Government Schemes & Policies
- Atal Pension Yojana (APY) surges ahead with 62 lakh enrolment
- STPs to be constructed under Hybrid Annuity Model
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves MoU between India-Brazil for cooperation in Zebu Cattle Genomics and ARTs
- Cabinet approves MoU with Myanmar for the Conservation of Pagodas at Bagan
Defence & Security Issues
- Ministry of Defence approves first phase of reforms in The Armed Forces
Science & Technology
- U.S. approves first gene therapy for cancer
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Government Schemes & Policies
Atal Pension Yojana (APY) surges ahead with 62 lakh enrolment
Atal Pension Yojana has surged ahead with 62 lakh enrolment till date in 2 years after launch of the scheme.
- A total of 3.07 lakh APY accounts have been sourced under ‘One Nation One Pension’ Mobilization Campaign.
- ‘One Nation One Pension’ Mobilization Campaign was organized all over the country by PFRDA from 2nd August to 19th August 2017 in association with the APY Service Provider Banks.
- The objective of PFRDA is to cover the maximum possible population uncovered by any pension scheme under the APY scheme so that India as a nation can move from a pension less to a pensioned society and the citizens can live a life of dignity in their vulnerable years.
About Atal Pension Yojana:
Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is a pension scheme for citizens of India focussed on the unorganised sector workers.
- Under the APY, guaranteed minimum pension of Rs. 1,000/-, 2,000/-, 3,000/-, 4,000 and 5,000/- per month will be given at the age of 60 years in turn for the contribution varying from Rs 42 to Rs 210 per month.
- The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the nodal agency for APY and is working out plans to improve reach and information dissemination.
- Any Citizen of India between 18 – 40 years of age can join APY scheme.
- Government co-contribution is available for 5 years, i.e., from 2015-16 to 2019-20 for the subscribers who join the scheme during the period from 1st June, 2015 to 31st December, 2015 and who are not covered by any Statutory Social Security Schemes and are not income tax payers.
STPs to be constructed under Hybrid Annuity Model
In the first-of-its-kind success, the creation and maintenance of sewage treatment infrastructure under Hybrid Annuity based PPP model has taken off, with National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) awarding work to private sector for construction and maintenance of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in two major cities in Ganga river basin – Varanasi and Haridwar.
- The awarded projects would ensure that no untreated sewage waste water goes into river Ganga.
- Hybrid Annuity based PPP model has been adopted for the first time in the country in sewage management sector.
- Such a model has earlier been adopted successfully in highway sector only.
About Hybrid Annuity Model:
- Under the Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM), the government will invest 40% of the construction cost for building highways and the balance will come from the private developer.
- The government will invest money in five equal installments based on the targeted completion of the road project.
- The private developer will recover his investment from the government by receiving annuity payments over a period of 15 years.
- Under this model, the highway toll tax will be collected by the government unlike the build, operate and transfer (BOT) toll model where the private sector collects it. So, there is no revenue or traffic risk on the part of the developer.
Significance of the Model:
- All major stakeholders in the PPP arrangement – the Authority, lender and the developer, concessionaire would have an increased comfort level resulting in revival of the sector through renewed interest of private developers/investors in highway projects.
- It will bring relief thereby to citizens / travellers in the area of a respective project.
- It will facilitate uplifting the socio-economic condition of the entire nation due to increased connectivity across the length and breadth of the country leading to enhanced economic activity.
- The move will speed up the construction of roads in the country by renewing interest of private developers in highway projects as the risk will be distributed between the government and the private players.
- It is a fairly sensible risk-sharing model because it requires the private sector to focus on areas which bring in efficiency mainly in capital cost, project completion time and quality.
- This model will also bring in long-term infrastructure funds like pension funds into the sector.
- This model is also expected to double the speed of highway construction in the country as the government will no longer will be dependent on its limited financial resources and the expertise of private sector will be utilised to operate and maintain the roads.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves MoU between India-Brazil for cooperation in Zebu Cattle Genomics and ARTs
The Union Cabinet has apprised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Brazil in October 2016 for cooperation in fields of Zebu Cattle Genomics and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs).
- The MoU aims to strengthen existing friendly relations between both countries and promote development of Genomics and ARTs in Cattle through joint activities to be implemented through mutually agreed procedures.
- An implementation committee shall be created with an equal number of representatives of each party for the purpose of regularly determining the activities and developing work plans and subsequently their evaluation.
- It will be done through joint projects in the fields of Productivity Improvement of cattle and buffaloes, for the purpose of broadening the existing knowledge base on sustainable dairy development and institutional strengthening.
The MoU will promote and facilitate scientific cooperation and setting up of genomic selection programme in Zebu Cattle through
- Application of genomic in Zebu Cattle and their crosses and buffaloes
- Application of ARTs in cattle and buffaloes
- Capacity building in genomic and ART
- Related R&D in Genomics and ART in accordance with respective laws and regulations of two countries.
About Zebu Cattle
- Zebu Cattle (also known as indicine cattle or humped cattle), is a species or subspecies of domestic cattle originating in Indian subcontinent.
- They are characterised by fatty hump on their shoulders, a large dewlap, and sometimes drooping ears.
- They are well adapted to withstanding high temperatures, and are farmed throughout tropical countries, both as pure zebu and as hybrids with taurine cattle, the other main type of domestic cattle.
- They are used as draught oxen, dairy cattle, and beef cattle, as well as for byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure.
- In 1999, researchers at Texas A&M University successfully cloned a zebu.
Cabinet approves MoU with Myanmar for the Conservation of Pagodas at Bagan
The Union Cabinet has approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Myanmar for conservation of earthquake-damaged pagodas at Bagan, Myanmar.
Significance of Project
- Implementation of conservation project will strengthen India’s enduring ties in cultural and religious sphere with Myanmar.
- It will also generate immense goodwill for India among people of Myanmar due to religious significance as well as touristic significance of project.
- It will also contribute to India’s development partnership with Myanmar.
- It will provide opportunity to showcase India’s expertise in conservation and restoration of monuments.
What are Pagodas?
- Pagodas are Buddhist temple, typically in the form of a many-tiered tower, built in traditions originating as stupa in historic South Asia.
Bagan (sometimes spelt Pagan) is an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar.
- Pagodas at Bagan are one of the premier tourist attractions of Myanmar.
- From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar.
- During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.
- The Bagan Archaeological Zone is a main attraction for the country’s nascent tourism industry.
- The Bagan temple falls into one of two broad categories: the stupa-style solid temple and the gu-style hollow temple.
Defence & Security Issues
Ministry of Defence approves first phase of reforms in The Armed Forces
In a first ever exercise after Independence, the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Indian Army has decided to reform the Indian Army in a planned manner.
- These decisions were approved by the Defence Minister Shri Arun Jaitley after an extensive consultation with all stakeholders.
- The purpose of reforms is to enhance combat capability and also optimize and rebalance defence expenditure of Indian Army.
- The Ministry of Defence had constituted a Committee of Experts under the Chairmanship of Lt Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar with a mandate to recommend measures for enhancing of Combat Capability & Rebalancing Defence Expenditure of the Armed Forces with an aim to increase “teeth to tail ratio”.
- The Committee of experts had submitted its report to the Ministry in December 2016, which was considered by the Ministry of Defence.
Major reforms concerning the following have been approved:
- Optimisation of Signals Establishments to include Radio Monitoring Companies, Corps Air Support Signal Regiments, Air Formation Signal Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments and merger of Corps Operating and Engineering Signal Regiments.
- Restructuring of repair echelons in the Army to include Base Workshops, Advance Base Workshops and Static/Station Workshops in the field Army.
- Redeployment of Ordnance echelons to include Vehicle Depots, Ordnance Depots and Central Ordnance Depots apart from streamlining inventory control mechanisms.
- Better utilization of Supply and Transport echelons and Animal Transport units.
- Closure of Military Farms and Army postal establishments in peace locations.
- Enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army.
- Improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.
Science & Technology
U.S. approves first gene therapy for cancer
The United States approved the first gene therapy in the nation— a treatment that uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight childhood leukaemia.
- The treatment is made by pharma giant Novartis and is called Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel).
- This type of immunotherapy, known as a CAR-T cell therapy, was known by the term CTL019 until now.
- The treatment is completely different compared to present popular immunotherapy drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” used to harness immune system that treat variety of cancers by helping the body’s natural T cells better spot tumors.
Significance of the move:
- The approval will usher new approach to treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases. Studies have shown that 83% of patients responded to this treatment, achieving remission within three months.
About CAR-T treatment
The CAR-T treatment is not a pill or form of chemotherapy. It uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes (cells) but to turbocharge T cells, immune system cells that cancer can evade.
- These cells removed from patient’s blood along with white blood cells are encoded with viral vector, reprogrammed in lab.
- They are reprogrammed to harbor chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that specifically targets cancer cells.
- The revived and reprogrammed cells after returned to the patient continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years.