Polity & Governance
- ‘I – Metros’ -an association of all Indian Metro Rail companies launched
Government Schemes & Policies
- Cabinet approves financial relief measures for stressed telecom sector
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme extends from 161 to 640
Issues related to Health & Education
- ‘SUVIDHA’ – Rs. 2.50, 100% Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin
- NITI Aayog launches Women Entrepreneurship Platform
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Cabinet approves promotion of agricultural mechanisation for in-situ management of crop residue
- Swachh Shakti 2018
Bilateral & International Relations
- MoU between India and Hellenic
- Cabinet approves Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement between India and France
Science & Technology
- Newly-found ‘super-deep diamond’ in Africa contains a rare Earth mineral
- Researchers report the creation of Rydberg polarons in a Bose gas
Key Facts for Prelims
- Udyam Sakhi Portal
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Polity & Governance
‘I – Metros’ -an association of all Indian Metro Rail companies launched
The Union Housing Ministry has launched I-Metros, an association of all Indian Metro Rail companies for mutual sharing of ideas & experiences for nurturing excellence their performance.
- I – Metros platform will be forum for exchange of ideas, sharing of experience and pooling of knowledge, best practices, innovations etc. among Indian Metro Rail companies to nurture excellence in performance.
- This society will be registered under Society Registration Act-1860.
- The objective of forming this association is to provide a common platform for all Metro rail companies for sharing experience, information, best practices, innovations etc.
- This association will also undertake and promote techno-economic studies and research. It will safeguard the interest and rights of metro rail companies and will be resource tank of information for decision making.
Government Schemes & Policies
Cabinet approves financial relief measures for stressed telecom sector
The Union Cabinet has approved two key measures in telecom sector to facilitate investments, consolidation in the sector and enhancing ease of doing business.
1. Restructuring of Deferred Payment Liabilities of TSPs for spectrum
- It extends time period for payment of spectrum bought in auction to 16 years from the present 10 years.
- It will give one-time opportunity for TSPs to opt for higher number of instalment (maximum 16 instalment) apart from currently permitted 10 instalments
- The increased instalment is based upon principle that Net Present Value (NPV) of Payment Due is protected as per respective notice inviting application for auction of spectrum from 2012. The total amount received will be higher by Rs. 74,446 crore till 2034-35.
2. Revision of limits of cap for spectrum holding
Based upon the recommendations of TRAI and Telecom Commission, the Union Cabinet also approved revision of limits of cap for spectrum holding. They are
- Overall spectrum cap is revised from current limit of 25% to 35%.
- Current intra-band cap is removed. Instead, there is cap of 50% on combined spectrum holding in sub-1 GHz bands (700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands).
- There will be no cap for individual or combined spectrum holding in above 1 GHz band.
Significance of the move:
- Restructuring of deferred payment liability will increase cash flow for telecom service providers in immediate timeframe and provide them some relief.
- Revising spectrum limit cap holding will facilitate consolidation of telecom licensees, thus aid mergers and acquisitions in the sector and may encourage TSPs participation in future spectrum auction.
- The Indian telecom industry, which is locked in an intense tariff war, owes a staggering Rs 4.6 lakh crore to various financial institutions and banks.
- At the same time, large operators have been flagging pressure on revenue and profitability, blaming the rock-bottom data tariffs and free offerings of newcomer Reliance Jio for deteriorating financial health of the sector.
- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended revision in existing limits of cap for spectrum holding taking into consideration technological advancement, efficient use of spectrum, measures to facilitate consolidation etc.
- The revised spectrum caps limits may be revisited in future after Final Acts of World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme extends from 161 to 640
The government has expanded the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme from 161 districts to all the 640 districts in India.
Need of the move:
- Initial focus of BBBP had been on the districts which were either below national average or were the worse in their own states in terms of absolute values of CSR. However, looking at the magnitude and criticality of the problem and its spread across the country, it was felt that no district can be left out of BBBP ambit to make a real dent on overall child sex ratio.
About the BBBP scheme:
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme was launched on 22ndJanuary, 2015 at Panipat in Haryana.
- It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development.
- The scheme aims at improving the trend of declining child sex ratio (CSR) in the country—which, according to Census 2011 data, has plummeted from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and 918 in 2011—and promoting gender equality.
- The scheme focuses on challenging mindsets and deep rooted patriarchy in the societal system, strict enforcement of PC&PNDT Act, advancing education of the girl child: focus is on issues of women empowerment on a life cycle continuum.
- In the first phase, 100 districts with low CSR were selected for BBBP Scheme implementation for creating awareness and advocacy about the issue.
- During the last one year, the BBBP Scheme is being implemented under the overall guidance and supervision of concerned District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioners.
Issues related to Health & Education
‘SUVIDHA’ – Rs. 2.50, 100% Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin
The government has launched ‘Suvidha’, the 100% Oxo-biodegradable Sanitary Napkin, under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
- The affordable sanitary napkin will be available for Rs. 2.50 per padat over 3200 Janaushadhi Kendrasacross India.
- It would ensure ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’for the underprivileged Women of India.
- This is a step taken by the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
- It will be physically available at all Janaushadhi Kendras in country by World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28, 2018).
- SUVIDHA napkin has special additive added in it, which makes it biodegradable when it reacts with oxygen after it is used and discarded.
- It will go long way in making basic hygiene requirement aid for women affordable especially for the underprivileged sections.
Need for such move:
- According to National Family Health Survey (NHFS) 2015-16, about 58% of women aged between 15 to 24 years use locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins and tampons.
- Further, only 48% women in rural areas have access to clean sanitary napkins and about 78% women in urban areas use hygienic methods of protection during menstrual period.
- The use unhygienic aids during menstrual period due to non-affordability of some of branded of sanitary napkins causes fungal infections, Urinary Tract Infection, Reproductive Tract Infection, Cervical cancer and also make women vulnerable to infertility.
- Moreover, the disposal of non-biodegradable sanitary napkins creates a huge environmental problem.
About Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP):
PMBJP was launched by Department of Pharmaceuticals to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to masses through special kendra’s known as PMBJP.
- These special kendras provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.
- Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets Jan Aushadhi Medical Store.
- Reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare by bringing down healthcare budget of every citizen through providing Quality generic Medicines at Affordable Prices.
- Create awareness among public regarding generic medicines.
- Create demand for generic medicines through medical practioners.
- Provide all commonly used generic medicines covering all therapeutic groups.
- Provide all related health care products too under the scheme.
- Create awareness through education and awareness program that high price need not be synonymous with high quality.
NITI Aayog launches Women Entrepreneurship Platform
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has launched Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) on the occasion of International Women’s day (March 8, 2018).
About Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP):
- The initiative is aimed at building an ecosystem for women across country to help realise their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses. This will be done through an enabling network of industry collaborations, partnerships, mentors and peer-to-peer connect.
- WEP will address bottlenecks faced by both aspiring and established women entrepreneurs by streamlining information across government and private sector schemes and initiatives with informative, interactive website as a dedicated resource and knowledge base.
- WEP aspires to substantially increase number of women entrepreneurs to create and empower dynamic new India by opening up avenues of growth and opportunity for women entrepreneurs.
- The WEP platform will operate within broader framework of industry collaborations and partnerships, which cut across sectors in economy.
- It will provide unique services such as credit evaluation of women-led startups by CRISIL and potential equity investments through an Rs. 10 crore fund established by DICE Districts
These aspirations of women entrepreneurs are manifested in three pillars on which WEP is built:
- Ichha Shakti: Motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to start their enterprise.
- Gyaan Shakti: Providing knowledge and ecosystem support to women entrepreneurs to help them foster entrepreneurship.
- Karma Shakti: Providing hands-on support to entrepreneurs in setting-up and scaling up businesses.
Partners of WEP
- com will provide internship and dedicated mentorship and Mann Deshi Foundation to provide digital and financial literacy to aspiring women entrepreneurs.
- Moreover, several other leading corporates and industry bodies such as NASSCOM, CII, FICCI, SIDBI and Facebook will provide business acceleration, mentorship and other start-up support for women entrepreneurs.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Cabinet approves promotion of agricultural mechanisation for in-situ management of crop residue
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Rs. 1,151 crore Central Sector Scheme for in-situ management of crop residue in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi.
Aim of the move:
- It will promote agricultural mechanization for next two years (2018-20) to provide cost-effective and eco-friendly solution to farmers to deal with problem of stubble burning that result in raising air pollution levels in Delhi and neighbouring states every winter.
Key features of Scheme:
- Under this scheme, the proceeds from central fund will be used to establish Farm Machinery Banks (FMBs) for Custom Hiring of in-situ crop residue management machinery.
- Government will provide 80% financial assistance of project cost to cooperative societies of farmers, FPOs, SHGs, registered farmers societies or farmers groups, private entrepreneurs and group of women farmers.
- It will also provide 50% financial assistance to farmers for procurement of agriculture machinery and equipment for in-situ crop residue management.
- Identification of beneficiaries: Beneficiaries will be identified and selected for establishment of Farm Machinery Bank for Custom Hiring and procurement of machines on individual ownership basis by state nodal department/DLEC. They may tie up with Banks for credit requirements of beneficiaries.
- It will be the responsibility of the agriculture ministry to identify manufacturers and equipment for in-site management of crop. The costs of these equipment will also be decided by the ministry in consultation with manufacturers so that it can be made available to users at reasonable price.
- The central fund will also be used to create awareness among farmers about in-situ management of crop residue.
- The activities will involve mass awareness campaigns through documents, short and long films, radio and TV programmes, demonstration camps at various levels and capacity building programme etc.
- It will also include advertisement in print media, star campaigning, award for village or gram Panchayat for achieving Zero Straw Burning etc.
Significance of the scheme:
- The scheme is expected to go long way in tackling air pollution issue in NCT of Delhi, as stubble burning which has been identified as one of key problem areas, especially during post-harvest season of October-November when prevailing meteorological condition aggravates the situation further.
- Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Budget 2018-19 had announced special scheme with 100% Central share to support efforts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue.
- The problem of crop residue burning has been intensifying over the years, with Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh being the major burning hotspots. Increased mechanization, declining number of livestock, long period required for composting and no economically viable alternate use of residues are some of the reasons for residues being burnt in field. This not only has implications for global warming, but also has an adverse impact on air quality, soil health and human health.
Swachh Shakti 2018
Swachh Shakti 2018 was celebrated in Lucknow with 15000 women Swachh Bharat champions resolving to usher in clean India on International Women’s Day.
- This year, Uttar Pradesh had hosted Swachh Shakti 2018, being largest state in country (in terms of population) with massive rural populace.
About Swachh Shakti:
- The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, in association with the Government of Uttar Pradesh had organized the event.
- Under this, women sarpanches, women Swachhagrahis and women champions from other walks of life from across the country will be recognised for their outstanding contribution towards making a Swachh Bharat.
- In 2017 Swachh Shakti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed and honoured over 6000 women sarpanches from across country in Gujarat on occasion of International Women’s Day.
Bilateral & International Relations
MoU between India and Hellenic
The Union Cabinet has apprised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in field of Renewable Energy between India and Hellenic.
About Hellenic Republic:
- Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic is a country in Southern Europe.
- Athens is the nation’s capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.
- Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, it shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast.
- The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.
- Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin.
- Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest peak.
- Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Cabinet approves Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement between India and France
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement between India and France.
- The Agreement represents a major milestone in enhancing people-to -people contacts, fostering mobility of students, academics, researchers and skilled professionals and strengthening cooperation on issues related to irregular migration and human trafficking between the two sides.
- The Agreement is a testimony to India’s rapidly expanding multi-faceted relationship with France and symbolizes the increasing trust and confidence between the two sides.
- The Agreement is initially valid for a period of seven years, incorporates provision for automatic renewal and a monitoring mechanism through a Joint Working Group.
- France is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in western Europe, as well as several overseas regions and territories.
- The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean.
- The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
Science & Technology
Newly-found ‘super-deep diamond’ in Africa contains a rare Earth mineral
For the first time, scientists have found Earth’s fourth most abundant mineral—calcium silicate perovskite—at Earth’s surface.
- Scientists found the calcium silicate perovskite within a diamond mined from less than one kilometre beneath Earth’s crust, at South Africa’s famous Cullinan Mine, best known as the source of two of the largest diamonds in the British Crown Jewels.
- CaSiO3 perovskite in diamond indicates the recycling of oceanic crust into the lower mantle.
- Usually, the mineral is found deep inside Earth’s mantle, at 700 kilometres. The only possible way of preserving this mineral at the Earth’s surface is when it’s trapped in an unyielding container like a diamond.
- Silicate perovskite may form up to 93% of the lower mantle, and the magnesium iron form is considered to be the most abundant mineral in Planet Earth, making up 38% of its volume.
- Under the very high pressures of the lowermost mantle, below about 2,700 km, the silicate perovskites are replaced by post-perovskite.
Researchers report the creation of Rydberg polarons in a Bose gas
An international team of physicists have successfully created a “giant atom” and filled it with ordinary atoms, creating a new state of matter termed “Rydberg polarons”.
- These atoms are held together by a weak bond and is created at very cold temperatures.
How was it created?
It uses ideas from two different fields: Bose Einstein Condensation and Rydberg atoms.
- A BEC (Bose Einstein Condensate) is a liquid-like state of matter that occurs at very low temperatures. A BEC can be perturbed to create excitations which are akin to ripples on a lake. Here, researchers have used a BEC of strontium atoms.
- Electrons in an atom move in orbits around the nucleus. A ‘Rydberg atom’ is an atom in which an electron has been kicked out to a very large orbit. These have interesting properties and have been studied for a long time.
- In this work, researchers used laser light on a BEC of strontium atoms so that it impinges on one strontium atom at a time. This excites an electron into a large orbit, forming a Rydberg atom. This orbit is large enough to encircle many other strontium atoms inside it.
- As the electron moves around many strontium atoms, it generates ripples of the BEC. The Rydberg atom becomes inextricably mixed with these ripples and forms a new super-atom called a ‘Rydberg polaron’.
Potential applications of Rydberg polarons:
- A particularly interesting implication is for cosmology. Our universe is believed to be filled with a mysterious ‘dark matter’ which exerts a gravitational force on other matter.
- Some theories of dark matter postulate that it is a cosmic Bose Einstein Condensate, perhaps composed of an as-yet-unknown type of particle. If we are indeed living in an invisible all pervading Bose Einstein Condensate, this experiment can suggest ways to detect it.
Key Facts for Prelims
Udyam Sakhi Portal
- The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises(MSME) has launched a portal for women entrepreneurs of India.
- The portal is a network for nurturing entrepreneurship and creating business models for low cost products and services in order to empower women and make them self-reliant and self-sufficient.
- The portal provides assistance through its platform for entrepreneurship learning tools, incubation facility, training programs for fund raising, providing mentors, one-on-one investor meet, provide market survey facility and technical assistance.
- It will cater needs of around 8 million women from across country who have started and are running their own businesses and playing vital role in the growth of Indian economy.