Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves setting up of 15th Finance Commission
- Gram panchayat certificate no proof of citizenship: SC
- PM chairs 23rd interaction through PRAGATI
- ‘Safe city’ plan for women to kick off in eight cities
Government Schemes & Policies
- PM reviewed the progress in implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY)
- Cabinet introduces a new scheme ‘ Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’
- Cabinet approves continuation of the scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs
- India asks UN to declare 2018 as International year of millets
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Migratory birds start arriving in Chilika
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Defence & Security Issues
- India successfully test-fires BrahMos from Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft
Science & Technology
- NASA tests Supersonic Parachute for Mars 2020 mission
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves setting up of 15th Finance Commission
The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of the 15th Finance Commission.
- The decision was a constitutional obligation under Article 280 (1) of the Constitution.
- The Terms of Reference for the 15th Finance Commission will be notified in due course of time.
All about Finance Commission:
Article 280 of the Constitution of India provides for FC as a quasi-judicial body.
- It is constituted by the President of India every fifth year.
- The Constitution authorizes Parliament to make provisions related to qualifications, conditions of service of members or powers of Finance Commission.
- So, Parliament enacted Finance Commission Act in 1951 to determine provisions related to qualifications or disqualifications, conditions of service or miscellaneous powers to perform functions provided under constitution.
- It consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president.
- The Chairman or members are eligible for reappointment.
The Chairman shall have vast experience in Public affairs and other four members shall be selected among persons who
- have qualifications as par with a judge of HC,
- has special knowledge of Finance and Accounts of govt,
- have vast experience in financial matters and
- have special knowledge of economics.
The recommendations made by FC are only advisory in nature and hence, are not binding on the government.
It makes recommendations about the following to the President of India:
- Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between centre and states and allocation between states of respective shares of such proceeds.
- Principles that should govern grants in aid to states by centre.
- Measures needed to augment consolidated fund of states to supplement resources of local governments in states on basis of recommendations made by State Finance Commissions.
- Any other method referred to it by President in interests of sound finance.
Gram panchayat certificate no proof of citizenship: SC
The Supreme Court recently directed that a certificate of residency issued by a gram panchayat is not a document of citizenship.
- It also added that such certificate is “meaningless” unless supported by some other valid record to make a claim for inclusion in the National Register of Citizenship (NRC).
What’s the issue?
- The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Gauhati high court order holding that a certificate of residency issued by gram panchayat (village council) secretary was not a legal and valid document for claim to citizenship.
- About 48 lakh claims have been made using certificates issued by gram panchayat secretaries, out of a total of 3.29 crore claims made so far for inclusion in the NRC which is being prepared in Assam to identify illegal migrants.
What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the register containing details of all Indian citizens.
- After conducting the Census of 1951, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during the 1951 Census.
- NRC was prepared under a directive from the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA).
- It was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during that Census and was further kept in the offices of Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951. Later these registers were transferred to the Police in the early 1960s.
What is NRC Updation?
- National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation basically means the process of enlisting the names of all citizens residing in Assam at the time of NRC updation.
- The NRC Updation is currently going on (2014-2016) across the state and shall include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to the midnight of 24 March 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam on or before 24 March 1971.
- The NRC (1951) and the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 together are collectively called Legacy Data.
PM chairs 23rd interaction through PRAGATI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired his twenty-third interaction through PRAGATI, the ICT-based multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and timely implementation.
- During this meeting, PM reviewed the progress of nine infrastructure projects in the railway, road, power, and renewable energy sectors, spread over several states. These projects are cumulatively worth over 30,000 crore rupees.
- The first twenty-two meetings of PRAGATI have seen a cumulative review of 200 projects with a total investment of Rs. 9.31 lakh crore.
PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) is a unique integrating and interactive platform.
- The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
- The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology.
- It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
- With this, the Prime Minister is able to discuss the issues with the concerned Central and State officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground level situation.
- It is also an innovative project in e-governance and good governance.
Key features of PRAGATI:
- It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States).
- Issues to be flagged before the PM are picked up from the available database regarding Public Grievances, on-going Programmes and pending Projects.
- The system will ride on, strengthen and re-engineer the data bases of the CPGRAMS for grievances, Project Monitoring Group (PMG) and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. PRAGATI provides an interface and platform for all these three aspects.
- It will also take into consideration various correspondences to PM’s office by the common people or from high dignitaries of States and/or developers of public projects.
- It is also a robust system for bringing e-transparency and e-accountability with real-time presence and exchange among the key stakeholders.
- The system has been designed in-house by the PMO team with the help of National Informatics Center (NIC).
‘Safe city’ plan for women to kick off in eight cities
A comprehensive ‘safe city’ plan for women will soon be kicked off in eight cities.
What’s the plan?
- Under the comprehensive ‘safe city’ plan, a robust emergency response system and police-verified public transport will come into place.
- The plans which will be implemented in eight cities viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
Areas may come up under the plan include:
- 33% reservation for women in police,
- Installation of CCTV cameras,
- Deployment of women in police stations,
- Prevention of cybercrime,
- Infrastructure issues,
- Mapping of dark spots and crime-prone areas and
- Involvement of educational institutions, etc.
Various women safety initiatives:
- The initiatives taken by above cities include ‘Himmat’ app, all women patrol van, ‘shishtachar’ programme of the Delhi police; ‘Hawkeye’ mobile app and ‘Bharosa’ programme of the Hyderabad police; ‘Suraksha’ app of the Bengaluru police and Power Angels of Uttar Pradesh police.
Government Schemes & Policies
PM reviewed the progress in implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY)
During the latest 23rd interaction through PRAGATI, the Prime Minister reviewed the progress in implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY).
What he suggested?
- He said that funds accruing to the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) should be utilized to strategically focus upon and eliminate major development issues or deficits that these districts currently face.
- He said this should be done in a focused way, so as to achieve the greatest possible, tangible results by 2022, which marks 75 years of independence.
About Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY):
In 2015, the Union government announced the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY).
- It is a new programme meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related operations, using the funds generated by District Mineral Foundations (DMFs).
Objective of PMKKKY scheme include:
- To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas, and these projects/ programs will be complementing the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government;
- To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts; and
- To ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.
- The Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) will be implemented by the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) of the respective districts using the funds accruing to the DMF.
Utilisation of Funds
High priority areas – at least 60% of PMKKKY funds to be utilized under following heads:
- Drinking water supply
- Environment preservation and pollution control measures
- Health care
- Welfare of Women and Children
- Skill development
Other priority Areas – Up to 40% of the PMKKKY to be utilized under following heads:
- Physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, railways etc.
- Energy and Watershed Development
- Any other measures for enhancing environmental quality in mining district.
What are the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs)?
The Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, mandated the setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining related operations.
- The Central Government has notified the rates of contribution payable by miners to the DMFs.
- In case of all mining leases executed before 12th January, 2015 (the date of coming into force of the Amendment Act) miners will have to contribute an amount equal to 30% of the royalty payable by them to the DMFs. Where mining leases are granted after 12th January 2015, the rate of contribution would be 10% of the royalty payable.
Cabinet introduces a new scheme ‘ Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave approval for setting up of the ‘Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’ scheme (PMMSK).
Aim of PMMSK
- It aims at empowering rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realise their full potential.
- The government plans to reach the 115 most backward districts in the country with 920 Mahila Shakti Kendra.
About Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme (PMMSK)
PMMSK scheme is part of Umbrella Scheme “Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women” of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- The scheme is envisioned as one-stop convergence support service for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, digital literacy, health and nutrition and employment.
- It aims to improve declining child sex ratio (CSR), ensure survival and protection of the girl child, ensuring her education and empowering her to fulfil her potential.
- It will provide an interface for rural women to approach government for getting their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building.
- At the national level, the Mahila Shakti Kendra will provide domain-based knowledge support.
- At the state level, it will cater to State Resource Centre for Women that will provide technical support on issues related to women at district and block level centres.
- It will provide support to the PMMSK and also give a foothold to Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao in 640 districts.
Significance of these Kendras:
- Setting up of institutions like Mahila Shakti Kendras will increase access of essential services for women.
- There is also an increase in employment opportunities for women with their participation increased from less than 48% to 55% in MGNREGA.
Cabinet approves continuation of the scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for continuation of scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) for another three financial years (FYs 2017-18 to 2019-20).
- This decision will make IICA self-sustainable by the end of FY 2019-20.
Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA)
IICA is an agency under the aegis and jurisdiction of Ministry of Corporate Affairs. It was established in 2008 at Manesar, Gurgaon (Haryana).
- It is first institution in India to be formally set up as ‘think-tank’ for major Ministry of Government.
- National Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (NFCSR) at IICA is responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. NFCSR conducts various activities in partnership with Corporates in field of CSR, oriented towards social inclusion.
Functions of IICA:
- It handles and deal with various subjects, matters and affairs of corporate affairs regulation, governance and policy.
- IICA works and operates to deliver as well as create avenues and opportunities for research, education, training and advocacy.
- It offers services to stakeholders in field of corporate laws, corporate governance, CSR, accounting standards, investor education, etc.
- It conducts training programs, research activities and projects in partnership with public and private sector in niche areas of Corporate Governance.
India asks UN to declare 2018 as International year of millets
India has sent a proposal to United Nations (UN) for declaring the year 2018 as ‘International Year of Millets’.
Implications of the move:
- If accepted by UN, the proposal will raise awareness about millets among consumers, policy makers, industry and Research and Development sector.
- Promotion of production and consumption of millets through conscious efforts at global level is likely to contribute substantially in the fight against targeted hunger and mitigate the effect of climate change in long run.
- This will directly benefit the future generations of farmers as well as consumers.
Karnataka is taking the lead in convincing the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to declare a year as an ‘international year of millets’ in a bid to popularise these mineral-rich and drought-tolerant foodgrains at the international level.
All about Millets
- Millet is a common term that categorize small-seeded grasses termed as ‘Nutri-Cereals’ or ‘Dryland-Cereals’.
- These nutri-cereals are sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
- Millet is an important staple cereal crop for millions of dryland farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Benefits of Millets:
- Millets offer nutrition, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.
- They can be used in various forms such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.
- They are nutritionally superior to wheat & rice as they have higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.
- They can offer nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
- Some major deficiencies such as anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be dealt easily with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich millets.
- Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
- Moreover, in times of climate change, they will be the last crop standing and will be a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
- As per the government, Millets are Smart Food as they are ‘Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet’.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Migratory birds start arriving in Chilika
After a long flight of thousands of miles, lakhs of migratory birds have made their way to the Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon.
- Major bird congregations have been spotted in the wetlands of the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside Chilika and Mangalajodi, a major village on the banks of the lake.
- Migratory birds fly across continents from Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and Siberia parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia and Himalayas to the marshy lands of the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside the Chilika Lake, which is spread across over 1000 sq. km.
About Chilika Lagoon:
- Chilika Lagoon is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after the New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
- Asia’s largest brackish water lagoone. It is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge.
- Covers an area more than 1100 sq km along the east coast of India in the state of Odisha.
- The water spread area of the Lagoon varies between 1165 to 906 sq.km during the monsoon and summer respectively.
- A 32 km long, narrow, outer channel connects the lagoon to the Bay of Bengal.
- Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India.
- It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.
- It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent.
- It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for at least part of their life cycle.
- On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India.
- The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
The Union Cabinet has approved India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD).
- Necessary steps will be initiated by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance to acquire the membership of the EBRD.
How this membership is significant for India?
- The membership of EBRD will enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests.
- It will give India access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
- It will boost India’s investment opportunities and also improve investment climate in country.
- The membership of EBRD will help to increase scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, energy and Information Technology.
- It will also help India leverage technical assistance and sectorial knowledge of EBRD for benefit of development of private sector.
- The membership of EBRD will also enhance competitive strength of Indian firms and provide enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
- It will open up new vistas for Indian professionals on one hand and give fillip to Indian exports on other.
- It will also have positive impact on employment generating potential due to increased economic activities.
- It will also enable Indian nationals to get employment opportunity in EBRD.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution that supports projects in over 30 countries, from eastern Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
- Investing primarily in private sector clients whose needs cannot be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and democratic market economies.
- The EBRD is owned by 65 countries and two intergovernmental institutions: the European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mandate of EBRD:
- The mandate of the EBRD stipulates that it must only work in countries that are committed to democratic principles.
- Respect for the environment is part of the strong corporate governance attached to all EBRD investments.
Support provided by EBRD:
- The EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both new ventures and investments in existing companies.
- It also works with publicly owned companies, to support privatisation, restructuring state-owned firms and improving municipal services.
- It uses close relationship with governments in the region to promote policies that will bolster the business environment.
- The powers of the EBRD are vested in the Board of Governors to which each member appoints a governor, generally the minister of finance.
- The Board of Governors delegates most powers to the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the EBRD’s strategic direction.
- The President is elected by the Board of Governors and is the legal representative of the EBRD. Under the guidance of the Board of Directors, the President manages the EBRD’s work.
Defence & Security Issues
India successfully test-fires BrahMos from Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft
In a major milestone, the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile has been successfully test fired for the first time from the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI combat jet against sea-based target.
Significance of the test:
- This test makes IAF first air force in world to have successfully fire air-launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category.
- This test effectively gives Indian armed forces especially IAF ability to fire Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).
- With this, India also created world record and completed Supersonic Cruise Missile Triad by successfully test firing of Brahmos from IAF Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft.
Key features of BrahMos Missile:
- BrahMos Missile is the first supersonic cruise missile system known to be in service, developed as part of a joint venture between India and Russia.
- The missile derives its name from the names of two rivers, namely the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
- The missile is capable of carrying a conventional as well as nuclear warhead of 300 kilograms.
- The BrahMos is a multi-stage missile having a solid propellant in the first stage and the ramjet liquid propellant in the second stage.
- It can be launched from land, sea, sub-seas and air.
- It operates on ‘Fire and Forget Principle’ by adopting varieties of flights on its way to the target.
- It approaches the enemy target with a top speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the US subsonic Tomahawk Cruise Missile System.
- The missile has been developed by the BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited.
- It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- While the navy and army versions of the missile were inducted in 2005 and 2007 respectively, the air version is still in the testing stage.
Science & Technology
NASA tests Supersonic Parachute for Mars 2020 mission
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully tested supersonic landing parachute that will be deployed in its Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020.
- It was the first test of its Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE).
- The mission will rely on special parachute to slow spacecraft down as it enters Martian atmosphere at over 5.4 kilometres per second. It was first of several tests in support of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
About the test:
- The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), mission’s parachute-testing series was launched on 17.7-metre-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket for evaluation of ASPIRE payload performance.
- The payload was bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding supersonic parachute along with parachute’s deployment mechanism, and test’s high-definition instrumentation including cameras to record data.
- This payload was carried as high as about 51 km and was successfully deployed from altitude of 42 km and at velocity of 1.8 times speed of sound.
- Thirty-five minutes after launch, ASPIRE splashed down in Atlantic Ocean about 54 km southeast of Wallops Island.
- The next ASPIRE test is planned for February 2018. The Mars 2020 team will use data from these tests to finalize design for its mission.
What is Mars 2020 mission?
- The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet
- The mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by deploying rover for investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth
- It will carry out search by conducting drills for core samples that may contain proof of microbial life from the past
- The rover will also examine different methods to create oxygen from Mars’s atmosphere
- The mission is timed for a launch opportunity in July/August 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars.