Polity & Governance
- Bengaluru Named Among World’s Top 25 High-Tech Cities
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves introduction of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament
- “Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund”
- Cabinet approves survey of Un-appraised Areas of Sedimentary Basins of India
- BSNL mobile tower assets to be hived off into separate company
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- ZSI produces first compendium of animal diversity in the Sundarban islands
- “Wood is Good” Campaign
Science & Technology
- NASA’s Cassini completes last flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan
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Polity & Governance
Bengaluru Named Among World’s Top 25 High-Tech Cities
According to research firm 2thinknow that specializes in analyzing innovative cities, Bengaluru has emerged among the top 25 high-tech cities of the world.
About the rankings:
- Research firm 2thinknow ranked 85 cities keeping 10 factors in mind: number of patents filed per capita, startups, tech venture capitalists, ranking in other innovation datasets, and level of smartphone use.
Highlights of the rankings:
- Bengaluru stands at number 19, climbing rapidly from the 49th spot it was at last year. Bengaluru’s rise in ranks has been due to the influx of IT companies and the city’s growing population of digital natives.
- San Francisco, the ‘Silicon Valley’, is at No. 1 spot. New York comes behind the Silicon Valley.
- Beijing and Shanghai rank higher than Bengaluru this year, occupying 16th and 17th spots, respectively.
- London, a city with more startups and programmers than any city in the world, is listed at No. 3. Los Angeles is at No. 4. Ranked number 5 is the city of future, Seoul.
- Taipei in Taiwan, Boston in Massachusetts, Singapore, Toronto and Chicago make the top 10.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves introduction of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament
The Union Cabinet has given approved introduction of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament.
- The Bill seeks to amend Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
- The amendment seeks to revise the ceiling for employees in private sectors too, considering inflation and wage increase.
- The Amendment will increase maximum limit of gratuity of employees, in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)/Autonomous Organizations under Government and in private sector who are not covered under Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, at par with Central Government employees.
The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972
- The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 is an important social security legislation to wage earning population in industries, factories and establishments.
- It was enacted to provide social security to workmen after retirement, whether retirement is result of rules of superannuation, or physical disablement or impairment of vital body part.
- It applies to establishments employing 10 or more persons.
- The present upper ceiling on gratuity amount under Act was Rs. 10 Lakh. The provisions for Union Government employees under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 with regard to gratuity are also similar. Before implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission, ceiling under CCS (Pension) Rules was Rs. 10 Lakh.
- However, with implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission from January 2-016, the gratuity ceiling was increased to Rs. 20 Lakhs.
“Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund”
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a “Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund” (DIDF) with an outlay of Rs 10,881 crore during the period from 2017-18 to 2028-29.
The major activities of DIDF:
The project will focus on
- Building an efficient milk procurement system by setting up of chilling infrastructure & installation of electronic milk adulteration testing equipment,
- Creation/modernization/expansion of processing infrastructure and manufacturing faculties for Value Added Products for the Milk Unions/ Milk Producer Companies.
Management of DIDF:
- The project will be implemented by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and National Dairy Development Cooperation (NCDC)directly through the End Borrowers such as Milk Unions, State Dairy Federations, Multi-state Milk Cooperatives, Milk Producer Companies and NDDB subsidiaries meeting the eligibility criteria under the project.
- An Implementation and Monitoring Cell (IMC) located at NDDB, Anand, will manage the implementation and monitoring of day-to-day project activities.
- The end borrowers will get the loan @ 6.5% per annum. The period of repayment will be 10 years with initial two years moratorium.
- The respective State Government will be the guarantor of loan repayment. Also for the project sanctioned if the end user is not able to contribute its share; State Government will contribute the same.
Benefits from DIDF:
- The investment in diary sector will benefit 95,00,000 farmers in about 50,000 villages.
- It will help for additional milk processing capacity of 126 lakh litre per day, milk chilling capacity of 140 lakh litre per day, milk drying capacity of 210 MT per day.
- It will also support installation of 28000 Bulk Milk Coolers (BMCs) along with electronic milk adulteration testing equipment and increase value added products manufacturing capacity of 59.78 lakh litre per day of milk equivalent.
Employment Generation Potential:
The implementation of DIDF scheme will generate direct and indirect employment opportunities for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower.
- Direct employment opportunities for about 40,000 people will be created under the scheme through project activities like expansion & modernisation of existing milk processing facilities, setting up of new processing plants, establishment of manufacturing facilities for value added products and setting up of Bulk Milk Coolers (BMCs) at village level.
- About 2 lakh indirect employment opportunitieswill be created on account of expansion of milk and milk product marketing operations from existing Tier I, II & III to Tier IV, V & VI cities/towns etc. This will lead to deployment of more marketing staff by Milk Cooperatives, appointment of distributors and opening of additional milk booths/retail outlets in urban/rural locations.
- With the increase in milk procurement operations of the Milk Cooperatives,there would be generation of additional manpower employment for supervision of increased milk procurement operations, transportation of milk from villages to processing units, and increased input delivery services like Artificial Insemination (AI) services, Veterinary Services, etc.
Cabinet approves survey of Un-appraised Areas of Sedimentary Basins of India
What is Sedimentary basin?
- Sedimentary basin is a low area in the Earth’s crust, of tectonic origin, in which sediments accumulate. It can range from as small as hundreds of meters to large parts of ocean basins.
Sedimentary basin in India:
- India has total 26 sedimentary basins covering area of 3.14 Million Sq Km (MSK) spread over onland, shallow water and deep water. 48% of total sedimentary basin area (about 1.502 MSK) does not have adequate geo-scientific data.
Why in news?
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved survey project to acquire 48,243 Line Kilometer (LKM) 2D seismic data for appraisal of Indian sedimentary basins where limited data is available.
- The project will be implemented by Oil India Limited (OIL) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
- Under it, survey work will be carried out in 24 States. OIL will conduct survey in North-Eastern States, while ONGC will cover remaining area.
- The entire project is likely to be completed by 2019-20.
- After appraisal of these sedimentary basins, blocks will be offered for further exploration and production activities based on prospectivity of area.
- It will help in increasing the investments in domestic production of oil and gas and generate direct and indirect employment.
Significance of the move:
- The appraisal of all unappraised areas is considered an important task to launch future Exploration and Production (E&P) activities.
- Data acquisition will provide initial insight into basins and help in planning future E&P activities.
- It will be useful in deciding focus areas of exploration activities in country and on basis of this primary data, E&P companies will be able take up further exploration activities in acreages allocated to them.
BSNL mobile tower assets to be hived off into separate company
The Union Cabinet has approved proposal for hiving off mobile tower assets of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) into a separate tower infrastructure company, fully owned by BSNL.
Significance of the move:
- The Cabinet approval authorizes BSNL to monetize its telecom tower infrastructure with formation of separate subsidiary company.
- Independent, dedicated tower company of BSNL with a focused approach will help to increase BSNL’s external tenancies and generate higher revenue for new company.
Tower Infrastructure Company
- The tower infrastructure company owns passive infrastructure assets (tower structure, Diesel Generator sets, power interface unit, battery units, air-conditioning etc) and leases it to telecom service providers.
- It enables telecom companies to achieve economies of scale and reduce capital investment costs for providing mobile services.
- It helps them to minimize duplication of investments and economize on costs of Operation and Maintenance (O&M), thereby improving profitability.
- There are around 4.42 lakh mobile towers in country out of which more than 66 thousand are of BSNL.
- The telecom tower industry has emerged as independent business to harness potential for sharing of infrastructure.
- The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) policy also allows sharing of passive infrastructure which has facilitated growth of the telecom infrastructure industry.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
ZSI produces first compendium of animal diversity in the Sundarban islands
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) published a first ever exhaustive compendium of animal species in the Indian Sundarban and the threats it faces.
- The compendium is titled Fauna of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve.
- The compendium is the first consolidated and updated information of the faunal diversity of the Sundarbans.
Sundarbans in India:
- Indian segment of Sundarbans is part of UNESCO World Heritage site.
- It forms part of Ganga-Brahmaputra delta across 9,630 sq. km, distributed among 104 islands.
- It has largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
Highlights of the compendium:
- The compendium catalogues entire faunal diversity of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve covering 9,630 sq. km spread over 19 blocks in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal.
- According to it, fragile Sundarbans ecosystem region hosts 2,626 animal species that come under zoological kingdom of Animalia, and 140 under more primitive Protista. It also includes diverse 25 phyla.
- Famous Bengal tigers adapted to aquatic conditions have been documented. 50 mammalian species are also documented including the Asian small-clawed Otter, Gangetic Dolphin, Grey and Marsh Mongoose. Wild Rhesus Monkey, only primate found in Sunderbans is also documented.
- The mammal numbers are declining in Sunderbans due to pressure on habitat from people and natural threats that have shrunk mangrove swamp habitat.
- Two Rhinos, Swamp deer, Barking deer and Hog deer and Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo no more are not found in Sundarbans.
- There are 356 species of birds, including raptors (birds of prey).
- Other birds found here are Osprey, Brahminy Kite, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Rose-ringed parakeets, flycatchers and warblers. Kingfishers are found abound and Sundarbans has nine of them.
- The mangrove ecosystem covers about 350 species of fish. Cartilaginous fish make up 10.3%. The IUCN conservation status shows 6.3% fish are near-threatened and 4.85% are threatened.
- Also, there are 173 molluscs. Moreover, Crustaceans — crabs, shrimp and prawns — constitute 334 species. Besides, ten species of frogs and toads are found.
- There are 11 turtles, including the famous Olive Ridley, Hawskbill sea turtles and most threatened freshwater River Terrapin.
- The region has 753 insect species. Of these, 210 are butterflies and moths. Crocodile, 13 lizards including three species of Monitor Lizards and five Geckos are also found.
- The rivers, creeks channels and islands together harbour about 30 snake species including monocled cobra, Russell’s viper, common and banded kraits.
About Zoological Survey of India (ZSI):
- Established on 1 July 1916, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is a premier Indian organisation in zoological research and studies.
- The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- It promotes the survey, exploration, research and documentation leading to the advancement in our knowledge on various aspects of animal taxonomy of the Indian subcontinent.
- Of the nearly 100, 000 species of animals known to occur in India, it is the ZSI that brought the knowledge to the scientific community about many of them as the new and endemic species of animals found in this country.
- ZSI has been declared as the designated repository for the National Zoological Collection as per Section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
- Similar to Red Data Book published by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), ZSI also publishes Red Data Book on Indian Animals. It was first published in 1983.
- To meet the challenges of biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilization and dissemination of knowledge on faunal diversity to all stakeholders, the Survey is equipped with modern tools and techniques such as scanning electron microscopes, digital stereo zoom microscopes, GIS tools, data basing tools and the DNA bar coding technology.
“Wood is Good” Campaign
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched “Wood is Good” Campaign under Partnership for Land Use Science (Forest-Plus).
- It was launched on sidelines of two-day conference on “Sustainable landscapes and forest ecosystems: Theory to Practice” in New Delhi.
Purpose of the campaign:
- The purpose of campaign is to promote wood as climate-friendly resource and substitute to materials like steel and plastic as it is carbon neutral unlike others materials which leave carbon footprint in their production.
Need for Campaign:
- Forests are integral part of Indian culture and tradition. Government is committed to increase forest cover from 24% to 33% of geographical area and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in forests, as reflected in Internationally Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
- The Partnership for Land Use Science (Forest-Plus) is a joint programme by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to strengthen capacity for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) implementation in India.
- The programme will bring together experts from both India and the United States to develop tools, technologies and methods of forest management in order to meet the technical challenges of managing forests for the health of the ecosystem, carbon stocks, biodiversity and livelihood.
Science & Technology
NASA’s Cassini completes last flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan
NASA’s Cassini has completed a final, distant flyby of Saturn’s giant moon Titan.
- This distant encounter is referred to informally as “the goodbye kiss” by mission engineers, because it provides a gravitational nudge that sends the spacecraft toward its dramatic ending in Saturn’s upper atmosphere.
- With this, the spacecraft’s mission is all set to when it enters the planet’s atmosphere and disintegrates.
- In its final hours, Cassini will relay as much data as it can back to Earth before it dies. NASA hopes the data collected from the final descent will allow scientists to understand more about the planet’s atmosphere and interior.
- Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission — a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — has sent back thousands of stunning images and made numerous discoveries about the ringed planet and its moons.
- The probe has been crucial to findings that Saturn’s moons are among the most hospitable places in the Solar System for potentially supporting life.
- Recently, Nasa also announced that Cassini had detected chemical reactions happening below the icy surface of Enceladus, suggesting life is possible there. The mission also found that the moon Titan contains many earth-like features such as wind, rain and seas.
About the Cassini Mission:
Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.
- Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan.
- The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005.
- The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997.
- This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
Objectives of Cassini Mission:
Cassini has several objectives, including:
- Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn.
- Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object.
- Determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s leading hemisphere.
- Measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the magnetosphere.
- Study the dynamic behavior of Saturn’s atmosphere at cloud level.
- Study the time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes.
- Characterize Titan’s surface on a regional scale.