Government Schemes & Policies
- Gram Swaraj Abhiyan
- Govt launches e-FRRO scheme to provide hassle-free travel
- Government launches first tranche of Sovereign gold bonds for FY19
- Inflation targeting has zero impact on price situation: Bhalla
Bilateral & International Relations
- US announces GSP eligibility review of India
Art & Culture
- Festival of Baisakhi
Science & Technology
- Task Force for fast-tracking Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology
- NASA to study how tiny sea creatures affect Earth’s climate
Key Facts for Prelims
- 2nd India Mobile Congress
- ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation)
- Dadasaheb Phalke Award
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Government Schemes & Policies
Gram Swaraj Abhiyan
On the occasion of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti (14th April), the Union Government launched “Gram Swaraj Abhiyan- Special Interventions”, an high-intensity outreach programme to deliver welfare schemes to select villages which need particular attention.
About Gram Swaraj Abhiyan:
The Gram Swaraj Abhiyan was launched on the lines of rural development schemes like Antyodaya based on principle of convergence and saturation.
- The initiative aims for 100% coverage of seven schemes launched by Central Government for eligible beneficiaries in three-week window from April 14 to May 5, 2018.
- The objective of abhiyan is to promote social harmony, reach out to poor rural households, obtain feedback on ongoing programmes, enrol in new initiatives, focus on doubling farmers’ income, enhance livelihood opportunities and re-emphasise national priorities such as cleanliness and strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions,.
- The seven schemes covered under it are Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Ujala scheme, Saubhagya, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush.
- It will benefit 17,000 poor villages by providing them free LPG connections, electricity supply, Jan Dhan accounts, two PM Insurance schemes and immunisation of children will be available in 21 days.
- Government has appointed dozens of directors and deputy secretaries to push its flagship programmes to “100% saturation” in rural areas.
Govt launches e-FRRO scheme to provide hassle-free travel
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has launched web-based application e-FRRO (e-Foreigners Regional Registration Office) to allow foreign tourists and travellers to avail of paperless and cashless visa-related services.
About e-FRRO scheme:
The e-FRRO scheme is aimed at building a centralized, transparent online platform for the foreigners to avail visa related services and to provide Faceless, Cashless and Paperless services to the foreigners with user friendly experience.
- Online FRRO Service delivery mechanism without requirement of visiting FRRO/FRO office barring exceptional cases.
- In this online system, foreigners can get as many as 27 visa and immigration-related services in India from comfort of their place of stay.
- Using e-FRRO application, foreigners can apply online on portal and obtain services through email and post without appearing in person at FRO/FRRO office.
- Using this application, foreigners are required to create their own User ID by registering themselves. Afterwards, they can apply online through registered user ID for various visa and immigration related services in India viz. registration, visa extension, visa conversion, exit permit etc.
- The e-FRRO scheme is being implemented on Immigration, Visa, Foreigners Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) with negligible extra expenditure, taking cue from already successfully running e-visa scheme that has earned revenue of more than Rs. 1400 crore since its launch in November 2014.
Significance of the scheme:
- In 2017, more than one crore foreigners visited India and out of them approximately 3.6 lakhs had to visit FRRO offices spread across the country for various visa-related services.
- e-FRRO eliminates need for any human interface and using it foreigners touring India will be no longer need to physically visit office of Foreigners Registration Office or Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRO/FRRO) for visa-related services including registration and visa extension.
Government launches first tranche of Sovereign gold bonds for FY19
The government of India has announced that the first tranche of Sovereign Gold Bond scheme for the current year 2018-19 will shortly be opened for subscription.
About the Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme:
The SGB Scheme was notified by the Government of India on November 05, 2015 after due approval of the Cabinet.
- The main objective of the scheme was to develop a financial asset as an alternative to purchasing metal gold.
- The target was to shift part of the estimated 300 tons of physical bars and coins purchased every year for Investment into ‘demat’ gold bonds.
- The bonds will be restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, HUFs, trusts, universities and charitable institutions.
- The bonds will be denominated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of 1 gram. The tenor will be for a period of 8 years with exit option from the 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.
- The minimum permissible investment limit will be 1 gram of gold, while the maximum limit will be 4 kg for individual, 4 kg for HUF and 20 kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March) notified by the government from time to time.
- In case of joint holding, the investment limit of 4 kg will be applied to the first applicant only.
- Bonds can be used as collateral for loans. The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is to be set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by the Reserve Bank from time to time.
Inflation targeting has zero impact on price situation: Bhalla
What is inflation targeting?
- Inflation targeting is a monetary policy in which a central bank has an explicit target inflation rate for the medium term and announces this inflation target to the public. It will have price stability as the main goal of monetary policy.
- Many central banks adopted inflation targeting as a pragmatic response to the failure of other monetary policy regimes, such as those that targeted the money supply or the value of the currency in relation to another, presumably stable, currency.
Points in favour of inflation targeting:
- It will lead to increased transparency and accountability.
- Policy will be linked to medium/long term goals, but with some short term flexibility.
- With inflation targeting in place, people will tend to have low inflation expectations. If there was no inflation target, people could have higher inflation expectations, encouraging workers to demand higher wages and firms to put up prices.
- It also helps in avoiding boom and bust cycles.
- If inflation creeps up, then it can cause various economic costs such as uncertainty leading to lower investment, loss of international competitiveness and reduced value of savings. This can also be avoided with targeting.
Points against inflation targeting:
- Inflation targeting puts too much weight on inflation relative to other goals. Central Banks Start to Ignore More Pressing Problems. Inflation target reduces “flexibility”.
- It has the potential to constrain policy in some circumstances in which it would not be desirable to do so.
Average inflation in 2017-18 was 3.5%. India’s real interest rate is higher by 2.5%, which is 3rd highest in the world.
Why in news?
- Making a case for doing away with inflation targeting by the RBI, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) member Surjit Bhalla recently said it has made zero impact on prices. Under the new policy framework, the RBI aims to contain inflation at 4% with a band of (+/-) 2%.
- Inflation targeting has been successfully practiced in a growing number of countries over the past 20 years, and many more countries are moving toward this framework.
- Over time, inflation targeting has proven to be a flexible framework that has been resilient in changing circumstances, including during the recent global financial crisis.
- Individual countries, however, must assess their economies to determine whether inflation targeting is appropriate for them or if it can be tailored to suit their needs. For example, in many open economies, the exchange rate plays a pivotal role in stabilizing output and inflation.
- In such countries, policymakers must debate the appropriate role of the exchange rate and whether it should be subordinated to the inflation objective.
Bilateral & International Relations
US announces GSP eligibility review of India
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has formally announced that it is reviewing eligibility of India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan in Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) based on concerns about countries’ compliance with program.
- The reviews are based on Trump administration’s new GSP country eligibility assessment process as well as GSP country eligibility petitions.
- For India, GSP country eligibility review is based on concerns related to its compliance with GSP market access criterion and two petitions related to same criterion. The petitions were filed by US dairy industry and US medical device industry requested review of India’s GSP benefits, given Indian trade barriers affecting US exports in those sectors.
What is Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)?
GSP is largest and oldest US trade preference programme introduced in 1976.
- It is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry for thousands of products from designated beneficiary countries both developing and developed countries.
- Under it, a wide range of industrial and agricultural products originating from certain developing countries are given preferential access to US markets.
- India’s case, GSP enables duty-free entry of 3,500 product lines in US markets, which benefits exporters of textiles, engineering, gems and jewellery and chemical products.
Art & Culture
Festival of Baisakhi
Festival of Baisakhi is usually celebrated on April 13, but once in every 36 years the festival is celebrated on April 14.
- This year the occasion will be commemorated on April 14.
- It marks the advent of Baisakhi, which is an auspicious day primarily for the Sikh community, and is also known as Vaisakhi, Khalsa Sirjana Diwas, or the birth of Khalsa.
- The word is derived from ‘Baisakh’, which is the second month of the Sikh calendar (Nanakshahi calendar). It signifies a new year of harvest for the community.
- The festival is primarily a thanksgiving day when farmers pay tribute to their deity for the harvest and pray for prosperity in future.
- Sikhs follow a tradition named Aawat Pauni on Vaisakhi. People gather to harvest wheat that grew in the winter. Drums are played and people recite Punjabi doha (couplet) to the tune while harvestin on Baisakhi day.
- Baisakhi also marks the birth of Khalsa, the collective body of all initiated Sikhs, also called the “Guru Panth”– the embodiment of the Guru. On March 30 in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh gathered his followers at his home in Anandpur Sahib, a city which is now home to several Gurdwaras. At this gathering, Khalsa was inaugurated.
- The festival of Baisakhi is celebrated amongst farmers as the festival of harvest. The month of April is considered as the harvesting time for the Rabi Crops, the crops which are sown during winter seasons.
- Since the photoperiod becomes larger, the short day plants start to flower and give fruits and grains, which are now ready to be harvested. Therefore, the farmers gear up in their fields and start harvesting the crops.
Science & Technology
Task Force for fast-tracking Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology
The Union Government has constituted 13-member task force to prepare road map and fast-track implementation of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology or drones in the country.
- It will be headed by Minister of State (MoS) for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and will have representatives from government, PSUs, industry and sectoral experts.
- The task force will prepare roadmap, including outcomes, timelines, implementation and review mechanism and measurable metrics for implementation of UAV technology.
Draft Regulation on Civil Use of Drones:
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, in November 2017, announced draft regulations on civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, commonly known as Drones.
- As per the draft, all commercial categories of drones except those in the Nano category and those operated by government security agencies, will have to be registered by DGCA in the form of Unique Identification Number (UIN).
- The Mini and above categories will require Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), but the model aircraft up to maximum take-off weight of 2 Kgs flown below 200 feet inside educational institution premises will not require UIN/UAOP.
- The draft regulation also mandates tremote pilots to undergo requisite training, except for Nano and micro categories. As per the draft regulation, the Micro and above category drones will have to be equipped with RFID/SIM, return to home option and anti-collision lights.
- The draft regulation also specifies certain restricted areas for operations of drones. Drones cannot be operated within an area of 5km from airport, within permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas as notified by AAI in AIP and without prior approval over densely populated areas or over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway and within 50 km from international border and beyond 500 m (horizontal) into sea along the coastline.
NASA to study how tiny sea creatures affect Earth’s climate
In a first, NASA is conducting a study of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic, named the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) mission, to see how the tiny sea critters influence the climate in every season.
- It is the first research mission to conduct an integrated study of all four distinct phases of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom.
About NAAMES Mission:
- The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) is an interdisciplinary investigation resolving key processes controlling marine ecosystems and aerosols that are essential to our understanding of Earth system function and future change.
- NAAMES is funded by the NASA Earth Venture Suborbital Program and is the first EV-S mission focused on studying the coupled ocean ecosystem and atmosphere.
- NAAMES consists of four, combined ship and aircraft field campaigns that are each aligned to a specific event in the annual plankton lifecycle.
- NAAMES studies the world’s largest plankton bloom and how it gives rise to small organic particles that leave the ocean and end up in the atmosphere, ultimately influencing clouds and climate.
Significance of the mission:
- NAAMES is a five year investigation to resolve key processes controlling ocean system function, their influences on atmospheric aerosols and clouds and their implications for climate. Observations obtained during four, targeted ship and aircraft measurement campaigns, combined with the continuous satellite and in situ ocean sensor records, will enable improved predictive capabilities of Earth system processes and will inform ocean management and assessment of ecosystem change.
North Atlantic plankton bloom:
- The North Atlantic plankton bloom is among the most conspicuous biological events annually recorded by satellite ocean color measurements, yet even fundamental controls on the bloom’s magnitude and interannual variability are controversial.
- The bloom climax is one event within an annual plankton cycle that essentially oscillates between a decreasing-biomass phase beginning in the summer and an increasing-biomass phase beginning in Winter-Spring and ending with the bloom climax in Spring.
Key Facts for Prelims
2nd India Mobile Congress
- The second edition of India Mobile Congress (IMC-2018) will be held in New Delhi on October 25-27, 2018.
- It will be organised by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
- The theme of second edition of IMC is NEW DIGITAL HORIZONS Connect, Create, innovate.
- IMC was launched in 2017 to provide platform for policy makers, industry and regulators to engage in meaningful deliberations to drive the future direction of telecom sector.
- The first IMC held in September 2017 was attended by around 2,000 delegates, 32,000 visitors, 152 speakers, 100 exhibitors and 100 start-ups.
ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation)
- ENSO refers to anomalies in SSTs in Pacific Ocean off coast of South America which has sometimes been observed to have near-decisive impact on monsoon rainfall.
- In El Nino, a warmer than usual SST is observed in Pacific Ocean off coast of South America. This condition is associated with suppressed monsoon rainfall in India.
- La Nina is opposite ENSO and is more favourable for monsoon. It is known to help monsoon rainfall in India.
- When anomalies (deviations from usual SST in the Pacific Ocean) are too small or absent, monsoon rainfall over India is normal.
Dadasaheb Phalke Award
- The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is conferred by Union Government for outstanding contribution to growth and development of Indian Cinema.
- It is highest official recognition (award) in Indian cinema.
- It was established in 1969 to commemorate the birth centenary year of father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke.
- It is given on basis of recommendations of a committee of eminent personalities set up by the government.
- The award consists of a Swarn Kamal (Golden Lotus), a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakhs and a shawl.