Polity & Governance
- Blue coloured ‘Bal Aadhaar’ launched
- Prison reforms: SC seeks details of jails having over 150% occupancy
Government Schemes & Policies
- Gobar-Dhan Yojana: a ‘waste to energy’ conversion scheme
- Centre unveils another draft of Pesticide Management Bill
Issues related to Health & Education
- Govt to provide free viral load testing to people living with HIV/AIDS
- IITs set to get 25 per cent of govt loans for higher education institutes
- National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) at IIT Chennai
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Assam will mark September 22 as Rhino Day
Bilateral & International Relations
- CSIR-CIMAP to host coordinating center on medicinal plants
Science & Technology
- India ranked 47th in Inclusive Internet Index 2018
Key Facts for Prelims
- Amma two-wheeler Scheme
- China elected as Vice President of Financial Action Task Force
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Polity & Governance
Blue coloured ‘Bal Aadhaar’ launched
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal authority for issuing Aadhaar cards has rollout ‘Bal Aadhaar’, meant for kids under 5 years of age.
Key features of Bal Aadhaar:
- Bal Aadhaar will have blue colour to differentiate it with regular Aadhaar.
- It will be linked with one of parent’s Aadhaar card.
- No biometric details will be captured like fingerprints and iris scan. However, once the kid crosses 5 years of age, then regular Aadhaar will be issued, which will have the biometric details.
- Bal Aadhaar will not abe necessity per se, but it may be required when kid grows up, and applies for Government scholarships or grants for higher education.
- Aadhaar rules mandate compulsory conversion of all Bal Aadhaar cards into proper Aadhaar card with biometric details once the kid turns 5 years.
- Aadhaar is 12-digit number which acts as proof of identity and address anywhere in the country.
- It is considered as world’s largest national identification project.
- Its collects biometric and demographic data of residents and stores them in a centralised database.
- It is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
Is Aadhar compulsory?
- Aadhar is a compulsory identity card. However, it is not mandatory for children under 5 to get an Aadhaar card.
- It is needed for attending educational programmes overseas and availing of government scholarships.
Prison reforms: SC seeks details of jails having over 150% occupancy
The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to look into the issue of overcrowding of prisons and furnish figures before it regarding the population in the jails where occupancy was over 150 per cent as on December 31 last year.
- The apex court further agreed to hear issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and responses received from States and Union Territories on open jails.
- Supreme court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.
What are UTRCs?
- The UTRCs, set up in every district, deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have completed their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them.
What are open prisons?
- Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening.
- The concept was brought in to assimilate the convicts with society and reduce the psychological pressure and lack of confidence they faced lack of confidence in returning to lives outside prison.
- The management of prisons falls exclusively under the domain of the state government, as per the seventh schedule of the constitution.
- In every state, the prison administrative machinery works under the chief of prisons who is a senior ranking IPS officer.
- National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society. It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- Its aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.
Functions of NALSA:
- NALSA identifies specific categories of marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for implementation of legal service programmes.
- It provides services of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal.
- It also organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- It works in close coordination with various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies.
Government Schemes & Policies
Gobar-Dhan Yojana: a ‘waste to energy’ conversion scheme
The government is planning to create an online platform for trading cow dung and agricultural waste under its recently announced waste to wealth scheme, GOBAR-DHAN (Galvanising Organic Bio Agro Resources) scheme.
What is the GOBAR-Dhan Yojana?
- The Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) scheme was first announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech on February 1.
- The scheme would focus on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, biogas and bio-CNG. It will help in keeping the village clean while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders.
Significance of the GOBAR-Dhan Yojana:
- The scheme will be hugely beneficial for country as India is home to highest cattle population in world (around 300 million in number) which produces around 3 million tonnes of dung.
- It will encourage farmers to consider dung and other waste not just as waste but as source of income.
- The scheme will provide many benefits to rural people by keeping villages clean and sanitized, improving livestock health and increasing farm yields.
- Under it, biogas generation will help to increase self-reliance in energy utilized for cooking and lighting.
- The scheme will augment income of farmers and cattle herders. It will create new opportunities for jobs linked to waste collection, transportation, biogas sales etc.
- It will also provide stable fuel supply in market for oil companies and accessible credit in market through government schemes and banks for entrepreneurs.
- Under it, villagers will be mobilized to create self-help groups (SHGs) and creative societies that will help in clean energy and green jobs initiative.
Centre unveils another draft of Pesticide Management Bill
The Centre has released a new draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 to replace an almost 50-year old legislation governing the plant chemicals sector.
- Proposed as a step towards promoting safe use of pesticides, this Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides.
About the Pesticide Management Bill, 2008:
Definition of pesticide:
- The Bill defines a pesticide as any substance used to destroy or control pests in agricultural commodities or animal feeds. Pesticides used for non-agricultural purposes, such as health care, are thus excluded from this definition.
Highlight of the bill:
- The Bill establishes a Central Pesticides Board to advise the government on matters related to pesticide regulation, manufacture, use and disposal. It establishes a registration committee to register pesticides.
- No pesticide can be registered unless tolerance limits for its residues on crops and commodities are specified under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
- The Bill establishes a procedure to licence manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides, to be administered by state governments. Pesticide inspectors shall inspect facilities and collect pesticide samples while pesticide analysts shall test the samples collected.
Critical analysis of the bill:
- Farmers are opposing the bill as it does not address the core issues of applying penal provisions on companies marketing pesticides.
- The draft bill also does not ease the powers of regulation and registration to the state governments which has been a long pending demand of many governments.
- Also, the burden of spurious pesticide has once again passed on to the Registration Committee (RC) which is set to expanded under the new Bill.
Issues related to Health & Education
Govt to provide free viral load testing to people living with HIV/AIDS
The Union government launched a scheme to provide free of cost viral load testing, at least once a year, for 1.2 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and are on treatment.
What is viral load testing?
- The viral load testing is used to monitor the effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) over time.
- It measures the amount of HIV genetic material (RNA) in the blood and reports how many copies of the virus are present.
Significance of viral load testing:
- The routine viral load testing will optimize the utilization of first line regimens, thus preventing drug resistance and ensuring the longevity of people living with HIV.
- Viral load testing will empower medical officers at ART to detect failure on first line treatment early and therefore save PLHIV from developing resistance to drugs.
- It will also help in strengthening ‘Mission Sampark’ in tracking LFU (loss to follow up) PLHIV and to be brought under ART services.
- India has the third largest population of people with HIV after South Africa and Nigeria, according to UNAIDS.
- The report released in July 2017 revealed that in India, only 49% of patients were on Antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2016.
- According to the report, India had 2.1 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016 and 36.7 million globally.
- In 2017, India revised the ART treatment protocols to initiate all PLHIV on ART.
- The ‘treat all’ initiative was started to ensure that treatment is started early and the virus transmission is curtailed both at the individual and the community level.
- According to the union health ministry, about 1.2 million PLHIV are availing the benefit of free treatment from more than 530 ART centres.
IITs set to get 25 per cent of govt loans for higher education institutes
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will get largest chunk of loans on offer under Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE), new funding model scheme for all centrally-run institutes.
About RISE scheme:
- RISE scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017-18.
- It aims to lend low-cost funds to government higher educational institutions.
- Under it, all centrally-funded institutes (CFIs), including central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs and IISERs can borrow from a Rs 1,00,000 crore corpus over next 4 years to expand and build new infrastructure.
- It will be financed via restructured Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), a non-banking financial company.
- With introduction of RISE, all financing for infrastructure development at CFIs in higher education will be done through HEFA.
- The Union Cabinet had approved HEFA in September 2016 as a Special Purpose Vehicle with a public sector bank (Canara Bank).
- The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with an authorised capital of Rs. 2,000 crore. The Government equity would be Rs. 1,000 crore.
- The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crore for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.
- The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.
- The HEFA would finance the civil and lab infrastructure projects through a 10-year loan.
- The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ (earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc.) of the institutions. The Government would service the interest portion through the regular Plan assistance.
- All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA.
- For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market.
- Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals.
National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) at IIT Chennai
The Ministry of Shipping has laid foundation stone for setting up of a National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) at IIT Chennai to give technological support to ports and maritime sector.
- NTCPWC will be set up under Shipping Ministry’s flagship Sagarmala programme.
- NTCPWC’s mandate is to act as technology arm of Ministry of Shipping for providing engineering and technological inputs and support for Ports, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and other institutions.
- It will act as a technology arm of the Ministry of Shipping for providing engineering and technological inputs and support for Ports, Inland Waterways Authority of India and other institutions.
- It will carry on applied research in the areas of 2D and 3D Modelling of ocean, coastal and estuarine flows, sediment transport and morphodynamics, navigation and maneuvering, dredging and siltation, port and coastal engineering-structures and breakwaters.
- It will provide indigenous software and technology, make technical guidelines and standards and address port and maritime issues with models and simulations.
- The centre will not only help generate new technology and innovations but also work towards their successful commercialization. It will provide learning opportunities for the people working in Ministry of Shipping.
- It is being set up at cost of Rs 70.53 crore to be shared by Ministry of Shipping, IWAI and Major Ports.
- It will become self-sustainable in three years through industry consultancy projects for Indian and global port and maritime sector.
About Sagarmala programme:
- The Sagarmala project aims to promote port-led development along India’s 7500 km long coastline by developing string of ports around coast.
- It will develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond.
- It envisages transforming existing ports into modern world class ports as well as developing new ones.
- It also aims to develop efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways.
- Its three key components are Port Modernization, Efficient Evacuation Systems and Coastal Economic Development.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Assam will mark September 22 as Rhino Day
The Assam government will be observing September 22 as Rhino Day to generate public awareness on protection of one-horned rhinoceros (pachyderm) — the pride of the state.
About One-horned rhinoceros:
- One-horned rhinoceros is the largest of the Asian Rhinos.
- It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- Its preferred habitat is alluvial flood plains and areas containing tall grasslands along the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Formerly, they were extensively distributed in the Gangetic plains, but now they are restricted to small habitats in Indo-Nepal terai and North Bengal, and Assam.
- They are found in Kaziranga, Orang, Pobitara, Jaldapara (in Assam), Dudhwa (UP) National Park.
- Kaziranga National Park hosts two-thirds of the world’s Great One-horned rhinoceros (68% of worldwide population).
Bilateral & International Relations
CSIR-CIMAP to host coordinating center on medicinal plants
Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has entered into a MoU with the Regional Center for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT) of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for designating Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow (CSIR-CIMAP) as Coordinating Center on Medicinal Plants.
- The IORA Centre at CSIR-CIMAP will establish database on important medicinal plants, their value added products, related experts and industries of IORA member states.
- It will also organize meetings and training programmes to promote trade, commerce and scientific exchanges to complement strength and limitation of member states.
- The Coordination Centre will promote cooperation in area of traditional knowledge related to medicinal plants for welfare of people of IORA member states.
- It will also provide opportunity for two important member states of IORA (India and Iran) to enhance cooperation between them.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
- The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
- It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
- The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.
- The organisation was first established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation.
- The Association comprises 21 member states and 7 dialogue partners, the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation and the Indian Ocean Research Group has observer status.
- Thanks to their strategic locations and access to major waterways, these zones have formed a virtual network of trade connections spanning continents including Asia, Australia and Africa.
- To promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the region and member states.
- To focus on those areas of economic cooperation which provide maximum opportunities for development, shared interest and mutual benefits.
- To promote liberalisation, remove impediments and lower barriers towards a freer and enhanced flow of goods, services, investment, and technology within the Indian Ocean rim.
About IORA Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (IORA RCSTT):
- IORA RCSTT intergovernmental regional organization established in October 2008 pursuant to recommendation of Academic Group of IORA.
- It is headquartered in Tehran, Iran.
- It has the status of the subsidiary body of the IORA, functioning under authority of IORA secretariat and IORA Council of Ministers.
- Develop centre of excellence to facilitate transfer of technology at regional level with open regionalism.
- Assist Member States and dialogue partners of IORA to institutionalize joint efforts aimed at commercializing of technology with strategic value for region
- Provide national focal points with platform to supply technical support and coordinate direction for projects of RCSTT in form of regional clustering and networking of key stakeholders at the international and domestic levels
- Serve as a bridge to link the region to relevant international centers of excellence
- Facilitate joint technology development, dissemination and commercialization among Member states.
Science & Technology
India ranked 47th in Inclusive Internet Index 2018
India was ranked 47th out of 86 nations in the Inclusive Internet Index 2018, which was released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
- The EIU was commissioned by social media giant Facebook.
- This year’s index covered 91 per cent of the world’s population and an expanded data set of 86 countries, up from 75 countries in 2017.
- It provides rigorous benchmark of national-level Internet inclusion across four categories: Availability, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness.
Highlights of the report:
- The report ranked India at the 47th position when it comes to inclusive Internet and connectivity for all due to low usage and poor quality.
- Among the Asian nations, India featured in the middle at the 12th position from a total of 23.
- India was placed at or near the top of the lower-middle-income bracket on most indicators, except for availability, where it was ranked 13th out of 23.
- India’s position is compromised by low usage and poor quality despite relatively strong infrastructure.
- The top five in the list included Sweden at the 1st position followed by Singapore, the United States, Denmark and South Korea.
- The bottom five in the list included Congo at the 86th position followed closely by Malawi, Madagascar, Liberia and Burkina Faso.
Key Facts for Prelims
Amma two-wheeler Scheme
- On the 70th birth anniversary of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Amma Two-Wheeler Scheme.
- Under the scheme, every beneficiary will be given 50% of cost of a two-wheeler or grant of Rs. 25,000. It will cover one lakh working women every year.
- The beneficiaries included women who worked in the private sector, an accountant, a salesperson and an assistant in a private store.
- Ministry of Railways has launched SRIJAN (Station Rejuvenation through Joint ActioN), an idea competition for development of 635 railway stations.
- It was launched on MyGov portal by Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC).
- The winners in the SRIJAN competition will get certificates and worthy ideas will be incorporated in the designs.
- The winner for logo competition will get cash prize of Rs 75,000/-and for tagline also will get Rs 75,000/-.
China elected as Vice President of Financial Action Task Force
- China was elected as the Vice President of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body mandated to combat terror financing and money laundering.
- China’s election to the FATF assumes significance as Pakistan is set to be put in the FATF ‘grey list’ in June 2018. The grey lists puts countries under the scanner for not implementing the objectives of the task force.