Polity & Governance
- SC to lay down law on LG’s power
- ‘Microfinance sector could treble in 4 years’
Environment & Ecology
- Air pollution cost India 8.5% of its GDP in 2013: study
Defence & Security Issues
- Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel ICGS ‘sarathi’
Science & Technology
- NASA successfully launches OSIRIS-REx spacecraft
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first LIGO laboratory
- Urja Mitra Helpline
- Two World Records Established by Indian Army
- ‘Best Horticulture State’ award
Polity & Governance
SC to lay down law on LG’s power
Supreme Court today sought the centre’s response on six appeals filed by the Delhi government challenging the High Court judgment which held that the Lieutenant Governor, and not the chief minister, is the administrative head of Delhi.
- The Supreme Court has refused to stay the HC judgment, despite submissions by Delhi government that the verdict “affects all future governments and all future relationships between the Centre and the State”.
- The HC had upheld the LG’s power not only over the police, land and public order but also in “services”. The judgment had effectively shrunk the Delhi Cabinet’s girth.
- Earlier, the High Court had held that Delhi will continue to remain a Union Territory under the constitution with the Lieutenant Governor as its administrative head.
- The High Court had in its August 4 verdict said that the special constitutional provision Article 239AA dealing with Delhi does not “dilute” the effect of Article 239 which relates to Union Territory and hence, concurrence of the LG in administrative issues was “mandatory”.
- It did not accept AAP government’s contention that Lieutenant Governor was bound to act only on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers with regard to making of laws by the Legislative Assembly under the Article 239AA and termed it as “without substance”.
‘Microfinance sector could treble in 4 years’
According to an estimate by the rating firm ICRA, the country’s microfinance sector will grow nearly three-fold to reach up to Rs 4.3 trillion over the next three years on account of expansion into newer segments and enhanced average loan sizes.
- The estimate includes micro credit across self-help groups, microfinance institutions and banks.
Key observations by ICRA:
- If the ticket sizes were to double from the current levels over the next 3-4 years and MFIs were to increase their presence in under-penetrated areas, the microfinance market could reach Rs 3.3-4.3 trillion over the next 3 to 4 years. The assumption on the doubling of ticket sizes is based on improving income levels, inflation, higher eligibility of borrowers moving to higher loan cycles.
- The MFI sector, excluding Bandhan Bank and teh SFBs, will need external capital of Rs 16-47 billion over the next three to four years.
- While the business opportunity is exciting, there is a need for establishing a credit culture in the new geographies and strengthening the credit appraisal processes.
- The two operational credit bureaus have helped the sector maintain its asset quality. But there are a few issues yet to be addressed like limited coverage of SHG bank linkage programme data, issues related to multiple identity cards being used by borrowers for availing loans from more than two MFIs and interlinking of retail credit.
- The overall stress of credit which is due for more than a day stood at 0.35% as of March 31, 2016, helped by regulatory decisions like data sharing through credit bureaus, cap of Rs 1 lakh for overall borrowing and the stipulation for not more than two MFIs to lend to a single borrower. However, “communal and political” incidents in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Karnataka did lead to some pressure on asset quality.
- However, the sector remains vulnerable to asset quality shocks owing to the risks associated with unsecured lending business, political risks, and operational risks arising out of cash handling.
MFI sector in India:
- Indian microfinance institution (MFI) sector grew 40 per cent in 2015-16 to Rs 1.4 trillion (including the Bandhan Bank) as against a 38 per cent growth in the previous fiscal, while the average ticket sizes were Rs 20-25,000.
Environment & Ecology
Air pollution cost India 8.5% of its GDP in 2013: study
A joint study by World Bank and University of Washington, ‘The cost of air pollution: strengthening the economic case for action’, was recently released.
Highlights of the report:
- According to the report, total welfare losses between 1990 and 2013 because of premature deaths from air pollution increased by 94%.
- In terms of welfare losses because of air pollution, India ranks second after China at $505.1 billion, or 7.69% of its gross domestic product (GDP), in 2013.
- Premature deaths due to air pollution in 2013 cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labour income, or about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses, worldwide.
- India reported the highest loss in labour output in 2013 owing to air pollution globally at $55.39 billion (2011 PPP-adjusted), or 0.84% of its GDP. China followed close behind with $44.56 billion, or 0.28% of its GDP, lost due to forgone labour output.
- Adding welfare costs and costs of lost labour due to air pollution puts India’s GDP loss at more than 8.5% in 2013.
- India’s GDP growth at constant prices was less than 7% in 2013-14. So air pollution alone might be offsetting the Indian economy’s growth efforts.
Defence & Security Issues
Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel ICGS ‘sarathi’
Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarathi’, third ship in the series of six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) was commissioned recently.
- ‘Sarathi’ meaning charioteer is a projection of Indian Coast Guard’s will and commitment ‘To serve and protect’ the maritime interest of the nation.
- It is designed and built indigenously by GSL.
- It is the largest i.e. 105-meter long and is most advanced new generation off-shore patrol vessel.
- It has been fitted with advanced EW and electronic systems and guns.
- It is equipped with integrated bridge system, power management system, integrated machinery control system, high power external firefighting system.
- It has a state-of-the-art propulsion system that can propel the vessel to a speed of over 25 knots.
- It is designed to carry one twin engine light helicopter and five high speed boats.
- The ship is also capable of carrying pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea.
- The commissioning of ICGS ‘Sarathi’ will enhance the Indian Coast Guard’s operational capability to discharge the multifarious maritime tasks.
- With the increased threat from sea borne terrorism, the induction of a sophisticated and state-of-the-art OPV will give a fillip to the maritime security of our vast coastline and in particular the maritime State of Kerala and island territories of Lakshadweep and Minicoy.
Science & Technology
NASA successfully launches OSIRIS-REx spacecraft
NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully launched to collect samples from an asteroid 101955 Bennu and return to Earth.
About the OSIRIS-REx Mission:
- The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS REx) is a planned NASA asteroid study and sample return mission.
Aim of the mission:
- The mission is to study asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid (formerly designated 1999 RQ36) and in 2023 to return to Earth a sample for detailed analysis.
Significance of the mission:
- Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life.
Why was Bennu chosen as the target destination asteroid for OSIRIS-REx?
The science team took into account three criteria: accessibility, size and composition.
Scientists at NASA need an asteroid that they can easily travel to, retrieve a sample from and return to Earth, all within a few years’ time. The closest asteroids are called near-Earth objects and they travel within 1.3 Astronomical Units (AU) of the sun. (One Astronomical Unit is approximately equal to the distance between the sun and the Earth: ~93 million miles).
For a mission like OSIRIS-REx, the most accessible asteroids are somewhere between 0.08 – 1.6 AU. Scientists also needed to make sure that those asteroids have a similar orbit to Earth. Bennu fit this criterion.
Scientists at NASA need an asteroid the right size to perform two critical portions of the mission: operations close to the asteroid and the actual sample collection from the surface of the asteroid. Bennu is roughly spherical and has a rotation period of 4.3 hours, which fits size criteria.
Asteroids with small diameters rotate more rapidly than those with large diameters. With a diameter less than 200 meters, an asteroid spins so rapidly that the loose material on its surface (regolith) can be ejected from it. The ideal asteroid has a diameter larger than 200 m so that a spacecraft can safely come into contact with it and collect a sufficient regolith sample. This size requirement reduced the number of candidate asteroids from 192 to 26.
Asteroids are divided into different types based on their chemical composition. In the visible and infrared light minerals have unique signatures or colors, much like fingerprints. Scientists use these fingerprints to identify molecules, like organics.
The most primitive asteroids are carbon-rich and have not significantly changed since they formed nearly 4 billion years ago. These asteroids contain organic molecules, volatiles, and amino acids that may have been the precursors to life on Earth. Of the 26 asteroids left on the list, only 12 had a known composition, and only 5 were primitive and carbon-rich.[Ref: TOI, NASA]
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first LIGO laboratory
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project that was given the in-principle approval by the Union Cabinet may come up in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district.
Scientists needed a flat site to carry out the experiments, the four km strips that would require an unhindered straight and flat site for studying the lasers. So, Aundh in Hingoli district is a preferred site for the Ligo project.
Urja Mitra Helpline
The Department of Telecom (DoT) of the Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has launched Urja Mitra Helpline.
Through which customers can get information on power outages from distribution companies by dialing 14401. It is for pan-India usage to send information through voice calls and SMSes. The information will apprise customers about power situation in their area so that they can plan accordingly. It is a mandatory service, which will be provided by all the telecom operators.
Besides, Power Finance Corporation (PFC) on behalf of the Union Power Ministry has developed Urja mobile app.
Two World Records Established by Indian Army
Two Indian Army personnel have created world records for the longest motorcycle riding on a two-wheeler seat and handle bar as per stipulations of GUINNESS Book of Records, LIMCA Book of Records, ASIA Book of Records and INDIA Book of Records.
Captain Manpreet Singh created the world record for the ‘longest continuous ride standing on the seat of a motorcycle’ for 75.2 kilometers within the duration of 2 hours 24 minutes and 12 seconds. The previous world record of 32.3 kilometers is held by Ratnesh Pandey from Indore.
The World Record for “Handle Bar Riding on a Motorcycle” under fresh category was established by Havildar Sandeep Kumar, covering a distance of 46.9 Km in 01 hr 27 min and 31 secs.
‘Best Horticulture State’ award
Haryana has bagged ‘Best Horticulture State’ award of the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA) for the concerted efforts made by the state government to increase the income of the farmers in horticulture.
The 2016 Best Agriculture State award was bestowed upon Odisha in recognition of state’s efforts towards development of agriculture and bringing rural prosperity.
It has become the first island district of India. It is the 35th district of Assam.
Recently, Majuli entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest river island.