Government Schemes & Policies
- Madhya Pradesh’s Happiness Dept. to open Time Bank
- Govt forms task force to identify infra projects worth Rs 100 trillion
- IPPB announces rollout of Aadhaar-enabled payment services
- Does the rupee’s decline open the door for imported inflation?
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Nilgiri tahr’s population up 27% in three years in TN
Bilateral & International Relations
- China funding NGOs against hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh
Science & Technology
- CLRI’s biocatalyst cuts effluent discharge during leather processing
- Health Minister announces plans of Genomic grid for India-specific cancer research
- IACS fabricates hydrogels with tunable bactericidal activities
Key Facts for Prelims
- India Participates in Thessaloniki International Fair in Greece
- Recipients of Visitor’s Awards 2019 announced
- Exhibition to showcase hand-woven textile of Varanasi
- ANGAN’- A three-day international Conference begins in New Delhi
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Government Schemes & Policies
Madhya Pradesh’s Happiness Dept. to open Time Bank
The Madhya Pradesh government’s Happiness Department plans to set up a Time Bank that would lend currency to an hour, which could be exchanged to learn a new skill without the need for any paper money.
About Time Bank
- Time banking is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency.
- It is a form of community currency, which enables a person with one skill set to trade hours of work with someone with another skill set, without any money changing hands.
- Whenever a Time bank member needs a service or wants to acquire a skill, say gardening or playing a guitar, he/she could exchange a credit, worth an hour, with another member knowing the skill.
- Ritesh, an accountant, spends two hours helping his neighbor Nikhil with his taxes. In return for that, he earns two Time Dollars (also known as time credits).
- Ritesh spends his two Time Dollars to pay Raj, a web designer, to build a new website for his business. Raj earns two Time Dollars for that job.
The 5 Key Principles of Time Banking
- We Are All Assets: Everyone has something to contribute
- Redefining Work: Rewards all work, including non-paid and care work
- Reciprocity: Helping each other builds strong relationships, and community trust
- Social Networks: Belonging to a social network gives our lives more meaning
- Respect: Respect is the basis for healthy and loving community, and lies at the heart of democracy
- The concept of Time store was initiated at the Cincinnati in USA in 1827.
- The Time store concept then gained currency with the setting up of the first Time Bank in Japan in 1973. Later when Edgar Cahn, CEO of TimeBanks USA, popularised ‘Time Dollars’.
- Today, there are more than 500 such communities across 32 countries.
Govt forms task force to identify infra projects worth Rs 100 trillion
The government constituted a high-level task force to identify infrastructure projects for Rs 100 trillion investment by 2024-25 as India aims to become a $5 trillion economy.
Objectives of the Task Force
- To draw up a ‘National Infrastructure Pipeline’ of Rs 100 trillion, including greenfield and brownfield projects costing above Rs 100 crore each.
- To list the projects that can be included in the pipeline for each of the remaining five years between fiscals 2021-25.
- To estimate annual infrastructure investment costs, guide ministries in identifying appropriate sources of financing and suggest measures to monitor the projects to minimize cost and time overruns.
- To enable robust marketing of the pipeline of projects requiring private investment through the India Investment Grid (IIG) and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), among others.
- To achieve the target of scaling India’s GDP to $5 trillion by 2024-25, India needs to spend about $1.4 trillion (Rs 100 trillion) from the fiscal 2019-20 to 2024-25 on infrastructure.
About India Investment Grid (IIG)
- India Investment Grid (IIG) is an interactive web portal showcasing information on various projects across States, Sectors and Schemes, in need of investment or technology.
- It is an initiative of the Department of Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry and Invest India.
- It is the first point of contact for investors from around the world. It allows them to view projects across various states, sectors and flagship schemes in India.
- An investor (National or International) looking to discover projects in India
- A project owner (National) looking to promote his/her projects and seek financial or technical assistance.
IPPB announces rollout of Aadhaar-enabled payment services
India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has rolled out Aadhaar enabled payment system (AePS) services.
About IPPB’s AePS
- With AePS services, any person with a bank account linked to Aadhaar can perform basic banking services such as cash withdrawals and balance enquiry irrespective of the bank they hold their account with.
- With the launch of AEPS services, IPPB has now become the single largest platform in India for providing interoperable banking services to the customers of any bank including the 34 crore Jan Dhan account holders, by leveraging the last mile reach of IPPB.
- AePS network brings doorstep banking access to underbanked customers and gives a fresh impetus to financial inclusion.
Does the rupee’s decline open the door for imported inflation?
The Indian rupee breached the 72-a-dollar mark recently, hit by the weak local and global economic indicators. The weakening of the domestic currency in the past two months has renewed concerns of a return of imported inflation.
What is imported inflation?
- When the general price level rises in a country due to the rise in prices of imported commodities, inflation is termed imported.
- India imports about three quarters of its total crude oil consumption. Therefore, if the oil prices go up in the international market, inflation in India will also go up due to higher prices of the petroleum products.
- However, it is not necessary that only rise in the price of a traded commodity in the international market creates imported inflation.
- Inflation may also rise because of depreciation of the domestic currency. For example, if the rupee depreciates by 20% against the US dollar in a particular period, the landed rupee cost of oil will also go up by the same proportion and will affect the price levels and inflation readings.
What causes imported inflation?
- Imported inflation is caused by a decline in the value of a country’s currency.
- The more the currency depreciates on the foreign exchange market the higher the price of imports. Effectively, more money is needed to buy goods and services outside the country.
- With imported inflation, production costs are higher for companies. These companies most often reflect this increase in the selling price of the goods and services sold. As a result, prices within the country rise. Imported inflation causes inflation.
Example of imported inflation
- Let’s take the example of a French company that manufactures cotton clothing.
- To be able to manufacture these garments, the company must buy cotton from abroad, as France is not a cotton producer.
- It therefore imports cotton paying with Euros. If the value of the euro falls against the currency of the cotton exporting country, it must pay more euros to obtain supplies.
- To keep its margins, the company then decides to increase the selling price of its clothing in France.
- This is then imported inflation, as the selling prices of clothing sold in France have increased due to an increase in production costs.
About Currency depreciation
- Currency appreciation is an increase in the value of one currency in relation to another currency.
- Currencies appreciate against each other for a variety of reasons, including government policy, interest rates, trade balances and business cycles.
Reasons for a Currency Depreciation:
- There is a fall in the world price of a country’s major export. This leads to a decline in export revenues and a fall in overseas demand for the exporting nation’s currency.
- There is a surge in the volume and value of imported goods and services coming into a country leading to a trade deficit. A deficit on the current account of the balance of payments leads to a net outflow of currency, causing exchange rate weakness.
- A country’s central bank reduce monetary policy interest rates, leading to a net outflow of hot money – this is short term financial capital that searches for the economy that offers the best risk-adjusted rate of return.
- Depreciation might be caused by intervention from the Central Bank e.g. it goes into the foreign exchange market to sell their own currency and buy gold and foreign currencies. This would happen under a managed exchange rate system.
- Demand for a currency might fall if currency traders / speculators expect the exchange rate to depreciate causing them to sell on the market.
- It is prudent on the part of the central bank to take imported inflation into account in policymaking as it affects the inflationary expectations in the country.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Nilgiri tahr’s population up 27% in three years in TN
In more good news for the Tamilnadu’s state animal, the Nilgiri tahr, its sightings in the Mukurthi National Park have risen from 568 in 2018 to 612 in 2019.
About Mukurthi National Park
- It is located on the high altitudes of the Nilgiris west of Ootacamund hill station in the northwest corner of Tamil Nadu in the Western Ghats mountain range.
- It is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India’s first International Biosphere Reserve. As part of the Western Ghats, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012.
- It has primarily grassland, interspersed with numerous isolated, sharply defined montane wet temperate mixed forests locally termed ‘Sholas’.
- Major attraction of the park is Nilgiri thar. It has also, barking deer, Nilgiri marten, otter, jungle cat, jackals etc.
- The park also has large varieties of butterflies that includes blue admiral, Indian red admiral, Indian Cabbage white Hedge blues, Rainbow trouts and Indian fritillary, which has a similarity to the Himalayan Butterflies.
About Nilgiri tahr
- The Nilgiri tahr is an ungulate (animal with hooves).
- It is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
- As per IUCN Red data list, it is listed as
- The Nilgiri tahr is fully protected (Schedule I) by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, although this protection is rarely enforced, and illegal hunting is a major threat.
- It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
- Currently, the only populations with more than 300 individuals are in Eravikulam National Park and in the Grass Hills in Anamalai.
- The creation of Eravikulam and Silent Valley National Parks, Mukurti, Anamalai, and Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary and the Kalakadu-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, together offer an important degree of protection to the Nilgiri Tahr.
Bilateral & International Relations
China funding NGOs against hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh
China is trying to fund certain civil society organizations to incite protests against hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, fear Indian government officials.
What is the issue?
- China is funding NGO against hydro projects amid India’s efforts to revive work on the long-pending hydro projects, including the 2,000 megawatts (MW) Lower Subansiri and 2,880 MW Dibang projects.
- India is also trying to expedite the completion of 600MW Tawang-I and 800MW Tawang-II projects in the strategically located state.
Why is china doing so?
- The hydro projects are located on the rivers which pass through Chinese ‘controlled’ Tibet.
- Any delay in building hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh on rivers originating in China will affect India’s strategy of establishing its prior-use claim over the waters, according to international law.
- China wants to delay these projects and divert the water to arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu under its ambitious south-north water diversion scheme. China is working on south-north water diversion scheme for Yarlung Tsangpo, the upper stream of the Brahmaputra river.
- If China is able to complete the diversion before Indian hydro power projects, its claim over water will be stronger as per international law.
Reason for China’s Sensitivity Towards Losing Claim Over Tawang
- The Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh is the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama. Tawang happens to be one of the most significant centres of Tibetan Buddhism.
- In order to have a tighter control over Tibet, China wants to control future Dalai Lama and in case the future Dalai Lama is chosen from traditionally Tibetan area, like Tawang, which lies outside China’s control, they fear that there could be another generation of Tibetan opposition to the Chinese rule in Tibet.
- China disregards the Mc Mohan line as the legal delineation between India and China. It says that this was a demarcation agreed upon between erstwhile British Raj and Tibet.
- It claims sovereign rights over the state of Arunachal Pradesh and calls it South Tibet. Most importantly, it is sensitive to losing Tawang for the reasons stated above.
About Tawang Hydroelectric Project
- The Tawang Hydroelectric Project is proposed on Tawang chu river. The Tawang Chu and Nyamjang Chu are the two main rivers in Tawang district. The Tawang Chu emerges after the confluence of Mago Chu and Nyukcharong Chu.
- The river system for Nyukcharong Chu originates from Tibet in the eastern Himalayas.
- The catchment area of Tawang Chu river lies in the inaccessible high mountain region of the Himalayas and a major part of it is located outside the Indian territory in Tibet. About 65% of the catchment area of this river lies in Tibet.
- The forest advisory committee of the ministry of environment had earlier deferred clearance to the 600MW Tawang hydroelectric project, saying that the location is a vital wintering ground for the black-necked crane, an endangered species, and other birds.
Science & Technology
CLRI’s biocatalyst cuts effluent discharge during leather processing
A novel amylase-based biocatalyst is developed by researchers at the Central Leather Research Institute (CSIR-CLRI), Chennai.
Leather Processing Steps
About the New amylase-based biocatalyst
- The New amylase-based biocatalyst helps in processing leather in an environment-friendly way and also drastically cutting the time taken to process the skin at the pre-tanning stage.
- Pre-tanning process generates 60-70% of total pollution during processing.
Significance of new biocatalyst
- When the biocatalyst is used, the quantum of effluent discharge is considerably cut as there is threefold reduction in water usage.
- In particular, the amount of chromium that gets absorbed in biocatalyst is leading to less chromium discharge into the environment.
- Chromium is used for increasing the stability of the collagen through cross-linking. Since no chemicals are used by using new biocatalyst, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) drops by about 35% while the total solid effluent load reduces by over 50%.
Why less chromium and water are required?
- The reason why less chromium and water are required at the pre-tanning stage when the biocatalyst is used is because of the 120 times higher binding of the biocatalyst to the glycan sugar (glycosaminoglycan) present predominantly in the skin.
- Once the catalysts binds to the sugar, it selectively breaks down (hydrolysis) the sugar thus opening up the skin fibre.
- With the use of biocatalyst, the binding and hydrolysis (breaking down of fibres) happens rapidly.
- Traditionally, amylase enzymes take three-to-four hours to open the fibres while use of lime and sulphate could take much longer than enzymes.
- The normal amylase enzyme has limited efficiency to bind to the substrate leading to reduced ability to open the skin fibre. However, the genetic code engineering allows researchers to improve the enzymatic properties of amylase enzyme.
- Deep penetration of the biocatalyst has two advantages: it is sufficient to use less amount of chromium to increase the stability of the collagen and the quality of the finished leather also becomes superior.
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
- The chemical oxygen demand (COD) is a measure of water and wastewater quality. The COD test is often used to monitor water treatment plant efficiency.
- This test is based on the fact that a strong oxidizing agent (e.g. potassium dichromate, potassium iodate, potassium permanganate), under acidic conditions, can fully oxidize almost any organic compound to carbon dioxide.
- The COD is the amount of oxygen consumed to chemically oxidize organic water contaminants to inorganic end products.
- The higher the chemical oxygen demand, the higher the amount of pollution in the test sample.
- It is a substance that initiates or modifies the rate of a chemical reaction in a living body.
Health Minister announces plans of Genomic grid for India-specific cancer research
In a move to take cancer research to the next level and make treatment viable for people of different economic classes, the government has plans to set up a National Genomic Grid, which will study genomic data of cancer patients from India,
About National Genomic Grid (NGG)
- The grid will be formed in line with the National Cancer Tissue Biobank (NCTB) which is set up at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
- It will collect samples from cancer patients to study genomic factors influencing cancer and identifying the right treatment modalities for the Indian population.
- The grid will have four parts, with the country divided into east, west, north and south
- The genomic samples will help researches to have India-specific studies on cancers.
- Government was on a mission to achieve the target of one doctor for every 1,000 people, a standard ratio set by the WHO, by 2022, against the current ratio of 1/1,400.
- Also, the government plans to increase the number of MBBS seats in the country from 42,000 to one lakh.
About National Cancer Tissue Biobank
- National Cancer Tissue Biobank (NCTB), a non-profit community based tissue bank, is a joint initiative of Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM).
- NCTB is the first of its kind facility in India and is aiming to provide researchers with high quality of cancer tissues and the patient data in order to facilitate cancer research that will lead to improvements in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
IACS fabricates hydrogels with tunable bactericidal activities
IACS researchers have fabricated a cytidine-based hydrogel that self-assembles in the presence of silver acetate and boronic acid.
About the New Hydrogel
- Researchers at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) Kolkata have used a using naturally occurring nucleoside molecule ‘cytidine’ to self-assemble into a hydrogel in the presence of silver acetate and phenyl boronic acid.
- The hydrogel possessing i-motif DNA-like structure was found to exhibit antibacterial activity against Gram-negative bacterial strains such as E. coli.
- While silver is known to have antibacterial property, it may not be used due to its toxicity. But when silver acetate was incorporated in the hydrogel, the toxicity was reduced and thus suitable for treating bacterial infections.
- The hydrogel containing silver acetate was found to be non-toxic to normal kidney epithelial cells and red blood cells.
- By changing the boronic acid component used in the hydrogel, researchers can prepare a large number of hydrogels with different bacterial killing properties.
Physical Properties exerted by Hydrogel
- Thixotropy is the property of certain gels or fluids that are viscous (thick) under normal conditions, but flow (become thin, less viscous) when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed.
- Thixotropy is a time-dependent phenomenon, as the viscosity of the substance must recover after a certain period of time when the applied force is removed.
- Thixotropic fluids are commonly used in the construction industry (e.g. liquid cements, liquid concrete), industrial applications (e.g. muds, paints) and the food industry (e.g. liquid dairy products, ketchup).
- Hydrogel exhibits thixotropic property. It changes from a gel (thick) to a sol (thin) phase when subjected to mechanical shaking or stirring.
- pH is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic a water-based solution. Acidic solutions have a lower pH (1 to 6), while basic solutions have a higher pH (7 to 14).
- The hydrogel is pH responsive. While being stable between pH 3 and 6, it becomes unstable at more acidic or alkaline pH.
- Hence, the hydrogel can be used for drug delivery applications by using external stimuli such as mechanical stress or by changing the pH.
- The low pH of the gel is also another contributing factor for its intrinsic antibacterial activities.
What is Hydrogel?
- Hydrogels are three-dimensional, hydrophilic (attracted to water), polymeric networks capable of absorbing large amounts of water or biological fluids.
- Due to their high water content, porosity and soft consistency, they closely simulate natural living tissue.
- Hydrogels are used to make soft contact lenses, nappies, wound dressings and drug delivery systems.
Key Facts for Prelims
India Participates in Thessaloniki International Fair in Greece
- An Indian delegation participated in the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in Greece recently.
- India has reached the 52nd place in the Global Innovation Index 2019
Recipients of Visitor’s Awards 2019 announced
Recipients of Visitor’s Awards 2019 was announced by the President’s Secretariat.
- 2019 Visitor’s Awards will be presented for Research in – Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Physical Sciences; and Biological Sciences – and for Technology Development.
About Visitor’s Awards
- The Visitor’s Awards had been instituted in 2014 to promote healthy competition amongst Central Universities and motivate them to adopt best practices from around the world in pursuit of excellence.
- Since then, the President annually confers Visitor’s Awards in various categories.
Exhibition to showcase hand-woven textile of Varanasi
As many as 46 textile objects, hand-woven on traditional Indian drawlooms, are put on display at an exhibition showcasing the finest trends of contemporary weaving from Varanasi.
About the Exhibition
- The Exhibition called ‘Pra-Kashi: Silk, Gold and Silver from the City of Light’ was organized by the National Museum in collaboration with Delhi-based not-for-profit Devi Art Foundation.
- It exhibits textile objects hand-woven on traditional drawlooms for over last 25 years.
- The exhibition is a part of National Museum’s ongoing effort to collaborate with other leading organisations to showcase the country’s rich and diverse culture.
- In 2019, the National Museum has organised three special thematic exhibitions on Baluchari textiles, Himachal folk art and West Bengal’s Patachitra or scroll painting.
ANGAN’- A three-day international Conference begins in New Delhi
An international conference ANGAN (Augmenting Nature by Green Affordable New-habitat) focussed on Energy Efficiency in Building Sector began in Delhi.
About ANGAN (Augmenting Nature by Green Affordable New-habitat) conference
- It was organised by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Ministry of Power in collaboration with GIZ under the Indo German Technical Cooperation.
- Due to lack of awareness about latest technologies, financial assistance etc. efforts on energy efficiency have been moderate and therefore require greater push. This event aims to provide thrust in this direction so as to address such challenges faced by the stakeholders.
About Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)
- BEE was set up under the Ministry of Power in March 2002 under the provisions of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
- Its mission is to assist in developing policies and strategies with a thrust on self-regulation and market principles, within the overall framework of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 with the primary objective of reducing energy intensity of the Indian economy.