Polity & Governance
- National Steel Policy 2017
- Policy for providing preference to domestically manufactured iron & steel products in government procurement
- Patna HC sets aside ban on ENA
Issues related to Health & Education
- NITI Aayog for less teaching, more research
- New Central Sector Scheme – SAMPADA
- Package to resolve NPAs gets Cabinet nod
Key Facts for Prelims
- BrahMos missile achieves rare feat
- Urea manufacturing Plant in Malaysia
- World Press Freedom Day
- Amicus curiae in hearing of ‘triple talaq’
- Industries found illegally dumping e-waste near Ramganga River to pay Rs 1 lakh
- Chenab to get tallest rail bridge
- Cabinet approves Vijayawada Airport as International Airport
- Odisha’s Sualgiri, Swalgiri communities notified as Scheduled Castes
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Polity & Governance
National Steel Policy 2017
The Union Cabinet gave its approval for National Steel Policy (NSP) 2017.
- The Policy embodies the long term vision of the Government to give impetus to the steel sector.
- It seeks to enhance domestic steel consumption and ensure high quality steel production and create a technologically advanced and globally competitive steel industry.
Key features of the National Steel Policy 2017:
- The NSP 2017 aims to achieve 300 million tonnes of steel-making capacity by 2030.
- It seeks to increase consumption of steel and major segments are infrastructure, automobiles and housing. It also seeks to increase per capita steel consumption to the level of 160 Kgs by 2030 from existing level of around 60 Kg.
- It stipulates that adoption of energy efficient technologies in the MSME steel sector will be encouraged to improve the overall productivity and reduce energy intensity.
- Steel Ministry will facilitate research and development in the sector through the establishment of Steel Research and Technology Mission of India (SRTMI).
- The Union Ministry through policy measures will ensure availability of raw materials like iron ore, coking coal and non-coking coal, natural gas and more at competitive rates.
- The policy will:
- Create self-sufficiency in steel production by providing policy support & guidance to private manufacturers, MSME steel producers, CPSEs
- Encourage adequate capacity additions
- Development of globally competitive steel manufacturing capabilities
- Cost-efficient production
- Domestic availability of iron ore, coking coal and natural gas
- Facilitating foreign investment
- Asset acquisitions of raw materials
- Enhancing the domestic steel demand
- Steel is one of the most important products in the modern world and forms the backbone to any industrial economy.
- India being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and steel finding its extensive application right from construction, infrastructure, power, aerospace and industrial machinery to consumer products, the sector is of strategic importance to the country.
- The Indian steel sector has grown exponentially over the past few years to be the third largest producer of steel globally, contributing to about 2% of the country’s GDP and employing about 5 lakh people directly and about 20 lakh people indirectly.
- Untapped potential with a strong policy support becomes the ideal platform for growth.
Policy for providing preference to domestically manufactured iron & steel products in government procurement
The Union Cabinet has approved the policy for providing preference to domestically manufactured iron & steel products on Government procurement.
- This policy seeks to accomplish the PM’s vision of ‘Make in India’ with objective of nation building and encourage domestic manufacturing.
About the new policy:
- The policy mandates to provide preference to Domestically Manufactured Iron & Steel Products (DMI&SP), in Government Procurement.
- The policy is applicable on all government tenders where price bid is yet to be opened.
- The policy provides a minimum value addition of 15% in notified steel products which are covered under preferential procurement.
- In order to provide flexibility, Ministry of Steel may review specified steel products and the minimum value addition criterion.
- While implementing who shall provide the policy, it poses trust on each domestic manufacturer who shall provide self-certification to the procuring Government agency declaring that the iron & steel products are domestically manufactured in terms of the domestic value addition prescribed.
- It shall not normally be the responsibility of procuring agency to verify the correctness of the claim. In few cases, the onus of demonstrating the correctness-of the same shall be on the bidder when asked to do so.
- In case any manufacturer is aggrieved, a grievance redressal committee set up under the Ministry of Steel shall dispose of the complaint in a time bound manner, in four weeks.
- There are provisions in the policy for waivers to all such procurements, where specific grades of steel are not manufactured in the country, or the quantities as per the demand of the project cannot be met through domestic sources.
Significance of this policy:
- The policy is envisaged to promote growth and development of domestic steel Industry and reduce the inclination to use, low quality low cost imported steel in Government funded projects.
Patna HC sets aside ban on ENA
What is ENA?
- The Extra Neutral alcohol or ENA is a high distillated alcohol without any impurities and others destinated to be used in the high cosmetic industry, perfumeries as well as for the production of alcoholic beverages such as whisky, vodka, gin, cane, liqueurs and alcoholic fruit beverages and aperitifs.
Why in news?
- The Patna High Court has set aside the Bihar government’s decision to ban production of Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) by several distillery and liquor companies in the State.
Significance of this decision:
- The verdict meant that investment to the tune of Rs. 100 crore had been safeguarded.
What’s the issue?
- After imposing total prohibition last year in April, the government on January 24 this year issued a notification saying the licences of ENA manufacturers would not be renewed.
- However, a petition was filed in the court challenging the notification. The petitioners submitted they had been given the licence to produce ENA, also known as industrial alcohol, after the government imposed total prohibition through its notification dated October 2, 2016.
- The court observed that
- The government had no right to ban production of ENA as it is used in various other industries apart from making liquor.
- The State does not have legislative competence to deal with the subject of alcohol unfit for human consumption.
- The court said that we see no reason to hold the provisions of Sections 13, 23 and 24(1) of the Prohibition Act as unconstitutional or ultra vires, as in the light of the declaration with respect to including ENA within the definition of Intoxicant to be not permissible, the applicability of these provisions to alcohol unfit for human consumption does not arise now.
Issues related to Health & Education
NITI Aayog for less teaching, more research
NITI Aayog has proposed reforms to ensure that investments in research better translate to more products and bolster “innovation and development”.
- The NITI Aayog suggestions stem from a three-year vision document that outlines targets and goals the Ministries — from railways to environment — ought to achieve by 2020.
Reforms proposed by NITI Aayog:
- Faculty at “world class” institutions prioritise research and be allowed to “reduce their teaching responsibility,” if required.
- Such universities also ought to be allowed to recruit research staff from abroad and be encouraged to compete for research projects from industry.
- The so-called ‘world class universities’ are part of a government-outlined plan to raise funding for 10 public and 10 private universities and mould them into institutions that rank among the world’s best.
- The names of these institutions are expected to be made public later this year.
- The NITI Aayog also pitches for a new ‘National Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation’ headed by a distinguished scientist.
- This will coordinate with science and technology departments, ministries, governments and private sector bodies and deliberate on national issues and recommend interventions.
- Such an organisation will review progress of projects every six months and propose “course corrections” for achieving these goals.
- It also proposes a database of all existing schemes related to science and technology across ministries and departments. This will have information on the coordinating ministry, its objectives and available funds. Its key purpose would be to avoid “duplication of efforts, reduce approval times, increase accountability and collaboration between entities and measured outcomes.
New Central Sector Scheme – SAMPADA
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approval the re-structuring the schemes of Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) under new Central Sector Scheme SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters).
- The scheme was approved for the period 2016- 2020 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle.
- SAMPADA is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes of the Ministry like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety, Quality Assurance Infrastructure, Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters and Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages.
- The objective of SAMPADA is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste.
- These schemes aim at development of modern infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to set up food processing units based on cluster approach, provide effective and seamless backward and forward integration for processed food industry.
- SAMPADA, with an allocation of Rs 6000 crore, is expected to leverage investment of Rs 31400 crore and will handle 334 lakh MT agro-produce valuing Rs 104125 crore.
- It will benefit 20 lakh farmers and will generate 530500 direct/ indirect employment in the country by the year 2019-20.
Inclusions under SAMPADA:
- Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure
- Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters
- Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
- Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure
- Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities
- The implementation of SAMPADA will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
- It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better prices to farmers.
- It will also help in reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level, availability of safe and convenient processed foods at affordable price to consumers.
- It will enhance the export of the processed foods.
Food Processing Sector has emerged as an important segment of the Indian economy in terms of its contribution to GDP, employment and investment. During 2015-16, the sector constituted as much as 9.1 and 8.6% of GVA in Manufacturing and Agriculture sector respectively.[Ref: The Hindu]
Package to resolve NPAs gets Cabinet nod
The government has cleared a package to resolve the persistent rise in non-performing assets that is plaguing public sector banks and denting credit growth.
- The package includes an ordinance to amend the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 to empower the Reserve Bank of India to take more actions to check bad loans.
Need for reforms:
- Bad loans in the Indian banking system have gone up sharply in the last one year.
- According to Reserve Bank of India data, gross NPA, as a percentage of gross advances went up to 9.1% in September 2016 from 5.1% in September 2015.
- During the same period, stressed assets (which is gross NPA plus standard restructured advances and write-offs), moved up from 11.3% to 12.3% and some estimates suggested it had doubled since 2013.
- Public sector banks share a disproportionate burden of this stress. Stressed assets in some of the public sector banks have approached or exceeded 20%. Some estimates suggest the total stress in the Indian banking system is about Rs. 14 lakh crore.
Key Facts for Prelims
BrahMos missile achieves rare feat
- The Army recently carried out a successful test of the advanced BrahMos Block III Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- This is the fifth consecutive time when the Block-III version of BrahMos LACM has been successfully launched and hit the land-based target in “top-attack” mode, an incredible feat not achieved by any other weapon system of its genre.
- These tests were carried out in full operational land-to-land configurations from Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL) at full-range.
Urea manufacturing Plant in Malaysia
- The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval to the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia on development of a Urea and Ammonia manufacturing plant in Malaysia with off take to India and/or off take of existing surplus Urea from Malaysia to India.
- The project is expected to cost US$ 2.1 billion with capacity to produce 2.4 million tonnes of Urea and 1.35 million tonnes of Ammonia per annum and dedicated supplying to Indian market.
- The signing of MoU will ensure consistent supply of Urea and Ammonia to cater the need of the country at a lower price, if agreed to by both the participants.
World Press Freedom Day
- The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press.
- Theme 2017: “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.
- This was also to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- It also marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.
- World Press Freedom Day was first organized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 in an effort to reflect upon press freedom in the world.
- This day acts as a reminder of the importance of a free press in a functioning and safe society and serves to commemorate the journalists who have lost their lives in support of free press.
- UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day by conferring the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on a deserving individual, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.
Amicus curiae in hearing of ‘triple talaq’
- The Supreme Court allowed former union minister Salman Khurshid to assist it as an amicus curiae in hearing of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among Muslims.
- Amicus Curiae can be a person or group that is not a party to a lawsuit but has a strong interest in the matter.
- He/she or the group seeks a permission to submit a brief in the action with the intent of influencing the court’s direction.
Industries found illegally dumping e-waste near Ramganga River to pay Rs 1 lakh
- The National Green Tribunal announced that anyone found dumping electronic waste (e-waste) on the banks of Ramganga River in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh would be fined a sum of Rs one lakh as environment compensation.
- It is due to huge quantity of hazardous e-waste generated from various industries in powder form was being disposed on the bank of the river and the same was duly verified by a joint inspection conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Ramganga is a tributary of Ganga, which originates from the high-altitude zone of 800m to 900 m.
- It passes through Corbett National Park, near Ramnagar in Nainital district and descends to the plains.
- The cities alongside the banks of Ramganga River are Moradabad, Bareilly, Badaun, Shahjahanpur and Hardoi of Uttar Pradesh state.
- The entire river flows in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh states.
- The important tributaries of Ramganga are Kho, Gangan, Aril, Kosi and Deoha also known as Gorra.
Chenab to get tallest rail bridge
- Railways Ministry announced to build the world’s highest railway bridge over the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir in around two years from now.
- This railway bridge is expected to be 35 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower of Paris.
- The massive arch-shaped structure of bridge is already under constructed at a cost of around Rs 1100 crore in hostile terrain.
- Designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 260 km per hour, the bridge will connect Bakkal (Katra) and Kauri (Srinagar).
- The bridge forms a crucial link in the 111-km stretch between Katra and Banihal, which is part of the Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project.
- The bridge will be made of 63mm thick special blast-proof steel as the Jammu and Kashmir region is prone to frequent terror attacks.
- There will also be a ropeway in the bridge for inspection purposes.
- Slated to be completed by the year 2019, the bridge is expected to become a tourist attraction in the region.
Cabinet approves Vijayawada Airport as International Airport
- The Union Cabinet approved the declaration of Vijayawada Airport as International Airport, as per the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
- An airport is declared as an International airport depending upon its traffic potential and demand from airline operators for the operation of international flights.
- The move will help enhance connectivity to the State capital. It will also expand the choice of services for the air travellers and that too at competitive costs.
- This will encourage more international passengers to visit the city thereby, boosting domestic and international tourism and the socio-economic development of Andhra Pradesh.
Odisha’s Sualgiri, Swalgiri communities notified as Scheduled Castes
- Odisha’s Sualgiri and Swalgiri communities were notified as Scheduled Castes following President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to a new law.
- The Scheduled Castes category status will entitle these communities to reservation in government jobs and admission in educational institutions, along with other financial benefits.