Polity & Governance
- Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
- Bill to cut salaries of MPs
Government Schemes & Policies
- Insurance scheme for health workers extended for 6 months
- Aircraft (Amendment) Bill cleared in Rajya Sabha
- Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
- Ease of doing business rankings
- Haryana Orbital Rail Corridor project
- looks to spend ₹2.35 lakh cr. more
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project
Bilateral & International Relations
- Department of Science & Technology is having three binational Centres
Science & Technology
- r-VSV vaccine manufacturing platform
- i-ATS technology
- New branch of National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC), Bikaner
Key Facts for Prelims
- INSPIRE Awards – MANAK
- AICTE Visvesvaraya Best Teachers Award 2020
- Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden or 79N
- Kerala to have certified snake handlers
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Polity & Governance
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha
Shri Harivansh Narayan Singh has been elected as the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha for the second time.
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha:
- The Deputy Chairman is elected by the Rajya Sabha itself from amongst its members.
- Whenever the office of the Deputy Chairman falls vacant, the Rajya Sabha elects another member to fill the vacancy.
Cases when his office is vacant:
The Deputy Chairman vacates his office in any of the following three cases:
- If he ceases to be a member of the Rajya Sabha.
- If he resigns by writing to the Chairman.
- If he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the members of the Rajya Sabha. Such a resolution can be moved only after giving 14 days’ advance notice.
Functions and Powers:
- The Deputy Chairman performs the duties of the Chairman’s office when it is vacant or when the Vice-President acts as President or discharges the functions of the President.
- He also acts as the Chairman when the latter is absent from the sitting of the House.
- In both the cases, he has all the powers of the Chairman and is not subordinate to the Chair-man.
- He is directly responsible to the Rajya Sabha.
- The Deputy Chairman while presiding over the House, cannot vote in the first instance; he can only exercise a casting vote in the case of a tie.
- When a resolution for the removal of the Deputy Chairman is under consideration of the House, he cannot preside over a sitting of the House, though he may be present.
- When the Chairman presides over the House, the Deputy Chairman is like any other ordinary member of the House.
- He can speak in the House, participate in its proceedings and vote on any question before the House.
Salary and Allowance:
- Like the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman is also entitled to a regular salary and allowance.
- They are fixed by Parliament and are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
Bill to cut salaries of MPs
A bill was passed in Lok Sabha to reduce the salaries of members of Parliament by 30% for one year.
- To meet the exigencies arising out of COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeks to replace the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 which provided a 30 per cent cut in sumptuary allowance payable to each minister for a period of one year commencing from April 1, 2020.
Government Schemes & Policies
Insurance scheme for health workers extended for 6 months
Union Health Ministry announced to extend the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19’ for another 180 days.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19
- The scheme was announced on March 30 for 90 days and was extended for 90 days (up to Sept. 25).
- It provides an insurance cover of ₹50 lakhs to healthcare providers.
- There is no age limit for this scheme and individual enrolment is not required.
- The entire amount of premium is being borne by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The benefit/claim is in addition to the amount payable under any other policies.
- The Ministry has collaborated with the New India Assurance (NIA) Company Limited for providing the insurance amount based on the guidelines prepared for the scheme.
Who are included?
- Community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of COVID-19 patients.
- It also includes accidental loss of life on account of contracting the infection.
- Private hospital staff/retired/volunteer/local urban bodies/contract/daily wage/ad-hoc/outsourced staff requisitioned by States/Central hospitals/autonomous hospitals of Central/States/UTs, AIIMS & INIs/hospitals of Central Ministries drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities.
Aircraft (Amendment) Bill cleared in Rajya Sabha
Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aimed to improve India’s aviation safety ratings and provide statutory status to regulatory institutions like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) got approval from the Rajya Sabha recently.
About the Bill:
- The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 provides for statutory backing to the DGCA, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
- There was a need to provide statutory backing to regulatory bodies as they were set up under executive order.
- The Bill also provides for keeping aircraft belonging to the country’s armed forces outside the purview of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
- The Bill proposes to increase the fine for violations of rules from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
- The Bill would bring regulation regarding air navigation services under its purview.
- While the air fares are needed to remain affordable, it was also necessary that the airline business remains viable.
- The civil aviation sector has been deregulated and the government does not set air fare.
- The Airlines are losing considerable amount of money amid COVID-19 outbreak.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation:
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation, primarily dealing with safety issues.
- It is responsible for regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
- The DGCA also co-ordinates all regulatory functions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
- DGCA has been given statutory status under the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
The Govt. has reintroduced the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 for the welfare of Women and to protect women’s reproductive rights in the Country in the Lok Sabha.
- India has become a hub of cheap fertility clinics owing to large population which is suffering from infertility.
- To regulate the market as IVF clinics have mushroomed all over the country.
Provisions under the Bill:
- To set up a national level registry and regulator which will oversee all the IVF clinics and procedures.
- It will be mandatory for the such clinics to register with the national and state level boards.
- The bill is setting upper limit of a woman undergoing IVF as 50 years.
- Only married women with a child of three years can be an egg donor and can do it only once in her lifetime.
- A national board will be set up, which will lay down code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics.
- It should ensure minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.
- A national registry and registration authority to maintain a Central database and assist the national board in its functioning.
- It will regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology services in the country. Consequently, infertile couples will be more ensured/confident of the ethical practices in ARTs.
- The Bill lays down the responsibilities of clinics and penalties for flouting the rules.
- Any clinic or bank promising or advertising facilities of sex selective assisted reproductive technology would face cancellation of registration.
- The owners could face 5-10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10-25 lakh.
- Any medical geneticist, gynaecologist or medical practitioner indulging in trading of human embryos or exploitation of surrogate mothers or commissioning couple would face an imprisonment of 8-12 years and a fine of Rs 10-20 lakh.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART):
- Assisted reproductive technology includes medical procedures used primarily to address infertility.
- It involves procedures such as in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, cryopreservation of gametes or embryos, and/or the use of fertility medication.
- India has become one of the major centres of this global fertility industry, with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity.
- As the clinics in India offer nearly all the ART services—gamete donation, intrauterine insemination, IVF, ICSI, PGD and gestational surrogacy; there is a need for a standardized protocol.
- The ART services are need to be regulated to protect the affected women and children from exploitation.
[Ref: Economic Times]
Ease of doing business rankings
The latest ease of doing business rankings for Indian states, released by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
About the Rankings for Indian States:
- Objective: to provide a business-friendly environment, for which the regulations in a state have to be made simpler.
- It devised a methodology to rank the states according to the ease of doing business in a state.
- DPIIT provides a set of recommendations with regulation called the Business Reform Action Plan.
Reforms recommended by DPIIT:
- DPIIT recommends all states have a single-window system that provides all necessary information on permits and licences required for starting a business.
- Permissions required from municipal or village government bodies or police for activities like filming movies should also be explicitly mentioned.
- DPIIT recommends that the duration of licences be extended or that they be renewed automatically based on self-certification or third-party verification.
- A state is also rewarded if a set of regulations like labour or environment laws are not applicable to it.
Criticism of the rankings:
- DPIIT’S methodology does not consider the actual number of reforms implemented by the states.
- States like Haryana and Gujarat have implemented all the reforms recommended by the DPIIT, but were ranked low on the list.
- The methodology used by the DPIIT awards points on a reform to a state only if there was an adequate response from users of that response.
- Ideally, the number of respondents for every state should be decided based on population or number of business. It is not clear in DPIIT samples.
- The methodology adopted by DPIIT is significantly different from what was followed by it in its first ease of doing business rating in 2014.
To know more about the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) and the rankings, kindly visit the link given below:[Ref: The Indian Express]
Haryana Orbital Rail Corridor project
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the Haryana Orbital Rail Corridor Project from Palwal to Sonipat via Sohna-Manesar-Kharkhauda.
About the project
- The Rail Line under the project will start from Palwal and end at existing Harsana Kalan station (On Delhi-Ambala section).
- This will also give connectivity enroute to Patli Station (On Delhi-Rewari line), Sultanpur station (On Garhi Harsaru-Farukhnagar Line) and Asaudha Station (On Delhi Rohtak Line).
- The project will have connectivity with all the existing Railway routes originating from Delhi and passing through Haryana State as well as with the Dedicated Freight Corridor network.
- The project will be implemented by Haryana Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (HRIDC), a Joint Venture company set up by Ministry of Railways with Government of Haryana.
- The project will have joint participation of Ministry of Railways, Government of Haryana and private stakeholders.
- The project is likely to be completed in 5 years.
- Diversion of traffic not meant for Delhi, thus decongesting NCR and will help in developing multimodal logistics hubs in Haryana State sub-region of NCR.
- High-speed seamless connectivity of this region to Dedicated Freight Corridor network resulting in reduction of cost and time of transportation for EXIM traffic from NCR to ports of India, making exports of goods more competitive.
- Will provide enabling infrastructure to attract multinational industries to set up manufacturing units to fulfil the ‘Make in India’ mission.
- Connect unserved areas of the state of Haryana, thereby boosting economic and social activities in Haryana State.
- Also facilitate affordable and faster commuter travel, long distance travel in different directions from Gurugram and the industrial regions of Manesar, Sohna, Farukhnagar, Kharkhauda and Sonipat.
- The alignment of this project is adjacent to the western peripheral (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal) Expressway and has been under consideration for some time.
Govt. looks to spend ₹2.35 lakh cr. more
The Centre has sought Parliament approval for a gross additional expenditure of ₹2.35 lakh crore, including ₹20,000 crores for recapitalisation of public sector banks for 2020-21.
- The Finance Minister tabled the first batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants for this financial year in the Lok Sabha.
- The supplementary demand for grants is needed for government expenditure over and above the amount for which Parliamentary approval was already obtained during the Budget session.
- It is granted when the amount authorised by the Parliament through the appropriation act for a particular service for the current financial year is found to be insufficient for that year.
- It is granted when a need has arisen during the current financial year for additional expenditure upon some new service not contemplated in the budget for that year.
- It is granted when money has been spent during a financial year in excess of the amount granted for that service in the budget for that year.
- It is voted by the Lok Sabha after the financial year.
- Before the demands for excess grants are submitted to the Lok Sabha for voting, they must be approved by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
Vote of Credit:
- It is granted for meeting an unexpected demand upon the resources of India.
- The demand cannot be stated with the details ordinarily given in a budget.
- Hence, it is like a blank cheque given to the Executive by the Lok Sabha.
- It is granted for a special purpose and forms no part of the current service of any financial year.
- It is granted when funds to meet the proposed expenditure on a new service can be made available by reappropriation.
- A demand for the grant of a token sum (of Re 1) is submitted to the vote of the Lok Sabha and if assented, funds are made available.
- Reappropriation involves transfer of funds from one head to another. It does not involve any additional expenditure.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project
The Government of India has initiated the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) with a view to address cyclone risks in the country.
National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project:
- Implementing agency: National Disaster Management Authority under Home Ministry.
- Objective: Undertake suitable structural and nonstructural measures to mitigate the effects of cyclones in the coastal states and UTs of India.
- It was signed between the Department of Economic Affairs, World Bank and theState Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in 2011.
- It has identified 13 cyclone-prone States and UTs that have been classified into two categories:
- Category I: Higher vulnerability States: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Tamil Nadu & West Bengal
- Category II: Lower vulnerability States: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Andaman & Nicobar.
- The main objective of the NCRMP is to reduce vulnerability of coastal communities to cyclone and other hydro meteorological hazards through:
- Improved early warning dissemination systems.
- Enhanced capacity of local communities to respond to disasters.
- Improved access to emergency shelter, evacuation, and protection against wind storms, flooding and storm surge in high areas.
- Strengthening DRM capacity at central, state and local levels in order
- Enable mainstreaming of risk mitigation measures into the overall development agenda.
Bilateral & International Relations
Department of Science & Technology is having three binational Centres
Presently, the three binational Centres of Govt. of India, namely:
- Indo-French Centre for Promotional of Advanced Research (IFCPAR)established with France in 1987
- Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) established in 2000 with USA
- Indo-German Science & Technology Centre (IGSTC) established in 2010 under inter-governmental agreements
Programmes launched by binational Centres
Indo-US Science & Technology Forum:
Phase II of Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre (JCERDC)
- Under the JCERDC Phase II program, the “UI-ASSIST: U.S.-India collaborative forsmart disribution System with Storage” project co-led by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Washington State University, Pullman was awarded in September 2017.
- It is aimed to address critical issues related to adoption and deployment of smart grid concepts along with Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) for its efficient and reliable operation.
Research Initiative for Real-time River Water and Air Quality Monitoring (WAQM)Program
- Collaboration of Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Intel®
- Four projects were identified for award in 2017-18. Of these, two have been funded under ‘Air’ and ‘Water’ Quality Monitoring categories respectively.
Indo-US Fellowship for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (WISTEMM)
- It is a fellowship program, conceptualized by IUSSTF in partnership with the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
- It provides opportunities to bright Indian women students and scientists for capacity building, gain exposure and access to excellent research facilities in U.S. academia and labs.
- Since the year 2017, 40 young Women researchers/scientists/technologists have under taken research at premier US institutes for duration between 3-6 months.
Indo-German Science & Technology Centre:
IGSTC-CONNECT Plus Programme
- IGSTC and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) jointly launched this Programme in May 2018.
- It is aimed at boosting Indo-German networking and long term collaboration among the participants of the Indo-German Frontiers of Engineering Symposia (INDOGFOE).
- ONDIGFOE is co-organised by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Science & Technology
r-VSV vaccine manufacturing platform
Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is supporting COVID-19 vaccine development by facilitating the establishment of the r-VSV vaccine manufacturing platform for the first time in India under the National Biopharma Mission.
About the r-VSV vaccine manufacturing platform:
- Establishing r-VSV vaccine manufacturing platform is being extended to Aurobindo Pharma Limited which is developing a vaccine for SARS COV-2 (COVID-19).
- This SARS COV-2 vaccine candidate is based on the company’s proprietary replication-competent, attenuated, recombinant vesicular stomatitis vaccine delivery platform.
- Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise, set up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), GoI.
- Objective: To strengthen and empower the emerging Biotech enterprise to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs.
About National Biopharma Mission:
- It is an Industry-Academia Collaborative Mission of Department of Biotechnology for accelerating discovery research to early development for Biopharmaceuticals.
- It is approved by the Cabinet for a total cost US$ 250 million and 50% co-funded by the World Bank is being implemented at Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
- This program is dedicated to deliver affordable products to the nation with an aim to improve the health standards of India’s population.
- Important domains: Vaccines, medical devices and diagnostics and bio-therapeutics are few of its most important domains, besides, strengthening the clinical trial capacity and building technology transfer capabilities in the country.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) launched ‘i-ATS’, an indigenously-built communication-based train control signalling technology for the metro.
About i-ATS technology:
- The i-ATS (Automatic Train Supervision) is a computer-based system that manages train operation.
- It is indigenously-developed technology, which will reduce the dependence of Indian metros on foreign vendors.
- It can work with train control and signalling systems of various suppliers. It can also work with different technologies of train control and signalling systems.
- It is suitable for introduction in Indian Railways, which is now introducing centralised train control on a large scale that uses ATS functions.
New branch of National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC), Bikaner
A branch in Gujarat of National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC), Bikaner is being set up.
- Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare asked Government of Gujarat for an appropriate size of land and other resources on nominal cost/lease basis.
National Research Centre on Camels
- Considering the importance of camel in the socio-economic development of arid and semi-arid zones, the Government of India established a Project Directorate on Camel at Bikaner (India) on 5th July 1984.
- It works under aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) which was upgraded to National Research Center on Camel (NRCC) in 1995.
- NRCC is focusing on basic and applied research on one humped camel (Camelus dromedarius) and double humped camel (Camelus bactrianus).
Distribution of dromedary camels in India
- It is confined to the arid and semi-arid areas of North-western India spread out in parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana.
- They are found in the cold desert of Nubra Valley of Laddakh region.
NRCC, Bikaner to protect double humped camel:
- Camel health management by organizing health camps in Nubra valley.
- Nutritional management by utilizing local feed resources.
- Kharai camels or Swimming Camels are a breed of camel found exclusively in the state of Gujarat (Kutch), India.
- It grazes on saline/mangrove trees and is tolerant to high saline water.
- They are the only swimmer camels of the world and can swim upto three kilometres into the sea in search of mangroves, their primary food.
- IUCN status: Endangered.
Steps to protect Kharai Camels
- Kharai camel has been characterized, registered and gazette notified as breed by DARE/ICAR.
- NRCC has signed an MoU with Kamdhenu University,
Gujarat for further breed conservation and development by
- Training of farmers for scientific camel husbandry
- Organizing Scientist-farmer’s interaction meetings
- Holding animal health camps
- Providing technical support for development of the entrepreneurship towards the camel milk.
Key Facts on Camels
- Camels have long been domesticated as livestock, they provide food (milk and meat) and textiles (fiber and felt from hair).
- Camels are working animals especially suited to their desert habitat and are a vital means of transport for passengers and cargo.
- The double-hump camel is a native of the Gobi Desert, and is found on a vast expanse of cold-desert areas across Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and India.
- The one-hump camel is found in hot deserts whereas the double-humps inhabit high-altitude, cold-desert regions.
- The famous Ganga-Risala of erstwhile Bikaner State was accepted as Imperial Service Troup and participated in World War I and II where camel has played a significant role.
- The camel helped the engineers while constructing the Indira Gandhi Canal in Western part of Rajasthan.
- Presently, the camel corps constitutes an important wing of Border Security Force of Indian Para-Military Services.
Key Facts For Prelims
INSPIRE Awards – MANAK
- The INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research) Awards – MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspirations and Knowledge) is being executed by Department of Science & Technology (DST) with National Innovation Foundation.
- Aim: to motivate students in the age group of 10-15 years and studying in classes 6 to 10.
- The objective of the scheme is to target one million original ideas/innovations rooted in science and societal applications to foster a culture of creativity and innovative thinking among school children.
AICTE Visvesvaraya Best Teachers Award 2020
- AICTE Visvesvaraya Best Teachers Awards 2020 were presented as part of the Engineers Day celebrations by the Minister of Education.
- The award has been introduced for the first time to identify teachers and recognize their excellence, best practice and innovativeness in field of higher technical education at national level.
- Minister also launched SPICES (Scheme for Promoting Interests, Creativity and Ethics among Students) to promote healthy co-curricular activity amongst the students for their all-round development.
Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden or 79N
- A big chunk of ice has broken away from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf – 79N, or Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden – in north-east Greenland.
- Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden is the floating front end of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream – where it flows off the land into the ocean to become buoyant.
- 79N became ‘the largest remaining Arctic ice shelf’ only recently, after the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland lost a lot of area in 2010 and 2012.
Kerala to have certified snake handlers:
- Becoming the first to institutionalize snake handling in the country, the Kerala Forest Department has framed guidelines for rescuing snakes from human dominated places and releasing them in uninhabited areas.
- The protocol tasks certified snake handlers with responding to alerts of snake presence in human habitations & informing the caller of the immediate precautions to be adopted.