Government Schemes & Policies
- Govt launches ‘technology challenge’ aiming to bring an end to manual scavenging
- Govt approves net neutrality
- Entire Indian men’s hockey team included in TOPS
- 11th July: World Population Day
Bilateral & International Relations
- UNSC adopts Resolution 2427 to protect children in armed conflict
- India becomes newest shareholder of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Science & Technology
- India’s genetically modified crop area fifth largest in world
- India climbs to 57th position in Global Innovation Index Rankings
Key Facts for Prelims
- 60 Anna Canteens
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Government Schemes & Policies
Govt launches ‘technology challenge’ aiming to bring an end to manual scavenging
With an aim of eliminating human entry into septic tanks and drains for cleaning, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has launched a “Technology Challenge: Identifying solutions for cleaning of sewerage systems and septic tanks” seeking suitable solutions from individuals and NGOs.
- The challenge will be a part of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention to be held on 2 October, will remain open till 14 August.
About the ‘technology challenge’:
- Elimination of human entry into sewer drains and cleaning of the septic tank is the ultimate goal of this challenge.
- Proposals have been invited by the ministry from interested innovators, individuals, consortium partners, companies, academic institutions, research and development centers, NGOs and municipal bodies to provide innovative technical solutions which eliminate the need for human entry into septic tanks and sewers.
- The ‘technology challenge’ will be conducted for two separate categories — ‘Technological solutions for cleaning and maintenance of sewerage systems that eliminate need for human entry’ and ‘Technological solutions for cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks that eliminate need for human entry’.
About Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention:
- It will be launched at the 150th anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
- It will be a first-of-its-kind International Sanitation Convention.
- Ministers from over 70 countries will be invited and taken on a ‘Gandhi Trail’ in Gujarat.
- The government will use the occasion to “showcase its performance” and “success story” in the Swachh Bharat programme in the past four years, which was launched on October 2, 2014, and have a face-to-face dialogue with the world leaders to share their experiences on sanitation programmes.
Govt approves net neutrality
Telecom Commission (a group within India’s Department of Telecom) has approved the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on net neutrality.
- The move aims to ensure that all web traffic is treated fairly, and that internet service providers won’t block, throttle, or favor any content or services (with a few reasonable exceptions).
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online.
- Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech.
- It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks.
- Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.
- Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes.
- An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.
Approved principles of net neutrality:
Prohibition on preferential treatment:
- As per the net neutrality rules in India, mobile operators, internet providers and social-media and internet companies cannot engage in, or seek, preferential treatment as there will now be prohibition on any kind of interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting differential speeds or treatment to any content.
- Any efforts to create zero-rated platforms have now been blocked. Zero-rated platforms, which had earlier been tried (by companies such as Airtel and Facebook) but barred, offer only a certain category of services and websites as free, thus creating paid layers and stifling competition and innovation.
- Under net neutrality, online access is unrestricted and non-discriminatory. The only exceptions are new and emerging services such as autonomous driving, tele-medicine or remote-diagnostic services, which may require prioritised internet lanes and faster-than-normal speeds.
- A committee will look into the possible exceptions for “critical services” which will also be defined keeping in view the basic tenets of net neutrality.
Significance of the move:
- The government’s decision is being seen as progressive as it will not allow any mobile operator, internet service provider or online/social media giant to create monopolies on the internet by getting specialized treatment by paying for it. The rules of equal access will be maintained and no company can buy special treatment for itself or its services.
- It’s a huge win for those who favour free and fair internet access in the country. It also prevents programs like Facebook’s Free Basics, which granted free access to mobile sites on the zero-rated platform that were allowed in by the company.
Entire Indian men’s hockey team included in TOPS
The Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) of Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs has included entire Men’s Hockey team of India under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
- This is first instance that entire team has been made beneficiary of the scheme as earlier only individual athletes from different sports were included as beneficiaries of the scheme.
What is the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme?
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Department of Sports) have formulated ‘NSDF Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme’ in the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) with the objective of identifying and supporting potential medal prospects for 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
- Focused disciplines will be Athletics, Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Wrestling and Shooting.
- Under the scheme, the selected athletes will be provided financial assistance for their customized training at Institutes having world class facilities and other necessary support.
- Sports Authority of India (SAI) and federations, which are members of Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), will be nodal agencies for disbursal for fund.
- Benchmark for selection of athletes under the scheme will be in relation to international standards.
- There will be annual/semi-annual review of performance of selected athletes.
About Mission Olympic Cell:
The Mission Olympic Cell is a dedicated body created to assist the athletes who are selected under the TOP Scheme.
- The MOC is under the Chairmanship of the Director General, Sports Authority (DG, SAI).
- The idea of the MOC is to debate, discuss and decide the processes and methods so that the athlete receives best assistance.
- The MOC also focuses on selection, exclusion and retention of athletes, coaches, training institutes that can receive TOPS assistance.
Abinav Bindra Committee:
- It was constituted to identify and support potential medal prospects for 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games under the scheme.
11th July: World Population Day
World Population day is an annual event, observed on July 11 every year, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues.
- The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989.
- It was inspired by the public interest in Five Billion Day on July 11, 1987-approximately the date on which the world’s population reached five billion people.
- World Population Day aims at increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.
- The theme for the year 2018 is: “Family Planning is a Human right”.
India’s ‘Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh’:
The Government of India had set up a National Population Stabilization Fund (NPSF) in the year 2004-05 with a one-time grant of Rs.100 crore in the form of a corpus fund.
- This is now known as Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK). To empower the NPSF, Government of India has set up Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK).
- This is an autonomous body registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. JSK can take all the policy related decisions. It can raise contributions from organisations and individuals that support population stabilisation.
- JSK implements two schemes, namely, Santushti and Prerna.
- Santushti is a strategy of Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) for the highly populated states of India viz Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh & Odisha. Under this strategy, Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh, invites private sector gynaecologists and vasectomy surgeons to conduct sterilization operations in Public Private Partnership mode.
- In order to help push up the age of marriage of girls and space the birth of children in the interest of health of young mothers and infants, Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilization Fund) has launched PRERNA, a Responsible Parenthood Strategy in seven focus states namely Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
Bilateral & International Relations
UNSC adopts Resolution 2427 to protect children in armed conflict
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted Resolution 2427.
- The resolution has won unanimous approval of the 15 members of the council.
What is Resolution 2427?
The resolution is aimed at further crystalizing the protection of children in armed conflicts, including by combating their recruitment by non-State armed groups and treating formerly recruited children primarily as victims.
- It strongly condemns the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and abductions.
- It also condemns attacks against schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict and all other violations of international law committed against children in situations of armed conflict.
- It demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children.
- It also emphasizes the responsibility of all states to put an end to impunity and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children.
- The resolution reiterates the Security Council’s readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children.
- It calls on member states and the United Nations to mainstream child protection into all relevant activities in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations with the aim of sustaining peace and preventing conflict.
According to an annual report of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict that was released last week,
- Over 21,000 cases of grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict have been verified by the United Nations for 2017, a drastic increase from the previous year with 15,500 violations.
- Among the violations in 2017, some 15,000 were perpetrated by non-state armed groups and about 6,000 were committed by government forces.
About United Nations Security Council (UNSC):
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
- It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- The Security Council consists of fifteen members.
- Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members. These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
- The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.
India becomes newest shareholder of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
India was formally inducted as 69th shareholder of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
- The EBRD’s board of governors, which represents all existing shareholders, voted unanimously in favour of the country’s application in March 2018.
What does that mean?
- India being shareholder, will only take shareholding in EBRD and will not be recipient of EBRD financing. But it may benefit India indirectly through EBRD projects or if Indian companies invest alongside the bank.
- This development will pave way for more joint investment with Indian companies across EBRD’s regions of operation.
- It opens up further joint investment prospects for India in markets such as Central Asia, Egypt and Jordan.
How this membership is significant for India?
- The membership of EBRD will enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests.
- It will give India access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
- It will boost India’s investment opportunities and also improve investment climate in country.
- The membership of EBRD will help to increase scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, energy and Information Technology.
- It will also help India leverage technical assistance and sectorial knowledge of EBRD for benefit of development of private sector.
- The membership of EBRD will also enhance competitive strength of Indian firms and provide enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
- It will open up new vistas for Indian professionals on one hand and give fillip to Indian exports on other.
- It will also have positive impact on employment generating potential due to increased economic activities.
- It will also enable Indian nationals to get employment opportunity in EBRD.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution that supports projects in over 30 countries, from eastern Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
- Investing primarily in private sector clients whose needs cannot be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and democratic market economies.
- The EBRD is owned by 65 countries and two intergovernmental institutions: the European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mandate of EBRD:
- The mandate of the EBRD stipulates that it must only work in countries that are committed to democratic principles.
- Respect for the environment is part of the strong corporate governance attached to all EBRD investments.
Support provided by EBRD:
- The EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both new ventures and investments in existing companies.
- It also works with publicly owned companies, to support privatisation, restructuring state-owned firms and improving municipal services.
- It uses close relationship with governments in the region to promote policies that will bolster the business environment.
- The powers of the EBRD are vested in the Board of Governors to which each member appoints a governor, generally the minister of finance.
- The Board of Governors delegates most powers to the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the EBRD’s strategic direction.
- The President is elected by the Board of Governors and is the legal representative of the EBRD. Under the guidance of the Board of Directors, the President manages the EBRD’s work.
Science & Technology
India’s genetically modified crop area fifth largest in world
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)’s latest ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’ report, India has the world’s fifth largest cultivated area under genetically modified (GM) crops, at 11.4 million hectares (mh) in 2017.
- ISAAA is a non-profit international organization that shares agricultural biotechnology, focusing on genetic engineering.
Highlights of the report:
- Unlike other big growers, India’s entire GM crop area is under a single crop — cotton — incorporating genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt soil bacterium coding for resistance against heliothis bollworm insect pests.
- The country with the highest area under transgenic crops, at 75 mh, is the United States. It includes soyabean, maize (corn), cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar-beet, potato, apples, squash and papaya.
- The report shows farmers across the world to have planted 189.8 mh under transgenic crops last year. This is as against 1.7 mh in 1996, the year when they were grown commercially for the first time. Total planted area grew particularly during the first decade of this century, while slowing down in the last five years.
- The report has estimated the highest share in the world’s total 189.8 mh GM crop area for 2017 to be of soyabean (94.1 mh), followed by maize (59.7 mh), cotton (24.1 mh), canola (10.2 mh), alfalfa (1.2 mh) and sugar-beet (0.50 mh).
What is a Genetically modified crop?
Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques.
- In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.
- Examples in food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, reduction of spoilage, or resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to a herbicide), or improving the nutrient profile of the crop.
- Examples in non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels, and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bioremediation.
- Potential benefits of GM plants include higher crop yields, reduced farm costs, increased farm profit, improvement in health and the environment.
- Potential risks of GM plants include the potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops, the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods, the likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives, the risk of these toxins affecting non-target organisms.
GM crops in India:
- In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration — apart from the already commercialised Bt/insect-resistant cotton — include glyphosate-tolerant cotton and biotech hybrid mustard.
- Both the Bollgard II-Roundup Ready Flex (BGII-RRF) cotton event of Monsanto (incorporating Bt as well as glyphosate-tolerant genes) and transgenic mustard developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (harbouring three alien genes that enable higher yields through hybridisation) have undergone all the mandated bio-safety research and open field trials. Their commercial release has, however, been stuck due to opposition from environmental activists.
India climbs to 57th position in Global Innovation Index Rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 has placed India at the 57th position among 130 countries.
About Global Innovation Index (GII):
The GII global ranking is published by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) – a specialized agency of United Nations in association with Cornell University and graduate business school INSEAD.
- It ranks nations based on 80 indicators, ranging from intellectual property filing rates to R&D, online creativity, mobile application creation, computer software spending, education spending, scientific & technical publications and ease of starting business.
- India’s Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is one of the knowledge partners which assists GII team in bringing out the annual ranking.
- GII is published annually since 2007 and is considered leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into state of innovation around the world.
- It is being used by them to evaluate progress on continual basis.
About GII 2018:
- The GII 2018 marks the 11th edition of the GII, and the beginning of its second decade providing data and insights gathered from tracking innovation across the globe.
- This year’s edition, is dedicated to the theme of Energizing the World with Innovation. It analyses the energy innovation landscape of the next decade and identifies possible breakthroughs in fields such as energy production, storage, distribution, and consumption.
- It also looks at how breakthrough innovation occurs at the grassroots level and describes how small-scale renewable systems are on the rise.
Highlights of the GII 2018:
Performance by various countries:
- Switzerland is at the top followed by Netherlands and Sweden. Since 2011, Switzerland has been ranked at the top every year.
- The US drops down to sixth from fourth last year.
- Four of the top five innovation clusters are in Asia, based on patents and publishing. San Francisco is the only innovation cluster outside Asia among the top five.
- Tokyo is at the top, and two of the top five clusters are in China.
- China, at 17, broke into the world’s top 20 most-innovative economies.
- On a new indicator – mobile-app creation – Cyprus, Finland and Lithuania emerged as global leaders in development of mobile apps relative to GDP.
- This year, India has moved up 3 places as compared to 60th rank in GII 2017 and emerged as top-ranked economy in Central and South Asia. It has consistently moving up on global ranking from 81st in 2015 to 57th this year.
- India is a top performer in the lower middle income group, where it is ranked at fifth position. It is the most innovative country in its region of central and southern Asia.
- In the indicators that capture the quality of innovation inputs and outputs, India is ranked second after China in the lower and upper middle income group combined.
- However, India has fared badly on indicators such as ease of starting business, political stability and safety, overall education and environmental performance.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Key Facts for Prelims
60 Anna Canteens
- Andhra Pradesh Government has launched 60 Anna Canteens across the state in the first phase to provide subsidised food to urban poor.
- These canteens aim to tackle hunger in urban areas.
Subsidised food canteens in other states:
- ‘Amma’ canteens in Tamil Nadu
- Annapurna Rasoi Yojana in Rajasthan,
- Deendayal canteens in Madhya Pradesh,
- Aam Aadmi canteens in Delhi, etc.