Government Schemes & Policies
- Government scraps Haj subsidy
Issues related to Health & Education
- Deep Brain Stimulation tied to improved symptoms in Tourette
- NITI Aayog initiates the first course on Sustainable Urban Planning under GIAN Program.
- Centre, CII ink MoU for development of logistics sector
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Australia to offer payment for Great Barrier Reef rescue ideas
- 5th World Energy and Environment Conference and Exhibition
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Israel PMs to attend Raisina Dialogue 2018
Defence & Security Issues
- Simplified ‘Make-II’: Major Steps Towards ‘Make in India’ in Defence Production
Key Facts for Prelims
- Missing the grass for the trees in Western Ghats
- Energy Globe World Award 2017
- China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’
- Rajasthan’s first oil refinery at Barmer
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Polity & Governance
Government scraps Haj subsidy
The government has abolished the subsidy being given to Haj pilgrims every year.
- The government said it will use the subsidy funds to empower the minorities.
Issues related to Health & Education
Deep Brain Stimulation tied to improved symptoms in Tourette
In a latest study, Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been found to be associated with a symptomatic improvement in patients with Tourette syndrome.
- The study found that 1 year after the implantation of a DBS device, the average tic severity for patients improved by 45%.
What is Deep Brain Stimulator?
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical procedure involving the implantation of a medical device called a neurostimulator (sometimes referred to as a ‘brain pacemaker’), under the skin in upper chest regulates the abnormal impulses of the brain.
- It is used in typical neurological conditions of essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease and Dystonia.
It consists of:
- The DBS consists of implanted pulse generator, electrodes and extension cables which interface with external Programmer module and wireless battery charger.
- The DBS is currently being imported, limiting its wider usage due to the high cost. The planned joint development is targeted to provide an affordable alternative.
What is Tourette syndrome?
- Tourette syndrome (TS) is a problem with the nervous system (neurological disorder) that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, that they can’t control.
- For example, someone with Tourette’s might blink or clear their throat over and over again. Some people may blurt out words they don’t intend to say.
- Tics are involuntary, repetitive movements and vocalizations.
- Though the exact cause of the Tourette’s syndrome is unknown, it is believed to be caused both by genetic and environmental factors.
- Studies suggest that it is inherited most of the time, though the mode of inheritance and the carrier gene is not yet identified.
- This syndrome has been linked to a dysfunction in an area in the brain, which could be basal ganglia, thalamus and frontal cortex, which controls the body movements.
- A disruption in the working of neurotransmitters is also believed to cause tics.
- Tourette’s syndrome causes sudden repetitive movements called the tics. These can be so mild as to go unnoticed and can be severe enough to seek medical assistance as well.
These tics can be of two types, motor tics and vocal tics.
- Motor tics concentrate on the sudden, involuntary muscle movement in the body. These include: Head jerking, Rapid blinking, Mouth, or face twitching, Shrugging and Arms jerking.
- Vocal tics concentrate on the involuntary vocal sounds made by an individual. For example: Throat clearing, Coughing, Repeating what someone else says, Swearing, Shouting and Sniffing.
NITI Aayog initiates the first course on Sustainable Urban Planning under GIAN Program.
The NITI Aayog has launched first course on Sustainable Urban planning using remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) at IIT Kanpur’s outreach centre in Noida.
- This is first course conducted under Global Initiative on Academic Network (GIAN) Program of Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. It is actively supported by NITI Aayog and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
About the course:
- This course aims to give participants state-of-the-art remote sensing and GIS skills which will allow them to rise to the challenge of managing the rapidly changing urban environment of Indian cities.
- Focus will be on issues such as water resource management, water pollution and strategic emplacements for water treatment facilities.
Significance of the course:
- This course is expected to contribute significantly to build trained manpower for the Smart Cities Mission launched by the Government on 25th June 2015 with an objective to promote sustainable and inclusive cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.
About Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN):
Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education is scheme of HRD Ministry launched in 2015.
Aim of GIAN:
- GIAN aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities.
Objectives of GIAN:
GIAN is envisaged to achieve the following objectives:
- To increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes.
- Provide opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas.
- To provide opportunity to our students to seek knowledge and experience from reputed International faculty.
- To create avenue for possible collaborative research with the international faculty
- To increase participation and presence of international students in the academic Institutes.
- Opportunity for the students of different Institutes/Universities to interact and learn subjects in niche areas through collaborative learning process.
- Provide opportunity for the technical persons from Indian Industry to improve understandings and update their knowledge in relevant areas.
- Motivate the best international experts in the world to work on problems related to India.
- Develop high quality course material in niche areas, both through video and print that can be used by a larger body of students and teachers.
- To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.
Centre, CII ink MoU for development of logistics sector
In an attempt to strengthen the overall logistics sector in the country, the Department of commerce recently signed an MoU with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
- The objective of the MoU is to modernise India’s logistics sector and bring it at par with the global best.
The following is the road map:
- To establish Logistics Working group with representatives from DoC and Industry to examine issues related to logistics and recommend solutions
- To foster focused engagement with the industry
- To collaborate with the concerned agencies including state Govts and other related agencies
- To undertake mutually agreed focused studies on logistics
- To promote Govt’s policies on logistics
- The Government has decided to reduce the Logistics cost in the country from the present 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022.
- For this purpose, a concerted effort in collaboration with Central Ministries as well as State Governments has been initiated for simplifying the regulatory processes in both domestic and EXIM (export-import) logistics.
- To enhance import and export performance, the Centre has entrusted the task of integrated development of the logistics sector to the Department of Commerce.
- Government also has granted infrastructure status to number of logistics activities, which will enable them to avail cheaper and long term commercial loans.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Australia to offer payment for Great Barrier Reef rescue ideas
Australia is calling on the world’s top scientific minds to help save the Great Barrier Reef, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund research into protecting the world’s largest living structure.
- Great Barrier Reef, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef is reeling from significant coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
- The 2,300-kilometre site is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, with experts warning it could be suffering irreparable damage.
About Great Barrier Reef:
- The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system.
- It is composed of over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
- The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
- The reef is so vast that it can be seen from outer space.
- It is also the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
- In 1981, it was selected as a World Heritage Site.
- A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use.
5th World Energy and Environment Conference and Exhibition
The World Energy and Environment Council (WEEC) is organising the 5th Series World Energy and Environment Conference and Exhibition 2018 at Bahrain.
- The Conference raises and sets the bar higher for global debate, dialogue, engagement and cooperation.
- Theme: “Shifting to Clean, Renewable Energy in Time of Transition”.
About World Energy and Environment Council (WEEC):
- WEEC is a world platform that address serious issues about environment and the challenges to turn to clean, renewable energy.
- The focus is into the development of energy policy, sustainable strategies, sustainable resource developments and sustainable economic development.
- WEEC aim for commitment from governments, its leaders, for lawmakers to do intelligent thinking, get brilliant ideas in directing laws and regulations.
- With the private sectors cooperation and participation, creating a roadmap toward sustainability for the benefit of all.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Israel PMs to attend Raisina Dialogue 2018
Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, has inaugurated the third edition of the Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi.
- The theme of the Dialogue this year is ‘Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions & Idioms’.
About the Raisina Dialogue:
The Raisina Dialogue is an annual flagship conference on Geopolitics and Geo-economics.
- The conference is organised by Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
- The name of conference comes from Raisina Hill which is the elevation in New Delhi where presidential palace of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is located.
- It is designed to explore prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world.
- It is predicated on India’s vital role in the Indian Ocean Region and how India along with its partners can build a stable regional and world order.
- The first edition of the conference was held in March 2016 with the theme “Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity”. It is organized on the lines of the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.
- The second edition of conference was held in January 2017 with the theme “The New Normal: Multilateralism in a multipolar world”.
- The two-day annual conference is a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral meeting involving policy and decision-makers, including but not limited to Foreign, Defence and Finance Ministers of different countries, high-level government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry, and members of the strategic community, media and academia.
- The Raisina Dialogue is India’s attempt to reclaim its role as the hub of knowledge and ideas, as during the times of Nalanda, in the 21st century.
- The Raisina Dialogue was born two years ago, in 2016, in the belief that the Asian century that the world was talking about was not about any exclusive geographical region.
- It has today become a crucible for conversations and ideas that while located in India can be owned by the world.
Defence & Security Issues
Simplified ‘Make-II’: Major Steps Towards ‘Make in India’ in Defence Production
As a major boost to ‘Make in India’ in Defence, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has simplified ‘Make II’ procedure, which prescribes guidelines to be followed to develop and manufacture defence equipment through Indian Industry.
- DAC has also cleared procurement proposal of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines on fast track basis for Rs 3,547 crore.
Simplification of Make II procedure:
- The simplification of Make II procedure aims encourage participation of private sector in defence design and production and give boost to ‘Make in India’ programme in Defence Sector.
- Since no government funding is involved in ‘Make II’ project, the DAC felt it necessary to simplify the procedure to make it industry friendly, with minimal government control.
- The salient aspects of the revised procedure will now allow Ministry of Defence to accept suo-motu proposals from the industry and also allows start-ups to develop equipment for Indian Armed Forces.
- The minimum qualification criteria to participate in ‘Make II’ projects has also been relaxed by removing conditions related to credit rating and reducing financial net worth criteria.
- As per the earlier ‘Make II’ procedure, only two vendors were shortlisted to develop prototype equipment. Now, all vendors meeting the relaxed eligibility criteria will be allowed to participate in the prototype development process.
- The vendor will not be required to submit Detailed Project Report. After accord of approval of the ‘Make II’ project by the council, all clearances will be accorded at Service HQ (SHQ) level.
About Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):
To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC.
- It is headed by the Defence Minister.
- The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans.
- It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.
Objective of DAC:
- The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
Functions of the DAC include:
- In-principle approval of 15 Year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan for Defence Forces;
- accord of Acceptance of Necessity to acquisition proposals;
- categorization of the acquisition proposals relating to ‘Buy’, ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Make’;
- issues relating to Single vendor clearance;
- decision regarding ‘offset’ provisions in respect of acquisition proposals above Rs. 300 crores;
- decisions regarding Transfer of Technology under ‘Buy & Make’ category of acquisition proposals; and
- Field Trial evaluation.
Key Facts for Prelims
Missing the grass for the trees in Western Ghats
- A recently published study shows that as much as two-thirds of natural grasslands in the Palani Hill range of Western Ghats has shrunk.
- The reasons include timber plantations, expanding agriculture and the spread of invasive species
- These drastic declines are particularly stark in shola grasslands (which are stunted forest growths of diverse grass species), and seem to be accelerating through the decades.
Energy Globe World Award 2017
- Energy Globe Award is an environmental award, honouring best solutions for current energy and climate changes.
- It was founded in 1999 in Austria as a local initiative.
- Since then it has grown into a global award, presented in over 170 countries annually.
- India’s Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Odisha won the award in ‘Fire Category’ for green initiatives undertaken by the institute. KISS was the only institution from India to bag the award in the field of environment.
- Iran secured the first place in Energy Globe World Awards 2017 in the category of water.
China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’
- China has built the world’s largest air purifier in an attempt to curb the air pollution.
- The 100 meters high tower is located in the city of Xian in Shaanxi province of northern China.
- In the initial experiments, the tower was successful in reducing the smog on severely polluted days to moderate levels.
How it works?
- The system works through greenhouses covering. Polluted air is sucked into the glasshouses and is heated up using solar energy. The hot air then rises through the tower and passes through multiple layers of cleaning filters.
- The system in the air purifier also works during winters as coatings on the greenhouses enable the glass to absorb solar radiation at a higher efficiency.
Rajasthan’s first oil refinery at Barmer
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the commencement of work for the Rajasthan Refinery at Pachpadra in Barmer district.
- The Rajasthan Refinery will be the first and one of a kind in the state.
- Rajasthan Refinery is a joint venture of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and government of Rajasthan.