Government Schemes & Policies
- Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana
- What are credit ratings and how are they given?
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- SC for nationwide ban on furnace oil, pet coke
Bilateral & International Relations
- ICAO concludes audit of India’s aviation sector
- Suresh Prabhu in Russia to participate in Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting
- SARTTAC Steering Committee meet endorses FY 2018 work plan
- Cabinet approves MoU between India, Poland for civil aviation cooperation
- Cabinet approves agreement between India and Belarus on Scientific and Technological Cooperation
Art & Culture
- Aadi Mahotsav
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Government Schemes & Policies
Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana
Under ‘Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat’ Yojana, Madhya Pradesh has been made partner of Manipur and Nagaland to strengthen cultural relations between them.
- Madhya Pradesh government has made its Higher Education Department as nodal department to execute the scheme.
- As part of this, Madhya Pradesh will participate in Sangai Mahotsav being organized in Manipur from November 21 to 30.
- Similarly, teams of Manipur and Nagaland will take part in Lok Rang and Bal Rang programmes to present their cultural programmes and to apprise people with their culture.
- Besides, translation work of Nagaland’s books has also been started in Madhya Pradesh to introduce people of the state with their activities and cultural heritage. Other activities are also being conducted in this regard.
About Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat:
“Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat” was announced by Hon’ble Prime Minister on 31st October, 2015 on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Subsequently, the Finance Minister announced the initiative in his Budget Speech for 2016-17.
- It was launched to celebrate the cultural vibrancy of India while establishing a concrete mechanism to inculcate nationalism and cultural awareness among the fellow citizens of our nation.
- All States and UTs will be covered under the programme. There will be pairing of States/UTs at national level and these pairings will be in effect for one year, or till the next round of pairings. The State/UT level pairings would be utilized for state level activities. District level pairings would be independent of the State level pairings.
- The activity will be very useful to link various States and Districts in annual programmes that will connect people through exchanges in areas of culture, tourism, language, education trade etc. and citizens will be able to experience the cultural diversity of a much larger number of States/UTs while realising that India is one.
Objectives of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat:
The broad objectives of the initiative are as follows:
- To CELEBRATE the Unity in Diversity of our Nation and to maintain and strengthen the fabric of traditionally existing emotional bonds between the people of our Country;
- To PROMOTE the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all Indian States and Union Territories through a year-long planned engagement between States;
- To SHOWCASE the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity;
- TO ESTABLISH long-term engagements and
- TO CREATE an environment which promotes learning between States by sharing best practices and experiences.
What are credit ratings and how are they given?
Why in news?
- For the first time in 14 years, Moody’s has upgraded India’s rating to Baa2, a term that means that they consider the economy stable.
- Standard & Poor’s and Fitch too have a ‘stable’ rating for the country — BBB+ and BBB-, respectively.
What are the reasons for upgradation?
- The decision to upgrade the ratings is underpinned by Moody’s expectation that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, enhance India’s high growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt
- It will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term, the rating agency said in a statement.
- Also, while India’s high debt burden remains a constraint on the country’s credit profile, Moody’s believes that the reforms put in place have reduced the risk of a sharp increase in debt, even in potential downside scenarios.
- Reforms such as Goods and Services Tax (GST), demonetisation, measures to fight bad loans, Aadhaar and labor market reforms etc pushed Moody’s to upgrade India rating.
What is a credit rating?
- A credit rating is an assessment of the creditworthiness of a borrower. Individuals, corporations and governments are assigned credit ratings — whoever wants to borrow money.
- Individuals are given ‘credit scores’, while corporations and governments receive ‘credit ratings’.
Why do countries get credit ratings?
- National governments, not countries, are assigned credit ratings by agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch.
- Governments require ratings to borrow money.
- They are also given ratings on their worth as investment destinations.
- A country requests a credit rating agency to evaluate its economic and political environment and arrive at a rating. This is done to position itself as a destination for foreign direct investment.
What factors decide these ratings?
There are several criteria behind rating a government’s creditworthiness.
- Among them are political risk, taxation, currency value and labour laws.
- Another is sovereign risk where a country’s central bank can change its foreign exchange regulations. These risks are taken into account and ratings assigned accordingly.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
SC for nationwide ban on furnace oil, pet coke
The Supreme Court has asked all states and Union territories to consider prohibiting the use of pet coke and furnace oil by industries.
- The apex court has already banned the use of pet coke and furnace oil from November 1 in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
- This ban specifically came after an Environment Pollution Control Authority Report recommended the ban on sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and pet coke in the National Capital Region (NCR).
- Pet coke and furnace oil has been already banned in Delhi since 1996 as they have been blamed for releasing deadly sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO) fumes into air and polluting air.
Why should the furnace oil and pet coke be banned?
- Automobile fuel — petrol and diesel — has 50 parts per million (PPM) of the highly dangerous sulphur. Comparatively, furnace oil has 15,000- 23,000 ppm sulphur and petcoke 69,000-74,000 ppm sulphur.
- They emit sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide, which form particulate matter, tiny particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs.
- Although the DPCC had declared them as “unacceptable fuel” way back in 1996, but they are not banned outside Delhi borders and are being increasingly used by industries in the NCR, aggravating the pollution problem.
- Furnace oil being the last grade produced by refineries is extremely polluting and pet coke is even more polluting.
Bilateral & International Relations
ICAO concludes audit of India’s aviation sector
The UN aviation watchdog International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has concluded its audit of India’s aviation sector.
- A five-member audit team of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was in India between November 6 and November 16 as part of its universal safety oversight audit programme.
What they feel?
- As per preliminary feedback, the audit team was satisfied with the safety system put in place by the safety regulator.
- The team appraised six different areas, including personnel licencing, airworthiness, operations, legislation and organisation.
About the ICAO audit:
- To ensure that global aviation safety measures are complied with, the ICAO regularly carries out the universal safety oversight audit of its member states.
- The audit involved verification of response provided by the DGCA to certain protocol questions sent by the ICAO.
- As per procedure laid down by ICAO, the audit team presents its report to the headquarter team and draft report is made available to the state in about 90 days.
- The state is required to provide its comment and draw its action plan on various aspects of the report and make it available to ICAO within 45 days. Thereafter the report will be finalised and made available to member states.
Significance of this audit:
- The ICAO audit carries a lot of weight globally and is crucial for India’s aviation sector, which has emerged as one of the fastest growing domestic aviation markets in the world.
India on aviation audits:
- After an audit in 2012, the ICAO had placed India in its list of 13 worst-performing nations.
- Subsequently, a similar exercise carried out in 2014 by the US regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety ranking, bringing it below Pakistan and on par with countries such as Ghana, Barbados and Bangladesh.
- As a result, Indian airlines were not allowed to add new routes to the US or sign commercial agreements with US airlines during this period.
- The rating was restored to the top category in 2015, when India reportedly scored better than the global average in airworthiness, air navigation services, operations and licensing.
About the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO):
ICAO is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
- Its headquarters are located in Quebec, Canada.
Functions of ICAO
- It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
- ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.
- These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world.
- ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.
Suresh Prabhu in Russia to participate in Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu participated in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meeting of the Ministers of Member States responsible for Foreign Economic and Foreign Trade, recently held in Russia.
- This is the first Ministerial Conference on Trade organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after India became a full member of the Organization in June 2017.
About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
Seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
- Its headquarters is located in Beijing, China.
- India, which has had an observer status for the past 10 years, was accepted along with Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in July 2015.
- It has now eight members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
- SCO has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observers.
- The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
SARTTAC Steering Committee meet endorses FY 2018 work plan
Interim Meeting of Steering Committee of International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Centre (SARTTAC) was held in New Delhi.
- Officials from all Six SARTTAC Member countries attended the meeting together with Development Partner representatives European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, and USAID along with IMF staff.
- The Steering Committee of SARTTAC endorsed FY 2018 work plan and also approved new work area in Government Finance and Public Debt Statistics.
- In 2016, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a capacity development centre for South Asia.
- In February 2017, IMF has opened a first-of-its-kind South Asia Training and Technical Assistance Centre (SARTTAC) in New Delhi for economic capacity building in South Asia.
SARTTAC is financed mainly by its six member South Asia countries viz. India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka with additional support from Australia, South Korea, European Union and United Kingdom.
- It will work to support local member countries of South Asia to build human and institutional capacity and implement policies for growth and poverty reduction.
- It strategic goal is to help its member countries strengthen their institutional and human capacity to design and implement macroeconomic and financial policies that promote growth and reduce poverty.
- It will allow the IMF to meet more of the high demand for technical assistance and training from the region.
- It is expected to become the focal point for the delivery of IMF capacity development services to South Asia.
Cabinet approves MoU between India, Poland for civil aviation cooperation
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Poland for the Promotion of Civil Aviation Cooperation.
- The MoU would be for a term of five years.
Objective of the MoU:
- The objective of the MoU is to recognize the mutual benefit of Cooperation in the field of Civil Aviation having particular significance in establishing and improving Regional Air Connectivity in India.
- Apart from this both sides will recognize the mutual benefits of environmental testing or approvals, flight simulators monitoring and approvals, aircraft maintenance facilities approvals, maintenance personnel approvals and aircrew members approvals.
Main areas of MoU:
- Support in civil aviation market by reviewing any legal and procedural issues which may adversely affect cooperation between both countries.
- Exchange of information and expertise between respective ministries and authorities related to aviation regulations, regional air operations, safety standards to enhance safety and security of air transport.
- Collaboration on aviation safety on topics such as safety oversight, airworthiness, flight operations, licensing, legislation and enforcement.
Location of Poland:
Cabinet approves agreement between India and Belarus on Scientific and Technological Cooperation
The Union Cabinet has been apprised of the Agreement between the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) on Scientific and Technological Cooperation for mutual benefit in the areas of science, technology, agriculture, etc.
Aim of the agreement:
- The Agreement is aimed at identifying, assessing, developing and commercializing globally competitive technologies from India and Belarus.
What does the agreement do?
- The Agreement will support institutions in both countries by way of research, technology transfers, exchange of visits and joint workshops leading to scientific and economic benefit.
Location of Belarus:
Art & Culture
Recently, a fortnight long Tribal Festival, called ‘Aadi Mahotsav’ was inaugurated in New Delhi.
- The theme of the festival is ‘A Celebration of the Spirit of Tribal Culture, Cuisine and Commerce’.
Highlights of the festival:
- The festival will feature exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts, art, paintings, fabric, jewellery and much more through about 200 stalls.
- Over 750 tribal artisans and artists from over 25 States participated in the festival.
- Tribal India cuisine, recreated and presented in delectable forms to suit urban tastes by special tribal chefs is special feature of the festival.
- In India, tribes constitute over 8% of country’s population which corresponds to over 10 crore Indians.