prices, is set to suffer a marginal loss as it lacks spare capacity to ramp up production. This works in favour of its rival, Saudi Arabia, which can recover from the impact of lower prices by capturing market share.

Concerns:

OPEC has failed to address two uncertainties that will shape the oil market over the coming months and years.

  • The first is the situation in Venezuela, which has gone from bad to worse over the past two months. In the short term, the situation remains the greatest uncertainty hanging over the oil market.
  • The second, and potentially more destabilising, issue in the longer term is the prospect of a sharp increase in the production of so-called “tight oil” from shale rocks in the US.

About OPEC:

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of oil-producing nations that was first established in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1961. OPEC is one of the most powerful international organizations in the world and was a major player in the shift towards state control over natural resources.

Membership:

The OPEC Statute distinguishes between the Founder Members and Full Members – those countries whose applications for membership have been accepted by the Conference.

  • The Statute stipulates that “any country with a substantial net export of crude petroleum, which has fundamentally similar interests to those of Member Countries, may become a Full Member of the Organization, if accepted by a majority of three-fourths of Full Members, including the concurring votes of all Founder Members.”
  • The Statute further provides for Associate Members which are those countries that do not qualify for full membership, but are nevertheless admitted under such special conditions as may be prescribed by the Conference.

Facts :

  • Tight oil (also known as shale oil, shale-hosted oil or light tight oil, abbreviated LTO) is light crude oil contained in petroleum-bearing formations of low permeability, often shale or tight sandstone.
  • Relative to conventional sources, shale oil typically produces more pollution to extract, though the extent depends on whether or not the operators avoid wasteful and unnecessary emissions.

Sources: the hindu.


 

 

REMOVEDEBRIS

Context: The first spacecraft to demonstrate active space debris-removal technologies — such as a harpoon, a net and a drag sail — in orbit has been released from the International Space Station to commence its mission.

About the RemoveDebris mission:

  • RemoveDebris is an EU (European Union) research project to develop and fly a low cost in-orbit demonstrator mission that aims to de-risk and verify technologies needed for future ADR (Active Debris Removal) missions.
  • RemoveDebris is aimed at performing key ADR technology demonstrations (e.g., capture, deorbiting) representative of an operational scenario during a low-cost mission using novel key technologies for ADR. The project is based on and aimed at contributing to global/European ADR roadmaps.

How it works?

A microsatellite called here RemoveSAT, will release, capture and deorbit two space debris targets, called DebrisSats, in sequence using various rendezvous, capture and deorbiting technologies thus demonstrating in orbit, key ADR technologies for future missions in what promises to be the first ADR technology mission internationally.

Background:

Space junk is an ever-growing problem with more than 7,500 tonnes of redundant hardware now thought to be circling the Earth. Ranging from old rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft through to screws and even flecks of paint – this material poses a collision hazard to operational missions.

The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station (ISS), space shuttles, satellites and other spacecraft.

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Plastic ban in Maharashtra

Context: Maharashtra government recently began enforcing a ban on plastic, a decision it announced in March. The government had given the manufacturers, distributors, and consumers a period of three months to dispose their existing stock and come up with alternatives to plastic usage.

What all plastic products are covered under the ban?

Under the notification products manufactured from plastic and thermocol have been covered under the ban. As a result usage of plastic bags with a handle and without handle, disposable cups, and plates, spoons, forks, glasses, and containers is prohibited in the state. Plastic packaging used to wrap and store the product is also included in the ban.

Apart from this plastic straw, non-woven polypropene bags, pouches and any other plastic used to store, package and transfer food items will no longer be permitted in the state. Besides, it has banned the use of plastic and thermocol for decoration purposes.

Plastic items excluded from the ban:

  • Plastic used for packaging medicines and drugs.
  • Food grade virgin plastic used for packaging milk.
  • Compostable packaging bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes.
  • Plastic bags used for exporting goods.
  • Plastic used at the manufacturing stage.
  • Plastic used for handling of solid waste.

Who will implement and monitor the ban?

Officials from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and district and local administration have been authorised to implement it. For regulating this law at tourist locations, tourism police, or Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation has been made responsible.

The government has also formed an association comprising of plastic manufacturers, ministry officials and environmental experts to oversee the implementation of the ban.

Way ahead:

While environmentalists welcomed the cabinet’s decision, the plastic industry has slammed the government calling it “retrograde step.” With its huge dependence on plastic and lack of alternatives to the banned products, many also wonder if the plan would be a success.

Facts :

On World Environment Day, June 5, India was the host nation, with the theme for this year being ‘Beat plastic pollution.’

Sources: the hindu.

Facts :

Dornogovi province:

  • Why in news? Mongolia has launched construction of its first strategically important oil refinery funded by India in southern Dornogovi province.
  • The strategically important oil refinery will make Mongolia independent from energy imports and stabilise fuel and commodity prices in its domestic markets.

Chilika Lake:

Why in News? The Airports Authority of India has proposed to set up a water aerodrome in Chilika Lake for starting amphibious aircraft operations in Odisha.

About Chilika Lagoon:

  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
  • It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent.
  • It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle.
  • On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India.
  • The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.
  • Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.

‘Chipko’ movement in Delhi:

Context: To save about 16,500 fully grown trees from being chopped down in the city, locals and social organisations have come together to hold a campaign on the lines of ‘Chipko’ movement for tree protection in Delhi.

Current Affairs – 23 June 2018 (NDA/CDS/AFCAT/CAPF AF GD Y/AA/SSR Exam)

Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Ambubachi Mela

Context: Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess is being held at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.

About Ambubachi Mela:

  • The Ambubachi Mela symbolises the fertility cult of goddess Kamakhya.
  • There is no idol in the temple, the goddess is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like stone over which a natural spring flows.
  • Also known as Siddha Kubjika, the goddess is a Hindu tantric goddess of desire who evolved in the Himalayan hills. She is also identified as Kali and Maha Tripura.
  • The festival is also known as ‘Mahakumbh of the East’ as it draws lakhs of devotees from all over the world.

Social significance of the festival:

The ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India. The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called ‘Tuloni Biya’, meaning small wedding. Ambubachi Mela serves as an occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene.

Facts :

Kamakhya, atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, is one of 51 shaktipeeths or seat of Shakti followers, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topic: India and its neighbourhood relations.

Chabahar port

Context: India is trying to make Chabahar Port in Iran operational by 2019 despite a threat of renewed US sanctions against Tehran.

Background:

The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan, its sometimes-hostile neighbour.

Where is Chabahar port?

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

  • The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2018 report

Context: The U.N. has released its annual checkup report on the SDGs, accompanied by a call from U.N. Chief António Guterres that, “we must inject a sense of urgency” in making good on the ambitious 2030 development agenda. The SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.

Highlights of the report:

Concerns: Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals remains uneven, and is not moving fast enough to meet the ambitious 17 goals on poverty, health, and equality by 2030.

Challenges: A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The hunger challenge: There are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.  According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.

Sanitation and Health: In 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria compared to 210 million cases in 2013 and close to 4 billion people were left without social protection in 2016. The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50% and in the least developed countries.

Individual SDG highlights include:

  • On SDG 2 (zero hunger), the number of hungry people in the world has risen from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mostly as a result of conflicts and disasters and droughts linked to climate change. In 18 countries, the report finds that conflict is a main driver of food insecurity.
  • On SDG 4 (quality education), more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, with disparities persisting along gender, urban-rural and other divides.
  • On SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), in 2015, 2.3 billion people lacked a basic level of sanitation, and 892 million people practiced open defecation.
  • On SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 91% of the global urban population breathes air that does not meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter.
  • On SDG 14 (life below water), global trends suggest declining marine fish stocks and deterioration of coastal waters, due to pollution and eutrophication.
  • On SDG 15 (life on land), the report finds that the world’s forest areas continue to shrink.
  • On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), more than 570 different flows involving trafficking in persons were found between 2012 and 2014.
  • On SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals), official development assistance (ODA) for capacity building and national planning has been stable since 2010.

Way ahead:

Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated. As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Conservation related efforts.

Campaign to promote energy efficiency in the area of air-conditioning

Context: Union Power Ministry has launched a campaign to promote energy efficiency in the area of air-conditioning. This initiative is launched on voluntary basis to increase awareness and encourage consumers to adopt the guidelines. It will save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

Need for energy efficiency in the area of air- conditioning:

  • Every one degree increase in the air-conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6% of electricity consumed. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission.
  • Besides, normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37 degree Celsius, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21 degree Celsius. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy.
  • Setting the temperature in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius compels people to wear warm clothing or use blankets; therefore, this is actually wastage of energy.

Expected outcomes:

After an awareness campaign of 4-6 months, followed by a survey to gather public feedback, the Ministry of Power would consider making this mandatory.  If all the consumers adopt, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone.

Way ahead:

Under the guidance of Ministry of Power, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has carried out a study and has recommended that the default setting in the air-conditioning should be at 24 degree Celsius.

Manufacturers have also been advised to keep the default setting of air conditioners at 24 degree Celsius and also to carry out labelling indicating the optimum temperature setting for the benefits of consumers both from financial and their health points of view. These temperatures setting will be in the range of 24-26 degree Celsius.

Facts :

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) was established in March 2002, as a statutory body by the Government of India under the Energy Conservation Act 2001.
  • It is responsible for spearheading the improvement of energy efficiency of the economy through various regulatory and promotional instruments. The primary goal of BEE is to reduce the energy intensity in the Indian economy.
  • It coordinates with State level agencies and energy consumers to perform functions and exercise powers that may be necessary for efficient use of energy and its conservation in India.

Sources: pib.


Topic: Awareness in space.

Unispace+50

What is it? UNISPACE+50 was held recently to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and highlight past and future Agency activities in support of the UN’s space-related actions.

Key facts:

  • UNISPACE+50 was celebrated at the Vienna International Centre, bringing together the international community, and reflecting on the past and future of space activities around the world.
  • It was a chance to assess results following the three prior UNISPACE conferences, held in 1968, 1982 and 1999, and consider how the future course of global space cooperation can benefit everyone on Earth.

‘Space2030’ agenda:

The event aimed at shaping the UN’s comprehensive ‘Space2030’ agenda. The Space2030 agenda will map out how spaceflight and space-related activities can help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing overarching, long-term development concerns, through the peaceful exploration and uses of outer space.

Facts :

  • The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilisation of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.
  • The Office assists any United Nations Member States to establish legal and regulatory frameworks to govern space activities and strengthens the capacity of developing countries to use space science technology and applications for development by helping to integrate space capabilities into national development programmes.
  • UNOOSA is also responsible for implementing the Secretary-General’s responsibilities under international space law and maintaining the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
  • UNOOSA is the current secretariat of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG).

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Awareness in space.

NASA Plans to Protect Earth From Giant Asteroids

Context: NASA has released a report outlining the federal government’s response in the event that an asteroid or comet flying through space should ever impact Earth.

“The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan” shows how the U.S. federal government would protect and prepare the planet for such an event, and outlines five strategic goals for reducing the risk of an impact.

The five strategic goals include:

  • Enhance NEO detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities.
  • Improve NEO modeling prediction, and information integration.
  • Develop technologies for NEO deflection and disruption missions.
  • Increase international cooperation on NEO preparation.
  • Establish NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols.

Potentially hazardous asteroids:

Asteroid-hunting astronomers have already found more than 8,000 near-Earth objects measuring at least 460 feet (140 meters) across — large enough to wipe out an entire state if one were to hit the U.S. But asteroids that size make up only one-third of the estimated population of near-Earth asteroids. Smaller asteroid impacts may be less catastrophic, but they can still cause significant damage.

NASA and its partners have identified more than 95% of all asteroids that are large enough to cause a global catastrophe, and none of those found poses a threat within the century.

Sources: the hindu.


SKOCH Award:

Context: Ministry of Women & Child Development has received the ‘Best Performing Social Sector Ministry’ SKOCH Award for its Achievements and Initiatives.

Key facts:

  • The Skoch Awards celebrate human excellence and agents of change in Indian society. They are the highest independently instituted civilian honours in India.
  • Only end-user departments and domain ministries may apply including State undertakings.
  • The Skoch Awards have become the only independent benchmark of best practices in India in the fields of governance, finance, banking, technology, corporate citizenship, economics and inclusive growth.
  • Skoch Consultancy Services is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth.

Bharat 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF):

Context: The government has announced the first Further Fund Offer (FFO) of Bharat 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). This is in pursuance of its disinvestment policy targeting an initial amount of Rs.6,000 crore.

BHARAT 22:

  • Bharat 22 consists of 22 stocks of CPSE’s, PSB’s & strategic holding of SUUTI. Bharat 22 is a well Diversified portfolio with 6 sectors (Basic Materials, Energy, Finance, FMCG, Industrials & Utilities).
  • The Bharat 22 Index will be rebalanced annually. ICICI Prudential AMC will be the ETF Manager and Asia Index Private Limited (JV BSE and S& P Global) will be the Index Provider.

Current Affairs – 22 June 2018 (NDA/CDS/AFCAT/CAPF AF GD Y/AA/SSR Exam)

Talent surplus in India by 2030

Context: According to a report- ‘The Salary Surge’, India would be the only economy that will not face an upward revision of wages by 2030, as it has a talent surplus, bucking the global trend of a talent crunch.

Highlights of the report:

Global Scenario:

  • Globally, a shortage of highly skilled employees could dramatically drive up salaries for the most in-demand workers by 2030. This is likely to add more than USD 2.5 trillion in annual labour costs by 2030, for organisationsaround the world.
  • Globally, US companies can expect to pay the most globally facing a wage premium of more than USD 531 billion by 2030, while Germany will be the worst affected, facing a potential wage premium of approximately USD 176 billion by 2030.
  • Meanwhile, in the Asia Pacific, the salary surge could add more than USD 1 trillion to annual payrolls by 2030, jeopardising companies’ profitability and threatening business models if kept unchecked.
  • The study also found that Japan would be expected to pay the most, an additional USD 468 billion by 2030.

Emerging concerns:

  • The trend shows scarcity in abundance. There are plenty of people, but not enough with the skills their organisations will need to survive.
  • While overall wage increases are just keeping pace with inflation, salaries for in-demand workers will skyrocket if companies choose to compete for the best and brightest on salary alone.
  • In this trend, smaller markets with limited workforces are likely to feel the most pressure and by 2030.
  • At a sector level, manufacturing, a critical driver of growth for emerging economies, may be stalled by the huge impact of the salary surge.

Indian scenario:

Unlike any other country in the study India will have a highly skilled talent surplus by 2030.

Sources: toi.


Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

 

India 2+2 Dialogue

Context: The inaugural U.S.-India 2+2 Dialogue will take place in the month of July.

 

What is 2+2 Dialogue?

  • The new dialogue format was agreed to between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington D.C. in June, 2017.
  • The dialogue mechanism includes defence and foreign ministers of the two countries.
  • It replaced India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue for trade and commercial issues.

 

Significance of “2 by 2” Dialogue:

  • The objective of this dialogue mechanism is to raise defence and security issues to the forefront and centre of the relationship between India and the U.S.
  • It is aimed at enhancing peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by elevating strategic consultations in the dialogue.
  • The shared priorities include job creation, improving the business and investment climate and sustaining a rules-based global order.
  • The U.S. has strategic consultations in this format with key partners and allies including Australia, Japan and the Philippines.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Greece crisis

Context: Eurozone nations have agreed on the final elements of a plan to get Greece out of its eight-year bailout program and make its massive debt more manageable.

What’s the issue?

Greece has been surviving primarily on loans from the eurozone since 2010, when it lost market access to funds because of a ballooning budget deficit, huge public debt and an underperforming economy, matched with an expansive welfare system. Greece’s third bailout is due to end in August.

Causes of the Greece Crisis:

  • The seeds were sown back in 2001 when Greece adopted the euro as its currency. Greece had been an EU member since 1981 but couldn’t enter the eurozone. Its budget deficit had been too high for the eurozone’s Maastricht Criteria.
  • All went well for the first several years. Like other eurozone countries, Greece benefited from the power of the euro. It lowered interest rates and brought in investment capital and loans. In 2004, Greece announced it had lied to get around the Maastricht Criteria. The EU imposed no sanctions. Post that, Greek debt continued to rise until the crisis erupted in 2009.

About Eurozone:

  • It is a monetary union of 19 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states which have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender.
  • The countries in the eurozone as of 2018 are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The European Union’s Maastricht Treaty “convergence criteria,” or requirements for a member country to use the euro as currency:

  • Annual budget deficits must not exceed 3% of gross domestic product.
  • Public debt must be under 60% of gross domestic product.
  • The country must have exchange rate stability.
  • Inflation rates must be within 1.5% of the three EU countries with the lowest rate.
  • Long-term interest rates must be within 2% of the three lowest interest rates in the EU.

Sources: et.


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

 

COMCASA and BECA

Context: The US side has pressed the Indian side to sign the two foundational agreements for defence cooperation: Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), earlier known as the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

Background:

India and the US have so far signed only one foundational agreement: Logistical Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).

What is COMCASA?

COMCASA is a “technology enabler” to help transfer high-tech avionics, encrypted communication and electronic systems to India as well as ensure secrecy of its C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems from leaking to other countries like Russia. This agreement would allow the interoperability of India and United States equipments.

What is BECA?

BECA refers to Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation. This agreement would facilitate exchange of geospatial information between India and United States for both military and civilian use.

Significance of COMCASA:

COMCASA is needed if any classified military information is required to be exchanged between US and Indian armed forces, and would allow India to fully utilise the communication security equipment on military platforms it imports from the US.

Signing COMCASA would help because such advanced technologies and sensitive equipments are generally installed on US procured systems only. This agreement could also be important for multinational operations related to rescue, disaster relief etc.

Why is India hesitant to sign these agreements?

There are widespread fears that the use of American C4ISR systems could compromise India’s tactical operational security, enabling the US to keep track of Indian warships and aircraft.

Way ahead:

India has asked the United States for a binding assurance in the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (Comcasa) to ensure that the secured communication equipment covered by the pact are available to India and kept operational at all times.

Besides availability of equipment at all times, India wants it put down in the agreement that the US will not share data from Indian platforms with another country and nor will it access this data without prior permission. Also, the choice to upgrade would rest with India and not determined by the US.

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Infrastructure- energy.

Pariwartan scheme

Context: The Rural Electrification Corporation has finalised a plan to revitalise stressed power sector assets in a joint venture with the Power Finance Corp and lenders. The plan is named Pariwartan and stands for power asset warehousing and revitalisation.

How it works?

  • Under the plan, the REC has proposed that a special purpose vehicle, a subsidiary company to securitise assets, be set up with PFC and the lending banks, which would be overlooked by an asset management company.
  • The asset management firm will take on assets with a capacity of about 40,000 MW at net book value, and seek between 4-5% of equity from the National Infrastructure Investment Fund to run power projects under the scheme.
  • The goal of this scheme is to run these power assets to service their current debt, and look at breaking even before the lenders decide to takeover or sell the assets.
  • Most of the assets that would be brought under the scheme face coal supply shortages and suffer from a lack of power purchase agreements. The scheme looks to solve these issues by providing special coal supply assistance with assistance from the coal ministry.
  • Electricity produced during a 48 month period under the plan would also be sold at power exchanges and short term power purchase agreements would be sought from state governments.

Facts:

The ‘Pariwartan’ scheme is inspired by the Troubled Asset Relief Programme, or TARP, which was introduced in the US during the 2008 financial crisis.

 

Sources: livemint.


Topic: Conservation related issues.

FAME (faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles)

Context: The Centre plans to scrap cash incentives currently offered to buyers of electric cars under FAME scheme. The move, experts said, will further dampen sales of private electric cars.

Why?

The government seeks to withdraw the cash incentives for private electric cars because it neither makes a “substantial difference in promoting sales nor serves the purpose of a clean environment”.

What next?

  • Instead, the government has now decided to give cash subsidies to electric vehicles used by shared-mobility operators such as Ola and Uber, as their vehicles will run much more than private cars.
  • The government feels that the addition of cab aggregators like Ola and Uber to the list of subsidy beneficiaries would prompt these companies to go for electrics, which offer highly-lucrative running costs as compared with conventional diesel/petrol or CNG alternatives.

Background:

Currently, the government offers a discount of up to Rs 1.3 lakh on an electric car as part of its clean-energy programme, FAME (faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles). This is being proposed to be removed in the new FAME Phase 2 draft policy drawn up by the heavy industries ministry.

Concerns:

The stance runs contrary to the broader mobility vision that the government had projected just a few months back. As pollution rises across many top cities and smog and poisonous gases are difficult to control, the government had said it wants the entire car industry in India to switch to electric by year 2030. Last year, only around 1,500 electric passenger vehicles were sold against petrol/diesel/CNG car sales of 32 lakh.

About FAME India scheme:

What is it? With an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles, the government had launched the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME-India) scheme in 2015. It was launched by union ministry for heavy industries.

Aim: The FAME India Scheme is aimed at incentivising all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses. The scheme covers hybrid and electric technologies like a strong hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.

Facts: FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India – is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals. It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

Context: The Centre has banned terror organisation al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and all its manifestation under the stringent anti-terror law – Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. A notification in this regard has been issued by the home ministry.

Background:

Both al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham-Khorasan (ISIS-K), an Afghanistan-based affiliate of ISIS, have been declared unlawful by the Union home ministry as they were found to be radicalizing Indian youths for ‘global jihad’ and encouraging terror acts on Indian interests.

Currently, 39 terror outfits including ISIS, LeT, Jaish and BKI have been banned under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act).

About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA):

  • This law is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The Act makes it a crime to support any secessionist movement or to support claims by a foreign power to what India claims as its territory.
  • The UAPA, framed in 1967, has been amended twice since: first in 2008 and then in 2012.

The draconian provisions of the UAPA:

  • The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political protest. It empowers the government to declare an organisation as ‘terrorist’ and ban it. Mere membership of such a proscribed organisation itself becomes a criminal offence.
  • Furthermore, it allows detention without a chargesheet for up to 180 days and police custody can be up to 30 days. It also creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is out of the question. It creates a presumption of guilt for terrorism offences merely based on the evidence allegedly seized.
  • In addition, the Act authorises the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings) and use secret witnesses but contains no sunset clause and provisions for mandatory periodic review.