Government Schemes & Policies
- GOBAR-DHAN Scheme launched
- Pilot Scheme for Procurement of Aggregate Power of 2500 MW
Art & Culture
- PM honours Tibetan institute
Science & Technology
- Blue Origin launches New Shepard Space Capsule
- Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission
- HDFC Bank launches interactive humanoid IRA 2.0
Key Facts for Prelims
- 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
- India’s longest-serving Chief Minister
- Harimau Shakti 2018
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Government Schemes & Policies
GOBAR-DHAN Scheme launched
Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has launched the ‘Gobar Dhan’ scheme for Nation.
- The government is also planning to create an online platform for trading cow dung and agricultural waste under the scheme.
What is the GOBAR-Dhan Yojana?
- The Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) scheme was first announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech on February 1.
- The scheme would focus on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, biogas and bio-CNG. It will help in keeping the village clean while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders.
Significance of the GOBAR-Dhan Yojana:
- The scheme will be hugely beneficial for country as India is home to highest cattle population in world (around 300 million in number) which produces around 3 million tonnes of dung.
- It will encourage farmers to consider dung and other waste not just as waste but as source of income.
- The scheme will provide many benefits to rural people by keeping villages clean and sanitized, improving livestock health and increasing farm yields.
- Under it, biogas generation will help to increase self-reliance in energy utilized for cooking and lighting.
- The scheme will augment income of farmers and cattle herders. It will create new opportunities for jobs linked to waste collection, transportation, biogas sales etc.
- It will also provide stable fuel supply in market for oil companies and accessible credit in market through government schemes and banks for entrepreneurs.
- Under it, villagers will be mobilized to create self-help groups (SHGs) and creative societies that will help in clean energy and green jobs initiative.
- Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) comprises two main components for creating clean villages. They are creating open defecation free (ODF) villages and managing solid and liquid waste in villages.
- The Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation now is focusing on ODF-plus activities, including measures to enhance solid and liquid waste management after over 3.5 lakh villages, 374 districts and 16 States/UTs of the country were declared ODF.
Pilot Scheme for Procurement of Aggregate Power of 2500 MW
Ministry of Power has launched Pilot Scheme for Procurement of Aggregate Power of 2500 MW on competitive basis for 3 years.
About the scheme:
- The main purpose of scheme is to revive commissioned power plants which are unable to sell electricity in absence of valid power purchase agreements (PPAs).
- Under this scheme, these plants will be allowed to bid for power supply. Under it, power will be procured from generators with commissioned projects under medium term but without Power Purchase Agreement.
- PFC Consulting Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of state-run Power Finance Corporation) has been appointed as Nodal Agency and PTC India Limited as aggregator.
- PTC India will sign three-year (mid-term) Agreement for power procurement with successful bidders and Power Supply Agreement with Discoms. Under pilot scheme, a single entity can be allotted maximum capacity of 600 MW.
- The scheme will assure minimum off-take of 55% contracted capacity. The Tariff will be fixed for 3 years without any escalation.
Significance of the scheme:
- The scheme will help nearly 12 GW commissioned thermal power plants get medium-term power purchase agreement (PPA) which is pre-requisite for getting coal linkage. Presently out of 40 GW stressed coal-based power generation capacity, 28 plants of 24 GW worth Rs 1.44 lakh crore are commissioned. Nearly half of these capacities (12 GW) do not have coal linkage because of no PPAs.
- This scheme is expected to revive power demand which has affected generators not having Power Purchase Agreements.
Art & Culture
PM honours Tibetan institute
As part of celebrations to mark Buddha Purnima, Prime Minister of India recently honoured the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS).
- The PM also highlighted ₹360 crore allocation made for the development of the Buddhist circuit.
- CIHTS is a centrally funded institute that was started in 1967 following a discussion between Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the early 1960s.
- It is located at Sarnath, Varanasi.
- It was started with a view to educating the young Tibetan Diaspora and those from the Himalayan border regions of India, who have religion, culture and language in common with Tibet.
- Originally the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS), began to function as a constituent wing of the Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, and eventually emerged as an autonomous body in 1977 under the Ministry of Culture.
Science & Technology
Blue Origin launches New Shepard Space Capsule
Blue Origin, the US aerospace company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has launched its suborbital New Shepard rocket and space capsule.
- The mission marked the company’s first test flight of the year and second flight of the New Shepard 2.0 spacecraft.
What is New Shepard system?
- The New Shepard system is a fully reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle. The system consists of a pressurized capsule atop a booster.
- The name New Shepard makes reference to the first American astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts.
- New Shepard 2.0 space capsule is designed to fly commercial payloads and up to 6 passengers on suborbital space flights for science and tourism. The capsule features giant windows to give future passengers a stunning view of their launch into space.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission
NASA is set to launch a pair of new spacecraft that will observe our planet’s ever-changing water cycle, ice sheets and crust.
- The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).
- It will take over where the first GRACE mission left off when it completed its 15-year mission in 2017.
About GRACE- FO mission:
- The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).
- GRACE-FO is a successor to the original GRACE mission, which began orbiting Earth on March 17, 2002.
- The GRACE missions measure variations in gravity over Earth’s surface, producing a new map of the gravity field every 30 days.
- GRACE-FO will carry on the extremely successful work of its predecessor while testing a new technology designed to dramatically improve the already remarkable precision of its measurement system.
- GRACE-FO will continue the work of tracking Earth’s water movement to monitor changes in underground water storage, the amount of water in large lakes and rivers, soil moisture, ice sheets and glaciers, and sea level caused by the addition of water to the ocean.
These discoveries provide a unique view of Earth’s climate and have far-reaching benefits to society and the world’s population.[Ref: The Hindu]
HDFC Bank launches interactive humanoid IRA 2.0
HDFC Bank has launched Interactive Robotic Assistant (IRA) 2.0, an interactive humanoid at its Koramangala Branch in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
- The interactive humanoid aims to enhance user experience for customers visiting in this branch.
What is IRA 2.0?
- It is blend of IRA 1.0 and Electronic Virtual Assistant (EVA), HDFC’s virtual bank assistant with some added features.
- It can interact customers, answer their bank-related queries, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and also guide them inside branch with voice-based navigation.
What is Electronic Virtual Assistant (EVA)?
- Its virtual assistant launched by HDFC on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to enable simplicity and convenience of voice conversation to banking transactions.
- It makes HDFC first bank to offer voice banking experience on Alexa.
- It is integrated with bank’s chat engine EVA for natural language processing (NLP) to better understand customers’ queries.
What is IRA 1.0?
- HDFC was first bank in India to introduce humanoid IRA 1.0 for customer service.
- IRA 1.0 is GPS enabled indoor humanoid.
- It has speech recognition module that can be trained to understand what customers speak and uses ultrasonic sensor to move in inside branch.
- It has face detection algorithm for recognition customers.
Key Facts for Prelims
15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
The 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will be held in holy city if Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) from January 21 to January 23, 2019.
- Its theme will be “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India”.
- The mega event will be organised by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in association with Uttar Pradesh government.
About Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD):
- PBD is an annual event organised since 2003 by Ministry of External Affairs to foster greater interaction between the Indian Diaspora and Indian government.
- It is held annually on 9 January to mark the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India i.e. on 9 January, 1915.
- During the event, individuals of exceptional merit are honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to appreciate their role in India’s growth.
Significance of PBD:
- It is a very important platform for engagement of the Union Government and the state governments with the overseas Indian community.
- It provides the single platform to Indian diaspora to put forth their issues and grievances before the government and in turn government can leverage their resources in nation building activities.
India’s longest-serving Chief Minister
- Sikkim’s Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling created history by becoming longest-serving Chief Minister in India.
- He has completed 23 years, four months and 17 days of uninterrupted service in office.
- He surpassed earlier record held by Jyoti Basu, 5-term West Bengal CM who held office for 23 years.
Harimau Shakti 2018
- The first ever bilateral joint military training exercise HARIMAU SHAKTI 2018 between India and Malaysia began in dense forests of Sengai Perdik, Hulu Langat, Malaysia.
- The exercise aims at bolstering cooperation and coordination between armed forces of both nations.
- It also seeks to share expertise of both contingents in conduct of counter insurgency operations in in jungles of Hulu Langat.
- This is for first time joint training exercise of this magnitude between Indian and Malaysia is being held on Malaysian soil.