Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves extension of norms for mandatory packaging in Jute Materials
Issues related to Health & Education
- Health Ministry launches first Online Oncology Tutorial Series
- Iceland becomes first country to legalise equal pay
- Cabinet approves Jal Marg Vikas Project on NW-1
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Scientists identify four new balsam species
Bilateral & International Relations
- US places Pak on ‘Special Watch List’ for religious freedom violations
- US unveiled a list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC)
- India, USA to co-host Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 in India
Art & Culture
- 26th World Book Fair
- Jal Mahotsav: India’s Largest Water Carnival
Science & Technology
- NASA to launch two missions to explore nearest space
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Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves extension of norms for mandatory packaging in Jute Materials
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for mandatory packaging of foodgrains and sugar in the jute material for the Jute Year 2017-18 (from 1st July 2017 to 30th June, 2018).
- The mandatory extension was approved under the Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, 1987.
Key features of the new norms:
- The approval mandates that 90% of food grains and 20% of sugar products shall be mandatorily packed in jute bags.
- The decision also mandates, in the first instance, the entire requirement for packing of food grains would be placed in jute bags thus, making a provision for 100% packing of food grains in jute bags subject to the ability of the jute industry to meet the requirement.
Impact of the decision:
- The decision will benefit farmers and workers located in the Eastern and North Eastern regions of the country particularly in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Jute industry in India:
- Jute industry is predominantly dependent on Government sector which purchases jute products more than Rs. 5,500 crore every year.
- Nearly 3.7 lakh workers and approximately 40 lakh farmers are dependent for their livelihood on jute sectors.
Measures taken by Government to give a boost to Jute industry:
Government has been making concerted efforts for the development of jute sector.
- With a view to boosting demand in the jute sector, Government of India has imposed Definitive Anti Dumping Duty on import of jute goods from Bangladesh and Nepal with effect from 5th January, 2017. As a result of these measures, 13 Twine mills in Andhra Pradesh had resumed operation, benefitting 20000 workers.
- Further, imposition of Definitive Anti Dumping Duty has provided scope for an additional demand of 2 lakh MT of jute goods in the domestic market for the Indian jute industry.
- In order to improve the productivity and quality of raw jute through a carefully designed intervention, called the Jute ICARE, the Government has been supporting close to one lakh jute farmers by disseminating improved agronomic practices such as line sowing using seed drills, weed management by using wheel-hoeing and nail-weeders, distribution of quality certified seeds and also providing microbial assisted retting. These interventions have resulted in enhancing the quality and productivity of raw jute and increasing income of jute farmers by Rs. 10,000 per hectare.
- In order to support jute farmers, Jute Corporation of India (JCI) has been given a grant of Rs. 204 crore for 4 years starting from 2014-15 to enable JCI to conduct MSP operations and ensure price stabilization in the jute sector.
- With a view to supporting diversification of jute sector, the National Jute Board has collaborated with National Institute of Design and a Jute Design Cell has been opened at Gandhinagar.
- Promotion of Jute Geo Textiles and Agro-Textiles has been taken up with the state governments particularly those in the North Eastern region and also with departments such as Ministry of Road Transport and Ministry of Water Resources.
- In order to promote transparency in jute sector, Jute SMART an e-govt initiative was launched in December, 2016, providing an integrated platform for procurement of B-Twill sacking by Government agencies. Further, the JCI is transferring 100% funds to jute farmers online on the jute procurement under MSP and commercial operations.
Issues related to Health & Education
Health Ministry launches first Online Oncology Tutorial Series
The Union Health Ministry launched the nation’s first digital Online Oncology Tutorial Series.
- The move is aims to train doctors across the country in early detection, prevention, palliation, rehabilitation and treatment of various cancers.
What is Oncology?
- Oncology literally means a branch of science that deals with tumours and cancers.
About Online Oncology Tutorial Series:
The digital Online Oncology Tutorial Series has been designed by the Tata Memorial Centre in collaboration with the Union Health Ministry.
- It is part of a national programme that will be rolled out across the country in collaboration with state governments.
- The course is intended for physicians, gynecologists, dentists and other healthcare professionals who are not oncologists, but can play a very crucial role in early detection and diagnosis of cancers.
- The online video lectures are also designed to update oncologists with the evidence based guidelines and skill for the management of cancer.
Significance of Online Oncology Tutorial Series:
- The launch of this tutorial series is a visionary step that will leverage advances in IT to strengthen health outreach and health services in the country.
- The initiative will help the doctors upgrade their knowledge and skills regularly thereby taking care of obsolescence. This will equip them with the skills and knowledge on basics of oncology to detect, diagnose and refer cancer cases early.
- This initiative can save many precious lives and improve quality of life of many more.
Iceland becomes first country to legalise equal pay
A new law making it illegal to pay men more than women has taken effect in Iceland.
- The legislation makes Iceland the first country in the world to legalise equal pay between men and women.
Objective of the new law:
- The move is part of a bid to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022 in the Nordic nation where 38% of parliamentarians are female – above the global average – including Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.
About the new law:
- Under the new rules, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies.
- Those that fail to prove pay parity will face fines.
- Iceland, an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean that is home to approximately 323,000 people, has a strong economy, based on tourism and fisheries.
- For the past nine years, it has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world’s most gender-equal country.
Cabinet approves Jal Marg Vikas Project on NW-1
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved implementation of Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on 1,380-km Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 (NW1) on Ganga River.
- The project will be implemented at a cost of over Rs. 5,370 crore rupees with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank.
- It is expected to be completed by March, 2023.
What is Jal Marg Vikas Project?
- Jal Marg Vikas Project is a project on the river Ganga that envisages the development of waterway between Allahabad and Haldia that will cover a distance of 1620 km.
- It aims to develop a fairway with three metres depth to enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels on the river.
- The project includes the development of fairway, multi-modal terminals, strengthening of open river navigation technique, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS) etc.
Significance of Jal Marg Vikas Project:
- Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.
- Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.
What is River Information system?
- River Information system (RIS) RIS is a combination of modern tracking equipment comprising of hardware and software designed to optimise transport and traffic processes in inland water navigation.
- The system has the capability to enhance swift electronic data transfer between mobile vessels and Base stations through advance and real-time exchange of information.
- It enables safe and efficient inland water transport by avoiding risks such as (i) Ship-to-Ship collisions. (ii) Ship-Bridge collisions. (iii) Groundings.
- Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI) is implementing the RIS in India.
- National Waterway-1 (NW-1) is a waterway passing through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, potentially serving the major cities of Haldia, Howrah, Kolkata, Bhagalpur, Patna, Ghazipur, Varanasi, Allahabad and their industrial hinterlands including several industries located along the Ganga basin.
About Inland Waterways Authority of India:
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India.
- Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
- Its main function is to build the necessary infrastructure in the inland waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Scientists identify four new balsam species
Scientists have reported the discovery of four new species of balsam from various locations in Arunachal Pradesh.
What are balsams?
- Balsams are commonly known as jewel weeds because of diverse colour of their flowers.
- They are distributed throughout the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Africa and Madagascar.
- Their genus is called Impatiens, signifying impatient nature of their fruits which explode when touched.
- India is home to more than 230 balsam species.
About the newly discovered species:
The four new balsam species discovered are:
- It was discovered in Pongchan. The species is characterised by small yellow flowers and hairy leaves.
- It has been named after Haridasan, former scientist, State Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh, for his contribution to the taxonomy of the north-eastern States.
- It was discovered in Anjaw district.
- It sports bright yellow flowers with small red spots on the throat and has long spur at the back. Its name denotes similarities with I. citrina.
- It was discovered from the Lower Dibang valley.
- It grows to height of more than one metre and has dark purple flowers with pale yellow throat and green stalk. Its name denotes dark purple colour in Sanskrit.
- It was found growing in Roing and Upper Siang.
- It has clustered white flowers with yellow patch on the mouth and hooked spur.
Threats to these species:
- Infrastructure project like road widening works, deforestation and other development activities are posing a threat to the natural habitat of the new species.
Bilateral & International Relations
US places Pak on ‘Special Watch List’ for religious freedom violations
The US has placed Pakistan on a ‘Special Watch List’ for “severe violations” of religious freedom, making it the only country to be put under the newly-formed list.
Why was Pakistan placed on a ‘Special Watch List’?
- As per US, Pakistan was placed in this list because it continues to harass its religious minorities, tolerates extra-judicial violence in the guise of opposing blasphemy.
- Moreover, it has state-sanctioned discrimination against groups such as Ahmadis. According to research, Pakistan is one of countries with most restrictions on religion.
What is Special Watch List?
- The Special Watch List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to level of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPC).
- It is new category created by Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.
- The designations are aimed at improving respect for religious freedom in these countries.
- The Special Watch List designation to countries is step below designating it as CPC, which automatically imposes economic and political sanctions.
- The Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act amended International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act to require President to designate ‘Special Watch List’ of countries deemed not to meet all of CPC criteria but who engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
- Under the IRF Act of 1998, US Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as CPC. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.
US unveiled a list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC)
The US State Department has unveiled its list of countries designated as the worst offenders against religious liberty. These countries are labelled as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC).
- They are Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
What is Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)?
A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in “systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious” violations of religious liberty.
- This declaration is in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
- The designation of these countries is a key step in ensuring continued U.S. engagement in support of international religious freedom.
- Also, these designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.
- The governments that have been designated as CPCs are subject to ‘Presidential Actions’, such as sanctions, which may include economic or political measures directed against a government to encourage it to improve the state of religious freedom in its country.
India, USA to co-host Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 in India
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and the USA for co-hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 in India.
- The MoU delineated the responsibilities, areas of co-operation including logistics and venue related requirements between the parties for smooth conduct of the Summit.
About the Global Entrepreneurship summit (GES):
- Organised annually since 2010, GES is preeminent annual entrepreneurship gathering that convenes over one thousand emerging entrepreneurs, investors, and supporters from around the world.
- This is the first time GES is being held in South Asia.
- The event underscores the broad and enduring partnership with India.
- The four primary focus areas of GES 2017 are Digital Economy and Financial Technology, Health Care and Life Sciences, Energy and Infrastructure, and Media and Entertainment.
About GES 2017:
- The 8th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship summit (GES) was held in Hyderabad.
- It was hosted by NITI Aayog in partnership with US government.
- The summit was attended by 1,500 entrepreneurs from 170 countries.
- The theme for 2017 GES is “Women First, Prosperity for All”.
Outcomes of GES 2017:
- The Summit provided opportunities for meeting with global industry leaders, networking of international entrepreneurs, innovators, investors.
- The summit also provided forum for pitching competition, strategic workshops and sector-programmes to help in creating new collaborations amongst entrepreneurs and Investors.
- The Summit provided for significantly increased economic opportunities for young entrepreneurs, especially, women entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Art & Culture
26th World Book Fair
The 26th edition of annual World Book Fair was held in New Delhi.
- It was organised by National Book Trust (NBT), under Ministry of Human Resource Development in association with India Trade Promotion Organisation.
- The theme for this year is ‘Environment and Climate Change’. It focuses on environment issues like climate change, global warming, and water pollution.
- The theme of the 2017 edition was – “Writings on Women by Women”.
Guest of Honour Country:
- European Union was Guest of Honour Country for this year’s book fair.
About the World Book Fair:
- The annual New Delhi World Book Fair was started in 1972 in New Delhi with only 200 participants.
- Over the years it has grown exponentially and now has 886 and 800 participants as publishers in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
- The fair serves as meeting point of readers and publishers.
Jal Mahotsav: India’s Largest Water Carnival
India’s biggest water carnival through ‘Jal Mahotsav’ is organised every year in Hanuwantiya Island in Madhya Pradesh.
- The third such ‘Jal Mahotsav’ concluded this year on January 2.
About Jal Mahotsav:
Jal Mahotsav is a celebration of Madhya Pradesh’s natural beauty and its culture held between October and January.
- Hanuwantiya island plays host to Jal Mahotsav – India’s largest water carnival.
- It is also a great place to try out a variety of adventure sports like parasailing, paramotoring, water zorbing, and many others.
- The festival also represents the culture of Madhya Pradesh – a culture that stands for rich skill set of its artisans and rich heritage.
About Hanuwantiya island:
- Hanuwantiya island, located on the banks of the Indira Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh.
Science & Technology
NASA to launch two missions to explore nearest space
U.S. space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is all set to launch two missions to explore the little-understood area of 96 km above Earth’s surface.
The missions are:
- The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD):
- The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON):
About GOLD and ICON missions:
GOLD and ICON will team up to explore the ionosphere, a boundary area between Earth and the space where particles have been cooked into a sea of electrically-charged electrons and ions by the Sun’s radiation.
- GOLD mission will be launched aboard a commercial communications satellite in January 2018, and the designed spacecraft ICON will be launched later this year.
- These layers of near-Earth space are increasingly becoming a part of human domain as it is home to radio signals used to guide airplanes, ships and Global Positioning System satellites.
- Among others, the missions’ goals is to measure how upper atmosphere changes in response to hurricanes and geomagnetic storms.
- GOLD will also explore how the upper atmosphere reacts to geomagnetic storms, which are temporary disturbances of Earth’s magnetic field set off by solar activity. NASA is hoping to find evidences for a theoretical model about El Nino’s repercussions on the ionosphere.
Orbits of these missions:
The two missions are complementary.
- ICON in low-Earth orbit, at 350 miles (560 km) above Earth, flies through and just above the ionosphere, like a close-up camera.
- GOLD runs in geostationary orbit over the Western Hemisphere, 22,000 miles (about 35,398 km) above the planet’s surface. It will build up a full-disk view of the ionosphere and the upper atmosphere beneath it every half hour.
- The ionosphere is located between 60 and 400 km above the mesopause.
- It contains electrically charged particles known as ions, and hence, it is known as ionosphere.
- In this layer temperature starts increasing with height.
- Radio waves transmitted from the earth are reflected back to the earth by this layer and is used for radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.
[Ref: The Hindu]