Polity & Governance
- Govt. clears civil aviation policy, makes flying cheaper
- Karnataka bans e-cigarettes
- Cabinet okays raising retirement age of CHS doctors to 65
- India, Cote D Ivoire ink pact to re-establish Exim Bank headquarters
- Cabinet approves contract for exploring metals in Indian Ocean
- Bill seeking special status for India fails in U.S. Senate
- Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Taiwan
Science & Technology
- Cabinet approves India’s Membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program
- NASA spots methane leak from space
- Second breakthrough for LIGO gravitational wave detectors
Polity & Governance
Govt. clears civil aviation policy, makes flying cheaper
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016.
- This is the first time since independence that an integrated Civil Aviation Policy has been brought out by the Ministry.
- The policy is very comprehensive, covering 22 areas of the Civil Aviation sector.
Aims of the policy:
The policy aims to
- Take flying to the masses by making it affordable and convenient,
- Establish an integrated eco-system which will lead to significant growth of the civil aviation sector to promote tourism, employment and balanced regional growth,
- Enhance regional connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development and
- Enhance ease of doing business through deregulation, simplified procedures and e-governance.
Salient Features of the Policy:
Regional Connectivity Scheme:
- This scheme will come into effect in the second quarter of 2016-17.
- Airfare of about Rs. 2500 per passenger for a one-hour flight.
- It has grand plans to revive 50 airports in the next two years through the regional connectivity scheme.
- Replaced with a scheme which provides a level playing field.
- All airlines can now commence international operations provided that they deploy 20 aircraft or 20% of total capacity (in term of average number of seats on all departures put together), whichever is higher for domestic operations.
Bilateral Traffic Rights:
- GoI will enter into ‘Open Sky’ Air Services Agreement (ASA) on a reciprocal basis with SAARC countries and countries located beyond 5000 km from Delhi.
Ground Handling Policy:
- The Ground Handling Policy/ Instructions/Regulations will be replaced by a new framework.
- Encourage development of airports by Airports Authority of India (AAI), State Governments, the private sector or in PPP mode.
- Future tariffs at all airports will be calculated on a ‘hybrid till’ basis, unless specified otherwise in concession agreements.
Aviation Security, Immigration and customs:
- MoCA will develop ‘service delivery modules’ for aviation security, Immigration, Customs, quarantine officers etc. in consultations with respective Ministries/Departments.
Helicopters and Charters:
- Separate regulations for helicopters will be notified by DGCA after due stakeholder consultation.
- MoCA to coordinate with Govt agencies and other helicopter operators to facilitate Helicopter Emergency Medical Services.
Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul:
- The MRO business of Indian carriers is around Rs 5000 crore, 90% of which is currently spent outside India.
- In the budget for 2016-17, customs duty has been rationalised and the procedure for clearance of goods simplified.
- Further incentives proposed in the policy to give a push to this sector.
Aviation Education and Skill Building:
- Estimated direct additional employment requirement of the Civil Aviation Sector by 2025 is about 3.3 lakh.
- All training in non-licensed category will conform to National Skill Qualification Framework standards.
- MoCA will provide full support to the Aviation Sector Skill Council and other similar organisations/agencies for imparting skills for the growing aviation industry.
- There are nearly 8000 pilots holding CPL but who have not found any regular employment. MoCA will develop a scheme with budgetary support for Type- rating of Pilots.
What is hybrid till model?
There are three models to calculate charges at the airports – single till, double till and hybrid till.
- In the single-till model, both aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges are taken into account to calculate the airport charges.
- While in the double-till model, aeronautical charges are calculated on the basis of revenues from aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges on the basis of collections from non-aeronautical.
- Under the hybrid model, the airport operator adds a part of the non-aeronautical (duty-free shops, hotel, restaurant, among others) revenue and the total revenue from the aeronautical (landing, parking and ground handling charges) side to compile total earnings.
What is 5/20 rule?
- According to the ‘5/20 rule,’ all airlines in India need five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircrafts in its fleet in order to fly abroad.
- The rule has been a subject of heated debate between domestic airline operators. They have viewed that the ‘5/20 rule’ in India would mean less economic activity as aviation has been a key growth generator for other countries like Singapore and Dubai.
About Open-Sky policy:
Under the new policy, India will have an open-sky policy for countries beyond the 5,000-km radius from Delhi on a reciprocal basis.
- This means that airlines from European or SAARC countries will have unlimited access, in terms of number of flights and seats, to Indian airports, leading to increased flight frequencies with these countries.
- While India has a full open-sky arrangement with the U.S., it has a near open-sky agreement with the U.K. with a restriction on the frequency of flights to and from Mumbai and Delhi.
Karnataka bans e-cigarettes
The Karnataka government has banned the production and sale of electronic cigarettes, small battery-operated devices that vaporize liquid nicotine to provide the same experience as smoking tobacco.
- The decision was taken after a study by the state health department and experts showed that e-cigarettes encourage the younger generation to use conventional cigarettes.
- Laws permit use of two milligrams of nicotine, that too only for chewable chocolates, to help with de-addiction, and e-cigarette manufacturers misuse this clause for their sale. This has led to a situation where even pharmacies in the state are selling e-cigarettes.
- Experts view that e-cigarettes can’t be seen as a treatment even though they are promoted on such grounds.
- Even though there are no laws regulating e-cigarettes in India as of now, states such as Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra and the Union territory of Chandigarh have banned the production and sale of e-cigarettes.
- The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty for tobacco control to which India is a signatory, has also said that e-cigarettes are not a healthier option.
- E-cigarettes are banned in some countries (including Brazil, Singapore, Canada and Uruguay)
- In May, the US Food and Drug Administration for the first time acted upon e-cigarettes in an attempt to control to the e-cigarette industry which is a $5.2 billion market in the US
What is an e-cigarette?
- According to the Indian Medical Association, it is a type of electronic nicotine delivery system.
- Battery operated device that heats a liquid to produce vapour to inhale.
- The main components of the liquid vaporized are nicotine, propylene glycol or glycerol, and flavourings.
- Nicotine content ranges from none (nicotine-free) up to 36 mg/mL.
- Metals such as tin, lead, nickel, and chromium have been found in e-cigarette liquids and vapour.
Cabinet okays raising retirement age of CHS doctors to 65
The Cabinet has given its nod to raise the retirement age of doctors from 62 to 65 years to retain the talent pool of health specialists in Central Health Service (CHS).
- The approval is for enhancement of the age of superannuation of non-teaching and public health specialists of CHS from 62 years to 65 years and doctors of General Duty Medical Officers sub-cadre of CHS to 65 years.
- During a recent rally to mark the two years of the NDA government in Saharanpur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the retirement age of doctors would be raised.
- The age of superannuation in respect of all four sub-cadres of CHS — teaching, non-teaching, public health and GDMO — was 60 years prior to 2006.
Implications of the move:
- The move will help improve patient care and academic activities.
- This move would not have any financial implication as the vacant posts had to be filled up quickly to ensure continuity of patient care.
India, Cote D Ivoire ink pact to re-establish Exim Bank headquarters
India and Cote D Ivoire have inked an agreement to re-establish the headquarters of the Exim Bank in Abidjan after a gap of nearly two decades.
- Cote D’Ivoirie also sought investment from India’s private sector, particularly in processing the main ingredient in chocolates, to further strengthen trade ties with India.
- During the visit, President Pranab Mukherjee was bestowed with Cote d’Ivoire’s highest national honour, the Grande Croix Commandeur in National Merit Order.
- Ivory Coast, also known as Cote D’Ivoirie, a francophone country, is also the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80% of its total exports of cashew nuts.
- Cote D’Ivoirie leads the world in production and export of the cocoa beans used in the manufacture of chocolate, supplying 33% of cocoa produced globally.
- The country had gone through a period of turmoil in the last decade due to civil war but its development can be seen from modern expressways crisscrossing the lush green countryside.
- Exim Bank’s office was shifted in 1992 to Sudan because of political turmoil in the country.
Cabinet approves contract for exploring metals in Indian Ocean
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a 15-year contract between its Earth Sciences Ministry and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for undertaking exploration and other developmental activities related to polymetallic sulphides in the Indian Ocean.
The exploration will be done in the allotted area of 10,000 sq km in parts of Central and South – West Indian Ridges (SWIR), in the Indian Ocean.
- The program will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the participation from various national institutes and research laboratories and organizations.
- By signing the 15-year contract, India’s exclusive rights for exploration of polymetallic sulphides in the allotted area in the Central Indian Ridge, and South West Indian Ridge in Indian Ocean will be formalized.
Significance of the move:
- It will be of immense strategic and commercial value. It will enhance India’s presence in the Indian Ocean where other players like China, Korea and Germany are active.
- These polymetallic sulphides in the Ocean Ridges have attracted worldwide attention for their long term commercial as well as strategic values.
- This comes after the ISA, under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), approved an application submitted by India for allotment of 10,000 square km area along with 15 years plan of work for exploration of polymetallic sulphide (PMS) along these two areas.
About polymetallic sulphides (PMS):
- Polymetallic replacements, which are generally found in form of sulphides, refers to deposits of metallic minerals formed when molten lava intrudes into beds of sedimentary rocks.
- These are significant sources of copper, gold, silver, lead, manganese, and zinc.
About South-West Indian Ridges (SWIR):
The Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR) is a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the southwest Indian Ocean.
- It separates the African Plate to the north from the Antarctic Plate to the south.
- The SWIR extends between the Rodrigues Triple Point in the southern Indian Ocean to the Bouvet Triple Junction in the south Atlantic. It formed shortly after the breakup of Gondwana during the Mesozoic Era
- The SWIR is classified as an ultraslow spreading ridge with a current spreading rate of around 8 mm/yr., making it the second slowest in the world after the Gakkel Ridge.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- ISA governs non-living resources of the seabed lying in international waters.
- It was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.
Bill seeking special status for India fails in U.S. Senate
The U.S. Senate has failed to recognise India as a “global strategic and defence partner” of the U.S. after a key amendment necessary to modify its export control regulations could not be passed.
- An amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA-17) which if passed would have recognised India as a global strategic and defence partner.
- Recently, the U.S. had recognised India as a “major defence partner” in a joint statement issued after Mr. Modi held talks with President Barack Obama which supported defence-related trade and technology transfer to the country which would now be treated on par with America’s closest allies.
What kind of benefits India will get if this amendment be passed?
- Under the ‘Major Defence Partner’ recognition, the US will continue to work toward facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
- US will support of India’s ambitious ‘Make In India’ initiative and also support the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain.
- India will receive license-free access to a wide range of dual-use defence technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.
- US will continue to facilitate the export of goods and technologies, consistent with the US laws in support of official US-India defence cooperation.
Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Taiwan
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Air Services Agreement between India-Taipei Association in Taipei (India’s representative office in Taiwan) and Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (Taiwan’s representative office in India).
- Presently there is no formal Air Services Agreement between India and Taiwan and the Air Services are governed by an MoU exchanged between Air India Charters Limited (AIRL) and Taipei Airlines Associations (TAA).
Significance of the move:
- The Air Services Agreement signifies an important landmark in the civil aviation relations between India and Taiwan.
- It has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two parties.
Science & Technology
Cabinet approves India’s Membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for Indian membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) consortium by signing an MoU with the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for geosciences.
- This will shed new light on the genesis of seismicity and better understanding of earthquake processes.
What will India get under the agreement?
- With this agreement, India would enable engaging internationally renowned experts with profound expertise in different aspects of scientific drilling in order to accomplish deep drilling and associated investigations in Koyna region.
- As a part of the membership agreement, India will get a seat on two ICDP panels – Executive Committee (EC) and Assembly of Governors (AOG).
- Also, ICDP will provide technical / operational support, facilitate capacity building in terms of manpower training in key scientific areas, sample and data management and support workshops for the Koyna scientific deep drilling project undertaken by Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- As a member of ICDP, scientists/engineers from India would have right to submit proposals, to participate in all ICDP co-funded workshops and drilling projects and have access to all data results from ICDP projects.
NASA spots methane leak from space
The Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1), an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft for the first time has measured the methane emissions from a specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface.
- The observation is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.
- The leak occurred over Aliso Canyon near Porter Ranch in California.
Second breakthrough for LIGO gravitational wave detectors
Scientists have announced that the Gravitational waves, ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, have been detected for the second time in three months.
- LIGO scientists working with gravitational wave detectors at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, U.S., have announced witnessing the merging of a second black hole pair.
- They infer this from the observation of a gravitational wave (GW151226) detected on December 26, 2015.
- Being a much weaker signal than the first, the detection of this merger required the use of sophisticated noise filtering and mathematical analyses, some of which has been developed by Indian scientists.