Polity & Governance
- Communal Harmony Campaign Week
- NPPA caps prices of 51 essential medicines
- Transforming 115 backward districts across the country
- FSDC panel reviews financial events
- Govt doubles incentives rates for garments, made-ups to 4 per cent
- SBI launches YONO, an integrated app for financial services
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Multi State Mega Mock Tsunami Exercise 2017
- New species of gecko discovered in Andhra Pradesh
Bilateral & International Relations
- 36th International Geological Congress
Defence & Security Issues
- Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX)
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Polity & Governance
Communal Harmony Campaign Week
The Communal Harmony Campaign Week was observed from November 19-25, 2017 by National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH).
- Along with this, Flag Day was also being observed across the country by NFCH.
National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH):
- The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH) is an autonomous organisation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It organises Communal Harmony Campaign coinciding with the Qaumi Ekta Week and observes the Communal Harmony Flag Day on 25th November.
- The Foundation promotes Communal Harmony and strengthens National Integration.
- Under its Project ‘Assist’, it also provides financial assistance for relief and rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence.
NPPA caps prices of 51 essential medicines
The drug pricing regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has capped prices of 51 essential medicines, including those used for treatment of cancer, heart conditions, pain and skin problems.
- The prices have been slashed in the range of 6 to 53%.
- It should be noted that National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)under the Union Ministry of Chemical and Fertiliser decides the ceiling prices of essential medicines of Schedule I under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013.
- In respect of medicines that are not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10 percent annually.
What are Essential medicines?
- Essential medicines, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) are those drugs that satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population; they should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in appropriate dosage forms, at a price the community can afford.
How price of essential drugs is decided?
- The calculation for essential drugs is based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 percent.
About National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM):
- The NLEM is a dynamic list and reviewed every three years to include or exclude drugs as relevant to the newest medical innovations and aligned to the current market competition.
The Indian government recognized the national list of essential medicines as a key instrument in balanced healthcare delivery system which includes accessible, affordable and quality medicine at the primary, secondary, tertiary levels of healthcare.
About National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA):
- NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established, inter alia, to fix/ revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995.
- The organization is also entrusted with the task of recovering amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers.
- It also monitors the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
Functions of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority:
- To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order in accordance with the powers delegated to it.
- To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority.
- To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
- To collect/ maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies etc., for bulk drugs and formulations.
- To undertake and/ or sponsor relevant studies in respect of pricing of drugs/ pharmaceuticals.
- To recruit/ appoint the officers and other staff members of the Authority, as per rules and procedures laid down by the Government.
- To render advice to the Central Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.
- To render assistance to the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to the drug pricing.
Transforming 115 backward districts across the country
In a significant step towards realisation of the Prime Minister’s vision for creation of a New India by 2022, the Union Government has selected 115 backward districts for rapid transformation by 2022.
- These 115 backward districts include 35 districts affected by Left Wing Extremists (LWE) violence, 55 districts just affected by LWE and another 15 including districts in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast affected by terrorism.
- For each of these backward districts, government has nominated senior official in rank of Additional secretary and Joint secretary as Prabhari officer.
- The First meeting of the Prabhari Officers was recently held in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary. It was attended by Secretaries of the important central Ministries.
Role of Prabhari officers
- Prabhari officers will form team with state representatives and bring convergence in their effort. They will take it up as challenge and succeed in their mission by making difference in the lives of millions of citizens in these backward districts.
- Prabhari officers will assist District administration in sharing GOI’s vision for 2022 by ensuring convergence of efforts of central and state government and set up robust mechanism to monitor improvements in key outcomes in these backward districts.
- Funds are not a constraint in this program since large funds are available under different Schemes. The officers will explore the availability of funds in District Mineral funds, wherever available for this purpose.
- In addition, they will also use flexi-fund which are significant in amount and are available under different Schemes of the Government.
Third party validation
- For the program to succeed, third party validation of key performance indicators in the field of education, health and nutrition, basic infrastructure including roads, electricity, household toilets, agriculture and irrigation is necessary.
- If these districts are successfully transformed, it will bring tremendous improvement in internal security environment of country.
- It will also help to bring convergence in development efforts of different Ministries and state Governments and schemes specially launched by Home Ministry in these districts.
- It serves as great opportunity to ensure rapid development all regions of the country.
FSDC panel reviews financial events
The Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), headed by Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel, reviewed the major global and domestic developments which could impinge on the country’s financial stability.
What has been discussed?
- The panel discussed the setting up of the National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE), operationalisation of information utilities registered by the IBBI, sharing of data among regulators and the implementation status of Legal Entity Identifier.
- Besides, it reviewed the activities of its various technical groups as well as the functioning of State Level Coordination Committees.
- The recommendations of the committees on FinTech and digital innovations, shadow banking implementation group and Stewardship Code were also discussed at the meeting.
About Financial Stability and Development Council:
In December 2010, the Central Government had established Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) with the Finance Minister as it Chairman.
- The idea to create it was first mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms in 2008.
- It is a super regulatory body for regulating financial sector which is a vital for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in the economy.
- The FSDC envisages to strengthen and institutionalise mechanism of
- Maintaining financial stability,
- Financial sector development,
- Inter-regulatory coordination along with monitoring macro-prudential regulation of economy.
- It acts as an apex level forum to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability.
- It also enhances inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development in the country.
- It focuses on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
- It monitors macro-prudential supervision of the economy.
- It assesses the functioning of the large financial conglomerates.
- Union Finance Minister (Chairman).
- Heads of the financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e. RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA),
- Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Union Finance Ministry),
- Secretary, Department of Financial Services, and
- Chief Economic Adviser.
FSDC can invite experts to its meeting if required.[Ref: Indian Express]
Govt doubles incentives rates for garments, made-ups to 4 per cent
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry has doubled rates for incentives under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) from 2% to 4% of value of exports.
- The rates for incentives under this scheme have been enhanced for two subsectors of textiles industry — readymade garments and made-ups.
- Under the programme, exporters are given duty exemption scrips that are pegged at a certain percentage of total value of their exports. These scrips can be used to pay duties on inputs including customs.
Significance of the move:
- This measure will incentivise the exports of labour intensive sectors of readymade garments and made-ups and contribute to employment generation.
What is Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)?
MEIS was launched under Foreign Trade Policy of India (FTP) 2015-20.
- It is one of the two schemes introduced in FP 2015-20, as a part of Exports from India Scheme. The other scheme is Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS).
- Objective of MEIS is to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in export of goods and products, which are produced and manufactured in India.
- It seeks to enhance India’s export competitiveness of these goods and products having high export intensity, employment potential.
SBI launches YONO, an integrated app for financial services
State Bank of India, the country’s largest public sector bank, has launched a unified integrated app called YONO (You Need Only One) that would offer all kinds of financial and lifestyle products.
- YONO is first digital banking platform that will allow customers to meet their lifestyle needs across 14 categories including booking and renting cabs, entertainment, dining experience, travel and stay etc.
- The integrated omni-channel digital platform will offer an array of banking and financial services which can be accessed through mobile phones, both android and iOS and web portal through a browser.
- SBI has tied up with over 60 merchants across 14 categories like healthcare, lifestyle, hospitality and auto among others for YONO.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Multi State Mega Mock Tsunami Exercise 2017
A first-of-its-kind multi-state mega mock exercise on tsunami preparedness, covering the entire eastern coastline of the country, was carried out recently by the Union Home Ministry.
- The exercise was carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs through National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
- The exercise was one of various activities conducted as part of observation of 2nd World Tsunami Awareness Day (observed on November 5).
- The exercise was simultaneously conducted in 35 coastal districts across four States — West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (UT) along entire East Coast to assess and improve the early warning and response mechanism to mitigate the impact of a high-intensity tsunami
- It aimed to assess and help improve preparedness, response mechanism and coordination among concerned agencies.
- This will be the first time the entire eastern coast will be covered by the mock drill. The eastern coast is vulnerable to not just tsunamis but also floods.
- The tsunami drill will simulate tsunami waves originating from a high-intensity earthquake near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Around 11 Pacific island nations will be observing the entire tsunami exercise in order to better prepare themselves for responding to such an eventuality.
- Since tsunamis require a very rapid response, reaction time is limited. A time of two hours will be given during the mock tsunami exercise during which the entire participating state machinery is expected to respond efficiently and quickly.
- Government authorities from many different agencies will participate in the mega mock tsunami drill. The army, navy, air force, health departments, National Disaster Response Force or NDRF, Civil Defence, police, transport, electricity and public relations will all be participating.
- Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea.
- About thirteen years ago, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck beneath the Indian Ocean near Indonesia, generating a massive tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives in fourteen different countries, one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded.
India and Tsunami:
- India’s eastern coast is susceptible to both floods and tsunamis. The eastern coast of India had faced the devastating tsunami in December 2004 that claimed around 230000 lives.
- The devastating tsunami in Indian Ocean was formed due to high-intensity earthquake with its epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It had affected lives and the natural environment in six countries in the region including India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Thailand.
About Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)
- INCOIS is an autonomous organization of the Union Government, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO).
- It was established in 1999 and is headquartered in Pragathi Nagar, Hyderabad.
- Its mandated is to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to government agencies, society, industry and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focussed research.
New species of gecko discovered in Andhra Pradesh
Scientists have discovered new species of gecko in the Eastern Ghats in northern Andhra Pradesh.
- It was identified from few areas in northern Mahendragiri range and scattered coastal hills in northern Andhra Pradesh.
- The new species has been named Hemidactylus sushilduttai or Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko, after eminent herpetologist Sushil Kumar Dutta from Odisha.
- Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko is the 32nd species of house geckos (Hemidactylus) from India, and among the largest in its genus. The genus has around 90 species across the world.
- This is the second gecko endemic to this hilly range and the third vertebrate as other endemics in the region are — Jeypore Indian gecko (Cyrtodactylus jeyporensis) and Gegeneophis orientalis — caecilian amphibian.
- Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko grows up to 225mm in length with its tail half its size. It is nocturnal and lives on rocks, large trees and coffee plantations at altitudes between 250-1,100 m above sea level.
Bilateral & International Relations
36th International Geological Congress
What is International Geological Congress (IGC)?
International Geological Congress (IGC) is the prestigious global platform for advancement of Earth Science.
- It envisaged a spirit of fraternal cooperation that transcends boundaries, languages and has the ability to bring together the geo-scientific community across the continents and oceans.
- Founded as a non-profit scientific and educational organization in 1878, IGC came under the aegis of International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in 1961. Since then the meetings of IGC are held in collaboration and under scientific sponsorship of IUGS.
- The first session of IGC assembled in 1878 in France with an aim to provide the global geological community with an opportunity to create an organizational frame work for meeting at regular intervals.
- Since the inception of IGC, 33 Congresses have been hosted by 24 countries throughout the world at 3- to 5-year intervals.
- The 34th Session was held at Brisbane, Australia during August 2012 and the 35th IGC is scheduled to be held at Capetown, South Africa in 2016.
Why in news?
A high level delegation of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) recently visited India to discuss the preparatory aspects of the 36th International Geological Congress (IGC) to be held in Delhi, India in the year 2020.
- The event is being jointly funded by the Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Earth Sciences with the active support of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), and the Science Academies of the other neighbouring co-host countries, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
India and IGC:
- Described as the Olympics of Geosciences, the IGCs are held quadrennially under the aegis of the IUGS through a process of global bidding.
- India won the bid in 2012 at Brisbane, Australia to host the Congress in 2020. The win is a remarkable achievement as the event makes a come back to the Indian soil after nearly 6 decades much to the excitement of the entire geoscientific community.
About International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)
The IUGS was founded in 1961 and is a Scientific Union member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which it recognizes as the coordinating body for the international organization of science.
- It is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology.
- IUGS is a joint partner with UNESCO for the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and they also participate in the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN).
- Currently geologists from 121 countries (and regions) are represented in IUGS through 121 Adhering Organization.
Defence & Security Issues
Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX)
Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX) was conducted under the aegis of Andaman & Nicobar Command.
- The five-day exercise started on 20 Nov 2017 and culminated on 24 Nov 2017.
Main objective of the exercise was:
- To practice & validate procedures and drills of all the Command forces aimed at defending Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
- The purpose of the exercise was for adopting planning and precise execution of Command plans by forces in synergistic manner.
- It also aimed for being fully prepared for any eventuality in future.