Government Schemes & Policies
- Ministry of Power joins hands with Skill India to support electrification scheme ‘Saubhagya’
- Govt launches “Study in India” to attract foreign students
- NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission Signs SOI with SAP Global
Issues related to Health & Education
- Regulation of E-Cigarettes
- New ‘WomenInTech’ forum launched to promote STEM career interest and capability among girls
Bilateral & International Relations
- Exim Bank extends $500 mn loan facility to 15-nation group in Africa
- 3R Regional Forum in Asia and the Pacific
- Permanent Indus Commission meet begins in Delhi
Science & Technology
- An Earth-sized planet discovered by scientists in London
Key Facts for Prelims
- Cool EMS Service
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Government Schemes & Policies
Ministry of Power joins hands with Skill India to support electrification scheme ‘Saubhagya’
The Ministry of Power has partnered with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship to train the manpower in six states for speedy implementation of its Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna (Saubhagya Scheme).
- These six states are Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.
About Saubhagya scheme:
In September 2017, Ministry of Power has launched a new scheme called Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – “Saubhagya” – to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
- Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana aims to provide last mile electricity connectivity to all rural and urban households.
- Under the scheme, government will provide free electricity to all households identified under Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data 2011.
- Electricity connections will be given to APL families for Rs 500, which will be payable in 10 equal monthly instalments. The BPL cardholders will get free electricity connections.
- The total outlay of scheme is Rs. 16, 320 crore while Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) is Rs. 12,320 crore. The Central Government will provide largely funds for the Scheme to all States/UTs.
- The States and Union Territories are required to complete works of household electrification by 31st of December 2018.
- The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will be nodal agency for operationalisation of scheme throughout country.
- Gram Panchayat/Public institutions in rural areas will be authorised to collect application forms along with complete documentation, distribute bills and collect revenue in consultation with Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
Expected outcome of Scheme:
- Better health services
- Improvement education services
- Increased economic activities and jobs
- Improved quality of life especially for women
- Enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, etc.
- Environmental upgradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes
Govt launches “Study in India” to attract foreign students
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) has approved ‘Study in India’ programme to attract foreign students to pursue higher education in India.
- Government has approved expenditure of Rs. 150 crores for programme for two years 2018-19 and 2019-20 which will be primarily for brand promotion activities.
Objectives of the Study in India programme:
- Encourage more foreign students to choose India as destination for higher education.
- Double India’s market share of global education exports from less than 1% to 2%.
- Improve global ranking of Indian educational institutes.
Key features of the Study in India programme:
- The programme will provide meritorious foreign students fee waiver and scholarship.
- The proposed fee waiver and scholarship will be decided by institute concerned based on the predefined structure.
- The institutes concerned will bear expenditure on fee waiver based on cross-subsidisation or through its existing funding.
- Under it, 100% waiver of tuition fees will be only for the top 25% students, 50% waiver of tuition fees only for the next 25% students, 25% waiver of tuition fees only for the next 25% students and no waiver of tuition fee for remaining 25% of students.
- The programme will not affect number of seats which are meant for Indian students in any educational institute.
NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission Signs SOI with SAP Global
NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has signed Statement of Intent (SOI) with German tech company SAP to promote culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across 100 Atal Tinkering Labs across India.
- As part of SOI, SAP will adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) in 2018 for five years to nurture science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning among secondary school children across India.
- SAP will select secondary schools from Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- The collaboration will allow SAP to further ignite innovation in India’s large student population by providing right guidance, knowledge and infrastructure.
- SAP employee volunteers will coach and mentor students in advanced technology topics. Design lab of SAP Labs India, will provide trainings and allow students to gain hands-on experience with technology gadgets.
About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):
AIM is flagship initiative to promote culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in country. Its mandated is to create umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of country and revolutionize innovation eco-system.
- Its sub-schemes include establishing Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) and Atal Incubation Centers (AICs), for providing scaling up support to Established Incubation Centres.
- It also includes finding ultra-low cost solution to India’s most intractable problems through Atal Grand Challenges and Atal Vikas Challenges.
- Till date, AIM has selected 2441 schools across India to establish ATLs, covering 93% of total districts in India and 98% of upcoming smart cities representing all states and 5 out of 7 UTs.
- Develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of economy.
- Provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness.
- Create umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country.
What are Atal Tinkering Labs?
Atal Tinkering Labs are meant to be non-prescriptive by nature, and mentors are expected to be enablers rather than instructors.
- ATLs are innovation play workspaces for students between Grade VI to Grade XII, stimulating innovations combining science & technology.
- These open-ended innovation workspaces equipped with state of the art technologies like 3D printers, Robotics, Sensor Technology Kits, Internet of Things, miniaturized Electronics etc enable the students to learn and solve local community problems using emerging Technologies.
- Students are encouraged to explore and experience Design Thinking and Innovation, using a do-it-yourself approach, and develop innovative solutions to India’s social, community or economic problems.
Issues related to Health & Education
Regulation of E-Cigarettes
WHO has released a report on E- Cigarettes and its effects on health.
Highlights of the report:
- As per the report, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (also known as e-cigarettes) emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products.
- In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
- The WHO report further says that although nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration.
- Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.
- The evidence is sufficient to warn children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age against ENDS use and nicotine.
New ‘WomenInTech’ forum launched to promote STEM career interest and capability among girls
RBS India in association with prominent technology corporates, Academia and government participation has setup an exclusive ‘By Invite Only’ platform ‘Women In Tech’.
- The agenda of the forum is to work towards encouraging more women to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as a key career choice.
About the forum:
- WomenInTech has been designed “to help accelerate the national agenda of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and further to work in alignment with the UN’s focus area this year – ‘Turning promises into action’.
- It would “address the need for policy making collectively as an industry to ensure that workplaces prod more girls to take up careers in STEM on one end and on the other hand are conducive for working women to aspire for senior level roles”.
- One of its initiatives is to build an independent corpus of funds, in collaboration with education NGOs, to sponsor the tertiary education of at least three young women to begin with from economically weak backgrounds in the field of engineering to top universities in the United States and United Kingdom.
- According to the World Bank, women make up 40% of the world’s workforce. Yet, the tech field is notoriously male-dominated at all levels and fares considerably worse that non-technology industries. Tech industry has merely 10 – 15% female workforce.
- While studies continuously corroborate a strong business case for inclusion of more women in tech for enhanced profitability and innovativeness, the percent continues to be low and the pipeline often inconsistent and unavailable.
- Lack of mentoring and lack of female role models are two of the most quoted barriers that women in technology workspace identify.
Bilateral & International Relations
Exim Bank extends $500 mn loan facility to 15-nation group in Africa
The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) has inked line of credit (LoC) agreement with Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) to provide US $500 million credit facility to fund various development projects in 15-member countries of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region in western-south Africa.
- The LoC of US $500 million to EBID is umbrella limit for financing developmental projects in 15-member countries of EBID in ECOWAS region.
About Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS):
- Founded in May 1975, the ECOWAS is regional group of 15 West African countries.
- It was founded with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos.
- Its mandate is to promote economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries.
- Its 15 member countries are Benin, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
3R Regional Forum in Asia and the Pacific
India is getting ready to host the 8th 3R Regional Forum in Asia and the Pacific in its cleanest city, Indore in the month of April 2018.
- The event is co-organised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) Government of India, the Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan (MOEJ), and the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD).
- Theme: “Achieving Clean Water, Clean Land and Clean Air through 3R and Resource Efficiency- A 21st Century Vision for Asia-Pacific Communities”.
Significance of this event for India:
- The Forum comes at an opportune time with the Indian government’s focus on scientific management of 100% municipal solid waste through its ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
- Through this Forum, India aims to strengthen this focus through its ‘Mission Zero Waste’ approach thereby encouraging cities, industries and other diverse stakeholders to look at waste as a resource.
What is 3R Regional Forum?
- The Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific was launched in 2009 in Tokyo, Japan.
- The United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) has been organizing International Regional Forum on 3Rs since 2009 with the support of Government of Japan.
- It promotes the concept of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in industry, service and agriculture sector. The overall objective is to establish sound material cycle society by adopting resource conservation, techniques and technologies.
- It provides a strategic platform for addressing the needs and priorities of 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) in Asian countries and sharing best practices from the region, including emerging concerns in waste management.
- In the last seven years, the Forum has been organised in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Maldives, Japan and Australia and has been instrumental in providing innovative, effective and smart 3R based solutions.
- Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Cook Islands, People’s Republic of China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Nepal, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.
Permanent Indus Commission meet begins in Delhi
India and Pakistan will hold a meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission to discuss various issues under the Indus Waters Treaty.
- This will be the 114th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), which should meet at least once a year as per the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
About Indus Water treaty:
The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank.
- The treaty was signed in Karachi in 1960 by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
- According to this agreement, control over the three “eastern” rivers — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej — was given to India, while control over the three “western” rivers — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum — to Pakistan.
- As per the provisions in the treaty, India can use only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river.
- A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing.
- The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably.
It is important to note that China has been kept out of the Treaty although Indus originates from Tibet. If China decides to stop or change the flow of the river, it will affect both India and Pakistan.
What is PIC?
Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India-Pakistan, created to implement and manage goals of Indus Waters Treaty.
- Under the treaty, it is required that India and Pakistan meet every financial year.
- The Indus Commission is the first step for conflict resolution. If an agreement cannot be reached at the Commission level, the dispute is to be referred to the two governments.
- If the governments too fail to reach an agreement, the Treaty provides an arbitration mechanism. The last meeting of the commission was held in July 2016.
- The meeting of the PIC is held alternately in India and Pakistan every year.
- The PIC had last met in March 2017 in Islamabad.
Science & Technology
An Earth-sized planet discovered by scientists in London
Scientists using Kepler 2 telescope have discovered hot, metallic, Earth-sized planet named K2-229b orbiting dwarf star located 260 million light years away.
- They had employed Doppler spectroscopy technique also known as ‘wobble method’ to discover and characterise this faraway planet.
What is K2-229b?
- K2-229b planet is almost 20% larger than Earth but has mass which is over two-and-a-half times greater.
- It is located very close to its host star (0.012 AU, around a hundredth of the distance between Earth and Sun), which itself is medium-sized active K dwarf in Virgo Constellation.
- K2-229b orbits its star every fourteen hours. Its day side temperature reaches over 2000 degrees Celsius.
- K2-229b has same high density that of Mercury-like planets.
- It is also innermost planet in system of at least three planets, though all three orbit much closer to their star than Mercury.
Significance of this discovery:
- The dense, metallic nature of K2-229b has numerous potential origins. The one hypothesis is that its atmosphere might have been eroded by intense stellar wind and flares, as it is so close to its star.
- Another possibility is that K2-229b was formed after huge impact between two giant astronomical bodies in space billions of years ago – much like theory that Moon was formed after Earth collided with body size of Mars.
- K2-229b is similar to Mercury, knowing more about it can potentially give more clues of formation our planets in our own solar system.
- Scientists calculated size, position and mass of K2-229b by measuring radial velocity of star and finding out starlight ‘wobbles’ during orbit, due to gravitational tug from planet, which changes depending on planet’s size.
Key Facts for Prelims
Cool EMS Service
- Department of Posts under Ministry of Communications has launched Cool EMS Service between India and Japan.
- It is one-way service from Japan to India which allows customers in India to import Japanese food items for personal use which is allowed under Indian regulations.
- Initially, it will be available in Delhi only.
- Food items will be carried by Japan Post in special cool boxes containing refrigerant to preserve quality of food items.
- Cool EMS service also has all other features like track and trace, etc of Express Mail Service (EMS).