Polity & Governance
- PM Launches “Housing for All” in Rural Areas
- RBI proposes ‘Islamic window’ in banks
Bilateral & International Relations
- India elected new vice chair of Kimberly Process for 2018: GJEPC
Science & Technology
- China launches world’s longest quantum communication line
- Now, a novel tool may lead to Zika virus vaccines
- NASA Weather Satellite Promises ‘Huge Leap’ in Forecasts
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Pehchan’ identity cards
- 2016 Sumitra Charat Ram Award
- First World Sanskrit Award
Polity & Governance
PM Launches “Housing for All” in Rural Areas
Prime Minister Shri Narendra has formally launched Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin) flagship housing for all scheme in rural areas.
- Under the scheme, the Government proposes to provide an environmentally safe and secure pucca house to every rural household by 2022.
About the scheme:
- In its first phase, the target of the scheme is to complete one crore houses by March 2019.
- The unit cost for these houses has been significantly increased and now through convergence a minimum support of nearly Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 1.6 lakh to a household is available. There is also a provision of Bank loan upto Rs. 70,000/-, if the beneficiary so desires.
- The selection of beneficiaries has been through a completely transparent process using the Socio Economic Census 2011 data and validating it through the Gram Sabha.
- PMAY-G is also a major step forward in bringing together Skill India, Digital India, Make In India, IT/DBT Aadhaar platform and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
- The programme provides for skilling 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019 and allows over 200 different housing designs across the country based on a detailed study of housing typologies, environmental hazards and the households’ requirements.
- A large-scale use of local materials is envisaged along with a complete home with cooking space, electricity provision, LPG, toilet and bathing area, drinking water etc. through convergence.
- The programme targets the poor households and uses ICT and space technology to further confirm correct selection of beneficiaries and progress of work. The entire payments are through IT/DBT mode with Aadhaar linked Bank accounts with consent, to ensure complete transparency and accountability.
- There is a provision for orientation of beneficiaries. A 45 days on site hands-on skill training of Rural Masons helps poor households to move up the skilling ladder.
RBI proposes ‘Islamic window’ in banks
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed the opening of Islamic window in conventional banks for gradual introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest-free banking in the country.
- In this regard, RBI has also prepared a technical analysis report and submitted to the Union Finance Ministry for its consideration.
- Both the Centre and the RBI have been exploring the possibility of introduction of Islamic banking for a while now to ensure financial inclusion of those sections of society that remain excluded due to religious reasons.
What is Islamic or Sharia banking?
- Islamic or Sharia banking is a finance system based on the principles of not charging interest. The charging of interest is prohibited under Islam.
Difficulties in implementing it:
- Indian banks have no experience in the Islamic or Sharia banking. There are also lots of complexities of Islamic finance. There are also various regulatory and supervisory challenges involved in the matter.
- Initially, RBI is planning to introduce a few simple products similar to conventional banking products through the Islamic window. But it will be after necessary notification issued by the Union Government. In later stage, full-fledged Islamic banking with profit-loss sharing complex products may be considered on the basis of experience gained in course of time.
Bilateral & International Relations
India elected new vice chair of Kimberly Process for 2018: GJEPC
India has been elected as the vice chair for 2018 and chair for 2019 of the Kimberly Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS).
- The decision in the regard was taken at the recently held KP Plenary meeting in Dubai.
- It was announced by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
- Kimberly Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS) is a joint initiative of the governments, industry and civil societies to prevent the entry of conflict diamonds from the mainstream rough diamond market.
- It was established in 2003 through a United Nations General Assembly Resolution.
- India is founder member of the scheme.
- In India, the scheme is administered through the Department of Commerce under the aegis of the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry.
- GJEPC is an organisation for the promotion of gem and jewellery industry in India.
- It has been established by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
What are Conflict diamonds?
- Conflict diamonds or blood diamonds are the rough diamonds used by rebel movements in the third world countries especially in Africa to finance (civil) wars with an aim to topple legitimate governments.
- The KPCS completely bans import and export of rough diamonds without certification.
Science & Technology
China launches world’s longest quantum communication line
China has launched a 712-km quantum communication line, stated to be the world’s longest secure telecommunications network, which boasts of ultra-high security making it impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through them.
- The new quantum communication line links Hefei, capital of Anhui province, to Shanghai, the country’s financial hub. It is part of a 2,000-km quantum communication line connecting Beijing and Shanghai.
- The 712-km line has 11 stations and it took three years of construction.
- The Beijing-Shanghai quantum communication line will be connected to the Micius satellite through the line’s station in Beijing, enabling the space-to-Earth quantum communication network.
- In August, China successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite. It was nicknamed “Micius” after a fifth century BC Chinese philosopher and scientist.
What is Quantum communication?
Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated.
- Quantum communication uses subatomic particles to securely communicate between two points.
- These subatomic particles are mainly quantum entanglement of photons. It ensures that nobody taps into the line as a photon can be neither separated nor duplicated. Thus tapping the network will inevitably corrupt the signal.
- It has the ability to inform the two communicating users of the presence of any third party trying to eavesdrop. At the same time, the information being intercepted will self-destruct.
Significance of quantum communications:
- It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it.
- In case intruder (hacker) tries to crack the message in Quantum communication, it will change its form in a way that would alert the sender and cause the message to be altered or deleted.
- Quantum communications holds “enormous prospects” in the field of defence.
Now, a novel tool may lead to Zika virus vaccines
Scientists have developed Zika replicon system, a novel tool to replicate the Zika virus by stripping it of the genes that make the virus infectious.
- The Zika replicon system is considered as an advance novel tool that may pave the way for development vaccine to fight Zika virus.
- The system deleted some of the genes that give the Zika virus its structure.
- The system was engineered by attaching genes that allow researchers to tag certain parts of the Zika virus for making it a powerful tool for vaccine development.
- The system has made Zika virus no longer infectious and also lowered the safety risk involved in working with it.
What are Replicons?
- Replicons are basically segments of viral genome that can replicate on their own, independent of the cellular chromosome.
Applications of Replicons:
- They can be used to locate portions of the viral molecule that block or halt viral replication.
- They can also study potential antiviral agents by differentiating between when the virus is making copies of itself and when it’s altering its structure.
- Thus, they can be used for making a powerful tool for vaccine development.
- Recent Zika virus outbreak has highlighted the urgent need to establish genetic tools for studying how the virus multiplies and causes disease in order to develop countermeasures.
- It has also become important to deal with Zika virus which is spreading rapidly and behaves differently than other viruses as it can be transmitted sexually and is associated with microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).
NASA Weather Satellite Promises ‘Huge Leap’ in Forecasts
The NASA has successfully launched highly advanced geostationary weather satellite Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R).
- It was launched on board of Atlas 5 rocket which had lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
- GOES-R is the first of four new advanced weather satellites of the GOES-R program managed by US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- It will become operational within a year after undergoing a testing and validation of its six new instruments, including the first operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit.
- The satellite’s primary instrument Advanced Baseline Imager, will provide images of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment with 16 different spectral bands.
- GOES-R is also first satellite to carry a lightning mapper instrument to geostationary orbit.
- It will photograph lightning activity throughout Western Hemisphere about 200 times every second.
- It will monitor the sun and relay crucial information to forecasters so they can issue space weather alerts and warnings.
- Data from GOES-R will result in 34 new or improved meteorological, solar and space weather products.
- It also will be part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System, an international satellite-based search and rescue network operated by NOAA.
- The satellite will boost the US’s weather observation capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Pehchan’ identity cards
- Union textile Minister Smriti Irani launched a scheme of ‘Pehchan’ identity cards to artisans in Ahmedabad.
- The upgraded ‘pehchan’ cards were distributed to artisans from five clusters of Gujarat namely Jamnagar, Naroda, Surendranagar, Amreli and Kalol.
- Pehchan cards scheme was launched as part of the Pehchan’ initiative of Union Textile ministry to register and provide Identity (ID) cards to handicraft artisans and link them to a national database.
- It is a new upgraded ID card for artisans that will be linked with their Aadhar numbers and bank accounts so that they can receive direct cash transfer benefit.
2016 Sumitra Charat Ram Award
Pandit Hari Prasad Chourasia, noted flautist, was conferred 2016 Sumitra Charat Ram Award for lifetime achievement in the field of Indian classical music.
The award has been named after Sumitra Charat Ram who had played a key role in revival of the performing arts traditions, specially kathak and Hindustani music in north India.
It is bestowed upon individuals who have excelled in field of Indian classical dance and music or other disciplines of Indian art and culture, including theatre during last 15 years.
First World Sanskrit Award
- The award was instituted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
- It is presented to eminent Sanskrit scholars to recognise their outstanding contribution to the study/research/ teaching in Sanskrit language and literature.
- It was announced by the Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her inaugural address in the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok in June 2015.
- Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was presented with the first ‘World Sanskrit Award’ for the year 2015.
- She was awarded for her exemplary contribution for the promotion of the language.
- Besides, American linguist and Indologist Prof. George Cardona was also presented with this award for the year 2016.