Polity & Governance
- Thiruvananthapuram tops city governance ranking
- 7th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals and Downstream Plastics Processing Industry (2016-17)
- Projects worth Rs 1050 Crore Awarded to arrest sewage pollution in Ganga from Patna
- Government notifies Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017
- A Government Panel recommends legal framework for protection of interests of migrants in the country
- NFHS 4 shows improved sex ratio, decline in infant mortality rate
Environment & Ecology
- Three Forest Research Institutes develop High-Yielding Varieties of Plant Species
Defence & Security Issues
- Successful Test Firing of AAD Endo-Atmospheric Interceptor Missile
Science & Technology
- Licensing Agreement for Transfer of Technology of High Nitrogen Steel
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s Ambassador to World Trade Organisation
- Zero Discrimination Day
Polity & Governance
Thiruvananthapuram tops city governance ranking
Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala has topped in city governance ranking of the Annual Survey of India’s City Systems (ASICS) 2016.
Highlights of the survey:
- Thiruvananthapuram is at the first place. Pune is ranked second, up two ranks from 2015, while Kolkata retains its third slot.
- Delhi slips two places to rank ninth. The biggest gainer in the 2016 survey is Bhubaneswar, which has jumped eight places from 2015 to land at the 10th spot.
- Bengaluru has dropped four places to rank 16, while Ludhiana, Jaipur and Chandigarh retain their previous positions of 19th, 20th and 21st respectively.
- The survey found that the 21 cities generate just 37% of the amount they spend on average, with Patna raising only 17% on its own. Only Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune generate over 50% of the amount they spend from their own revenue.
What is ASICS?
- The ASICS is designed to help city leaders pin point issues in urban governance in their cities and help them chalk out a reform roadmap to make them more livable.
- The survey was conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy.
- It highlighted inadequacies in urban governance that could affect public service delivery and quality of life.
- It ranks cities in the scale of 0 to 10 scale. The better scores of city in the survey, indicates it will be able to deliver better quality of life to citizens over the medium and long-term.
- The major parameters of the survey included urban capacities and resources, urban planning and design, empowered and legitimate political representation, and transparency, accountability and participation.
- This year it was the fourth edition the annual survey which had evaluated 21 major cities from the 18 states.
7th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals and Downstream Plastics Processing Industry (2016-17)
Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Ananthkumar recently presented the 7th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals and Downstream Plastics Processing Industry (2016-17).
- For the 7th National Awards, 415 nominations were received and finally, 16 nominations have been selected as Winners and 7 nominations as Runners-up for 2016-17.
About the awards:
- Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology (CIPET) has been entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the scheme of the National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemical sector and Downstream Plastics Processing Industry.
- CIPET is an autonomous organization under Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals (DCPC).
- Its headquarters was established at Chennai in 1968 with UNDP assistance.
- It receives funding support from the administration ministry, OPEC, UNIDO and the World Bank.
- This is the only institute of this kind in India where all facilities like design, tooling, processing and testing of plastics are available under one roof.
- CIPET caters to the needs of plastic industries through manpower training, processing, design and CAD/CAM/CAE, testing, consultancy, advisory and developmental services.
Projects worth Rs 1050 Crore Awarded to arrest sewage pollution in Ganga from Patna
In a major step taken to develop adequate sewage treatment infrastructure in Patna to keep Ganga clean, projects worth Rs 1,050 crore have been awarded under Namami Gange programme.
- The amount will be spent for setting up two two Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), renovation of one existing STP, construction of two pumping stations and laying of new underground sewage network of about 400 kilometers.
About Namami Gange Programme:
‘Namami Gange’ Programme, is a flagship programme of Government of India with a renewed impetus to decrease river pollution and conserve the revered river ‘Ganga’.
- The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015.
- In this connection, the Indian Government solicited support from various countries to rejuvenate the Ganga.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
- Under this programme, the focus of the Government is to involve people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
- The programme also focuses on involving the States and grassroots level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation.
Ganga unlikely to be cleaned by 2018:
According to some experts, the government is unlikely to be able to clean the Ganga by 2018, a target set by the government. Key reasons include “unreasonable” directions by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) questioning the operating capacity of sewage treatment plants in Uttar Pradesh and a delay in clearances by State governments to execute projects.[Ref: The Hindu]
Government notifies Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017
The Union Government has notified the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017.
- The Act is introduced in the public interest for the cessation of liabilities on the specified bank notes.
Key features of the act:
- It ends the liability of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government on the demonetised Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes.
- It prohibits the holding, transferring or receiving of demonitised notes from 31 December, 2016 and confers power on the court of a first class magistrate to impose the penalty.
- Possessing more than 10 pieces of old notes by individuals and more than 25 pieces for study, research or numismatics purposes will attract a fine of Rs. 10,000 or five times the value of cash held, whichever is higher.
- Fine of a minimum of Rs, 50,000 will be imposed for a false declaration by persons for being abroad during the demonetisation period (9 November-30 December, 2016).
- The Union Government had demonetised old Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 notes from November 2016 on the recommendations of the RBI’s central board to eliminate unaccounted money and fake currency notes from the financial system.
- As a follow up, The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 was passed by Parliament in February 2017 and received assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on 27 February 2017.
- The law aims to eliminating the possibility of running a parallel economy using demonetised currency notes.
- The demonetisation had abruptly sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation in the form of Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 out of the system.
A Government Panel recommends legal framework for protection of interests of migrants in the country
The ‘Working Group on Migration’ headed by Partha Mukhopadhay has recently submitted its report to the union government.
- The panel appointed by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) in 2015 had suggested necessary legal and policy framework should be brought to protect the interests of the migrants in the country.
Major recommendations made by the panel:
- The panel said the migrant population makes a substantial contribution to economic growth and their constitutional rights should be secured.
- It suggests that the protocols of the registrar general of India should be amended to enable caste-based enumeration of migrants. This will help them to avail the attendant benefits in the states to which the migration takes place.
- Migrants should be enabled to avail benefits of public distribution system (PDS) in the destined state by providing interstate operability of PDS.
- To promote rental housing and working Women Hostels for the benefit of migrants, the panel has suggested the use of the underutilised construction workers welfare cess fund.
- To end any discrimination in work and employment, the states should be encouraged to eliminate the requirement of domicile status. For this, the panel talks about the constitutional right of freedom of movement and residence in any part of the territory of India.
- It suggests that the state government should be asked to include migrant children in the Annual Work Plans under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) to uphold their Right to Education.
- It suggests that banks should be enabled to adhere to the RBI guidelines regarding the Know Your Customer (KYC) norms while opening the bank accounts of the migrants. It should not ask for documents that are not required.
- The working group also suggested that the vast network of post offices should be made effective as it will help in reducing the cost of transfer of money to avoid informal remittances.
- According to census 2011 and National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), migrants constitute about 30% of the country’s population and also of the total working force.
- 2016-17 Economic Survey also noted that annual migration in the country increased to 9.00 million in 2016 from 3.30 million in 2011.
NFHS 4 shows improved sex ratio, decline in infant mortality rate
Union Health Ministry unveiled the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) in New Delhi.
- The survey conducted for the year 2015-16 says that India’s health index has made a notable improvement over the last decade.
- The report suggests that there has been a decline in the infant mortality and improvement was visible in the sex ratio with more institutional deliveries and wider vaccine coverage.
About the survey:
The survey is based on information collected from 6 lakh households, 1.3 lakh men and 7 lakh women. This is the first time that the data is providing district level estimates.
Highlights of the survey:
Sex Ratio at birth:
- It improved from 912 to 919 females per 1000 males at the national level over the last decade.
- Kerala that has the highest sex ratio of at 1047 is followed by Meghalaya at 1009.
- Haryana also witnessed a significant increase from 762 to 836.
Infant Mortality Rate (IMR):
- It declined to 41 per 1000 from 51 per 1000 live births between NFHS-3 which was conducted in 2005-06.
- The report says that the IMR declined by more than 20 percentage points in West Bengal, Tripura, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh.
- IMR during the NFHS-1 (1992-93) was recorded as 79 per 1000 live births.
Total Fertility Rate:
- Total Fertility Rate also declined to 2.2 children per woman from 2.7 in NFHS-3 with considerable decline in the TFR in each of the 30 states with the maximum decline observed in Uttar Pradesh at 1.1 child followed by Nagaland at 1.0 child, Bihar, however, failed to register substantial decline.
- The survey also says Children within the age of 12-23 months have been fully immunised (BCG, measles and 3 doses each of polio).
- This immunisation coverage has increased by 29 percentage points in Bihar, Punjab and Meghalaya, while it saw an increase by 28 percentage points in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
- The DPT has increased by 18 percentage points from 44 per cent in NFHS-3 to 62 per cent in NFHS-4.
- It increased by 40 percentage points from 38.7 per cent in NFHS-3 to 78.9 per cent in NFHS-4.
- It seems that the institutional births have dramatically increased due to the targeted approach through Janani Suraksha Yojana.
- It saw a decline in percentage by 7 percentage points.
- It saw a substantial decline among children aged 6 to 59 months as it declined to 58 per cent in NFHS-4 from 69 per cent of NFHS-3.
- Maximum decrease was seen in Assam (34 percentage points), Chhattisgarh (30 percentage points), Mizoram (26 percentage points) and Odisha (20 percentage points).
Contraceptive prevalence rate:
- It increased by 7 percentage points to 54 per cent in NFHS-4 among the newly married women.
- Its rate in previous NFHS’s was 41 per cent in NFHS-1, 48 per cent in NFHS-2, 46 per cent in NFHS-3 (contraceptive prevalence rate decreased by 2 percentage points from NFHS-3).
Besides, the supplementary nutrition and efforts at the health facilities have helped in decreasing the cases of malnutrition. Mortality due to malnutrition has also seen the same trend.[Ref: Economic Times]
Environment & Ecology
Three Forest Research Institutes develop High-Yielding Varieties of Plant Species
Three institutes of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Dehradun have developed 20 high-yielding varieties of plant species.
- ICFRE’s Variety Releasing Committee (VRC) has granted approval for the release of these varieties of plant species.
- These developed varieties had gone through stringent long field trials and testing before release.
These three institutes are:
- Forest Research Institute (FRI), Dehradun
- It has developed 10 improved varieties of Melia dubia (popularly known as Dreake or Malabar Neem) and 3 clones of Eucalyptus tereticornis, the timber of which is in high demand in the industry.
- The HYV cultivars of Melia have high productivity per unit area, which is a desirable characteristic for plywood industry.
- The HYV varieties of Eucalyptus are also resistant to wall gasp and pink disease.
- Tropical Forest Research Institute (TFRI), Jabalpur
- It has developed two varieties of medicinal plant Rauvolfia serpentina.
- Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB), Coimbatore
- It has developed five inter-specific hybrids of Casuarina equisetifolia X Casuarina junghuhniana for timber use.
- Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) was established as an autonomous organisation under Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- ICFRE is based in Dehradun.
- It carries out the holistic research on forestry species, transfer technologies developed to the states and other user agencies and imparts forestry education.
- There are 9 research institutes and 4 advanced centres under ICFRE to cater to the research needs of different bio-geographical regions.
- They actively engaged in improvement of plantation tree species to improve, quality, yield and productivity to meet the demand for domestic consumption by industries.
Defence & Security Issues
Successful Test Firing of AAD Endo-Atmospheric Interceptor Missile
Indigenously developed supersonic Advance Area Defence (AAD) interceptor missile was successfully test-fired from launch complex III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island in Balasore, Odisha.
- The supersonic interceptor missile is capable of destroying any incoming enemy ballistic missile at low altitude.
- The successful test validates the reliability of its two layered Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system.
Key Features of missile:
- The AAD interceptor missile has been indigenously developed by DRDO. It is a 7.5-metre-long single stage solid rocket propelled guided missile.
- It is equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer, inertial navigation system and an electro-mechanical activator.
- It can destroy the incoming hostile ballistic missile in the endo-atmospheric region (less than 30 km altitude) at a low altitude of less than 30 kms.
- It has its own mobile launcher, secure data link for interception, independent tracking and homing capabilities and sophisticated radars.
- The Research Centre Imarat (RCI) of the DRDO has played pivotal role in the development of all strategic missiles, spearheaded under the India’s double-layered ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme.
- The BMD consists of two interceptor missiles, Advanced Area Defence (AAD) missile for endo-atmosphere or lower altitudes and Prithvi Defence Vehicle for exo-atmospheric ranges.
- The DRDO expects deployment of BMD shield by 2022.
- India will be fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and Israel to successfully built effective anti-ballistic missile system.
- Earlier in February 2017, DRDO had successfully carried out test of the exo-atmospheric Pirthivi interceptor missile destroying the target outside the earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of over 85 km.
Science & Technology
Licensing Agreement for Transfer of Technology of High Nitrogen Steel
Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), Hyderabad, a premier research laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Jindal Stainless (Hisar) Limited (JSHL) have signed the Licensing Agreement for Transfer of Technology of High Nitrogen Steel (HNS) for armour applications.
What is High Nitrogen Steel?
- High nitrogen steels (HNS) are a new class of high alloy martensitic, austenitic or duplex grades with up to 0.9 mass% of N in solid solution.
- They are applied e.g. to stainless tools and bearings, in chemical engineering and for high strength non-magnetic components.
- HNS is not only tough but also has good strength. In addition to being non magnetic as well as corrosion resistant, the HNS cost is about 40% less compared to Rolled Homogenous Armour Steel (RHA).
- This material has potential for a number of defence and civil applications like armouring, mine trawls, oil industries etc.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s Ambassador to World Trade Organisation
- Telecom Secretary J S Deepak on 1 March 2017 was named India’s next Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- The appointment order has been issued by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister.
- As per the order of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet, Deepak is appointed as the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Department of Commerce.
Zero Discrimination Day
- Zero Discrimination Day was observed across the world on 1 March 2017.
- The day was observed with the theme Make Some Noise for Zero Discrimination.
- Zero Discrimination Day calls for fair and just societies and urges people to value, embrace diversity and recognize the diverse set of talents and skills that each person brings.
- For the year 2017, UNAIDS calls for zero discrimination in health-care settings.
- The UN first celebrated Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2014.
- It was observed after UNAIDS launched its Zero Discrimination Campaign on World AIDS Day in December 2013.
- The UNAIDS is a UN program on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).