Polity & Governance
- ICMR launches forum to improve data collection and use
Government Schemes & Policies
- Andhra Pradesh clears bill granting 75 percent reservation in jobs for locals in factories
- Van Dhan Scheme
- Gujarat tops in solar rooftop installations
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Researchers discover a new species of vine snake from the Western Ghats
Defence & Security Issues
- Kargil Vijay Diwas
Science & Technology
- India climbs five places to 52 on Global Innovation Index
Key Facts for Prelims
- Vande Bharat Express
- IIT Kharagpur team develops app CARE4U for elderly people
- Underwater Military Museum
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Polity & Governance
ICMR launches forum to improve data collection and use
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s National Institute for Medical Statistics (ICMR-NIMS), in partnership with Population Council, launched the National Data Quality Forum (NDQF).
- The NDQF is launched in collaboration between the National Institute for Medical Statistics and global nonprofit organisation Population Council.
- NDQF will integrate learnings from scientific and evidence-based initiatives and guide actions through periodic workshops and conferences.
- It will fetch quality data in upcoming health studies and surveys such as National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
- Its activities will help establish protocols and good practices of data collection, storage, use and dissemination that can be applied to health and demographic data.
- Different public data sources report divergent numbers for the same indicator.
- For example, Sample Registration Survey (SRS) 2016 and National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2015-16 report different sex ratios at birth and infant mortality rates.
- As per NSSO, Data that is generated at state level lacks any information on private sector.
Causes for lack of quality in Indian demographic and health data:
- Incomplete information, overestimation, and under- and over-reporting
- Lack of comparability and poor usability of national level data sources
- Discordance between system and survey level estimates
- Increased questionnaire length and questions on socially restricted conversation topics
- Age-reporting errors or non-response and intentional skipping of questions
- Underreporting due to subjective question interpretation
- Incompleteness and paucity of data to generate reliable estimates on mortality
- Higher investment in regularly monitored technological support during data collection and more clarity during training of investigators can help solve some data quality issues in the large scale surveys.
Government Schemes & Policies
Andhra Pradesh clears bill granting 75 percent reservation in jobs for locals in factories
The Andhra Pradesh passed the AP Employment of Local Candidates in Industries and Factories Bill, 2019, that mandates employment of at least 75 per cent state candidates in the respective units.
About the bill:
- Under the bill, 75 per cent employment to local candidates within a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act is provided.
- The reservation will extend to industries, factories, joint venture units and projects taken up under Public-Private Partnership
- Since most of the land requirement is met by acquiring private agricultural lands, the land owners are being displaced and deprived of their occupation and thereby loss of income.
- Hence, the legislation was done after demands from those who lost means of livelihood due to land acquisition.
- Moreover, local population is involved in low-income jobs leading to dissatisfaction among local youth and contributing to industrial unrest.
Implications of this initiative:
- The Andhra Pradesh government’s proposed law to enforce 75 percent reservation for local candidates in private sector jobs may be right in intent, but conceptually flawed and may have little practical value beyond political jingoism.
- This would mean irrespective of the availability, all private sector enterprises will have to ensure a minimum of 75 percent employment for local candidates.
- In the absence of local candidates of a particular skill level, the law would force the employers to recruit them anyway and train them. The government has promised help to upskill the staff, but this could be time-consuming. Businesses that have to remain nimble to adapt their business strategies to changing market situations may find it tough to meet this requirement.
- A provision of such sweeping import could in fact hinder the state’s economic growth by affecting the ease of doing business. Ease of recruiting talent is a major aspect that influences the index.
- If job creation is the intention, the move may become counterproductive.
Van Dhan Scheme
A workshop to flag the 100 days’ plan for implementation of the Van Dhan Scheme was organised by TRIFED of Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Van Dhan Scheme:
- The Van Dhan Scheme was launched in April, 2018 and seeks to improve tribal incomes through value addition of tribal products.
- The programme aims to tap into traditional knowledge of tribals by adding technology & IT to upgrade it at each stage and to convert the tribal wisdom into a viable economic activity.
- It will provide enhanced livelihood to about 45 lakhs tribal gatherers which is about 4.5% of the total tribal population in India.
- Tribal community owned Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) and multi-purpose Van dhan Vikas Kendra are set up under this scheme.
- As per the plan, TRIFED will facilitate establishment of MFP-led multi-purpose Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, a cluster of 10 SHGs comprising of 30 tribal MFP gatherers each, in the tribal areas.
- The scheme is implemented through Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level.
- At State level, the State Nodal Agency for MFPs and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at grassroot level.
- Locally the Kendras are proposed to be managed by a Managing Committee (an SHG) consisting of representatives of Van Dhan SHGs in the cluster.
Van Dhan Vikas Kendras initiative:
- Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram is primarily a component under the Mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA).
- It would act as common facility centres for procurement cum value addition to locally available NTFPs and skill based handicraft.
- Instead of gathering NTFP products and directly selling it in the market, tribal gatherers can collect, perform primary value addition/processing at the Kendra and then sell the product in the market for better price realization.
- A typical Vikas Kendra constitute 10 tribal Van Dhan Vikas Self Help Groups (SHGs), each compromising up to 30 NTFP gatherers or tribal handcraft artisans.
- At least 60% beneficiaries of the SHG is tribal and the SHG is led by a tribal member.
- Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.
Minor Forest Produce:
- Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is defined as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, Tusser, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu/kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tuber and the like.
- It is a subset of forest produce which got a definition in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 or Forests Rights Act (FRA).
Provision of MFP in Forests Rights Act (FRA),2006
- The FRA Act recognizes and vests individual forest-dwellers with forest rights to live in and cultivate forest land that was occupied before December 2005 and to dispose minor forest products from forests where they had traditional access.
- The act also defines forest rights as inclusive of ‘Right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce. Individuals, communities and gram sabhas having rights under this particular section of the Act will not only have the rights to use but also rights of ownership over MFPs.
- This goes beyond the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension To The Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) which had authorised states to entrust panchayats and gramasabhas as the owners of MFP.
Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme:
- The Government of India launched a central sector scheme for marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and development of value chain to ensure fair monetary returns to MFP gatherers for their efforts in collection, primary processing etc.
- The scheme envisages fixation and declaration of Minimum Support Price for the selected MFP based on the suggestions received from TRIFED and the States concerned.
- Procurement and marketing operation at pre- fixed MSP is undertaken by the designated State agencies.
- The Scheme was implemented in eight States having Schedule areas as listed in the Fifth Schedule of the constitution of India. However, From November 2016, the scheme is applicable in all States.
Significance of Minor Forest Produce (MFP):
- MFP is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas. The importance of MFPs for tribal can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines and cash income.
- It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter gatherers, and the landless. Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend major portion of their time.
- This activity has strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women. MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.
Gujarat tops in solar rooftop installations
Gujarat ranks on top in the installation of rooftop solar projects with an installed capacity of 261.97 megawatts.
Solar installation in India:
- Total rooftop solar installation in India currently stands at 1,700 MW.
- Gujarat has the maximum installation followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
- It is estimated that 5 million units per MW per year are generated from solar rooftop plants.
Government’s target of 100 GW
- The government set a target of 100 GW of solar power installation by 2022, of which 60 GW is to come from utilities and 40 GW from rooftop solar installations.
What is rooftop solar?
- Rooftop solar installations, as opposed to large-scale solar power generation plants, can be installed on the roofs of buildings.
- They fall under two categories: commercial and residential.
What are the benefits?
- Provides companies and residential areas the option of an alternative source of electricity to that provided by the grid.
- Reduces the dependence on fossil-fuel generated electricity.
- Augment the grid supply in places where it is erratic.
- Provide electricity to those areas that are not yet connected to the grid and areas where the terrain makes it difficult to set up power stations and lay power lines.
Potential for rooftop solar in India:
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has pegged the market potential for rooftop solar at 124 GW.
- However, only 1,247 MW of capacity had been installed as of December 31, 2016. That is a little more than 3% of the target for 2022, and 1% of the potential.
Why is it not being adopted widely?
- One of the major problems with rooftop solar — and what affects solar energy generation in general — is the variability in supply. Not only can the efficiency of the solar panels vary on any given day depending on how bright the sunlight is, but the solar panels also produce no electricity during the night. Arguably, night is when off-grid locations most need alternative sources of electricity.
- Storage is one solution. Storage technology for electricity, however, is still underdeveloped and storage solutions are expensive. Most residential customers will find the cost of installing both rooftop solar panels and storage facilities prohibitive. Residential areas also come with the associated issues of use restrictions of the roof — if the roof is being used for solar generation, then it cannot be used for anything else.
- Another major reason why rooftop solar is not becoming popular is that the current electricity tariff structure renders it an unviable option.
- Many states have adopted a net metering policy, which allows disaggregated power producers to sell excess electricity to the grid. However, the subsidised tariffs charged to residential customers undermine the economic viability of installing rooftop solar panels. The potential profit simply does not outweigh the costs.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Researchers discover a new species of vine snake from the Western Ghats
A new species of vine snake has been discovered in the Western Ghats.
About the new species of vine snake
- A new species of vine snake, Proahaetulla antiqua, has been discovered in the Agasthyamalai hills in the Western Ghats of India.
- It belongs to an ancient lineage dating back to between 20 and 30 million years during the mid-Oligocene period.
- It is a member of the Ahaetuliinae family.
- This species is not only a new species but also belong to a new genus as they diverged from the other vine snakes about 26 million years ago. Thus, they are named after the Latin words ‘antiqua’, meaning ‘old or ancient’.
About Vine snakes:
- Ahaetulla nasuta, also known as common vine snake and long-nosed whip snake, is a green tree snake found all over Asia.
- Vine snakes get their names because of their slender bodies and vine-like appearances.
- While there are similar species in Africa and South America, the Asian vine snakes belong to the genus Ahaetulla.
- In India, there are five species of commonly distributed vine snakes.
- The Ahaetuliinae family comprises 62 non-venomous species of snakes belonging to four genera: Ahaetulla (vine snakes), Chrysopelea (flying snakes), Dendrelaphis (bronzebacks) and Dryophiops (whip snakes).
- They are distributed mostly in south and south-east Asia, and parts of East Asia.
- Dendrelaphis is the largest genus of this family.
Defence & Security Issues
Kargil Vijay Diwas
Every year, since 1999, July 26 has been observed to commemorate the sacrifices made by soldiers in the Kargil war.
What is Kargil war?
- The Kargil War took place between India and Pakistan 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir.
- It began with the infiltration of both Pakistani troops and terrorists into Indian territory. The infiltrators positioned themselves in key locations that gave them a strategic advantage during the start of the conflict.
- As a retaliation, Indian Army launched ‘Operation Vijay’ against Pakistan infiltration. Safed Sagar, the Indian Air Force’s operation, was also a major part of the Kargil war. It used air power at the height of 32,000 feet for the first time.
- Indian Army declared the military operation successful on July 26, 1999. Since then the day has been celebrated annually as Kargil Vijay Diwas.
About Indian Territorial Army:
- India’s first Governor General C Rajagopalachari formally inaugurated the Indian Territorial Army in 1949.
- It is an organization where volunteers apply for a short period of training every year, so as to be ready to tackle any emergent situation or to serve for the defence of India.
- The Territorial Army, also known as the ‘Terriers’, is considered the second line of national defence after the regular Army.
- The Territorial Army is part of a Regular Army.
- Territorial Army comes under the Defence Ministry.
- Its present role is to relieve the Regular Army from static duties and assist civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the communities is affected or the security of the country is threatened.
Civil Defence Volunteer Scheme:
- The Civil Defence Policy of the Government of India till the declaration of emergency in 1962, was confined to ask Indian States/UTs to keep ready civil protection plans for major cities under the then Emergency Relief Organisation (ERO) scheme.
- Chinese aggression in 1962 and Indo-Pak conflict in 1965 led to a considerable re-thinking about the policy and scope of Civil Defence.
- As a result, the Civil Defence Policy as it exists today, was evolved and Civil Defence legislation was enacted in the Parliament in 1968.
- The country was subjected to further hostile attacks from Pakistan in 1971 when the Civil Defence Organisation acquitted itself commendably.
- To meet the challenges of climate change and changed socio-economic and political scenario, the Civil Defence Act was suitably amended by the Civil Defence (Amendment) Act, 2009 by in 2010 to include the disaster management as an additional role for the Civil Defence Corps while retaining its primary role.
Major Tasks of Civil Defence
- To make sure that the public is warned of danger and provided with instructions on how to avoid hazards.
- Advice people to protect themselves by either evacuating the area or remain and take shelter.
- Organizing immediate relief to the survivors.
- Support emergency services
- Assist in recovery operations
Science & Technology
India climbs five places to 52 on Global Innovation Index
India is now ranked 52nd on the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019, a jump of 5 places over last year, and 29 places in the last five years – up from 81 in 2015.
Global Highlight of Global Innovation Index 2019:
- First Place: Switzerland
- Israel finds its place in the top ten for the first time.
- In Quality of Education pillar, China, India, and the Russian Federation hold the top 3 positions among middle income countries.
About Global Innovation Index 2019:
- The theme of the 2019 report is ‘medical innovation landscape of the next decade’.
- The GII 2019 ranked 129 economies based on 80 wide ranging indicators.
- These included aspects ranging from traditional measurements like research and development investments and international patent and trademark applications to newer indicators including mobile-phone app creation and high-tech exports.
About the Global Innovation Index:
- It is Co-published by World intellectual property organisation (WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD (a Business school in France).
- It is an annual ranking that quantifies the state of national innovation ecosystem across countries.
Key pillars of Global Innovation Index:
- Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication.
- Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.
- Each pillar is divided into sub-pillars and each sub-pillar is composed of individual indicators (80 in total in 2019).
India Specific Highlights of Global Innovation Index 2019
- India is ranked 52nd, representing the biggest jump (from 81 in 2015 to 52 in 2019) by any major economy.
- India improved its ranking in four out of seven pillars of Index which are:
- Knowledge and technology outputs (up 11 spots to 32nd)
- In this pillar, India ranks 1st in sub-pillar of ICT (information and communications technology) services exports and ranked 4th in labor productivity growth.
- Market sophistication (up 3 spots to 33rd)
- Human capital and research (up 3 spots to 53rd)
- In this pillar, two important variables have improved for India: Gross expenditure on R&D (50th) and expenditure by global R&D companies (15th).
- In Global R&D companies, India reaches the 15th spot as the second middle-income economy. In this pillar, the indicator ‘Graduates in science and engineering’ (7th) remains a relative strength for the country.
- Institutions (up 3 spots to 77th)
- Knowledge and technology outputs (up 11 spots to 32nd)
- It remains 2nd among middle-income economies in terms of the quality of innovation.
- India has constantly been maintaining its leadership position as the most innovative country in Central and South Asia region every year since 2011.
- India also outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita for nine consecutive years, only matched by three other countries. (Vietnam, Republic of Moldova, and Kenya).
- Bengaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhi ranked among the global top 100 world’s top science and technology clusters.
- However, India lost its rank in
- Business sophistication (down 1 spot to 65th)
- Infrastructure (down 2 spots to 79th)
- Relative outputs (7down 3 spots 8th)
- Among the sub-pillars, where India lost relative strength to other countries, the largest drops are found in logistics performance (down 9 spots to 43rd), Females employed with advanced degrees (down 10 spots to 103rd) and Printing and other media (down 12 spots to 88th).
- India ranks badly in Environmental performance (125th), New businesses (100th), and Entertainment and media market (60th).
Key Facts for Prelims
Vande Bharat Express
- Previously called Train 18, the Vande Bharat Express is India’s first indigenously built engineless semi-high speed train.
- It runs between Delhi and Varanasi at a maximum speed of 160 kmph.
- It has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 20 months.
- The train is a 100% ‘Make in India’ project and is claimed to be built at half the cost of a similar train set that is imported.
- It is energy-efficient as its coaches will be fitted with LED lights. Coaches will have automatic doors and retractable footsteps.
- It will be inter-connected with fully sealed gangways along with a GPS-based Passenger Information System. It is provided with Bio toilets.
IIT Kharagpur team develops app CARE4U for elderly people
In a move to help geriatric care, students of IIT Kharagpur have built an app which will inform the caregiver when the elderly person falls down with the exact location.
About the CARE4U App:
- CARE4U App is a mobile app that will connect the caregiver to the elderly person.
- The app has been built by an interdisciplinary team of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.
Features of the app:
- The network-based fall detection algorithm in the app can detect whether the elderly has fallen down.
- If there is a fall, it automatically calls the caregiver and emergency services along with the exact location of the elderly person.
- The caregiver can check what mood the senior citizen has been through in the day. The phone takes his picture whenever the elderly opens the app and a mood index is calculated.
- It has a cognitive intelligent chatbot for the elderly person to engage with.
- Most of the features of this app does not require internet connection.
- It has a ‘Medicine Reminder’ feature to remind both the elderly as well as the caregiver that it is time for the former to take medicine.
Underwater Military Museum
- Jordan recently opened its first underwater military museum off its Red Sea coast.
- According to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), the Underwater Military Museum Dive Site includes several tanks, an ambulance, a military crane, a troop carrier, an anti-aircraft battery, guns and a combat helicopter.
- The sunken items have been stationed along the coral reefs imitating a battle tactical formation.
- The northern Red Sea is popular with divers attracted by its coral reefs, which are in relatively good health despite global reef depletion due to global warming.
Location of Jordan:
- Jordan is an Arab country in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River.
- Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel and Palestine (West Bank) to the west.
- The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a small coastline to the Red Sea in its extreme south-west, but is otherwise landlocked.
- Jordan is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe.