Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves fixed term for National Trust chairperson
- Governors panel submits report on best practices to President
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves major changes in FDI policy
- CCEA gives nod for continuing MPLAD scheme till March 2020
- Gujarat tops new logistics index that flags inefficiency of states
- Government wants states to drive export growth
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Second edition of the Goa Bird Festival
Bilateral & International Relations
- Ministry of Road Transport & Highways signs MoU with Transport for London
- 4th International Dharma-Dhamma Conference
Defence & Security Issues
- Govt launches Virtual ID to safeguard Aadhaar data
Science & Technology
- Skeletal muscle tissue grown from stem cells
Key Facts for Prelims
- Limca Records for All Woman Staff
- New chairman of ISRO
- Army Air Defence Corps Celebrates Its 25th Raising Day
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves fixed term for National Trust chairperson
The Union Cabinet has decided to fix three-year term of chairperson and the members of the board of the National Trust, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
- In this regard, it has approved proposal to amend National Trust for Welfare of Person with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act (NTA), 1999.
- The proposed amendments are aimed at eliminating any chance of prolonged continuation in the same post by any incumbent.
- At present, Section 4 (1) of NTA, 1999 provides that chairperson or member of board of National Trust will continue in office beyond prescribed term of 3 years until his successor is appointed by government. In case of resignation of chairperson, section 5(1) of act provides for him to continue in office until his successor is appointed by government.
- The wording of above provisions of NT Act in its present form has resulted in continuation of chairman for indefinite period as no suitable successor could be found eligible for appointment.
About National Trust:
- The National Trust is a statutory body of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
- It was set up under the “National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Retardation and Multiple Disabilities” Act (Act 44 of 1999).
- The National Trust was envisaged with a core mission of providing opportunities for capacity development of Persons with Disabilities and their families, fulfilling their rights, facilitating and promoting the creation of an enabling environment and an inclusive society.
Disabilities under NTA
The National Trust works for the welfare of persons with any of the following four disabilities
- Cerebral Palsy
- Mental Retardation
- Multiple Disabilities
The objectives of the National Trust in particular are:
- to enable and empower persons with disability to live as independently and as fully as possible within and as close to their community as possible;
- to facilitate the realisation of equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of persons with disability;
- to extend support to its registered organisations to provide need based services; and
- to evolve procedures for appointments of guardians and trustees for persons with disabilities.
- The National Trust has been set up to discharge two basic duties – legal and welfare.
- Legal duties are discharged through Local Level Committee (LLC) set up at district level under the chairmanship of the District Collector / District Magistrate and providing legal guardianship.
- Welfare duty is discharged through the schemes and activities. The schemes and activities of the National Trust inter-alia include training, awareness and capacity building programmes and shelter, care giving and empowerment.
Composition of National Trust:
- A Chairperson to be appointed by the Central Government from amongst the persons having expertise and experience in the field of autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disability.
- Nine persons to be appointed in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed from amongst the registered organisations out of which three members each shall be from voluntary organisations, associations of parents of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disability and from associations of persons with disability, members; Provided that initial appointment under this clause/shall be made by the Central Government by nomination.
- Eight persons not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India nominated by the Government to represent the Ministries or Departments of Social Justice and Empowerment, Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, Finance, Labour, Education, Urban Affairs and Employment and Rural Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Members, ex officio.
- Three Persons to be nominated by the Board representing the associations of trade, commerce and industry engaged in philanthropic activities, members.
- The Chief Executive Officer, who, shall be of the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, Member-Secretary, ex officio.
Various Schemes of National Trust:
- DISHA (Early Intervention and School Readiness Scheme)
- VIKAAS (Day Care)
- SAMARTH (Respite Care)
- GHARAUNDA (Group Home for Adults)
- NIRAMAYA (Health Insurance Scheme)
- SAHYOGI (Caregiver training scheme)
- GYAN PRABHA (Educational support)
- PRERNA (Marketing Assistance)
- SAMBHAV (Aids and Assisted Devices)
- BADHTE KADAM (Awareness and Community Interaction)
Governors panel submits report on best practices to President
The Committee of Governors submitted its report ‘Rajyapal –VikasKeRajdoot: Catalytic Role of Governors as Agents for Change in Society’ to President Ram Nath Kovind.
About the report submitted by the committee:
- The report has focused on key work areas of development and the role that governors can play in taking it forward.
- It describes an action-outcome framework that can be adopted by Raj Bhavans in their role as change agents and lists out potential priorities.
- It suggests governors play a mentoring role in overall implementation of developmental schemes in their states.
- The report deals with best practices that offices of governors have been adopting, issues and an action-outcome framework to deal with them.
About the Committee of Governors:
- The committee was constituted in October last year at the 48th conference of governors.
- The committee was constituted to examine the role of governors in taking forward the developmental process.
- ESL Narasimhan (Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana),
- Ram Naik (Governor of Uttar Pradesh),
- Tathagata Roy (Governor of Tripura)
- Acharya Devvrat (Governor of Himachal Pradesh) and
- BanwarilalPurohit, (Governor of Tamil Nadu)
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves major changes in FDI policy
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to a number of amendments in the FDI Policy.
- These are intended to liberalise and simplify the FDI policy so as to provide ease of doing business in the country.
- In turn, it will lead to larger FDI inflows contributing to growth of investment, income and employment.
Amendments in FDI policy:
- 100% FDI under automatic route for Single Brand Retail Trading
- 100% FDI under automatic route in Construction Development
- Foreign airlines allowed to invest up to 49% under approval route in Air India
- FIIs/FPIs allowed to invest in Power Exchanges through primary market
- Definition of ‘medical devices’ amended in the FDI Policy
FDI policy reforms:
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a major driver of economic growth and a source of non-debt finance for the economic development of the country.
- Government has put in place an investor friendly policy on FDI, under which FDI up to 100%, is permitted on the automatic route in most sectors/ activities.
- In the recent past, the Government has brought FDI policy reforms in a number of sectors viz. Defence, Construction Development, Insurance, Pension, Other Financial Services, Asset reconstruction Companies, Broadcasting, Civil Aviation, Pharmaceuticals, Trading etc.
- Measures undertaken by the Government have resulted in increased FDI inflows in to the country.
CCEA gives nod for continuing MPLAD scheme till March 2020
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its approval to continuation of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) till term of 14th Finance Commission i.e. 2020.
Implications of this move:
- The continuation of scheme will entail annual allocation of Rs.3,950 crore and total outlay of Rs. 11,850 crores over next 3 years.
About MPLAD Scheme:
The MPLAD Scheme is Central Sector Scheme launched in 1993-94.
- To provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.
What kind of works can be recommended?
- Works, developmental in nature, based on locally felt needs and always available for the use of the public at large, are eligible under the scheme.
- Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.
Role of MPs:
- Role of MPs for the projects is only recommendatory i.e. they can only recommend their choice of works to concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
Recommending powers of MPs
- The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
- The Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament can recommend works in one or more districts in the State from where he/she has been elected.
- The Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select any District in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.
- The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MSPI) is nodal ministry to coordinate work under scheme.
- The scheme is governed by set of guidelines (last revised in June, 2016).
Execution of works:
- The MPs recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
- The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.
- Under this scheme, the funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities on receipt of requisite documents and as per these guidelines.
- The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable i.e. if the fund for particular work is not spent in that year, it will be carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
- The annual entitlement under the scheme per MP at present is Rs 5 crore.
Analysis of the scheme:
- Since its inception of the scheme, a total number of 18,82,180 works for Rs. 44,929.17 crore have been sanctioned till August, 2017 from MPLADS fund.
- It has resulted into creation of various durable community assets which have impacted the social, cultural and economic life of the local communities in one way or the other.
Gujarat tops new logistics index that flags inefficiency of states
Gujarat has topped Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) index, a logistics index chart, which is an indicator of the efficiency of logistical services necessary for encouraging exports and economic growth.
About LEADS index:
The LEADs index is a composite indicator to assess international trade logistics across States/UTs based on stakeholders’ survey conducted by Deloitte for Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- LEADS is based on eight parameters such as infrastructure, services, timeliness, track and trace, competitiveness of pricing, safety of cargo, operating environment and regulatory process.
- LEADS is loosely based on World Bank’s biannual Logistics Performance Index (LPI) on which India was ranked 35 among 160 countries in 2016, up from 54 in 2014.
- It aims to serve as an indicator of efficiency of logistical services necessary for promoting exports in particular and economic growth in general.
Highlights of the index:
- Punjab has acquired second position followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- Among the Union Territories, Daman & Diu occupied top slot followed by NCT Delhi and Chandigarh.
- As regards the hilly states, Tripura was on top followed by Mizoram and Meghalaya.
- The study found that supply chain efficiencies and economies of scale are yet to be unlocked, mostly due to suboptimal investment in building scale in infrastructure, automation, human capital and technology.
- It also highlighted problems such as inadequate terminal capacity, poor last-mile terminal connectivity and issues in regulatory services provided by government agencies, among others.
- It also underlined issues specific to certain states.
- The report has identified focus areas where action can help improve. Regulation through cumbersome rules, rigid slabs for rail cargo, poor customs facilities and frequent stoppages have been flagged as challenges.
- Similarly, it has suggested that digitisation and last mile connectivity, specially road links to ports and airports, or inadequate capacity at ports in addition to lack of grievance mechanism, need to be addressed.
- In a major push to developing an integrated logistics framework in the country, including industrial parks, cold chains and warehousing facilities, the government in November granted infrastructure status to the logistics sector, enabling the industry to access cheaper finances.
- The government also created the position of a special secretary in the commerce ministry to exclusively handle logistics.
Government wants states to drive export growth
Recently, the 3rd meeting of the Council for Trade Development and Promotion (CTDP) was concluded.
- It was headed by the Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu.
- At this meeting, in order to make India’s export policy more state-centric, the government has asked all states to come up with their exclusive export policy.
State governments’ export policies:
- So far, 14 states have already prepared their export policy, including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir.
- There are three other states — Goa, Delhi and Sikkim — which are about to start preparing theirs.
About Council for Trade Development and Promotion (CTDP):
Constituted in 2015, CTDP was to ensure a continuous dialogue with State Governments/UTs on measures for providing International trade enabling environment in States.
- The council was constituted to promote India’s overseas shipments.
- It acts as platform to develop partnership with states with aim to boost international trade.
- It also seeks to create a framework for making states active partners in boosting India’s exports.
Composition of CTDP:
- The Union Commerce and Industry Minister is Chairperson of CTDP.
- Ministers’ in-charge of Trade and Commerce in State Governments/UTs are its members.
- Besides 14 secretaries of central government, including commerce, revenue, shipping, civil aviation, agriculture, food processing and economic affairs are also its members.
Mandate of CTDP:
- Provide platform to State Governments/UTs for articulating their perspectives on trade policy.
- Help State Governments/UTs develop and pursue export strategies in line with national Foreign Trade Policy
- Provide platform for deliberation on need for infrastructure relevant for promoting trade and for identification of impediments and infrastructure gaps which adversely affect India’s export.
- Provide platform to Union Government for apprising State Governments/UTs about international development affecting India’s trade potential and opportunities and prepare them to deal with evolving situation.
- Facilitate mechanism for discussion on operationalization of trade infrastructure.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Second edition of the Goa Bird Festival
The second edition of the Goa Bird Festival will be held from January 12 to 14 at Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Canacona.
- The Goa State Forest department is organising the event with the support of Goa Tourism, the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) and Birderpics.com.
- The festival will host some of the country’s top naturalists, photographers and artists as resource persons.
- Goa is said to have over 440 species of birds out of over 1,200 in the country. Some of the birds are endemic to the region as the State offers a unique confluence of two diverse ecosystems — tropical forests and marine.
About Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary:
- Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1968 as the second largest National Park in Goa.
- Cortigao National Park is primarily known for its ultra-high (30 meters!) trees with so much heavy cover, that sometimes do not even access the sun light onto the earth surface.
- Forest vegetation in Cotigao is represented by three main types: deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen.
Bilateral & International Relations
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways signs MoU with Transport for London
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has signed an MoU with Transport for London (TFL).
- The MoU is aimed at using the expertise of TFL to revamp the public transport architecture in the country.
Significance of the MoU:
- The proposed MoU will help to revamp the public transport and augment passenger capacity by way of creating a sustainable public transport system.
- It will help in adopting best practices for policy reforms in the transport sector.
- It will also enable improved customer services, harness from scientific data analysis and implement effective IT systems in the transport sector.
- The MoU can see an increase the use of electric vehicles in public transport and promote digital transaction for ticketing.
- It can also help in improving major procurement strategies including PPP models for operations, infrastructure maintenance strategies, infrastructure design and delivery, besides promoting behavioral change towards promotion of public transport.
What is Transport for London (TFL)?
- TFL is the agency that manages the transport system for Greater London, and has demonstrated its capability by creating a strong and dependable public transport system in the city.
Why India should learn from London transport?
- TFL has created a unique system of operating buses in PPP model with over 17 operators under a single brand.
- A salient feature has been their double decker buses which provide for high capacity with low road space requirement.
- They have also been operating large number of electric and hybrid buses.
- The common mobility card is another successful product launched by TFL which has made travel easy for the commuters and accounting easier for the operators.
- As a result of creation of a successful public transport system in London, the city has not seen any increase in number of their private cars.
4th International Dharma-Dhamma Conference
The 4th International Dharma-Dhamma Conference on “State and Social Order in Dharma-Dhamma Traditions” was held at Rajgir in Nalanda district, Bihar.
- The event was organised as part of commemorative events to celebrate Silver Jubilee (25) year of ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership. (ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
- Its central theme was the ideal state and just social order based on dharmic principles.
- The Conference was organised by Nalanda University, in collaboration with Centre for Study of Religion and Society, India Foundation, Ministry of External Affairs and Vietnam Buddhist University.
- The conference aimed to facilitate crosspollination of ideas and foster harmony at global level.
- It also focused to explore shared values of dharmic traditions, which may provide the guiding light to troubled world today.
Defence & Security Issues
Govt launches Virtual ID to safeguard Aadhaar data
In the wake of reports of an alleged breach of the Aadhaar database published in a newspaper last week, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced two-tier security feature viz. Virtual ID and Limited KYC.
- The move aims to strengthen security and privacy of Aadhaar data.
- It will also reduce the collection of Aadhaar numbers by various agencies.
About Virtual ID:
- The Virtual ID will be random 16-digit number that can be generated from UIDA’s website and give for various purposes, wherever Aadhaar number is necessary to provide.
- It will be linked with biometrics of user that will give any authorised agency limited access of details like name, address and photograph.
- Using it, Aadhaar-card holders do not need to share their actual 12-digit biometric ID for any authentication.
- User can generate as many Virtual IDs as they want. The older ID will get automatically cancelled at time new one is generated.
- It will be obligatory for all agencies that undertake authentication to accept Virtual ID from their users.
- It was introduced to address issue of storage of Aadhaar number within various databases. It will only provide need-based or limited details of user to authorised agency that is providing particular service.
- It will evaluate Authentication User Agencies (AUAs) and split them into two categories: Global AUAs and Local AUAs.
- Global AUAs will have access to full demographic details of an individual along with the ability to store Aadhaar numbers within their system.
- Remaining AUAs will be branded as Local AUAs and will neither get access to full KYC, nor can they can store Aadhaar number on their systems.
- Instead, they will get tokenised number (UID Token) issued by UIDAI to identify their customers. It will be 72 character alphanumeric.
- UID token allows an agency to ensure uniqueness of its beneficiaries, customers etc. without having to store Aadhaar number in their databases.
Science & Technology
Skeletal muscle tissue grown from stem cells
A team of researchers from Duke University has successfully grown the first-ever working human skeletal muscle from pluripotent stem cells, cells that can give rise to any cell type in the body.
How was it made possible?
- Scientists had developed human skeletal muscle using adult skin or blood cells that were reprogrammed into a juvenile, versatile state. These are called “induced pluripotent stem cells” or
- Like naturally-occurring stem cells found in embryos, they can become any other type of human cell. In this case, the iPSCs were coaxed into becoming skeletal muscle cells.
- The breakthrough was made possible by unique cell culture conditions in lab and special 3-D scaffold which allowed cells to grow much faster and longer.
- The tissue contracted and reacted to external stimuli such as electrical pulses or chemical signals. It was also implanted into adult mice, where it survived and functioned for at least three weeks.
Significance of this development:
- The development is breakthrough that holds promise for sufferers of degenerative muscular diseases.
- This technique will allow scientists to grow endless amount of functioning muscle in lab to test to test drugs and gene treatments for degenerative diseases.
What are Stem cells?
- Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide to produce more stem cells.
- They are found in multicellular organisms.
Types of Stem cells:
In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells: They can be isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts and
- Adult stem cells: They are found in various tissues which can act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues.
Key Facts for Prelims
Limca Records for All Woman Staff
- Mumbai’s Matunga station on Central Railway (CR) has entered the Limca Book of Records as first all-women station in India.
- Matunga Railway Station has become the first station in India which has all women staff managing the operations of the stations.
- Ladies staff across all departments viz. operating, commercial, RPF, etc. are posted at Matunga Railway Station to make it first of its kind station on Railways.
New chairman of ISRO
- Rocket scientist K. Sivan has been appointed as next Secretary of the Department of Space and Chairman of Space Commission and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- The decision in this regard was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).
Army Air Defence Corps Celebrates Its 25th Raising Day
- On January 10, 2018, 25th Raising Day of Army Air Defence was celebrated.
- On this day, all ranks of Army Air Defence, rededicated themselves selflessly towards the service of the Nation and their motto, ‘AKASHE SHATRUN JAHI’.
About Corps of Army Air Defence:
- Corps of Army Air Defence is one of the active corps of Indian army tasked with protection of Indian air spaces from enemy aircrafts and missiles, specially below 5000 feet.
- It was first raised during British era in 1939 and it took active participation in the Second World War. However, since January 10, 1994, it is exercising autonomous status.
- Since then, it has grown in stature and proved its mettle in almost all major conflicts.