Polity & Governance
- MHA fast-tracks security clearance for overseas investment proposals
- HRD Ministry launches online professional development programme for faculty through SWAYAM
- Cabinet nod to ordinance to amend law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes
Government Schemes & Policies
- GIS technology to strengthen Namami Gange Programme
- GST Council approves making GST-Network a government entity
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- First organised census to estimate Indus dolphin begins in India
- Govt launches National Water Informatics Centre to maintain data on water resources
- NITI Aayog to collaborate with IBM to develop Precision Agriculture using Artificial Intelligence
Bilateral & International Relations
- Narcotics Control Bureau, India and Police Narcotics Bureau, Sri Lanka identify areas of future cooperation
Key Facts for Prelims
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Polity & Governance
MHA fast-tracks security clearance for overseas investment proposals
The Home Ministry has given security clearance to more than 5,000 investment proposals, including for Foreign Direct Investment, in the last four years.
- Among the foreign countries, U.S., China (including Hong Kong), Mauritius, U.K. has received the green signal for the maximum number of projects at 10 each, followed by Germany 6, Bangladesh 3 and two each for Italy, Israel, Netherlands and Switzerland.
Who can issue security clearance?
- Security clearance is granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs after assessing reports received from the Central Intelligence and investigating agencies from the national security point of view.
Policy for national security clearance:
- The Ministry had formulated a new national security clearance policy in 2015 after the government decided to speed up projects, which were stuck for lack of approval by Intelligence Bureau (IB) or other agencies including the State police.
- The time taken for security clearance for a project was eight-nine months on an average. This has been brought down to 40 days since last year.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has formulated a policy for national security clearance for certain sensitive sectors of the economy by codifying all existing practices. In addition, the policy has also liberalized certain investment restrictions existing earlier.
- The new policy is aimed at bringing about a healthy balance between meeting the imperatives of national security and facilitating ease of doing business and promoting investment in the country.
- Under the new policy, fifteen parametres have been laid down where inputs from security agencies will be sought.
- The parametres on which inputs would be sought by the security agencies would be: money aundering charges against the promoters, terrorist angle, financial fraud and scam, passport fraud, links with external intelligence agencies and conviction for any serious crime like murder.
- At present, only 11 sectors, including defence and retail trading, require government approval for foreign direct investment. Over 90% of FDI proposals have come through the automatic route.
HRD Ministry launches online professional development programme for faculty through SWAYAM
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 1.5 million higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.
- In the first phase, 75 discipline-specific National Resource Centres have been identified which are tasked to prepare online training material with focus on latest developments in the discipline, new & emerging trends, pedagogical improvements and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum.
- These75 discipline-specific NRCS includes varied set of institutions under Ministry’s Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) located in Central Universities, IISc, IUCAA, IITs, IISERs, NITs, State Universities, UGC’s Human Resource Development Centres (HRDCs), National Institutes for Technical Teachers Training (NITTTRs), IIITs, Open Universities.
- It an indigenously designed massive open online course (MOOC).
- It will host all the courses, taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time.
- It aims to bridge the digital divide for students in e-education.
- With the launch of SWAYAM, India has become one of the few countries in the World which has its own online interactive learning platform that provides, not only video lectures, reading material but also assignments/quizzes that could end up in securing credits after completing the assessment system.
- More than 400 Courses are available on SWAYAM covering all the engineering and non-engineering subjects at undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
- The UGC has already issued Regulation that allows transfer of credits earned through the courses done through SWAYAM into the academic record of the students.
- It is now possible for the students and others to take courses of the prestigious IITs or IIMs without formally studying there.
- The platform has been constructed by Microsoft with totally indigenous efforts.
Cabinet nod to ordinance to amend law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes
The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of Ordinance amend a law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes.
- This decision aims to improve India’s ranking in World Bank’s ease of doing business index.
- The index takes into consideration dispute resolution environment in country, which facilitates investors in deciding for setting up of and operation of a business.
- The ordinance will replace Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill which is pending in Parliament.
- It will bring down specified value of commercial dispute to Rs 3 lakh from the present Rs 1 crore.
- It also aims to bring down time taken from the present 1,445 days in resolution of commercial disputes of lesser value.
- The amendments through ordinance provides for establishment of commercial courts at district judge level for territories over which High Courts Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh have ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
- The ordinance will be given prospective effect so that authority of the judicial forum presently adjudicating commercial disputes is not affected.
Government Schemes & Policies
GIS technology to strengthen Namami Gange Programme
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has partnered with board Survey of India, to facilitate the Ganga rejuvenation task under Namami Gange programme by using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.
- Through the project, NMCG aims to strengthen planning and implementation at national, state and local levels.
About DEM technology:
- The project includes use of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) technology which ensures accurate data collection, an important aspect for river basin management planning.
- DEM technology enables identification of entire topography of an area making it easy for policy makers to analyse the available data thereby supporting the decision-making process.
- Critical hotspots are also easily identified through this technology.
Significance of GIS technology for Namami Gange programme:
- It will also ensure decentralisation. The data collected and subsequent actions can easily be shared with local public through geo portals and mobile apps.
- It will also enable people to send their feedback up to national level thereby providing interactive and transparent platform.
- It will map all types of other institutions from the source outlet to the public drainage network for effective discharge management.
- The high resolution GIS enabled data will also help in regulating proposed protected and regulatory zones along banks of river.
About Survey of India:
- It is the oldest scientific department in the country set up in 1767. It works under the administrative control of Department of Science & Technology.
- As the nation’s Principal Mapping Agency, Survey of India bears a special responsibility to ensure that the country’s domain is explored and mapped suitably, provide base maps for expeditious and integrated development and ensure that all resources contribute with their full measure to the progress, prosperity and security of our country now and for generations to come.
About Namami Gange Programme:
‘Namami Gange’ Programme, is a flagship programme of Government of India with a renewed impetus to decrease river pollution and conserve the revered river ‘Ganga’.
- The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015.
- In this connection, the Indian Government solicited support from various countries to rejuvenate the Ganga.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
- The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.
- According to the program, rejuvenation implies restoring the “wholesomeness” of the river and that includes three things: Aviral dhara (continuous flow), nirmal dhara (unpolluted flow) and ecological and geological integrity.
- Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
- Under this programme, the focus of the Government is to involve people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
- The programme also focuses on involving the States and grassroots level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation.
GST Council approves making GST-Network a government entity
The GST Council has approved making GST Network (GSTN) a government entity by taking over stakes held by private entities. As per the proposal, the central government will own 50% and the remaining would be collectively held by state governments.
What is GSTN?
- The GSTN is a private limited company floated to aid the rollout of the new indirect tax regime.
- The company will provide information technology support to all stakeholders for smooth implementation of the new taxation regime across the country and will be the repository of all information related to taxation and entities registered under GST.
- The majority (51%) shareholding in the firm is with private financial institutions- ICICI Bank, NSE, HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank and LIC Housing Finance Ltd. The central government, jointly with state governments and Union Territories, own 49% in the company.
- Its revenue model after Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rollout out consisted of User Charge to be paid by stakeholders who will use the system and making it self-sustaining organization.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
First organised census to estimate Indus dolphin begins in India
Punjab government along World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India are conducting first organised census of Indus Dolphins, one of the world’s rarest mammals found only in India and Pakistan.
- The organised census aims at conservation of the species.
- The first organised census will be conducted over period of five days in 185 km stretch between Talwara and Harike Barrage in Beas River in Punjab were riverine fresh water Indus Dolphins are confined.
- It will be conducted two joint teams of Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab and WWF-India.
- Its main objective is to establish accurate population of dolphins in order to plan conservation of species.
About Indus Dolphins:
- Indus Dolphin is subspecies of freshwater river dolphin (which also includes Ganges River dolphin) found in Indus river (and its Beas and Sutlej tributaries) flowing through India and Pakistan. It is national mammal of Pakistan.
- It is a key indicator species of river’s health. Its presence is considered as river is healthy.
- The Indus river dolphins are one of the only four river dolphin species and subspecies in the world that spend all of their lives in freshwater.
- It listed by the IUCN as endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species. Indus Dolphin was also found in Sutlej decades back, but river pollution has caused its extinction in river.
- They are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, the dolphins were forced to adapt to its only remaining habitat—rivers.
- Only 1,816 dolphins are reported to exist presently in the lower parts of the Indus River.
- Their numbers have declined dramatically after the construction of an irrigation system.
- Most dolphins are confined to a 750 mile stretch of the river and are divided into isolated populations by six barrages.
- They have adapted to life in the muddy river and are functionally blind.
- They rely on echolocation to navigate, communicate and hunt prey including prawns, catfish and carp.
- Only 1,816 Indus dolphins are reported to exist presently in lower parts of Indus River. They are patchily distributed in five small, sub-populations that are separated by irrigation barrages across course of Indus river and its tributaries. Their numbers have declined dramatically after construction of irrigation system.
Govt launches National Water Informatics Centre to maintain data on water resources
Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has set up central body – National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) to maintain a comprehensive water resources data.
- NWIC will be subordinate office under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
- It will be headed by joint secretary level officer.
Functions of NWIC:
- Provide single window source of updated data on water resources and allied themes and also value added products and services to all stake holders for its management and sustainable development.
- Empower, inform and enrich every citizen with upto date and reliable water data and information (excluding classified data) through web based India Water Resources Information System (India-WRIS) on GIS platform.
- Develop value added products and services for all aspects of integrated water resources management through research, capacity building, linkages, outreach and better governance in water resources sector.
- Collaborate with leading research institutes nationally as well as internationally to provide technical support to other central and state organizations dealing with water, emergency response for hydrological extremes.
NITI Aayog to collaborate with IBM to develop Precision Agriculture using Artificial Intelligence
NITI Aayog has signed Statement of Intent (SoI) with IBM to develop crop yield prediction model using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide real time advisory to farmers in Aspirational Districts.
- The partnership aims to work together towards use of technology to provide insights to farmers to improve soil yield, crop productivity, control agricultural inputs with overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes
- The first phase of project will focus on developing model for 10 Aspirational Districts across states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The project will introduce and make available climate-aware cognitive farming techniques.
- The project will also identify systems of crop monitoring, early warning on pest and disease outbreak based on advanced AI innovations.
- It also includes deployment of weather advisory, rich satellite and enhanced weather forecast information along with IT and mobile applications with focus on improving crop yield and cost savings through better farm management.
- IBM will use AI to provide all relevant data and platform for developing technological models for improving agricultural output and productivity for various crops and soil types in identified districts.
- NITI Aayog will facilitate inclusion of more stakeholders on ground for effective last mile utilisation using insights generated through these models.
Bilateral & International Relations
Narcotics Control Bureau, India and Police Narcotics Bureau, Sri Lanka identify areas of future cooperation
The third bilateral meeting between Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), India and Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), Sri Lanka on Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and related matters was recently held in New Delhi.
- NCB, India and PNB, Sri Lanka have recognized the challenging drug situation in the region and identified useful areas of future cooperation including in field of information exchange, control delivery operations and training.
About Narcotics Control Bureau:
The Narcotics Control Bureau is the apex coordinating agency.
- The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 which came into effect from the 14th November, 1985 made an express provision for constituting a Central Authority for the purpose of exercising the powers and functions of the Central Government under the Act.
- In presence of this provision, the Government of India constituted the Narcotics Control Bureau on the 17th of March, 1986.
- The Director General of NCB is an officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) or the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).
- The Narcotics Control Bureau is also represented on the Economic Intelligence Council.
- NCB is affiliated to Home Ministry, which was made responsible for administering The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
- Fight drug trafficking on all-India level.
- Provide resources and training to personnel of India’s law enforcement agencies in fighting drug trafficking
- Monitor India’s frontiers to track down points where smuggling activities take place with foreign traffickers.
- Work in close cooperation with Customs and Central Excise, State Police Department, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) and other Indian intelligence and law enforcement agencies both at the national and states level.
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is China’s new communication satellite. It was successfully launched recently.
- It was launched onboard of Long March-3B carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. This was overall 273rd mission of Long March rocket series.
- The satellite will provide TV transmission, Internet, communication and multimedia services to customers across Asia-Pacific region.
- It will also provide high-power transponder services for video distribution, broadband internet access, and cellular backhaul.