Polity & Governance
- Niti Aayog favours simultaneous LS, assembly polls from 2024
- Latest edition of consolidated FDI policy released
- ICEX launches first derivatives contract in diamonds
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Germany ink agreement to improve grid integration of renewable energy
- UN nuclear watchdog opens uranium bank in Kazakhstan
Science & Technology
- Gobindobhog rice gets geographical indication status
Key Facts for Prelims
- National Sports Talent Search Portal
- August 29: National Sports Day
- ‘Cleanliness is Service’ campaign
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Polity & Governance
Niti Aayog favours simultaneous LS, assembly polls from 2024
In its report released recently, the Niti Aayog has favoured conducting synchronised two-phase Lok Sabha and assembly elections from 2024 in “national interest”.
- The Aayog has said that all elections in India should happen in a free, fair and synchronised manner to ensure minimum “campaign mode” disruption to governance.
Important recommendations made by the NITI Aayog
- To implement this in the national interest, a focused group of stakeholders comprising constitutional and subject matter experts, think tanks, government officials and representatives of various political parties should be formed to work out appropriate implementation related details.
- This may include drafting appropriate Constitution and statutory amendments, agreeing on a workable framework to facilitate transition to simultaneous elections, developing a stakeholder communication plan and various operational details.
- It has made the Election Commission the nodal agency to look into the suggestion and set a “timeline” of March 2018 for this purpose.
Proponents of this proposal:
- The recommendation of the Aayog assumes significance as former president Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pitched for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
- Mukherjee in his speech on the eve of this year’s Republic Day had favoured holding Lok Sabha and assembly elections together.
- While Modi had said simultaneous elections would “cause some loss to all, including us” but political parties should not look at the idea through the narrow prism of politics.
Why we need simultaneous elections?
- Elections are held all the time and continuous polls lead to a lot of expenditure. More than Rs1,100 crore was spent on the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the expenditure had shot up to Rs4,000 crore in 2014.
- Also, over a crore government employees, including a large number of teachers, are involved in the electoral process. Thus, the continuous exercise causes maximum harm to the education sector.
- Security forces also have to be diverted for the electoral work even as the country’s enemy keeps plotting against the nation and terrorism remains a strong threat.
Is simultaneous elections a good idea?
- This will help save public money.
- It will be a big relief for political parties that are always in campaign mode.
- It will allow political parties to focus more on policy and governance.
- The time is ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously.
- It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties.
Latest edition of consolidated FDI policy released
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has released its latest edition of consolidated Foreign Direct Investment Policy incorporating all the changes in rules and procedures notified by the government over the past year.
- It is an initiative aimed at ensuring greater ease of doing business in India and an investor-friendly climate to foreign investors so that the country attracts more FDI.
- The past one year has seen FDI policy being liberalised in sectors including defence, civil aviation, construction and development, news broadcasting and private security agencies. These reforms have been incorporated in the document.
Highlights of the policy
- The consolidated policy lays down the general conditions on FDI, procedures for government approval and sector specific conditions on FDI.
- For the first time, the document has included start-ups. As per the norms, start-ups can raise up to 100 per cent of funds from Foreign Venture Capital Investor (FVCI).
- The start-ups can issue equity or equity linked instruments or debt instruments to FVCI against receipt of foreign remittance.
- Person residing outside India (other than citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh) can purchase convertible notes issued by Indian start-up company for Rs 25 lakh or more in a single tranche.
- Non Resident Indians can also acquire convertible notes on non-repatriation basis.
- A citizen of Pakistan or an entity incorporated in Pakistan is also barred from investing in defence, space, atomic energy sectors, etc.
- A start-up company, engaged in a sector that requires government approval for foreign investment, can issue convertible notes to a non-resident only with approval of the Government.
- The start-up issuing convertible notes will be required to provide reports as prescribed by the RBI.
- It also said the rule allowing foreign airlines to own up to 49 per cent in Indian carriers do not apply to Air India.
- Convertible Note is an instrument issued by a start-up company determining that it has received money as debt, which will be repaid at the discretion of the holder or will be converted into specified number of shares of the start-up.
ICEX launches first derivatives contract in diamonds
Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX) commenced operations with the launch of Diamond Futures and is the world’s first derivatives contract in diamonds.
- The diamond contracts launched by ICEX initially will be in the size of one carat with compulsory delivery.
- This is likely to create a new market for the diamond industry players where the sellers can deliver their certified quality diamonds to different set of buyers from across the country.
- The exchange will provide fair price discovery and price hedging platform for the diamond industry.
- To avail futures contracts sellers will need to get the diamond certified by De Beers-promoted International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research. The certification will allow getting credit in electronic form equivalent to the carat deposited.
- India is a global diamond polishing hub where 14 out of every 15 rough diamonds in the world are polished.
What is Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX)
- ICEX is a SEBI regulated screen-based online derivatives exchange for commodities.
- ICEX is promoted by a mix of public-private partnership comprising PSUs including MMTC, Indian Potash, Krishak Bharti Cooperative (Kribhco) and IDFC Bank, among others.
- Reliance Capital, a part of Anil Ambani led Reliance Group, is the largest investor in the exchange.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Germany ink agreement to improve grid integration of renewable energy
India and Germany signed an agreement on technical cooperation under the Indo-German Energy Programme – Green Energy Corridors (IGEN-GEC).
- The agreement was signed by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH India on behalf of Germany.
About Indo-German Energy Programme–Green Energy Corridors (IGEN-GEC)
- The IGEN-GEC programme was launched in 2013 by the Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and jointly implemented by India’s MNRE and GIZ.
- The main objective of this programme component is to improve the sector framework and conditions for grid integration of renewable energy.
- This programme component supports the implementation of the Renewable Energy Management Centre (REMCs), Green Energy Corridors scheme of the Government of India which is a prerequisite for large scale grid integration of renewable energy thus contributing to achieve the 175 GW target of the Government of India for renewable energy generation capacity by 2022.
- Under this programme, Germany had agreed to provide concessional loans of up to 1 billion euros through German Development Bank (KfW) and up to 10 million euros under technical assistance.
UN nuclear watchdog opens uranium bank in Kazakhstan
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided to open the Low Enriched Uranium Bank in Kazakhstan.
About Low Enriched Uranium Bank (LEU Bank)
Owned and controlled by the IAEA, the LEU Bank will host a reserve of LEU, and act as a supplier of last resort for Member States in case the supply of LEU to a nuclear power plant is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances and the Member State is unable to secure LEU from the commercial market or by any other means.
- The IAEA LEU Bank will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of low enriched uranium suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor, the most widely used type of nuclear power reactor worldwide.
- The LEU can be used to make enough nuclear fuel to power a large city for three years.
- The IAEA LEU Bank will be located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Oskemen, Kazakhstan.
Purpose of the LEU Bank
- LEU Bank will serve as last resort source of LEU after IAEA member countries are unable to either produce fuel or if it becomes unavailable on the international market for whatever reason.
- It will ensure that in the event of an international crisis or similar circumstances, countries dependent on nuclear power would still have access to uranium.
- It will discourage countries from developing their own uranium enrichment capacities as seen supposedly that peaceful use of enriched uranium can be converted into weapons-grade level.
- It will not disrupt usual trade of nuclear fuel purchased in the open market or by bilateral agreement between countries.
- It will ensure peaceful use of atomic energy without the need to develop a costly enrichment program.
- It will assure that suppliers in the international markets do not manipulate prices or when LEU ceases to be supplied for political reasons.
Criteria for member states to purchase uranium from the Bank
- The International Atomic Energy Agency has established a series of strict criteria for a member state to request and purchase uranium from the bank.
- First, there must be a disruption in supply “due to extraordinary circumstances” that would render the country in question unable to obtain fuel by the usual means.
- Also, the IAEA must have certified that nuclear material has not been diverted by the country in the past and that the country complies with all safety measures.
- In addition, the buying country must commit to using uranium only to produce fuel, never for weapons, and not to enrich it or transfer it to third parties without the express consent of the IAEA.
- If these conditions are met and the uranium is purchased at the prevailing market price, the material will be introduced into special cylinders and transferred from northern Kazakhstan to a facility where LEU can be converted into fuel.
About International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
- The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957.
- Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
- The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
- The IAEA has two “Regional Safeguards Offices” which are located in Toronto, Canada, and in Tokyo, Japan.
- The IAEA and its former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 7 October 2005.
Science & Technology
Gobindobhog rice gets geographical indication status
Gobindobhog rice, a speciality from Burdwan district of West Bengal, has got the geographical indication (GI) status.
What does this mean?
- As a result of getting the GI tag, as the certification is also called, rice from other regions or rice of other varieties cannot be branded as ‘Gobindobhog’.
- Hence, the marketability of the rice would be strengthened, for the local, national and international markets.
About Gobindobhog rice
- Gobindobhog is a rice cultivar from West Bengal.
- It is a short grain, white, aromatic, sticky rice having a sweet buttery flavor.
- It derives its name from its usage as the principal ingredient in the preparation of the offerings to Govindajiu, the family deity of the Setts of Kolkata.
Significance of Gobindobhog rice
- The rice has several advantages.
- It is cultivated late and therefore not much affected by rains.
- It is less prone to pests as well.
- The productivity per area is high and farmers get better prices for Gobindobhog rice.
What is GI tag?
- A GI tag indicates that the product comes from a specific region.
- GI is covered under the Intellectual Property Rights and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
- At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- In India, GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force in September 2003. It is granted by Chennai based GIR.
- A GI tag certifies the origin of a product or produce from a particular region as the quality or other features of the product is attributable only to the place of its origin.
- The tag helps farmers or manufacturers, as the case may be, to get a better price in the market.
- Darjeeling tea was the first product to accorded with GI tag in India.
Benefits of having GI Status:
- Legal protection to the products
- Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
- Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets.
Key Facts for Prelims
National Sports Talent Search Portal
- Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has launched Sports Talent Search Portal to spot the best talent from among the young population of the country.
- The portal will not only help in identifying the best talent, but will also provide a level playing field to all the applicants and create a competitive environment.
- Using this portal, a child or his parents, coaches or teachers can upload their bio data or video on the portal.
- The Sports Ministry will select talented players based on received information and impart training to them at Sports Authority India (SAI) centres.
- Its purpose is to tap sports talent and train selected children. It will also provide them with platform to showcase their sporting abilities irrespective of their social or economic status.
- The portal will ensure that the grassroot population in India also gets an opportunity to contribute their share in sports.
August 29: National Sports Day
- To mark the birth anniversary of India’s hockey wizard, Major Dhyan Chand, National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29.
- Known for his sublime goal-scoring laurels and extraordinary ball control, Dhyan Chand is regarded as the greatest field hockey player of all time.
- On this occasion, President Ram Nath Kovind presented National sports Awards to 29 players.
- Dhyan Chand was famously known as ‘The Wizard’ for his superb ball control and had scored more than 1000 goals during his international career.
- He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956 by the Indian government for his splendid contribution to Indian hockey.
‘Cleanliness is Service’ campaign
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launching of 15-days ‘Cleanliness is Service’ campaign ahead of the 2 October 2017 (Gandhi Jayanti).
- The announcement was made during the radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
- PM Modi asked people to undertake the ‘Cleanliness is Service’ or ‘Swachchta Hi Seva’ campaign to promote the creation of an environment of cleanliness while marking the third anniversary ‘Swachch Bharat’ programme that was launched on 2 October 2014.
- The campaign shall be on the lines of ‘Jal Seva, Yahi Prabhu Seva’ (Service of water is the Service to God). The campaign can be undertaken utilising the festivals like Diwali, Navratra and Durga Puja.
- More than 230000 villages have been declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ till date and about 67 per cent population has toilets now.