Polity & Governance
- One Crore MGNREGA assets geotagged
- “Quality Mark” Award Scheme for Dairy Cooperatives initiated by NDDB
- World Bank Approves $ 375 Million Loan for Developing National Waterway-1
- Service charge at restaurants is totally voluntary, Centre has approved guidelines
Bilateral & International Relations
- India and Republic of Korea sign Inter-Governmental MOU for Defence Industry Co-Operation in Shipbuilding
- Inter-Ministerial Delegation to Participate in Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm Conventions in Geneva
Defence & Security Issues
- BrahMos Land Attack Supersonic Cruise Missile
Science & Technology
- C-DOT’s ‘Public Data Office’ (PDO) technology
Key Facts for Prelims
- 22nd April: Earth Day
Polity & Governance
One Crore MGNREGA assets geotagged
Mahatma Gandhi NREGS has reached a new milestone today by geotagging one Crore assets and putting them in public domain.
- The geotagging exercise started from 1st September, 2016.
- One Crore assets have been geotagged and put in public domain in the last seven months.
- It is expected that the exercise will lead to greater transparency and ensure accountability at field level.
Need for geotagging:
The scale of rural assets created under MGNREGA is very large. Since the inception of the programme in financial year 2006-07, about 2.82 Crore assets have been created under the programme.
On an average, about 30 Lakh Assets are created annually which includes a variety of works such as water harvesting structures, plantations, rural infrastructure, flood control measures, individual assets for sustainable livelihood, community infrastructure and so on.
- Geotagging of assets created under MGNREGA was started after Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for online recording and monitoring of assets to check leakages.
- Subsequently, on June 24, 2016, the Ministry of Rural development signed a MoU with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO and National Informatics Centre to geotag MGNREGA assets created under each village panchayats.
- The geotagging exercise commenced from 1st September 2016. Gram Rozgar Sahayak or a junior engineer uploads the photos of assets on the Bhuvan web portal run by ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre via a mobile app.
- The time and location of the asset get automatically encrypted at the time of upload of the photos. In this way, within a span of seven months, one crore assets have been geotagged and shared in public domain.
- In January 2017, Kangra district (Himachal Pradesh) became the first district in the country to geotag all the assets created under MGNREGA.
What does Geotagging mean?
- Geotagging is the process of adding geographical information to various media in the form of metadata.
- The data usually consists of coordinates like latitude and longitude, but may even include bearing, altitude, distance and place names.
Applications of the geotagging:
- Geotagging is most commonly used for photographs and can help people get a lot of specific information about where the picture was taken or the exact location of a friend who logged on to a service.
- Geotagging location services can be used to find location-specific websites, news and other information. It is based on positions and coordinates and is often directly taken from a global positioning system (GPS).
- Some social networking sites and services give out the location of their users, which allows users to know exactly where their friends are as they are logged on to that website (or check-in to the service).
“Quality Mark” Award Scheme for Dairy Cooperatives initiated by NDDB
As part of the innovative initiatives under the “White Revolution” umbrella Schemes, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries has supported the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) developed initiative of “Quality Mark” Award Scheme for dairy Cooperatives.
Aim of the scheme:
- To promote and encourage enhancement of safety, quality and hygiene of milk and milk products manufactured by dairy cooperatives.
- It is also aimed at bringing about process improvement in the entire value chain from producer to the consumer to ensure availability of safe and quality of milk and products both for the domestic and foreign market.
The Quality Mark” Award Scheme:
- The Quality Mark” Award Scheme for dairy Cooperatives in the country has been initiated to instill confidence in the consumers for the quality of milk being marketed by them by ensuring availability of safe and good quality milk and milk products.
- The initiative does not propose any new/ additional system for Food Safety and Quality Management but lays down minimum standards against each link of the processes required for ensuring quality and safety.
- The NDDB is in the process of registering the quality mark logo under Trademarks Act, 1998. The Dairy units which meet the criteria for award of quality mark will be allowed to use the logo on the package containing milk and milk products.
- The award of Quality Mark shall be valid for three years subject to maintenance of quality, food safety standards and compliance with terms and conditions of the agreement.
About National Dairy Development Board:
The National Dairy Development Board is an institution of national importance set up by an Act of Parliament of India.
- It was founded by Dr. Verghese Kurien.
- The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was created in 1965, fulfilling the desire of the then prime minister of India — the late Lal Bahadur Shastri to extend the success of the Kaira Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union (Amul) to other parts of India.
- The main office is in Anand, Gujarat with regional offices throughout the country.
- NDDB’s subsidiaries include IDMC Limited-Anand, Mother Dairy, Delhi, NDDB Dairy Services, Delhi and Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Hyderabad.
Functions of NDDB:
- NDDB is extending financial and technical support to dairy cooperatives.
- NDDB is implementing National Dairy Plan phase-1 (NDP-1), a central sector scheme of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India to increase milk production in the country.
World Bank Approves $ 375 Million Loan for Developing National Waterway-1
The World Bank has approved a loan of $375 million for capacity augmentation of National Waterway-1 (NW-1) between Haldia in West Bengal and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on the river Ganga under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP).
- The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels of 1,500-2,000 deadweight tonnes capacity along a 1,390-km stretch.
- As a part of the project, Inland Waterways Authority of India will set up a River Information Service System on NW-1, the first of its kind in India.
- Besides, three multi-modal terminals, one each at Varanasi, Sahibganj (Jharkhand), Haldia; and inter-modal terminals at Kalughat and Ghazipur; a navigation lock at Farakka; and five Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) terminals would be constructed.
Need of the project:
- The rail and road corridors of this region have been crippled with heavy traffic and have become saturated. Hence, the development of NW-1 would pave way for an alternative, viable, economical, efficient and eco-friendly mode of transport.
What is Jal Marg Vikas Project?
- Jal Marg Vikas Project is a project on the river Ganga that envisages the development of waterway between Allahabad and Haldia that will cover a distance of 1620 km.
- It aims to develop a fairway with three metres depth to enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels on the river.
- The project includes the development of fairway, multi-modal terminals, strengthening of open river navigation technique, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS) etc.
What is River Information system?
- River Information system (RIS) RIS is a combination of modern tracking equipment comprising of hardware and software designed to optimise transport and traffic processes in inland water navigation.
- The system has the capability to enhance swift electronic data transfer between mobile vessels and Base stations through advance and real-time exchange of information.
- It enables safe and efficient inland water transport by avoiding risks such as (i) Ship-to-Ship collisions. (ii) Ship-Bridge collisions. (iii) Groundings.
- Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the RIS in India.
- National Waterway-1 (NW-1) is a waterway passing through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, potentially serving the major cities of Haldia, Howrah, Kolkata, Bhagalpur, Patna, Ghazipur, Varanasi, Allahabad and their industrial hinterlands including several industries located along the Ganga basin.
About Inland Waterways Authority of India:
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India.
- Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
- Its main function is to build the necessary infrastructure in the inland waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.
Service charge at restaurants is totally voluntary, Centre has approved guidelines
Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs has approved the ‘Guidelines on Fair Trade Practices Related to Charging of Service Charge from Consumers by Hotels and Restaurants’.
- As a part of the guidelines which has been issued in public interest to protect the rights of consumers, the government has said that Service charge on hotel and restaurant bills is “totally voluntary”, adding that mandatory levy of service charge amounts to unfair trade practice.
Highlights of the guidelines:
- As per the guidelines, Hotels and restaurants cannot decide on service charge and the column of service charge will be left blank in the bill for the customers to fill up before making payment.
- The guidelines have also stated that in a case of mandatory levy of service charge, customers can file a complaint in the Consumer Court. However, at present, stringent action cannot be taken against the erring hotels as the current Consumer Protection Act, 1986 does not empower the ministry to do so. But, under the new Consumer Protection Bill, an authority is expected to be set up with powers to take such actions.
Rationale behind the move:
- Department of Consumer Affairs has justified the guidelines in view of complaints received by it from consumers that some hotels are insisting payment of service charge in the range of 5-20 per cent and many people are paying it believing that it is part of taxes.
- As per the guidelines, a component of service is already inherent in the provision of food and beverages ordered by a customer. Hence, the price of food and beverages is expected to cover both goods and service components.
Against the move:
- The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) has not welcomed the guidelines by saying that levying of service charge is a global practice and a legitimate tax, adding that it has been in India for more than half a century.
- It has accused the government of singling out the sector as hospitality sector and several businesses are levying such charges.
Bilateral & International Relations
India and Republic of Korea sign Inter-Governmental MOU for Defence Industry Co-Operation in Shipbuilding
India and the Republic of Korea (RoK) have signed an Inter-governmental Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Defence Industry Co-operation in Shipbuilding.
- The Inter-Governmental MoU, was conceived under the overall umbrella of the ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ between both sides as declared in the Joint Statement of the Prime Minister of India and the President of RoK in May 2015.
The salient points of the MoU are as follows:
- Develop and strengthen defence industry co-operation between Republic of India and the Republic of Korea.
- The two sides will recommend the organisations for collaborating in the implementation of specific projects.
- The organisations recommended for co-operative projects may conclude separate agreements (contracts) between them to implement the specific projects.
- The MoU will come into effect from the date of signature by both sides and will be initially valid for a period of five years and would be automatically extendable for further successive five year at a time.
Inter-Ministerial Delegation to Participate in Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm Conventions in Geneva
An inter-ministerial Indian delegation headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ajay Narayan Jha, will participate in the 2017 Conference of Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm (BRS) Conventions.
- The three COPs to BRS Conventions will be held jointly and back-to-back from April 24-May 5, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The theme of the meetings and the high-level segment will be – “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste”.
- Meetings of the COPs of BRS Conventions are generally held every alternate year.
- India has participated in the earlier meetings of the COPs of the BRS Conventions.
- Previously, COP 12 of Basel Convention and COP 7 meetings of Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions were held in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2015.
- Conference of Parties (COPs) to the BRS Convention include – the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties to “Basel Convention (BC COP 13); the 8th meeting of the Conference of Parties to “Rotterdam Convention (RC COP 8) and 8th meeting of the Conference of Parties to “Stockholm Convention (SC COP 8).
- While the Basel Convention will discuss the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, the Rotterdam Convention will deliberate on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade” and the Stockholm Convention is on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)”.
- The most important matters to be deliberated during COPs include – listing of chemicals under Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention may have an impact on industrial growth. The inclusion of chemicals under Rotterdam Convention does not ban the chemical. However, importing countries need to follow the PIC procedure.
BRS Conventions – Brief Background:
- The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions are multilateral environmental agreements, which share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.
- To enhance cooperation and coordination among the BRS Conventions, their respective conferences of the Parties have taken a series of decisions.
- This “synergies process” aims to strengthen the implementation of the three conventions at the national, regional and global levels by providing coherent policy guidance, enhancing efficiency in the provision of support to Parties to the Conventions, reducing their administrative burden and maximising the effective and efficient use of resources at all levels, while maintaining the legal autonomy of these three multilateral environmental agreements.
- In addition to initiating reforms to the secretariats of the three Conventions on an administrative as well as operational level, this process is changing the way in which the implementation of the Conventions are undertaken at the national and regional levels.
- Parties to the Conventions and entities supporting countries in the implementation of the Conventions, such as regional centres, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, also undertake efforts to increase coherence in the implementation of the Conventions.
About Basel Convention:
- The Basel Convention was adopted on March 22, 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, in response to a public outcry, following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.
- The Convention also covers hazardous wastes that are explosive, flammable, poisonous, infectious, corrosive, toxic, or eco-toxic.
- The Convention aims towards restricting trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and its disposal with environmentally sound management (ESM).
- The Basel Convention was adopted in 1989 and entered into force on May 5, 1992. India ratified the Convention in June 24, 1992.
About Rotterdam Convention:
- The Rotterdam Convention is a multilateral environmental agreement which prescribes obligations on the importers and exporters of certain hazardous chemicals.
- Parties are empowered to make informed decisions about the chemicals they wish to import.
- The Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure is the mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties, as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties.
- As of now, a total of 47 chemicals are listed in Annex III of the Convention. Out of these, 33 are pesticides and 14 industrial chemicals, which are subject to PIC procedures.
- The Convention was adopted on September 10, 1998 and entered into force on February 24, 2004. India ratified the Convention on May 24, 2005.
About Stockholm Convention:
- The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from a class of chemicals known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
- These remain intact in the environment for long periods (persistent), become widely distributed geographically (long range transport), accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife (bioaccumulation), and have a harmful impact on human health, or on environment (toxic).
- Under the Convention, the chemicals can be listed for complete elimination from production, use, export and import (Annex-A), Restriction in use and production for specific purpose only (Annex-B) or Unintentional production (Annex-C).
- The implementation of the Convention requires the parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of these POPs into the environment.
- Till date, 26 chemicals are listed as POPs under the Stockholm Convention. As of now, India has ratified only the 12 initially listed POPs.
- The Convention was adopted on May 22, 2001 and entered into force on May 17, 2004. India ratified the Convention on January 13, 2006.
Defence & Security Issues
BrahMos Land Attack Supersonic Cruise Missile
Indian Navy recently successfully test fired BrahMos Land Attack Supersonic Cruise Missile from a ship.
- This variant of Long Range BrahMos Missile was fired from Indian Naval Ship Teg, a Guided Missile Frigate, on a target on land.
- BrahMos Missile has been jointly developed by India and Russia, and its Anti Ship variant has already been inducted into Indian Navy.
- Land Attack variant of BrahMos Missile provides Indian Naval Ships the capability to precisely neutralise selected targets deep inland, far away from coast, from stand-off ranges at sea.
- The missile has a range of 400km.
The technology upgrade to the extended range BrahMos has come after India gained entry into the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016, which “removed the caps” on the missile’s range.
The MTCR basically prevents the proliferation of missiles and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) over the range of 300-km.[Ref: PIB]
Science & Technology
C-DOT’s ‘Public Data Office’ (PDO) technology
The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) has developed a ‘public data office’ (PDO) technology solution to deliver low-cost Wi-Fi solutions.
- The mass PDO solution is priced at Rs 50,000.
- The concept of PDO will enable vendors to sell low-cost Wi-Fi-based broadband services anywhere.
- The vendor will get a tech solution pack including both software and hardware elements. It will include a Wi-Fi access point with e-KYC, one-time password authentication and a mechanism to manage service vouchers. A billing system will also accompany the package.
- The service will be available over a license-free ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) band.
- For commercial production of the device, C-DoT plans to transfer the technology to nearly 20 manufacturing partners including Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) and Himachal Futuristic Communications (HFCL).
- According to C-DoT, in semi-urban or rural areas, the technology will be available in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHZ bands, which do not require any regulation for access.
- The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) is an Indian Government owned telecommunications technology development centre.
- It was established in 1984 with initial mandate of designing and developing digital exchanges.
- Sam Pitroda started the C-DOT as an autonomous telecom R&D organisation.
- C-DOT has expanded to develop intelligent computer software applications. It is one of the 2 Indian Government organisations which have been appraised at Maturity Level 5 of CMMI-DEV v1.3, other being Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) Software Technology Centre.
Key Facts for Prelims
22nd April: Earth Day
- Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22.
- It aims to encourage people to carry out activities that will benefit the Earth, such as recycling more, using solar power or plant trees.
- It was first celebrated in 1970, and since then it is celebrated in more than 193 countries by over a billion people every year.
- Earth Day celebrations are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
- Earth Day 2017’s Campaign is Environmental & Climate Literacy.
- This year’s campaign is dedicated to an ambitious goal – to achieve global climate and environmental literacy in the space of three years, by Earth Day 2020.
- The concept of observing Earth Day was formally proposed by John McConnell at a UNESCO conference on Environment in 1969.
- Later in 1971, a proclamation was signed to observe international Earth Day annually on the Vernal Equinox by UN Secretary-General U Thant.
- On Earth Day 2016, historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed. The agreement is legally binding on signatory countries to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.