Polity & Governance
- Animal Welfare Board of India headquarters shifted from Chennai to Haryana
Issues related to Health & Education
- Govt sanctions Rs 1000 cr for IMPRINT-II
- Delhi Airport tops Service Quality Awards 2017: ACI
- Sukhad Yatra App and Toll-free Emergency number for Highway users launched
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- GM soybean imports only after regulator’s approval: Govt
Bilateral & International Relations
- European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approves India’s membership
- Sri Lanka declares state of emergency
- Iraq overtakes Saudi Arabia as oil supplier to India
Science & Technology
- Airtel acquires Gulf Bridge International’s India operations
Key Facts for Prelims
- SpaceX launches Hispasat Satellite
- India starts importing LNG from US for the first time
- M777 Ultralight Howitzers field tested
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Polity & Governance
Animal Welfare Board of India headquarters shifted from Chennai to Haryana
The headquarters of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has been shifted from Chennai to Haryana’s Ballabhgarh for “better coordination” between the environment ministry and the the board.
- Rule 3 of the Animal Welfare Board (Administrative) Rules, 1962 reads as — ‘The Headquarter of the Board hall be at New Delhi or at such other place as the central government, may, after consultation with the Board direct.
About Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI):
- The AWBI is a statutory advisory body established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
- It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere.
- It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws to ensure animals were not unduly harassed or tortured.
- Initially it was within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Later in 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the MoEFCC.
- Well-known humanitarian and former parliamentarian (late) Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
- The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
- Its headquaters is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
- Several government organisations, along with animal rights activists and parliamentarians, are represented on the Board.
Functions of AWBI:
Recognition of Animal Welfare Organisations:
- It oversees Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) by granting them recognition if they meet its guidelines.
- It also appoints key people to the positions of (Hon) Animal Welfare Officers, who serve as the key point of contact between the people, the government and law enforcement agencies.
- It provides financial assistance to recognised AWOs, who submit applications to the Board.
- Categories of grants include Regular Grant, Cattle Rescue Grant, Provision of Shelter House for Animals, Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme, Ambulance for animals in distress and Natural Calamity grant.
Animal welfare Laws and Rules:
- It suggests changes to laws and rules about animal welfare issues.
- It also offers guidance to organisations and officials such as police to help them interpret and apply the laws.
- It issues publications to raise awareness of various animal welfare issues.
- Its education team gives talks on animal welfare subjects, and trains members of the community to be Certified Animal Welfare Educators.
Issues related to Health & Education
Govt sanctions Rs 1000 cr for IMPRINT-II
In a major boost for research and innovation in the country, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has sanctioned Rs. 1000 crore for phase II of Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) India programme.
- Under the IMPRINT-II, a fund is being created by Department of Science and Technology (DST) and HRD Ministry together, in which participation will come from industry and other interested Ministries.
- The project will be run as a separate vertical in coordination with DST.
About IMPRINT India Programme:
Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) India Programme is joint initiative of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
- It seeks to develop road map for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in 10 technology domains relevant for country.
- These domains include health care, information and communication technology, energy, sustainable habitat, nano‐technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, manufacturing, security and defence, and environment and climate.
- These domains are distributed among IITs Kharagpur, Kanpur, Bomaby, Rookree, Madras and IISC, Bengaluru.
Objectives of IMPRINT
- Identify areas of immediate relevance that requires innovation in the society.
- Ensure support and higher funding for research for identified areas.
- Measure outcomes of innovation and research efforts and its impact on people’s standard of living.
- It will motivate technical institutions to conduct research in areas where the country is heavily dependent on foreign technology.
- Under IMPRINT-I Programme, 142 projects at cost of Rs. 318.71 crore are already under implementation.
Delhi Airport tops Service Quality Awards 2017: ACI
Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has been rated as the world number one among airports handling more than 40 million passengers per annum in a survey by the Airports Council International (ACI).
- Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has been ranked as the World’s Best Airport for customer experience.
- Last year, in Airport Service Quality by ACI, South Korea’s Seoul Incheon was ranked number one, followed by Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore in second position and Beijing, Haikou in third position.
About Airports Council International (ACI):
- Airports Council International (ACI) is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports.
- Established in 1991, ACI represents airports interests with Governments and international organizations such as ICAO.
- It develops standards, policies and recommended practices for airports, and provides information and training opportunities to raise standards around the world.
About ASQ awards:
The Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards are the aviation industry’s most prestigious accolades.
- The awards recognize the airports which have achieved the highest passenger satisfaction ratings in the ASQ Survey – the world’s benchmark measure of airport excellence.
- It is the only worldwide programme to survey passengers at the airports on their day of travel.
Sukhad Yatra App and Toll-free Emergency number for Highway users launched
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) has launched Sukhad Yatra mobile application and 1033 Toll-free Emergency number for highway users.
About Sukhad Yatra App:
- Sukhad Yatra mobile application has been prepared by National Highways Authority of India, NHAI, to empower the Highway user.
- The key feature of the app includes provision for the user to enter road quality-related information or to report any accident or pothole on the highway.
- It also provides users with real-time data related to waiting time expected at Plazas and various facilities like points of interest, highway nest/nest mini, etc., available across the highway.
- The app can also be used by the users to purchase the FASTag tag and further facilitate the highway user experience.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
GM soybean imports only after regulator’s approval: Govt
The Union environment ministry has asked the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to stop imports of genetically modified (GM) soybean for food or feed without the approval of the regulator for transgenic products.
- GEAC, which is the regulatory body for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and products thereof, has not authorized or approved GM soybean or any other products derived from GM soybean seeds for import or cultivation in India.
About GM Soybean:
GM soybean is one of the most widely planted genetically modified plants in the world today.
- The GM soybean, otherwise called as the Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, was developed by the biotech giant Monsanto and made it commercially available to farmers in 1996.
- It was developed to make the plant survive being sprayed on with the non-selective herbicide, Roundup, which can kill conventional soybean plants.
- GM Soybean was developed by introducing a copy of a gene from the Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4.
- Conventional soybean has a similar gene in its DNA but is sensitive to glyphosate, the active ingredient of the herbicide Roundup.
- With the insertion of the CP4 version of the gene, the GM soybean was able to develop resistance to the Roundup herbicide.
- GM food has been opposed by activists and politicians in India due to fears that it could compromise food safety and biodiversity. Some experts have also questioned claims that GM crops are more productive than normal varieties.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- It was set up under ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- The GEAC approves activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- It is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials (Biosafety Research Level trial-I and II known as BRL-I and BRL-II).
Bilateral & International Relations
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approves India’s membership
The shareholders of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have given their nod to India’s candidature to international financial institution.
- With this, India will become the 69th member of EBRD.
- It will enable Indian companies to undertake joint investments in regions in which the EBRD operates.
How this membership is significant for India?
- The membership of EBRD will enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests.
- It will give India access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
- It will boost India’s investment opportunities and also improve investment climate in country.
- The membership of EBRD will help to increase scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, energy and Information Technology.
- It will also help India leverage technical assistance and sectorial knowledge of EBRD for benefit of development of private sector.
- The membership of EBRD will also enhance competitive strength of Indian firms and provide enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
- It will open up new vistas for Indian professionals on one hand and give fillip to Indian exports on other.
- It will also have positive impact on employment generating potential due to increased economic activities.
- It will also enable Indian nationals to get employment opportunity in EBRD.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution that supports projects in over 30 countries, from eastern Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
- Investing primarily in private sector clients whose needs cannot be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and democratic market economies.
- The EBRD is owned by 65 countries and two intergovernmental institutions: the European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mandate of EBRD:
- The mandate of the EBRD stipulates that it must only work in countries that are committed to democratic principles.
- Respect for the environment is part of the strong corporate governance attached to all EBRD investments.
Support provided by EBRD:
- The EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both new ventures and investments in existing companies.
- It also works with publicly owned companies, to support privatisation, restructuring state-owned firms and improving municipal services.
- It uses close relationship with governments in the region to promote policies that will bolster the business environment.
- The powers of the EBRD are vested in the Board of Governors to which each member appoints a governor, generally the minister of finance.
- The Board of Governors delegates most powers to the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the EBRD’s strategic direction.
- The President is elected by the Board of Governors and is the legal representative of the EBRD. Under the guidance of the Board of Directors, the President manages the EBRD’s work.
Sri Lanka declares state of emergency
Sri Lanka has imposed a nationwide state of emergency for the first time since the civil war era in response to days of violent unrest between Sinhalese and Muslim communities.
- The special measures permitting soldiers to be deployed in civilian areas will initially apply for 10 days, at which point the deployment would need to be ratified by parliament.
Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan-speaking ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka.
- They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population.
- According to the 5th century epic poem Mahavamsa, and the Dipavamsa, a 3-5th century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese are descendants of settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura in India, led by Prince Vijaya.
- The Sinhalese people speak the Sinhalese language, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity.
Iraq overtakes Saudi Arabia as oil supplier to India
Iraq has overtaken Saudi Arabia by a wide margin to become India’s top crude oil supplier, meeting more than a fifth of the country’s oil needs in the current financial year.
Reasons for increase of imports from Iraq:
- Iraq was able dethrone Saudi Arabia as India’s largest crude oil supplier mainly by supplying heavily discounted crude compared to crude oil sold by Saudi Arabia at Official Selling Price of OPEC.
- In given time period, prices of crude oil had shot up following production cuts by OPEC members. However, Iraq did not followed the aggressive pricing due to its heavy dependence on oil revenues to fund its economy.
- Moreover, Indian refiners in recent years have invested heavily in modernising plants to more efficiently process low grade crudes including Basra heavy crude from Iraq, giving greater flexibility in the cost-saving oil grades they can buy.
- Saudi Arabia traditionally has been India’s top oil source but in the April-January period of 2017-18.
- India imported 184.4 MT of crude oil during the period as compared to 213.9 MT in the entire 2016-17 fiscal, and 202.8 MT in 2015-16.
- Easing of western sanctions in 2015 has led to the Indian refiners raising their purchase from Iran. Now Iran continued to be the third largest supplier after Saudi Arabia.
- Venezuela is India’s fourth largest supplier followed by Nigeria.
- India is 80% dependent on imports to meet its oil needs.
Science & Technology
Airtel acquires Gulf Bridge International’s India operations
Telecom major Bharti Airtel has acquired India leg of Gulf Bridge International submarine cable which will boost its data carrying capacity.
- Under the agreement, Airtel will acquire the ownership of the India leg of GBI’s India-Middle East-Europe submarine cable.
- Airtel will also pick up a significant capacity on Middle East-Europe leg of GBI’s cable system.
What is Gulf Bridge International (GBI)?
- The GBI (Gulf Bridge International) is a private submarine cable system connecting the Gulf countries together and provide onward connectivity to the rest of the world.
- The GBI Cable System was launched in Feb. 2012, connecting the world to the Gulf.
- The GBI Cable System is designed with a self-healing core ring in the Gulf, with double cable landings at the major terminals of Qatar and Fujairah (UAE) and branched landings in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Oman, and onward connectivity to landing in India and Europe as well.
- The GBI Cable System is privately owned by Gulf Bridge International, established in December 2008 with an initial investment of $445 million.
Key Facts for Prelims
SpaceX launches Hispasat Satellite
SpaceX has successfully launched a Spanish communications satellite- Hispasat, on the landmark 50th flight of the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
About Falcon 9 rocket:
- Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight.
- SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company headquartered in California, US.
- It was founded in 2002 by Internet tycoon Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and former PayPal entrepreneur with the goal of creating the technologies to reduce space transportation costs and enable colonization of Mars.
India starts importing LNG from US for the first time
- India for first time has started process of importing Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from United States.
- The development comes on the heels of India’s first import of crude oil from the US in October 2017.
- India primarily imports LNG from Qatar and Australia under long-term contracts.
M777 Ultralight Howitzers field tested
- Indian and Us officials will jointly test the American-made M777 ultra-light howitzer in the wake of an accident during its trial in September last year.
- In May 2017, the Army took delivery of two M777 ultralight howitzers made by the BAE Systems US under a contract signed in 2016.
- During trial firing, a projectile had burst in the barrel. After the accident, the two sides formed a joint team to examine the issue.