Government Schemes & Policies
- Sanction for 5595 electric Buses under Fame Phase-II
- The National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 passed in Parliament
- PM-Kusum not a solution for India’s irrigation needs: CSE
Issues related to Health & Education
- Manipur tops in Breastfeeding, Infant & Young Child Feeding Practices
- Union HRD Minister to launch ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ Drive
- e-Rozgar Samachar launched to spread awareness about job opportunities
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India to seek boost to protection status of 5 species at CITES
Bilateral & International Relations
- ADB to provide $200 million for all-weather rural road project in Maharashtra
Science & Technology
- How to make biodegradable ‘plastic’ from cactus juice
Key Facts for Prelims
- President of India Presents Bharat Ratna Awards
- NITI Aayog to launch the Fourth Edition of Women Transforming India Awards
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Government Schemes & Policies
Sanction for 5595 electric Buses under Fame Phase-II
The Department of Heavy Industry has approved the sanction of 5595 electric buses to 64 Cities for intra-city and intercity operation under FAME India scheme phase II.
About FAME II scheme:
- Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, or FAME 2 scheme aims to further accelerate the government of India’s commitment to a clean mobility future.
- It promotes the electrification of transportation as a primary focus area.
- It intends to catalyse the market for faster adoption of Electric Vehicle (EVs) to ensure durable economic growth and global competitiveness for India’s automotive industry.
- Under these scheme the government will offer incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.
Steps being taken to make electric vehicles more affordable:
- FAME 2 will offer incentives to manufacturers, who invest in developing electric vehicles and its components, including lithium-ion batteries and electric motors.
- The centre plans to roll out an incentive of ₹10,000 per kilowatt (kW) for two-, three- and four-wheelers, based on the size of their batteries.
What is FAME India scheme?
- With an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles, the government had launched the FAME India scheme in 2015 offering incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for bikes and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars.
- FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
- The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals starting with 2018.
- It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.
About National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020
- NEMMP aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in country.
- It has set ambitious target of 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.
The National Medical Commission Bill, 2019 passed in Parliament
In a historic and path-breaking move, the National Medical Commission Act 2019 has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.
[To know all about National Medical Commission Bill, 2019, refer to IASTopper’s Mains Article. Posted on 12th August 2019]
PM-Kusum not a solution for India’s irrigation needs: CSE
The Centre’s new Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-Kusum) scheme is not adequate to overcome challenges of irrigation supply, subsidy burden on discoms and farmer distress, according to a report from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.
Key findings of the report:
- Solar pump schemes should accompany explicit and strict measures of monitoring and control to manage groundwater extraction. Funds for solar pump schemes should be extended only to states willing to take such measures.
- Solarisation of feeders may be the most economical solution, but needs to be accompanied by gradual increase in agricultural tariffs and limits on hours of power supply.
- On-grid pumps are an alternative for water-scarce regions with high farmer distress, but adequate and one-way power flow (as opposed to net meter) is necessary to limit water withdrawal.
- Off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases, for unelectrified regions with relatively high water-table, and utilisation should be increased through a mini-grid model in which excess electricity can be used in households or for other economic uses.
- Clear targets must be set to provide solar pumps to small and marginal farmers. Providing access to financing is a crucial support needed by this segment.
- Efficient discom operations should be ensured by regulatory mandates for regular reporting on installations, operations, evacuation, billing and payment to farmers.
Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme:
- KUSUM scheme is launched on 1stFebruary, 2018 in Union budget of 2018.
- It is 4 year scheme supervised by Indian power ministry.
- Under this arrangement, the Central Govt. desires to assist as many farmers as possible to install new and improved solar pumps on their farms.
- The farmers need not pay a hefty fee for this benefit as it comes with government subsidy.
- To install 17.5 lakh off-grid and 10 lakh on-grid solar pumps and 10 gigawatt of solar power plants capacity in rural areas by 2022.
- To increase farmer income through sale of surplus power, reduce electricity subsidy burden and expand the distributed renewable energy capacity.
- To provide the farmers with advanced technology to generate power.
- To enable farmer to sell the extra energy directly to the Power Supply Companies.
Features of Scheme
Construction of Plants on infertile Land only:
- The Govt. has announced that it will take initiative to construct plants, which will generate solar power. As per the draft, these plants will only be erected on infertile areas, capable of generation a total of 28000 MW Power.
Distribution of solar power pumps:
- One of the primary aims of this program is to provide interested farmers with solar pumps. The government states that 5 lakh solar powered pumps will be provided to agricultural labours.
Power Generation on small scale:
- Apart from the solar power plants, government will work towards the installation of new solar pumps in farms, which have Diesel pumps. The capacity of this pumps will be 720 MW.
Subsidy Structure of the Scheme:
- Each farmer will get subsidy on new solar powered pumps. The farmers will have to tolerate only 10% of the total expenditure while the Central Govt. will provide 60% cost while the remaining 30% will be taken care of by bank as credit.
Power generation from tube- wells:
- The government will also work toward the installation of unique tube-wells. Each of this pumps will be able to generate power of 8250 MW.
Components of the Scheme:
Solar Pumps Distribution:
- During the first phase of the program, the power department, will work towards the successful distribution of solar powered pumps.
Construction of Solar Power Factory:
- The next component will include the construction of solar power plants, which will have the capacity to produce a significant amount of power.
Modernization of present pumps:
- The final component of this scheme deals with the modernization of pumps, which are in use as of now.
- The scheme might result in over-exploitation of groundwater. In regions with water-scarcity, the solar pumps are unable to provide adequate irrigation due to depleting groundwater.
- Further, PM-Kusum may also not help reduce discoms’ subsidy burden because the installation of pumps is not mandatorily tied to decrease in subsidised agricultural power supply.
- PM-Kusum’s proposed scheme of installing solar plants on farm land will benefit only the wealthy farmers, as it requires large investment or the ability to lease land for 25 years.
Issues related to Health & Education
Manipur tops in Breastfeeding, Infant & Young Child Feeding Practices
In a report released by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Manipur has topped the rankings in Breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices in the country.
Highlights of the Breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices report
The Breastfeeding report card has been developed by devising a composite score based on three indicators namely,
- Early initiation of breastfeeding
- Exclusive breastfeeding for six months
- Complementary feeding at 6-8 months of child’s age
- Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar are at the bottom positions in the report card.
- Delhi is also among the worst-performing States.
About World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA):
- WABA, formed in 1991, is a global network of organizations and individuals who believe breastfeeding is the right of all children and mothers and who dedicate themselves to protect, promote and support this right.
- WABA acts on the Innocenti Declarationand works in close liaison with UNICEF.
- WABA does not accept funds or gifts from manufacturers or distributors of breastmilk substitutes.
- WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF and an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
Union HRD Minister to launch ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ Drive
Union HRD Minister will launch ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ drive on 9th August 2019 to create awareness about Water Conservation among all school students in the country.
About ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ drive
- It is launched by the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- To educate students learn about conservation of water
- To sensitize Students about the impact of scarcity of water
- To empower Students to learn to protect the natural sources of water
- To help every Student to save at least one litre of water per day
- To encourage Students towards minimum wastage of water
About the Jal Shakti Abhiyan:
- The Jal Shakti Abhiyan aims to accelerate water harvesting, conservation and borewell recharge activities already being carried out under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme of the Rural Development Ministry, along with other schemes of Jal Shakti and Environment Ministries.
- The campaign would run from July 1 to September 15 in States receiving rainfall during the south-west monsoon, while States receiving rainfall in the retreating or north-east monsoon would be covered from October 1 to November 30. Overall, 313 blocks with critical groundwater levels would be covered, along with 1,186 blocks with over-exploited groundwater and 94 blocks with low groundwater availability.
- Though water is a State issue, the campaign would be coordinated by several central IAS officers of Joint or Additional Secretary-rank, drawn from ministries as varied as Space, Petroleum and Defence.
- Block and district-level water conservation plans would be drafted, and Kisan Vigyan Kendras would hold melas to promote better crop choices and more efficient water use for irrigation.
e-Rozgar Samachar launched to spread awareness about job opportunities
The e-version of Rozgar Samachar has been launched recently by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Objective of e-Rozgar Samachar
- To meet the emerging challenge of young readers switching to electronic modes of communication.
- To make aspirants aware of job opportunities in government sector including public sector enterprises and provide guidance about admission and career opportunities.
- Rozgar Samachar is the Hindi version of Employment News (English).
- Employment News is the flagship weekly job journal from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- It was launched in 1976 with a view to provide information on employment opportunities to the unemployed and underemployed youth of the country.
- The journal is published in English (Employment News), Hindi (Rozgar Samachar) and Urdu (Rozgar Samachar).
- It is published on every Saturday.
- The job journal provides information related to job vacancies, job oriented training programmes, admission notices related to job oriented exams in Ministries/Autonomous bodies/ Societies/ PSUs of the Central /state/UT Administrations, bank sector and educational sector.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India to seek boost to protection status of 5 species at CITES
India has submitted proposals regarding changes to the listing of various wildlife species in the CITES secretariat meeting, scheduled August 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.
About the Proposal:
- The proposals submitted are regarding changes in the listing of the smooth-coated otter, small-clawed otter, Indian star tortoise, Tokay gecko, wedgefish and Indian rosewood.
- For the Indian rosewood, the proposal is to remove the species from CITES Appendix II.
- India is among the parties proposing the re-listing of the star tortoise from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. The species faces two threats: loss of habitat to agriculture and illegal harvesting for the pet trade.
- With regard to the two otter species, India, Nepal and the Philippines have proposed that the listing should be moved from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I for the more endangered species. A similar proposal has been made to include the Tokay gecko in Appendix I.
- India seeks to boost the protection of all the five animal species as they are facing a high risk of international trade.
About Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) was adopted in March 1973 to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
- The goal of the CITES is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of any species.
- The convention resulted from a resolution adopted at a 1963 meeting of member countries of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
- It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- The number of state parties to the convention are 183 and more than 5,800 animal and 30,000 plant species had been classified.
- CITES classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened they are:
Appendix I lists endangered species that are at risk of extinction. It also prohibits outright the commercial trade of these plants and animals; however, some may be transported internationally in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
Appendix II species are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted; their trade is regulated by permit.
Appendix III species are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.
- In addition to plants and animals and their parts, the agreement also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as clothing, food, medicine, and souvenirs.
Bilateral & International Relations
ADB to provide $200 million for all-weather rural road project in Maharashtra
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a USD 200 million loan for improving road infrastructure in 34 districts of Maharashtra to better connect rural areas with markets and services.
- Roads in rural areas would be upgraded to all-weather standards which will boost links between local residents and economic centres across Maharashtra.
- Maharashtra accounted for almost 15 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2016-17. However, economic development is concentrated around the urban centres of Mumbai, Pune, and Thane.
- About 17 per cent of the state’s population still live below the national poverty line, while in some in rural areas, it is as high as 40 per cent.
About Asian Development Bank (ADB):
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established in 1966.
- It is headquartered in
- The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional developed countries.
- ADB was modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.
- ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
- ADB offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans. The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.
Members & funding:
- Currently, it has 67 members – of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
- ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
- ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
- Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%. The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.
Board of Governors:
- It is the highest policy-making body of the bank.
- It is composed of one representative from each member state.
- The Board of Governors also elect the bank’s President who is the chairperson of the Board of Directors and manages ADB.
- The Alternate Board of Governors are nominated by Board of Governors of ADB to represent them at the Annual Meeting that meets formally once year to be held in a member country.
Functions of ADB:
- Provides loans and equity investments to its Developing Member Countries (DMCs)
- Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services
- Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development
- Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs
Science & Technology
How to make biodegradable ‘plastic’ from cactus juice
A Mexican researcher has discovered a way to turn cactus leaves into a material with similar properties to plastic.
About the biodegradable plastic from cactus
- The biodegradable plastic was made by using the most common variety of edible nopal cactus (the opuntia ficus-indica and the opuntia megacantha) to make a biodegradable and bio-based plastics (bioplastics).
- Nopal is a common name in Mexican Spanish for ‘Opuntia cacti’ which means prickly pear.
- The plastic is basically made out of the sugars (monosaccharides and polysaccharides) of nopal juice.
- The sugars, pectin and organic acids in the juice give it a very viscous consistency making the plastic solid.
- Glycerol, natural waxes, proteins and colorants are mixed with the juice after it has been decanted to remove its fibre.
- The formula is then dried on a hot plate to produce thin sheets of plastic.
- The Cactus bioplastics could be used to make shopping bags, cosmetic containers, jewellery, toys etc.
Key Facts for Prelims
President of India Presents Bharat Ratna Awards
The President of India presented Bharat Ratna Awards to Shri Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumously), Dr Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika (posthumously) and Shri Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
About Bharat Ratna Awards:
- Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian Award of India, was instituted in the year 1954.
- The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science, and public services, but the government expanded the criteria to include any field of human endeavour in December 2011.
- It is not mandatory that Bharat Ratna be awarded every year.
- The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister himself to the President. No formal recommendations for this are necessary.
- The number of annual awards is restricted to a maximum of three in a particular year.
- On conferment of the award, the recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion.
- The first ever Indian to receive this award was the famous scientist, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman.
- The Award does not carry any monetary grant.
- In terms of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the recipient’s name.
- However, should an award winner consider it necessary, he/she may use the ‘Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President’ or ‘Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award’.
- There is no written provision that Bharat Ratna should be awarded to Indian citizens only. The award has been awarded to a naturalized Indian citizen Mother Teresa (1980) and to two non-Indians – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Nelson Mandela (1990).
- Since 1954, 44 distinguished individuals have been awarded with this prestigious award.
- The Bharat Ratna, along with other personal civil honours, was briefly suspended from July 1977 to January 1980, during the change in the national government; and for a second time from August 1992 to December 1995, when several public-interest litigations challenged the constitutional validity of the awards.
- In 1988, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi conferred the Bharat Ratna posthumously on movie actor and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to influence voters prior to the Tamil Nadu assembly elections. The decision was criticised for awarding Bharat Ratna to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister before independence activist B. R. Ambedkar and Vallabhbhai Patel.
- The seventh Prime Minister V. P. Singh was criticised for posthumously honouring B. R. Ambedkar to please the Dalits.
- The posthumous (award given after his/her death) conferments of the award on the recipients who died before the Indian independence in 1947 have been criticised by the historians. Such conferment could lead to more demands to honour people like Maurya Emperor Ashoka, Mughal Emperor Akbar etc.
- The then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao was also criticised for bestowing the award upon Vallabhbhai Patel in 1991, 41 years after his death in 1950; and upon Subhas Chandra Bose in 1992, who went missing since 18 August 1945.
- A few of the conferments have been criticised for honouring personalities only after they received global recognition. The award for Mother Teresa was announced in 1980, a year after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
NITI Aayog to launch the Fourth Edition of Women Transforming India Awards
The NITI Aayog will launch the Fourth Edition of Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards on 9 August 2019.
About the Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards
- The Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards is being organized in collaboration with the United Nations to recognize women entrepreneurs from across India.
- This 2019’s theme of award is ‘Women and Entrepreneurship’, in continuation of the theme for WTI Awards 2018.
About Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP)
- The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is a Government of India initiative by NITI Aayog to promote and support aspiring as well as established women entrepreneurs in India.
- It has more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs registered on the platform and has committed funding of more than US$ 10mn for these start-ups.