Polity & Governance
- CGA launches the upgraded version of Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) website
- Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC)
- Stop sand quarrying within six months: HC
- 6th International Tourism Mart
Government Schemes & Policies
- State opposes NITI Aayog’s prescription
Issues related to Health & Education
- 1st December: World AIDS Day 2017
- Techno-commercial agreement signed with Spain for three RRTS corridors
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- NITI Aayog and EU delegation to India release the Strategy on Resource Efficiency (RE)
- Cyclone Ockhi
- Clean Sea-2017
Art & Culture
- Kathakar: International Storytellers Festival
Key Facts for Prelims
- 52nd Raising Day of BSF
- Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant
- Australian scientist tracks whale sharks using NASA algorithm
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Polity & Governance
CGA launches the upgraded version of Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) website
The Controller General of Accounts, Department of Expenditure has launched the upgraded version of Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO).
Aim of the move:
- The move is primarily aimed to cater to the needs of central civil pensioners and other stakeholders in the Ministries/Departments and Banks.
About the website:
- The website has been developed in-house by the NIC Wing of CPAO.
- The website provides a single window for both accessing pension related information and facilitating grievance Redressal of pensioners.
About Controller General of Accounts:
The Controller General of Accounts is the apex Accounting Authority of the Central Government.
- It exercises the powers of the President under Article 150 of the constitution for prescribing the forms of Accounts of the Union and State Governments on the advice of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
Functions of CGA:
- It is the Principal Accounting Adviser to Government of India and is responsible for establishing and maintaining a technically sound Management Accounting System.
- The Office of CGA prepares monthly and annual analysis of expenditure, revenues, borrowings and various fiscal indicators for the Union Government.
- Under Article 150 of the Constitution, the Annual Appropriation Accounts (Civil) and Union Finance Accounts are submitted to Parliament on the advice of Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC)
Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Shri Radha Mohan Singh recently chaired the 22nd meeting of Board of Mangement (BOM) of Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC).
- Various activities of SFAC were reviewed during the meeting.
About Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium:
SFAC is an autonomous society promoted by Union Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare.
- It was established in 1994 and is registered under Societies Registration Act 1860.
- It is also registered as Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFC) by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
- Its fundamental objective is to link small farmers to agricultural value chain, which includes investments, technology and markets in association with private, corporate or cooperative sector.
- SFAC provides capital support in form of Venture Capital Assistance (VCA) and Project Development Facility (PDF) for economic inclusion of small and marginal farmers in agribusiness activities.
- It also promotes farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and their integration in agriculture value chain.
- Recently it was entrusted with task of implementation of critically important Delhi KisanMandi and National Agriculture Market Scheme (NAM) on e-platform to progressively free agricultural trade and offer price discovery to farmers.
- SFAC is governed by Board of Management which is chaired, ex-officio, by Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as the President and the Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, is the ex-officio Vice-President.
Stop sand quarrying within six months: HC
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu State government to stop sand quarrying within six months.
- Instead, it allowed import of sand from Malaysia.
- It has also ruled that no new quarries and mines should be opened in future.
Implications of the move:
- The court’s decision could lead to delay in completion of ongoing housing projects.
- With the real estate industry already bearing the brunt of acute sand shortage in the state, the new development is likely to fuel the crisis, hitting individuals who are building their homes and disrupting public projects.
- Closure of all sand quarries will be a blow because the construction sector generates the highest employment next only to the agriculture sector in the state.
- The decision will cause a rippling effect on the state’s economy because associated industries such as construction material suppliers, dealers, traders and workers will be left jobless.
On the other hand, environmental activists have dubbed the court’s decision as a critical step towards restoring rivers.[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]
6th International Tourism Mart
The 6th International Tourism Mart (ITM) is being organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the North Eastern States in Guwahati, Assam.
About International Tourism Marts:
The International Tourism Marts is an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
- It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.
- The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis.
- The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
Focus areas of the 6th ITM:
- The 6th International Tourism Mart, will put the spotlight on India’s “Act East Policy”, blossoming ties with ASEAN and the larger East Asia region, home to the world’s rapidly growing economies and India’s emerging tourism markets.
Scope of tourism in North East Region:
- The North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products.
- The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, its festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination waiting to be explored.
Government Schemes & Policies
State opposes NITI Aayog’s prescription
NITI Aayog’s prescription for the State — to bring private sector players in a big way into the functioning of public hospitals in districts — has been met with strong opposition in Karnataka.
What’s the issue?
- Karnataka, which has been selected for the SATH (Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital) programme in the health sector, has opposed the aayog’s proposal to privatise well-functioning district hospitals in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities for treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
- The state has sternly opposed any terms and conditions for entering into an agreement with McKinsey & Company, consultants for implementation of the model. It is of the view that the proposal will have adverse implications for the public healthcare system of the State.
- NITI Aayog selected the three states through a three stage challenge-process – expression of interest, presentations by the states and assessment of commitment to health sector reforms.
- Finally, three states: Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka were chosen based on objective assessment criteria affecting the potential for impact and likelihood of success.
- A consortium of reputed technical consultants are closely working with NITI Aayog and the states to conceptualize the initiatives and provide support in the implementation process.
About SATH initiative:
Furthering the agenda for cooperative federalism, NITI Aayog has launched SATH, a program providing ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital’ with the State Governments.
- The vision of the program is to initiate transformation in the education and health sectors.
- SATH aims to identify and build three future ‘role model’ states for health systems.
- The program will be implemented by NITI Aayog along with McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium, who were selected through a competitive bidding process.
- Under it, NITI will work in close collaboration with state machinery to design a robust roadmap of intervention, develop governance structure, set up monitoring and tracking mechanisms and provide support on a range of institutional measures to achieve the end objectives.
- The SATH program embodies the philosophy of co-operative federalism.
Issues related to Health & Education
1st December: World AIDS Day 2017
Every year on December 1 since 1988, World AIDS Day is being observed to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and to mourn those who have died of the disease.
- The theme of World AIDS Day for the year 2017 is “Right to health.”
- WHO under slogan “Everybody counts” will advocate for access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines, including diagnostics and other health commodities.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It may also be referred to as HIV disease or HIV infection.
- Serological tests, such as RDTs or enzyme immunoassays (EIAs), detect the presence or absence of antibodies to HIV-1/2 and/or HIV p24 antigen.
- No single HIV test can provide an HIV-positive diagnosis. It is important that these tests are used in combination and in a specific order.
- HIV/AIDS is a pandemic disease caused due to the infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. If untreated, person’s immune system will eventually be completely destroyed.
- AIDS refers to set of symptoms and illnesses that occur at very final stage of HIV infection.
Common reasons for getting infected with AIDS:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Contaminated blood transfusions.
- Hypodermic needles.
- From mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.
- Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do nottransmit HIV.
Importance of World AIDS Day:
- Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus.
- Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
- Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition.
- Despite this, many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.[Ref: PIB]
Techno-commercial agreement signed with Spain for three RRTS corridors
India and Spain have signed Techno-commercial agreement to provide institutional mechanism for mutual cooperation in field of urban transport and for construction of the three Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS).
- The agreement will enable availability of technical advice on specific issues, besides providing training and collaboration in technical areas of track, signalling, rolling stock, multi-modal integration, safety, station design etc.
- It will also provide institutional mechanism for mutual cooperation in field of urban transport and especially in implementation of RRTS project.
- The Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) is semi-high speed rail system proposed by the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) to connect Delhi with its distant suburbs corridors with trains running at a max speed of 180 km/hr.
- It will use state-of-the-art technologies for track structure, rolling stock and signalling system.
- The objective of this system is to reduce dependence of commuters on road based transportation and enhance regional connectivity within the National Capital Region.
Significance of the RRTS:
- RRTS will significantly reduce the travel time between important NCR towns.
- On completion, RRTS will emerge as the fastest, comfortable and safe mode of transport in NCR.
Corridors in first phase:
- RRTS consists of three corridors viz., Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Gurgaon-Alwar and Delhi-Panipat sections with a total length of 380 kms.
- National Capital Region Transport Corporation, a joint venture between Union Government and state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi is mandated to design, construct, operate and maintain rail based RRTS in National Capital Region (NCR).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
NITI Aayog and EU delegation to India release the Strategy on Resource Efficiency (RE)
NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India have released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency.
- The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.
About the Strategy on Resource Efficiency:
The Strategy on Resource Efficiency is the first policy document to emphasize resource productivity in the country.
- The Strategy emphasizes on Sustainable Public Procurement (SSP) as an action agenda which will be the market transformation tool to transform to a resource efficient economy.
- The document is developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Indian Resource Panel (InRP) in April 2017.
What is Resource Efficiency?
- Resource efficiency very simply put is making more with fewer materials. In practice, through a life-cycle approach, it leads to minimizing impact on environment & the associated societal burdens, transforming ‘waste’ into ‘resources’ fostering circular economy, and strengthening resource security.
Need of Resource Efficiency
- Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability is a global priority and SDGs commitment and 11th Five year plan also clearly enunciate importance of Resource efficiency (RE).
About Indian Resource Panel (InRP):
- The new Indian Resource Panel (InRP) was officially unveiled in 2016, making India one of the first emerging economies to set up a national advisory body on resource efficiency.
- The InRP was created with support from the International Climate Initiative as part of the project ‘Resource efficiency and secondary raw materials management as a contribution to climate change mitigation’.
- The InRP will issue recommendations to Indian businesses and policy-makers on improving the general conditions for resource efficiency.
- India’s large population, rapid urbanization and expanding industrial production have led to exploitation of available limited natural resources with concerns regarding resource depletion and future availability becoming more pronounced.
- Ensuring resource security requires and integrated, concerted and collaborative approach in order to fulfill the needs of a vast and growing population.
- Also, the environmental burdens emanating due to resource extraction, utilization and disposal, including land degradation, biodiversity loss, as well as air and water pollution remain of great concern.
- Enhancing resource efficiency (RE) and promoting the use of secondary raw materials (SRM) is a pertinent strategy to address these challenges and reduce dependence on primary resource.
The deep depression which had formed in the Bay of Bengal near Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, bordering Kerala, has now intensified into a cyclonic storm named Ockhi.
- The name Ockhi was given by Bangladesh which in Bengali means ‘eye’.
Why cyclones are named?
- The practice of naming storms (tropical cyclones) began years ago in order to help in the quick identification of storms in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms.
- Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness.
How are cyclones named?
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) started the tropical cyclone naming system in 2000.
- Tropical cyclones are named to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings.
The Cyclones worldwide are named by 9 regions —
- North Atlantic
- Eastern North Pacific
- Central North Pacific
- Western North Pacific
- North Indian Ocean
- South West Indian Ocean
- Southern Pacific
- South Atlantic
Naming in North Indian Ocean:
- Cyclones in the North Indian Ocean basin are named by the Indian Meteorological Department and the first tropical cyclone was named in 2004 as Onil (given by Bangladesh).
- Eight north Indian Ocean countries — Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, gave eight names each which was combined into a list of 64 names. One name from each country is picked in an order to name the cyclones.
- The previous storm Mora that caused severe flooding across Northeast India in May was named by Thailand. Mora is the name of one of the healing stones and also means star of the sea. The next cyclone will be named Sagar — a name given by India.
[Ref: The Hindu, WMO]
The Regional Level Marine Oil Pollution Response Exercise titled ‘Clean Sea – 2017’, was recently conducted at sea off Port Blair.
- It was conducted by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
Objective of the exercise:
- The objective of exercise was to ascertain preparedness of IGC, resource agencies and other stakeholders in responding to major oil spill in line with provisions of National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP).
Need for exercise:
- The Great Channel between Nicobar Islands and Northern Sumatra that leads into Malacca Straits is marine drive of high seas. Almost 200 ships cross 160-km wide Straits daily making it among busiest sea routes of world. Considering, high intensity of oil tanker traffic through this route, the area is highly vulnerable to oil spills. So, there is need for robust national system for oil spill response is critical
- Indian Coast Guard is responsible for marine environment protection in the maritime zones of India and is the coordinating authority for response to oil spills in Indian waters.
- The Force has drawn up a National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP) and has established three pollution response centres at Mumbai, Chennai and Port Blair.
About National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP)
- The National oil spill Disaster contingency plan (NOS-DCP) was originally promulgated in July 1996 and subsequently updated in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2006 to include additional information.
- Coast guard was designated as central coordination authority.
Objectives of the plan are:
- To develop appropriate and effective systems for the detection and reporting of spillage of oil.
- To ensure prompt response to prevent, control, and combat oil pollution.
- To ensure that adequate protection is provided to the public health and welfare, and the marine environment.
- To ensure that appropriate response techniques are employed to prevent, control, and combat oil pollution, and dispose off recovered material in an environmentally accepted
- To ensure that complete and accurate records are maintained of all expenditure to facilitate cost of recovery.
Art & Culture
Kathakar: International Storytellers Festival
7th edition Kathakar: International Storytellers Festival was held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi.
- The partners for this edition of three day festival are IGNCA of Union Ministry of Culture in Delhi, Heritage Transport Museum, Gurugram and National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai.
What is Kathakar?
Kathakar is special initiative, to promote the oral storytelling tradition which has existed across the world.
- It is only oral storytelling festival in India.
- It is part of bigger initiative Ghummakkad Narain- the Travelling Literature Festival which was started under aegis of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010.
- It aims to preserve art form and also create new audiences for same.
- Kathakar is a special initiative within the bigger festival, Ghummakkad Narain, to promote the oral storytelling tradition which has existed across the world.
- Though performance storytelling has seen a revival in Europe, in India only few efforts have been made to contemporize the art form.
Key Facts for Prelims
52nd Raising Day of BSF
- The Border Security Force (BSF), the biggest border guarding force in the world celebrated its 52nd Anniversary of Raising Day.
- Came into existence on 1st December, 1965, BSF is the sentinels of Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- It was created by merging various State Armed Police Battalions for achieving a better coordinated synergy between the border guarding functions in peace time and fighting the war during the eventuality on both Western and Eastern fronts.
- BSF is deployed on Indo-Pakistan International Border, Indo-Bangladesh International Border, Line of Control (LoC) along with Indian Army and in Anti-Naxal Operations.
- Since its inception, BSF has proven its credentials during various counter insurgency and anti-militancy operations, internal security duties, natural calamities etc.
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently inaugurated construction work on the much-awaited Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Ishwardi, located in the western part of the country.
- The plant is expected to add 2,400 MW of electricity to the national grid by 2024, helping the country meet its increasing demand for electricity.
- The mega project is being implemented by state-run Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission with financial and technological support from Russia through its state nuclear agency, Rosatom.
Australian scientist tracks whale sharks using NASA algorithm
- An algorithm developed by NASA to study star charts has been used by an Australian marine scientist to track and identify whale sharks.
- The International whale shark research program by Murdoch University has made the use of technology developed by NASA to examine the distinctive spots that appear on whale sharks.
- By using the NASA algorithm, the researchers have been able to examine photographs from around the globe and identify where each individual whale shark came from.
- So far, the project has helped uncover 20 whale shark aggregation sites. The main hotspots are located at the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, the Atlantic coast of Mexico, Mozambique and the Philippines.