Polity & Governance
- Kerala to get MGNREGS assets geo- tagged
- Govt notifies draft Compensatory Afforestation Fund rules
Government Schemes & Policies
- ‘Watan ko Jano’ programme
- World’s First Hyperloop Between Mumbai and Pune
- Govt invites young startups to explore Northeast for their ventures
- WhatsApp has to follow all UPI guidelines for payments launch: NPCI
Bilateral & International Relations
- Iran, India reinforce economic ties with Chabahar Deal
- Myanmar dam on border worries Manipur village
- Pakistan to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia
Art & Culture
- Culture Minister unveils 8th edition of Theatre Olympics
Science & Technology
- Indian engineer awarded Sci-tech Oscar Award
- NASA’s Kepler discovers nearly 100 new exoplanets
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Antyodaya Aahaar Yojana’
- National Banana Festival 2018
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Polity & Governance
Kerala to get MGNREGS assets geo- tagged
Kerala state Rural Development Department is planning to get assets generated under MGNREGS geo- tagged and perhaps become the first state to achieve this distinction.
- Over 1 lakh assets have already been geo- tagged in the state.
Need for geotagging:
- The scale of rural assets created under MGNREGA is very large. Since the inception of the programme in financial year 2006-07, about 2.82 Crore assets have been created under the programme.
- On an average, about 30 Lakh Assets are created annually which includes a variety of works such as water harvesting structures, plantations, rural infrastructure, flood control measures, individual assets for sustainable livelihood, community infrastructure and so on.
- Geotagging of assets created under MGNREGA was started after Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for online recording and monitoring of assets to check leakages.
- Subsequently, on June 24, 2016, the Ministry of Rural development signed a MoU with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO and National Informatics Centre to geotag MGNREGA assets created under each village panchayats.
- The geotagging exercise commenced from 1st September 2016. Gram Rozgar Sahayak or a junior engineer uploads the photos of assets on the Bhuvan web portal run by ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre via a mobile app.
- The time and location of the asset get automatically encrypted at the time of upload of the photos. In this way, within a span of seven months, one crore assets have been geotagged and shared in public domain.
- In January 2017, Kangra district (Himachal Pradesh) became the first district in the country to geotag all the assets created under MGNREGA.
What does Geotagging mean?
- Geotagging is the process of adding geographical information to various media in the form of metadata.
- The data usually consists of coordinates like latitude and longitude, but may even include bearing, altitude, distance and place names.
Applications of the geotagging:
- Geotagging is most commonly used for photographs and can help people get a lot of specific information about where the picture was taken or the exact location of a friend who logged on to a service.
- Geotagging location services can be used to find location-specific websites, news and other information. It is based on positions and coordinates and is often directly taken from a global positioning system (GPS).
- Some social networking sites and services give out the location of their users, which allows users to know exactly where their friends are as they are logged on to that website (or check-in to the service).
Govt notifies draft Compensatory Afforestation Fund rules
The Union government notified the draft Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules, 2018 to facilitate utilisation of over Rs50,000 crore among states to expand India’s forest cover.
- The draft rules come nearly one and half years after the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill was passed by Parliament in July 2016.
- The draft rules specify the activities that would be allowed or restricted in a forest area.
Highlights of the draft rules:
The draft rules specified a list of activities that can be undertaken or are not allowed from the fund.
- It allows activities like establishment, upgradation and maintenance of modern nurseries, purchase and maintenance of communication devices, construction, up-gradation and maintenance of inspection paths.
- These activities “shall be taken up in consultation with the Gram Sabha or Van Sanrakshan Samiti (VSS) or Village Forest Committee as the case may be” and shall be in consonance with the provisions of FRA 2006.
Activities not allowed:
- The fund will not be used for activities like payment of salary, travelling allowances, medical expenses to regular employees of the state forest department, undertaking foreign visits, payment for legal services, purchase of cars, construction of residential and official buildings for officers above forest range officers.
- The list of activities not permissible also include leasing, hiring and purchase of land for afforestation purposes, purchase of furniture and appliances, establishment, expansion and up-gradation of zoo and wildlife safari among others.
Utilization of funds:
- According to the proposed rules, 80% of the “net present value (NPV)” can be used for forest and wildlife management activities like assisted natural regeneration, artificial regeneration (by plantations), protection of plantations and forests, pest and disease control in forest, forest fire prevention and others.
- 20% of the NPV, in a financial year, “shall be utilised for strengthening the forest and wildlife related infrastructure, capacity building of the personnel of state forest departments and other associated agencies and organisations involved in utilisation of these monies”.
- Environmentalists and forest rights activists have criticized the draft rules stating they violate the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
- They say these will result in further atrocities and crimes against tribals and forest dwellers. FRA Act mandates that gram sabhas (village councils) have both the right and the power to protect, manage and conserve their forests.
Government Schemes & Policies
‘Watan ko Jano’ programme
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had recently organized Youth Exchange Programme- Watan Ko Jano programme.
About the Watan Ko Jano programme:
- The Watan Ko Jano programme is sponsored jointly by Ministry of Home Affairs, Central Government (Kashmir Cell) and J&K State Rehabilitation Council Social Welfare Department.
- It aims to give exposure to youth and children of J&K about the cultural and socio-economic development taking place in other parts of country.
- Youth and children hit by militancy and from weaker sections from J&K are selected for the programme.
World’s First Hyperloop Between Mumbai and Pune
The Virgin Group led by Richard Branson has signed an intent agreement with Maharashtra Government to build world’s first hyperloop transportation system between Mumbai and Pune.
- The proposed hyperlook transportation system will link central Pune with megapolis as well as Navi Mumbai international airport.
- It aims to reduce travel time between two mega cities to 20 minutes from three hours at present.
What is hyperloop transportation system?
- It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft.
- The hyperloop system is being designed to transport passengers and freight.
- The Hyperloop is a concept proposed by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, CEO the aerospace firm SpaceX.
- US-based Hyperloop Transport Technology (HTT) claimed it costs $40 million per kilometre to build a hyperloop system while building a high-speed train line would cost almost twice.
How it operates?
- In hyperloop transportation, custom-designed capsules or pods are expected to zip smoothly through continuous steel tubes which are held at partial vacuum.
- The pod which sandwiches the passenger compartment between an air compressor upfront and a battery compartment in the rear is supported by air caster skis at the bottom.
- The skis float on a thin layer of air provided under high pressure, eliminating rolling resistance and allowing for movement of the pods at high speeds. These capsules are expected to be driverless with estimated speeds of 1,000 km/h.
- Linear induction motors that are placed along the tube control the speed of the pod. Electronically-assisted acceleration and braking determines the speed of the capsule.
Why is it important?
- Developments in traditional high speed railway technology have not made much progress in recent years.
- From steam to diesel to electric, locomotives have come up against the physical constraints of weight and drag.
- Frictional losses too come into play when a vehicle relies on wheels. As speeds accelerate, mechanical wear and tear leads to high maintenance costs.
- Maglev (magnetic levitation), which was expected to provide a solution has not gained traction. High-power consumption, accidents and technical challenges have hampered its progress.
In Hyperloop, during the pod’s journey, an inlet fan and compressor push high pressure air from the nose to tail. This action and the partial vacuum which eliminates most of the drag, boosts the speed. Low power consumption and reliance on existing infrastructure after re-engineering, are big positives.
- It requires heavy investments and therefore effective public and private sector coordination is prerequisite for implementing it.
- It consumes high-power compared to railways.
- Technical challenges and accidents may hamper its progress.
Govt invites young startups to explore Northeast for their ventures
In a bid to make Northeast a favourite destination for young Startups, the government has invited young start-ups to avail the benefits of Northeast Venture Fund.
About Northeast Venture Fund:
Launched in April 2017, North East Venture Fund was the first dedicated venture capital fund for the North-Eastern region.
- North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi) in association with Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (M-DoNER) has launched the North-East Venture Fund.
- It is focussed to encourage entrepreneurship in the region, primarily by offering support to the first-generation entrepreneurs.
- In addition to the provisions of tax holiday and exit period available in the Government of India’s “Standup India, Startup India” programme, the Ministry of DoNER has also rolled out “Venture Fund” for anybody who wishes to Startup in the Northeast region, which would provide a huge financial relief particularly to young entrepreneurs.
- The primary objective of North East Venture Fund (NEVF) would be to invest in enterprises focused on and not limited to Food Processing, Healthcare, Tourism, Aggregation of Services and IT&ITES located in the NER and to provide resources for entrepreneurs from the region to expand throughout the country.
- The objective of the Fund is to contribute to the entrepreneurship development of the NER and achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns through long term capital appreciation by way of investments in privately negotiated equity/ equity related investments.
WhatsApp has to follow all UPI guidelines for payments launch: NPCI
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has given its consent to roll out the beta launch of WhatsApp BHIM UPI with a limited userbase of 1 million and low per transaction limit.
- Four banks will join the multi-bank BHIM UPI model in phases (in the coming weeks) and full feature product shall be released after the beta test is successful.
- Multi-bank model offers advantages such as transaction load distribution between banks and helps to integrate popular apps easily with BHIM UPI.
- The inter-operability will allow to send and receive money through any BHIM UPI ID, intent and collect call and read and generate BHIM/Bharat QR code that are required in final BHIM UPI app.
About the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI):
- NPCI is an umbrella organization for all retail payments system in India.
- Founded in 2008, NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under the Companies Act 2013.
- It aims to allow all Indian citizens to have unrestricted access to e-payment services.
- It was set up with the guidance and support of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). NPCI has ten promoter banks.
- It has been promoted by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India.
- Its recent work of developing Unified Payments Interface aims to move India to a cashless society with only digital transactions.
- It has successfully completed the development of a domestic card payment network called RuPay, reducing the dependency on international card schemes.
Bilateral & International Relations
Iran, India reinforce economic ties with Chabahar Deal
India and Iran have signed a significant pact which gives New Delhi operational control of a part of the strategically located Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman for 18 months.
- The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December last, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
Where is Chabahar port located?
The port of Chabahar is located on the Makran coast of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz.
- It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
- Being close to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc., it has been termed the “Golden Gate” to these land-locked countries.
- The Chabahar port was partially developed by India in the 1990s.
Why Chabahar Port is crucial for India?
- The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
- Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
- The use of Chabahar port is seen as a major boost to India’s efforts to connect with Central Asia and Russia, and it could facilitate Indian imports of iron ore, sugar and rice as well as crude oil from Iran.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
- The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Location of Iran:
- Iran is the second-largest country in the Middle East.
- Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan; to the north by the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq.
- The country’s central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance.
Myanmar dam on border worries Manipur village
Myanmar is constructing a dam, called Tuidimjang, on the Twigem river flowing into Myanmar from Manipur.
- Since, Tuidimjang dam is being constructed across a river close to the boundary with India, it has stoked fears of submergence and water scarcity among border villagers in Kengjoi subdivison of Manipur’s Chandel district.
- The topography of the area is such that nearby Indian villages will be submerged if the dam comes up. The villagers, dependent on the river, are already facing water scarcity.
- Also, the dam is being built by Myanmar authorities barely 100 metres from the Zero Line separating the two countries. International rules warrant border countries to check activities in No Man’s Land – a 150-metre strip on either side of the boundary line.
Location of Myanmar:
- Myanmar is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia.
- Myanmar is bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east and People’s Republic of China to its north and northeast.
Pakistan to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia
In a major policy shift, Pakistan has decided to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia under bilateral security cooperation with the kingdom which is involved in the ongoing civil war in neighbouring Yemen.
- The troops have been deployed for training and advise mission. They will not be employed outside Saudi Arabia.
- The move comes three years after Pakistan decided against sending soldiers to join the Saudi-led military intervention in strife-torn Yemen.
- Already around 1,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Islamabad, in various advisory and training roles.
- Saudi Arabia has been pushing fellow Sunni-majority Pakistan to provide troops since 2015 when it joined Yemen’s civil war but Pakistan steadily refused, saying it would not become party to any regional conflict.
- The civil war in Yemen stalemated and the situation has aggravated with the rebels firing missiles at regular intervals towards the kingdom.
- The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) set up by Saudi Arabia and led by former Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif is also still in an early stage to play any role in the conflict.
Implications of the move:
- Pakistan is treading a fine line in maintaining relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar and other regional players and the decision of deploying troops may annoy Saudi Arabia’s rivals like Iran and Qatar.
- The decision may also create tension in Pakistan’s internal politics as parliament had passed a resolution at the start of the Yemen crisis that said Pakistan would stay neutral in the conflict.
The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) was created by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 to combat the Islamic State and other groups.
- Currently, it has 39 members, including Turkey and Malaysia.
- It is based at a command centre in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
- The coalition was envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.
- The coalition includes countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen among others.
- It has been established in pursuance with objectives and principles of the charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
- Member countries of this alliance will coordinate and support military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt.
- Saudi Arabia’s arch rival (for influence in the Arab world) Iran was not named as member of the IMAFT. Currently both regional powers are engaged proxy sectarian conflicts in Syria to Yemen.
Pakistan & IMAFT:
- Pakistan initially had taken aback for being part of IMAFT, after Saudi Arabia had announced Pakistan also part of the alliance. However, Pakistan later confirmed its participation in the alliance but has not committed itself to providing troops for any possible military operations.
Art & Culture
Culture Minister unveils 8th edition of Theatre Olympics
India is hosting the 8th Edition of Theatre Olympics ‘The Biggest Theatre Celebration of the World’.
- The event was organised by National School of Drama (NSD) under Ministry of Culture.
- The theme of the festival is – “Flag of Friendship”.
About the Theatre Olympics:
- The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, as the first international theatre festival.
- With the tagline ‘Crossing Millennia’, this is an initiative to connect the cultural past with the present and future, bringing the richness and diversity of theatre heritage to the experiments and research of contemporary theatre.
- The first country to host the Theatre Olympics was Greece in 1995.
- In 2016, the 7th Theatre Olympics were held in Wroclaw, Poland.
About National School of Drama (NSD):
- NSD is a theatre training institute situated at New Delhi.
- It is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
- It was set up in 1959 by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, and became an independent school in 1975.
- In 2005 it was granted deemed university status, but in 2011 it was revoked on the institute’s request.
Science & Technology
Indian engineer awarded Sci-tech Oscar Award
Vikas Sathaye, a Pune-born Indian engineer was recently honoured with the Scientific and Engineering Academy Award at the Oscars Scientific and Technical Awards 2018 at Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California.
- Sathaye received the award along with his team for their contribution towards the conceptualisation, design, engineering and the implementation of the ‘Shotover K1 Camera System’.
About Shotover K1 Camera System:
- The Shotover K1 Camera System is a camera mount that is used for aerial filming.
- The six-axis stabilised aerial camera mount can be attached to the base of a helicopter, which carries the camera and lens.
- The primary function of the camera mount is ensuring a steady footage by eliminating any vibration from reaching the camera.
- The innovative creation, with its enhanced ability to frame shots while looking straight down, enables greater creative freedom and results in clear, unwavering photography and videography.
About the award:
- The Oscar’s or Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honours companies and individuals for their discoveries and innovations that have contributed significantly to motion pictures.
- They are conferred on three levels: Technical Achievement Award (certificate), Scientific and Engineering Award (bronze tablet) and Academy Award of Merit (Oscar statuette).
NASA’s Kepler discovers nearly 100 new exoplanets
An international team of scientists have discovered nearly 100 new exoplanets — planets located outside our solar system.
- The discovery was based on data from the second mission of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope or K2 released in 2014.
- With this total number of exoplanets found using NASA’s K2 mission has reached almost 300.
Significance of this discovery:
- The discovery will help astronomers to develop much better picture of nature of exoplanets which in turn will allow us to place our own solar system into galactic context.
- Discovery of planets around bright stars will help astronomers to learn about them from ground-based observatories.
About NASA’s Kepler Mission:
- NASA had launched Kepler spacecraft in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in single patch of sky.
- The spacecraft had crippled the telescope in 2013 due to mechanical failure. However, by changing its field of view periodically, astronomers and engineers had then devised way to repurpose and save the space telescope which had paved way for K2 mission.
- The telescope hunts exoplanet transits by registering dips in light caused by shadow after it crosses in front of its host star.
What are exoplanets?
- Planets outside our solar system are called exoplanets. Most of these are part of star systems. There are some “rogue” exoplanets, which are not attached to any star system.
When was the first exoplanet discovered?
- The first exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, was discovered in 1995 by Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz.
Do these exoplanets support life?
- The search for exoplanets is also the search for alien life and habitable spaces beyond our star system. NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions have identified several such candidates. One of the factors that must be satisfied in order to be considered habitable is that exoplanets must orbit within a distance of their stars in which liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface, receiving about as much sunlight as Earth. This distance is called the “Goldilocks” zone because it is neither too far or too close to the star that life becomes impossible.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Antyodaya Aahaar Yojana’
- Haryana state government launched four subsidised food canteens at Faridabad, Gurugram, Hisar and Yamunanagar under ‘Antyodaya Aahaar Yojana’ to provide healthy, nutritious and hygienic food at affordable prices of Rs 10 per meal to all poor and needy persons.
- At these canteens, the food would be served to registered construction workers and all other poor and needy persons between 11 am to 4 pm daily.
- Under the ‘Antyodaya Aahaar Yojana’, 23 subsidised canteens, one each at district headquarter except Gurugram and Faridabad, where two such canteens would be established.
National Banana Festival 2018
- National Banana Festival (NBF) 2018 is being held at Kalliyoor, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
- The festival is organised by Centre for Innovation in Science and Social action (CISSA) in partnership with Kalliyoor Grama Panchayat and a host of National and State organisations.
- The festival plays host to a buyer-seller meet, training programmes, documentary screenings, photography contest etc.
- The festival also includes a national seminar, exhibition, training programmes, farmers’ meet and a host of other activities.