Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves funds for 10 projects in Swadesh Darshan Scheme
- Haryana devises scheme to clear files quickly
- Strategic tunnel under Rohtang Pass named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee
- Indian Railways start ‘Him Darshan’, a 7-coach glass-enclosed vistadome train
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- PM Modi launches Atal Jal Yojana aimed at improving groundwater level
- ‘Oxygen Parlour’ at Nashik Railway Station to combat air pollution
- Rare Sighting of Bar-Headed Geese At Tsokar, Ladakh
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves ratification of the 10th Additional Protocol to UPU
Defence & Security Issues
- Cabinet Committee on Security clears Chief of Defence Staff post
Key Facts for Prelims
- Typhoon Phanfone
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Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves funds for 10 projects in Swadesh Darshan Scheme
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to release funds to the tune of Rs. 627.40 crore for the 10 projects sanctioned during 2018-19 and additional Rs. 1854.67 crore for sanctioning of new projects during 2019-20 in Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
- Ministry of Tourism launched this scheme for integrated development of theme based tourist circuits in India in 2014-15.
- The duration of Swadesh Darshan Scheme is till the 14thFinance Commission Period i.e. March 2020.
- The scheme is completely funded by the central government of India.
- This scheme is envisioned to synergise with other Government of India schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, Make in India etc.
Objective of scheme:
- Develop circuits having tourist potential in a planned and prioritized manner.
- Follow community based development and pro-poor tourism approach.
- Creating awareness among the local communities about the importance of tourism.
- To make full use of the potential in terms of available infrastructure and national culture.
What is Tourist Circuit?
- Tourist Circuit is defined as a route having at least three major tourist destinations which are distinct and apart.
- Circuits should have well defined entry and exit points. A tourist who enters should get motivated to visit most of the places identified in the circuit.
- A Circuit could be confined to a State or could be a regional circuit covering more than one State/Union Territory. These circuits may have one dominant theme and other sub-themes.
- 13 themes of tourist circuits are: Buddhist, Coastal, Desert, Eco, Heritage, Himalayan, Krishna, North East, Ramayana, Rural, Spiritual, Sufi, Tirthankar, Tribal and Wildlife.
Haryana devises scheme to clear files quickly
To ensure that important government matters don’t get delayed owing to conflicting hierarchical and departmental priorities, the Haryana government has introduced a “Run Through Files” mechanism, which would be personally monitored by Chief Minister.
About Run Through Files
- Run Through Files is an initiative of Haryana government under the Centralised File Movement and Tracking Information System (CFMS).
- It aims to ensure that most important files do not suffer due to conflicting hierarchical and departmental priorities.
- A file is marked/demarked as Run Through Files only by the Chief Minister of Haryana. Every file marked as RTF has will be cleared on priority.
Strategic tunnel under Rohtang Pass named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee
The government named the strategic tunnel under Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in a tribute to him on his 95th birth anniversary.
About Rohtang tunnel
- Rohtang Tunnel is being built under the Rohtang Pass in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali
- When completed, it will become world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet and will be one of the longest road tunnels in India.
- Tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which otherwise remained cut off from the rest of India for about six months.
- The tunnel will be managed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
- Reduce the distance between Lahaul-Spiti’s administrative centre Keylong and Manaliby.
- Help the Leh-Manali highway to remain open to traffic even during winters. (Rohtang Pass remains open to road traffic for only five months in a year, as it receives heavy snowfall during the winter).
- Has significant strategic implications for the military as once the tunnel is operational, the forces will have access beyond the Rohtang Pass even in peak winter.
Indian Railways start ‘Him Darshan’, a 7-coach glass-enclosed vistadome train
The Railways recently started a seven coach glass-enclosed vistadome ‘Him Darshan’ train on the heritage Kalka-Shimla route.
- Luxurious coaches with glass ceiling and having panoramic view are known as Vistadome coaches.
- The Kalka–Shimla railway traverses a mostly-mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages.
- In 2008, UNESCO added the Kalka–Shimla railway to the mountain railways of India World Heritage Site.
- It was built in 1898 to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the rest of the Indian rail system.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
PM Modi launches Atal Jal Yojana aimed at improving groundwater level
Prime Minister of India urged farmers to opt for less water intensive crops and irrigation methods that will help conserve water, as he launched the Atal Jal Yojana.
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY)
- Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), also known as Atal Jal, is a Rs. 6,000 Crore Central Sector Scheme, for community led sustainable management of ground water resources.
- It will be implemented over a period of five years (2020-2021 to 2024-2025).
- The scheme aims to improve ground water management in priority areas through community participation. The priority areas are in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These States represent about 25%of the total number of overexploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India. They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers.
Atal Bhujal Yojana has two major components
- Institutional strengthening and capacity building for sustainable ground water management
- Incentivising the states for achievements in improved groundwater management practices namely data dissemination, preparation of water security plans, implementation of management interventions through convergence of ongoing schemes etc.
- Promote panchayat-led ground water management and behavioral change with primary focus on demand-side management.
- Provide sustainable groundwater management through the convergence of current governmental schemes.
- Facilitate adoption of efficient water use practices
- Doubling farmers’ incomes, improving cropping pattern and promoting equitable use of ground water resources
- The funding pattern is 50:50between Government of India and World Bank.
[Ref: PIB, Economic Times]
‘Oxygen Parlour’ at Nashik Railway Station to combat air pollution
In a unique initiative to battle rising air pollution in cities, an ‘Oxygen Parlour’ has been opened at Nashik railway station to provide an experience of breathing clean air to the commuters.
About oxygen Parlour
- Concept of Oxygen Parlour is based on the recommendation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 1989, NASA had conducted a study in which they identified some plants that better absorb the five most harmful pollutants from the air. Such plants are introduced in oxygen parlour.
- The aim of oxygen parlours is to bring down the pollution in the air at the railway station though plants.
Rare Sighting of Bar-Headed Geese At Tsokar, Ladakh
A recent waterbird census being undertaken at the Tsokar wetlands in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir led to the rare sighting of a bar-headed goose.
- This sighting confirmed that the bar-headed goose breeds at Tsokar in Ladakh and winters at Pong Lake in Himachal Pradesh. So far, this is the shortest established migratory route for the species. Generally, this species covered very long distances.
- The bar-headed goose is known to be one of the highest flying birds in the world.
- This bird is distinct from other geese in its genus because of the black bars on its head.
- They come to India and return to their homes by crossing the Himalayan ranges. The capacity of bar-headed geese to consume oxygen at such high altitudes (low oxygen environment) distinguishes this species from similar lowland waterfowl. Scientists have found that their blood cells contain a special type of hemoglobin (a blood protein) that absorbs oxygen very quickly at high altitudes. Also, their capillaries (small blood vessels) extend deeply into their muscles, thereby improving the transfer of oxygen to their muscle fibers.
- In the colder months, bar-headed geese live in low-lying swamps in northern India and Myanmar. During summer, they do their annual migration to the high mountain lakes and wetlands of central Asia.
Asian Waterbird Census
- The AWC is a part of the International Waterbird Census (IWC), coordinated by Wetlands International.
- The census is conducted by in every January by volunteers across Asia and Australasia.
- It runs in parallel with other regional programmes of the International Waterbird Census in Africa, Europe, West Asia, the Neotropics and the Caribbean.
- The AWC was initiated in 1987 in the Indian subcontinent and now covers the entire East Asian – Australasian Flyway and a large part of the Central Asian Flyway.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves ratification of the 10th Additional Protocol to UPU
The Union Cabinet gave its approval to the ratification of the Tenth Additional Protocol to the Constitution of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) adopted by 2nd Extraordinary Congress of the Union held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2018.
Significance of the approval
- The approval enables the Postal Administration of India to have the Instrument of Ratification signed by President of India and have the same deposited with the Director General of the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union.
- Ratification would fulfil the obligations arising from Article 25 of the Constitution of the UPU (related to ratification and other forms of approval of the Acts of UPU).
- It will also enable the Department of Posts to bring out any administrative orders to implement the provisions of the UPU Convention in India.
About the Universal Postal Union (UPU)
- UPU, established by the Treaty of Bern of 1874, is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN)that coordinates postal policies among member nations, in addition to the worldwide postal system.
- The UPU contains four bodies consisting of the Congress, the Council of Administration (CA), the Postal Operations Council (POC) and the International Bureau (IB). It also oversees the Telematics and Express Mail Service (EMS) cooperatives.
- The UPU’s headquarters are located in Bern, Switzerland.
- It has 192 member countries. It is primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players among member countries.
- It regulates 40 lakh postal outlets worldwide. It helps to ensure truly universal network of up-to-date products and services.
- It sets rules for international mail exchanges and makes recommendations for growth in mail, financial and parcel services volumes and also to improve quality of service for customers.
Defence & Security Issues
Cabinet Committee on Security clears Chief of Defence Staff post
Union Cabinet Committee on Security approved the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
About Chief of Defence Staff
- CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the government. CDS is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President.
Objective behind creation of CDS post
- To bring about jointness between the Armed Forces of the country in training, procurement, staffing and operations.
- To enhance the quality of Military Advice to the Political leadership through integration of service inputs.
- To develop and foster expertise in military affairs in particular and in defence matters generally.
Role and responsibilities:
- Act as the Principal Military Adviser to Defence minister on tri-Services matters.
- CDS will administer tri-services organisations. Their military command, will be with the Chief of the duly notified service, which has a predominant role in functioning of that specific tri-service organization. However, Tri-services agencies commands related to Cyber and Space will be under the command of the CDS.
- Provide integrated inputs of the Services to relevant authorities. CDS will be member of Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee.
- Bring about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc. of the three Services within three years of the first CDS assuming office.
- Ensure optimal utilization of infrastructure and rationalize it.
- Enhance the share of indigenous equipment.
- Evaluate plans for Out of Area Contingencies & as well other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
- Assign inter-Services prioritization to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget.
- Integrate and rationalise international cooperation plans.
- Prepare strategy papers on military matters for consideration of the competent authority.
Other Service rules:
- Not eligible to hold any Government office after demitting the office of CDS.
- No private employment without prior approval for a period of five years after demitting the office of CDS.
- CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs.
What was before the CDS?
- Before CDS, India had an equivalent of CDS known as the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), which was recommended by the Naresh Chandra Task Forcein 2012.
- It comprises chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force and the senior-most among them acts as its chairman.
Need for CDS
- As the senior most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed as the head of the CoSC, CoSC office lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.
- The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years.
- In 2015, then Defence Minister described the CoSC arrangement as unsatisfactoryand said that it did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets.
Arguments against the creation of post of CDS
- Unlike the United States and other western militaries, the Indian Services are not an expeditionary force. Hence CDS is not necessary.
- The appointment of a CDS would lead to theatre commands leading to diminution of individual arm of Indian army’s operational role.
- India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of security mattersand hence incapable of ensuring that CDS will work.
- Militaries by nature tend to resist transformationsuch as creation of CDS post.
- In 2000, a high-level committee, namely Kargil Review Committee (KRC), set up to examine the gaps in the country’s security system in the wake of the Kargil War in 1999had called for the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff.
- As a result, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS)in 2002, which serve as the CDS’s Secretariat. However, over the past years, this has remained insignificant department within the military establishment.
- In 2011, the government set up the 14-member Naresh Chandra Committee on defence and security.The Committee suggested a watered-down version of the CDS proposal, in which the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) in the rank of a four-star officer would have a fixed tenure of two years. He would have more powers than the Chairman of CoSC.
- The CDS is also one of the recommendations made by the Lt General ShekatkarCommittee (2016).
KeyFacts for Prelims
Typhoon Phanfone batters Philippines, thousands hit
Typhoon Phanfone pummelled the central Philippines on Christmas Day, bringing a wet, miserable and terrifying holiday to millions in the mainly Catholic nation.
- Super Typhoon Haiya in 2013 was the Philippines’s deadliest cyclone on record.
- The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific cyclone belt. It is hit by about 20 storms and typhoons each year that kill scores of people.
[Ref: The Hindu]