Polity & Governance
- India announces new hydrocarbon exploration licensing policy
- IMA wants doctors to report any unusual symptoms they notice in patients
- Centre plumps for rural FMCG e-sales
- Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards
- India gold demand to revive in 2017, says World Gold Council
- Downloading apps may cost money with ‘Google tax’: Report
Environment & Ecology
- India launches second stage of HCFCs phase out plan
- Web Portal for obtaining CRZ Clearances
Bilateral & International Relations
- Global fund to help solve India’s HIV drug crisis
- Centre mulls more ‘border haats’
Science & Technology
- ESA launches latest Sentinel Earth Observation Satellite
Key Facts for Prelims
- International Women’s day 2017
- Aadhaar Pay: Biometric Based Payment System
- 13th Economic Co-operation Organisation summit
- Asia’s largest petrochemicals plant
- National Archives of India to celebrate its 127th Foundation Day
- ‘India by the Nile’
- SBI launces Work from Home facility
- National Safety Week
- Moortidevi award 2016
Polity & Governance
India announces new hydrocarbon exploration licensing policy
The Union Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has announced new Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) for oil and gas exploration.
- The new policy will allow bidders to carve out areas where they want to drill.
- It will help energy hungry India and world’s third-largest oil consumer to attract greater foreign investment to boost output.
What is OLAP?
- Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
- The objective of OLAP is to increase India’s indigenous oil and gas production by maximising the potential of already discovered hydrocarbon resources in the country.
- OALP offers single license to explore conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources to propel investment in and provide operational flexibility to the investors.
- It is departure from the current licensing policy of government identifying the oil and gas blocks and then putting them on auction.
- Under it, Government will conduct auction of oil and gas blocks twice a year, with the first round being held in July 2017.
- The selection of oil blocks will be based on seismic and well data provided by Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons in National Data Repository which offers total of 160TB data of India’s 26 sedimentary basins.
- The OALP auction will be held under the overhauled exploration licensing policy, allowing pricing and marketing freedom to operators and shifts to a revenue sharing model.
OALP is part of the strategy to make India a business and investor friendly destination and cut import dependence by 10% and achieve the plan to double existing oil production from current 80 million metric tons to about 150-155 million metric tons by 2022.
In this new model, government will not micromanage, micro monitor with producers rather only share revenue.
Thus, it gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration areas on its own. The July 2017 auction under this new policy will be India’s first major exploration licensing round since 2010.[Ref: Indian Express]
IMA wants doctors to report any unusual symptoms they notice in patients
Doctors across the country will now have to report not just notifiable diseases to the local health authorities but also any unusual symptoms that cannot be explained they see in their patients.
- The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which has been aggressively supporting timely notification of notifiable diseases, now wants all doctors to start reporting any unusual symptoms that they notice in their patients.
- The association has been sending out mails to over two lakh member-doctors across the country.
Need for such move:
- This was essential especially in the wake of several new infections spreading rapidly.
- With blurring of international boundaries and increasing travel, there is a threat of global spread of any infectious disease.
- Doctors alone can no longer be responsible for public health and prevention and control of outbreaks also require commitment on the part of policymakers, administrators and all other stakeholders.
About Indian Medical Association:
- The Indian Medical Association (IMA), is a national voluntary organisation of Doctors of Modern Scientific System of Medicine in India.
- It looks after the interest of doctors as well as the well being of the community at large.
- It was established in 1928 as the All India Medical Association, renamed “Indian Medical Association” in 1930.
- It is a society registered under The Societies Act of India.
- The Indian Medical association is a founder member of the World Medical Association.
Centre plumps for rural FMCG e-sales
The Centre has initiated talks with FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies to sell their products online in rural areas through common service centres (CSCs) as it looks to increase the business for such centres.
Significance of this move:
- The move will help Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) who run CSCs to earn commission on the products sold while also enabling access for customers in rural areas to these products.
- According to estimates, a VLE is likely to earn a commission in the range of 12-20% on FMCG products, which is far higher than less than 10% on other services offered.
The government is focused on expansion of CSCs because of their inherent strength to transform rural India. With the sale of FMCG products, the door has been opened for popularising e–commerce through CSCs.
There are more than 2.5 lakh CSCs across the country which enable people, particularly in rural areas, to access government services online. These services include ration card, birth certificate, train tickets and online form submission, among other things.
What are the Common Services Centers (CSCs)?
Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme.
- They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
- CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:
- Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
- Governance and services on demand.
- Digital empowerment of citizens.
Significance of the CSCs:
- CSCs are more than service delivery points in rural India. They are positioned as change agents, promoting rural entrepreneurship and building rural capacities and livelihoods.
- They are enablers of community participation and collective action for engendering social change through a bottom-up approach with key focus on the rural citizen.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards
The Government has announced ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards’.
About the awards:
- It is a new category of awards specially for women handloom weavers and women handicraft artisans.
- The awards are being instituted from this year, so that women weavers and artisans receive due recognition and economic benefits associated with the Awards.
About Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay:
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was an Indian social reformer and freedom fighter.
- She is most remembered for her contribution to the Indian independence movement; for being the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in independent India; and for upliftment of the socio-economic standard of Indian women by pioneering the co-operative movement.
- Several cultural institutions in India today exist because of her vision, including the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India.
- In 1974, she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship the highest honour conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.
India gold demand to revive in 2017, says World Gold Council
The World Gold Council (WGC) expects a revival in demand for the yellow metal in India in the current calendar year after 2016 ended on a dismal note on account of a surge in gold price coupled with factors like an increase in excise duty and demonetisation.
- The global body expects Indian gold demand to be about 650-750 tonnes in 2017. Demand was just a little more than 600 tonnes in the last calendar year.
- The year 2016 saw gold demand in India falling to its lowest level since 2009 as government policies along with weak rural sentiment kept consumers away.
Impact of demonetisation:
- While demonetisation did dent economic growth, it was helping large jewellery retailers and consumers in terms of transparency and quality.
- Demonetisation is also boosting large jewellery retailers, and they will continue to grab a larger share of the market.
- Over time, consumers will move away from cash towards digital payments, and organised players should benefit from this trend. This change in market dynamics will result in more transparency and a better deal for consumers, protecting them from shady practices such as under–carating.
Impact of cap on cash transactions:
- While the government had put a cap of ₹3 lakh on cash transactions starting April 1, the Council was of the view that while it could hamper gold purchases, consumers might buy the precious metal in smaller quantities or might also look at the black market to bypass the regulations.
About World Gold Council:
The World Gold Council is the market development organisation for the gold industry.
- It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
- The World Gold Council is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies.
- It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
- Headquartered in the UK, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.
Downloading apps may cost money with ‘Google tax’: Report
After the application of equalisation levy on online advertisements, the government is mulling over the option of widening its scope.
- The government might impose a six per cent tax levy on all online multinational companies that earn revenue from India, this could include even the downloading of apps on smartphones.
What is Google Tax?
- It is an equalization levy, which the Indian government is imposing on online advertising revenue by non-resident e-commerce companies earned in India
- The levy which is at 6% presently became effective on June 1. If passed on to startups, the applicable tax is expected to be in excess of 22%, including the 15% service tax and could further increase if GST comes into effect.
Why this tax is detrimental to startup ecosystem?
- The fact that the levy has been notified in addition to taxes payable by a businessman on imported online services unduly increases the cost of doing business for startups which in turn stifles innovation.
- Usually, small scale technology driven companies generally do not have enough capital to engage employees inhouse for all necessary business activities. Google tax adds to this problem.
- Also, emerging startups burn a lot of cash in the first few years before becoming profitable and when the levy is expanded to include a vast number of other digital services the burden is set to multiply exponentially, hampering even more serious cost to innovation.
What needs to be done?
- A cap should be placed on the rate of taxation at the very least, and the number of notified services subject to the levy should not be expanded until there is an impact study undertaken by the government.
Environment & Ecology
India launches second stage of HCFCs phase out plan
The Union Government launched the Stage II of India’s HCFC Phase Out Management Plan (HPMP) for the 2017-23 period.
Features of HPMP II:
- It seeks to phase out the use of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and harmful ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
- It also promotes the usage of non-ozone depleting and low global warming potential technologies.
- Under the HPMP-II, India secured USD 44.1 million from the Multilateral Fund for Implementation of Montreal Protocol of the United Nations for phasing out 8,190 MT of HCFC consumption from 2017 to 2023.
- The plan will cover more than 400 enterprises, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the foam manufacturing sector.
- And, 6 large air-conditioning manufacturing enterprises will be supported for conversion to non-HCFC technologies from HCFCs.
- The plan will promote energy efficiency, adoption of green building norms and cold chain development with non-HCFC alternatives.
- The plan gives adequate attention to synergize the Refrigeration and Servicing (RAC) servicing sector trainings under the Skill India Mission. As per the plan, nearly 16,000 service technicians will be trained under HPMP-II.
- The plan is expected to result in net direct CO2-equivalent emission reductions of about 8.5 million metric tonnes annually from 2023.
- The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion including HCFCs.
- Under the Montreal Protocol, various initiatives to phase out Hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs) were taken up with an aim to complete phase out by 2030 of these chemicals.
- At present, HCFCs are used in various sectors like refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) and polyurethane foam manufacturing.
- As a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, The HPMP Stage-I has been already implemented in the country, which has successfully met all the ODS phase-out targets.
Web Portal for obtaining CRZ Clearances
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched the web portal for obtaining Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances.
- The portal is a web-based system for obtaining clearances required from the Ministry under the (CRZ) by the Project proponents for ease of doing business.
- The user-friendly portal enables submission of applications for CRZ clearance in a single-window interface and facilitates quick flow of information related to CRZ clearances.
- It will enable the project proponents and the concerned State/UT bodies like the State Coastal Zone Management Authorities (SCZMAs) and Town/ Municipal Planning agencies to track status of their proposals.
- The system is based on web architecture, similar to the existing systems of the ministry for environmental and forest clearances.
The objectives of the web portal are:
- Enhance efficiency, transparency and accountability in the process of CRZ clearances
- Enhance responsiveness through workflows and availability of real-time information on the status of CRZ clearance proposals
- Ease of business and convenience of citizens in accessing information and services;
- Standardised procedures and processes across Central and State levels.
About Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ):
- CRZ is the zone along the coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and backwaters along the coastline specially demarcated for regulated development activity.
- The demarcated zone consists of coastal stretches influenced by tidal action (in the landward side) upto 500 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) and the land between the Low Tide Line (LTL) and the HTL.
- The regulations in this zone are governed by the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2011 issued under the under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- In this zone, Government imposes restrictions on setting up and expansion of industries or other projects. It is mandatory for getting clearances from ministry and local authorities to start any development project in CRZ.
- According to Coastal Regulation Zone notifications, it is divided into 4 zones:
- CRZ I – It refers to the ecologically sensitive areas, essential in maintaining ecosystem of the coast. These lie between the HTL and LTL. Only exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt is permitted.
- CRZ II – These areas form up to the shoreline of the coast. Authorized structures are not allowed to be constructed in this zone.
- CRZ III – This includes rural and urban localities. Only certain activities relating to agriculture and public utilities allowed here.
- CRZ IV – This includes the aquatic area up to the territorial limit (12 nautical miles). Fishing and allied activities permitted in this zone. Solid waste can be let off in this zone.
Bilateral & International Relations
Global fund to help solve India’s HIV drug crisis
After running out of the child-friendly HIV syrup, Lopinavir, India is likely to procure the drug from a rapid supply facility routed through the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), a multilateral donor agency.
About Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM):
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (or the Global Fund) is an international financing organization that aims to “attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.”
- A public–private partnership, the organization has its secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The organization began operations in January 2002.
- Microsoft founder Bill Gates was one of the first private foundations among many bilateral donors to provide seed money for the project.
- The Global Fund is the world’s largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB and malaria programs.
- According to the organization, it has financed the distribution of 659 million insecticide-treated nets to combat malaria, provided anti-tuberculosis treatment for 15,1 million people, and is supporting 9.2 million people on antiretroviral therapy for AIDS.
- The Global Fund is a financing mechanism rather than an implementing agency. This means that monitoring of programs is supported by a Secretariat of approximately over 700 staff (as of end 2015) in Geneva.
- Implementation is overseen by Country Coordinating Mechanisms, committees consisting of in-country stakeholders that need to include, according to Global Fund requirements, a broad spectrum of government, NGOs, UN, faith-based, private sector and people living with the disease. This has kept the Global Fund Secretariat smaller than other international bureaucracies.
- Yet it has also raised concerns about conflict of interest, as some of the stakeholders represented on the CCMs may also receive money from the Global Fund, either as Principal Recipients, Subrecipients, private persons (e.g. for travel or participation at seminars) or contractors.
India has a cohort of over 600 children who require 36,000 bottles of Lopinavir syrup annually.
Stocks of Lopinavir syrup — a child friendly HIV drug — ran out after Cipla, the sole manufacturer of the drug, stopped manufacturing it over the issue of non-payment from the Health Ministry.
Cipla is the dominant player in the Indian market across the HIV segment and has not stopped participating in government tenders after the Health Ministry failed to pay Cipla for consignments sent in 2014.[Ref: The Hindu, Wiki]
Centre mulls more ‘border haats’
The government is mulling opening more ‘border haats’ (border markets), encouraged by its success at the India-Myanmar border.
- Current border haats are functioning well.
What are Border Haats?
- The border haats are markets that aim at promoting the wellbeing of the people dwelling in remote areas across the borders of two countries, by establishing traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets.
India currently has functional border haats with Bangladesh.[Ref: The Hindu]
Science & Technology
ESA launches latest Sentinel Earth Observation Satellite
The European Union (EU) launched the fifth satellite of the Copernicus observation program from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.
- The Sentinel-2B satellite is a part of Sentinel Earth observation satellites, a system of satellites that monitors Earth.
- This fifth Sentinel satellite will cut the time of imaging the earth by half and will ensure speedy provision of images of land, oceans and waterways.
- This will improve services for farmers, fishermen and other users of land and sea maps.
- Now, the globe’s image will take only five days. The acceleration of the building up of the globe’s image will positively affect the activities of fishermen by allowing them to monitor the emergence of toxic algal blooms in sea.
About Sentinel-2B satellite:
- It will join its twin Sentinel-2A, which has been in orbit since 2015, to take high-resolution, color and infrared images for a wide array of environmental initiatives.
- These two satellites will orbit 488 miles (786 km) above Earth on opposite sides of the planet.
- Together, they will cover all of Earth’s land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waterways every five days.
- They will provide more up-to-date images and at higher resolution than the available ones.
- It will help track pollution of lakes and coastal waters, monitor land changes or produce disaster maps by providing information on floods, volcanic eruptions and landslide.
About Copernicus earth observation program:
- The Copernicus project is described by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the most ambitious Earth observation program till date.
- The European Union and the ESA have committed funding of more than USD 9 billion to it until 2020.
- The program is aimed at improving the life of EU communities by providing near-real-time global environment data.
Key Facts for Prelims
International Women’s day 2017
- International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8 across the world.
- The 2017 theme of IWD is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. Its campaign theme is “#BeBoldForChange”.
- It is an annual marker that aims to bring attention to women’s accomplishments and obstacles.
- The first International Women’s Day took place in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
- The UN celebrates the day on the basis of different themes. In 2016, the theme was Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.
- The day has now come to be also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
Aadhaar Pay: Biometric Based Payment System
- IDFC Bank became the first bank in the country to launch the biometric-based payment system Aadhaar Pay through its network.
- Aadhaar Pay will enable merchants to receive payments from customers without any physical payment instrument.
- Customer can use this service by first linking his bank account to the Aadhaar number.
- To make a payment, customer just has to select the bank’s name and enter the Aadhaar number. The fingerprint will serve as the password to authenticate the transaction.
13th Economic Co-operation Organisation summit
- The 13th edition of Economic Co-operation Organisation (ECO) summit was held in Islamabad, Pakistan.
- The purpose of the summit is to increase cooperation in areas such as trade, tourism, energy, economic growth and productivity.
- The ECO is a Eurasian political and economic intergovernmental organization formed in 1985 by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.
- It now also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
- Halil Ibrahim Akca from Turkey is its current Secretary General.
Asia’s largest petrochemicals plant
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Petro auditions Limited (OPal) in the industrial town of Dahej in Gujarat.
- The plant, which is claimed to be the largest petrochemicals plant in Asia with occupation over 1700 metres of land.
- It is the single largest petrochemical plant in India and at full capacity will annually produce 14 lakh metric tonnes of polymers.
- OPaL is a joint venture company promoted by ONGC, GAIL and GSPC.
National Archives of India to celebrate its 127th Foundation Day
- The National Archives of India (NAI) will celebrate its 127th Foundation Day on March 11, 2017.
- NAI was established on 11th March 1891 at Calcutta as the Imperial Record Department.
- It is a repository of the non-current records of the Union Government and holds them in trust for the use of administrators and scholars.
- It functions as an Attached Office of the Department of Culture under the Ministry of Culture.
- It is headquarters are at Janpath, New Delhi and has a Regional Office at Bhopal and three Record Centres at Bhubaneswar, Jaipur and Pondicherry.
‘India by the Nile’
- It is a mega cultural festival, held at foot of the Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.
- It was organised by the Embassy of India in partnership with the Ministry of Textiles, Export Promotion Council dor Handicrafts (India) and Ministry of Social Solidarity (Egypt) and Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI).
- This year event marked the special moment as India celebrates 70 years of independence and also 70 years of its diplomatic relations with Egypt.
- The festival is a celebration of Indian music, dance, theatre, visual arts, food and wellbeing.
SBI launces Work from Home facility
- The State Bank of India (SBI) has launched a new “Work from Home” facility to enable its employees to work while at home using mobile devices.
- This facility aims to address any urgent requirement employees may have, that prevents their travelling to work.
- For this purpose, SBI will use mobile computing technologies and shall have continuous control over all the enabled devices.
- It will centrally manage and secure the data and applications on the mobile devices.
National Safety Week
- The National Safety Week (NSW) was observed from March 4 to 10 to raise safety awareness among people.
- The 2017 theme was “Keep Each Other Safe”.
- It was observed by the National Safety Council (NSC) of India.
- It seeks to prevent and lessen the loss of human life and tackle financial losses to the family by availing them of safety, health and environment-related support services.
Moortidevi award 2016
- Noted Malayalam author and journalist M P Veerendra Kumar was awarded 30th edition of Moortidevi award 2016 by the Bharatiya Jnanpith organization.
- He was awarded for his Malayalam travelogue “Hymavathabhoovil”, which dwells upon ancient trails of Indian culture, myth, literature and people strewn in the plains, valleys and mountains of India.
- Moortidevi award is given annually for books written in all Indian languages besides English pertaining to Indian philosophy. It consists of a Saraswati statue, a citation plaque and cash award of Rs. 4 lakh.