Polity & Governance
- Sports Ministry approves empowered steering committee for Olympic preparation
Government Schemes & Policies
- Implementation Guidelines of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
- APEDA develops mobile app- Hortinet- for farm registration, certification
Bilateral & International Relations
- India-European FTA talks this month
- SC to hear Rohingya plea for help
Defence & Security Issues
- Rohingya children to get UNHCR cards in Bengal
Science & Technology
- CSIR ranked 9th public research institution of the world
Key Facts for Prelims
- India to attend 2nd Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) 2017
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Polity & Governance
Sports Ministry approves empowered steering committee for Olympic preparation
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has approved constitution of a 13-member Empowered Steering Committee (ESC) which will shape and influence India’s preparation for multi- disciplinary events, including 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
- The Empowered Steering Committee will be led by an Honorary Chairperson, who will be appointed by the Government.
- The Steering Committee will have the mandate to work till December 31, 2020 with clearly defined terms and references.
- Earlier, the Sports Ministry had constituted Task Force in September 2016 head by Abhinav Bindra for preparation of comprehensive action plan, including short-term and medium to long-term measures for effective participation of Indian sportspersons in next three Olympic Games to be held in 2020 (Tokyo), 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles).
- The 8-member Task Force had submitted its interim report to Government in May 2017 with focus on preparations in the short-term for 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
- The decision to form the Empowered Steering Committee (ESC) has been taken on the basis of recommendations made by the Olympic Task Force in its interim report.
Terms and references of the ESC:
- The committee will review the core probable list of each High Priority and Priority disciplines for Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games and make recommendations.
- It can make recommendations with respect to additions or deletions.
- The Committee will also have power to recommend specific plans or packages for TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) beneficiaries, picked by the TOPS Committee.
- ECS can recommend names of national and international training institutions for the empanelment for providing training, coaching and other support to TOPS athletes, including negotiated packages.
- It can also make specific recommendations for strengthening sport sciences within SAI as well as outsourcing sports science support in the short to medium term for providing sports science support to national campers.
- It can also have all SAI Regional Centres duly audited for holding national coaching camps and closely interact with National Observers appointed by the government for obtaining their recommendations on the various issues.
- The ECS will also assist the government in formulating Qualification Requirements (QRs), job description and conducting selection process with the involvement of NSF concerned for inducting professionals, including High Performance Managers, in selected sports disciplines.
- It will also provide advisory support for setting up of Centre of Excellence for Para Sports at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Government Schemes & Policies
Implementation Guidelines of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
The Ministry of Women & Child Development has released the Guidelines of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana.
- Guidelines inter-alia provide Aadhaar linkage, Direct Benefit Transfer, antenatal check-up and registration of child birth & first cycle of immunisation of the child.
- The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi had announced the pan-India implementation of this scheme w.e.f. 01st January 2017.
About the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY):
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
- It is a maternity benefit program run by the government of India.
- PMMVY is implemented by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in collaboration with State Governments.
- It is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years of age or above for first two live births.
- It provides a partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices.
- Under the scheme, the cost sharing ratio between the Centre and the States & UTs with Legislature is 60:40, for North-Eastern States & three Himalayan States, it is 90:10 and 100% Central assistance for Union Territories without Legislature.
- It was previously known as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY).
- In 2013, the scheme was brought under the National Food Security Act, 2013 to implement the provision of cash maternity benefit of ₹6,000 stated in the Act.
APEDA develops mobile app- Hortinet- for farm registration, certification
Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has developed a mobile app, “Hortinet” for farmers to facilitate registration, testing and certification of certain fruits and vegetables.
The app “Hortinet” is an integrated traceability system developed by APEDA for providing internet-based services to the stakeholders.
- The app will facilitate “farm registration, testing and certification of grape, pomegranate and vegetables for export from India to the European Union in compliance with standards”.
- This new Mobile app will also assist State Horticulture/ Agriculture Department to capture real time details of farmers, farm location, products and details of inspections like date of inspection, name of inspecting directly from field. After registration and approval of farm, farmer gets approval information.
The key features of the app are:
- Online Farm registration application and status tracking
- Processing and approval on on-line farmer applications by State Horticulture /Agriculture department.
- Registration of farmers, farms and products by State Horticulture/Agriculture department
- Capture geo location of the farms registered through the app
- Sample collection by APEDA authorized Laboratories along with geo location of the sample.
Significance of this initiative:
- This initiative is expected to increase the accessibility and reach of the traceability software system among farmers and other stakeholders
- The app would also assist state horticulture and agriculture departments to capture real time details of farmers, farm location, products and details of inspection.
APEDA is an apex body of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, to promote the export of agricultural commodities and processed food products.
- APEDA was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act 1985.
- The Authority replaced the Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC).
- APEDA links Indian exporters to global markets besides providing comprehensive export oriented services.
- APEDA provides referral services and suggest suitable partners for joint ventures.
- APEDA’s export basket ranges from typically Indian ethnic products like pickles, chutneys, sauces, curries etc. to rice, honey, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, beverages, guar gum, poultry, livestock products, confectionery, cut flowers, food grains, aromatic plants and other Indian delicacies.
- Vietnam, UAE, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iran, Iraq and Nepal are the major destinations for export of food products from India.
- APEDA has marked its presence in almost all agro potential states of India and has been providing services to agri-export community through its head office, five Regional offices and 13 Virtual offices.
Composition of the APEDA Authority:
As prescribed by the statute, the APEDA Authority consists of the following members namely:
- A Chairman, appointed by the Central Government
- The Agricultural Marketing Advisor to the Government of India, ex-offical.
- One member appointed by the Central Government representing the Planning Commission
- Three members of Parliament of whom two are elected by the House of People and one by the Council of States
- Eight members appointed by the Central Government representing respectively; the Ministries of the Central Govt.
Products Monitored by APEDA:
APEDA is mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the following scheduled products:
- Fruits, Vegetables and their Products.
- Meat and Meat Products.
- Poultry and Poultry Products.
- Dairy Products.
- Confectionery, Biscuits and Bakery Products.
- Honey, Jaggery and Sugar Products.
- Cocoa and its products, chocolates of all kinds.
- Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages.
- Cereal and Cereal Products.
- Groundnuts, Peanuts and Walnuts.
- Pickles, Papads and Chutneys.
- Guar Gum.
- Floriculture and Floriculture Products.
- Herbal and Medicinal Plants.
Bilateral & International Relations
India-European FTA talks this month
India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are planning to shortly conclude their long pending negotiations on FTA.
- The trade pact talks had started in October 2008. So far, 16 rounds of negotiations have been held at the level of chief negotiators.
- The last round of negotiations was held in November 2013 and thereafter the negotiations have remained suspended.
About proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA):
- The proposed pact covers trade in goods and services, market access for investments, protection of intellectual property and public procurement.
- Under an FTA, trading partners give market access to each other with a view to promoting bilateral trade in goods and services, besides investments.
India’s FTAs with other countries/groups:
- India is negotiating similar pacts with several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Canada.
- It has implemented FTAs with Singapore, South Korea, Japan and ASEAN, among others.
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental trade organisation and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
- It was established in 1960 by the EFTA Convention for the promotion of free trade and economic integration between its Member States.
- The organisation operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the EU’s single market.
- While the EFTA is not a customs union, it does have a co-ordinated trade policy. As a result, its member states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with a number of other countries.
SC to hear Rohingya plea for help
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea against deportation of illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants to Myanmar on several grounds, including violation of international human rights conventions.
- The plea was filed by two Rohingya immigrants against the government’s proposed move to deport their 40,000-strong refugee community back to their native Myanmar, where discrimination and possibly summary executions await them.
- Petitioners who are registered refugees under the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR), claimed they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed against the community there.
- Proposed deportation is contrary to the constitutional protections of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person.
- This act would also be in contradiction with the principle of ‘Non-Refoulement’, which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law.
- It has also sought a direction that Rohingyas be provided “basic amenities to ensure that they can live in human conditions as required by international law”.
- It also said that India has ratified and is a signatory to various conventions that recognise the Principle of “Non- Refoulement’, which prohibits deportation of refugees to a country where they may face threat to their lives.
- Though India has not ratified the UNCHR Convention on Refugees, India has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
- Further, India is also a signatory to the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” the plea said, adding that all these international treaties and conventions lay down the Principle of Non-Refoulement.
- India has traditionally been hospitable host of refugees and displaced people, both from South Asia and across the world.
What is the Principle of “Non- Refoulement”?
- The principle of non-refoulement — or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger — is considered part of customary international law and is binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.
Who are the Rohingya?
Few years ago, religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists (who make up the majority of the population in Mayanmar) escalated into widespread, deadly rioting.
- Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. Since then, ongoing violent attacks have forced even more people to leave their homes.
- The Myanmar Government says that Rohingya people are not Burmese citizens – but the Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for generations. Today, they are a people with no home or citizenship.
- Rohingya people are being widely abused and exploited. They are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Rays of hope for Rohingya:
- Last week, Indian government had raised “serious concern” over reports of renewed violence and attacks in Myanmar and extended its “strong” support to the Myanmarese government at this “challenging moment”.
- Moreover, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notice to the Centre over its plan to deport the Rohingya immigrants, who are residing in various parts of India.
Defence & Security Issues
Rohingya children to get UNHCR cards in Bengal
The West Bengal government will distribute identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to Rohigya children lodged in the juvenile justice homes of the State.
- The move comes at a time when there are reports that the Union government is planning to deport Rohingyas refugees.
- The UNHCR has issued identity cards to the Rohingyas in India so as to shield them from harassment and arbitrary arrests.
- The UNHCR says some 16,500 Rohingya from Myanmar are registered with it in India.
About UNHCR cards:
- The UNHCR issues ID cards to registered refugees and documents to asylum-seekers which help to prevent arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation.
- The card includes a number of enhanced security features including 3D holograms, bar codes and a large SQR code.
- The card is supported by enhanced biometric data collection at the UNHCR office, including retina, 10 fingers and face scan.
Significance of these cards:
The government issues long-term visas to refugees which ease their access to public services and employment in the private sector.
- Because of some recent changes to the documentation processes, some refugees have reportedly been facing challenges in accessing public services and opening bank accounts.
- It is important for refugees to have access to employment and basic services. Therefore, refugee cards help in facilitating their access to these services.
About the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
The Office of the UNHCR, also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
- Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
- As UNHCR is a program governed by the UN General Assembly, and the UN Economic and Social Council, it cooperates with many other programs and agencies under the United Nations in order to effectively protect the rights of refugees.
- UNHCR was established on 14 December 1950 and succeeded the earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
- The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.
- Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.
- It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
- UNHCR maintains a database of refugee information, ProGres, which was created during the Kosovo War in the 1990s. The database today contains data on over 11 million refugees, or about 11% of all displaced persons globally.
- The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981.
- Moreover, the UNHCR has been chosen for the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development 2015.
Science & Technology
CSIR ranked 9th public research institution of the world
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India’s largest autonomous public research and development organisation, was ranked 9th best government organisation in the world.
- As per the Scimago Institutions ranking World Report 2017, the CSIR has been ranked ninth amongst a total of 1207 government institutions.
About the ranking:
- Scimago Institutions Ranking (SIR) is a science evaluation resource developed by Scimago Labs based on data from Scopus — one of the world’s largest database of peer-reviewed research literature, to assess Worldwide Institutions.
- The ranking is based on a composite indicator that combines research performance, innovation outputs and societal impact measured by their web visibility, so as to reflect scientific, economic and social characteristics of institutions.
Highlights of the rankings:
- CSIR has been ranked ninth amongst a total of 1,207 government institutions.
- The ranking (Government Institutions) was topped by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, followed by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Helmholtz Gemeinschaft, respectively.
- In overall global ranking, CSIR stands at 75th position amongst 5250 institutions world-wide. It is the only Indian organisation which has found place amongst the Top 100 Global Institutions.
- With this ranking, CSIR comes in the company of globally renowned organisations namely Chinese Academy of Sciences; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France; Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain; Russian Academy of Sciences; Japan Science and Technology Agency; Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy and Leibniz Gemeinschaft, Germany.
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), established in 1942, is an autonomous body and the largest research and development (R&D) organisation in India.
- It runs 37 laboratories and 39 field stations or extension centres spread across the nation.
- Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body registered under the Registration of Societies Act of 1860.
- The research and development activities of CSIR includes aerospace engineering, Structural engineering, ocean sciences, Life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environment.
- It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts which include environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, leather, farm and non-farm sectors.
Key Facts for Prelims
India to attend 2nd Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) 2017
- Sri Lanka welcomed External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to the nation to attend two-day Indian Ocean Conference.
- India Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank, will host the Indian Ocean Conference 2017 (IOC) in collaboration with Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore, and National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS), Colombo–both research and study centres.
- The theme of the conference is peace, progress and prosperity.
- It will see participation from around 35 countries and have speakers from 25 countries.
- The first IOR conference was held in Singapore last year.