Polity & Governance
- 15 lakh youth to get online and experiential learning on Entrepreneurship Education
- Fourth series of Sovereign Gold Bonds
- Sikkim becomes 22nd State to join UDAY
- Indian Railways unveils Antyodaya Express
Environment & Ecology
- NDMA prepares States to deal with Heat Wave 2017
- Record olive ridley nesting baffles wildlife experts
- Nod for road widening in wildlife sanctuary opposed
Defence & Security Issues
- India, Israel to develop missile for Army
Art & Culture
- Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat to be developed at a cost of Rs.16.27 cr under HRIDAY
Key Facts for Prelims
- Mobile application for GST updates
- Kerala to Become First State in India to Have a Public Registry of Sex Offenders
- Military operation Radd-ul-Fasaad
Polity & Governance
15 lakh youth to get online and experiential learning on Entrepreneurship Education
The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (SDE) and Wadhwani Operating Foundation (WOF) have signed two Agreements for effectuating an earlier understanding of jointly developing and implementing Entrepreneurship and Skill Development initiatives in the country with the Pradhan Mantri YUVA Scheme being the first joint effort in this regard.
- The WOF, in capacity of Knowledge Partner will contribute, free of cost, Software, Content and Intangibles such as faculty and field staff training and program consulting services under the Scheme.
About the Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana:
- The Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has launched the Pradhan Mantri YUVA Yojana to boost up an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for young people.
- The scheme was launched for the time period of over five years (2016-17 to 2020-21) with a project cost of 499.94 crore rupees.
- It will offer entrepreneurship education and training to around 7 lakh students in 5 years through 3050 Institutes.
- It will also offer easy access to information and mentor network, credit and advocacy to build a way-out for the youngsters.
- The institutes under the Yojana include 2200 Institutes of Higher Learning (colleges, universities, and premier institutes), 300 schools, 500 ITIs and 50 Entrepreneurship Development Centres.
- These institutes will carry out the training through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Fourth series of Sovereign Gold Bonds
The Centre has decided to come out with the fourth series of Sovereign Gold Bonds 2016-17, which the Reserve Bank of India will issue on its behalf. The bonds will be issued on March 17.
- The bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India (SHCIL), designated post offices and recognised stock exchanges — National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange.
About Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme:
Under the scheme, gold bonds are issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams for a term of 5-7 years with a rate of interest to be calculated on the value of the metal at the time of investment.
- The maximum amount which can be subscribed is 500 grams per person per financial year and the interest rate on the bonds are set at 2.75 per cent per annum, payable on a half-yearly basis.
- The government’s plan behind the SGB scheme is to encourage those who use gold as a store of value to instead invest in the gold bonds as opposed to the physical yellow metal itself. The idea, among others, is to reduce India’s substantial gold imports.
- The bonds, issued by the Reserve Bank of India on behalf of the government, have a tenor of eight years with an exit option from the fifth year onwards.
- The Bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL) and designated Post Offices.
Sikkim becomes 22nd State to join UDAY
Sikkim became 22nd state in the country to join Union Government’s Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY).
- The MoU paves way to improve operational efficiency of the Power Distribution department of the State.
- It will derive an Overall Net Benefit of approximately Rs. 356 crores to the state.
- AT&C losses and transmission losses in the state will be brought down through compulsory distribution transformer metering, consumer indexing & GIS mapping of losses, upgrading transformers, meters etc.
- Besides, smart metering of high-end consumers, feeder audit etc, eliminating the gap between cost of supply of power and realisation will also aid to reduce loses.
The Power Ministry had launched UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana) on November 20, 2015.
- The scheme is expected to help discoms save around Rs 1.8 lakh crore in the next three years. The cumulative debt of discoms is Rs 4.37 lakh crore.
- The UDAY scheme is aimed at bringing ailing power distribution companies (discoms) to a state of operational efficiency, with state governments taking over up to 75% of their respective discoms’ debt and issuing sovereign bonds to pay back the lenders.
- UDAY is an effort to make these DISCOMs financially and operationally healthy, to be able to supply adequate power at affordable rates, and enable the Governments to make efforts towards 100% Village electrification and 24X7 Power For All.
- It envisages to reduce interest burden, cost of power and AT&C losses. Consequently, DISCOM would become sustainable to supply adequate and reliable power enabling 24×7 power supply.
- UDAY has inbuilt incentives encouraging State Governments to voluntarily restructure their debts.
- UDAY also provides for measures that will reduce the cost of power generation, which would ultimately benefit consumers.
Indian Railways unveils Antyodaya Express
Indian Railways has unveiled the Antyodaya Express, a new train for the unreserved passengers.
- Antyodaya means upliftment of the weakest sections of the society.
- The first Antyodaya Express is slated to start between Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Tatanagar (Jharkhand) and second between Ernakulam and Howrah.
- Antyodaya Express is similar to the Deen Dayalu coaches that Indian Railways had introduced in mid-2016.
- The train aims to provide enhanced passenger comfort. The seats of the Antyodaya Express are more comfortable compared to the general sleeper class ones.
- Antyodaya Express boasts of modern amenities such as water purifiers, toilet occupation indication display boards, bio-toilets, fire extinguishers with anti-theft arrangement, cushioned luggage racks with coat hooks, LED lights, more mobile charging points and enhanced capacity dustbins.
- The LHB-type (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches have been manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. The interior panelling of the coaches has been done with aluminium composite panels, similar to Deen Dayalu.
Environment & Ecology
NDMA prepares States to deal with Heat Wave 2017
A national workshop on Preparation of Heat Wave Action Plan was recently organised by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Government of Telangana in Hyderabad.
- Discussions were held with all stakeholders resolving to work towards mitigating the adverse impact of the imminent heat wave this year.
IMD’s definition of heatwaves:
- The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) defines a heatwave as an excess of five to six degrees C over the maximum daily temperature (over a 30-year period) of less than 40 degree C or an excess of four to five degree C over a normal historical maximum temperature of over 40 degree C.
- The IMD declares a heat wave when the actual maximum temperature is above 45 degree C.
Possible health hazards due to heat wave:
According to the National Health Service based in UK, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the two major risks posed by high-temperature conditions.
- Continuous and constant exposure to high temperatures could result in nausea and heat cramps, resulting in rapid rise of the body temperature.
- Dehydration (absence of adequate water within the body) could also aid in heat exhaustion.
- Headaches, dizziness and nausea are some of the symptoms.
Reasons of increased frequency and duration of heat waves:
- The IMD concurs that the frequency and duration of heat waves over the country are increasing and attributes it to increasing greenhouse gases due to anthropogenic activity and the El Nino — characterised by the warming of sea surface temperatures over the Pacific Ocean and correlated with droughts in India — that is also linked to more heat waves.
Record olive ridley nesting baffles wildlife experts
A record-breaking mass nesting by 3.8 lakh endangered olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) took place at the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha in February 2017.
No mass nesting in 2016:
- Interestingly, no mass nesting had taken place at the site a year ago.
- It is believed that several environmental factors, including chemical factors like salinity of the beach and the sea near the coast, may have prompted these marine reptiles to give the coast a miss in 2016.
According to experts, most mass nesting sites of olive ridley turtles in the world are located near river mouths, where salinity is low.
However, a lot still needs to be explored with regard to the influence of the salinity factor as not much is known about the relation between mass nesting by these endangered turtles and coastline salinity.
About Olive Ridley turtles:
The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting only in warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
- These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
- Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.
- The Olive Ridley turtles live in the Indian Ocean, but they can’t mate there.
- They have to come all the way to the Bay of Bengal by travelling thousands of kilometres to mate and to lay eggs.
- Interestingly, the male turtles won’t reach the sandy stretch, but wait for their mates to return to the waters. After laying eggs, both male and female turtles return to their native ocean.
- After laying the eggs in the sandy stretches, they begin their return journey. Hatching takes place naturally and the baby turtles too swim back to the Indian Ocean by June every year.
WWF-India, along with the fishermen community, has been involved in protecting the Olive ridley rookery at the mass nesting site at Rushikulaya, in Orissa, by fencing off the nesting area and patrolling it till hatching and ensuring a safe passage for the hatchlings to the sea.[Ref: The Hindu]
Nod for road widening in wildlife sanctuary opposed
Wildlife conservationists have strongly criticised the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for granting permission to the widening of a road that falls in the buffer zone of the Nagarjuna Sagar- Srisailam Tiger Reserve and also the Ecologically Sensitive Zone of the Gundla Brahmeswaram Wildlife Sanctuary.
What’s the issue?
- At its most recent meeting held in New Delhi, the NBWL gave permission for widening of the Nandyala-Atmakur road in Kurnool district from the single lane to double lane.
- Doubling the lanes would also double the traffic, and the number of heavy vehicles would also increase.
About the Nagarjuna Sagar- Srisailam Tiger Reserve:
The Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve is the largest Tiger reserve (covers a total area of about 3,568 square kms) in the country.
- It is spread over Nalgonda and Mahabubnagar.
- The area consists mostly of the Nallamala Hills. The hill ranges contain number of plateau of which Amrabad, Srisailam, Peddacheruvu, Sivapuram, Nekkanti are noteworthy.
- The Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Sanctuary has been recognized by the Project Tiger in the year 1983.
- This Reserve has been renamed as the Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in the year 1992.
- The mighty River Krishna which rising in Sahyadri Hills and makes its way through Maharashtra and Karnataka flows across Nallamala tiger reserve.
- Srisailam’s temples and reservoirs are the major attraction for thousands of tourists and pilgrims visiting the holy town.
- The area is home to a dazzling array of wild animals. In addition to the Bengal Tiger, which is the apex predator, many other species like leopard, rusty-spotted cat, sloth bear, wild dog, pangolin, mouse deer, Chausingha, Mugger Crocodiles, Indian Rock Python, and innumerable varieties of birds are found here.
About Gundla Brahmeswaram Wildlife Sanctuary:
Situated on the Gundla Brahmeswaram plateau, the Gundla Brahmeswara Wildlife Sanctuary spreads over the Nallamallai hill range and includes lovely valleys and green plateaus.
- The sanctuary is known for its tiger reserves.
- It is located between the Kurnool and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh and has a very dense forest growth.
- Teak and Bamboo trees mainly dominate the forest cover here.
- There are large number of streams and rivers running across the area, providing water to the wild animals and birds living here.
- With respect to fauna apart from the main animal (tiger), one can spot wild boars, jungle cat, hyena, bonnet monkey, langur, Nilgai, chausingha, python, monitor lizard, chinkara, pangolin, sloth bear, panther etc. in this sanctuary.
Defence & Security Issues
India, Israel to develop missile for Army
Giving a strong push to India-Israel defence ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared a mega deal for the Army worth Rs 17,000 crore to acquire the Medium Range Surface to Air Defence Missile (MR-SAM) system from Israel to protect India’s airspace from enemy aircraft and drones.
- Cabinet committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister, approved the procurement of 40 units of the Medium Range Surface to Air Defense Missile (MR-SAM) system, known in Israel as the Barak 8).
- This is the latest in a series of other variants of SAM systems for the Navy and the Air Force being jointly developed with Israeli help under deals estimated at billions of dollars.
- The system will be based on the older Barak system of Israel, which is in use in India. It is being changed as per requirements.
- The deal is for 200 missiles for five regiments, each getting 40 units. The missile has a range of 50-70 km.
- The systems will be manufactured in India and would have an 80% indigenous content.
Art & Culture
Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat to be developed at a cost of Rs.16.27 cr under HRIDAY
The Union Ministry of Urban Development approved development of 6 km long Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat under Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY).
- Decision in this regard, was taken HRIDAY National Empowered Committee meeting.
- The circuit will connect famous Dwarkadish Haveli and Hanuman Dandi (only temple housing Hanumanji and his son Makardhwaj) in Dwarka district of Gujarat at a cost of Rs. 16.27 crore.
- There are two important water bodies along the circuit viz., Shankhudhar Lake and Ranchod Talav.
- Under this project development works will be undertaken along the circuit.
- Darshan Circuit works to be taken up include development of streets and pedestrian pathways, laying of cycle tracks along beach side, plantation, provision of benches, resting spaces, changing rooms, drinking water and toilet facilities, craft and food bazar, signages, LED lighting, plazas for vending spaces etc.
- Heritage Infrastructure Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) is a Central Scheme that aims to preserve and rejuvenate the rich cultural heritage of the country.
- The scheme will be completely funded by the Central Government to create infrastructure and provide facilities around the heritage sites to attract more tourists.
- It aims to bring urban planning, economic growth and heritage conservation together for heritage cities.
- It seeks to promote an inclusive, sustainable and integrated development of heritage sites, focusing on maintenance of monuments and advancement of their entire ecosystem.
- The 12 cities selected for the scheme are Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Badami, Dwarka, Gaya, Warangal, Puri, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Varanasi and Velankanni.
Key Facts for Prelims
Mobile application for GST updates
- The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has launched a mobile application for Goods and Services Tax (GST) to inform the taxpayers of the latest updates on GST among others.
- In step with the government’s Digital India initiative, through the mobile application, taxpayers can now readily access a host of GST information such as:
- Migration to GST-Approach and guidelines for migration
- Draft Law-Model GST Law, IGST Law and GST Compensation Law
- Draft Rules-Rules related to Registration, Returns, Payment, Refund and Invoice
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on GST
- Various resources on GST such videos, articles etc.
- Related Website Links
- Helpdesk/Email Contact
- Taxpayers can also provide feedback and contact CBEC’s 24×7 helpdesk “CBEC Mitra” through a toll-free number or email, at the touch of a button.
Kerala to Become First State in India to Have a Public Registry of Sex Offenders
- Kerala will launch a registry of sex offenders, the first of its kind in the country.
- The registry will contain all identification details of sex offenders and would be kept in the public domain.
- Besides, Government will also set up a comprehensive victim relief fund to provide interim relief for victims of sex crimes, both children and adults.
Military operation Radd-ul-Fasaad
- Pakistan army has launched nationwide military operation named ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’ to eliminate menace of terrorism and consolidate gains of its counter-terrorism operations.
- The operation aims include the elimination of the residual and latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made so far and ensuring the security of Pakistan’s borders.
- Pakistan Air Force, Civil Armed Forces, Pakistan Navy as well as other security and law enforcement agencies will actively participate and support the efforts of the Pakistan Army.