Government Schemes & Policies
- Guidelines for Evaluation of Nano-based Agri-input
- Haryana’s ordinance to reserve 75% private sector jobs
- National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO)
Issues related to Health & Education
- Compulsory License
- Raising health spending to 2.1% of GDP
- Herd Immunity against COVID-19
- Himachal first state with LPG gas connections in 100 % of households
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- World Bank provides $400 million to Namami Gange
- Golden Butterfly
- India`s Efforts with respect to tackling Climate Change
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Afghanistan ink 5 agreements
- F-1 and M-1 Visas
Defence & Security Issues
- U.S. position on CAATSA unchanged
Art & Culture
- Lighthouses to be developed as major tourist attractions
Science & Technology
- New findings on Sun
Key Facts for Prelims
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Government Schemes & Policies
Guidelines for Evaluation of Nano-based Agri-input
Guidelines for “Evaluation of Nano-based Agri-input and food products in India” was virtually launched.
- The present Guidelines apply to nano-agri-input products (NAIPs) and nano-agri products (NAPs). These Guidelines also apply to nano composites and sensors made from NMs and those that require direct contact with crops, food and feed for data acquisitions.
Key Definition as per the guidelines
- Nanomaterial (NM): Material that ranges in size from 1 to 100 nm at least in one dimension or any materials that possess improved properties because of the effect of dimension(s), even if these dimension fall outside the nanoscale range, up to 1000 nm.
- Nano-agri-input product (NAIP): Agricultural input preparation containing NMs intended for applications on crop for the purpose of farming.
- Nano-agri product (NAP): Agricultural preparation containing NMs for consumption or application in food/feed and their supplements.
NAIPs and NAPs can be categorized depending on the properties of NMs:
- According to Nanoform of the ingredient: i) Nanocarriers loaded with Active ingredient (AI) and ii) Active molecules/compounds converted to Nano form.
- According to the synthesis: Biologically synthesized NMs, chemically synthesized OR Physically synthesized
- According to chemical nature of NMs: Organic, Inorganic OR Composite NMs
- According to degradation nature of NM: Biodegradable OR Non-biodegradable
Scientific Rationale Needed to manufacture NAIP/NAPs: The rationale underlying manufacturing of NAIPs and NAPs should be specified with reference to their claimed advantages in comparison to conventional products.
Provide assistance on specific requirements for NAIPs and NAPs: General requirements as specified in the provisions of CIB&RC (Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee), Fertilizer Control Order (FCO), FSSAI and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) will be applicable for any new NAIP/NAPs.
It also provides guidelines on
- General storage stability requirements
- Safety Assessment of Manufactured NAIPs and NAPs
- Provide the list of information which is required before the evaluation of NAIP/NAPs
- Help policy makers and regulators to frame effective provisions for future novel nano-based products in the agri-input and food sectors of India.
- Compared to bulk form of chemical inputs in crops, use of nano-nutrients can reduce nutrient run-off into ground and surface water and thus can reduce environmental pollution.
- Guidelines will pave the way for significant benefits for our mission on ‘Doubling Farming Income by 2022’.
- Provide directions to the funding agencies to plan the road map to promote nanotechnology interventions in agri and food sectors.
- Facilitate R&D activities while maintaining desired safety practices towards product or process development or else basic research.
Haryana’s ordinance to reserve 75% private sector jobs
The Haryana Cabinet approved a proposal to bring an ordinance Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Ordinance, 2020 to give 75 per cent reservation in private sector jobs to the youth of the state.
- Reservation is applicable to new employment for local candidates for jobs having a salary of less than Rs 50,000 per month in various privately managed companies, Societies, Trusts, Limited Liability Partnership Firms, partnership firms etc. situated in the State of Haryana.
- The employers will have the option to recruit local candidates from one district to only 10 per cent.
- Exemption clause shall also be provided if suitable local candidates are not available for a particular category of industry, for which approval of the Labour Department is necessary.
- Applicable to all private industries, units, firms and employment providers which would have more than 10 employees in its premises would be covered.
- The employees getting a monthly salary below Rs 50,000 would have to register on the portal of the labour department. The responsibility of registration would lie on the company concerned or job provider. Companies also have to register the entire data of employees on the portal.
- Companies which would not register on the portal would face a penalty from Rs 25,000 to Rs one lakh.
- A domicile certificate would be mandatory.
- Address unemployment of the local population.
- Enhance the efficiency of the industry/commercial establishment
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO)
Recently, the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO) published the 4th updated version of COVID-19 Dashboard.
- NATMO functions under the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology.
- It is headquartered in Kolkata.
- It was founded by Prof. S.P.Chatterjee, the then Professor of Geography, Calcutta University.
- It is the sole national agency bearing the responsibility of depicting national framework data in the form of thematic maps and atlases to cater to the various needs of different sectors.
Major objectives of the organization are:
- To prepare atlases and thematic maps.
- To collaborate with other central and state government organisations to meet their map requirements.
- To promote the use of geospatial information and technology in cartography
- To provide training in Remote sensing, Geographical Information System, Global Positioning System and Digital Cartography.
- To publish maps and atlases for the benefit of various users
- To carryout geographic researches.
Main Functions of this organization are:
- Compilation of the National Atlas of India in Hindi, English and other regional languages.
- Preparation of thematic maps based on socio-economic, physical, cultural, environmental, Demographic and other issues.
- Automated mapping and GIS application for increasing efficiency in mapping technique.
- Geographical researches.
- Digital cartographic research and training.
- Golden Map Service covering the whole of India especially towns and cities.
- Web-based maps and atlases making and updating.
- Preparation of maps/atlases for visually impaired.
- Digital mapping and training using Remote sensing, GPS and GIS technology.
- International collaboration in thematic and atlas cartography.
- Capacity building and infrastructure development.
- Documentation and publicity.
- Any other work as entrusted to NATMO by the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology or the Central Government.
Issues related to Health & Education
A political party said the government should issue compulsory licences for the manufacture of a generic version of Remdesivir.
- It said that the government should invoke Clause 92 of the Patent Act that allows it to issue compulsory licences so that Indian manufacturers can produce a more affordable generic version.
What are compulsory licenses?
- Compulsory licenses are authorizations given to a third-party by the Government to make, use or sell a particular product or use a particular process which has been patented, without the need of the permission of the patent owner.
- The provisions regarding compulsory licenses are given in the Indian Patents Act, 1970 and in the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement at the International level.
Who can apply for a compulsory licence?
According to Section 84 of the Patents Act, any person can make an application to the controller for grant of a compulsory licence on expiry of three years from the date of the grant of the patent, when any of the following conditions are fulfilled:
- Reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied;
- Patented invention is not available to the public at a reasonably affordable price; or
- Patented invention is not used in India.
However, as per Section 92 of the Act, compulsory licenses may also be granted, if
- In case of national emergency, extreme urgency of public non-commercial use by notification of the Central Government
- To a country which has insufficient or no manufacturing power in the pharmaceutical sector to address public health.
- For exports, under exceptional circumstances.
India’s first case of granting compulsory license
- India’s first case of granting compulsory license was granted in 2012 to Natco Pharma for the generic production of Bayer Corporation’s Nexavar. All the 3 conditions of Sec 84 was fulfilled.
- The compulsory licensing is a hugely debated issue as many developing countries are giving importance to the compulsory licensing because of the unavailability and unaffordability of the medicines.
- The developed countries of Europe, USA are opposing this view as it would make innovation difficult for the pharmaceutical companies.
Impacts of Compulsory Licensing
- In Underdeveloped countries, the innovation of pharmaceutical companies will be less as they will be dependent on generic drugs.
- They will prefer getting the compulsory license to a generic drug rather than funding the Research & Development separately.
Competition & Cost
- Compulsory licensing will increase the number of companies producing generic medicines. Hence the supply will go up, and the cost will come down.
- This will also force the innovator countries to introduce differential pricing of their patent module so that they can stand on the market.
- Patients will get medicines at a significantly cheaper rate.
- Also, the big pharmaceutical companies often introduce plans like free access to medicine to protect their patents in the developing countries.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Raising health spending to 2.1% of GDP
15th finance commission chairman NK Singh said the commission was working towards a financing model to raise federal public-health spending to about 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years.
- The commission for the first time will devote an entire chapter on public health financing when it submits its final report, which is under preparation.
India’s health spending
- India’s overall health spending has consistently lagged global averages, leading to poor health outcomes.
- The total expenditure on health by the Centre and states for 2019-20 was Rs 2.6 lakh crore (just 1.29% of GDP). By comparison, the UK spends 9.6% of its GDP on health.
- This includes salaries, gross budgetary support and transfers to states under programmes such as the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme. Of the total expenditure, the Centre’s share is 25%.
Herd Immunity against COVID-19
A new study published in The Lancet has concluded that herd immunity against Covid-19 is difficult to achieve at this stage, while a separate commentary describes it as unachievable.
- The conclusion is based on estimates of seroprevalence (The proportion of a population whose blood serum tests positive for a given pathogen) for the entire Spanish population.
What is Herd Immunity?
- Herd immunity refers to a situation when a certain percentage of the population have become immune to a certain disease-causing pathogen, thus preventing the infection from spreading to the rest of the population.
- The premise is that if a certain percentage is immune, members of that group can no longer infect another person. This breaks the chain of infection through the community (“herd”) and prevents it from reaching those who are the most vulnerable.
Himachal Pradesh first state with LPG gas connections in 100 % of households
Himachal Pradesh has become the first state in the country where 100 per cent of households have LPG connections.
- ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana‘ and the ‘Himachal Grihini Suvidha Yojana‘ together helped 2,76,243 families in the state to access free gas connections.
- The Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana is a Central government scheme, seeking to provide gas connections free of cost to women of rural areas.
- Benefits include saving women from ill-effects of kitchen smoke and conservation of the environment.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
World Bank provides $400 million to Namami Gange
The World Bank and the Government of India signed $400 loan agreement to enhance support for the Namami Gange programme that seeks to rejuvenate the Ganga river.
- Recently, the World Bank also approved funds worth $600 million for the development of infrastructure projects along the river Ganga until December 2021 as part of the first phase of the National Ganga River Basin project.
First National Ganga River Basin Project
- The World Bank has been supporting the government’s efforts since 2011 through the ongoing National Ganga River Basin Project.
Significance of first National Ganga River Basin Project
- Helped set up the National Mission for Clean Ganga
- Helped build critical sewage infrastructure in 20 pollution hotspots along the river
- Additional creation of sewage treatment capacity
- Helped foster public mobilization for Ganga rejunivation
Second National Ganga River Basin Project
- The projects to be undertaken under the second phase include spillover projects from the first phase of the mission as well as cleaning projects in tributaries such as the Yamuna and Kali rivers.
- In the second phase, the loan would fund ₹1,134 crores ($150
million) for three new Hybrid Annuity Projects in Agra, Meerut and
Saharanpur for the tributaries of the Ganga.
- Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) of public private partnership has become the solution of choice for sewage treatment investments in the Ganga Basin.
- Under this model, the government pays a private operator 40 % of the capital cost to build a sewage treatment plant during the construction period; the remaining 60 % is paid as performance-linked payments over 15 years to ensure that the operator runs and maintains the plant efficiently.
Government initiatives to clean Ganga:
- Initiatives to clean the Ganga began with the Ganga Action Plan I in 1986. Objective was to restoring the river water quality to the ‘Bathing Class’.
- Ganga Action Plan II (1993): Pollution abatement of river Yamuna and
Gomti, major tributaries of river Ganga.
- The river pollution abatement further expanded to include other major rivers in 1995 under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).
- National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) (2009): under Section 3(3) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which also declared Ganges as the National River of India.
- Government clean-up campaign (2010): Remove untreated municipal sewage by 2020.
- 2011: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was formed
which acted as implementation arm of NGRBA. However, in 2016, NGRBA was
replaced by National Ganga Council (NGC).
- The Prime Minister is the head of NGC.
- NGC has chief ministers of five Ganga basin states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- Ganga Manthan (2014): National Conference to discuss suggestion on revival of ganga.
- Clean Ganga Fund (2014): cleaning of river Ganga, set up waste treatment plants, R&D projects etc.
- National Green Tribunal (NGT) (2017): prohibited dumping of waste within 500 metres of the river Ganga.
- It is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as Flagship Programme by Government in June 2014 with a budget outlay of 20,000 Crore.
- It being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
- It has been made 100% central sector scheme to ensure sufficient availability of funds to the state government, reduction in time loss for collection of state share thereby faster approval of contracts and effective implementation of the projects.
- Twin objectives: i) Effective abatement of pollution, conservation and ii) Rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
- A new study published in Bionotes journal has updated the wingspans of butterflies found in India. According to it, the Golden Birdwing is India`s largest butterfly.
- Previously, the Southern Birdwing was considered the largest as recorded by Brigadier William Harry Evans, a British military officer and lepidopterist (a person who studies or collects butterflies and moths) in 1932.
- The Golden Butterfly is found in the Himalayas. The female (wingspan 194 mm) of the species is larger than the male (106 mm). The female Golden Birdwing was recorded from Didihat in Uttarakhand, the largest male was from the Wankhar Butterfly Museum in Meghalaya capital Shillong.
Other Species are [ all found in Uttarakhand]:
- Common Windmill (Byasa polyeuctes) at 98 mm
- Great Windmill (Byasa dasarada) at 96 mm
- Common Peacock (Papilio bianor) at 78 mm.
The smallest is the Quaker (Neopithecops zalmora) with a wingspan of 18 mm, it is found in the Himalayan region and Western Ghats.[Ref: The Hindu]
India`s Efforts with respect to tackling Climate Change
The fourth edition of the Ministerial on Climate Action with representatives of about 30 countries was held virtually recently.
The Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change highlighted India`s Efforts:
- India has achieved a reduction of 21% in the emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014, thereby achieving its pre-2020 voluntary target.
- India’s renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226% in the last 5 years and stands more than 87 Gigawatt. The share of non-fossil sources in installed capacity of electricity generation increased from 30.5% in March 2015 to 37.7% in May 2020. India has plans to increase its renewable energy capacity to 450 GW.
- 80 million LPG connections in rural areas
- India’s total forest and tree cover is 8,07,276 sq. km. which is 24.56% of the total geographical area of the country
- More than 360 million LED bulbs have been distributed under UJALA scheme, which has led to an energy saving of about 47 billion units of electricity per year and reduction of 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
- India has also leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by April 1, 2020, which was earlier to be adopted by 2024.
- Under Smart Cities Mission, Climate-Smart Cities Assessment Framework 2019 has been launched which intends to provide a clear roadmap for cities and urban India towards combating climate change through the adoption of both mitigation and adaptation measures.
- The developed countries need to mobilize their promised USD 1 trillion by 2020 are yet to implement the financial and technological commitments under UNFCCC and Paris agreement.
Bilateral & International Relations
5 Agreements between India, Afghanistan
Recently, India and Afghanistan have signed five agreements for developing educational infrastructure in four Afghan provinces.
- The projects to be taken up under the five MoUs include the construction of classrooms, a higher education building and a road within the campus of Albironi University. These MoUs were signed under the high impact community development projects (HICDP) programme being implemented by India to further strengthen the bilateral development partnership.
India`s Efforts in Afghanistan:
- Since 2001, India has undertaken projects worth $3 billion in Afghanistan, including $1 billion pledged in 2016 under the “new development partnership” scheme over five years.
- Since 2005, the Indian government has committed $200 million to support more than 550 high impact community development projects across Afghanistan. Of these, more than 400 projects have already been completed while the rest are in various stages of implementation.
- These projects are part of India’s commitment to assisting Afghanistan to emerge as a peaceful, united, prosperous and pluralistic nation.
What is High Impact Community Development Programmes (HICDP)?
- HICDP are small-scale, lower financial outlay but high-visibility grass-roots level projects like health, education etc. implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs.
- These projects are implemented in countries like Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal etc.
- It was formerly known as Small Development Projects.
Location of Afghanistan:
- Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central and South Asia.
- It is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; India via Gilgit Baltistan region which is currently occupied by Pakistan; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast.
- It is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest.
- Kabul is the capital and largest city.
- The population is mostly composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.
F-1 and M-1 Visas
Under the new rules, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not issue visas to the foreign student taking only online classes.
What are F-Visa and M-Visa?
There are two types of Educational visas in the US: The F-Visa and M-Visa.[Ref: The Hindu]
Defence & Security Issues
U.S. position on CAATSA unchanged
U.S urge all its allies to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under CAATSA.
- This message was reiterated in the context of India’s planned jet fighter deal with Russia at an estimated ₹18,148 crores.
- The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act CAATSA is a US law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
- The aim of the CAATSA law is to prevent revenue from flowing to the Russian Government.
- The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions on persons engaged in a significant transaction with any of U.S.’s adversaries (Russia).
Such sanctions include:
- Prohibition on loans to the sanctioned person
- Prohibition on procurement by United States Government to procure goods or services from the sanctioned person
- Prohibition of Export-Import bank assistance for exports to sanctioned persons
- Denial of visas to persons closely associated with the sanctioned person etc.
- In 2018, India inked an agreement worth US$5.43 billion with Russia to procure four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defence system, the most powerful missile defence system in the world ignoring the CAATSA act.
- The U.S. threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
Four foundational agreements of US
The four foundational defence agreements are used by the US to facilitate defence cooperation with foreign military partners:
- General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA –signed in 2002, allows sharing of classified information from US Government)
- Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA – signed in 2016, gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment.)
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA – yet to be signed, facilitates exchange of geospatial information).
- Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA – signed in 2018 – allows India to procure specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platform).
Art & Culture
Lighthouses to be developed as major tourist attractions
The Government is planning to boost tourism activities in lighthouses surrounding areas.
- Provide employment opportunities to local youth.
- Showcase the rich history and working of lighthouses.
About Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships:
- The Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships is a subordinate office under the Ministry of Shipping.
- It provides General Aids to Marine Navigation along the Indian coast.
- The Headquarters of the Directorate is at Noida (U.P.)
- For administrative control, the entire coastline has been divided into Nine Districts having their regional headquarters at Gandhidham, Jamnagar, Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata and Port Blair.
- For providing these aids, the Directorate collects light dues in 30 days at the rate of Rs.8/- per ton NT basis from all foreign going vessels calling at/departing from Indian ports. Customs Department collects light dues behalf of the Directorate.
- To help the mariners and local fisherman to navigate safely in the Indian waters.
- A lighthouse is a tower, building, or another type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and to serve as a navigational aid for mariners at sea or on inland waterways.
- Lighthouses can be manned or unmanned.
- The power of a lighthouse’s light is usually rated in nautical miles. In other words, how far the light is seen from the sea.
- Lighthouses are painted different colours and designs to serves as day mark to mariners. Mariner at sea during the day will identify the area /location they are passing through by looking at the day mark of the lighthouse which is painted differently and notified. During the night, each lighthouse flashes a different sequence of light, thus helping them to be identified.
- Lighthouses are generally made out of brick/concrete/iron. One of the oldest lighthouse (Ruvapari Lighthouse) is at Bhavnagar Gujarat, India and is made of wood.
- In India, False Point Lighthouse established during 1838 near Paradeep, Odisha is the oldest lighthouse. While the Rutland LightHouse is the shortest and Jakhou in Gujarat is the tallest.
Science & Technology
New findings on Sun
Recently, a study from scientists from Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) (an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India) was published in Nature Astronomy.
- The study was conducted by Indian scientists along with international collaborators.
- Provides observational evidence for the first time that Lithium (Li) production is common among low mass Sun-like stars during their Helium (He)-core burning phase.
- The “Helium (He) flash” (onset of He-ignition at the star’s core via violent eruption), at the end of the star’s core hydrogen-burning phase, will be the source of Li production. Our Sun will reach this phase in about 6-7 billion years.
- The study also suggests new limits (A(Li) > -0.9~dex) for classifying stars as Li-rich, which is 250 times below the threshold (A(Li) > 1.5~dex) used till now. [Dex is an order or factor of ten]
- This discovery challenges the long-held idea that stars only destroy lithium during their lifetime implying the Sun itself will manufacture lithium in the future, which is not predicted by models, indicating that there is some physical process missing in the stellar theory.
- Lithium (Li) is a light, inflammable metal.
- It has brought about a transformation in modern communication devices and transportation.
- The origin of much of the Li can be traced to a single event, the Big-Bang that happened about 13.7 Billion years ago.
- Over time, Li content in the physical Universe has increased by about a factor of four, which is meagre compared to the rest of the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, nickel and so on which grew about a million times over the lifetime of the Universe.
- Stars are primary contributors to this significant enhancement of heavier elements through mass ejections and stellar explosions (Supernova). Li, however, understood to be an exemption!
- It is to be noted that the measured content of Li in the Sun is a factor of 100 lower than that of the Earth, though both are known to have formed together.
Prelims Key Facts
Recently a fire broke out at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility of Iran.
- The Karas Mountains are in the vicinity.
- Iran`s central facility for uranium enrichment is located here.
- Also known as the first Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant of Iran.
- It is one of sites monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as Iran nuclear deal) in 2015.