Current Affairs Analysis

1st & 2nd March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana; Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme; Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises; Mini Moon; Temporarily Captured Object; Warning systems by INCOIS; Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System; Swell Surge Forecast System; What are swell surges; Algal Bloom Information Service; Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services; Red Snow phenomenon; India among top manufacturers of illicit and licit drugs; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; International Narcotics Control Board; Northern Region Renewable Energy; Management Centre; Power System Operation Corporation Limited; Mission Purvodaya; Integrated Steel Hub; The Eastern States; Food processing sector; Initiatives for Women in Science; Vigyan Jyoti Scheme; EKAM fest; National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation
By IASToppers
March 03, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme
  • Mission Purvodaya
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana
  • Initiatives for Women in Science

Issues related to Health & Education

  • India among top manufacturers of illicit and licit drugs

Economy

  • Northern Region Renewable Energy Management Centre

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Warning systems by INCOIS

Art & Culture

  • EKAM fest

Geophysical Phenomena

  • Red Snow phenomenon

Science & Technology

  • Mini Moon

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Government Schemes & Policies

Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme

A Meeting was held recently to review some of the key schemes of Ministry of Micro, Small and medium Enterprises (MSME) which generate large number of jobs with low capital investment.

Major Highlights:

  • The focus of the meeting was on the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), a flagship scheme of the Ministry of MSME, and Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).
  • In addition, the issue of restructuring of stressed loans to MSMEs was also discussed to find a way forward to support MSMEs. The cut-off date for restructuring of loans to MSMEs has been extended up to 31st December 2020.
  • The work done by the Banks in supporting setting up large number of enterprises under PMEGP over the past years, was commended, which has particularly seen a two-fold increase in last Financial Year when more than 73,000 micro enterprises were assisted.
  • To give further boost to the scheme, the target in the current year has been increased to support the establishments of 80,000 units.
  • Discussions were also held with Banks on increasing the reach of Credit Guarantee scheme. Government has set a target of increasing credit guarantee to Rs. 50,000 crores under this scheme, which is a jump of about 67% over the last year.

Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme:

  • Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) is a credit-linked subsidy programme introduced by the government of India in 2008.
  • It promotes self-employment through setting up of micro enterprises, where subsidy up to 35 % is provided by the Government through Ministry of MSME for loans up to Rs. 25 lakhs in manufacturing and Rs 10 lakhs in service sector.
  • The scheme is administered by Ministry of Micro, Small and medium Enterprises.
  • The PMEGP Scheme is being implemented by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) at the national level.
  • At the State level, the Scheme is being implemented through State Khadi and Village Industries Commission Directorates, State Khadi and Village Industries Boards and District Industries Centres and banks.

Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE):

  • The scheme was launched by the Government of India to make available collateral-free credit to the micro and small enterprise sector.
  • Both the existing and the new enterprises are eligible to be covered under the scheme.
  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, GoI and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), established a Trust named CGTMSE to implement the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises.
  • Since its inception, CGTMSE has facilitated easy access to credit from organized banking sector to first generation entrepreneurs in the Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) sector.
  • CGTMSE, in turn, provides guarantee to its registered Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) against the loans / credit facilities upto Rs. 100 lakh extended by them without taking any collateral security and / or third party guarantee.
[Ref: PIB]

Mission Purvodaya

A workshop on “Enabling Procedures for Increase of Steel Usage for the Growth of Economy” was conducted at Bhubaneswar, Odisha recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The workshop was organised by Ministry of Steel in partnership with Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Government of Japan and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
  • With Japan as the partner country, India is looking forward to make Odisha, the nerve centre of Purvodaya in Steel sector.
  • Beyond just producing primary steel, it is envisioned to create an ecosystem of ancilliary, value added products, capital goods with industry participation.

Mission Purvodaya:

  • Mission Purvodaya is an initiative launched in 2020 for accelerated development of Eastern India and thus driving the national growth and propelling India towards becoming a $5 trillion economy.

Objective:

  • Accelerated development of eastern India through integrated steel hub in Kolkata, West Bengal.
  • The eastern states of India i.e. Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and northern part of Andhra Pradesh which collectively hold 80% of the country’s iron ore, 100% of coking coal and significant portion of chromite, bauxite and dolomite reserves are to be focused.

Vision:

  • Through this programme, the government aims to transform logistics and utilities infrastructure which would change the socio-economic landscape in the eastern India.
  • The steps, under mission, also include growth of steel industry along with employment opportunities across the entire value chain.

Integrated Steel Hub:

  • The steel hub encompasses Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Northern Andhra Pradesh.
  • It aims to attract investment of nearly $70 billion in the steel sector and spur economic growth across eastern India.
  • It is a part of Mission Purvodaya initiative which has been launched for the focused development of eastern states.

Key elements:

  • Capacity addition through easing the setup of greenfield steel plants.
  • Development of steel clusters near integrated steel plants as well as demand centres.
  • Transformation of logistics and utilities infrastructure in the eastern region.

Significance of the steel hub:

  • Government estimates suggest capacity addition in the steel hub would entail capital investments of over $70 billion.
  • It will lead to an incremental Gross State Domestic Product of over $35 billion through steel alone.
  • It will create over 5 million jobs across the steel value chain in the region.
  • The steel hub which will serve as a catalyst in the transformation of the eastern region following the Rs 100 lakh crore infrastructure investment (through National Infrastructure Pipeline) announced by the government in the next 5 years.

The Eastern States:

  • The eastern states are rich in natural resources and collectively hold nearly 80% of the country’s iron ore, most of domestic coking coal reserves and significant portion of chromite, bauxite and dolomite reserves.
  • The eastern belt has the potential to add more than 75% of the country’s incremental steel capacity envisioned by the National Steel Policy.
  • Out of the 300 MT steel capacity by 2030-31, the region alone is capable of contributing over 200 MT.
[Ref: PIB, Economic Times]

Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana

32 projects have sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY) recently, during the meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Approval Committee (IMAC) held under the Chairpersonship of Union Minister of Food Processing Industries.

About the scheme:

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY) is a Central Sector Scheme of Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

Objective:

  • The objective of PMKSY is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease Agri-Waste.

Components of PMKSY:

Under PMKSY the following schemes are to be implemented:

  • Mega Food Parks
  • Integrated Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure
  • Creation/Expansion of Food Processing/Preservation Capacities
  • Infrastructure for Agro Processing Clusters
  • Scheme for Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
  • Food Safety & Quality Assurance Infrastructure
  • Human Resources and Institutions.

Financial Allocation:

  • PMKSY with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crores is expected to leverage investment of Rs. 31,400 crores, handling of 334 lakh MT agro-produce valuing Rs. 1,04,125 crores, benefit 20 lakh farmers and generate 5,30,500 direct/ indirect employments in the country by the year 2019-20.

Significance:

  • The implementation of PMKSY will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
  • It will provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country.
  • It will help in providing better prices to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers’ income.
  • It will also help in reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level, availability of safe and convenient processed foods at affordable price to consumers and enhancing the export of the processed foods.
  • These projects envisage the creation of direct and indirect employment for approximately fifteen thousand persons along with employment opportunities in rural areas to be the focus area.
  • The introduction of modern processing techniques for food results in improved shelf-life of the agricultural produce and ensure steady revenue to farmers.

Food processing sector:

  • The sector has an important role in linking Indian farmers to consumers in the domestic and international markets.
  • The Food processing industry can work as link between Farmers, Government and unemployed youth for better contribution towards economy.
  • The food sector has emerged as a high-growth and high-profit sector due to its immense potential for value addition, particularly within the food processing industry as it is said to have Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of approximately 8 % over the last five years.
  • The projects approved are running across quadrilaterals of the country covering over 100 agro-climatic zones.
  • The Processed food market is expected to grow to $ 543 BN by 2020 from $ 322 BN in 2016, at a CAGR of 14.6%.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Initiatives for Women in Science

The President of India has announced three key initiatives for gender advancement and equality in academic and research institutions on the occasion of National Science Day in a function held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on 28 February.

Initiatives launched:

  • Vigyan Jyoti is an initiative that will create a level-playing field for the meritorious girls in high school to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in their higher education.
  • The Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) will develop a comprehensive Charter and a framework for assessing the Gender Equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
  • An online portal for science and technology resources for women will provide E-resources related to all women-specific government schemes, scholarships, fellowships, career counselling with details of subject area experts from various disciplines in science and technology.

Vigyan Jyoti Scheme:

  • Vigyan Jyoti is an initiative to help girl students inculcate interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and also fund them if they get into any top institute for pursuing these underrepresented subjects.
  • The programme aims to tap 100 girl students in 550 districts from 2020-2025.

Awards conferred:

  • The national awards for science communication and popularization including women excellence awards for meritorious women scientists were conferred.
  • The awards included National Science and Technology Communication Awards, Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research (AWSAR) Awards, SERB Women Excellence Awards, and National Award for Young Woman Showing Excellence through Application of Technology for Societal Benefits.

National Science Day:

  • National Science Day is celebrated every year on 28th February to commemorate the announcement of the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’ by Sir C.V. Raman for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.
  • Government of India designated 28 February as National Science Day (NSD) in 1986.
  • Theme 2020: Women in Science.

Key fact:

  • As per a recent National Science Foundation (USA) Report, India has climbed to the third spot in the number of science and engineering publications.

 [Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

India among top manufacturers of illicit and licit drugs

According to the 2019 report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), released by United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), India features among top manufacturers of illicit and licit drugs that are smuggled to other countries and into the hands of addicts.

Highlights of the report:

  • Globally most of the tramadol which is a controlled substance, seized between 2013 and 2017 was reported to have originated in India. Tramadol is an opioid pain medicine that is addictive and abused for recreational purposes.
  • Tramadol being used for non-medical purposes in Africa is illicitly manufactured in South Asia. Further, India was the source of 87 % of the tramadol seized in Ghana in 2017.
  • Codeine-based preparations, particularly a cough syrup, Phensedyl, continued to be seized in the region.
  • India reported, through the monthly drug reports of the Narcotics Control Bureau, that the country’s authorities seized more than 51,821 bottles of Phensedyl in 2018.
  • The seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants peaked again in 2018, at 931 kg.
  • Seizures of methaqualone in the country decreased to 99 kg in 2018, compared with 124 kg in 2017.
  • Another drug, Phenobarbital, a substance included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for treating epilepsy, is one of the most internationally traded controlled psychotropic substances, with more than 161 countries reporting imports of the substance in 2018. China is the lead manufacturing country of phenobarbital in 2018, followed by India and Hungary.
  • Drug traffickers now smuggle pharmaceutical drugs rather than illicit drugs such as ‘hashish’ and ‘heroin’ because of the more lenient penalties imposed for smuggling of controlled pharmaceutical drugs.
  • UNODC has pulled up India for not submitting mandatory and voluntary statistical reports on manufacturing, importing and exporting of licit drug and raw material data, known as Form P, by the deadline.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:

  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a United Nations office that was established in 1997 as the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
  • Headquarters: Vienna, Austria.
  • It is committed to achieve health, security and justice for all by tackling the threats like drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism and promoting peace and sustainable well-being.

International Narcotics Control Board:

  • The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions.
  • It plays an important role in monitoring enforcement of restrictions on narcotics and psychotropics and in deciding which precursors should be regulated.
  • The Board shall endeavour to:
    • Limit the cultivation, production, manufacture and use of drugs to an adequate amount required for medical and scientific purposes;
    • Ensure their availability for such purposes; and
    • Prevent illicit cultivation, production and manufacture of, and illicit trafficking in and use of drugs.
[Ref: The Hindu Businessline]

Economy

Northern Region Renewable Energy Management Centre

The Northern Region Renewable Energy Management Centre (NR-REMC) was inaugurated recently in New Delhi, on 28th February, 2020.

Insight:

  • India with eleven dedicated REMCs is among a league of few nations, which have state-of-the-art management centres for renewable energy integration.
  • The Renewable Energy Management Centers (REMCs) are co-located with the State Load Dispatch Centers (SLDCs) in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat & Rajasthan and in RLDCs at Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi and at the NLDC.
  • Presently, 55 GW of Renewable Energy (Solar and Wind) is being monitored through the eleven REMCs. 
  • Government of India had approved the implementation of the REMCs as a Central Scheme and had mandated POWERGRID, a Maharatna CPSE under Ministry of Power as Implementing Agency.
  • These REMCs are being managed by Power System Operation Corporation of India Ltd. (POSOCO) at Regional and National level and at State level by State Load Despatch Centres (SLDCs).

Necessity:

  • The Government of India’s target of 175 GW RE Capacity by 2022 driving accelerated RE penetration poses challenges to the grid management due to intermittent and variable nature of RE generation.
  • The renewable energy management centres are equipped with Artificial Intelligence based RE forecasting and scheduling tools and provide greater visualization and enhanced situational awareness to the grid operators.

Report by POSOCO:

  • During the event the minister also released a Report by POSOCO on “Analysis of Impact of Solar Eclipse – 26th Dec’19 on Indian Power System”.
  • The report covered various areas such as solar generation forecasting, ramp estimation, behaviour of PV plants during solar eclipse.
  • The variation in Global Horizontal irradiance during solar eclipse for plants falling in annular and partial eclipse zone have been analysed in the report.

POSOCO:

  • Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO) is a wholly owned Government of India Enterprise under the Ministry of Power.
  • It was formed in March 2009 to handle the power management functions of Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL).
  • It is responsible to ensure the integrated operation of the Grid in a reliable, efficient, and secure manner.
  • It consists of 5 Regional Load Despatch Centres and a National Load Despatch Centre (NLDC).

 [Ref: PIB]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Warning systems by INCOIS

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad has launched Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS), Swell Surge Forecast System and Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS) recently.

Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System:

  • Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS) has been launched to improve operations on the numerous small marine vessels, particularly fishing vessels that ply the coastal waters of India.
  • It is an innovative impact-based advisory and forecast service system for small vessels operating in Indian coastal waters.
  • The SVA system warns users about potential zones where vessel overturning can take place, ten days in advance.
  • The advisories are valid for small vessels of beam width up to 7 m.
  • This limit covers the entire range of beam widths of the fishing vessels used in all the 9 coastal states and union territories of India.
  • The warning system is based on the ‘Boat Safety Index’ (BSI) derived from wave model forecast outputs such as significant wave height, wave steepness, directional spread and the rapid development of wind at sea which is boat-specific.   

Swell Surge Forecast System:

  • The Swell Surge Forecast System has been launched to provide swell surge forewarnings for the coastal population of India’s vast shoreline, which experiences damages caused by the swell waves.
  • They are flash-flood events that take place without any noticeable advance change in local winds or any other apparent signature in the coastal environment.
  • Hence the local population remains totally unaware of these flooding events until they actually occur.
  • These events have attracted attention especially after the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, since most people mistake Kallakkadal to be Tsunamis.
  • Tsunami and Kallakkadal/Swell surge are two different types of waves with entirely separate causes or mechanisms.

What are swell surges?

  • Kallakkadal is a colloquial term used by Kerala fishermen to refer to the freaky flooding episodes and in 2012 UNESCO formally accepted this term for scientific use.
  • During Kallakkadal events, the sea surges into the land and inundates vast areas.
  • Such events are intermittent throughout the year.
  • Kallakkadal or Swell surge occurs along the Indian coast, particularly the west coast.
  • Kallakkadal are caused by meteorological conditions in the Southern Ocean, south of 30°S.
  • A study by INCOIS scientists has revealed that specific meteorological conditions in the Southern Indian Ocean support the generation of long period swells.
  • These swells once generated, travel northward and reach the Indian coasts in 3-5 days’ time, creating havoc in the coastal areas.
  • The system will now predict Kallakkadal and warnings will be given to concerned authorities at least 2-3 days in advance, which will help the local authorities for contingency plans and to reduce damage.

Algal Bloom Information Service:

  • The Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS) has been launched to provide timely information on harmful algal blooms, which are detrimental to coastal fisheries and also tend to induce respiratory problems within the coastal population from time to time.
  • The increasing frequency of algal blooms is a major concern due to its ill effects on fishery, marine life and water quality.
  • INCOIS has developed a service for “Detection and Monitoring of Bloom in the Indian Seas”.
  • The target users are fishermen, marine fishery resource managers, researchers, ecologists and environmentalists.
  • The service also complements INCOIS’ marine fishing advisories i.e. Potential Fishing Zone advisories.
  • INCOIS-ABIS will provide near-real time information on spatio-temporal occurrence and spread of phytoplankton blooms over the North Indian Ocean.
  • Accordingly, relevant data retrieved from satellites i.e. Sea Surface Temperature, chlorophyll-a, Algal Bloom Index – chlorophyll, rolling chlorophyll anomaly, rolling sea surface temperature anomaly, phytoplankton class/species, phytoplankton size class and a composite image delineating bloom and non-bloom regions will be disseminated daily through ABIS.
  • In addition, four regions have been identified as bloom hotspots:
  • North Eastern Arabian Sea
  • coastal waters off Kerala
  • Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu
  • coastal waters of Gopalpur, Odisha

Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services:

  • Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) provides a number of free services for users in the marine realm.
  • The institute is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • INCOIS prioritises requests for specific services from its diverse user community that ranges right from fishermen to offshore oil exploration industries.
[Ref: PIB]

Art & Culture

EKAM Fest

EKAM Fest, a week-long Exhibition-cum-Fair is being organised by National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation (NHFDC) at New Delhi from 2nd March, 2020.

Objective:

  • To promote entrepreneurship, awareness and knowledge among Divyangjan community.

Highlights:

  • The week-long Ekam Fest will also host a number of activities like cultural extravaganza including performances by Divyang artists and well known professionals.
  • The fest will see vibrant products of from J&K and NE with products ranging from handicraft, handloom, Embroidery work and dry fruits.
  • During the Fair, around 80 Divyang Entrepreneur/Artisan and organizations from 18 States/UTs shall display their skills represented through their beautiful products, services and demonstration of skills.

Significance:

  • The fest is an effort for promoting entrepreneurship and knowledge among Divyangjan community and generating awareness among society about potentialities of PwDs.
  • It aims at providing a major marketing opportunity to PwDs entrepreneurs.
  • NHFDC Foundation is making efforts for development of a brand and platform for marketing of products of these determined entrepreneurs.
  • Accordingly, name of the brand has been arrived at Ekam (Entrepreneurship, Knowledge, Awareness, Marketing).
  • The word Ekam also represents the inclusiveness, oneness and unity which appropriately describe the efforts being put in by NHFDC to develop the marketing platform.

National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation:

  • National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation was set up in January 1997.
  • It is under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.
  • The corporation provides financial assistance or loans for wide range of income generating activities to persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).
[Ref: PIB]

Geophysical Phenomena

Red Snow phenomenon

The phenomenon of “Red snow” or “watermelon” has been observed around Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base, off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula recently.

Why does it happen?

  • The red colour of the snow is caused by the presence of a red-pigmented, microscopic algae called Chlamydomonas Chlamydomonas nivalis.
  • This alga species, exists in snow in the polar and glacial regions, and carries a red pigment to keep itself warm.

Environmental concern:

  • The presence of the algae in snow decreases the snow’s albedo.
  • Albedo is the measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed.
  • Due to it, it results in increased absorption of sunlight andthe darker the tinge, the more the heat is absorbed by the snow.
  • Thus it accelerates the rate of melting of snow and poses an Environmental concern.
  • As per a 2016 study in the journal Nature, in the melting of snow in the Arctic, the key drivers have been snow and ice albedo.
Key fact:
  • Aristotle is believed to be one of the first to give a written account of red snow, over 2,000 years ago who thought it was due to presence of worms in long-lying snow.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Mini Moon

Astronomers have recently observed a small object orbiting Earth, which has been dubbed a “mini-moon” or the planet’s “second moon”.

 2020 CD3:

  • It is actually an asteroid, about the size of a car; its diameter is about 1.9-3.5 m.
  • The mini-moon is temporary and unlike our permanent Moon; it will eventually break free of Earth’s orbit and go off on its own way.
  • It has been named 2020 CD3 and was discovered by astronomers of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) in Arizona in February, 2020.

Temporarily Captured Object:

  • When an asteroid’s orbit crosses Earth’s orbit, it can sometimes be captured into the latter orbit.
  • This is what happened with 2020 CD3.
  • It is now orbiting at a distance farther from Earth.
  • Such an asteroid is called a Temporarily Captured Object (TCO).
  • The orbit of such objects is unstable.
  • They have to contend with the gravitational influence of our permanent Moon as well as that of the Sun.
  • Once caught in Earth’s orbit, such objects usually remain for a few years before they break free and go into independent orbit around the Sun.

Key fact:

  • According to the researchers, 2020 CD3 was captured into Earth’s orbit over three years ago.
  • For CSS, it is only the second such discovery.
  • It previously discovered 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for some time that year, before it escaped in 2007.
[Ref: Indian Express]