Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves MoU between Forum of Regulators and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Issues related to Health & Education
- Notify HIV-hit children as disadvantaged group: SC
- Cabinet approves ratification of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
- CCEA allows unrestricted export of all certified organic agricultural products
- Cabinet approves the fixation of Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) rates
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves signing of Agreement for CIRDAP establishment Centre in Hyderabad
- SASEC Operational Plan 2016-25 includes nine projects worth $2.4 Billion
Science & Technology
- Scientists develop new way to fight drug resistant superbugs
Key Facts for Prelims
- Green Corridors
- Project Saksham
- SpaceX successfully re-launches its first used rocket
- India’s first International research centre for Foot, Mouth disease of cattle
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves MoU between Forum of Regulators and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Forum of Regulators (FOR) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in the area of large-scale Grid Integration of Renewable Energy.
- The MoU envisages to promote information exchanges in the areas of Renewable Energy integration regulations and balancing using gas, storage, and demand-side approaches, energy imbalance markets.
- It will enhance the efforts of India’s power system for better management of large-scale integration of Renewable Energy into the power grid.
About the Forum of Regulators:
The Forum of Regulators was constituted by the Ministry of Power under provisions of section 166(2) of the Electricity Act, 2003 with the primary objective of harmonization of regulations in the power sector framed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) and Joint Electricity Regulatory Commissions (JERCs).[Ref: PIB]
Issues related to Health & Education
Notify HIV-hit children as disadvantaged group: SC
The Supreme Court has ordered State governments to consider issuing a notification under the Right to Education law, declaring children living with/affected by HIV as a ‘disadvantaged group’ deserving additional rights to help them gain free and compulsory education, a fundamental right under the Constitution.
- The court has given States four weeks to issue the notification under Section 2 (d) of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009, which mandates the State governments concerned to issue a notification that a child belongs to a disadvantaged group based on reasons ranging from caste, social, cultural, linguistic, geographical, gender, etc. The Act makes education compulsory for children between six and 14 years of age.
- The court ordered that those States which are “unwilling” to issue a notification under Section 2 (d) should file an affidavit “explaining why they consider it unnecessary” to inform that children living with HIV do not belong to a disadvantaged group. The court however noted that at least 11 States have already issued the notification.
- The order was based on a petition which pointed out that HIV-hit children face denial of admission, outright expulsion, segregation, breach of confidentiality to being given chores like cleaning toilets.
- According to NACO estimates in 2012-2013, around 20.9 lakh people were living with HIV in 2011. Children less than 15 years of age account for seven percent (1.45 lakh) of all infections.
Cabinet approves ratification of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for ratification of the two fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization namely:
1. Minimum Age Convention:
- The Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, is a Convention adopted in 1973 by the International Labour Organization.
- It requires ratifying states to pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment or work.
- Countries are free to specify a minimum age for labour, with a minimum of 15 years. A declaration of 14 years is also possible when for a specified period of time.
- Laws may also permit light work for children aged 13–15 (not harming their health or school work). The minimum age of 18 years is specified for work which “is likely to jeopardise the health, safety or morals of young persons”.
- Definitions of the type of work and derogations are only possible after tripartite consultations (if such a system exists in the ratifying country).
2. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention:
- The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, was adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1999.
- By ratifying this Convention, a country commits itself to taking immediate action to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
- The ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is responsible for assisting countries in this regard as well as monitoring compliance. One of the methods used by IPEC to assist countries in this regard are Time-bound Programmes.
- The convention includes forms of child labour, which are predefined worst forms of child labour. They are also sometimes referred to as automatic worst forms of child labour.
About International Labour Organisation (ILO):
- The ILO is a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
- It was established in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- India is a founder member of the ILO. At present, it has 187 members.
- The principal means of action in the ILO is the setting up of International standards in the form of Conventions, Recommendations and Protocol.
- So far India has ratified 45 Conventions, out of which 42 are in force. Out of these 4 are Core or Fundamental or Conventions.
CCEA allows unrestricted export of all certified organic agricultural products
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved removal of all quantitative ceilings on individual organic products and allowed unrestricted exports of all organic and organic processed products.
- The removal of quantitative ceilings will be irrespective of any existing or future restriction/prohibition on the export of their basic product (non-organic).
- However, in respect of organic pulses and lentils, the quantitative ceiling on exports will continue but enhanced from the existing 10,000 MT per annum (MTPA) to 50,000 MTPA. in view of their acute shortage in the country.
Implications of the move:
- Removal of quantitative celling on wheat, non-basmati rice, organic sugar and increasing limit on export of organic pulses is expected to contribute to Government’s objective of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022.
- It will lead to reduction in input costs in farming and aid farmer in gaining premium price for organic agriculture products.
- It will also result in increased adoption of organic agriculture by farmers and complement various Government programs like National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NSAM), Organic Value Chain Development in North Eastern Region (OVCDNER) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) taken up to encourage organic agriculture.
All organic products exports in the country are certified by Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP).[Ref: PIB]
Cabinet approves the fixation of Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) rates
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the Fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers for the year 2017-18.
What is Nutrient Based Subsidy?
Government has been implementing Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy for decontrolled P&K fertilizers since April 2010.
- Under this policy, the subsidy on Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers is announced by the Government on annual basis for each nutrient i.e., Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potash (K) and Sulphur (S) on per kg basis which is converted into subsidy per tonne depending upon the nutrient content in each grade of the fertilizers.
- These rates are determined taking into account the international and domestic prices of P&K fertilizers, exchange rate, inventory level in the country etc.
- The fertiliser manufacturers and marketers are free to fix the maximum retail price at reasonable rates under NBS.
Bilateral & International Relations
SASEC Operational Plan 2016-25 includes nine projects worth $2.4 Billion
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a total of nine projects costing $2.42 billion as part of the Operational Plan (OP) 2016-2025 of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program.
- The nine projects comprise of two rail projects in Bangladesh worth $890 million, two economic corridor initiatives (a project and program loan) and a bridge project in India worth an aggregate of $1.2 billion, trade facilitation and airport projects in Bhutan worth $27 million and key SASEC road and energy projects in Nepal worth $302 million.
- All these projects are aligned with the SASEC OP’s thrusts of developing road and rail links aligned closely with trade routes toward the east, streamlining trade procedures, and improving energy infrastructure.
- These projects will receive ADB financing of $1.43 billion. These nine projects represent a significant increase compared to the previous 15 years, when the annual average value of projects approved was only about $500 million.
In 2001, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal formed the South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, which the Maldives and Sri Lanka joined in 2014.
- Under SASEC programme, these countries have worked together to build power plants, highways, rail systems and fibre optic networks to expand and improve Internet access.
- It is a project-based partnership to promote regional prosperity by
- Improving cross-border connectivity,
- Boosting trade among member countries, and
- Strengthening regional economic cooperation.
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the secretariat and lead financier of the SASEC programme.
Till date, ADB has approved 46 SASEC projects worth almost USD 9.17 billion in transport, energy, trade facilitation, and information and communications technology.[Ref: PIB]
Cabinet approves signing of Agreement for CIRDAP establishment Centre in Hyderabad
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Agreement between Ministry of Rural Development and Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) for establishment of CIRDAP Centre at National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR), Hyderabad.
Significance of this move:
- CIRDAP Centre in NIRD&PR premises would give NIRD&PR an advantage of having first-hand knowledge of networking with organizations specialized in rural development programmes which in turn would help in building a repository of institutional knowledge for NIRD&PR.
- This Centre will also help NIRD&PR to enhance its status in the region through linkages with other Ministries/Institutes in the CIRDAP Member Countries (CMCs).
- The faculty of the NIRD&PR and the Ministry officials would benefit from exchange visits to the best practices in the CMCs.
- The CIRDAP is a regional Inter – Governmental and autonomous institution which came into existence in 1979 at the initiative of the countries of Asia Pacific region and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) with support from several other UN bodies and donors.
- India is one of the key founder members of this Organisation.
- Its Headquarters is located at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- The objective of CIRDAP is to promote regional cooperation and act as a serving institution for its member countries for promotion of integrated rural development through research action, training, information dissemination etc.
- CIRDAP has one sub – regional office in Jakarta, Indonesia. This sub – regional office of CIRDAP in south-east Asia (SOCSEA) was established in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1997.
- There are 46 countries in Asia Pacific Region, therefore CIRDAP has great potential for expansion for which they would be assisted by CIRDAP Centres.
Science & Technology
Scientists develop new way to fight drug resistant superbugs
Scientists from UK have discovered a new way of removing antibodies from the blood stream.
- This method has potential to reduce chronic infections that may help humans in the fight against drug resistant superbugs.
- Scientists had used a process known as plasmapheresis that is somewhat like kidney dialysis. It involved the removal, treatment, and return of blood plasma from circulation.
- It was done five times in a week in order to remove antibody from two patients with bronchiectasis who had suffered with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections resistant to many antibiotics.
- Using this process, scientists replaced antibodies in these patients with those from blood donations. This treatment restored ability for the patients’ blood to kill their infecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections.
What is Superbugs?
- Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs happens when microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs. These microorganisms are also termed as “superbugs”.
- As a result, the medicines or drugs become ineffective and infections persist in the body further increasing the risk of spread to others.
Key Facts for Prelims
- The North Western Railway has declared the Barmer-Munawab and Pipad Road-Bilara rail routes in Rajasthan as Green Corridors.
- With this total number of green corridors has increased to five.
- The 114-km-long Manamadurai– Rameswaram stretch of Southern Railway was India’s first ‘Green corridor’.
- Okha-Kanalus and Porbandar-Wasjaliya railway sections of Gujarat also have been declared green corridors.
- The Green Corridor ensures zero toilet discharge on rail tracks as part of its commitment to clean environment under the ‘Swachh Rail-Swachh Bharat’ initiative. Trains in the section have been equipped with bio-toilets to ensure zero discharge of human waste on the rail tracks and preventing corrosion of the tracks.
- The Government has approved Rs. 2,256 crore outlay for Project Saksham, a new indirect tax network of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), to bolster the information technology network for the new GST regime.
- Project Saksham is the name given to CBEC’s IT Infrastructure Project. This IT Infrastructure project will enable not just the implementation of Goods and Services tax (GST) but also support all existing services in Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax.
- In addition, it will also enable extension of the Indian Customs Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade (SWIFT) and other taxpayer-friendly initiatives under Digital Indian and Ease of Doing Business of CBEC.
- It will enable setting up of an information exchange mechanism with GSTN through the use of pre-agreed Application Programming Interface (API) or other secure methods of message exchange.
SpaceX successfully re-launches its first used rocket
- Elon Musk-led space exploration startup SpaceX has successfully launched its pre-used first stage of Falcon 9 rocket in its bid to drive down costs and speed up flights.
- It marks the first time relaunch of an orbital class rocket. The Falcon 9 took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center hoisting a broadcasting satellite.
- The reused first stage was earlier used in March 2016 and had successfully landed on drone platform.
India’s first International research centre for Foot, Mouth disease of cattle
- India’s first International research centre for Foot and Mouth disease of cattle and buffalos was inaugurated at Argul (Bhubaneswar), Odisha.
- The research centre has been constructed in joint collaboration of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAT).
- It will conduct research on viral disease of cattle and buffaloes. It has the facility for safe handling and storage of live Foot and Mouth disease virus that essentially is required for control of the disease.
- It will collect samples from all over the country to find a cure of the disease. Notably, India is suffering a loss of Rs. 23,000 annually due to Foot and Mouth disease of cattle and buffalos.