Polity & Governance
- Contribution by IIFCL to National Sports Development Fund (NSDF)
- BIRAC celebrates its 6th Foundation Day
- ICFRE and TIFAC sign MoU for supporting Forest Based Communities
- Airbnb signs MoUs for promotion of tourism in the North-East
Issues related to Health & Education
- 60 Higher Educational Institutions granted autonomy by UGC
- Agri, skill development ministries ink training pact for KVKs
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Plastic Park to be set up in Deoghar District, Jharkhand
Defence & Security Issues
- Centre wants a ‘humane’ AFSPA
- Mobile app for lost items at airports
Art & Culture
- National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) becomes the World’s First Trusted Digital Repository
Science & Technology
- India joins Europe’s satellite data sharing pool
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Aspirational Districts’
- Article 153 of the Constitution of India
- Gulf Shield 1 military exercise
- March 20: World Sparrow Day
- Anti-dumping duty on Ofloxacin import from China
- Krishi Unnati Mela
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Polity & Governance
Contribution by IIFCL to National Sports Development Fund (NSDF)
India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) has made contribution of Rs 10.00 Crore to the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).
How this fund will be utilized?
- The IIFCL contribution is being utilized for promotion of sports in the disciplines Badminton, Archery and Para Sports by way of support to sportspersons in these disciplines for their customized training and other services and setting up of Academies/Support to Academies in these disciplines.
About the National Sports Development Fund:
The National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) was established in 1998, under Charitable Endowments Act 1890, vide Government of India Notification dated 12th November 1998.
- The NSDF supports sportspersons to excel in the field by providing opportunities to train under coaches of international repute with technical, scientific and psychological support and also in getting exposure to international competitions.
- Financial assistance is also provided to specific projects for promotion of sports and games sponsored by reputed Organizations/Institutes, provided the facilities so created are made available to a sizeable population of the area/region.
- The Fund is managed by a Council constituted by the Central Government. Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports is the Chairperson of the council.
- The Members of the Council include senior officers in the Department of Sports/Sports Authority of India.
- The representatives of the Apex industry organizations namely, FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM have been included in the Council as members.
- The representatives of Sports Promotion Boards of reputed organizations are also members of the Council.
- Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is the ex-officio Member Secretary of the Council.
About the India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL):
- IIFCL is a wholly-owned Government of India company set up in 2006 to provide long-term financial assistance to viable infrastructure projects through the Scheme for Financing Viable Infrastructure Projects through a Special Purpose Vehicle called India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL), broadly referred to as SIFTI.
- IIFCL has been registered as a NBFC-ND-IFC with RBI since September 2013.
- The sectors eligible for financial assistance from IIFCL are as per the Harmonized list of Infrastructure Sub-Sectors as approved by the Government and as amended from time to time.
- These broadly include transportation, energy, water, sanitation, communication, social and commercial infrastructure.
BIRAC celebrates its 6th Foundation Day
The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) celebrated its sixth Foundation Day. The observance of the day was themed around ‘Sustaining Innovation – A Market Driven Pathway’.
- The event saw the announcement of the preliminary winners of the SoCH (Solutions for Community Health) awards.
About SoCH awards:
- This award is an innovation challenge award which was launched on the MyGov portal in September 2017.
- This challenge has two themes, platform technologies for reducing disease burden (communicable and noncommunicable diseases) and sanitation and waste recycling.
- The winners will now have 6 months and rupees 15 lakhs to develop a minimal viable prototype and will then compete for the larger rupees 50 lakh award within their categories.
About Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC):
BIRAC is not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) set up by DBT, Ministry of Science and Technology to empower emerging biotech industry to undertake strategic research and innovation. It is basically industry academia interface.
Mandate of BIRAC:
- Foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Enable commercialization of discovery.
- Promote affordable innovation in key social sectors.
- Ensure global competitiveness of Indian enterprises.
- Empowerment of start-ups & small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
- Contribute through partners for capability enhancement and diffusion of innovation.
How BIRAC works?
- BIRAC implements its mandate through wide range of impact initiatives like providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to Indian biotech firms and make them globally competitive.
- BIRAC has initiated several schemes, networks and platforms to bridge existing gap between industry-academia research and facilitate novel, high quality and cost-effective affordable technologies.
- It has initiated partnerships with several national and global partners to collaborate and deliver its mandate.
ICFRE and TIFAC sign MoU for supporting Forest Based Communities
The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC) have signed MoU to provide livelihood opportunities and augment income of forest based communities.
Significance of the MoU:
- The MoU will help to open up gate of synergy and collaboration between two organisations in areas of forest technology, extension and commercialization to various stakeholder including farmers, industries and others.
- It will assist industries to optimize utilization of forest based resources with access of technology to different users.
- Through this collaboration, TIFAC will help ICFRE to refine and up-scale the technologies developed, take technologies to end users including farmers, state forest departments, forest based industries and forest dependent communities in more effective manner.
- The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) is autonomous organisation under Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). It is headquartered in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
- Its mandate is to conduct forestry research, transfer technologies developed to states and other user agencies and to impart forestry education.
- The Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC) is autonomous council under Department of Science and Technology. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
- It was established as a registered Society in February 1988.
- It is mandated to assess state-of-art of technology and set directions for future technological development in India in important socio-economic sectors.
Airbnb signs MoUs for promotion of tourism in the North-East
- Online accommodation platform major Airbnb has signed four MoUs to boost tourism North East India.
- The MoUs were singed under aegis of Ministry of Development of North East Region (DoNER).
- They were signed on behalf of North Eastern Council (NEC), North East Tourism Development Council (NETDC), North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP) and North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP).
Issues related to Health & Education
60 Higher Educational Institutions granted autonomy by UGC
In a historic decision, the University Grants Commission (UGC) approved proposal to grant full autonomy to 62 higher educational institutions which have maintained high standards of excellence under Autonomous Colleges Regulation.
- These 62 higher educational institutions include 5 central universities, 21 state universities, 26 private universities and 10 other colleges.
Parameters for granting autonomy status:
- Autonomy is granted to institutes based on the parameters of excellence in academic performances, capability of self-governance and enhancement in the quality of education, and it can be seen as a great opportunity to meet the emerging and evolving needs, in sync with the industry.
Need for greater autonomy:
- Higher education plays a crucial role in the realisation of India’s potential for economic and technological growth.
- Autonomy helps institutionalise quality and accountability, thereby encouraging institutions to incorporate unique pedagogical developments and practices into the curriculum.
- Management education is meant to be contemporary in nature and thus dynamic. Frequent changes are required in pedagogy, curriculum and other aspects.
- An autonomous status expedites these operations and thus enthuses constant fluidity in the pattern and curriculum, apart from accelerating and improving evaluation.
- While expanding new horizons for higher education and strengthening the quality and relevance, autonomy can be considered a possible solution to enhance the quality of education and incorporate methods of skilling the students, thus contributing to creating a knowledge-based economy and paving the way to gear up the young workforce for Industry 4.0.
Implications of the move:
- These universities will remain within the ambit of UGC but will have the freedom to start new courses, off campus centers, skill development courses, research parks and any other new academic programs.
- They will also have the freedom to hire foreign faculty, enroll foreign students, give incentive based emoluments to the faculty, enter into academic collaborations and run open distance learning programmes.
- The eight autonomous collages, granted autonomy, will be free to set their own syllabus, hold examinations, carry out evaluation as well as declare results. In this case, only the degree will be awarded by the respective university.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- It is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
- It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.
- The UGC’s mandate also includes overseeing disbursal of fellowships to students.
- Its headquarters is in New Delhi, and six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.
Short history of UGC:
- The UGC was first formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. Its responsibility was extended in 1947 to cover all Indian universities.
- In 1949, a recommendation was made to reconstitute the UGC along similar lines to the University Grants Committee of the United Kingdom. This recommendation was made by the University Education Commission of 1948-1949 which was set up under the chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan.
- In 1956, the UGC became a statutory body upon the passing of the “University Grants Commission Act, 1956” by the Indian Parliament.
Functions of UGC:
The three primary functions of UGC include
- Overseeing distribution of grants to universities and colleges in India,
- Providing scholarships and fellowships to beneficiaries and
- Monitoring conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges.
Agri, skill development ministries ink training pact for KVKs
The Ministries of Agriculture and Skill Development have signed a pact to conduct programmes for training in farm and allied sectors at 690 Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country.
What are Krishi Vigyan Kendras?
- Krsihi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are agricultural extension centres created by ICAR (Indian Council for Agricultural Research) and its affiliated institutions at district level to provide various types of farm support to the agricultural sector.
- The first KVK was established during 1974 (Pondichery) and has grown as a largest network in the country.
Activities under KVKs:
KVKs provide several farm support activities like providing technology dissemination to farmers, training, awareness etc. To achieve the set objectives KVKs undertake following types of activities in the adopted villages:
- Farm Advisory Service
- Training programme for different categories of people.
- Training programme for the extension functionaries.
- Front Line Demonstration (Fill)
- On Farm Testing (OFT).
Why upskilling is needed?
- About 40% of the country’s workforce is linked to agricultural knowledge activities. The government aims to double farmers’ income. However, without skill upgradation, this is not possible. There are rapid technological strides in the agriculture sector; therefore, upskilling is needed.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Plastic Park to be set up in Deoghar District, Jharkhand
Government of India has approved the setting up of a Plastic Park in Deoghar District, Jharkhand.
About the project:
- The project would be set up at a cost of Rs. 120 crores in an area of 150 acres and a range of polymer products including woven sacks, moulded furniture, water tanks, bottles, pipes mosquito nets, etc would be manufactured.
- It has great potential for attracting investment for setting up an ecosystem for plastic industry and generate employment opportunities for the local populace.
- The project is likely to provide direct employment generation to about 6000 people and indirect employment to over 30000 people.
Defence & Security Issues
Centre wants a ‘humane’ AFSPA
The government has informed the Lok Sabha that it was considering a proposal to make the AFSPA Act more “operationally effective and humane.”
- The AFSPA is in force in several north-eastern States.
- The decision came after the Home Ministry decided to reduce the number of Central Armed Police Force personnel deployed in the northeastern States.
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), is an Act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”.
Why is this required?
- The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
Under which conditions AFSPA can be declared?
- When the local administration fails to deal with local issues and the police proves inefficient to cope with them.
- When the scale of unrest or instability in the state is too large for the police to handle.
How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
What about the state government’s role?
- The state governments can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.
Mobile app for lost items at airports
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has launched its lost and found mobile applcation for passengers at 59 airports across India.
- Its main advantage is to help passengers to directly register complaints and get status of their complaint immediately from airports under its security cover.
- The app offers three facilities – lost and found items at airports, tracking complaints or request status and technical consultancy in security, and fire services.
About Central Industrial Security Force (CISF):
- The CISF is a central armed police force under the aegis of Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It was initially established under the Central Industrial Security Force Act, 1968 to protect major PSUs. However, it was converted to an armed force with a larger ambit under an amendment to the Act in 1983.
- Now, CISF provides security to industrial ventures and establishments, VIPs and engages in disaster management amongst others. It also has a Fire Wing to response to fire emergencies/accidents.
- With force larger than 1,65,000 it is the largest security force in the world.
- Currently, the CISF guards 59 civil airports across the country.
- The CISF had launched ‘Lost and Found’ scheme on its website in 2015 to trace and restore items and valuables left behind by the commuters at airports.
Art & Culture
National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) becomes the World’s First Trusted Digital Repository
National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) project of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, implemented by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has been certified as the world’s first Trusted Digital Repository as per ISO 16363:2012 standard.
- The certification was granted by Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorisation Body Ltd. (PTAB), United Kingdom.
What is ISO 16363?
- ISO 16363 for the Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories grew out of the Trusted Digital Repositories and Audit Checklist (TRAC) and is supported by ISO 16919 (Requirements for Bodies providing Audit and Certification) and managed by the Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorisation Body (ISO-PTAB).
- PTAB has been accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies of India (NABCB) to conduct ISO 16363 audits worldwide utilizing ISO standard 17021, as extended by ISO 16919.
About Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA):
- Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi is a premier institute set-up by the Government of India for research, documentation, preservation and dissemination of Indian arts and to provide a holistic understanding of Indian culture.
- A large volume of India’s cultural wealth, created in the last six decades, is stored in audiovisual form with various governmental and non-governmental institutions and private collections.
- The content of these holdings enshrines the creativity of some of India’s greatest artistic talents. This is an invaluable national heritage that needs to be preserved for all time and also made accessible to the citizens of the country.
- In the absence of systematic and modern preservation technologies, lack of awareness and proper upkeep, as well as the fragility of the medium they are stored in, these materials are in imminent danger of being lost forever.
- Understanding the seriousness of the issue, Ministry of Culture in 12th Five Year plan proposed a project for the archiving of the cultural audio-visual materials. Ministry of Culture in 2014 accorded sanction for the National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) project at the IGNCA.
- The Ministry entrusted IGNCA to implement the National Cultural Audiovisual Archives project.
- It also has been identified by UNESCO as nodal agency for development of regional databases for South and South East Asian countries on art, cultural heritage and life-styles using state-of-the-art technologies for standardization, dissemination and exchange of data.
The following are the objectives of the project:
- Identifying and preserving the cultural heritage of India available in audiovisual form in institutions across the country through a process of digitization and making it accessible to the people.
- Instituting state-of-the-art digitization and storage systems through the aegis of IGNCA and its Partnering Institutions to preserve these audiovisual resources.
- Setting up a dedicated website and a virtual network of these repositories and offering online access to their resources, programming schedules etc.
- Standardization and periodic upgradation of the methods and technologies used in production, storage and retrieval of audiovisual resources. The genres to be covered will include oral traditions, traditional crafts and textiles, dance, music and theatrical practices, cultural practices and traditional knowledge.
- Capacity building in conservation, cataloguing, metadata creation, digitization and retrieval of audiovisual materials.
- Instituting outreach and awareness programmes.
About National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA):
IGNCA is implementing the National Cultural Audiovisual Archives project.
- The primary objective of the NCAA is to identify and preserve the cultural heritage of India available in audiovisual form through a process of digitization and making it accessible to the people.
- At present, NCAA has a total of twenty-one (21) Partnering Institutions from across the country, covering 11 governmental and 10 non-governmental cultural organisations.
- The digitization and metadata standards followed by the Project are in parity with international standards within the overall framework of the OAIS model.
- The digitization standards are in concordance with those prescribed by the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives (IASA) and the metadata schema is extended Dublin Core, followed by galleries, libraries, archives and museums worldwide.
Science & Technology
India joins Europe’s satellite data sharing pool
India’s Department of Space (DoS) and European Union (EU) have signed cooperation agreement related to sharing of earth observation satellite data from Earth observation satellites, called Copernicus.
About the signed agreement:
- Under this arrangement, the European Commission intends to provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections.
- Reciprocally the DoS will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s earth observation satellites, including historical data sets.
- It is intended that ISRO’s satellite data would be made available for distribution on the European ‘Copernicus hub’.
- This comprises land, ocean and atmospheric series of ISRO’s civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data.
About Copernicus programme:
- It is the world’s largest single earth observation programme directed by European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).
- Copernicus is the new name for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, previously known as GMES.
- It aims at achieving global, continuous, autonomous, high quality, wide range Earth observation capacity.
- It provides wide range of applications like climate change, ocean, land and atmosphere monitoring as well as support in forecasting, management and mitigation of natural disasters.
- It will provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.
- Its full, free and open data policy has proven its merits and allowed development of thriving user base in Europe and beyond.
- ESA coordinates the delivery of data from upwards of 30 satellites. The EC, acting on behalf of the European Union, is responsible for the overall initiative, setting requirements and managing the services.
- ESA is developing a new family of satellites, called Sentinels, specifically for the operational needs of the Copernicus programme.
- The Sentinels will provide a unique set of observations, starting with the all-weather, day and night radar images.
Key Facts for Prelims
- NITI Aayog and Piramal Foundation have inked Statement of Intent (SoI) to work closely with District Collectors and key officers of ‘Aspirational Districts’ to support their transformation in terms of healthcare, education and nutrition.
- Under the SoI with NITI Aayog, Piramal Foundation will work in close conjunction with district administration, Central Prabhari Officers, State Prabhari Officers, state government and concerned Central ministries to improve identified indicators by strengthening existing public systems specifically in health and nutrition and education sectors.
Article 153 of the Constitution of India
- As per Article 153 of the Constitution of India, there shall be Governor for each state. But 7th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1956 facilitated appointment of same person as a governor for two or more states.
Why in news?
- Recently, President Ram Nath Kovind has given Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik additional charge of Odisha until regular arrangements are made.
Gulf Shield 1 military exercise
- Royal Saudi Navy is holding exercises “Gulf Shield 1” in the Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Oman Sea.
- “Gulf Shield 1” is part of a series of exercises the fleet has carried out in the area aiming to raise combat readiness, gain the necessary skills, and improve ability to perform the essential leadership services.
- The drill is considered the largest military drill in the region in terms of diversity of expertise and quality of weapons.
- It aims at raising the military readiness of the participating countries, modernizing the joint mechanisms and enhancing coordination and cooperation.
March 20: World Sparrow Day
- The world sparrow day (WSD) is observed every year on March 20 to raise awareness of the house sparrow and other common birds in urban environments and threats to their populations.
- WSD is an international initiative by the Nature Forever Society of India (NFSI) in collaboration with the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France) and also numerous other national and international organisations across the world.
- The first WSD was organised in different parts of the world in 2010.
- In 2012, then Delhi Government had launched campaign called “Rise of Sparrows” aimed at conservation of House Sparrow among other birds.
- It was also declared as the ‘state bird’ by then Delhi for its conservation.
Anti-dumping duty on Ofloxacin import from China
- The Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry has imposed anti-dumping duty on import of ‘Ofloxacin’, a pharma product used in treatment of certain infections from China.
- Ofloxacin is in class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones.
- It is used to treat certain infections including bronchitis, pneumonia and infections of skin, bladder, urinary tract, reproductive organs, and prostate (a male reproductive gland).
- It works by killing bacteria that cause infections.
Krishi Unnati Mela
- The three-day annual Krishi Unnati Mela was held in New Delhi with focus on doubling farmers’ income.
- The objective of fair was to create awareness among farmers about latest agriculture-related technological developments.
- The Krishi Mela this year will be significant owing to the interests of farmers and those involved in allied sectors.