Government Schemes & Policies
- ICAT releases First BS-VI engine certificate
- Allow gambling in sports but regulate it, says Law Commission of India
- Special Category Status not feasible, Centre tells SC
- Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS) and ‘Khan Prahari’ App launched
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 4 species added to recovery programme by Wildlife Board
Science & Technology
- Cosmic rays from massive star system may reach earth
- ISRO’s first ‘pad abort’ test, critical for future human space mission, successful
- NASA confirms launch date for its 430000mph Parker Solar Probe
Key Facts for Prelims
- Gaming University in Andhra Pradesh
- ‘Sambal’ scheme
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Government Schemes & Policies
ICAT releases First BS-VI engine certificate
International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) has completed the first BS-VI certification for a heavy-duty engine model for M/s Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle Limited.
What are BS norms?
- The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time-lag of five years.
Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:
- The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
- As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.
- It will also bring down cancer causing particulate matter emissions from diesel engine cars by phenomenal 80%.
Benefits of this upgradation:
- Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution.
- Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world.
- The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
- With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia show that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.
About International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT):
- ICAT is a division of NATRiP implementation society (NATIS), under the administrative control of the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Government of India.
- ICAT is the first of new world-class centers established under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRiP) with the main objective of carrying out Research & Development besides extending homologation facilities in the field of Automotive Engineering.
- ICAT is one of the prime testing agencies recognized by the Government of India as one of the accredited ‘Type Approval and Homologation’ agencies in India under Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR).
- It has also been recognized as Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), since Feb 2010, by BIS for Tyre Testing, Safety Glasses and by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for emission and noise testing of generator sets.
Allow gambling in sports but regulate it, says Law Commission of India
The Law Commission of India has submitted a report to the government recommending “cashless” gambling in sports as a means to increase revenue and deal a blow to unlawful gambling.
Arguments in favour of ‘legalised gambling’
- Since it is impossible to stop illegal gambling, the only viable option left is to “regulate” gambling in sports.
- It will increase revenue and deal a blow to unlawful gambling. The money generated can be used for public welfare activities.
Arguments against the ‘legalised gambling’:
- A country as poor as India should not allow ‘legalised gambling’. Such a move would leave the poor poorer and only vested interests want legalisation of gambling.
- Socio-economic and cultural circumstances of the country are not pragmatic to accept legalised gambling activities as it is still treated as a social stigma.
- It may also prompt future generations to take unethical paths.
Recommendation made by the Law commission:
The Law Commission of India in its report made following recommendations:
- The revenue from gambling should be taxable under laws like Income Tax Act, the Goods and Services Tax Act.
- Transactions between gamblers and operators should be linked to their Aadhaar and PAN cards so that the government could keep an eye on them.
- There is a need for classification of ‘proper gambling’ and ‘small gambling.’ Proper gambling would be for the rich who play for high stakes, while small gambling would be for the low-income groups.
- The government should introduce a cap on the number of gambling transactions for each individual, that is, monthly, half-yearly and annual.
- Restrictions on amount should be prescribed while using electronic money facilities like credit cards, debit cards, and net-banking. Gambling websites should also not solicit pornography.
- Regulations need to protect vulnerable groups, minors and those below poverty line, those who draw their sustenance from social welfare measures, government subsidies and Jan Dhan account holders from exploitation through gambling.
- Foreign Exchange Management and Foreign Direct Investment laws and policies should be amended to encourage investment in the casino/online gaming industry. This would propel tourism and employment.
Menace of gambling:
- Because of gambling, families are rendered bankrupt and many people are behind bars.
- Online gambling and betting is another area which has become very difficult to curb.
- It is understood that a lot of money is involved in illegal gambling business, creating almost a parallel economy, converting legally earned money into black money that is drained to gambling operators in other countries online.
Laws preventing gabling in India:
- Gambling is covered under an archaic law, the Public Gambling Act of 1867.
- The Constitution has enabled the States to enact their own gambling legislation.
- Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000 vaguely prohibits online transmission and publication of material which “corrupt” persons.
Need for a new law:
- However, there is no uniformity in the various State laws and most of these laws pertain to physical gambling and not online or virtual gambling, which is seen to be a route to crime, corruption and money laundering.
About Law Commission of India:
Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform.
- Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government.
- The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice
- The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.
- After that, three more Commissions were established in pre-independent India.
- The first Law Commission of independent India was established in 1955 for a three-year term.
Special Category Status not feasible, Centre tells SC
The Central government has filed a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing its inability to give Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh and said all commitments under the A.P. Reorganisation Act (APRA), 2014 had been addressed.
What’s the issue?
- Andhra Pradesh has been demanding a Special Category State (SCS) status from Centre ever since it was decided to carve out Telangana along with capital city Hyderabad.
- Following the bifurcation of A.P., Andhra lost a large volume of its revenue due to Hyderabad remaining the capital of Telangana.
Why can’t the Centre grant Andhra special status?
- Under the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, the “special status” categorisation has been removed. It is now restricted only to the north-eastern and three hilly states.
- The recommendations were accepted in 2015, a year after the Andhra was bifurcated.
Economic rationale behind the demand:
- When the state was divided, Andhra not only lost a capital but also an important industry hub, which was in and around Hyderabad. The contribution of agriculture to state GDP is higher for Andhra than its neighbouring states.
- In fact, today it is arguably the highest in South. This is also a reflection of a lower level of industrialization and along with it a lower per capita income and again, the lowest in South.
- Much of this is because of Hyderabad, which political analysts argue has gone on to make Telangana, a city-centric state, with the city still an important growth engine and revenue source for Telangana. Today, the per capita income for Telangana is at par with states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, and many see this as largely on account of Hyderabad.
Special Category State (SCS) status:
Fifth Finance Commission introduced SCS in 1969 giving Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, and Nagaland additional Central assistance and tax concessions.
- Special category status is usually based on the recommendations of the National Development Council (NDC).
- The National Development Council (NDC) laid five guidelines to grant the status —
- Hilly and difficult terrain;
- Low population density or sizable share of tribal population;
- Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries;
- Economic and infrastructural backwardness; and
- Non-viable nature of State finances.
Which States are receiving it right now?
- Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, and Nagaland, eight more States were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
Difference between Special Status and Special Category Status (SCS):
Andhra Pradesh is asking for Special Category Status and not Special Status, there’s a big difference between Special Status and Special Category Status.
- Special Statusis guaranteed by the Constitution of India through an Act passed by the two-third majority in both houses of the Parliament (example – J&K)
- Special Category Status (SCS)is granted by the National Development Council, an administrative body of the government.
What are the benefits which states get under SCS?
The Planning Commission allocates funds to states through central assistance for state plans.
Central assistance can be broadly split into three components.
- Normal Central Assistance (NCA)
- Additional Central Assistance (ACA)
- Special Central Assistance (SCA)
- NCA, the main assistance for state plans, is split to favor special category states: the 11 states get 30% of the total assistance while the other states share the remaining 70%.
- The nature of the assistance also varies for special category states; NCA is split into 90% grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states.
- For allocation among special category states, there are no explicit criteria for distribution and funds are allocated on the basis of the state’s plan size and previous plan expenditures.
- Allocation between non special category states is determined by the Gadgil Mukherjee formula which gives weight to population (60%), per capita income (25%), fiscal performance (7.5%) and special problems (7.5%).
- Special category states also receive specific assistance addressing features like hill areas, tribal sub-plans and border areas.
- Beyond additional plan resources, special category states can enjoy concessions in excise and customs duties, income tax rates and corporate tax rates as determined by the government.
Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS) and ‘Khan Prahari’ App launched
Recently, the Union Ministry of Coal has launched Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS) and Mobile Application ‘Khan Prahari’.
- The CMSMS and the ‘Khan Prahari’ mobile app have been developed by CMPDI, Ranchi a Subsidiary of CIL and Bhaskarcharya Institute of Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG).
About ‘Khan Prahari’:
- Khan Prahari is a mobile application for reporting any activity taking place related to illegal coal mining like rat hole mining, pilferage etc.
- One can upload geo-tagged photographs of the incident along with textual information directly to the system.
- It uses both satellite data and human information to capture information on unauthorised mining activities.
- Once incident is reported through this app, information will be automatically directed to nodal officers to take suitable action on those activities. The complainant can also track his complaint through it without identity being revealed.
About Coal Mine Surveillance & Management System (CMSMS):
- The CMSMS is web based GIS application through which location of sites for unauthorised mining can be detected.
- Its objective is reporting, monitoring and taking suitable action on unauthorised coal mining activities.
- The basic platform used in the system is of Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s (MeiTY) map which provides village level information.
- The leasehold boundaries of all coal mines are displayed on this map. The system uses satellite data to detect changes by which unauthorised mining activity extending beyond allotted lease area to take suitable action.
- It also uses information provided by responsible citizens using smartphones using Khan Prahari mobile app.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
4 species added to recovery programme by Wildlife Board
The standing committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recently added four species into Centre’s Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.
- They were added on the recommendation by Wildlife Division of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
Four species are:
Norther River Terrapin:
- It is species of riverine turtle found in rivers that flow in Eastern India.
- It is hunted for its meat and carapace.
- It is native of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
- It is found in Himalayan foothills.
- It is threatened due to habitat loss, poaching for its skin and is also as a live pet trade.
- The IUCN in its Red List assessment of 2016 has categorized Clouded Leopard as ‘Vulnerable’ and indicating declining trend in its population.
Arabian Sea Humpback Whale:
- It is a species found in all of major oceans. This species migrates from the Oman coast through the Arabian sea, along the Indian coasts till the Sri Lankan coast.
- Ship strikes, unforgiving fishing gear and siesmic exploarations pose grave threat to it.
- Humpback whales migrate towards India’s west coast from Oman and there have been several instances of these gargantuan species getting beached on Maharashtra’s long coastline.
- It is closely associated with montane forests with dense bamboo-thicket.
- It is found Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh.
- It is poached for its meat, and for use in medicines, and as a pet.
- The IUCN has categorized Red Panda as ‘Endangered’. As per its Red List assessment of 2015, population of this species is decreasing.
About the Species Recovery Programme:
- Started in 2008-09, the progamme is one of the three components of centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).
- IDWH is meant for providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
Species included in the recovery programme so far:
- So far, 17 species were identified under this recovery programme. These are Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Nilgiri Tahr, Hangul, Marine Turtles, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Dugongs, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.
About National Board for Wildlife (NBWL):
- The NBWL is a statutory Board constituted in September 2003 under Section 5 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The NBWL is chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
Science & Technology
Cosmic rays from massive star system may reach earth
A study using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has found that Eta Carinae — the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years — is accelerating particles to high energies, some of which may reach the earth as cosmic rays.
- Eta Carinae, located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina, is famous for a 19th century outburst that briefly made it the second-brightest star in the sky.
About NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope:
NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly called the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit.
- It is a powerful space observatory that opens a wide window on the universe. Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light, and the gamma-ray sky is spectacularly different from the one we perceive with our own eyes.
- Fermi enables scientists to answer persistent questions across a broad range of topics, including supermassive black-hole systems, pulsars, the origin of cosmic rays, and searches for signals of new physics.
- Its main instrument is the Large Area Telescope (LAT), with which astronomers mostly intend to perform an all-sky survey studying astrophysical and cosmological phenomena.
- The mission is a joint venture of NASA, the United States Department of Energy, and government agencies in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.
ISRO’s first ‘pad abort’ test, critical for future human space mission, successful
ISRO recently conducted the first ‘pad abort’ test critical for a future human space mission.
What is Pad Abort Test (PAT)?
- The Pad Abort Test (PAT) is the first in a series of tests to qualify a crew escape system technology of a manned mission in the future.
- The Pad Abort Test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.
Crew Escape System:
- It is an emergency escape measure to quickly pull the astronaut cabin along with crew out to a safe distance from launch vehicle during a launch abort.
- Only three countries — USA, Russia and China — have human space flight programmes.
- The only Indian citizen to ever travel to space was fighter pilot Rakesh Sharma who flew aboard Soyuz T-11, a spacecraft of the former USSR in 1984.
- India does not have a human space flight programme.
NASA confirms launch date for its 430000mph Parker Solar Probe
NASA puts finishing touches to 430,000mph Parker Solar Probe that will launch next month to help predict devastating solar storms.
About NASA’s Parker Solar Probe:
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the sun.
- To trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and
- To explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
- Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
- Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar wind.
- Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
- Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.
Key facts about the probe:
- The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere about 6.2 million miles from our star’s surface.
- It is scheduled for launch in 2018 to explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
- The probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun.
- The Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation.
- The primary power for mission is dual system of solar panels (photovoltaic array). Secondary source consists of much smaller secondary array power that uses pumped-fluid cooling to maintain operating temperature.
- The spacecraft is designed to endure harsh environment near Sun, by approaching within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers) to ‘surface’ (photosphere) of Sun where incident solar intensity is approximately 520 times intensity at Earth orbit.
- It will be protected by solar shadow-shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite.
- The spacecraft systems and scientific instruments are located in central portion of shield’s shadow, where direct radiation from Sun is fully blocked.
Key Facts for Prelims
Gaming University in Andhra Pradesh
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will set up ‘Design University for Gaming’ in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
- The Design University for Gaming will help UNSECO to develop edutech gaming in state, with the target of providing 50,000 jobs in 10 years.
- Launched by the Madhya Pradesh Government, ‘Sambal’ scheme is a power bill waiver scheme and subsidised power scheme for labourers and poor families.
- The objective of this scheme to make sure that all the households have power facility in the state.
- Under the scheme, the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families would be provided electricity at a cost of 200 rupees per month.