Rashtriya-Ekta-Diwas-2017-iastoppers
Current Affairs Analysis

31st October 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

31 October: Rashtriya Ekta Diwas; MSME Samadhaan; What is Article 35A? International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT); Alternative Mechanism panel to oversee PSU bank mergers; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); Greenhouse Gas Bulletin; WMO; Masood Azhar; What is the 1267 Committee? Liberalised Arms Rules; World’s fastest, shortest laser pulse created; Polavarm project; What is linxiu? etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
October 31, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • MSME Delayed Payment Portal – MSME Samadhaan launched
  • Centre gets SC to freeze hearing on Article 35A

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Multi–grain meal to replace upma in tribal schools

Economy

  • Govt sets up Arun Jaitley-panel to oversee PSU bank mergers
  • India signs $200 mn deal with World Bank for rural transformation in Assam

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Concentration of CO2 in atmosphere hits record high: UN

Bilateral & International Relations

  • China to block UN bid to ban Azhar

Defence & Security Issues

  • Home Ministry relaxes Arms Rules to boost the “Make in India” initiative

Science & Technology

  • World’s fastest, shortest laser pulse created
  • China plans to build gigantic DNA database platform

Key Facts for Prelims

  • About Polavarm project
  • Xi crowned as ‘linxiu’
  • 31 October: Rashtriya Ekta Diwas

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Polity & Governance

MSME Delayed Payment Portal – MSME Samadhaan launched

The Union Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched MSME Delayed Payment Portal – MSME Samadhaan.

MSME Samadhaan iastoppers

Aim:

  • The portal aims at empowering micro and small entrepreneurs across country to directly register their cases relating to delayed payments by Central Ministries, Departments, CPSEs, State Governments.

The MSEs will also be empowered to access portal and monitor their cases.

Key features of the portal:

  • The Samadhaan portal will give information about pending payment of MSEs with individual CPSEs/Central Ministries, State Governments, etc.
  • The CEO of PSEs and Secretary of Ministries concerned will also be able to monitor cases of delayed payment under their jurisdiction and issue necessary instructions to resolve the issues.
  • The portal will facilitate monitoring of delayed payment in more effective manner.
  • The information on portal will be available in public domain, thus exerting moral pressure on defaulting organisations.

Background

  • Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (MSMED) Act, 2006 contains provisions to deal with cases of delayed payment to Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs).
  • As per provisions, buyer is liable to pay compound interest with monthly rests to supplier on amount at three times of bank rate notified by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in case he does not make payment to supplier for supplies of goods or services within 45 days of day of acceptance of goods and services or the deemed day of acceptance.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Centre gets SC to freeze hearing on Article 35A

What is Article 35A?

ias-toppers-Article-35A

  • Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.
  • It was added by a 1954 presidential order issued under Article 370, the constitutional provision that mediates the relationship between the Union of India and Kashmir.
  • Article 35A also empowers the State’s legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other States or any other right under the Constitution.

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing of plea challenging Article 35A of the Constitution by three months.

Why this move?

  • The apex court’s order came after it was told by Centre that government has appointed a representative (interlocutor) to hold talks with all stakeholders to resolve Kashmir issue.

Background:

  • The court was hearing on batch of four petitions demanding scrapping of Article 35A on various grounds. The main petition was filed by Delhi-based NGO in 2014.

What petitions demand?

  • The petitioners have challenged Article 35A on ground that it can only have been introduced through Constitutional amendment under Article 368 and not through a Presidential Order under Article 370.
  • They say that Article 35A is against very spirit of oneness of India as it creates a class within a class of Indian citizens. It restricts citizens from other States from getting employment or buying property within J&K, thus is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • One petition also held that Article 35A is gender-biased and also against Article 14 of the Constitution as it denies property rights to J&K permanent resident woman who marries a non-resident while a man who marries outside state will continue to enjoy his rights.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

Multi–grain meal to replace upma in tribal schools

In a major initiative to cater to the nutritional needs of schoolchildren in tribal areas, the district administration has readied a plan to introduce multi-grain meals in 64 tribal welfare residential educational institutions across the Khammam district of Telangana state.

Multi–grain-meal-to-replace-upma-in-tribal-schools

Aim of the move:

  • The targeted intervention aims at raising the nutritional status of students in the tribal areas.

About the programme:

  • The nutrition intervention envisages introduction of millet-based snacks in the menu of as many as 46 Ashram High Schools and 18 Tribal Welfare hostels spread in 23 mandals of the district.
  • The multi-grain meal containing sorghum and finger millet (ragi) as ingredients will replace the upma served as breakfast in the tribal welfare educational institutions.
  • Fibre-dense millet-based snacks fortified with micro-nutrients will be served as evening snacks as per the new intervention.
  • District administration to harness the nutritional intervention projects of the ICRISAT.

Significance:

  • The programme gains significance in the backdrop of prevalence of malnutrition particularly anaemia and other deficiencies among children in remote tribal pockets due to poor economic status of their families.

About ICRISAT:

ias toppers ICRISAT

  • The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) is a non-profit agricultural research organization headquartered in Patancheru in Hyderabad, Telangana.
  • It was founded in 1972 by a consortium of organizations convened by the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundations.
  • Its charter was signed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • It has several regional centres around globe- Niamey (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and research stations Bamako (Mali), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe).
  • Since its inception, India has granted special status to ICRISAT as a UN Organization operating in the Indian Territory making it eligible for special immunities and tax privileges.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Economy

Govt sets up Arun Jaitley-panel to oversee PSU bank mergers

The Union government set up an Alternative Mechanism panel, led by finance minister Arun Jaitley, to consider and oversee mergers among the country’s 21 state-run banks.

ias-toppers-Banking-Regulation-bill-

  • It is a significant move to revive PSU banks weighed down by bad loans.
  • The Union cabinet in August, 2017 had decided to set up an Alternative Mechanism to fast-track PSU bank consolidation.

Members of the panel:

  • Members of the panel on PSU bank consolidation include railway and coal minister Piyush Goyal, and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Aim of the move:

  • The consolidation of struggling state-run banks, which have a market share of about 70% and account for over 80% of bad loans in the Indian banking system, is aimed at building scale and bolstering their risk-taking ability.
  • It would facilitate consolidation among nationalised banks to create strong and competitive banks.

PSU-bank-consolidation-iastoppers

Exemption from scrutiny:

  • The government has also exempted consolidation among PSBs from the scrutiny of competition watchdog, the Competition Commission of India.
  • The exemption will cover all cases of reconstitution, transfer of whole or any part of nationalised banks.
  • The exemption will be available for 10 years.
  • According to experts, it would be prudent to let public sector banks (PSBs) stabilise before consolidation is pursued.

Benefits of consolidation:

  • According to experts, the consolidation plan along with measures such as capital infusions in weak banks will trigger a revival.
  • Consolidation is also likely to help them deal better with their credit portfolio, including stressed assets.
  • Consolidation prevents multiplicity of resources being spent in the same area and strengthens banks to deal with shocks.

The first consolidation move by SBI:

  • The State Bank of India merged operations of five of its associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank with itself earlier this year, marking the first consolidation move in the sector following the bad loan crisis.
  • The merger has reduced the number of state-controlled banks to 21 from 26.

Background:

  • The idea of bank mergers has been around since at least 1991, when former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Narasimham recommended the government merge banks into a three-tiered structure, with three large banks with an international presence at the top.
  • In 2014, the J. Nayak panel suggested that the government either merge or privatize state-owned banks.
[Ref: Live Mint, Economic Times, Business Line]

 

India signs $200 mn deal with World Bank for rural transformation in Assam

The Union Government and World Bank have signed $200 million Loan Agreement for Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project.

World-Bank-Assam-iastoppers

Objectives of the project:

The Project will support the Government of Assam to:

  • Facilitate agri-business investments,
  • Increase agriculture productivity and market access, and
  • Enable small farm holders produce crops that are resilient to recurrent floods or droughts in the state.

About the project:

  • The Project will be implemented in over 16 Districts of Assam.
  • Over 500,000 farming households will directly benefit from the Project.
  • At least 30 percent women are expected to participate in project activities.
  • Specific focus will be given to women-led enterprises and their participation in the decision-making process of farmer producer organizations.
  • Another key component of the project will be to promote market-led production that can deal with the vagaries of climate change.

Geographic clustering approach:

  • The focus on geographic clustering of the production base for certain commodities will help agri-enterprises take advantage of existing and future market opportunities that they may not necessarily achieve alone.
  • The cluster approach will allow for combining efforts, making use of synergies, and pooling resources to increase the competitive advantage of these products, while at the same time share the risks involved in introducing improved products or entering previously untapped markets.
  • Successful clusters will also continuously innovate and adapt ‘best practices’ across agricultural value chains.

Background:

  • Assam’s agriculture sector is highly vulnerable to climate variability and the state experiences recurrent floods and droughts.
  • Currently, more than 50 percent of the paddy growing areas are prone to flooding, submergence and drought.

About IBRD:

iastoppers-ibrd

  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries.
  • The IBRD is the first of five member institutions that compose the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
  • It was established in 1944 with the mission of financing the reconstruction of European nations devastated by World War II.
  • The IBRD and its concessional lending arm, the International Development Association, are collectively known as the World Bank as they share the same leadership and staff.
  • The IBRD provides commercial-grade or concessional financing to sovereign states to fund projects that seek to improve transportation and infrastructure, education, domestic policy, environmental consciousness, energy investments, healthcare, access to food and potable water, and access to improved sanitation.
[Ref: PIB, Hindustan Times]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Concentration of CO2 in atmosphere hits record high: UN

According to WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016.

pollution-WMO-Greenhouse-Gas-Bulletin--ias

Probable causes:

  • Because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Nino event.

Highlights of the report:

  • Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015.
  • Last time Earth experienced similar CO2 concentration rates was three to five million years ago, when the sea level was up to 20 metres (66 feet) higher than now.

Greenhouse Gas Bulletin WMO ias

What needs to do?

  • Need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.
  • Drastic action is needed to achieve targets set by the Paris climate agreement.
  • Rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Background:

  • Paris climate agreement, the historic agreement approved by 196 countries two years ago, is facing renewed pressure following U.S. President’s decision to quit the accord. But nations are set to press on with the task of implementing it at climate talks in Bonn next week.

About Greenhouse Gas Bulletin:

  • Since 2006, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published an annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin that reports the latest trends and atmospheric burdens of the most influential, long-lived greenhouse gases.
  • The Bulletin tracks concentrations of gasses in the atmosphere, rather than emissions with data compiled from a monitoring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

About WMO:

  • WMO is the United Nations system’s authoritative voice on weather, climate, and water.
[Ref: The Hindu, WMO]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

China to block UN bid to ban Azhar

At a meeting of the 1267 committee of the United Nations Security Council, China made it clear that it is once again not designating Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, as an international terrorist.

Masood-Azhar-ias

  • China cites ‘lack of consensus’ for not designating JeM chief as a global terrorist.
  • China raised the technical hold to allow for more time for all parties to deliberate on this matter.

What is the 1267 Committee?

In 1999, the U.N. had set up an al-Qaeda/Taliban sanctions committee (UNSCR 1267) to impose strictures on anyone dealing with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

1267-Committee-iastoppers

  • However, in course of time, the 1267 sanctions regime has been modified and strengthened by subsequent resolutions.
  • If an individual or terrorist organisation is included in this list, it helps in restricting their movement, financial penalties and assets freeze among others.
  • The Committee comprises all 15 members of the UNSC and makes its decision by consensus and secretly. If single member opposes it there is no consensus.

India and 1267 Committee:

  • In September 2016, India asked the 1267 committee to consider banning of Masood Azhar, the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was already a banned entity.
  • Because of the complete consensus clause, China’s opposition to India’s bid is not allowing UNSC to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist and freeze his assets and travel ban.

Reforms needed in 1267 Committee:

  • The committee is being criticised for being non transparent and in recent time there is demand for its reforms to address procedural shortcomings especially from India.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Home Ministry relaxes Arms Rules to boost the “Make in India” initiative

The Union Home Ministry has liberalised Arms Rules to encourage investments in manufacture of arms, ammunition and weapons systems.

liberalised-Arms-Rules-iastoppers

Aim:

  • The rules were liberalised with aim of making India a regional leader in supplying small arms to neighbouring countries as well as become an export hub.

Whom to apply?

  • The liberalised rules will apply to licences granted by MHA for small arms & ammunition and licences granted by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under powers delegated to them.

Which items covered under the rules?

  • For tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, defence aircrafts, space crafts, warships of all kinds, arms and ammunition and allied items of defence equipment other than small arms.

The salient features of the liberalised rules are:

  • The licence granted for manufacturing shall now be valid for the life-time of the licensee company. The requirement of renewal of the license after every 5 years has been done away with.
  • Similarly, condition that the small arms and light weapons produced by manufacturer shall be sold to the Central Government or the State Governments with the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs has been done away with.
  • Further, enhancement of capacity up to 15% of the quantity approved under licence will not require any further approval by the Government. The manufacturer will be required to give only prior intimation to the licensing authority in this regard.
  • The licence fee has been reduced significantly. Earlier the licence fee was Rs. 500/- per firearm which added up to very large sums and was a deterrent to seeking manufacturing licenses. The licence fee will now range from Rs. 5,000/- to the maximum of Rs. 50,000/-.
  • The fee for manufacturing licence shall be payable at the time of grant of license rather than at the time of application.
  • Single manufacturing licence will be allowed for a multi-unit facility within the same State or in different States within the country.

Significance of the liberalised rules:

The liberalisation of the Arms Rules will

  • Encourage investment in the manufacturing of arms and ammunition and weapon systems as part of the “Make in India” programme.
  • Encourage the manufacturing activity and facilitate availability of world class weapons to meet the requirement of Armed Forces and Police Forces in sync with country’s defence indigenization programme.

Background:

  • Earlier in 2016, the Arms Rules were made stringent with the demand of licence for air guns and air rifles as well, bringing disappointment for gun owners, dealers and manufacturers.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

World’s fastest, shortest laser pulse created

What is a laser?

ias-toppers-What-is-a-laser

  • A laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.
  • A laser is an unusual light source. It is quite different from a light bulb or a flash light.
  • Lasers do not occur in nature.
  • One of laser’s outstanding properties is the excellent coherence of the emitted light.
  • Lasers produce a narrow beam of light in which all of the light waves have very similar wavelengths. The laser’s light waves travel together with their peaks all lined up, or in phase. This is why laser beams are very narrow, very bright, and can be focused into a very tiny spot.

Applications of a laser:

  • Laser light is used in numerous applications in industry, medicine and information technologies.
  • Lasers have brought about a real revolution in fields of research and in metrology — or have even made some new fields possible in the first place.

Why in news?

  • Scientists from Switzerland have succeeded in generating the world’s shortest laser pulse with a duration of only 43 attoseconds.

World’s-fastest,-shortest-laser-pulse-ias

Significance of the discovery:

  • This laser pulse is the shortest controlled event that has ever been created by humans.
  • The development will now allow researchers to observe in high detail how electrons move within a molecule or how chemical bonds are formed.
  • This laser can also help in attosecond spectroscopy, by contributing development of more efficient solar cells by observing the process of excitation through sunlight up to the generation of electricity step by step.
  • Moreover, a detailed understanding of charge transfer pathway using it can also help in optimizing the efficiency of next generation of photosensitive elements.
  • Using this laser pulse, chemical reactions can also be directly manipulated by altering course of reaction even chemical bonds can be broken by stopping charge shift at certain location in molecule.
[Ref: Economic Times, Indian Express, India Today, Wiki]

 

China plans to build gigantic DNA database platform

China plans to build a $1 billion super-sized DNA sequencing platform in the Jiangsu Province.

DNA database china iastoppers

Aim:

  • To store genetic information of millions of its ethnic Chinese population.

Key facts:

  • The DNA project is part of the National Health & Medicine Big Data (Nanjing) Center, a six-billion yuan (about $ one billion) project.
  • The database is expected to be complete in around four years.

Utilities of this data:

Researchers will use big data created in the database to

  • Study genetic mutations related to major diseases,
  • Look for the impact of interaction between genes and environmental concerns on human heath, and
  • Provide statistical support for diagnosis and treatment of major diseases
[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

About Polavarm project

ias toppers Polavarm project

  • Polavaram Projectis a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded national project status by the central government.
  • This dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha States also.

 

Xi crowned as ‘linxiu’

China’s President Xi Jinping has been formally recognised as the ruling Communist Party’s lingxiu.

Xi-crowned-as-‘linxiu’-iastoppers

What is linxiu?

  • Linxiu is a reverential term for “leader” that was only used during the era of chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Hua Guofeng more than three decades ago.
  • Lingxiu – a more spiritual, grander term for “leader” than the commonly used lingdao – is an honorific bestowed only on “great lingxiu” Mao, the founder of communist China, and his short-lived successor, “wise lingxiu” Hua Guofeng.

It means that Xi, who is the “core” of the Party Central, has been officially recognised as the highest authority – and can override others – on the Politburo Standing Committee.

 

31 October: Rashtriya Ekta Diwas

Rashtriya-Ekta-Diwas-2017-iastoppers

  • Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) is observed every year across India on 31 October to commemorate the birth anniversary of Iron Man of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • This occasion provides an opportunity to re-affirm the inherent strength and resilience of the nation to withstand the threats to its unity, integrity and security.
  • The idea of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas was mooted by PM Narendra Modi in October 2014 to mark the birth anniversary of Independent India’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • To mark this occasion various activities and events are being organised across ministries and departments all over the country. Besides, Run for Unity was organised in New Delhi from the National Stadium.

Run-for-Unity-iastoppers Current Affairs | IASToppers

 

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