Polity & Governance
- MoU signed between Central Industrial Security Force & National Skill Development Corporation
- New DG of National Water Development Agency (NWDA)
- Handbook, Module & Guidelines on Safe Childhood Programme for Gram Panchayats
- India Secures Top Position in Global Retail Development Index
Environment & Ecology
- India’s biodiversity riches grow by 499 species
- India participates in Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial
Bilateral & International Relations
- Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: What you need to know
Science & Technology
- ISRO launches India’s heaviest rocket
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first Rural LED Street Lighting Project in Andhra Pradesh
- India’s first ‘private’ railway station Habibganj to come up near Bhopal
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Polity & Governance
MoU signed between Central Industrial Security Force & National Skill Development Corporation
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) & National Skill Development Fund (NSDF), Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
- The MoU provides that CISF, NSDC and NSDF shall work together at CISF units all across the country where Family Welfare Centres are functional and other CISF locations with an objective to impart skill development programs under the Skill India Mission for the purpose of implementation of CISF Multi Skill Development Institute Projects.
- The MoU aims at assisting retiring/retired, serving low medical category (LMC) CISF personnel to acquire additional skills and facilitate their resettlement through a second career.
- It will also provide welfare to wards, family members of serving CISF personnel, retired personnel and personnel killed in action.
- The MoU shall remain in effect for a period of 5 years (starting from 5th June, 2017 till 5th June, 2022), subject to a mid-term review after 3 years.
About Central Industrial Security Force (CISF):
The CISF (established in its present form in 1983) is a Central Armed Police Force in India.
- It is directly under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and its headquarters are at New Delhi.
- The CISF provides security cover to 300 industrial units, government infrastructure projects and facilities and establishments located all over India.
- CISF is just a unique organisation in paramilitary forces for India, which works for sea ways, airways and some of the major installations in India.
- In CISF there are some reserved battalions which works with the state police to protect law and orders.
- CISF plays a major role in Disaster Management, for Disaster Management course the personnel are trained from NISA, Hyderabad.
- Another unique thing which the CISF has is a Fire Wing which helps during fire accidents in Industries where CISF is on guard.
- Its current active strength is 142,526 personnel. In April 2017, the government raised the sanctioned strength from 145,000 to 180,000 personnel.
About National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC)
The NSDC is a one-of-its-kind, Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in India, under the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
- It aims to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality and for-profit vocational institutions.
- A not-for-profit company set up by the Ministry of Finance, under Section 25 of the Companies Act, it has an equity base of Rs.10 crore, of which the Government of India holds for 49%, while the private sector has the balance 51%.
- NSDC provides funding to build scalable and profitable vocational training initiatives.
- Its mandate is also to enable support system which focuses on quality assurance, information systems and train the trainer academies either directly or through partnerships.
- NSDC acts as a catalyst in skill development by providing funding to enterprises, companies and organisations that provide skill training.
- It will also develop appropriate models to enhance, support and coordinate private sector initiatives.
- The differentiated focus on 21 sectors under NSDC’s purview and its understanding of their viability will make every sector attractive to private investment.
The main objectives of the NSDC are to:
- To contribute significantly (40%) to the overall target of skilling/up-skilling 400 million people in India by 2022, mainly by fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programmes and to provide funding.
- Upgrade skills to international standards through significant industry involvement and develop necessary frameworks for standards, curriculum and quality assurance
- Enhance, support and coordinate private sector initiatives for skill development through appropriate Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models; strive for significant operational and financial involvement from the private sector
- Play the role of a “market-maker” by bringing financing, particularly in sectors where market mechanisms are ineffective or missing
- Prioritize initiatives that can have a multiplier or catalytic effect as opposed to one-off impact.
New DG of National Water Development Agency (NWDA)
Dr. Sharad Kumar Jain has been appointed as the Director General of National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
NWDA is the agency of the Union Ministry of Water Resources.
- It was set up in July, 1982 as autonomous society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
Functions of NWDA:
- Carry out the water balance and other studies on a scientific and realistic basis for optimum utilisation of Water Resources of the Peninsular rivers system.
- Prepare feasibility reports and give concrete shape to Peninsular Rivers Development Component of National Perspective.
- In 1990, it was also entrusted with the task of Himalayan Rivers Development Component of National Perspectives.
- It has been also entrusted to prepare feasibility reports of intra-State links as proposed by the States.
Handbook, Module & Guidelines on Safe Childhood Programme for Gram Panchayats
A Handbook along with Module & Guidelines on protection of Child Rights at Gram Panchayat level was recently released.
- It was released jointly by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Ministry of Panchayati Raj and UNICEF.
- The Handbook, Module & Guidelines will be useful for the functionaries of the Panchayati Raj Institutions in protecting the rights of children at the village level.
- Safe Childhood Programme will contribute in improving the current scenario related to health, development, education and protection of children.
- Children are vulnerable and subject to abuse and exploitation in day to day life. To counter it, this Handbook will help Panchayat Members and other stakeholders to understand their role and actions in protection of children at the village level resulting in better convergence of programmes and increased allocation of resources to address Child Right issues.
- NCPCR will receive reports on its implementation each month from the 14 States. After one year, the Commission will evaluate the impact and felicitate those States which achieve good results.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
- NCPCR is a statutory body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
- The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
India Secures Top Position in Global Retail Development Index
India has surpassed China to secure the top position among 30 developing countries in 2017 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI).
- The 2017 GRDI, now in its 16th edition, ranks the top 30 developing countries for retail investment worldwide and analyses 25 macroeconomic and retail-specific variables.
- The 2017 GRDI released by London-based business consultancy A T Kearney, cites India’s expanding economy, relaxation of FDI rules and a consumption boom as the key drivers for India’s up move.
Highlights of the report:
- India’s retail sector is witnessing a growth at an annual rate of 20%.
- It is estimated that the sector would grow 30 percent annually and reach USD 48 billion by 2020.
- Further, the retail sector has also derived benefits from the rapidly growing e-commerce.
- Rapid urbanisation and growing middle class is expected to boost the consumption across the country.
- The index has placed China at the second place. However, it has been stated that the China’s market size and the continued evolution of retail still make it one of the most attractive markets for retail investment.
- The government has relaxed FDI regulations in key areas of the retail sector.
- Last year, the government took a decision to permit 100% ownership in B2B e-commerce businesses and for retailers that sell food products.
- In addition, the government’s effort to boost cashless payments and reform indirect taxation with a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) are also expected to boost adoption of formal retail.
Environment & Ecology
India’s biodiversity riches grow by 499 species
According to the Animal Discoveries 2016, New Species and Records, brought out by the Zoological Survey of India and Plant Discoveries 2016, by the Botanical Survey of India, 499 new species have been discovered from various parts of the country last year.
- As per Plant Discoveries 2016, 186 new species of plants have been discovered including seven new genera, four subspecies and nine new varieties taking the total number of species to 206.
- The publication lists 113 new records from India.
- The new species of the plant were discovered in the Western Ghats (17%), followed by the Eastern Himalayas (15%), the Western Himalayas (13%), the Eastern Ghats (12%) and the west coast (8%).
- Eight new species of wild balsams, five species of wild ginger and one species of wild amla has been discovered. In addition, 39 varieties of mushrooms have been discovered.
- Of the new discoveries, 258 are invertebrates and 55 are vertebrates. Around 97 are insects, 27 are fish, 12 are amphibians, 10 are Platyhelminthes, nine are Crustacea, six species of reptiles, 61 species of moths and butterflies and 38 of beetles.
- The new species are known to occur in the four biological hotspots of the country, namely, the Himalayas, the northeast, the Western Ghats and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- As per the Animal Discoveries 2016, the number of animal species in the country for the first time has crossed one lakh to number 1,00,693. Till last year, the number of animal species in India was 97,514. India is one of the 17 megadiversity countries and is home to 6.42% of the global fauna.
India participates in Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial
World’s Energy Leaders have gathered in Beijing for second Mission Innovation Ministerial and 8th Clean Energy Ministerial.
- An Indian delegation led by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forest & Climate Change will be participating in the conferences.
What is Mission Innovation (MI)?
Mission Innovation (MI) is a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation.
- Mission Innovation was announced on November 30, 2015, as world leaders came together in Paris (during COPE 21) to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change.
- As part of the initiative, participating countries have committed to double their governments’ clean energy research and development (R&D) investments over five years, while encouraging greater levels of private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies.
- These additional resources will dramatically accelerate the availability of the advanced technologies that will define a future global energy mix that is clean, affordable, and reliable.
- India is Founding Member of the Steering Committee and also a Member of the two sub-groups: Joint research and Capacity Building and Private Sector Engagement.
About Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM):
- The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is a high-level global forum to share lessons learnt and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. Initiatives are based on areas of common interest among participating
- The CEM is the initiative of the USA. Presently, 23 countries are members of CEM. There are 13 initiatives under CEM covering energy efficiency, clean energy supply and cross cutting areas.
- Since its launch in 2010, the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) has come a long way. Its various initiatives were instrumental in leading significant collaborative work amongst members in context of clean energy supply, demand side management and relevant cross cutting issues.
Bilateral & International Relations
Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: What you need to know
Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries cut off most diplomatic and economic ties to Qatar.
- The Saudi-led coalition has accused Qatar of supporting political Islamist groups and perceptions that it is open to closer ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s rival.
What is the background to the row?
- Tensions with Qatar’s Gulf Arab neighbours have grown in recent years as part of a tussle for regional leadership.
- Qatar has backed Islamist movements in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular. It has also counselled improving relations with Tehran, the Saudi’s arch-enemy.
- Rivalry with Iran – with which Saudi Arabia is engaged in a series of proxy wars across the region – looms over the dispute and a spark for the current crisis was Donald Trump’s visit to the region, during which he robustly denounced Tehran.
- Some analysts have suggested that the Gulf states have been emboldened by Trump and the row with Qatar is a Saudi-led attempt to bring Qatar into line.
- Qatar occupies a tiny headland on the Arabian Peninsula, with a single land border with Saudi Arabia and across the sea from Iran.
- Qatar is the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the host of an important US military base in the Middle East.
- One of the world’s richest nations, Qatar is a crucial supplier of LNG to Asia and Europe and a large investor in the UK and Europe through its sovereign wealth fund.
Implications of the move:
- Oil prices have seen a jump after the six countries announced suspension of diplomatic ties with Qatar as it affected some of the world’s biggest oil and gas exporters.
- Qatar, a gas rich nation is also the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate (a low-density liquid fuel) and refining product derived from natural gas.
- About 40% of Qatar’s food is believed to come in through its land border with Saudi Arabia – which has been closed. Already people are rushing to shops to stock up on supplies.
- There are many major construction projects underway in Qatar – not least eight stadiums for football’s 2022 World Cup. The Saudi border closure could affect the supply of materials, and delay projects. Qatar will be host to 2022 FIFA World Cup.
- Saudi Arabia has announced that it would seal its land border with Qatar cutting off the country from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Qatar is home to a major US military base, a sprawling al-Udeid Air Base, which is home to the US military’s Central Command hosting 10,000 troops. How this decision would affect American military operations is yet to be seen.
- Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are all members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec). Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader of the group as the largest oil producer in the world, while Qatar is one of Opec’s smallest oil producers. The group recently agreed to cut oil production to help prop up prices; some investors are concerned that the dispute with Qatar could affect that deal. That plan to boost prices has also been undermined by rising oil output in the US.
- Egypt and UAE are key recipients of Qatar’s LNG supply. Although Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have all closed transport links with Qatar, the state can still ship out both LNG and oil to other countries by sea.
Implications for India:
- Indians are the largest expatriate community in Qatar, the same way they are in Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the two key countries who are in the opposite camp. And, the immediate worry is the trouble Indians would face as measures to isolate Qatar would hit them there in terms of their travel.
- India also has robust defence and energy ties with Qatar. India is the third largest export destination for Qatar (behind Japan and South Korea) and ranks at 10th position for Qatar’s imports.
- The Gulf Arab state is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 65% of India’s global import and 15% of Qatar’s export of LNG with an annual import of 7.5 million metric tons (MMT) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) under a long-term contract between Petronet LNG of India and RasGas Co Ltd of Qatar, and some spot purchases by Indian companies from time to time.
- India also imports ethylene, propylene, ammonia, urea and polyethene from Qatar. Therefore, the balance of trade continues to be heavily in Qatar’s favour.
Science & Technology
ISRO launches India’s heaviest rocket
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched the country’s heaviest rocket – Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) – along with a communications satellite GSAT-19.
- GSAT-19 communications satellite is the heaviest to be lifted by an Indian rocket till date – to an altitude of around 179km above the Earth.
Significance of this launch:
- The rocket’s main and bigger cryogenic engine has been developed by space scientists indigenously. It will help India get a greater share of the multi-billion dollar global space market and reduce dependency on international launching vehicles.
- Because of the absence of a powerful launcher, ISRO currently launches satellites above 2 tonnes on European rockets for a big fee. This launch will enable ISRO to launch from India heavier communications spacecraft to geostationary orbits of 36,000 km.
About GSLV Mark III:
GSLV Mark III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO.
- It has double the capacity of its predecessor GSLV Mark II in terms of its payload carrying capacity. Its first stage is made of two straps on motors filled with solid fuel.
- It can put four-tonne satellites in the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and is capable of placing up to eight tonnes in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This capacity is enough to carry a manned module and launch people into space.
- The rocket has three-stages with two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C-25). The solid booster S200 is the third largest solid booster in the world.
GSAT-19 satellite is the communication satellite of India, configured around the ISRO’s standard I-3K bus.
- The satellite carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders.
- Besides, it carries a Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer (GRASP) payload to monitor and study the nature of charged particles and the influence of space radiation on satellites and their electronic components.
- GSAT-19 also features certain advanced spacecraft technologies including miniaturised heat pipe, fibre optic gyro, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer, Ku-band TTC transponder, as well an indigenous Lithium-ion Battery.
- GSAT-19 was powered by indigenously-made Lithium-ion batteries. This was the first time when ISRO has powered a satellite for the first time with Lithium-ion batteries. Similar batteries will be used in future to power electric vehicles like cars and buses.
- GSAT-19 will help to improve telecommunication and broadcasting areas. This is India’s first fully functional rocket to be tested with a cryogenic engine.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first Rural LED Street Lighting Project in Andhra Pradesh
- Government will retrofit 10 lakh conventional street lights with LED lights in Gram Panchayats of 7 districts in Andhra Pradesh.
- The project will be carried out by the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) functioning under the Ministry of Power.
- This project will be the first rural LED street lighting project under the Government of India’s Street Lighting National Project (SLNP).
- The total upfront capital cost of the project would be funded by French Development Agency Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
- The project will help the gram panchayats to cumulatively save approximately 147 million units of electricity in a year. It will lead to a reduction of approximately 12 crore tonnes of CO2.
- The EESL will be made responsible for carrying out annual maintenance and warranty replacement exercises in these gram panchayats for a period of 10 years.
India’s first ‘private’ railway station Habibganj to come up near Bhopal
- Habibganj railway station in the suburbs of Bhopal will become country’s first railway station to be redeveloped in a public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
- The project aims at developing Habibganj Railway Station as a as a world-class transit hub equipped with all amenities.
- The Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC) will oversee the Habibganj project.