Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves Extension of time period of Udaan
- Cabinet approves Revamped Khelo India Programme
- Peer-to-peer lending platforms to be treated as NBFCs
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’
- A ‘Boat Lab’ to study Brahmaputra
Bilateral & International Relations
- 50 nations ink UN nuclear ban treaty opposed by big powers
Science & Technology
- India joins quantum computing race
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Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves Extension of time period of Udaan
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) extended time period “Special Industry Initiative for J&K” (Sll J&K)- Udaan Scheme till December, 2018 without any modification and cost escalation.
- Proposal in this regard was forwarded by Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Initially the time period of UDAAN Scheme was upto 2016-17.
About UDAAN Scheme
- Udaan is national integration scheme with goal to mainstream J&K youth with rest of country.
- It not only provides skill enhancement and job opportunity but also connects bright youths from J&K with vibrant corporate sector of country.
- Udaan Scheme provides exposure to youth of J&K to best of corporate India and corporate India to rich talent pool available in State.
- So far, 109 leading corporate entities have partnered with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under scheme with commitment to train youth from State covering Banking, Financial Services, IT, ITES, Organized Retail, Infrastructure, Hospitality etc.
Cabinet approves Revamped Khelo India Programme
The Union Cabinet has approved the revamped Khelo India programme that aims at mainstreaming sport as a tool for individual development, community development, economic development and national development.
- The revamped programme for period 2017-18 to 2019-20 would impact the entire sports ecosystem, including infrastructure, community sports, talent identification, coaching for excellence, competition structure and sports economy.
Salient features of the Programme:
- An unprecedented Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines.
- Each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship worth Rs. 5.00 lakh for 8 consecutive years.
- This is the first time ever that a long-term athlete development pathway would be made available to gifted and talented youngsters to excel in competitive sports and will create a pool of highly competitive athletes who can compete to win at the world stage.
- The Programme aims to promote 20 universities across the country as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sports persons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports.
- The Programme also aims at creating an active population with healthy life-style.
- The Programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive, which will not only measure the physical fitness of all children in the age group, but also support their fitness related activities.
- The Khelo India programme strives to promote “Sports for All” as well as “Sports for Excellence”.
- This is for first time a long-term athlete development pathway will be made available to gifted and talented youngsters to excel in competitive sports.
- It will create a pool of highly competitive athletes who can compete to win at world stage.
- It aims to engage youth living in disturbed and deprived areas, in sporting activities, to mainstream them in nation-building process by weaning them away from unproductive and disruptive activities.
- It will also promote gender equity and social inclusiveness.
- It also includes use of latest user-friendly technology in all aspects of sports promotion such as, use of mobile apps for dissemination of sports training, interactive website for indigenous sports, National Sports Talent Search (NSTS) portal for talent identification, GIS based information system for locating and using sports infrastructure etc.
Peer-to-peer lending platforms to be treated as NBFCs
The Union Government has issued gazette notification, notifying that Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) platforms will be treated as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and thus regulated by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
- The notification will help P2P lenders to gain official recognition and opens new avenues for fund-raising and business expansion.
- It also ends the regulatory vacuum in which P2P lending firms were operating.
What is P2P lending?
- P2P lending allows an individual to lend or borrow money to or from other unrelated individuals without assistance from any financial intermediary. This is mainly done via an online platform that connects lenders and borrowers.
- P2P lending is a form of crowd-funding used to raise loans which are paid back with interest.
- It enables individuals to borrow and lend money – without use of an official financial institution as an intermediary.
- It can use an online platform that matches lenders with borrowers in order to provide unsecured loans.
- P2P lending gives access to credit to borrowers who are unable to get it through traditional financial institution. It boosts returns for individuals who supply capital and reduces interest rates for those who use it.
- In India, P2P lending platforms are largely technology companies registered under the Companies Act.
- The biggest challenge in the sector is that most of the players are outside the formal credit rating and reporting process — a reason why lenders and even several investors shy away from investing.
What are the advantages?
- People who may not be eligible to get loans from banks or such institutions can get loans.
- It also allows customers to become lenders and earn interest.
- It promotes alternative forms of finance, where formal finance is unable to reach. It has potential to soften lending rates as result of lower operational costs and enhanced competition with traditional lending channels.
What are the disadvantages?
- Interest rates are higher than what a bank or non-banking financial company might charge.
- Currently, it is not regulated so consumers cannot approach any ombudsman in case of distress.
Necessity of P2P lending:
- Although nascent in India and not significant in value yet, the potential benefits that P2P lending promises to various stakeholders and its associated risks to the financial system are too important to be ignored.
- Coming under the purview of the RBI will not only be a confidence booster for the sector, but also for individual lenders.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’
The First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ (BIMSTEC DMEx-2017) will be conducted in India from October 10-13, 2017.
- It will be conducted by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as the lead agency in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Purpose of the exercise
- The purpose of the exercise is to provide platform for sharing Best Practices on all aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), strengthening regional response and coordination for Disaster Management among BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) member countries.
- Delegates from all seven nations of BIMSTEC grouping, including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand are participating in BIMSTEC DMEx-2017.
- The main focus of exercise is to test region’s preparedness and resilience towards effective activation of inter-Governmental interaction and agreements for immediate deployment of regional resources for disaster response.
- BIMSTEC DMEx-2017 will help create synergy and synchronise efforts to institutionalise regional cooperation among member countries.
- It will help strengthen effective utilisation of Search & Rescue Teams for Disaster Relief & Emergency Response, including Emergency Rapid Assessment Teams and Management of mass casualties, especially in situations involving breakdown of communication and infrastructure.
- The BIMSTEC is a sub-regional grouping comprising of seven countries of South Asia and South East Asia.
- It is home to around 1.5 billion people, constituting around 22% of the global population with a combined GDP of $2.7 trillion economy.
- Majority of the BIMSTEC countries are situated in South Asian Region (SAR) prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, avalanches and drought.
A ‘Boat Lab’ to study Brahmaputra
The Centre plans to safeguard the fast-eroding Majuli island — Asia’s largest riverine island — using research carried out on floating ‘B4’ – the ‘Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat’ along the Brahmaputra river.
- Work on ‘B4’ boat labs will commence by December.
- ‘B4’ will initially cover the region from Pasighat, Dibrigargh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in the state of Assam
- The Department of Biotechnology has set aside Rs. 50 crore as an initial investment on the project.
- The large barge (or boat) which will be set up on the river will be a “well-equipped laboratory” with cold storage facilities for holding samples, along with multiple satellite boats or rafts that will venture into shallower and narrower parts of the river to lift samples.
- The large boat with the permanent lab will be spread over two floors and will go up and down the river. One floor will be dedicated to scientists, while the other floor will be accessible to residents of the area to learn about the eco-system.
- The idea is to study the changes caused by dams, climate change, human interventions and the eventual effects it has on the river eco-system.
- The project will “constantly monitor” the impact of various environmental and anthropological factors that affect the river and conduct research to mitigate the effects.
- The interdisciplinary focus, the work plan for which is developed with IIT Guwahati as the nodal agency, will also aim at a thorough study of freshwater resources of North East India.
- The integrated approach is aimed to combine data, science and judgement that can impact policy.
- Majuli, the first island district of the country, was once 1200 square kilometres but due to excessive erosion has since shrunk to under 500 square kilometres. It is also known for being the seat of Assam’s Vaishnava monasteries.
- Despite supporting considerable biodiversity, the Brahmaputra has not been studied as extensively as the Amazon.
Bilateral & International Relations
50 nations ink UN nuclear ban treaty opposed by big powers
Fifty countries recently signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world’s nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless.
- In July 2017, over 120 countries in the United Nations voted to adopt the first-ever global treaty- ‘The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ to ban nuclear weapons.
- The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years, was adopted by a vote of 122 in favour to one against (Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore).
- India and other nuclear-armed nations – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel had not participated in the negotiations.
About the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:
- Led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 countries joined in drafting the treaty that they hope will increase pressure on nuclear states to take disarmament more seriously.
- The treaty prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons.
- The nuclear powers view the treaty as unrealistic and argue that it will not have any impact on reducing the global stockpile of 15000 atomic weapons.
- According to the nuclear powers, their nuclear arsenals serve as a deterrent against nuclear attacks and they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.
But the non-nuclear states are increasingly worried about the slow pace of disarmament and are concerned that weapons of mass destruction may fall into the wrong hands.
Supporters of the treaty
- Supporters of the treaty argue that new treaty will close a “legal gap” that exists regarding nuclear weapons, which are not expressly outlawed by the NPT even though their use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.
- They argue that the CPNW initiative reinforces the NPT and the requirement in Article VI for nuclear disarmament and that it can reduce the salience nuclear weapons and help prompt more urgent action to reduce nuclear risk and promote disarmament.
Science & Technology
India joins quantum computing race
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is planning to fund project to develop quantum computers in order to tap into the next big advance in computing technology.
- In India, Physics departments at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, so far have only forayed into theoretical aspects of quantum computing.
- Experts from across country are expected to gather in Allahabad for a workshop to develop such computer.
What is Quantum computing?
- Quantum computer is computer design which uses principles of quantum physics to increase computational power beyond attainable limits of traditional computer.
How Quantum computer works?
- It employs complex principles of quantum mechanics to store information in ‘qubits’ (quantum bit) instead of the typical binary ‘bits’ of 1 and 0.
- Qubit is two-state quantum-mechanical system, such as the polarization of a single photon (either vertical polarization or horizontal polarization). Qubit allows for far greater flexibility than the binary system.
- It works faster because of way such circuits are designed and can do intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers.
- Commercial production of quantum computers that would process information faster than today’s supercomputers is still some time away.
- According to an expert, the industry first has to solve hardware issues in quantum technology.