Government Schemes & Policies
- MGNREGA trends: fewer jobs since July, wider demand-supply gap
- Commercial trial runs begin on freight corridor
- Cycling Expedition from North East upto the Malaysia- Singapore Border
- Gross NPAs may rise to 9.9% by next Sept
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Dal Lake freezes after temperature drops in Valley
- Winged visitors flock to Pulicat, with birdwatchers in tow
Art & Culture
- Festival to promote Belum Caves planned in Dec.
Science & Technology
- NASA launched SnowEx
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Government Schemes & Policies
MGNREGA trends: fewer jobs since July, wider demand-supply gap
Jobs generated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have shown a dip compared to last year after July. This comes even as 2018-19 saw a record number of households demanding as well as being provided employment under rural public works programme.
Demand vs actual work provided under MGNREGA
- In 2018-19, demand was registered from 5.88 crore households, and 5.27 crore of them were provided work, which were highest in last five years.
- However, in 2019, there was a clear dip in the person-days of employment under MGNREGA, which is visible after July. Significantly, in all the months before, the work provided exceeded the corresponding levels for 2018.
- This is due to the onset of the southwest monsoon. Rainfall during the 2019 monsoon season was 10% above the historical average whereas it was 9.4% below average in 2018. An above-normal monsoon meant there was lower demand for MGNREGA work.
- From above graph, it can be seen that the gap between the number of households demanding MGNREGA work and the number who were provided work has been the highest in 2019-20. This indicates that even if demand fell, supply of work fell even more.
Lack of Funds
- For 2019-20, the government has allocated Rs 60,000 crore towards MGNREGA. However, only about Rs 9,500 crore would be required for clearing the liabilities of wages, material and administrative costs for previous years.
- The cost of providing a day’s work to a single person has been taken at an average of Rs 249.86 for 2019-20. The MGNREGA labour budget alone for 2019 is roughly Rs 67,514 crore. However, the total budgetary allocation, which also includes provision towards material and administrative expenses, has been only Rs 60,000 crore.
- Meanwhile, the Centre has revised upwards its original plan of providing 260 crore person-days of work for 2019-20 to 316.73 crore person-days, following a decision to augment the number of days of employment per household from 100 to 150 in flood-affected districts of states such as Karnataka.
Decline of Other support schemes
- Besides MGNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, a farm income support scheme, is alsofacing slowdown. The total amount disbursed under the income support scheme in 2019-20 is Rs 32,320 crore, which is significantly short of the Rs 75,000 crore budgeted for it. Further, out of total allocated budget since the inception of PM-KISAN, only half budget is used.
- Even the number of rural houses built under PM Awas Yojana-Gramin, which had recorded a sharp rise in 2015-18, saw a drop in 2019-20.
About Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
- The MGNREGA, also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) was enacted in 2005.
- The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
Commercial trial runs begin on freight corridor
The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. (DFCCIL) opened the more than 300-km section between Rewari, Haryana to Madar, Rajasthan, for commercial trial runs. This is the first section to be opened on the under-construction western freight corridor.
Significance of newly opened fright corridor
- It will benefit various industries in Rewari, Manesar, Narnaul, Phulera and Kishangarh areas of Rajasthan and Haryana.
- It will attract about 80% of the freight train movements and result into a much faster movement of goods trains, vacating track space for passenger trains.
About Western Dedicated Freight Corridor
- The 1,504-km western freight corridor begins at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and stretches till Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (India’s largest container port), passing through U.P., Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
About Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor
- The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (1856 km) consists of two distinct segments: an electrified double-track segment between Dankuni in West Bengal & Khurja in Uttar Pradesh & an electrified single-track segment between Ludhiana (Dhandarikalan) – Khurja – Dadri in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The need for DFC in India
- According to the Indian Railways Statistical Publications 2013-14, freight contributes the maximum revenue share of 67 %. Therefore, the improvisation of the rail infrastructure was long due.
- Besides, the saturation of existing railway lines has led to congestion and loss in the freight market share for Indian Railways. From the earlier 90 % in 1950, the freight market share has dipped to less than 40 % in 2017. This has created the need for highly efficient, and amplified design features to enable railways overcome with the burden on existing rail lines and ensure faster, timely and cost-effective freight transportation.
- Therefore, two DFCs – Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and Western Freight Corridor have been announced by the government.
- Created in 2006, DFCCIL is wholly owned company of Ministry of Railways.
- DFCCIL is a special purpose vehicle tasked with planning and completion of 3,306 kms of Dedicated Freight Corridors, consisting of western freight corridor (1,500-km) and eastern freight corridor (1,856 kms).
What is Dedicated Freight Corridors?
- Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is a rail route created for freight (goods and commodity) transportation to ensure faster transit and reduced logistics costs.
Significance of Dedicated Freight Corridors
- Reduction in unit cost of transportation with higher speed of freight trains,
- Better turnaround of wagons and thereby much improved wagon productivity in terms of improved ton-km per wagon day,
- Increased payload to tare ratio by introduction of higher axle load wagons on the rail network,
- Improved locomotive utilization
- Improved specific fuel consumption.
Cycling Expedition from North East upto the Malaysia- Singapore Border
A cycling expedition consisting of staff from National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS) reached Yangon. It will be cycling through Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia upto the Malaysia- Singapore border.
About National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports
- The National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS) is an autonomous institute under the Indian Ministry of Defence, which provides specialized training in mountain rescue, mountaineering and adventure sports.
- It is located at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh.
Gross NPAs may rise to 9.9% by next Sept
The gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratio of banks may increase to 9.9% by September 2020 from 9.3% in September 2019, according to an RBI report.
What is Non-Performing Assets (NPA)?
- A non-performing asset (NPA) is a classification used by financial institutions for loans and advances that have a principal which is past due and on which no interest payments have been made.
- In most of the cases debt has been classified as Non-Performing Assets where the loan payments have been outstanding for more than 90 days.
- Net NPA = Gross NPA – (Balance in Interest Suspense account + Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC)/ Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC) claims received and held pending
- The net NPA (Net NPA = Gross NPAs – Provisions) divided by the total advances of a branch reflects the gross NPA ratio. It measures the overall quality of the bank’s loans.
Types of NPAs
Banks are required to classify NPAs further into Substandard, Doubtful and Loss assets.
- Substandard assets: Assets which has remained NPA for a period less than or equal to 12 months.
- Doubtful assets: An asset would be classified as doubtful if it has remained in the substandard category for a period of 12 months.
- Loss assets: Loss asset is considered uncollectible and of such little value that its continuance as a bankable asset is not warranted, although there may be some salvage or recovery value.
About provision coverage ratio
- Provisioning Coverage Ratio (PCR) refers to the prescribed percentage of funds to be set aside by the banks for covering the prospective losses due to bad loans.
- The provision coverage ratio (PCR) gives an indication of the provision made against bad loans from the profit generated. Higher the PCR, lower is the unexposed part of the bad debts.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Dal Lake freezes after temperature drops in Valley
A portion of Dal Lake was frozen as the temperature dropped in the region.
- Dal lake is located in Srinagar districtof Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Zabarwan mountain valley, in the foothills of the Shankracharya hills, which surrounds it on three sides.
- It is the second largest lake in Jammu and Kashmir
- It is also known by the names such as Lake of flowers, Jewel in the crown of Kashmirand Srinagar’s Jewel.
- It is a part of natural wetland including its floating gardens, known as ‘Rad’.
- The lake has four main interconnected basins namely, Hazratbal, Bod dal, Gagribal and Nagin.
- The shore line of the lake is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens like Shalimaar Bagh and Nishat Baghbuilt by Jahangir. The houseboats or ‘Shikaraas’ are the main attraction of the lake.
- Dal is mentioned as Mahasarit in ancient Sanskrit texts.
- The lake is fed by Dachigam-Telbal Nallah and Dara Nallah (Nallah refers to stream) and many other small streams.
Winged visitors flock to Pulicat, with birdwatchers in tow
The annual flamingo festival in Nellore district is round the corner with the winged visitors arriving in large numbers on their annual sojourn.
- The Flamingo Festival is organised annually to encourage tourism in Pulicat and Nellapattu, Andhra Pradesh.
Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary:
- Located near Pulicat Lake on the Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu border, Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary is one of the biggest habitats for pelicans and other birds.
About Pulicat Lake:
- Pulicat Lake is the second largest brackish water lake or lagoon in India, after Chilika Lake.
- It straddles the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states with over 96% of it in Andhra Pradesh and 4% in Tamil Nadu, situated on the Coromandal Coast in South India.
- The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lake from the Bay of Bengal.
- Two rivers which feed the lagoon are the Arani riverat the southern tip and the Kalangi River from the northwest, in addition to some smaller streams.
- The lake encompasses the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary. Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary and Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary are two most popular bird sanctuaries in South India and an important breeding site for spot billed pelicans in India and noted for the many greater flamingos.
Key facts on Flamingo
- Flamingos are large birds that are identifiable by their long necks, sticklike legs and pink or reddish feathers.
- According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are six species of flamingo: Greater flamingo (tallest species), Lesser flamingo, Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, James’ (or puna) flamingo and American (or Caribbean) flamingo.
- Indian subcontinent is the largest breeding ground for Greater flamingo and lesser flamingo during every winter season.
- Flamingos animals are very social and they thrive on interaction with each other.
- Flamingos mouth is like a strainer which helps keep the food in and spits the water out.
- They can stand on one leg comfortably and can even sleep in this position.
- The bright colour of flamingo feathers is caused by the presence of beta carotenoid found in the algae and crustaceans that make up the diet of a flamingo
Art & Culture
Festival to promote Belum Caves planned in Dec.
Kurnool district authorities are gearing up to host the Belum Caves festival soon, with the government releasing ₹50 lakhs for the event.
- Located near Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, Belum Caves is the largest and longest cave system open to the public on the Indian subcontinent.
- These caves, which get their name from the Sanskrit word bilum (hole), were formed by the action of water flowing on limestone deposits over millions of years.
- They are known for its speleothems (mineral deposits formed in a cave), such as stalactite and stalagmite formations.
- Though these caves were known to the locals for thousands of years, the first official records that mention them are from 1884, by Robert Bruce Foote, who conducted surveys for the Geological Survey of India.
- In 2013, a new cavernicolous species (inhabiting caves) named Andhracoides gebaueri was discovered at the Belum caves.
- Jains and Buddhists monks occupied these caves centuries ago. Many Buddhists relics were found inside the caves.
- A stalactite is a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or manmade structures such as bridges and mines.
- A stalagmite is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Science & Technology
NASA launched SnowEx
NASA has launched a seasonal campaign — part of a five-year programme called SnowEx, initiated in 2016-17. NASA currently has no global satellite mission to track and study SWE.
What is SnowEx?
- SnowEx is a 5-year program initiated and funded by NASA THP (Terrestrial Hydrology program) to address the most important gaps in snow remote sensing knowledge.
- The geographical focus of SnowEx is North America.
- It will assess where snow has fallen, how much there is and how its characteristics change as it melts.
- It will provide key insights into optimal strategies for mapping global SWE (Snow Water Equivalent) with remote sensing, which will enable a proposal for a Decadal Survey “Earth System Explorer” mission.
- Industry and decision-makers need accurate snow information to respond to altering climate and water availability. They need to predict future snow resources.
- The water equivalent of snow is also changing rapidly. However, remote sensing capabilities are not yet adequate.
- Changes in snowfall amounts and timing are altering water discharges. Hence, snow predictions can tell about water discharge timings.
What is Snow Water Equivalent?
- Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) is the amount of water that will be released from the snowpack when it melts.
- More than one-sixth of the world’s population (1.2 billion people) relies on seasonal snowpack and glaciers.
- Snow, being so white, reflects up to 80 percent of the sun’s energy, acting to cool the planet.