Issues related to Health & Education
- Jammu & Kashmir Student Exchange Programme ‘Maitreyi Yatra’ concludes
- Payments banks, small finance banks to offer Atal Pension Yojana
Bilateral & International Relations
- China reveals ‘Polar Silk Road’ ambition in Arctic policy white paper
Art & Culture
- Traditional Indian Chhau dance performance comes to Taiwan
Science & Technology
- Scientists have cloned monkeys for the first time
- RemoveDebris: Space junk mission prepares for launch
Key Facts for Prelims
- Indian origin 10-year-old beats Einstein, Hawking in Mensa IQ test
- Alpha wins Rs. 45 crore firing simulator order from Army
- India’s first floating market opens in Kolkata
- ‘Mahatma Gandhi Sarbat Vikas Yojana’
- ‘Apni Gaddi, Apna Rozgar’ scheme
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Issues related to Health & Education
Jammu & Kashmir Student Exchange Programme ‘Maitreyi Yatra’ concludes
The closing ceremony of Jammu & Kashmir Student Exchange programme ‘Maitreyi Yatra’ was recently held.
About Maitreyi Yatra:
The Maitreyi Yatra is an exchange programme for schoolchildren as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the J&K government and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- The Student Exchange Programme is organized by Ministry of Human Resource development.
- The objective of this programme is to integrate the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of the country and to promote brotherhood and harmony.
- It provides a good opportunity for the youth of J&K to be acquainted with culture, language and development story of different parts of the country.
Payments banks, small finance banks to offer Atal Pension Yojana
The Union Finance Ministry has relaxed norms of Atal Pension Yojana (APY) to allow small finance banks and payment banks to offer APY distribution.
- The move is expected to help expand coverage of the scheme and strengthen existing channels of APY distribution.
- During financial year 2016-17, the scheme has earned return of 13.91%. There are more than 84 lakh subscribers registered under APY scheme with an asset base of more than Rs. 3,194 crore.
- At present 233 Banks and Department of Post are involved with the implementation of the scheme.
- So far, 11 payment banks and 10 small finance banks have received licences from the Reserve Bank of India to start banking operations in India.
About Atal Pension Yojana:
Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is a pension scheme for citizens of India focussed on the unorganised sector workers.
- Under the APY, guaranteed minimum pension of Rs. 1,000/-, 2,000/-, 3,000/-, 4,000 and 5,000/- per month will be given at the age of 60 years in turn for the contribution varying from Rs 42 to Rs 210 per month.
- The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the nodal agency for APY and is working out plans to improve reach and information dissemination.
- Any Citizen of India between 18 – 40 years of age can join APY scheme.
- Government co-contribution is available for 5 years, i.e., from 2015-16 to 2019-20 for the subscribers who join the scheme during the period from 1st June, 2015 to 31st December, 2015 and who are not covered by any Statutory Social Security Schemes and are not income tax payers.
The APY scheme follows same investment pattern as applicable to National Pension Scheme (NPS) contribution of Central government employees.
About Payments banks:
- Payments banks are a new model of banks conceptualised by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to meet government’s financial inclusion target.
- It will be set up as a differentiated bank and will confine its activities to acceptance of demand deposits, remittance services, Internet banking and other specified services but cannot undertake lending services.
- Payments banks can accept deposits up to Rs. 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.
- Payments banks will mainly deal in remittance services.
- They will not lend to customers and will have to deploy their funds in government papers and bank deposits.
- The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to equity capital will have to be at least 40% for the first five years.
- They can issue ATM/debit cards but not credit cards.
- They can also issue other prepaid payment instruments.
- They can distribute non-risk sharing simple financial products like mutual funds and insurance products.
- Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are not be allowed to open accounts in payment banks.
- Apart from amounts maintained as Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) with the Reserve Bank on its outside demand and time liabilities, it will be required to invest minimum 75% of its “demand deposit balances” in Statutory Liquidity Ratio(SLR) eligible Government securities/treasury bills with maturity up to one year and hold maximum 25% in current and time/fixed deposits with other scheduled commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management.
- This new model of banking allows mobile firms, supermarket chains and others to cater to banking requirements of individuals and small businesses.
Difference between Payment Banks and Small Finance Banks:
- The major difference between payment banks and small finance banks is their area of operation. Payment bank can only open savings account and current accounts but cannot lend money while small finance bank’s main aim is to lend money to farmers and small businesses.
- Usually, major earnings of the bank come from interest difference between deposits and lending but payment banks would run on different niche and their earnings would be from the charges levied on transactions. But in case of small finance banks, their source of earnings would be same as of any other scheduled commercial banks.
- Payment banks aims to provide banking through high-technology and low-cost operations while small finance banks may or may not be tech-savvy.
Bilateral & International Relations
China reveals ‘Polar Silk Road’ ambition in Arctic policy white paper
China released its first official Arctic policy white paper, outlining its ambition for a “Polar Silk Road” amid growing concerns over China’s activities in the region.
[IASToppers’ Exclusive Mains Article on this issue will be posted on 31st January 2018]
Art & Culture
Traditional Indian Chhau dance performance comes to Taiwan
A traditional Indian Chhau dance show – “Chhau Nritya: Dancing Tales from India” will be staged at National Palace Museum in Taipei City as part of efforts to strengthen cultural exchanges between Taiwan and India.
- The show will be jointly organized by NPM and India-Taipei Association.
About Chhau dance:
The Chhau dance of Eastern India — Orissa, Jharkhand, and West Bengal – is a blend of martial traditions, temple rituals, and folk and popular performance of this region.
- The themes often revolve around episodes from the epics Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas, traditional folklore, local legends and abstract themes through the medium of dance and a music ensemble that consists primarily of indigenous drums.
- In its traditional context, the dance is intimately connected with the festivals and rituals of this region. Important among these is the Chaitra Parva celebrated in the month of April. The month of Chaitra celebrates the advent of spring and the start of the harvesting season.
- The melody is interwoven and is provided by reed pipes like the Mohuri, Turi-Bheri and Shehnai. Though vocal music is not used in Chhau, the melodies are based on songs from the Jhumur folk repertoire, the devotional Kirtan, classical Hindustani ‘ragas’, and traditional Oriya sources.
- Dhol, Dhumsa, Nagada, Chadchadi and Jhanj provide accompaniment to Chhau dance.
- As masks form an important feature of this dance it is called ‘Chhau’, which literally translates to ‘mask’. The performers wield weapons such as swords and shields while dancing.
Location of Taiwan:
- Taiwan officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia.
- Its neighbours include China (officially the People’s Republic of China, PRC) to the west, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south.
- Taiwan is the most populous state that is not a member of the United Nations and the largest economy outside the UN.
Science & Technology
Scientists have cloned monkeys for the first time
Chinese scientists for first time have successfully cloned two identical long-tailed macaques (monkeys), named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua using same technique that produced Dolly sheep in 1996.
- This development makes them world’s first primates – the order of mammals that includes monkeys, apes and humans – to be cloned from non-embryonic cell.
- The technique is called somatic cell transfer, or SCNT.
Significance of these developments:
- Genetically identical animals are useful in research because confounding factors caused by genetic variability in non-cloned animals can complicate experiments. This development breaks technical barrier for the cloning of primate species, including humans.
- It will make possible to study diseases in populations of genetically uniform monkey and test new drugs for a range of diseases before clinical use.
- The birth of these clones also brings up ethical issues. Humans are in the primate family. With this birth, these scientists have broken a barrier and that means the technique could, in theory, be applied to humans.
- The research underscores important role at the cutting-edge of biosciences, where scientists have at times pushed ethical boundaries but calls for debate on what should or should not be acceptable practice in primate cloning.
- Overall, these two are not the first primates to be cloned. Scientists in 1999 created Tetra, a rhesus monkey, but used what researchers consider a simpler cloning method that produces a more limited number of off spring. In Tetra’s case, scientists split the embryos, much like what happens naturally when identical twins develop.
About Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)
- SCNT is a laboratory technique for creating an ovum with donor nucleus. In it, nucleus containing the organism’s DNA of somatic cell (a body cell other than sperm or egg cell) is removed and rest of cell discarded.
- The nucleus of somatic cell is then inserted into enucleated egg cell which reprograms somatic cell nucleus by the host cell.
- The egg, now containing nucleus of somatic cell, is stimulated with a shock and will begin to divide forming blastocyst (an early stage embryo with about 100 cells) with almost identical DNA to original organism.
Applications of SCNT:
- It can be used in embryonic stem cell research, regenerative medicine i.e. “therapeutic cloning.”
- It can also be used as first step in process of reproductive cloning.
RemoveDebris: Space junk mission prepares for launch
RemoveDebris, a mission that will test different methods to clean up space junk is getting ready for launch.
About RemoveDebris mission:
- RemoveDEBRIS is aimed at performing key Active Debris Removal (ADR) technology demonstrations (e.g capture, deorbiting) representative of an operational scenario during a low-cost mission using novel key technologies for ADR.
- The project is co-ordinated by the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, UK, and involves the collaboration of a number of mission partners.
- The mission will comprise of a main satellite platform that once in orbit will deploy two CubeSats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate some of the technologies (net capture, harpoon capture, vision-based navigation, dragsail de-orbitation).
Growing problem of space debris:
- Scientists have warned that the growing problem of space debris is putting spacecraft and astronauts at risk.
- The latest data from the European Space Agency suggest some 7,500 tonnes of space debris now orbits Earth. It ranges from defunct satellites and rocket parts to nuts, bolts, shards of metal and even flecks of paint.
- Any collisions can cause a great deal of damage and generate even more pieces of debris.
- International space guidelines suggest that satellites should de-orbit themselves after 25 years – but it is difficult to ensure everyone plays by the rules.
Key Facts for Prelims
Indian origin 10-year-old beats Einstein, Hawking in Mensa IQ test
- Mehul Garg, a 10-year-old Indian-origin boy in the UK has become the youngest applicant in a decade to achieve the highest score in the Mensa IQ test, beating geniuses like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
About Mensa IQ test:
- Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world.
- It is non-profit organization open to people who score at 98th percentile or higher on standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.
- It was established in October 1946 and is headquartered in Lincolnshire, England.
- Its mission is to identify and foster human intelligence for benefit of humanity, encourage research into nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence and provide stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.
Alpha wins Rs. 45 crore firing simulator order from Army
- Alpha Design Technologies Ltd. has signed a Rs. 45-crore deal with the Ministry of Defence to supply to the Army indigenous simulators for gunnery and missile firing from BMP II vehicles.
- The BMP II is a Soviet-origin amphibious infantry fighting vehicle.
- The simulators will be used to train missile firing personnel.
Significance of this deal:
- Army firing personnel currently train fully on actual BMP vehicles and use of simulators would save vehicle wear and tear to a large extent.
India’s first floating market opens in Kolkata
- India’s first floating market is now open in Kolkata’s Patuli area in West Bengal.
- The market houses over 200 shops.
- Set up by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), the market functions solely on boats at the lake in Patuli, where shopkeepers sell fruits, vegetables, fish among other produce.
- The lake has been transformed into the floating market similar to the one in Thailand.
- The aim of floating market is to rehabilitate over 200 shopkeepers from nearby market that was demolished for the widening of Eastern Metropolitan Bypass (EMB) — an important road that connects the northern parts of Kolkata o the eastern and southern tips.
‘Mahatma Gandhi Sarbat Vikas Yojana’
- Punjab chief minister launched the release of benefits under ‘Mahatma Gandhi Sarbat Vikas Yojana’ aimed at the inclusive growth of the distressed sections of the society.
- The objective of scheme is to identify poor and distressed households which have been deprived of the benefits of the various welfare schemes launched by state government.
- It will be on the line of Antyodaya principles (Antyodaya’ means rise of the last person) and will be implemented in the state’s rural areas.
- Its purpose is to benefit 18 marginalized sections living in rural areas of state.
‘Apni Gaddi, Apna Rozgar’ scheme
- On the momentous occasion of Republic Day, the Punjab government has flagged off five motor bikes to mark the launch of ‘Apni Gaddi, Apna Rozgar’ under the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Employment Generation scheme.
- These bike taxis under the scheme was aimed at generating jobs for the state’s unemployed youth.
- This initiative would encourage youth to engage in entrepreneurial business, while facilitating last-mile connectivity for commuters.