Polity & Governance
- PNGRB to act as market regulator for natural gas trading hub
- 7th edition of Home Expo India 2018
Government Schemes & Policies
- Gaps in PMGSY execution: Panel
- World Bank to fund community-led landscapes management in Meghalaya
Bilateral & International Relations
- US adds India in currency monitoring list along with China
- India-Wiesbaden Conference 2018
- India ranks 10th on new Commonwealth innovation index
Science & Technology
- World’s first contact lens that automatically darkens when exposed to bright light
Key Facts for Prelims
- First regional conference of eastern states on Water Resources
- FIEO GlobalLinker
- Pulitzer Prize
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Polity & Governance
PNGRB to act as market regulator for natural gas trading hub
India’s downstream oil and gas regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is set to take up the role of the market regulator for the natural gas sector, when the planned natural gas trading hub comes into being, much on the lines of the capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
Need for a natural gas trading platform:
- The plan to establishing a natural gas trading platform is part of a larger effort by the government to build a vibrant and transparent gas market in India.
- The idea is to create an ecosystem where the competing buyers would be able to buy gas from competing sellers and transport the same from gas source to the place of their requirement by getting a non-discriminatory access to the pipeline capacity.
- This end-to-end solution would reduce customer risk and enhance customer confidence on gas as an alternate fuel and feed.
- The world’s biggest natural gas hub is the Henry Hub in the US state of Louisiana. Gas delivered at this point is the basis of most US natural gas futures.
About Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB):
PNGRB was constituted under The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.
Composition of PNGRB
- The PNGRB consists of Chairperson, a Member (Legal) and three other members.
- It also has power of civil court and bench comprising member (legal) and one or more members nominated by chairperson which decides on disputes arising among downstream companies or with outsiders.
- The Act provide for the establishment of PNGRB to protect the interests of consumers and entities engaged in specified activities relating to petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and to promote competitive markets and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- Further as enshrined in the act, the board has also been mandated to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas excluding production of crude oil and natural gas so as and to ensure uninterrupted and adequate supply of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas in all parts of the country.
7th edition of Home Expo India 2018
7th edition of Home Expo India 2018 was recently organized by EPCH at India Expo Centre and Mart, Greater Noida. The fair is a three segmented categories show comprising Housewares, Textiles and Furniture under one roof at the same time making it a One-Stop Expo for every visitor.
- Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) under the aegis of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, Government of India is a non-profit organization, established under the EXIM policy of Government of India in the year 1986-87.
- The objective is to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts.
- The Council is run and managed by team of professionals headed by Executive Director. The Committee of Administration consists of eminent exporters, professionals.
- The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts has a rarest distinction of being considered as MODEL COUNCIL that is self-sustaining and where all the promotional activities are self-financed.
Functions of the council:
- It is an apex body of handicrafts exporters for promotion of exports of Handicrafts from country.
- The Council has created necessary infrastructure as well as marketing and information facilities, which are availed both by the members exporters and importers.
- The Council is engaged in promotion of handicrafts from India and project India’s image abroad as a reliable supplier of high quality handicrafts.
- “VRIKSH” is a program by EPCH which is totally based on the timber legality assessment and verification standard for verification of legality and legal origin of wood and wooden products.
- It is intended for entities who want to accurately track and make claims about the legal origin and transport of their products.
- The VRIKSH standard conforms to all major compliance requirements including the new CITES notification.
- To fulfil the obligation, the Vriksh shipment certificate, issued exclusively by EPCH is mandatory to go along with all shipments of two Dalbergia’s species (Rosewood and Sheesham) products.
Government Schemes & Policies
Gaps in PMGSY execution: Panel
A parliamentary panel has found discrepancies including diversion of funds, issuing tenders prior to technical sanctions, incomplete projects, preference to certain villages etc. in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) — a flagship programme of the Central government to provide rural last mile connectivity.
- The panel also found that some states had deviated from the prescribed procedures. Consequently, eligible habitations were either left out or wrongly shown as connected.
About the PMGSY:
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country.
- The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
Aim of the PMGSY:
The aim was to provide roads to all villages
- With a population of 1000 persons and above by 2003
- With a population of 500 persons and above by 2007
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 500 persons and above by 2003
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 250 persons and above by 2007.
World Bank to fund community-led landscapes management in Meghalaya
The Union Government (Finance Ministry) has signed Loan Agreement with World Bank for IBRD loan of US $48 million for Meghalaya Community – Led Landscapes Management Project (MCLLMP)
- The project aims to strengthen community-led landscapes management in selected landscapes in Meghalaya by 2023.
The project consists of three components:
- Strengthening knowledge and capacity for natural resource management.
- Community-led landscape planning and implementation.
- Project management and governance.
Significance of the Project:
- The project will help manage these depleting resources, by strengthening communities and traditional institutions.
- The Restoration of degraded and highly degraded landscapes under the project will increase water for local communities and improve soil productivity which will in turn increase incomes and reduce poverty.
Bilateral & International Relations
US adds India in currency monitoring list along with China
The US Department of Treasury has included India in the monitoring list of its major trading partners that merit close attention to their currency practices and macroeconomic policies.
- The list was part of semi-annual report on Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States.
Why is India included in the list?
- According to USDTR, India increased its purchase of forex over first three quarters of 2017. Despite sharp drop-off in purchase in fourth quarter, net annual purchase of forex reached US $56 billion in 2017, equivalent to 2.2% of the GDP.
- The pick-up in purchases came amidst relatively strong foreign inflows, both of foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio investment (FPI).
- Notwithstanding increase in intervention, the rupee appreciated by more than 6% against the dollar and by more than 3% on a real effective basis in 2017.
- The US Treasury Department report is required by Congress to identify countries that are trying to artificially manage value of their currency to gain trade advantage, for example by keeping exchange rate low to promote cheaper exports.
- Once country is listed, it remains on it for at least two consecutive report cycles which is submitted to US Congress to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors.
- India is sixth addition to the watch list which comprises China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland.
- US Treasury Department has asked these countries to implement economic reforms to manage their respective surpluses.
India-Wiesbaden Conference 2018
Wiesbaden Conference 2018 was recently held in India.
- The conference provides an opportunity to participants to share experiences on their export control systems and to identify legal and technical assistance, action plans and challenges in the national implementation of UNSC 1540.
- The title of the Conference is ‘Securing Global Supply Chains through Government-Industry Partnerships towards Effective Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540’.
- The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in cooperation with Germany and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted the conference.
- Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was the industry partner for the event.
- Representatives from the 39 countries, as well as experts from the UNSC 1540 Committee and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York, participated in the conference.
About Weisbaden process:
The Wiesbaden Process was initiated by the Government of Germany in 2012 to strengthen the implementation of UNSC 1540 through Government-Industry partnerships.
UN Security Council Resolution 1540:
- The UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) establishes legally binding obligations on all States to adopt and enforce appropriate and effective measures to prevent the proliferation to non-State actors of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems.
- It requires, therefore that States implement appropriate and effective measures to prevent non-state actors such as terrorists, from obtaining access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
- UNSCR 1540 requires all states to adopt and enforce laws that will ensure implementation of the obligations laid down in the WMD treaties, especially with a view to prevent proliferation to non-state actors.
- It does not create very specific legal obligations for those states that are not party to existing WMD treaties, because it only requires them to take ‘measures’ against proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery.
The resolution includes three primary obligations:
- All States are prohibited from providing any form of support to non-state actors seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction, related materials, or their means of delivery.
- All States must adopt and enforce laws criminalizing the possession and acquisition of such items by non-state actors, as well as efforts to assist or finance their acquisition.
- All States must adopt and enforce domestic controls over nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials, in order to prevent their proliferation.
Location of Wiesbaden:
- Wiesbaden is the city, capital of state Hesse in central Germany.
- It is situated on the right bank of Rhine River and on the foot of Taunus Mountains.
India ranks 10th on new Commonwealth innovation index
A new Commonwealth Innovation Index has been launched as part of a new Commonwealth Innovation Hub on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in London.
About the Commonwealth Innovation Index:
- The index has been created in partnership with the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and its annual Global Innovation Index (GII).
- It is aimed at providing a tool that allows member states, organisations and citizens to benchmark themselves against 53 countries of the Commonwealth, with the new innovation hub offering a dedicated online space for Commonwealth countries to showcase what they have to offer and share with other members.
About Global Innovation Index (GII):
- The Global Innovation Index (GII), co-published by World-Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD with CII as a Knowledge Partner since inception, has been ranking world economies including India since 2007 according to their innovation capabilities and outcomes using 82 indicators among a host of other important parameters.
Highlights of the index:
- The index is topped by the UK, Singapore and Canada.
- India is ranked 10th. Bangladesh has been ranked 24th.
Science & Technology
World’s first contact lens that automatically darkens when exposed to bright light
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved use of Acuvue Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, world’s first contact lens that automatically darkens when exposed to bright light.
- It is first of its kind contact lens to incorporate same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun.
- They can be used by people with certain degrees of astigmatism, an abnormal curvature of the eye.
About the technology:
- These contact lenses contain photochromic additive that adapts amount of visible light filtered to eye based on amount of ultra-violet (UV) light to which they are exposed. This additive slightly darkens lenses in bright sunlight that automatically return to regular tint when exposed to normal or dark lighting conditions.
Key Facts for Prelims
First regional conference of eastern states on Water Resources
- The first regional conference of eastern states on Water Resources was held in Kolkata, West Bengal in bid to address outstanding water resources issues.
- It was conveyed by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.
- The conference was aimed at addressing outstanding water resources issues, inter-state issues, intra and inter-basin issues among five eastern states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal.
- Ministry of Commerce and Industry has launched FIEO GlobalLinker, a digital platform for MSME exporters to digitise their businesses and join global community of growing businesses.
- It has been developed by Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
- FIEO GlobalLinker aims to make the business growth of SMEs simpler, more profitable and enjoyable.
About Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO):
- It is apex trade promotion organisation in India.
- It was jointly established in 1965 by Ministry of Commerce and private trade and industry.
- It is responsible for representing and assisting Indian entrepreneurs and exporters in foreign markets.
- The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in United States.
- It was established in 1917 by provisions in will of American-Hungarian newspaper publisher and master of yellow journalism Joseph Pulitzer.
- The award is administered by Columbia University in New York City.
- Prizes are awarded yearly in 21 categories. In 20 of the categories, each winner receives certificate and US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism is awarded a gold medal.
Pulitzer Prize 2018
- The New York Times and The New Yorker have jointly won the Pulitzer Prize, in the Public Service category for long-running Harvey Weinstein saga of sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood.