- BIS to set standards for the services sector too
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- BNHS to open its first regional centre near Chilika Lake
- MP govt seeks revival of cheetah reintroduction project
Bilateral & International Relations
- G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting held in Salta, Argentina
- 3rd Indian Ocean Conference held in Hanoi, Vietnam
Defence & Security Issues
- DAC clears procurement of 111 utility helicopters for Navy
Science & Technology
- IIT-Hyderabad launches start-up incubator to push chip design
Key Facts for Prelims
- Freedom Baby
- India’s first flight using biofuel will fly from Dehradun Delhi
- India’s first interstate connected wind power project
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BIS to set standards for the services sector too
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has kicked off the process to set new standards to measure quality of services offered to consumers across different sectors, including telecom, aviation, e-commerce and healthcare.
- In this regard, BIS had recently called for a meeting of industry bodies to “persuade them to be part of the process and give their inputs.”
Need for standards:
- The process was initiated after concerns over lack of standardisation, particularly with regards to after-sales service, in their feedback to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
- Standards can play a major facilitative role in this regard. It is important that the standardisation needs and priorities of the sector are determined.
Significance of the Service Sector:
- Service sector is one of the key sectors of the Indian economy with a huge potential to grow into one of the largest markets of the world.
- An online survey had found that in the absence of defined customer service standards in the country, a majority of consumers were not happy with after-sales services.
- As per the poll, 43% feel that mobile handset and computer manufacturers are the worst in after-sales services, followed by white goods firms (38%) and automobile companies (11%).
- About 93% of respondents said brands should at least acknowledge complaints from users within 72 hours.
- Many consumers complained that customer service numbers of many companies do not work.
About Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS):
- The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
- It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
- The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
- As a corporate body, it has 25 members drawn from Central or State Governments, industry, scientific and research institutions, and consumer organisations.
- It also works as WTO-TBT enquiry point for India.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
BNHS to open its first regional centre near Chilika Lake
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), one of India’s premier avian research institutes, will start operating its first regional centre or avifauna observatory on the campus of Wetland Research and Training Centre near Chilika Lake (Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon), Odisha.
- The avifauna observatory will carry out research on avian disease by collecting samples and monitor Nalabana Bird Sanctuary.
- It will be engaged in identifying air route of foreign birds flocking Chilika lake during winter, sample collection, training related to bird census, publishing bird migration atlas books, examining various diseases among the birds and review condition of Nalabana bird sanctuary along with counting birds.
About Chilika Lagoon:
- Chilika Lagoon is the largest coastal lagoon in Indiaand the second largest lagoon in the world after the New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
- Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon It is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoonand 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 Islandwithin 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.
- Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.
- It was founded on 15 September 1883 and headquartered at Hornbill House, Mumbai. The BNHS logo is the great hornbill.
- It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.
- Department of Science and Technology has designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’.
MP govt seeks revival of cheetah reintroduction project
The Madhya Pradesh forest department has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority to revive the plan to reintroduce cheetahs in the State’s Nauradehi sanctuary.
- The ambitious project, conceived in 2009, had hit a roadblock for want of funds.
India’s Cheetah reintroduction programme:
The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project six years ago.
- It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi.
- The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild.
- Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary.
- According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa.
- The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
Significance of reintroduction:
- The reintroduction of cheetahs will help restore India’s open forests and grassland ecosystems, which have been suffering. Having cheetahs will result in greater biodiversity, and biodiversity is the hallmark of healthy ecosystems.
- India is also home to the world’s largest free-roaming populations of livestock. Bringing back the cheetah will focus attention on pastoralism, and in doing so, help restore India’s natural heritage.
- The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
- The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal, an icon of nature.
- With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive.
- The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
- The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers.
- The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.
- With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.
- In 2005, The National Tiger Conservation Authority was established in following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the Tiger Reserves of India.
- For this purpose, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended (Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006) to provide for constituting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger Plan to protect endangered tigers.
Bilateral & International Relations
G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting held in Salta, Argentina
The G20 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting was held in Salta, Argentina from 23 to 24 August, 2018.
- It took place as part of Sherpa Track for 2018 G20 Leaders’ Summit, which is to be hosted by Argentina by end of 2018.
- The theme of the meeting was ‘Building consensus for fair and sustainable development’.
- Its three key issues for the agenda were future of work, infrastructure for development, and sustainable food future.
- It concluded with adaptation of declaration that reflects G20’s commitment towards promoting policies and actions that catalyze digital transformations.
What is Digital economy?
- The digital economy refers to a broad range of activities which include: the use of knowledge and information as factors in production, information networks as a platform for action, and how the information and communication technology (ICT) sector spurs economic growth.
Digital Economy Task Force:
- The Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) was established under the 2017 German presidency, based on the decision adopted in Hangzhou in 2016 under the Chinese Presidency.
- In Antalya, under the Turkish presidency in 2015, G20 leaders recognized the modern period as a critical era of digital transformation, influenced by the advent of new technologies as key elements for economic development.
- The Group of Twenty (G20) is the premier forum for its members’ international economic cooperation and decision-making.
- Its members include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, UK, US and EU.
- It comprises total 19 countries plus the European Union (EU), representing 85% of global GDP, 80% of international trade, 65% of world’s population.
- It is deliberating forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies on economic issues and other important development challenges.
- It was started in 1999 as a meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the aftermath of the Southeast Asian (Tiger economies) financial crisis.
- It was established for studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
- In 2008, the first G20 Leaders’ Summit was held in Washington DC, US. The group had played a key role in responding to the global financial crisis.
How does the G20 work?
The work of the G20 is generally divided into two tracks:
- The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies.
- Convening several times throughout the year, they focus on financial and economic issues, such as monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies, infrastructure investment, financial regulation, financial inclusion and international taxation.
- The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, trade, energy and climate change, gender equality, among others.
- Each G20 country is represented at these meetings by its relevant minister, and by its designated sherpa, or emissary.
- The sherpa engages in planning, negotiation and implementation tasks on behalf of the leader of their respective country.
- Each sherpa orients their minister and head of state or government accordingly on the progress of the G20, and delegates the dialogue and topics to relevant working groups.
3rd Indian Ocean Conference held in Hanoi, Vietnam
The third edition of Indian Ocean Conference was held in Hanoi, capital city of Vietnam from 27-28 August 2018.
- Its theme was “Building Regional Architectures”.
- This year, the Indian Ocean Conference will emphasise on better cooperation, strategic collaboration and governance architectures.
- It will see participation from around 35 countries and have speakers from 25 countries.
- This conference will serve a platform to the countries to come closer and exchange better views on the economic and strategic importance of the region and neighbourhood.
About Indian Ocean Conference:
It has been initiated by Delhi based think tank India Foundation along with its partners from Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
- It is annual conference that aims to bring together Heads of States/Governments, Ministers, thought leaders, scholars, diplomats, bureaucrats and practitioners from across the region on a single platform.
- So far, two successful editions of conference were hosted in 2016 and 2017 in Singapore and Sri Lanka respectively. Both Conferences were supported by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India and had seen participation from over 35 countries.
Defence & Security Issues
DAC clears procurement of 111 utility helicopters for Navy
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), in a landmark decision, has approved procurement of 111 Utility Helicopters for the Indian Navy at a cost of over Rs. 21,000 crores.
- This is the first project under the MoD’s prestigious Strategic Partnership (SP) Model that aims at providing significant fillip to the Government’s ‘Make in India’ programme.
What is Strategic Partnership (SP) model?
Strategic Partnership (SP) model is meant to promote the private sector in defence manufacturing.
- It is intended to enhance competition, increase efficiencies, facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology, create a tiered industrial ecosystem, ensure development of a wider skill base, trigger innovation and enable participation in global value chains as well as promote exports.
- Under the model, the government intends to boost private sector participation and create domestic expertise in four key areas, namely, fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armoured vehicles and main battle tanks.
- One company would be selected for each area based on its competence, which would then tie up with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer selected through the procurement process, to build the platform in India with significant technology transfer.
Significance of the SP model:
- The SP model, if implemented well, is likely to have a number of benefits for both the private sector and the larger Indian defence industry.
- From the private sector’s point of view, the biggest benefit would be the opportunity to participate in some big ticket contracts – estimated to be worth over two lakh crore rupees in the initial phase of execution ¬– which were hitherto reserved for the DPSUs and OFs.
- Bridging the trust gap: At the same time, the model would also go a long way in bridging the long-standing trust gap between the Indian private sector and MoD, with the latter perceived to be friendlier toward public sector entities.
- Strategic Partners, being private sector companies, are expected to exploit their dynamism, competitiveness, profit orientation, and exposure to the civilian sector for efficient utilisation of the technology, manpower and infrastructure developed in the process.
- The model has a long-term vision of promoting India as a manufacturing hub for defence equipment thus enhancing self-sufficiency and establishing an industrial and R&D ecosystem, capable of meeting the future requirements of the Armed Forces.
Armed forces’ concerns over the SP model:
- The SP model was being resisted by some of the MoD bureaucrats on account of disagreement over the entrance of a single private strategic partner in each segment, such as aircraft and helicopters, armoured fighting vehicles, submarines, ammunition and macro process management of issues.
- The Armed Forces are apprehensive over the overall model as they feel the SP model will block new technology and new players coming to the defence sector.
Science & Technology
IIT-Hyderabad launches start-up incubator to push chip design
Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has launched “Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI)”, an exclusive incubator to boost chip design.
- It is first of its kind in India that will focus on creating an ecosystem for start-ups in chip design.
About Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI):
- FabCI is funded by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) along with technology partners Cadence Design Systems and Mentor Graphics both are leading providers of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software, hardware and IP.
- FabCI’s purpose is to incubate at least 50 ‘Make-in-India’ chip design companies that can compete globally and generate Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).
- It will provide bouquet of offerings including free software tools with leading technology partners in Electronic Design Automation (EDA), characterization facility for testing chips and equipment for performing DC and RF characterization.
- It will also offer virtual support to non-Hyderabad start-ups which can join FabCI and leverage the offerings and participate remotely.
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first captive-born Humboldt Penguin named Freedom Baby died barely a week after it was born at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo (Byculla zoo) in Mumbai.
- The penguin chick was named Freedom Baby as it was born on Independence Day.
- Humboldt penguin is named after the cold water current (Humboldt current) it swims in. It is native to South America and breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. It is categorized as vulnerable under IUCN list.
India’s first flight using biofuel will fly from Dehradun Delhi
- The first ever biofuel test flight was conducted by SpiceJet on its turborporp Q-400 plane.
- With this India will join elite club of nations who have operated flight on alternative energy source like biofuel.
- Developed countries like Canada, Australia and US have already conducted these test flights. India will be first developing nation to experiment biofuel test flight.
Significance of Biofuel flights:
- The biofuel is made partially from renewable resources such as agricultural residues, non-edible oils and bio-degradable fractions of industrial and municipal wastes.
- Biofuel flights could make air travel cleaner and more efficient, thus drastically reducing the cost of airline operations by reducing the dependency on aviation turbine fuel.
India’s first interstate connected wind power project
- 126 MW wind power capacity, part of India’s first inter-state transmission system (ISTS) auction, was commissioned in Bhuj, Gujarat.
- It was part of India’s first ISTS auction was conducted by state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd (SECI) in February 2017.