Government Schemes & Policies
- Government-funded NGOs come under RTI ambit, says SC
- No-conversion rider widened for foreign funds for NGOs
Issues related to Health & Education
- Paraquat poisoning cases continue to rise
- Plan for new agency to handle exams for govt recruitment gets ministry nod
- Resident Indians remitted out more money than ever in July under LRS
- RBI expands scope of Bharat Bill Payment System
Bilateral & International Relations
- President of India’s visit to three nations- Slovenia, Iceland & Switzerland
- At 17.5 million, Indian diaspora largest in the world: UN report
- Russia Starts Annual Military Exercises with Six Countries
Defence & Security Issues
- IAF successfully flight tests air-to-air Astra missile from Sukhoi-30 MKI
- DRDO drone crashes in open field in Karnataka
Science & Technology
- ISRO, DRDO ink MoUs to provide technologies for Human Space Mission
- Why Asia’s biggest economies are backing hydrogen fuel cell cars
- Ceremony held for award of contract of coal gasification plant for urea project at Talcher
Key Facts for Prelims
- 5th International Ramayana Festival and ICCR
- Steel Import Monitoring System
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Government Schemes & Policies
Government-funded NGOs come under RTI ambit, says SC
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “substantially” financed by the government fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court held in a judgment.
Judgement of Supreme court
- The supreme court laid down that NGOs which receive considerable finances from the government or are essentially dependent on the government fall under the category of “public authority” defined in Section 2(h) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005.
- This means that they have to disclose vital information, ranging from finances to hierarchy to decisions to functioning, to citizens who apply under RTI.
- The supreme court defined word ‘Substantial’ as a large portion. It does not necessarily have to mean a major portion or more than 50%. Substantial financing can be both direct or indirect.
- For instance, if a land in a city is given free of cost or on heavy discount to hospitals, educational institutions or such other body, this in itself could be substantial financing.
- The court observed that NGO is not defined under any Act or any other statute and the term NGO used for the first time describing an international body which is legally constituted but non-governmental in nature.
No-conversion rider widened for foreign funds for NGOs
The Union Home Ministry has amended rules on foreign funding under which office-bearers and members of NGOs receiving such grants will have to file an affidavit declaring that they had not been prosecuted in any act of religious conversion and for creating communal tension.
Changes announced in Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011
Declaration by each member
- Earlier, the applicant or director-level person was to given this declaration but now all members of the NGO need to be given this declaration.
- Every member of an NGO, under oath, through an affidavit, has to certify that they have never been involved in diverting foreign funds or propagating sedition or advocating violent means.
Increased Gift amount
- Government has increased the value of articles gifted for personal use from Rs 25000 to Rs 1 lakh in a financial year.
- If any individual, from NGO, hospitalized during a foreign visit, he/she has to be intimated the Indian government within one month.
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 regulate the receipt and usage of foreign contribution by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India.
- The intent of the Act is to prevent use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activity detrimental to the national interest.
- It is applicable to a natural person, body corporate, all other types of Indian entities (whether incorporated or not) as well as NRIs and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Indian companies and other entities formed or registered in India.
- It defines the term ‘foreign contribution’ to include currency, article other than gift for personal use (not exceeding the value of INR 25,000) and securities received from foreign source.
- The Act follows the principles of natural justice and requires the Authority to provide the person concerned reasonable opportunity of being heard prior to passing any order.
- The registration certificate under FRCA is valid for a period of five years. However, NGOs not eligible for registration can seek prior approval from FCRA for receiving foreign funding.
In order to achieve its objective, The Act:
- Prohibits acceptance and use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by a certain specified category of persons such as a candidate for election, judge, journalist, columnist, etc.
- Regulates the inflow to and usage of foreign contribution by NGOs by prescribing a mechanism to accept, use and report usage of the same.
Criteria to be registered under FRCA for NGOs:
- An NGO must be in existence for at least three years.
- It must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised.
- It must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities.
- The applicant NGO must be a bonafide entity.
- Acceptance of foreign contribution by the applicant must not prejudicially impact the sovereignty and integrity of India.
- The applicant NGO must not have been found guilty of diversion or mis-utilisation of its funds.
In which situation foreign fund can be accepted?
- The Act permits only NGOs having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme to accept foreign contribution, that too after such NGOs either obtain a certificate of registration or prior permission under the Act.
Restriction on use of foreign funding
The Act imposes various conditions on the use of foreign funds and some of them are as follows:
- All funds received by a NGO must be used only for the purpose for which they were received.
- Such funds must not use in speculative activities identified under the Act.
- Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.
- Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.
Cancellation of registration certificate
Under the Act, the Authority is empowered to cancel the registration certificate of a NGO in the following circumstances:
- It has made false statement in any of its applications or submissions under the Act.
- It has violated any of the terms and conditions of registration.
- Authority is of the view that cancellation of registration is necessary in the public interest.
- It has violated any of the provisions of the Act or any order passed under it.
- It has been inactive for two consecutive years in its chosen field of service.
- In case of cancellation of its registration, the NGO concerned would be ineligible for a period of three years to apply.
Issues related to Health & Education
Paraquat poisoning cases continue to rise
Doctors in Odisha’s Burla district, who saw herbicide paraquat kill around 170 people in the last two years, demand that the government ban it.
- Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control.
- It is also widely consumed for committing suicide. It is more lethal than other pesticide or herbicide. It causes rapid poisoning resulting in multiple organ failure include kidney, liver and lung.
- There is no antidote to Paraquat.
- So far in India, only Kerala has banned the herbicide. Moreover, Paraquat has been banned in 32 countries.
- Pesticide Action Network (PAN), a civil society group, came up with a report on paraquat usage in India in 2015. It said paraquat dichloride is being used for 25 crops in India, whereas it is approved to be used on only nine crops by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee which is a violation of the Indian Insecticides Act.
- Since farmers can’t and don’t read the label on paraquat containers, retailers sell paraquat in plastic carry bags and refill bottles.
- Paraquat is yet to be listed in the prior informed consent (PIC) of Rotterdam Convention (an international treaty on import/export of hazardous chemicals signed in 1998). If a chemical figures in the PIC, the exporting country has to take the importing nation’s prior consent before exporting it.
Plan for new agency to handle exams for govt recruitment gets ministry nod
The Finance Ministry has approved a proposal to establish National Recruitment Agency (NRA) to conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for recruitment of Group-B (non-gazetted), Group-C (non-technical) and clerical posts in the government along with various equivalent recruitment in public sector banks.
About National Recruitment Agency
- National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will conduct the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for all government competitive examinations.
- It will work as a preliminary single-window agency to shortlist qualifying candidates from bulk of applicants.
- NRA will conduct the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) examination to enter government departments as Assistant Section Officers and several other examinations for Customs and Central Excise, Income Tax Department, and Ministry of Railways, among others.
- However, it will not be in charge of recruitment of Probationary Officers (PO) in banks.
Why a new agency is proposed?
- The proposal for a new agency is meant to streamline recruitment process on subordinate-rank posts in the government.
- The proposed NRA is expected to reduce the burden of Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), among others, from holding preliminary recruitment exams.
Resident Indians remitted out more money than ever in July under LRS
Resident Indians, under the liberalised remittance scheme (LRS), have sent the most amount of money ($1.69 billion) abroad on a monthly basis in July 2019.
What is the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS)?
- First introduced in 2004, LRS allows all resident individuals are allowed to remit up to USD 2,50,000 per financial year for any permissible current or capital account transaction or a combination of both.
- These remittances could be Current account transactions like going overseas for employment or studies, maintenance of close relatives, medical treatment etc. or Capital account transactions such as opening a foreign currency account overseas, purchase of property etc.
- The remitted amount can also be invested in shares, debt instruments, and be used to buy immovable properties in overseas market. Individuals can also open foreign currency accounts with banks outside India for carrying out transactions permitted under the scheme.
- However, LRS restricts buying and selling of foreign exchange abroad, or purchase of lottery tickets, proscribed magazines or any items that are restricted under Schedule II of Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transactions) Rules, 2000.
Why are such outward remittances on the rise?
- Government doubled the limit placed on outward remittances in 2015 to $250,000, up from $125,000. This mean that resident Indians were already looking to remit more money but had to resort to other ways before the 2015 increase in the LRS limit.
- This increase could also have been caused by Small and mid-sized businessmen looking to shift and set up shop outside the country, in places like Singapore and Dubai. However, some believe that such businessmen were looking to diversify their operation bases rather than hoping to leave the country.
- The recent increase in the taxation rate from around 35 percent to 43 percent (for those who fall under the highest tax bracket) could be an additional cause for increased remittance as more well-off resident Indians would see a greater benefit in paying high taxes in exchange for a higher quality of life.
- Harassment by tax officials, which is leading many individuals (who belong to relatively affluent class) to shift their business to foreign countries.
- Recently, there has been a rise in EB5 Visa Green Card applications for US (for US residency and citizenship), because the United States will soon increase the fee for such application. However, some believe that the EB5 market in India is small at the moment.
- The outflow of money suggests that the wealthy people are not viewing India as an investment centre.
- Outflow of money from a country also leads to weakening of the domestic currency, thus threatening lowering of Rupee against the US dollar.
About Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999
- The legal framework for administration of foreign exchange transactions in India is provided by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
- Under FEMA, which came into force in 2000, all transactions involving foreign exchange have been classified either as capital or current account transactions.
- The main objective of FEMA was to help facilitate external trade and payments in India. It was also meant to help orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.
RBI expands scope of Bharat Bill Payment System
The Reserve Bank of India has expanded the scope of the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) by adding other categories such as school fees, municipal taxes, insurance premiums of recurring payments through the portal.
What is Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS)?
- BBPS is a Reserve Bank of India conceptualised system that offers bill payment service to consumers via digital as well as through a network of agents & bank branches.
- It is run by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
- The biggest advantage of BBPS is that the consumer has the Control of all his bills at one place and can be paid anywhere and anytime.
- Currently, BBPS covers repetitive payments for everyday utility services such as electricity, water, gas, telecom and Direct-to-Home (DTH).
- BBPS payments can be made using cash, cheques as well as through digital methods such as internet banking, debit, credit card, among others.
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 support of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). NPCI has ten promoter banks.
- It has successfully completed the development of a domestic card payment network called RuPay, reducing the dependency on international card schemes.
Bilateral & International Relations
President of India’s visit to three nations- Slovenia, Iceland & Switzerland
On the concluding day of his visit to Slovenia, the President of India attended the Indian community in Ljubljana, Capital of Slovenia. He will also visit to –Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Location of Slovenia
- Slovenia is located in central Europe.
- Slovenia is bordered by the Adriatic Sea, Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, and Croatia to the south.
Location of Iceland
- Iceland is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean.
- It does not share land borders with any countries.
- It is situated in between the countries of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Norway, South of the Arctic Circle.
- It is known worldwide for its immense geological activity and large glacier and has therefore often been nicknamed the land of ice and fire.
Location of Switzerland
- It is situated in Western Europe.
- It is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
- It’s three natural geographic regions are the Jura Mountains, the Alps and the central plateau, or Mittelland.
At 17.5 million, Indian diaspora largest in the world: UN report
India was the leading country of origin of international migrants in 2019 with a 17.5 million strong diaspora, according to new estimates released by the United Nations, which said the number of migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million.
Global Highlights of ‘The International Migrant Stock 2019’
- Top 10 countries of origin (from which people migrate) account for one-third of all international migrants.
- Regionally, Europe hosts the largest number of international migrants, followed by Northern America and Northern Africa and Western Asia.
- Women comprise 48% of all international migrants in 2019. The share of migrant women was highest in Northern America and Europe and lowest in sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Africa and Western Asia.
- While majority of international migrants in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Latin America originated from the region in which they reside, most of the international migrants that lived in Northern America, Oceania and Northern Africa and Western Asia were born outside their region of residence.
- One out of every 7 international migrants is below the age of 20 years.
Top 5 countries of origin for international migration
Top 5 countries hosting largest number of international migrants
- United States of America (19 per cent of the world’s total migrants)
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
India Specific Highlights
- In 2019, with 17.5 million persons living abroad, India was the leading country of origin of international migrants. Of them, the largest Indian community live in UAE.
- International migrants as a share of total population in India was steady (0.4 %) from 2010 to 2019. The share of Refugees, as international migrants in India, was 4%.
- In India, the highest number of international migrants came from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
About the Report
- The International Migrant Stock 2019 report was released by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
- It provides the latest estimates of the number of international migrants by age, sex and origin for all countries and areas of the world.
Russia Starts Annual Military Exercises with Six Countries
Military contingents from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will take part alongside Russian servicemen in the major Tsentr-2019 (Center-2019) drills to be held in Russia.
About Tsentr-2019 (Center-2019)
- Tsentr is an annual military exercise held in Russia.
- It rotates between four military centres (Western, Southern (Caucasus), Central and Eastern) of Russia.
- The main focus of Tsenter-2019 is on the Central joint strategic command (JSC).
- Previous Tsentr exercises were held in 2008, 2011 and 2015.
- Since 2010, Russia reorganized its six military districts into four military districts (Western, Southern (Caucasus), Central and Eastern Districts).
- On this basis, Russia established a joint strategic command (JSC) in each military district to carry out integrated operations of its entire military forces.
Defence & Security Issues
IAF successfully flight tests air-to-air Astra missile from Sukhoi-30 MKI
Indian Air Force successfully flight-tested air-to-air missile Astra off the coast of Odisha from Su-30 MKI as a part of User trials.
About Astra Missile
- Astra is an indigenous Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air missile (BVRAAM) with a range of over 70 km.
- It was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation along with 50 other public and private organisations.
- It is capable of engaging different targets at different altitudes.
- The missile has a 15-kg high-explosive pre-fragmented warhead.
- The missile can fly towards its target at a speed of over 5,555 km/h.
DRDO drone crashes in open field in Karnataka
An unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), named Rustom-2, being developed by the DRDO on experimental flight trial crash-landed in fields near Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) Chitradurga in Karnataka.
- The Challakere Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), located in Chitradurga, is a testing and evaluating facility set up by DRDO exclusively for unmanned and manned aircraft.
About Rustom UAV
- The Rustom is a medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle (UAV) being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation for Indian Military.
- Rustom basic design is derived from the NAL light canard research aircraft (LCRA) developed by a team under the leadership of late Prof Rustom Damania in the 1980s.
- Rustom will replace/supplement the Heron UAVs in service with the Indian armed forces.
- Rustom-II (also known as TAPAS 201) is one of the UAV in Rustom series. Other UAV in this series is Rustom-I, Rustom-H and Rustom-C. The Rustom-II is based on Rustom-H combat aerial vehicle.
- It is the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC).
- It is being developed to carry out the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three Armed Forces with an endurance of 24 hours.
Science & Technology
ISRO, DRDO ink MoUs to provide technologies for Human Space Mission
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) joined hands with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for development of human-centric systems for the Human Space Mission to demonstrate its human space flight capabilities.
- Some of the critical technologies to be provided by the DRDO include space food, space crew health monitoring and emergency survival kit, radiation measurement and parachutes for safe recovery of crew module.
- Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft that is intended to send 3 astronauts to space for a minimum of seven days by 2022, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
- ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III, the three-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle, will be used to launch Gaganyaa.
- So far, only the US, Russia and China have successfully launched manned space missions.
- India will be the fourth country to launch human space mission.
Why Asia’s biggest economies are backing hydrogen fuel cell cars
China, Japan and South Korea have set ambitious targets to put millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on their roads by the end of the next decade at a cost of billions of dollars.
Reason behind such huge investments
- Hydrogen is a clean energy source as water and heat are the only by products.
- Hydrogen can be made from a number of sources, including methane, coal, water, even garbage.
- Driving ranges and refuelling times for fuel cell vehicle (FCVs) are comparable to gasoline cars, whereas electric vehicles (EVs) require hours to recharge and provide only a few hundred kilometres of range.
- Hydrogen is seen as the more efficient choice for heavier vehicles that drive longer distances such as buses.
- Japan, which does not have enough energy resources, sees hydrogen as a way to greater energy security.
Why Fuel Cell Cars haven’t been used Yet?
- A lack of refuelling stations, which are costly to build, is usually cited as the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of FCVs. The reason for the lack of refuelling infrastructure is that there are not enough FCVs to make them profitable.
- Consumer worries about the risk of explosions are also a big hurdle and residents in Japan and South Korea have protested against the construction of hydrogen stations.
- Moreover, due to high cost, heavy subsidies are needed to bring prices down to levels of gasoline-powered cars.
How Fuel Cells Work
Ceremony held for award of contract of coal gasification plant for urea project at Talcher
Contract signing award ceremony for Coal gasification unit for production of Urea and Ammonia at Talcher fertilizer plant was held in New Delhi.
- Talcher fertilizer plant will produce more than 2 MMSCMD (Million standard cubic feet per day) of ‘Natural Gas equivalent Syngas’ leading to direct reduction in LNG import bill.
- Currently, India imports about 50 to 70 lakh tones of Urea every. Also, production of urea in India is done by using pooled natural gas which comprises of domestic Natural Gas and imported Liquefied natural gas (LNG). Import of LNG is a costly and leads to spending valuable foreign exchange. Hence, Talcher Fertilizer Project will use indigenous coal in a mix of petcoke for production of urea.
What is gasification?
- Gasification is a technology that converts carbon-containing materials, including coal, into synthetic gas which in turn can be used to produce electricity and other valuable products, such as chemicals and fertilizers.
- Gasification does not involve combustion, but instead uses little or no oxygen or air in a closed reactor to convert carbon-based materials directly into a synthetic gas, or syngas.
- Gasification occurs in a gasifier which is a high temperature/pressure vessel where oxygen and steam are directly contacted with the feed material converting the feed to syngas and ash/slag (mineral residues).
What is Coal Gasification?
- Coal gasification refers to any process by which coal is converted into gaseous form that can then be burned as a fuel.
- Coal gasification process produce hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and hydrocarbons. These gases are used with steam to create synthetic natural gas (SNG) composed of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen gas (H2).
- SNG serves as a substitute for natural gas and is suitable for transmission in natural gas pipelines.
- Underground coal gasification (UCG) involves circulation of gasification agents like air, oxygen and water into the coal itself. This process converts coal to useful gases from the coal itself without needing to mine the material.
Key Facts for Prelims
5th International Ramayana Festival and ICCR
Presiding over as chief guest of the fifth International Ramayan Festival organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) home minister said that Ramayana is the treasure of centuries-old Indian culture and has solutions to all problems in the world.
About Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)
- ICCR was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister.
- ICCR was transferred from Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in 1971.
- ICCR’s has its headquarters at Delhi.
- To actively participate in the implementation of policies pertaining to India’s external cultural relations
- To strengthen cultural relations between India and other countries
Steel Import Monitoring System
Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways launched Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS) which was developed in consultation with Ministry of Steel on the pattern of US Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) system.
About Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS)
- The SIMS will provide advance information about steel imports to Government, Producers and importers to have effective policy interventions.
- In this system, the importers of specified steel products will register in advance on the web portal of SIMS providing necessary information.