Polity & Governance
- Strategic Partnership (SP) model
- Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims worst off: India Exclusion Report (IXR)
- Voluntary unemployment rising
Environment & Ecology
- regulator gives nod for GM mustard
Science & Technology
- China tests ‘Lunar Palace’ as it eyes moon mission
Key Facts for Prelims
- Rail Connectivity for Chardham Pilgrimage
- ‘Spyder’ surface-to-air missile
- In a First for a Government Owned Company appoints Transgenders
- e-Krishi Samvad
- Bhishtis- the traditional water carriers
- Amitabh Bachchan appointed as WHO’s goodwill ambassador for hepatitis
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Polity & Governance
Strategic Partnership (SP) model
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley recently held consultations with representatives of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CII) on the proposed Strategic Partnership (SP) model.
What is Strategic Partnership (SP) model?
Strategic Partnership (SP) model is meant to promote the private sector in defence manufacturing.
- It is intended to enhance competition, increase efficiencies, facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology, create a tiered industrial ecosystem, ensure development of a wider skill base, trigger innovation and enable participation in global value chains as well as promote exports.
- Under the model, the government intends to boost private sector participation and create domestic expertise in four key areas, namely, fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armoured vehicles and main battle tanks.
- One company would be selected for each area based on its competence, which would then tie up with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer selected through the procurement process, to build the platform in India with significant technology transfer.
Armed forces’ concerns over the SP model:
- The SP model was being resisted by some of the MoD bureaucrats on account of disagreement over the entrance of a single private strategic partner in each segment, such as aircraft and helicopters, armoured fighting vehicles, submarines, ammunition and macro process management of issues.
- The Armed Forces are apprehensive over the overall model as they feel the SP model will block new technology and new players coming to the defence sector.
Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims worst off: India Exclusion Report (IXR)
According to the 2016 India Exclusion Report (IXR) released by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), in terms of exclusion from access to public goods, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims continue to remain the worst-hit communities.
- The report has found out that the same historically disadvantaged groups such as Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and persons with disabilities and age-related vulnerabilities continue to remain as the most severely and consistently excluded groups of the society.
- The 2016 IXR Report determines exclusion by taking into account four public goods, namely, pensions for the elderly, digital access, agricultural land, and legal justice for undertrials.
Highlights of the report:
- Disadvantaged groups in India – Dalits, tribals, elderly, disabled – continue to be excluded from four key basic public goods like pensions, digital access, land, labour & resources and legal justice.
Rich & Poor
- Since liberalization, while the country grew three-fold in the first four decades since Independence, rate of poverty fell only marginally to 0.65 percent between 1990 and 2005 from 0.94 percent between 1981-1990.
- The economic growth also led to a 12-fold increase in wealth for the richest 10 percent since 2000. However, for the poorest 10 percent, income increased just three-fold leading to low levels of job creation.
- With the respect to the criteria of agricultural land as a public good, the report has found that the landowners to be invariably belonging to the upper castes, cultivators to be belonging to the middle castes.
- Dalits and Adivasis remain largely as the agricultural workers and landlessness was highest among Dalits (57.3%).
- Also, 52.6% of Muslims and 8% of women-headed households were landless.
- In addition, Adivasis constituted around 40% of all those displaced by the developmental activities.
- Land reform efforts have not benefited Dalits, women or Muslims significantly.
- The land holdings of Dalits, Muslims and women were found to be meagre in size.
- Also, the Land allotments to SC/ST households were not implemented efficiently.
Jobs in India
- Job creation fell to 1.35 lakh new jobs in 2015.
- Very few jobs have been added, mostly of low quality, whereas employment opportunities in public enterprises, the formal private sector, and agriculture actually declined.
- From 1999-2000 to 2009-2010, employment growth was hardly 1.5 percent. This is when India’s economy grew 7.52 percent per annum.
- Only 2.7 million jobs were added in the period during 2004–10, compared to over 60 million during the previous five-year period.
- Even though India has been ranked among the top five nations in terms of the number of internet users, almost 1.063 billion Indians were found to be offline.
- Poverty and geographic location to be the two major barriers to digital access.
- Problems like poor infrastructure, inadequate institutional frameworks, low literacy in the targeted areas, and poor cooperation from government officials are the major reasons behind poor implementation of government schemes aimed at enhancing digital access.
- The report has also cited the reluctance on the part of government to be a signatory to a non-binding UN Human Rights Council resolution to protect human rights on the Internet.
Voluntary unemployment rising
NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy has flagged a dramatic rise in voluntary unemployment across the country, where people choose not to work below a certain income level after ‘investing’ in education.
- The trouble with current official data on labour and employment is that they can be used to claim ‘jobless growth’ as well as ‘growth-less jobs’ — and fail to capture the pre-dominantly informal and unorganised nature of the Indian economy.
- In reality, India needs to create 10 to 12 million new jobs.
- This remark assumes significance as a task force led by the Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya was recently formed on employment data.
- While the government attaches highest priority to job creation, policy making and analysis is conducted in a data vacuum, so the task force has been tasked with coming up with reliable and timely data solution for tracking employment trends.
Environment & Ecology
Govt. regulator gives nod for GM mustard
India’s central biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared the genetically modified (GM) Mustard for commercial cultivation and recommended its approval to the environment ministry.
- The GM mustard, developed by a Delhi University institution, is only the second food crop which got its clearance from the central regulator.
- The GEAC had earlier in 2010 cleared the Bt Brinjal but the decision was not accepted by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
- Currently, only Bt Cotton – a non-food GM crop – is commercially cultivated in the country.
- An application for commercial release of the GM Mustard was filed in December 2015.
- The GEAC had subsequently set up a sub-committee to examine the safety aspect of the use of transgenic variety of the mustard. The sub-committee had last year given its safety clearance while noting that the GM Mustard is safe for human consumption and environment.
- Decision of the GEAC was, however, vehemently opposed by environmentalists and anti-GM groups.
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.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- It was set up under ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- The GEAC approves activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- It is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials (Biosafety Research Level trial-I and II known as BRL-I and BRL-II).
Authorities under the Rule of 1986:
The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities for handling of various aspects of the rules.
- Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
- Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
- Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
- State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
- District Level Committee (DLC).
Science & Technology
China tests ‘Lunar Palace’ as it eyes moon mission
China has set up a 160-square-meter (1,720-square-foot) laboratory — dubbed as “Yuegong-1”, or “Lunar Palace” for simulating a lunar-like environment.
About the experiment:
- As part of this experiment, four Chinese students will live in the laboratory for up to 200 days in a bid to prepare for China’s long term goal of putting humans on the moon.
- The student volunteers would be sealed inside the cabin with no input from the outside world in order to simulate long-term, self-contained space mission.
- The cabin will have facilities for treatment of human wastes through bio-fermentation process.
- The experimental crops would also be grown in the laboratory with the help of food and waste byproducts.
About the Lunar Palace:
- The Lunar Palace is hailed as the world’s third bioregenerative life-support base and the first to be developed in China.
- The Lunar Palace is the first of its kind facility to involve animals and microorganisms as well as plants and humans.
What is a Bioregenerative Life Support System?
- It is an artificial ecosystem where animals, plants and microorganisms co-exist.
- It is the most advanced life support technology and can provide a habitation environment similar to the Earth’s biosphere for space missions with extended durations.
- The system enables the production of food internally and regeneration of oxygen through the vegetation compartment.
- It also enables recycling of water and the crew’s waste is in turn used as a fertilizer for the growth of vegetation.
Key Facts for Prelims
Rail Connectivity for Chardham Pilgrimage
- The Indian Railways is taking the significant step to commence the Final Location survey for a single BG line rail connectivity for the Chardham Pilgrimage (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath & Kedarnath).
- It is a step towards the vision to link the Chardham pilgrimage centres through rail connectivity.
- Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), a Public Sector Enterprise under Ministry of Railways has been entrusted to undertake the Final Location Survey for rail connectivity to Chardham Yatra via Dehradun & Karanprayag in the State of Uttarakhand.
‘Spyder’ surface-to-air missile
- India recently test fired a surface-to-air missile Spyder (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) from a test range in Odisha as part of missile launch practice of a series of tests of the short-range quick reaction.
- Spyder is an acquired missile system from Israel which is a short-range, quick reaction surface-to-air missile to neutralise enemy targets up to a distance of 15 km and at heights between 20-and-9,000 metres.
- Spyder is however, shorter than India’s indigenously developed surface-to-air ‘Akash’ missile, which has a strike range of 25 km.
- Spyder is an all-weather missile which has an automatic process of engaging an aggressive aircraft or missile. Besides aircraft and UAVs, it can also neutralise low-level cruise missiles.
In a First for a Government Owned Company appoints Transgenders
- Kochi Metro will employ 23 members from the transgender community.
- This is the first time a government owned company has formally appointed members of the transgender community.
- While the better educated workers would be posted at ticket counters, the rest will be deputed for housekeeping works, customer relations, parking, gardening and to man the coach-depot canteen.
- All of the workers have been appointed after written test and interview and have been imparted training in soft and technical skills.
- e-Krishi Samvad, an online interface, was recently launched by the government.
- e-Krishi Samvad is internet-based interface and is a unique platform that will provide direct and effective solutions to the problems faced by farmers and stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
- With this, people can get the appropriate solutions from the subject matter specialists and institutes through web or SMS.
- Stakeholders can upload photographs related to diseases of the crops, animals or fishes for diagnostics and remedial measures instantly from the specialists.
- The platform is helpful to get information pertaining to welfare and development of agricultural stakeholders.
Bhishtis- the traditional water carriers
- Bhishtis are in news as they are fast vanishing from the streets of India’s capital city of Delhi.
- They are a Muslim tribe or biradari found in North India, Pakistan and the Terai region of Nepal.
- They are also known as (Shaikh Abbasi) Dhund Abbasi and Saqqa.
- In Maharashtra, the tribe is often referred to as Pakhali.
- Bhishtis are the traditional water carriers. They have been supplying businesses, pilgrims and passersbys with swigs from their swollen canteens since the Mughals ruled India, an era before piped water sounded the death knell for their trade.
Amitabh Bachchan appointed as WHO’s goodwill ambassador for hepatitis
- World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed Amitabh Bachchan as its Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region.
- He has been appointed to boost awareness to stop the spread of hepatitis.
- Hepatitis viruses is one of the common cause of liver damage but other infections, toxic substances such as alcohol, certain medicine, food contaminants, bad lifestyle and autoimmune diseases may also result in chronic hepatitis.