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Current Affair Analysis

1st march 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

IEA Bioenergy TCP; Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM-SYM); Common Services Centers (CSCs); CSC 2.0 Scheme; PM-KiSAN scheme; National Mineral Policy, 2019; Special Economic Zones (SEZs); SEZ Act, 2005; Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; National Housing Bank (NHB); New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance, 2019; Arbitration; FAME India Phase II; National Policy on Software Products – 2019; Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana; Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme; Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for Science and Technology; Arun-3 hydro project; 2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary; World's Most Ethical Companies; TECH – SOP; National Water Awards – 2018; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
March 09, 2019

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Cabinet approves promulgation of Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019
  • Cabinet approves “Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana”
  • National Mineral Policy 2019 launched
  • Cabinet approves National Policy on Software Products – 2019
  • Cabinet approves Scheme for FAME India Phase II
  • Cabinet approves the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance, 2019
  • Cabinet approves Promulgation of an Ordinance for Amendment to the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005
  • Aadhaar no more mandatory for second installment of PM-KiSAN scheme
  • Cabinet approves inclusion of Common Services Centers under MEITY as Enrolment Agency for PM-SYM

Economy

  • Cabinet approves Rs. 1450 crore for the share capital of RBI in National Housing Bank (NHB)
  • Cabinet approves ₹1236 crore investment for Arun-3 hydro project

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Cabinet approves joining of IEA Bioenergy TCP by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as a Member

Science & Technology

  • Prime Minister of India confers Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for Science and Technology

Key Facts for Prelims

  • 2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary
  • World’s Most Ethical Companies
  • TECH – SOP
  • National Water Awards – 2018

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Government Schemes & Policies

Cabinet approves promulgation of Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019

The Union Cabinet has approved the promulgation of an Ordinance to make amendments to the Aadhaar Act 2016, Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2005 & Indian Telegraph Act 1885.

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 2

Salient Features of amendments:

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 1

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; and the authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002
  • Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to undergo authentication
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Impact:  

  • The amendments would enable Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.
  • Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number of undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court in its judgement had held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid.
  • However, it struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.
  • Consequently, it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse.
  • Towards this, the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha in its sitting held on 4th January, 2019. However, before the same could be considered and passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves “Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana”

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana” for providing financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects using lingo cellulosic biomass and other renewable feedstock.

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana 1

Highlights of scheme:

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana 4

  • Under this Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 demonstration scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol Projects will be provided a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases:
  • The scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects.

Benefits:

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana 3

  • Meeting Government of India vision of reducing import dependence by way of substituting fossil fuels with Biofuels.
  • Achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets through progressive blending/ substitution of fossil fuels.
  • Addressing environment concerns caused due to burning of biomass/ crop residues & improve health of citizens.
  • Improving farmer income by providing them remunerative income for their otherwise waste agriculture residues.
  • Creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain.
  • Contributing to Swacch Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of non­food biofuel feedstocks such as waste biomass and urban waste.
  • Indigenizing of Second Generation Biomass to Ethanol technologies.

Need of the Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana:

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana 2

  • Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has targeted to achieve 10% blending percentage of Ethanol in petrol by 2022.
  • Despite efforts of the Government such as higher ethanol prices and simplification of ethanol purchase system, the highest ever ethanol procurement stands around 150 crore litres during Ethanol supply year 2017-18 which is sufficient for around 4.22% blending on Pan India basis.
  • Therefore, an alternate route viz. Second Generation (2G) Ethanol from biomass and other wastes is being explored to bridge the supply gap for EBP programme.
  • In this direction, “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana” is being launched as a tool to create 2G Ethanol capacity in the country and attract investments in this new sector.

Implementing agency:

  • Centre for High Technology (CHT), a technical body under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG) will be the implementation Agency for the scheme.

Financial Implications:

  • The JI-VAN Yojana will be supported with total financial outlay of Rs.1969.50 crore for the period from 2018-19 to 2023-24.

Background:

  • Government of India launched Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme in 2003 for undertaking blending of ethanol in Petrol to address environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning and subsidize crude imports.
  • Presently, EBP is being run in 21 States and 4 UTs. Under EBP programme, OMCs are to blend up to 10% of ethanol in Petrol.
  • The present policy allows procurement of ethanol produced from molasses and non-food feed stock like celluloses and lignocelluloses material including petrochemical route.

What is 1G (1st Generation) and 2G (2nd Generation) Bioethanol?

  • Biofuels are generally categorized into different types based on the production technology and the raw material origin; 1st generation (1G), 2nd generation (2G) and 3rd generation (3G).
  • Bioethanol is obtained at industrial scale from the fermentation of sugars, and it is the origin of such sugars that determines whether it is first-generation or second-generation bioethanol.
  • In the production of first-generation, or 1G bioethanol, the source of these sugars is starch while Ethanol produced from the structural and non-edible fractions of plants is called second generation (2G) ethanol.
  • Generally, the production of 2nd generation biofuels is more expensive than 1st generation biofuels.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme:

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana 5

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme was launched by the Government in 2003 on pilot basis to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.
  • This was also an attempt to reduce the Under-recovery of Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
  • It also seeks to reduce import dependency for energy requirements and give boost to agriculture sector.

What is Ethanol Blending?

  • Ethanol blending is the practice of blending petrol with ethanol. Many countries, including India, have adopted ethanol blending in petrol in order to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and also to reduce the import burden on account of crude petroleum from which petrol is produced.
  • Ethanol blending first found mention in the Auto fuel policy of 2003. It suggested developing technologies for producing ethanol/ bio fuels from renewable energy sources and introducing vehicles to utilise these bio fuels.
[Ref: PIB]

 

National Mineral Policy 2019 launched

Government has approved National Mineral Policy 2019.

NATIONAL MINERAL POLICY 2019

National Mineral Policy 2019:

Objective:

  • To have a more effective, meaningful and implementable policy that brings in further transparency, better regulation.
  • To attract private investment through incentives while the efforts would be made to maintain a database of mineral resources and tenements under mining tenement systems.

Benefits:

  • The New National Mineral Policy will ensure more effective regulation.
  • It will lead to sustainable mining sector development in future while addressing the issues of project affected persons especially those residing in tribal areas

Salient Features:

  • Introduction of Right of First Refusal for reconnaissance permit and prospecting license (RP/PL) holders
  • Auctioning in virgin areas for composite RP cum PL cum ML on revenue share basis
  • Encouragement of merger and acquisition of mining entities and Transfer of mining leases and creation of dedicated mineral corridors to boost private sector mining areas
  • It proposes to grant status of industry to mining activity to boost financing of mining for private sector
  • It also mentions that Long term import export policy for mineral will help private sector in better planning and stability in business
  • It mentions rationalize reserved areas given to PSUs which have not been used and to put these areas to auction, which will give more opportunity to private sector for participation
  • Moreover, it also mentions to make efforts to harmonize taxes, levies & royalty with world benchmarks to help private sector

Changes introduced in the National Mineral Policy, 2019:

  • More focus on Make in India initiative and Gender sensitivity.
  • E-Governance, IT enabled systems, awareness and Information campaigns have been incorporated.
  • Regarding the role of state in mineral development, online public portal with provision for generating triggers at higher level in the event of delay of clearances has been put in place.
  • The new policy focusses on use coastal waterways and inland shipping for evacuation and transportation of minerals.
  • The utilization of the district mineral fund for equitable development of project affected persons and areas.
  • It proposes a long term export import policy for the mineral sector to provide stability and as an incentive for investing in large scale commercial mining activity.
  • The 2019 Policy also introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity that proposes to constitute an inter-ministerial body to institutionalize the mechanism for ensuring sustainable development in mining.

Background:

  • National Mineral Policy 2019 replaces the extant National Mineral Policy 2008 (“NMP 2008”).
  • In compliance of the directions of the apex Court, the Ministry of Mines constituted a committee in August 2017 to review NMP 2008.
  • Based on the received comments received from the committee, Departments the Ministry of Mines finalized the National Mineral Policy 2019.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves National Policy on Software Products – 2019    

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Policy on Software Products – 2019 to develop India as a Software Product Nation.

National Policy on Software Products – 2019 3

Objectives:

National Policy on Software Products – 2019 4

  • To promote the creation of a sustainable Indian software product industry, driven by intellectual property (IP), leading to a ten-fold increase in India share of the Global Software product market by 2025.
  • To nurture 10,000 technology startups in software product industry, including 1000 such technology startups in Tier-II and Tier-III towns & cities and generating direct and in-direct employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.
  • To create a talent pool for software product industry through (i) up-skilling of IT professionals, (ii) motivating school and college students and (iii) generating specialized professionals that can provide leadership.
  • To build a cluster-based innovation driven ecosystem by developing 20 sectoral located software product development clusters
  • In order to evolve and monitor scheme for the implementation of this policy, National Software Products Mission will be set up

Major impact:

National Policy on Software Products – 2019 5

  • Boost revenues and exports
  • Create substantive employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in emerging technologies
  • Leverage opportunities available under the Digital India Programme

Need:

National Policy on Software Products – 2019 2

 

  • The Indian IT Industry has predominantly been a service Industry. However, a need has been felt to move up the value chain through technology oriented products and services.
  • To create a robust software product ecosystem, the Government has approved the National Policy on Software Products – 2019, which aims to develop India as the global software product hub.
  • Further, the Policy is necessary as it aims to align with other Government initiatives such as Start-up India, Make in India etc so as to create Indian Software products Industry of USD 70-80 billion with direct & indirect employment of 3.5 million by 2025.

Expenditure involved

  • Initially, an outlay of Rs.1500 Crore is involved to implement the schemes envisaged under this policy over the period of 7 years.
  • Rs 1500 Crore is divided into Software Product Development Fund (SPDF) and Research & Innovation fund.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves Scheme for FAME India Phase II

The Union cabinet has approved the proposal for implementation of scheme titled ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II)’ for promotion of Electric Mobility in the country.

FAME-India Scheme 2019 2

FAME India Phase II

FAME-India Scheme 2019 3

  • This scheme is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India- 1 which was launched on 1st April 2015.
  • Total fund requirement for this scheme is Rs. 10,000 crores over three years from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Objective:

  • To encourage Faster adoption of Electric and hybrid vehicle by way of offering upfront Incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles
  • To establish charging Infrastructure for electric vehicles.
  • Help in addressing the issue of environmental pollution and fuel security.

Salient Features:

  • Emphasis is on electrification of the public transportation that includes shared transport.
  • Demand Incentives on operational expenditure mode
  • In 3W and 4W segment, incentives will be applicable mainly to vehicles used for public transport or registered for commercial purposes.
  • In the Electric 2 wheeler (e-2Ws) segment, the focus will be on the private vehicles.
  • To encourage advance technologies, the benefits of incentives, will be extended to only those vehicles which are fitted with advance battery like a Lithium Ion battery and other new technology batteries.
  • The scheme proposes for establishment of charging infrastructure, whereby about 2700 charging stations will be established in metros, other million plus cities, smart cities and cities of Hilly states across the country so that there will be availability of at least one charging station in a grid of 3 km x 3 km.
  • Establishment of Charging stations are also proposed on major highways connecting major city clusters.
  • On such highways, charging stations will be established on both sides of the road at an interval of about 25 km each.

About FAME-India Scheme

FAME-India Scheme 2019

  • Department of Heavy Industry & Public Enterprises implemented FAME-India Scheme- Phase-I from 1st April 2015 which was initially up to 31st April 2017, has been extended to 31st March, 2019 or till Notification of FAME-II, whichever is earlier.

What is FAME India scheme?

  • With an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles, the government had launched the FAME India scheme in 2015 offering incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for bikes and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars.
  • FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India – is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
  • The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals starting with the current year.
  • It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.

About National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020

  • NEMMP aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in country.
  • It has set ambitious target of 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance, 2019

The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance for establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) for the purpose of creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration.

Salient Features:

Cabinet approves the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance

  • New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) will be headed by a chairperson who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person, having special knowledge in the conduct of arbitration law, to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  • There will be two Full time or Part time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge in institutional arbitration, both domestic and international.
  • Also, one representative of a recognised body of commerce and industry shall be chosen on rotational basis as Part time Member.
  • Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Financial Adviser nominated by the Department of Expenditure and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC shall be ex-officio Members.

What is Arbitration?

  • Arbitration may be defined as the process by which a dispute or difference between two or more parties as to their mutual legal rights and liabilities is referred to and determined judicially by one or more persons (the arbitral tribunal) instead of by a court of law.
  • The objective of arbitration is to provide fair and impartial resolution of disputes without causing unnecessary delay or expense.
  • Some common institutions are the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) etc.
  • There are two forms of arbitration namely, ad hoc arbitration and institutional arbitration.

What is Institutionalised Arbitration?

  • An institutional arbitration is one in which a specialised institution intervenes and takes on the role of administering the arbitration process.
  • Each institution has its own set of rules which provide a framework for the arbitration, and its own form of administration to assist in the process.

Advantages of institutional arbitration:

  • Availability of pre-established rules and procedures which ensure the arbitration proceedings begin in a timely manner
  • Administrative assistance from the institution, which will provide a secretariat or court of arbitration
  • A list of qualified arbitrators to choose from
  • Assistance in encouraging reluctant parties to proceed with arbitration
  • An established format with a proven record

What is Ad-hoc arbitration?

  • An ad hoc arbitration is one which is not administered by an institution and therefore, the parties are required to determine all aspects of the arbitration like the number of arbitrators, manner of their appointment, procedure for conducting the arbitration, etc.

Advantages of Ad-hoc arbitration:

  • A properly structured ad hoc arbitration should be more cost effective, and therefore better suited to smaller claims and less wealthy parties.
  • A primary advantage of the ad hoc process is its flexibility, enabling the parties to decide the dispute resolution procedure themselves.

Objective:

Cabinet approves the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance 1

  • To bring   targeted   reforms   to   develop   itself   as   a   flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration
  • Provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation mediation and arbitral proceedings
  • Maintain panels of accredited arbitrators, conciliators and mediators both at national and international level or specialists such as surveyors and investigators
  • Facilitate conducting of international and domestic arbitrations and conciliation in the most professional manner
  • Provide cost effective and timely services for the conduct of arbitrations and conciliations at Domestic and International level
  • Promote studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution and related matters, and to promote reforms in the system of settlement of disputes
  • Co-operate with other societies, institutions and organisations, national or international for promoting alternative dispute resolution
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves Promulgation of an Ordinance for Amendment to the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005

The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance to amend the definition of “person”, as defined in sub-section (v) of section 2 of the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 (28 of2005).

National Policy on Electronics 2019 3

Amendments:

  • To include a trust.
  • To enable the setting up of a unit in a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) by a trust.
  • To provide flexibility to the Central Government to include any entity that the Central Government may notify from time to time in the definition of a person.

Impact of amendment:

  • The present provision of the SEZs Act, 2005 do not permit ‘trusts’ to set up units in SEZs. The amendment will enable a trust to be considered for grant of permission to set up a unit in SEZs.
  • The amendment will also provide flexibility to the Central Government to include in this definition of a person, any entity that the Central Government may notify from time to time. This will facilitate investments in Special Economic Zones.

Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

  • A special economic zone is an area in a country that is subject to unique economic regulations that differ from other regions of the same country.
  • SEZs aims to include increased trade balance, employment, increased investment, job creation and effective administration.
  • SEZs are supposed to facilitate rapid economic growth by leveraging tax incentives to attract foreign investment.
  • The performance of the SEZ units are monitored by a unit approval committee consisting of development commissioner, custom and representative of state government on an annual basis.
  • Any private or public or joint sector or State Government or its agencies can set up Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

SEZ in India:

Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 2019

  • India was one of the first in Asia to recognize the effectiveness of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) model in promoting exports, with Asia’s first EPZ set up in Kandla in 1965.
  • With a view to overcome the shortcomings experienced on account of the multiplicity of controls, the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Policy was announced in April 2000.

Administration set up:

  • The functioning of the SEZs in Id is governed by a three tier administrative set up.
  • The Board of Approval is the apex body and is headed by the Secretary, Department of Commerce.
  • The Approval Committee at the Zone level deals with approval of units in the SEZs and other related issues.
  • Each Zone is headed by a Development Commissioner, who is ex-officio chairperson of the Approval Committee.

Incentives offered to Indian SEZs units:

  • Duty free import/domestic procurement of goods for development, operation and maintenance of SEZ units
  • 100% Income Tax exemption on export income for SEZ units for first 5 years, 50% for next 5 years thereafter and 50% of the ploughed back export profit for next 5 years
  • Exemption from Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT)
  • Exemption from Central Sales Tax, Exemption from Service Tax and Exemption from State sales tax. These have now subsumed into GST and supplies to SEZs are zero rated under IGST Act, 2017.

Salient features of SEZ scheme:

  • A designated duty free enclave to be treated as a territory outside the customs territory of India for the purpose of authorised operations in the SEZ
  • No licence required for import
  • Manufacturing or service activities allowed
  • The Units are only required to achieve Positive Net Foreign Exchange to be calculated cumulatively for a period of five years from the commencement of production
  • Domestic sales subject to full customs duty and import policy in force
  • Full freedom for subcontracting
  • No routine examination by customs authorities of export/import cargo
  • SEZ Developers and Units enjoy Direct Tax and Indirect Tax benefits as prescribed in the SEZs Act, 2005.

SEZ Act, 2005

  • The SEZ Act, 2005, supported by SEZ Rules, came into effect in 2006, providing for single window clearance on matters relating to central as well as state governments.

Objective of SEZ Act:

  • Generation of additional economic activity
  • Promotion of exports of goods and services
  • Promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources
  • Creation of employment opportunities
  • Development of infrastructure facilities

The SEZ Act provide for:

  • Simplified procedures for development, operation, and maintenance of SEZ
  • Single window clearance for setting up of a SEZ unit as well as whole SEZ
  • Single Window clearance on matters relating to Central as well as State Governments
  • Simplified compliance procedures and documentation with an emphasis on self-certification
[Ref: PIB]

 

Aadhaar no more mandatory for second installment of PM-KiSAN scheme

Seeding of Aadhaar with bank accounts will not be compulsory for small and marginal farmers to avail the second instalment of Rs 2,000 due on April 1 under the PM-KiSAN scheme.

PM – KISAN scheme 2019

  • However, Aadhaar number would be required for release of second instalment.

Need for relaxed condition:

  • It is difficult to get 100 per cent Aadhaar seeding as efficient seeding of beneficiaries’ details with Aadhaar requires bio-metric authentication.
  • Non-seeding of beneficiaries’ details with Aadhaar number will delay the release of 2nd installment as it is due on 1st April, 2019 which can cause discontent among the farmers.
  • Therefore, this condition has been relaxed which will remain applicable for release of third installment onwards.

About the PM-KISAN:

Aadhaar no more mandatory for second installment of PM-KiSAN scheme 1

In the Interim budget of 2019-20, Government has announced the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)’ for providing an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers.

Highlights of Programme:

Aadhaar no more mandatory for second installment of PM-KiSAN scheme

  • Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
  • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
  • This programme will be funded by Government of India.
  • This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crores.

Significance of Programme:

  • Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit.
  • PM-KISAN would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season.
  • PM-KISAN would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves inclusion of Common Services Centers under MEITY as Enrolment Agency for PM-SYM

The government has approved inclusion of Common Service Centers (CCS’s) as an enrolment agency and permitting bulk deposits by other Ministries / other agencies of Central and State Governments in lieu subscriber’s share.

Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana 1 2019

Significance:

  • The approval will enable workers in the Unorganized Sector, to get social security in the form of monthly pension of Rs. 3,000/- on attaining the age of 60 years.

About Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM-SYM):

  • Government of India has introduced a pension scheme for unorganised workers namely Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM-SYM) to ensure old age protection for Unorganised Workers.
  • It is Central Sector Scheme administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
  • It is expected to benefit 10 crore labourers within next five years.

Features of PM-SYM:

  • Minimum Assured Pension: Each subscriber under the PM-SYM, shall receive minimum assured pension of Rs 3000/- per month after attaining the age of 60 years.
  • Family Pension: During the receipt of pension, if the subscriber dies, the spouse of the beneficiary shall be entitled to receive 50% of the pension received by the beneficiary as family pension. Family pension is applicable only to spouse.
  • It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme on a 50:50 basis where prescribed age-specific contribution shall be made by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government.
  • The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining PM-SYM till the age of 60 years. On attaining the age of 60 years, the subscriber will get the assured monthly pension of Rs.3000.
  • If a beneficiary has given regular contribution and died due to any cause (before age of 60 years), his/her spouse will be entitled to join and continue the scheme.

Eligibility for the scheme:

as Enrolment Agency for PM-SYM

  • The unorganized workers mostly engaged as home based workers, street vendors and similar other occupations whose monthly income is Rs 15,000/ per month or less should belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years.
  • They should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO).
  • Further, he/she should not be an income tax payer.

Fund Management:

  • It is implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and CSC eGovernance Services India Limited (CSC SPV).
  • LIC will be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.

What are the Common Services Centers (CSCs)?

Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme.as Enrolment Agency for PM-SYM 1

  • They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
  • CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:
  1. Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
  2. Governance and services on demand.
  3. Digital empowerment of citizens.

Significance of the CSCs:

  • CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods.
  • They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.

CSC 2.0 Scheme

  • Based on the assessment of CSC scheme, the Government launched the CSC 2.0 scheme in 2015 to expand the outreach of CSCs to all Gram Panchayats.
  • CSCs functioning under the existing scheme will also be strengthened and integrated with additional 1.5 lakh CSCs.
  • CSC 2.0 scheme would consolidate service delivery through a universal technology platform, making e-services, particularly Government to Citizen (G2C) services accessible to citizens anywhere in India.

Key Features of CSC 2.0 scheme

  • A self-sustaining network of 2.5 lakh CSCs in Gram Panchayats
  • Large bouquet of e-services through a single delivery platform
  • Standardization of services and capacity building of stakeholders
  • Localised Help Desk support
  • Sustainability of VLEs through maximum commission sharing
  • Encouraging more women as VLEs
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

Cabinet approves Rs. 1450 crore for the share capital of RBI in National Housing Bank (NHB)

The Cabinet approved payment of the face value of the subscribed share capital of Rs.1450 crore in National Housing Bank (NHB) to Reserve Bank of India (RBl) consequent to amendments made to the NHB Act, 1987 in 2018.

National Housing Bank 2019 1

Impact of approving share capital of RBI in NHB:

  • The wholesale financing role of NHB will get strengthened with the transfer of ownership to Government, thereby making possible augmented funding support to housing finance companies.
  • The change in ownership from RBI to Government of India will also segregate RBI’s role as banking regulator and as owner of NHB.

Background

  • Up till now, the authorized capital of NHB stands at Rs. 2,000 crores of which Rs. 1,450 crores has been subscribed by RBl.
  • Currently, the capital is fully subscribed by RBl. Subsequent to the payment of this amount to RBl, the subscribed capital of NHB shall stand transferred to and vested in the Central Government.

National Housing Bank (NHB)”

National Housing Bank 2019

  • NHB is an All India Financial Institution (AIFl), set up in 1988, under an Act of Parliament, viz. the National Housing Bank Act, 1987 (Central Act No. 53 of 1987).
  • It is an apex agency established to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels and to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

Objectives of NHB:

  • To promote a sound and cost effective housing finance system to cater all segments of the population and to integrate the housing finance system with the overall financial system.
  • To promote a network of dedicated housing finance institutions to adequately serve various regions and different income groups.
  • To augment resources for the sector and channelize them for housing.
  • To make housing credit more affordable.
  • To regulate the activities of housing finance companies based on regulatory and supervisory authority derived under the Act.
  • To encourage augmentation of supply of buildable land and also building materials for housing and to upgrade the housing stock in the country.
  • To encourage public agencies to emerge as facilitators and suppliers of serviced land.

Programmes and schemes:

  • Under Housing for All by 2022, two schemes, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) and Rural Housing Interest Subsidy Scheme
  • Credit Risk Guarantee Fund Trust for Low Income Housing (CRGFTLIH)

 [Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves ₹1236 crore investment for Arun-3 hydro project

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved 1236 crores INR investment for Transmission Component of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project (Nepal portion) by Sutlej Jal Vikas Nigam (SJVN) Limited

Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project 2019 2

Impact:

  • The project will provide surplus power to India strengthening economic linkages with Nepal. The power from the project shall be exported from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzaffarpur in India.

Background:

  • The Arun-3 Hydro Electric project (900 MW) is located on Arun River in Sankhuwasabha District of Eastern Nepal.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in its meeting held in February, 2017 approved the investment proposal for generation component of Arun-3 HEP (900 MW) in Nepal.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

Cabinet approves joining of IEA Bioenergy TCP by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as a Member

Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas joined IEA Bioenergy TCP as its 25th member on 25th January, 2019.

IEA Bioenergy TCP 2019 2

What is IEA Bioenergy TCP?

  • “International Energy Agency’s Technology Collaboration Programme on Bioenergy” (IEA Bioenergy TCP) is an international platform for co-operation among countries with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have national programmes in bioenergy research, development and deployment.
  • It works under the framework of International Energy Agency (IEA) to which India has “Association” status since March, 2017.
  • The R&D work in IEA Bioenergy TCP is carried out carried out within well-defined 3-years programmes called “Tasks”.
  • Each year the progress of the Tasks is evaluated and scrutinized and each 3 years the content of the Tasks is reformulated and new Tasks can be initiated.

Motive behind joining IEA Bioenergy TCP:

IEA Bioenergy TCP 2019 1

  • The primary goal of joining IEA Bioenergy TCP by Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) is to facilitate the market introduction of advanced biofuels with an aim to bring down emissions and reduce crude imports.

Benefits of participation in IEA Bioenergy TCP:

  • Shared costs and pooled technical resources
  • Avoidance of duplication of efforts
  • Reinforcement of National Research and Development capabilities
  • Engagement with International Agencies
  • Participation opportunities in Tasks focussing on Biogas, Solid waste Management, Bio refining etc.

Countries who have joined IEA:

  • Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Commission.

About Bioenergy:

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) Initiative 2019 2

  • Bioenergy is the energy which is stored in biological matter or “biomass”.
  • Biomass includes plant- and algae-based materials such as crop wastes, forest residues, food waste etc. Biomass is one type of renewable resource that can be converted into liquid fuels (biofuels) for transportation.
  • The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel.
  • There are three ways to harvest the energy stored in biomass to produce bio power: burning, bacterial decay and conversion to a gas/liquid fuel.
  • Bioenergy accounts for roughly 9% of world total primary energy supply. Currently, over 85% of biomass energy is consumed as solid fuels for cooking, heating and lighting, often with low efficiency.

Factors driving projected growth in bioenergy:

  • Rising energy prices, in particular oil prices
  • A desire in many oil importing countries to reduce energy dependency on a few oil and gas exporting countries, increasing energy security
  • Commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to combat climate change.

Key Benefits:

  • Sustainability: a clean and renewable energy source
  • Availability: bioenergy development can increase access to energy in rural areas
  • Flexibility: bioenergy can deliver power, heat and transport
  • Energy Security: bioenergy can contribute to diversifying the energy mix
  • Mitigation of climate change
  • Diversification of rural livelihoods
  • Reduction in land degradation

Key challenges:

  • Ensuring sustainability – environmental, social and economic
  • Safeguarding food security – ensuring that increased demand for biofuels does not adversely affect the hungry
  • Protecting biodiversity – major crops used in biodiesel production pose a threat to rainforests.
  • Managing competition for land and water – poor households in many developing countries do not have formal title over their land and formal rights over water
  • Controlling pollution – Indoor air pollution linked to traditional biomass use for cooking, counts among the major causes of ill-health developing countries.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

Prime Minister of India confers Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for Science and Technology

Prime Minister of India conferred Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) prizes for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 in Science and Technology.

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize 2019 2

About Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) prize:

  • The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Prize for Science and Technology was instituted in the year 1957, in the memory of late Dr Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, the founder director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • Any citizen of India engaged in research in any field of science and technology up to the age of 45 years is eligible to be nominated.
  • The SSB prize is awarded each year on the basis of outstanding contributions to human knowledge made through work done primarily in India during the five years, preceding the year of the prize.
  • It is given to each person selected for the award in the following disciplines viz. Biological sciences, Chemical Sciences, Medical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Science.
  • The Prize is bestowed on a person who, in the opinion of CSIR, has made conspicuously important and outstanding contributions to human knowledge and progress – fundamental and applied – in the particular field of endeavour, which is his/her specialization.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Key Facts for Prelims 

2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary

  • The 2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary for Hearing Impaired Persons has been launched.

2nd Edition of ISL Dictionary 2019 2

 

Key facts:

  • The Dictionary Includes 6000 Words Under Categories of Academic, Legal, Medical, Technical & Everyday Terms.
  • The dictionary has been developed by Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLR&TC) under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), M/o Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • The aim of the dictionary is to help spread the use of ISL which could result in better education and employment opportunities for hearing impaired persons.

 

World’s Most Ethical Companies

tata steel

  • Private steel major Tata Steel has been recognised as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, for 2019.

 

TECH – SOP

Technology Support and Outreach (TECH-SOP)2019

  • Technology Support and Outreach (TECH-SOP) is an initiative of the MSME Ministry to bridge the gap between research and development institutions and MSMEs so that they can use latest technologies and become a part of global value chain.

 

National Water Awards – 2018

National Water Awards – 2018

  • Recently, total 82 National Water Awards in 14 categories were distributed.
  • Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh were given first, second and third National Water Awards respectively in best state category.
  • The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation instituted National Water Awards to emphasize the importance of water resource management in India.
  • The prime objective of these awards is to bring the best efforts being done in water conservation to the national from across the country and encourage all stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Gram Panchayats, Urban Local Bodies, Water User Associations, Institutions, Corporate Sector, Individuals etc. to manage their water resources efficiently.

 

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