Polity & Governance
- Government issues notification of ‘Indian Skill Development Service’
- Niti Aayog may seek trial run of Hyperloop
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Uruguay
- Cabinet approves signing of MoU between India and Portugal in the field of agriculture and allied sectors
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Kenya in field of agriculture and allied sectors
- Japan to assist in making Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi Smart Cities
- UN declares 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
Science & Technology
- IPR Enforcement Toolkit for Police
- Mesentery, the New Organ Discovered in the Human Body
Key Facts for Prelims
- UPDATES: Advance Pricing Agreements
- UPDATES: Ken-Betwa river-linking project
- UPDATES: Bunkar Mitra
- China begins first freight train service to London
Polity & Governance
Government issues notification of ‘Indian Skill Development Service’
The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has issued the notification of setting up of Indian Skill Development Services (ISDS).
- This service has been created for the Training Directorate of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
- With notification of this service the skill ecosystem is expected to get strengthened and modernised in line with the current scientific and industrial development in the country.
The purpose of instituting a formal service in Group ‘A’ category was initiated almost two years back when the Ministry was formed and the union cabinet approved its creation on October 7, 2015.
About the ISDS:
- ISDS will be a Group ‘A’ service where induction will take place through Indian Engineering Service Examination conducted by UPSC.
- ISDS will be a Group ‘A’ service of the technical cadre of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSD&E).
Objectives of its creation:
- To improve skill development administration in the country.
- To enhance the capacity and efficiency of the organization.
- The new cadre of officers will run the skill development and entrepreneurship ministry, help implement various skill and apprenticeship schemes conducted by the ministry as well as those by the Directorate General of Training (DGT).
- The new officers will help formulate skill policies, devise a road map for improving the apprenticeship system, revamping ITIs and also help revamp course work for various schemes.
Significance of this move:
- It is an attempt to attract young and talented administrators for Skill Development.
- The knowledge acquired by the engineers recruited will give new impetus to the initiative of the government to the skill development and also efficient and effective implementation of the schemes.
- This is also a step forward to meet the target of skilling 500 million people by 2022.
Niti Aayog may seek trial run of Hyperloop
The government has referred the proposal to set up a hyperloop transportation system in the country to Niti Aayog.
- Niti Aayog may now call for a trial run for the technology at some small stretch after which the government will be able to take a call on the matter.
What is hyperloop transportation system?
- It is a transportation system where a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft.
- The hyperloop system is being designed to transport passengers and freight.
- The Hyperloop is a concept proposed by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, CEO the aerospace firm SpaceX.
- US-based Hyperloop Transport Technology (HTT) claimed it costs $40 million per kilometre to build a hyperloop system while building a high-speed train line would cost almost twice.
How it operates?
- In hyperloop transportation, custom-designed capsules or pods are expected to zip smoothly through continuous steel tubes which are held at partial vacuum.
- The pod which sandwiches the passenger compartment between an air compressor upfront and a battery compartment in the rear is supported by air caster skis at the bottom.
- The skis float on a thin layer of air provided under high pressure, eliminating rolling resistance and allowing for movement of the pods at high speeds. These capsules are expected to be driverless with estimated speeds of 1,000 km/h.
- Linear induction motors that are placed along the tube control the speed of the pod. Electronically-assisted acceleration and braking determines the speed of the capsule.
Why is it important?
- Developments in traditional high speed railway technology have not made much progress in recent years.
- From steam to diesel to electric, locomotives have come up against the physical constraints of weight and drag.
- Frictional losses too come into play when a vehicle relies on wheels. As speeds accelerate, mechanical wear and tear leads to high maintenance costs.
- Maglev (magnetic levitation), which was expected to provide a solution has not gained traction. High-power consumption, accidents and technical challenges have hampered its progress.
In Hyperloop, during the pod’s journey, an inlet fan and compressor push high pressure air from the nose to tail. This action and the partial vacuum which eliminates most of the drag, boosts the speed. Low power consumption and reliance on existing infrastructure after re-engineering, are big positives.[Ref: Economic Times, Business Line]
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Uruguay
The Union Cabinet has approved signing and ratifying an Agreement between India and Uruguay for cooperation and mutual assistance in Customs Matters.
Significance of this agreement:
- The Agreement will help both countries in the availability of relevant information for the investigation and prevention of Customs offences.
- The Agreement is also expected to facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between both countries.
- It also takes care of concerns and requirements of Indian Customs particularly in area of exchange of information on correctness of the Customs value declared, description of the goods traded between the two countries and the authenticity of certificates of origin of goods.
- It will provide a legal framework for sharing of information and intelligence between the Customs authorities of the two countries.
- It will also help in the proper application of Customs laws, prevention and investigation of Customs offences and the facilitation of legitimate trade.
- Uruguay is one of the important trading partner of India among members of the MERCOSUR, a trading block in Latin America.
- India has signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with the MERCOSUR which came into effect in June, 2009. Trade between India and Uruguay has been expanding gradually.
- Mercosur is a sub-regional political and economic bloc of South American countries. It calls itself the common market of the South America.
- At present, it is a full customs union and a trading bloc.
- Its full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
- Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.
- It was established in 1991 and its headquarters are located at Montevideo (Uruguay).
- Its associate countries are Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname. Besides, New Zealand, Mexico are observer countries.
- The official languages are Spanish, Portuguese and Guarani.
Cabinet approves signing of MoU between India and Portugal in the field of agriculture and allied sectors
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Agreement for cooperation (AoC) between India and Portugal in the field of Agriculture and allied sectors.
- The AoC covers various activities including trade in plants and plant products, exchange of scientific and technical information, exchange of information in phytosanitary issues, training programmes etc.
- It provides constitution of a Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of representatives from both countries to monitor the implementation of the present MoU.
- The JWG will also make concrete proposals for agriculture cooperation and develop guidelines and priorities for future cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.
- The AoC will enter into force on the date of its signing. It will remain in force for a period of five years and shall be automatically extended for a subsequent period of five years unless either Party gives written notice to terminate it.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Kenya in field of agriculture and allied sectors
The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Kenya on bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.
- The MoU covers various activities in the field of agriculture and allied sectors which include agricultural research, animal husbandry and dairy, livestock and fisheries horticulture and natural resource management.
- It also includes post-harvest management and marketing, irrigation farming systems development, soil and conservation, water management and integrated watershed development integrated pest management, agricultural plant, machinery and implements, sanitary and phytosanitary issues.
- It provides for constitution of a Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of representatives from both countries to develop detailed cooperation programmes and monitor implementation of this MoU.
Japan to assist in making Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi Smart Cities
Japan has decided to assist India with the development of Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi as smart cities.
So far, leading countries have come forward to be associated with development of 15 smart cities. These include:
- United Kingdom-Pune, Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) and Indore,
- United States– Visakhapatnam, Ajmer and Allahabad,
- France– Chandigarh, Puducherry and Nagpur and
- Germany –Bhubaneswar, Coimbattore and Kochi.
UN declares 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
- The International Year aims to support a change in business practices, policies and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute effectively to achieve targets of the SDGs.
Significance of the move:
- The declaration recalls the potential of tourism sector to advance the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- It will promote tourism sector’s role in five key areas:
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
- Cultural values, diversity and heritage
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
- Mutual understanding, peace and security.
The tourism sector accounts for 7% of worldwide exports, 10% of the world’s GDP and one in eleven jobs. If managed well, it can foster inclusive economic growth, social inclusiveness and protection of natural and cultural assets.
Tourism is under three targets of the SDGs. They are:
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
- Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and
- Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Science & Technology
IPR Enforcement Toolkit for Police
The Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement Toolkit for Police.
- This toolkit will be provided to all state police departments across the nation to assist them in dealing with the cases relating to Trademarks and Copyrights infringements.
- The toolkit has been jointly developed by the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
- It will act as a ready reckoner for police officials across the country for dealing with crimes related Intellectual Property rights (IPR) infringement, specifically Trade Marks counterfeiting and Copyrights piracy.
- It will provide details of offences under various laws, checklists for registering a complaint and conducting search and seizures case of IP crimes.
- The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is nodal agency under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- It is working to ensure effective implementation of the National IPR Policy 2016.
- It has undertaken several measures to strengthen the IP ecosystem in the country.
Mesentery, the New Organ Discovered in the Human Body
Scientists from Ireland have claimed discovery of a new human organ named the mesentery that exists in the digestive system.
- The organ was previously thought to consist of fragmented and disparate structures.
- Following the discovery, the world’s best-known series of medical textbooks, Gray’s Anatomy was updated to include the new definition of this organ.
- It will be human body’s 79th organ. Mesentery connects the intestine to the abdomen.
- Mesentery is a fold of the peritoneum which attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen,and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen.
- During the initial research, researchers found that the mesentery was one continuous organ.
- Previously, it was considered as the fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. It was found that mesentery has simply one continuous structure.
However, its function is still poorly understood.
Significance of its discovery:
- Its discovery will help in better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery which could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.
- The reclassification of this organ will also aid better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive diseases.
Key Facts for Prelims
UPDATES: Advance Pricing Agreements
- CBDT has signed three more advance pricing agreements pertaining to the Engineering Goods and Shipping sectors.
- The international transactions covered in these agreements include Intra-group Services and Support Services.
- With this, the total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT has reached 120 which includes 7 bilateral APAs and 113 Unilateral APAs.
UPDATES: Ken-Betwa river-linking project
- A new hurdle has come in the way of the Ken-Betwa river interlink project in its terms of financing.
- The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) has recommended that Madhya Pradesh contribute 40% of the project cost, with the Centre contributing 60%.
- The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has opposed this and requested that 90% of the funds be routed through the Centre.
- A lack of clarity on the funding pattern could mean more delays to the Rs. 10,000-crore project that would be the first ever inter-State river interlinking project.
- The project was given a go-ahead by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) last August. An environment clearance panel has also cleared the project.
UPDATES: Bunkar Mitra
- The Union Ministry of Textiles’ Bunkar Mitra Helpline for Handloom Weavers went live.
- Recently, it was launched on the occasion of Good Governance Day (on December 25, 2016).
- The helpline aims to provide a single point of contact to handloom weavers across the country for addressing their queries and seek guidance.
- This helpline can be accessed by dialing the toll free number 1800-208-9988.
China begins first freight train service to London
- China has begun its first freight train service to London from Yiwu, a famed wholesale market town in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
- The train will travel for 18 days over more than 7,500 miles (12,000 km) to reach Britain from China.
- It will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in London.