Polity & Governance
- Now Aadhaar card mandatory for receiving subsidised foodgrains from PDS shops
- Govt approves Revenue Insurance Scheme for plantation crops
- Railways Ministry launches Railway Station Redevelopment Programme
- SEBI to form panel to facilitate crowdfunding
- Rs 2,845 cr released under AIBP for irrigation projects: Govt
Bilateral & International Relations
- India-UK Deal to Allow More Flights to Boost Tourism and Trade
Science & Technology
- ISRO develops Telemetry and Telecommand Processor
- ISRO, lifeguard agency collaborate to study killer tides
Key Facts for Prelims
- Kerala’s Nilambur teak to get GI tag
- Exercise ‘AMAN’ – 2017
- New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered in Israel
Polity & Governance
Now Aadhaar card mandatory for receiving subsidised foodgrains from PDS shops
The Union Government has made Aadhaar card mandatory for receiving subsidised foodgrains under National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 from all Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) shops.
- This condition will also applicable for all new beneficiaries.
- Those who do not have Aadhaar number or not have enrolled for Aadhaar can make application Aadhaar enrollment by 30 June 2017.
- Till the allocation of Aadhaar number to the beneficiaries, the entitlements will be given on production of Ration Card and either Aadhaar Enrollment ID slip.
About National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013:
As passed by the Parliament, Government has notified the National Food Security Act, 2013 on 10th September, 2013.
- NFSA aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
- The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
- Under the provisions of this act, beneficiaries are able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals at the following prices:
- Rice at 3 Rupees per kg.
- Wheat at 2 Rupees per kg.
- Coarse grains (millet) at 1 rupee per kg.
- The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
- The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion (1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.
Govt approves Revenue Insurance Scheme for plantation crops
Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has approved the pilot Revenue Insurance Scheme for Plantation Crops (RISPC) for protecting the growers from the risks such as yield loss, pest attacks and income decline caused by fall in prices.
About the RISPC:
- Revenue Insurance Scheme for Plantation Crops (RISPC) was announced in September 2016.
- It is improved form of the Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) Scheme, 2003 which was closed 2013.
- The scheme will be funded from the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) for plantation crops which has not taken off due to a number of weaknesses.
- It was launched for protecting growers of plantation crops from twin risks of yield loss due to pest attacks, adverse weather parameters etc. and income loss caused by fall in domestic and international prices.
- It will insure the plantation growers against both price and yield fluctuations.
- It shall be covering tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom and tobacco plantations and shall be implemented by the commodity boards.
- It will be implemented on a pilot basis for two years i.e. till 2018 in eight districts in West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu.
- On the basis of performance of the scheme in pilot project, it will be considered for extension to other districts.
Railways Ministry launches Railway Station Redevelopment Programme
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu unveiled the first phase of the ambitious Station Redevelopment Programme.
- As part this programme, tenders are being floated for 23 of a total of the total 400 A1 and A category stations selected re-developing in the first phase.
- It is the world’s largest transit-oriented development programme ever executed.
Stations being modernised in the first phase include:
Lokmanya Tilak, Pune, Thane, Visakhapatnam, Howrah, Kamakhya, Faridabad, Jammu Tawi, Udaipur City, Secunderabad, Vijaywada, Ranchi, Chennai Central, Kozhikode, Yesvantpur, Bangalore Cantt, Bhopal, Mumbai Central, Bandra Terminus, Borivali and Indore.
About the Station Redevelopment Programme:
- The programme is the biggest non-fare revenue generating programme being undertaken by Indian Railways.
- It will be executed in a public-private-partnership (PPP) model through a fair bidding system.
- Government will not incur any expenditure as the developer will be rebuilding the railway stations and maintaining it for 15 years.
- In return, the developer would be granted 45 years’ leasing rights for the commercial properties developed at these stations. These properties could be hotels, malls, hospitals, among others.
- These stations will be awarded to private developers under the so-called Swiss challenge method. It involves inviting proposal online and allowing rival bidders to beat that proposal.
- Amenities at Revamped stations include escalators, elevators, digital signage, self-ticketing counters, executive lounges, walkways, luggage screening machines, free and paid WiFi, etc.
- Commercial potential of the vacant Railway land at and near the stations will be leveraged to develop world-class stations.
Significance of the programme:
- The entire programme is estimated to attract investment of upto Rs 1 lakh crore from the developers. It will help Railways will generate a surplus of Rs 10,000 crore which can be invested in other modernisation programmes.
- Most of the pension funds in the world and a multilateral agency like World Bank are keen to participate in this project.
- It will benefit more than 100 cities and 16 million passengers per day across the country.
SEBI to form panel to facilitate crowdfunding
The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is forming an advisory committee on financial technology or fintech-related issues.
- The committee would look at safeguards that can be put in place to facilitate crowdfunding of ‘genuine’ ventures and mobilise more household savings into the financial markets.
Mandate of the committee:
- The committee will help to address the issues and mobilise domestic savings, which will spur growth of the economy.
- It will help mobilise savings through technology solutions.
- The committee will examine the best way forward to facilitate crowdfunding of genuine ventures.
What is crowdfunding?
- Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital through the collective effort of friends, family, customers, and individual investors.
- This approach taps into the collective efforts of a large pool of individuals—primarily online via social media and crowdfunding platforms—and leverages their networks for greater reach and exposure.
- There is a huge potential for channelising household savings into capital markets for growth of the country.
- According to experts, with the economy doing well and a well-regulated market, the current numbers for household savings invested in capital markets are unacceptable.
Rs 2,845 cr released under AIBP for irrigation projects: Govt
Recently the government has informed that the Central assistance worth over Rs 2,845 crore has been released for various Extension, Renovation and Modernisation (ERM) irrigation projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) till December 2016.
About the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program:
Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program (AIBP) was launched by Government of India during 1996-97 to provide financial assistance to State Governments with the aim of speeding up the implementation of on-going irrigation projects.
- Monitoring of the projects covered under the AIBP is periodically done by the Central Water Commission with the help of its regional offices situated all over the country.
- The conventional monitoring is done through discussions with field authorities and random field checks which often is inadequate in bringing out the factual status.
- Grant component has been introduced in the programme from April 2004 like other Central Sector Schemes.
- As per the existing AIBP criteria effective from December 2006, grant amounting to 25% of the project cost for major and medium irrigation projects in non-special category States and 90% grant of the project cost for major/medium/minor irrigation projects in special category States are provided to the selected projects.
- The minor irrigation schemes in non-special category States falling in drought prone/tribal areas are treated at par with special category States and are provided 90% grant of the project cost.
- Major and medium projects providing irrigation benefits to drought prone/tribal area and flood prone area are also eligible for 90% grant of the project cost.
- High resolution satellite data from Cartosat-1 and Cartosat-2 is successfully used for inventory of canal network and other irrigation infrastructure, facilitating objective assessment of physical status with reference to a given time frame (as on the date of satellite data acquisition).
Bilateral & International Relations
India-UK Deal to Allow More Flights to Boost Tourism and Trade
India and the UK signed a MoU to ease restrictions on the number of scheduled flights between the two countries.
- Under the MoU, limits on flights from key Indian cities including Chennai and Kolkata have been scrapped, allowing for a greater range of flights for passengers while providing a boost to trade and tourism for the UK and India.
- The agreement also opened all destinations in the UK for Indian carriers for code share flights, and reciprocally the UK carriers can also operate code share flights to any International Airport in India, through domestic code share arrangements.
Implications of the move:
- The increase in number of flights between the UK and India is encouraging news for our businesses and tourists.
- It will bring direct and indirect benefits to many sectors of the economies of two countries.
- Tourism from India makes an important contribution to the UK’s economy. In 2015, there were 422,000 visitors from India to the UK, bringing more than 433 million pounds to its economy.
Science & Technology
ISRO develops Telemetry and Telecommand Processor
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has indigenously developed Telemetry & Telecommand Processor (TTCP).
- Its indigenous development was taken up by ISRO as part of ‘Make in India’ campaign
- Its productionisation will be initiated with the help of Indian industry.
- The processor replaces the expensive imported equipment.
- TTCP will be used in Integrated Spacecraft Testing of Low Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit and Interplanetary Spacecraft.
- This system is configurable to meet uplink and downlink requirements of both CCSDS (Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems) and ISRO standards.
- Multiple clients can remotely access this system for data and monitoring.
- TTCP has been developed by Bengaluru based of ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC). Besides, Spacecraft Checkout Group of ISAC is responsible for testing it.
- Pointing out that during the testing, ground systems will communicate to spacecraft via the same uplink and downlink signals, as in space.
- The spacecraft typically use ISRO formats for telemetry and telecommand (downlink and uplink), for which indigenous equipment are being used. However, the interplanetary spacecraft use an international standard known as CCSDS, and presently equipment are being imported for telemetry reception and telecommand transmission requirements.
- This indigenously developed Processor was successfully deployed for the first time in checkout of GSAT-19, which is scheduled to be launched shortly.
ISRO, lifeguard agency collaborate to study killer tides
The phenomenon of ‘killer rip tides’ is being studied by ISRO in collaboration with a private lifeguard agency appointed by the Goa government to safeguard its beaches.
- The study Ripex 2017 is being conducted by a team of scientists at Space Applications Centre, ISRO Ahmedabad, along with Drishti Lifesaving, a private agency appointed by the state tourism ministry to maintain a lifeguard force.
What are Rip tides?
- A rip tide is a strong sea current which pulls the water away from the shore, often catching unawares swimmers and people enjoying the sea in the shallows and can drag them into the sea.
- Rip currents are one of the most common problem-causing currents witnessed along Goa’s coast. Rip tides are one of the most common causes for drowning in the shallow waters off Goa’s popular coastline.
- Goa’s beaches attract nearly four million tourists every year.
- Over the last few years, lifeguards have been instructed to direct tourists off the shore-line when such tides occur, more often than not unpredictably.
Key Facts for Prelims
Kerala’s Nilambur teak to get GI tag
- Kerala’s Nilambur teak known internationally for its superior timber quality and elegant appearance will be added to the list of Kerala produces with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
- The effort to obtain the GI status for this unique timber variety is pioneered by the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Cell of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) with the support of the Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the Department of Forests
- Britishers were first to identify the superior and unique quality of teak from Kerala’s Nilambur plantations and forests. Later, the region became the major supplier of quality teak in the world.
- Nilambur was christened the Mecca of Teak.
- Due to its superior mechanical and physical properties as well as aesthetic appearance, the teak was exported to England and other parts of the world.
- However, as the fame of Nilambur teak increased, fake products with false tags also started flooding the wood and furniture markets.
Exercise ‘AMAN’ – 2017
- Exercise ‘AMAN’-17 (AMAN meaning peace in Urdu) has been planned by Pakistan Navy in the North Arabian Sea.
- The underlying theme of this year’s exercise is ‘Together for Peace’.
- It is a multinational exercise structured and organised by Pakistan Navy.
- This is a biennial activity since 2007 and the current exercise is fifth in ‘AMAN’ series.
- The idea of ‘Exercise AMAN’ is catching the imaginations of a number of maritime nations which nurture a keen interest in common use of seas of the world for peaceful co-existence.
- Exercise AMAN-17 is spread over two phases: harbour and sea.
- Under these two phases, participants will witness a variety of activities including Search & Rescue (SAR) Operations, gunnery drills, anti-piracy demonstrations, replenishment at Sea (RAS) and maritime counter-terrorism demonstrations.
Note: The Indian Ocean has remained an important area throughout due to its unique strategic location and un-explored natural resources. It covers almost twenty percent of the world’s oceans with a total area of about 68 millions square kilometers or nearly five and half times the size of United States of America and has rightly been dubbed as ‘Energy Highway’ in the 21st century.
New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered in Israel
- Archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered a new “Dead Sea Scroll cave,” the first such discovery in more than 60 years.
- The cave—located in cliffs near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea—is now thought to be the 12th of its kind.
- Researchers found a long list of items including smashed jars and a leather strap for binding and cloth for wrapping the scrolls, but they did not actually find an actual scroll.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts thought to be among the oldest known surviving Judeo-Chrisitian texts.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, date from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD.