Polity & Governance
- Lok Sabha passes bill to raise NABARD’s capital to Rs 30000 crore
- NOTA option to stay in Rajya Sabha polls
Issues related to Health & Education
- Breastfeeding Week to promote breastfeeding
- AGRI UDAAN- Food and Agribusiness Accelerator 2.0
- Development of Radiation Technology
Science & Technology
- Sun’s core rotates 4 times faster than its surface: Study
- India’s first private missile production facility unveiled
Key Facts for Prelims
- MahaDBT and MahaVASTU
- Humraaz app
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Polity & Governance
Lok Sabha passes bill to raise NABARD’s capital to Rs 30000 crore
The Lok Sabha has passed the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
- The Bill seeks to amend the NABARD Act, 1981.
Key Features of the Bill:
Increase in capital of NABARD:
- The Bill allows Union Government to increase capital of NABARD to Rs 30,000 crore from Rs. 5000 crore.
- Further, it allows Union Government to increase it to more than Rs 30,000 crore in consultation with the RBI, if necessary.
Transfer of the RBI’s share to Union government:
- The Bill provides that the Union Government alone must hold at least 51% capital share of NABARD.
- Further, it transfers share capital held by the RBI valued at Rs 20 crore to the Union Government.
- Currently RBI holds 0.4% of the paid-up capital of NABARD and the remaining 99.6% is held by the Union government and this causes conflict in the RBI’s role as banking regulator and shareholder in NABARD.
Adds Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) terms:
- The Bill replaces the terms ‘small-scale industry’ and ‘industry in the tiny and decentralised sector’ with the terms ‘micro enterprise’, ‘small enterprise’ and ‘medium enterprise’ as defined in MSME Development Act, 2006.
- Further, it allows NABARD to provide financial assistance to banks if they provide loans to the MSMEs.
Consistency with the Companies Act, 2013:
- The Bill substitutes references to provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 with references to the Companies Act, 2013.
- It includes provisions dealing with definition of a government company and qualifications of auditors.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development and specialized bank established in July 1982 by an act by the parliament of India.
- It is one of the premier agencies providing developmental credit in rural areas.
- NABARD is India’s specialised bank for Agriculture and Rural Development in India.
- Its main focus is to uplift rural India by increasing the credit flow for elevation of agriculture & rural non-farm sector.
- It was established based on the recommendations of the Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the chairmanship of Shri B. shivaraman.
- It replaced the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).
- The Bank has been accredited with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
- NABARD is active in developing financial inclusion policy and is a member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.
- It also looks after the development of the cottage industry, small industry and village industry, and other rural industries.
NOTA option to stay in Rajya Sabha polls
The Supreme Court has refused to stay an Election Commission circular issued in January 2014 that introduced NOTA in the Rajya Sabha elections.
- The court has, however, issued notice to the Election Commission of India, saying the poll body should be heard in detail as any judicial decision on NOTA may have a ripple effect on elections conducted from January 24, 2014, to the present day.
- The Election Commission, in October 2013, issued directions for providing the NOTA option in elections. But then, doubts were raised about its applicability in the Rajya Sabha polls.
- After examining the issue, the EC on January 24, 2014, directed that the option would also apply for elections to the Rajya Sabha. Immediately thereafter, NOTA was introduced for the biennial elections to the Upper House held in 16 States on February 7 the same year.
- On February 27, 2014, while extending the NOTA option to the Legislative Council elections, the electoral body gave further directives on its use.
What is NOTA?
- None Of The Above (NOTA) is a ballot option designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
- It was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment.
- Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting.
- However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’.
- The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
- According to Association of Democratic Reforms, apart from India, France, Belgium, Bangladesh, Brazil, Greece, Ukraine, Chile, Finland, Sweden, Spain and Columbia are countries where NOTA or similar voting practice is allowed. Few states like Nevada and Texas in the US also allow it. Bulgaria also joined the list in 2016.
Issues related to Health & Education
Breastfeeding Week to promote breastfeeding
Every year, in the first week of August, Breastfeeding Week is observed to focus attention on the important aspect of promotion and support of breastfeeding.
- The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has planned various activities at the national level.
- The theme of this year’s breastfeeding week is ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding’.
About the MAA Programme:
MAA (Mothers’ Absolute Affection) is an intensified programme of the Union Health Ministry that aims to enhance optimal breastfeeding practices in the country.
- It seeks to create an enabling environment to ensure that mothers, husbands and families receive adequate information and support for promotion of breastfeeding.
- It has been launched in an attempt to bring undiluted focus on promotion of breastfeeding and provision of counselling services for supporting breastfeeding through health systems.
- The programme has been named ‘MAA’ to signify the support a lactating mother requires from family members and at health facilities to breastfeed successfully.
- The chief components of the Programme are (i) Community awareness generation, (ii) Strengthening inter personal communication through ASHA, (iii) Skilled support for breastfeeding at Delivery points in Public health facilities, and (iv) Monitoring and Award/recognition.
Importance of breast feeding:
- 13%: children die below 5 yrs of age, owing to poor breastfeeding practices
- 823 000: child deaths can be averted every year.
- 1,56,000: child deaths could be reduced in India with breastfeeding
- 4 million: respiratory infection episodes can be reduced
- 9 million: Diarrhoea episodes can be reduced
- 15 times: children are more likely to die of pneumonia who are not breastfed
- 11 times: children are more likely to die of diarrhoea
- 20,000: mothers’ deaths due to breast cancer can be averted globally f mothers breastfeed for more than a year
- 3 to 4 points: Increase in IQ, depending on the duration of breastfeeding
- 7%: deliveries take place in hospitals
- 6%: children receive breastfeeding within one hour of birth
- 9%: exclusively breastfed for the first six months
- 5%: children between 6-8 months given complementary foods
Optimal Breast feeding Practices include:
- Breastfeeding within an hour of birth
- Breast-milk alone is the best food and drink for an infant for the first six months of life
- But allow infant to receive ORS, drops, syrups of vitamins, minerals and medicines when required
- After 6 months, introduce semi-solid, soft food along with breast feeding up to two years
- From 6 up to 12 months, breast milk provides half of the child’s nutritional needs
- From the age of 6–8 months a child needs to eat two to three times per day and three to four times per day starting at 9 months – in addition to breastfeeding
- The baby should be fed small amounts of food that steadily increase in variety and quantity as he or she grows
- During an illness, children need additional fluids and encouragement to eat regular meals, and breastfeeding infants need to breastfeed more often.
AGRI UDAAN- Food and Agribusiness Accelerator 2.0
The Union Government is going to launch AGRI-UDAAN Food and Agribusiness Accelerator 2.0 programme in an attempt to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture.
- It will mentor startups and help them connect with potential investors.
About the programme:
- The programme will help convert innovative ideas from India’s rural youth into viable businesses. The idea is to attract the youth from rural India and elsewhere, and train them so they can add value to the farmers’ produce.
- It will be managed by ICAR-NAARM’s technology incubator, a-IDEA along with IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation.
- Under the programme, start-ups will get incubation space to run their businesses and have access to research laboratories and libraries. AGRI UDAAN will also help the selected start-ups with regulatory services like company registration and environmental compliances.
- The programme will shortlist 40 start-ups in the first round who will pitch their ideas to a panel of evaluators. Out of these, between 8 to 12 start-ups will be selected for the final capacity building workshop.
- Following an intensive training lasting six months, the new start-ups will be connected to investors for funding.
Development of Radiation Technology
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) – Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been actively engaged in R&D work on the technology of preservation and hygienization of food and agri-products by radiation.
Usage of radiation in horticultural produces:
- Extension of shelf life of horticultural produces is very much depended on the produce, variety and storage conditions. For many fresh agri produce subjected to irradiation and proper storage, substantial shelf life extension has been achieved.
- Irradiation is very effective in treating the horticultural produces.
What is irradiation?
- In irradiation, food products are subjected to a low dosage of radiation to treat them for germs and insects, increasing their longevity and shelf life.
- Radiation treatment is carried out in dosage recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and it neither reduces the nutritional value of food nor spoils their taste and appearance.
Advantages of radiation processing:
- Significant increase in shelf life for many products including fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, spices, sea foods and meat products.
- Effective elimination of harmful bacteria, viruses and insects/pests.
- Cold & clean process (No temperature raise or residue); and treatment done after final packaging (no repacking necessary).
Scope of irradiation in India:
- In India, according to estimates, post-harvest losses in food and food grains are around 40-50%, primarily due to insect infestation, microbiological contamination, physiological changes due to sprouting and ripening, and poor shelf life.
- The wastage of fruits and vegetables alone is about Rs. 60,000 crore annually. Including cereals, meat, pulses and flowers, the annual loss is estimated to be Rs. 2,50,000 crores. Besides, there are a few low level irradiation plants in the country, which are not adequate.
With irradiation, it is possible to reduce these losses. The quantum of horticulture produce in India is huge. Hence, many more facilities are needed.
- BARC-DAE has set up two technology demonstration units, one commissioned in the year 2000 for high dose irradiation at Vashi, Navi Mumbai, and another in 2002, for low dose irradiation, KRUSHAK (Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra) facility at Lasalgaon, near Nashik.
- Recently the harmonization of food irradiation rules with the international regulation through adaptation of class wise clearance of irradiated food items by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has taken place [Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Sixth Amendment Regulations, 2016] for large scale deployment of this technology.
- India and Russia have also signed a pact to set up 25 integrated infrastructure centers for irradiation treatment of perishable food items to improve shelf life and cut post-harvest losses.
Science & Technology
Sun’s core rotates 4 times faster than its surface: Study
A team of global astronomers recently found that the Sun’s core rotates near four times faster than its surface.
- European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), together, helped the solar scientists find evidence of a type of seismic wave in the Sun.
- These waves are known as g-modes and are low-frequency waves. These waves revealed that solar core is actually rotating four times faster than its surface.
- The solar physicists used helioseismology to study the Sun’s interior structure by tracking the way waves move on the star.
- The scientists used over 16 years of data collected by SOHO’s GOLF instrument (Global Oscillations at Low Frequencies).
- The researchers studied surface acoustic waves in the Sun’s atmosphere, some of which penetrate to the Sun’s core, where they interact with gravity waves that have a sloshing motion similar to how water would move in a half-filled tanker truck driving on a curvy mountain road.
Significance of this discovery:
- The Sun’s core may give a clue of how the Sun was formed.
- After the Sun formed, the solar wind likely slowed the rotation of the outer part of the sun. The rotation might also impact sunspots, which also rotate.
- The researchers detected the sloshing motions of the solar core.
- By carefully measuring the acoustic waves, the researchers precisely determined the time it takes an acoustic wave to travel from the surface to the centre of the Sun and back again.
About Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a satellite that keeps an eye on the sun’s activity.
- It’s a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency.
- It has been operational for more than 20 years (launched in 1995).
- While watching the sun’s activity, SOHO has produced some discoveries about how the sun works. According to ESA, its chief discoveries include finding complicated gas currents below the sun’s visible surface, as well as tracking frequent changes in magnetic fields.
India’s first private missile production facility unveiled
India’s first private sector missile sub-systems manufacturing facility Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS) plant was inaugurated near Hyderabad, capital of Telangana.
- It is 51:49 joint venture between India’s Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.
- It has been established line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative and Government’s policy to encourage private sector participation in defence production.
- KRAS aims to be a one-stop solution provider to locally re-design, develop, re-engineer and manufacture various land and airborne products and systems in India.
- It has invested in designing, developing and manufacturing of weapon systems including Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) systems and remote weapon systems.
- It will be supplying defence equipment to the Indian Army and also export to South East Asian countries.
Key Facts for Prelims
MahaDBT and MahaVASTU
- These are the two online portals recently launched by the Maharashtra State government.
- MahaDBT is an Aadhaar-authenticated electronic mechanism, through which benefits of all government schemes will be transferred directly into bank accounts of beneficiaries in the state.
- MahaVASTU is an Online Building Permission Management System with an electronic workflow for sanctioning building approvals.
- With MahaDBT, Maharashtra is the first state to launch this system to give direct benefits with ‘Aadhaar’ authentication.
- The Indian Army has developed Humraaz mobile application through which serving soldiers can track details like postings and promotions.
- The app will also enable soldiers to view their monthly salary slips, Form 16 and also download them.
- For security reasons, its installation has been linked to verification of Aadhar details.