Government Schemes and Policies
- Financial facility under Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
Issues related to Health and Education
- eSanjeevani platform
- Why are forex reserves shooting up when Indian economy is hit?
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- A new study on Tanystropheus
- Why black boxes are important to an air crash investigation?
- What are Tabletop runways?
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Pakistan spar over Indus water talks
Defence & Security Issues
- What is negative imports list for defence?
- 78th anniversary of Quit India movement
Key Facts for Prelims
- 33rd Foundation day of TRIFED
- World Tribal Day 2020
- Food Vision 2050 prize
- Loya Jirga
- New Guinea has world’s richest island flora
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Government Schemes and Policies
Financial facility under Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
PM Modi launched a new Central Sector Scheme of financing facility under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs. 1 Lakh Crore.
- The first sanction of over Rs. 1000 Crore was made to over 2,280 farmer societies.
- The scheme will support farmers, Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS), Farmer Producer Organisation (FPOs), Agri-entrepreneurs, etc. to build community farming assets and post-harvest agriculture infrastructure.
- It will enable farmers to get greater value for their produce.
- They will be able to store and sell at higher prices, reduce wastage, and increase processing and value addition.
Agriculture Infrastructure Fund:
- The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund is a medium – long term debt financing facility.
- It is a facility for investment for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and credit guarantee.
- The duration of the scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2029 (10 years).
- Under the scheme, Rs. 1 Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans.
- The loans will have an interest subvention of 3% per annum and credit guarantee coverage under the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for loans up to Rs. 2 Crore.
- Farmers, PACS, Marketing Cooperative Societies, FPOs, SHGs, Joint Liability Groups (JLG), Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Agri-entrepreneurs, Startups, and Central/State agency or Local Body sponsored Public-Private Partnership Projects.
- The scheme was launched in December 2018 to provide income support by way of a cash benefit to all landholding farmers (subject to certain exclusion criteria).
- The cash incentive was aimed to enable them to fulfil their agricultural requirements and support their families.
- Under the scheme, the financial benefit of Rs.6000/- per year is provided to eligible beneficiary farmers in three equal instalments.
- The amount is directly transferred into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer (DBT) mode.
Issues related to Health and Education
- The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare presided over a review meeting with States/UTs on the eSanjeevani and eSanjeevaniOPD platforms.
- It was conducted as 1.5 lakh tele-consultations were completed on the tele-medicine service platforms of the Health Ministry.
- In a short span of time since its launch in November 2019, tele-consultation by eSanjeevani and eSanjeevaniOPD have been implemented by 23 States (which covers 75% of the population) and other States are in the process of rolling it out.
- It is a national telemedicine service that offers tele-consultations enabling patient to doctor consultations from the confines of their home, as well as doctor to doctor consultations.
- This eSanjeevani platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services viz. Doctor-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani) and Patient-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani OPD) Tele-consultations
- The former is being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre (AB-HWCs) programme.
- The telemedicine platform is hosting over 40 online OPDs, more than half of these are speciality OPDs which include Gynaecology, Psychiatry, Dermatology, ENT, Ophthalmology, antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the AIDS/HIV patients, Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) etc.
Why are forex reserves shooting up when Indian economy is hit?
India’s foreign exchange reserves hit an all-time high of $534.568 billion after surging by massive $11.938 billion in the week ended July 31.
Definition of Forex reserve:
- Foreign exchange reserves are cash and other reserve assets held by the central bank (RBI) that are primarily available to balance payments of the country, influence the foreign exchange rate of its currency, and to maintain confidence in financial markets.
- Reserve Bank functions as custodian and manager of forex reserves, and operates within the overall policy framework agreed upon with the government
Components of Forex:
1. Foreign Currency Assets:
- The largest component of the Forex Reserves consisting of US dollar and other major non-US global currencies.
- It comprises investments in US Treasury bonds, bonds of other selected governments, deposits with foreign central and commercial banks.
- It is held by Reserve Bank of India to serve as a guarantee to redeem promises to pay depositors, note holders (e.g. paper money), or trading peers, or to secure a currency.
3. Special Drawing Rights:
- Created by International Monetary Fund as an international reserve asset in the year 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves.
- It is essentially an artificial currency used by the IMF and is basket of national currencies.
4. Reserve Tranche Position:
- Each member of the IMF is assigned a quota, part of which is payable in SDRs or specified usable currencies (reserve assets), and part in the member’s own currency.
- The difference between a member’s quota and IMF’s holdings of its currency is a country’s Reserve Tranche Position.
- RTP can be withdrawn from IMF any time without any interest during critical situations of a country such a Balance of Payment crisis.
How has the rise been?
- The trend of rising forex started after Finance Minister announced a sharp cut in corporate tax rates on September 20, 2019.
- During the 10-month period between September 27, 2019 and July 31, 2020, forex reserves have swelled by $100 billion.
- India is now fifth in global ranking behind China ($ 3,298 billion), Japan ($ 1,383 billion), Switzerland ($ 896 billion) and Russia ($ 591 billion).
Reason for the rise:
- The rise has been led by different factors over the last ten months.
- The rise in foreign exchange inflows through Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI is also supported by decline in import bill over the last 4-5 months due to dip in crude prices and trade impact following Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the key factors include:
1. FPI inflows:
- There was a sharp rise in FPI inflows following the government’s decision to cut corporate tax rate.
- As per RBI, between April and December 2019, FPIs pumped in a net $15.1 billion.
2. Dip in crude oil prices:
- India’s oil import bill declined due to Covid-19 led crash in the Brent crude oil prices.
- Crude accounted for almost 20 % of India’s total import bill and in January 2020, Brent crude was trading between $60 and $70 per barrel.
- The prices fell to levels of $20 per barrel towards March end and dropped further between $9 and $20 in April.
3. Import savings:
- Lockdown in response to Covid-19 impacted global trade.
- It resulted in a sharp dip in import expenditure — electronics, gold and also crude oil prices among others.
4. FDI inflows:
- A lot of FDI has also come in India, especially the Rs 1 lakh crore plus investment by global tech giants in Jio Platforms.
5. Dip in gold imports:
- Gold witnessed a sharp decline in the quarter ended June 2020 following the high prices and the lockdown.
- The value of gold transacted during the June quarter fell to Rs 26,600 crore, down by 57 % as compared to Rs 62,420 crore a year ago.
Significance of rising forex:
- Comfort to the government and RBI in managing India’s external and internal financial issues when economic growth is set to contract by 5.8% in 2020-21.
- Big cushion in the event of any crisis on the economic front and enough to cover the import bill of the country for a year.
- Helped the rupee to strengthen against the dollar.
- The foreign exchange reserves to GDP ratio is around 15 per cent.
- Boost confidence to markets, demonstrate backing of domestic currency by external assets, assist the government in meeting its foreign exchange needs and external debt obligations and maintain a reserve for national disasters or emergencies.
- Provide room for RBI to cut rates and support recovery.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
A new study on Tanystropheus
A recent study has unveiled fresh details surrounding the Tanystropheus.
- It is a reptile that lived on Earth some 242 million years ago.
- It had a remarkably elongated neck which was longer than its body and tail combined.
- They are believed to have lived around the Monte San Giorgio basin on the Swiss-Italian border during the middle Triassic period (247-237 million years ago).
- They were originally mistaken to be a kind of Pterosaur – a flying reptile.
- Other crucial aspects like its diet, whether it lived on land or water or both are unknown since its fossil was first discovered some 150 years ago.
What does the new research say?
- A group of scientists studied two specimens of the reptile – a full adult and a smaller animal.
- Scientists used a high-resolution computed tomography (CT scan) to reconstruct a three-dimensional (3D) prototype of the crushed skull.
- The newly constructed prototype indicated the skull of the bigger Tanystropheus was structured in a way that hints it hunted underwater in an aquatic environment.
- The placement of the nostrils on the top of the snout, a fish-trap-type dentition and its huge, stiff neck would have made survival on land difficult.
Why black boxes are important to an air crash investigation?
The investigators have found the black boxes of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft of Air India Express crash at Kozhikode, Kerala.
- Any commercial aeroplane or corporate jet is required to be equipped with a Black Box. which is extremely important after the plane crashes, to find out the real reasons of the crash.
- Black Box is an equipment which consists of a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder.
- Both these pieces of equipment are vitally important after the plane crash, as they help crash investigators find out what happened just before the crash.
- If the plane crash occurs at sea, to locate the cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder, each recorder has a device fitted to it known as an Underwater Locator Beacon (ULB).
- The device is activated as soon as the recorder comes into contact with water and it can transmit from a depth as deep as 14,000 feet.
- To help investigators find them; a Black Box is not actually black at all, but bright orange.
The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR):
- The main purpose of the Cockpit Voice Recorder is to record what the crew say and monitor any sounds that occur within the cockpit.
- The trained investigators can pick up on sounds such as engine noise, stall warnings
- It can give crucial flight information such as the speed the plane was travelling and engine rpm and can pinpoint the cause of a crash from the very sounds the plane was making before it crashed.
- The Cockpit Voice Recorder is also extremely important for determining the timing of events as it contains information such as communication between the crew and ground control and other aircraft.
- The Cockpit Voice Recorder is usually located in the tail of a plane.
The Flight Data Recorder (FDR):
- The Flight Data Recorder is an equipment essential as it records the operating functions of a plane all at once, such as the time, altitude, airspeed and direction the plane is heading.
- The modern Flight Data Recorders are able to monitor the movement of individual flaps on the wings, auto-pilot and fuel gauge.
- The data stored on the recorders helps Air Crash Investigators generate computer video reconstructions of a flight, so that they can visualise how a plane was handling shortly before a crash.
- The Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder are invaluable tools for Air Crash.
How do the black boxes survive the crash?
- The recording devices are stored inside a unit that is generally made out of strong substances such as steel or titanium and are also insulated from factors such as extreme heat, cold or wetness.
- They are equipped towards the tail end of the aircraft – where usually the impact of a crash is the least.
- To make black boxes discoverable in situations where they are under water, they are equipped with a beacon that sends out ultrasound signals for 30 days.
What are Tabletop runways?
- The Air India Express-operated Boeing 737-800 aircraft overshot Kozhikode airport’s tabletop runway and fell 35 feet down a slope.
- Kozhikode’s runway is surrounded by deep gorges on both sides.
Table Top Runways:
- They are generally constructed by chopping off the top of a hill.
- They are often thought of as tricky for landings because of the lack of any margin for overshooting the runway.
- The landing on tabletop runways requires precision approach with little to no room for errors.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Pakistan spar over Indus water talks
India has refused a request by Pakistan to hold a meeting on issues around Indus Water Treaty at the Attari checkpost near the India-Pakistan border.
What is the issue?
- India had suggested a virtual conference in March 2020 but Pakistan had insisted on a physical meeting.
- The last such meeting was held in October 2019 in Islamabad.
- The IWT meetings are led by Indus Water Commissioners from both countries.
- A range of issues on construction of dams and hydropower projects concerning the Indus river system are discussed.
- Among the key points include a procedure to solve differences on technical aspects governing the construction of Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) project on Chenab river in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
- India has called for appointment of a neutral party while Pakistan favours a Court of Arbitration to agree upon a final resolution on the design parameters of this hydropower project.
Indus Waters Treaty 1960:
- The IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, mediated by the World Bank to use the water available in the Indus System of Rivers.
- IWT was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
- The control over water flowing in three eastern rivers of India – Beas, Ravi and Sutlej was given to India.
- The control over water flowing in three western rivers of India – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum was given to Pakistan.
- India has unrestricted usage rights over the eastern rivers, and India should allow unrestricted flow of the western rivers into Pakistan.
- India can use 20% of Indus water for irrigation, transport and power generation since it originates in India and Chenab and Jhelum for consumption purposes.
- After the Uri attacks (2016) & Pulwama attacks (Feb. 2019), Indian govt. is planning to review IWT, and contain all excess water flowing from India’s share of eastern rivers into Pakistan at present, and divert it to Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan for different uses.
- India has the right to build RoR projects on Chenab, Jhelum and Indus provided it does so without substantially impeding water flow in Pakistan downstream.
- Pakistan believes that the project’s current design does pose a serious impediment and has wants a Court of Arbitration (CoA) set up to decide on the issue.
- India maintains that it is only a technical issue and mutually solvable.
- India wants a neutral party since a CoA could stall any form of construction on all Indus projects.
Defence & Security Issues
What is negative imports list for defence?
Defence Minister has recently announced a list of 101 items that the Defence Ministry will stop importing.
- It essentially means that Armed Forces—Army, Navy and Air Force—will only procure all of these 101 items from domestic manufacturers (Private sector players or Defence Public Sector Undertakings).
- India has been among the top three defence importers in the world in the recent past.
- As per Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the second largest importer between 2014 and 2019 with US$ 16.75 billion worth of imports during this period.
What is the move?
- The domestic manufacturers are given opportunity to manufacture the items in the negative list by using their own design and development capabilities.
- They can also adopt the technologies of Defence Research and Development Organisation to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces.
- The Defence Ministry has introduced import embargo on 101 items to boost indigenisation of defence production.
- The government hopes that defence manufacturing sector can play a leading role in boosting the economy and become an exporter as well.
What does it include?
- The negative imports list has a range of items from simpler items to advanced technologies, which include:
- Water jet fast attack craft to survey vessels, pollution control vessels, light transport aircraft, GSAT-6 terminals, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, to certain rifles, artillery guns, bullet proof jackets, missile destroyers, etc.
Were the stakeholders consulted?
- The list was announced after due consideration by all stakeholders– three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and also the public sector and private players.
- The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024.
- Of the 101 items mentioned 69 have an indicative embargo of December 2020.
- At least one-thirds of these items – including corvettes and frigates for the Navy and multi-barrel rocket launchers for the Army are already being produced in India.
- The items in the list are of proven technologies, and do not involve any critical or cutting-edge technology for a next-generation weapon system or platform.
- There are the fears of the manufacturing industry over assurance of enough orders to make a production line economical.
- An indigenously produced item can cost more than an imported one.
- The biggest challenge will be to keep this commitment to domestic producers in the event of an operational requirement.
78th anniversary of Quit India movement
The Vice President of India has called for an intensified campaign of Knit India on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the launch of Quit India movement.
- To enable a strong and fully emotionally integrated nation that would offer the best defence against the evil designs of forces inimical to the country.
- He stressed the need to Knit India into one single fabric by ensuring equality of all and equal opportunities for all.
- He noted that a divided and iniquitous society does not enable the fullest development of all Indians to their capacity.
Quit India Movement:
- On August 8, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi gave the clarion call for British colonisers to Quit India and for the Indians to do or die to make this happen.
What led to the events of August 1942?
- The factors leading to such a movement had been building up but the dominant cause was the failure of the Cripps Mission.
- The World War II was raging, and a beleaguered British needed the cooperation of their colonial subjects in India.
- In March 1942, a mission led by Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India to meet leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League.
- The idea was to secure India’s whole-hearted support in the war, in return for self-governance.
- The offer Cripps made was of dominion status, and not freedom.
- Also, there was a provision of the partition of India, which was not acceptable to the Congress.
Series of Events:
- At the Working Committee meeting in Wardha in July 1942, it was decided the time had come for the movement to move into an active phase.
- On August 8, 1942 Bapu addressed people from Mumbai’s Gowalia Tank maidan.
- Aruna Asaf Ali hoisted the Tricolour on the ground, and the Quit India movement was officially announced.
- By August 9, Gandhi and all other senior Congress leaders had been jailed.
- Gandhi was kept at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, and later in the Yerawada jail.
- The arrest of the leaders failed to deter the masses and with no one to give directions, people took the movement into their own hands.
- In Bombay, Poona and Ahmedabad, lakhs of people clashed with the police on August 9.
- On August 10, protests erupted in Delhi, UP and Bihar.
- There were strikes, demonstrations and people’s marches in defiance of prohibitory orders in Kanpur, Patna, Varanasi, and Allahabad.
- The protests spread rapidly into smaller towns and villages.
- Till mid-September, police stations, courts, post offices and other symbols of government authority were attacked.
- Railway tracks were blocked, students went on strike in schools and colleges across India, and distributed illegal nationalist literature.
- Mill and factory workers in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Poona, Ahmednagar, and Jamshedpur stayed away for weeks.
- The protests were violent, with bridges blown up, telegraph wires cut, and railway lines taken apart.
- The Quit India movement was violently suppressed by the British – people were shot, lathi-charged, villages burnt and enormous fines imposed.
- In the five months up to December 1942, an estimated 60,000 people were thrown in jail.
- Though the movement was quelled, it changed the character of the Indian freedom struggle, with the masses rising up to articulate as they had never before – the British masters would have to Quit India.
Key Facts for Prelims
33rd Foundation day of TRIFED
TRIFED celebrated its 33rd Foundation Day on August 6, 2020.
- Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) is a national-level apex organization established in 1987.
- TRIFED started its operations in 1988 with its head office in New Delhi.
- The organisation works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
- To improve the livelihood of the tribal communities by creating a sustainable market and create business opportunities for tribal people.
- TRIFED works on the following initiatives: Van Dhan Yojana, Van Dhan Internship Programme, Tech For Tribals program, TRIFOOD Scheme, Development of Value Chain, Tribal fairs etc.
- TRIFED started the procurement and marketing of tribal art and craft items through its first retail outlet called TRIBES INDIA in New Delhi in 1999.
- TRIFED has launched its own Virtual office on its Foundation Day, August 6, 2020.
- The TRIFED Virtual office network has 81 online workstations and 100 additional converging State and agency workstations.
- It will help the team of TRIFED to work on Mission-mode towards bringing the tribal people closer to mainstream development.
World Tribal Day 2020
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples or World Tribal Day was observed on 9 August.
- To promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.
- The date recognizes the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.
- The day is celebrated on August 9th every year from 1994, in accordance with the declaration by the United Nations.
- This year the World Tribal Day celebrations are focussed on preservation and documentation of tribal languages.
Food Vision 2050 prize
Rockefeller Foundation has selected Naandi Foundation as one of the Top 10 Visionaries in the world for the Food Vision 2050 Prize.
- Naandi Foundation is a Hyderabad-based non-profit organisation.
- It was established in 1998, it works in 19 States in India and has impacted seven million lives so far.
- The recognition fetches Naandi a prize money of $200,000.
- The award recognised the application of Arakunomics model in regions of Araku, Wardha and New Delhi, leading to the Food Vision 2050.
What is Arakunomics model?
- Naandi’s vision titled Arakunomics was based on work with tribal farmers in Araku for nearly 20 years.
- It is a new integrated economic model that ensures profits for farmers, quality for consumers through regenerative agriculture.
- It follows an ABCDEFGH framework centring on: Agriculture, Biology, Compost, Decentralised decision-making, Entrepreneurs, Families, Global Markets, and Headstands, or turning current approaches on their head.
- The model is a tribute to the tribal farmers of Araku region, Andhra Pradesh for the world class coffee produced and high carbon landscape transformation they did in over 955 villages, thereby planting 25 million trees.
Afghanistan has begun a three-day Loya Jirga to decide on freeing about 400 Taliban fighters convicted for serious crimes including murder and abductions.
What is Loya Jirga?
- Loya Jirga is a historical grand assembly and a highly respected traditional consultative body of Afghanistan.
- The consultative body that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle national issues.
- Loya Jirga is considered the highest expression of the Afghan people
- However, it is not an official decision-making body and its decisions are not legally binding.
- In most of the cases, Loya Jirga’s decision is seen as final, with the president and parliament respecting the ruling.
- Presently more than 3,000 representatives from the country, has been convened after President Ghani refused to release the Taliban fighters.
- The Taliban has warned of more bloodshed if they are not released.
New Guinea has world’s richest island flora
- As per a study by the University of Zurich in Switzerland the island of New Guinea has the globe’s richest collection of plants.
- It is world’s second-largest in area and the largest tropical island.
- The number of plant species that the list enumerates is 13,634 which is 20 % more species than Madagascar or Borneo.
- Some 68 % of the plants in the list are endemic and not found anywhere else in the world.
Location of New Guinea:
- New Guinea is an island of the eastern Malay Archipelago, in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Australia.
- It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the north, the Bismarck and Solomon seas to the east, the Coral Sea and Torres Strait to the south, and the Arafura Sea to the southwest.
- It is world’s second-largest in area and the largest tropical island.