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M.S. Swaminathan calls GM crops a failure

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Biotechnology

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level:  BT Cotton

Mains Level: Limitations of GM crops


News

  • A research paper co-authored by leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, which describes Bt cotton as a ‘failure,’ was criticised by India’s Principal Scientific Adviser as ‘deeply flawed’.

BT crops: A big Failure

  1. The article ‘Modern Technologies for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security’ was recently published.
  2. It is authored by P.C. Kesavan and Prof. Swaminathan, senior functionaries of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

  1. The article is a review of crop development in India and transgenic crops — particularly Bt cotton, the stalled Bt brinjal as well as DMH-11, a transgenic mustard hybrid.
  2. The latter two have been cleared by scientific regulators but not by the Centre.
  3. It states that the precautionary principle (PP) has been done away with and no science-based and rigorous biosafety protocols and evaluation of GM crops are in place.
  4. BT crops have failed as a sustainable agriculture technology and have, therefore, also failed to provide livelihood security for cotton farmers who are mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.

Why opt GM?

  1. Conventional GE technology uses genes from soil bacterium to either protect them from specific pests or— as in the case of GE mustard — facilitate hybridization.
  2. This means making the plant more amenable to developing higher-yielding varieties.
  3. Swaminathan, credited with leading India’s Green Revolution, has said the government should only use genetic engineering as a last resort.
  4. He has emphasized that genetic engineering is supplementary and must be need based.
  5. Only in very rare circumstance (less than 1%) may there arise a need for the use of this technology.

GM for Abiotic stresses

  1. Abiotic stresses refer to environmental factors that could meddle with plant yield, as opposed to ‘biotic’ stressors such as insects.
  2. GE may be deployed to manage against Abiotic stresses.

Back2Basics

BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis)

  1. BT is a soil dwelling bacterium generally used in biopesticide.
  2. Bt cotton was created through the addition of genes encoding toxin crystals in the Cry group of endotoxin.
  3. When insects attack and eat the cotton plant the Cry toxins are dissolved due to the high pH level of the insect’s stomach.
  4. In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India.
  5. Genetic Engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) is the central agency to allow field trials of BT/GM crops.
Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

India Water Impact Summit 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India Water Impact Summit 2018

Mains level: Strategy envisioned in the newscards


News

  • India Water Impact Summit 2018 was jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies in New Delhi.

India Water Impact Summit

  1. It is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water-related problems in the country.
  2. The discussions this year will be on the rejuvenation of the Ganga River Basin.
  3. There will be multi-country dialogue on the subject, with showcasing of technological innovations, research, policy frameworks and funding models from India and abroad.
  4. The efforts may take various forms including (but not limited to): data collection (sensors, LIDAR, modelling etc), hydrology, e-flows, agriculture, wastewater and more.

Three key aspects on focus

Spotlight on 5 states

  • These include Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Bihar
  • The objective is to showcase the efforts and works going on within the respective states.

Ganga Financing Forum

  • The Summit introduces the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform.
  • The Hybrid Annuity Model has redefined the economic landscape of water and waste-water treatment in India.
  • All tenders have been successfully bid out and financial closures being achieved.
  • The Financing Forum will bring together financial institutions and investors interested in Namami Gange programmes.

Technology and Innovation

  • Implementation of the pilot/demonstration programme known as the Environment Technology Verification (ETV) process.
  • This will provide an opportunity for technology and innovation companies from around the world to showcase their solutions for addressing the problems prevalent in the river basin.
Mission Clean Ganga

FSSAI launches awareness drive on trans fats

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra, Heart Attack Rewind

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a new mass media campaign in order to create awareness about trans fats and eliminate them in India by 2022.

Heart Attack Rewind

  1. It is a 30-second public service announcement to be broadcast in 17 languages for a period of four weeks on YouTube, Facebook, Hotstar, and Voot.
  2. It will also be placed on outdoor hoardings and run on radio stations in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
  3. The campaign will warn citizens about the health hazards of consuming trans fats and offer strategies to avoid them through healthier alternatives.
  4. This campaign will concentrate on the demand side (consumers), who in turn, will push the supply side (food manufacturers) to come up with various strategies in order to reduce and later replace trans fats.

What are Trans Fats?

  1. Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  2. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Why this move?

  1. Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans fats.
  2. Since the impact of trans fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.

Other FSSAI Initiatives

  1. Heart Attack Rewind is a follow-up to an earlier campaign called “Eat Right”, which was launched on July 11, 2018.
  2. As part of the campaign, edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce trans fat content by 2 per cent by 2022.
  3. Later, food companies also took a pledge to reformulate packaged foods with reduced levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
  4. Swasth Bharat Yatra, an initiative started under the “Eat Right” campaign which started on October 16 and will end on January 27, 2019, will also seek to create awareness among citizens about trans fats.

A Move to adopt WHO guidelines

  1. In May this year, the WHO released a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.
  2. Since then, a lot of countries have made efforts to reduce the levels of trans fats and in some cases, have completely banned them.
  3. India is also moving towards same by first reducing the levels from 5 per cent to 2 per cent and then altogether by 2022.
Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Country’s first owl festival organized in Pune

 

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Owl Festival

Mains level: Conservation of Owls in India


News

Indian Owl Festival

  1. The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, will be held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune, Maharashtra.
  2. The two-day festival is organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation.
  3. It will give information on owl conservation and feature art forms like pictures, paintings, lanterns, lamp shades, posters, origami, stitched articles, poems and stories on owls.
  4. It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it.

Why Conserve Owls?

  1. Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened.
  2. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss, both are man-made.
  3. Owls eat rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. So these birds are actually very beneficial to farmers.

Owls in India

  1. According to a report published by Traffic India, a wildlife trade monitoring body, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010, owls were found to be consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/zoos, food and in folk medicines.
  2. Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the report has found owls to be highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

ISRO successfully launches hyperspectral imaging satellite HysIS

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the HysIS

Mains level:  Important missions of ISRO


News

  • The ISRO has successfully launched the PSLV-C43/HysIS mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota late.
  • This mission, the sixth one this year that will use a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), will see the launch of HysIS – India’s own earth observation satellite.
  • The satellite will be accompanied by 29 other satellites developed by various nations, including 23 from the US.

About the Launch

  1. The PSLV launcher has a total length of 39.4m and consists of a four-stage rocket, that has alternating solid and liquid stages.
  2. PSLV-C43 is a core-alone version of the launch vehicle, and the lightest one in operation. The combined weight of the satellites is 641.5kg.
  3. PSLV-C43 mission’s payload consists of the HysIS satellite, one micro-satellite and 29 nano satellites.
  4. While the 30 foreign satellites will be launched at an altitude of 504 km from the Earth’s surface, ISRO’s HysIS satellite will be launched at an altitude of 636 km.
  5. The satellite will be put into a polar synchronous orbit, which sets it in motion along the axis that runs along the Earth’s geographic North and South Pole.

HysIS

  1. HysIS stands for Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite.
  2. The objective of the probe is to provide observations within the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  3. The imaging tools will help the HysIS satellite monitor atmospheric activity and climate change, while also assisting studies of Earth’s magnetic field.
  4. These observations will have a host of applications, prime among which relate to agriculture, forestry, water management, and coastal patterns.
  5. The satellite’s payload also consists of a 730W power backup, and a 64Ah Li-ion battery.
  6. It will continue to make observations till 2023, when the mission ends.
  7. After this launch, the next big event for the Indian space organisation will be its awaited mission to the moon – Chandrayaan-2 – in early 2019.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

RBI can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to govt: report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Debate regarding the independence of RBI


News

  • The Reserve Bank of India has “more than adequate” reserves and that it can transfer over Rs 1-lakh crore to the government after a specially constituted panel identifies the “excess capital”.

Background

  1. Multiple reports had claimed that the government is eyeing the extra cash which will help it in the run-up to the elections.
  2. This comes amidst falling GST collections and little borrowing window left for the government, as it has already used up close to 96 percent of borrowings as of end October.
  3. By taking the money from the RBI, the government will only increase its fiscal deficit, as it will have to issue bonds to the central bank.
  4. The government for the second year in a row has pegged fiscal deficit at 3.3 per cent of GDP this fiscal year.

Excess Capital from RBI

  1. The proposed committee on the RBI’s economic capital framework (ECF) to identify Rs 1-3 lakh crore which is 0.5-1.6 per cent of GDP as excess capital.
  2. As per its stress tests, the central bank can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve.
  3. It can go up to Rs 3-lakh crore if the total capital is included.
  4. It further said this level will be 75 per cent higher than the average of BRICS economies, excluding India.

Statutory Provisions for Transfer

  1. The statutes do not prohibit transfer of excess capital to the government, pointing out that the RBI Act places no bar as long as government maintains Rs 5 crore of reserve funds under Sec 46 of the RBI Act.
  2. While Section 47 enjoins the RBI to credit its annual surplus to the national exchequer, after provisions, it does not place any restrictions on further transfers.
  3. The RBI’s contingency reserves at 7 percent are higher than the BRICS (excluding India) average of 2 per cent.
RBI Notifications

OBC sub-categorization panel gets 4th extension

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 340, Mandal Commission, Indra Sawhney Case

Mains level:  Storm over reservations demand in India.


News

  • The panel constituted by the Union government to look into the sub-categorization of OBCs has been given another extension by the Cabinet till May 31, 2019.

Background

  1. The Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney and others vs. Union of India case (1992) had observed that there is no constitutional or legal bar on states for categorizing OBCs as backward or more backward.
  2. It had also observed that it is not impermissible in law if state chooses to do sub-categorization.
  3. So far, 9 states/UTs viz. Karnataka, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Puducherry, Telangana, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have carried out sub-categorization of OBCs.
  4. However there was no sub categorization in central list of OBCs so far.

Panel for Sub-categorization of OBCs

  1. The panel under G. Rohini was constituted in October 2017 and was supposed to file its report within three months.
  2. It is mandated to divide 5,000-odd castes in the central OBC list into sub-categories for more equitable distribution of opportunities in central government jobs and educational institutions.
  3. The commission has been established under Article 340 of Constitution under which Mandal commission had recommended 27% reservation for socially and educationally backward classes, was appointed.

Task of the Panel

  1. The commission will examine extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among castes included in broad category of OBCs, especially with reference to OBCs included in the Central list.
  2. It will also take up exercise of identifying respective castes/sub-castes/communities synonyms in Central List of OBCs and classify them into their respective sub-categories.
  3. It will work out mechanism, norms, criteria and parameters, in scientific approach, for sub-categorization within such OBCs.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Report sees climate risk from rise in Indian AC units

Note4studnets

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Montreal Protocol, Kigali Agreement

Mains level: Prevention of use of Ozone Depleting Substances


News

  • By 2022, India is expected to have one-fourth of the world’s air conditioning units, and the risks to climate from this could be immense, according to a report.

Refrigerants are the most harmful

  1. The refrigerants (coolants) used for cooling are the major contributors to global warming.
  2. If left unchecked, they could cause global temperatures to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. A technology solution that could help to reduce the impact by one-fifth and ensure that air conditioning units use 75% less electricity is the need of hour.
  4. A technology solution would significantly reduce the burden on electricity grids and also save ₹109 trillion ($ 1.5 trillion).

HFCs

  1. Hydrofluorocarbons are organic compounds containing hydrogen, Carbon, and fluorine.
  2. They are commonly used as substitutes for Ozone depleting substances like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and are used in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Phasing out HFCs

  1. In 2016, India was a signatory to Kigali Agreement with 107 countries to “substantially phase” out hydro fluorocarbons (HFC), by 2045.
  2. This move was aimed to prevent a potential 0.5 C rise in global temperature by 2050.
  3. HFCs are a family of gases that are largely used in refrigerants at home and in car air-conditioners.
  4. India, China, the United States and Europe have committed themselves to reducing the use of HFC by 85% by 2045.

Back2Basics

Kigali Agreement

Please navigate to the page:

Kigali agreement: Prospects and Issues

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

National body set up to study rare form of diabetes

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Monogenic Diabetes

Mains level:  Efforts for preventing diabetes in India


News

What is monogenic diabetes?

  1. Monogenic diabetes is a rare condition resulting from mutations (changes) in a single gene.
  2. In contrast, the most common types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2—are caused by multiple genes (and in type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors such as obesity).
  3. Most cases of monogenic diabetes are inherited.
  4. Monogenic diabetes appears in several forms and most often affects young people.
  5. In most forms of the disease, the body is less able to make insulin, a hormone that helps the body use glucose (sugar) for energy.
  6. Rarely, the problem is severe insulin resistance, a condition in which the body cannot use insulin properly.

National Monogenic Diabetes Study Group

  1. A National Monogenic Diabetes Study Group has been formed to identify cases of monogenic diabetes across the country.
  2. At national level it is coordinated by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) and Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre (DMDSC).
  3. ICMR already has a young diabetic’s registry. As an off-shoot, a National Monogenic Diabetes Study Group has been formed with MDRF as the nodal centre.
  4. As of now, 33 doctors from across the country are ready to collaborate for this initiative.

Activities under the Group

  1. MDRF would provide guidelines to the collaborators for identifying monogenic diabetes.
  2. They need to look out for certain parameters such as children below six months of age.
  3. They will also look for those diagnosed as Type 1 diabetes but have atypical features such as milder forms of diabetes, and strong family history of diabetes going through several generations.
  4. The collaborators will identify cases of monogenic diabetes and send their details.
  5. They will collect blood samples and following the test results they will be given the treatment.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

EC issues order on poll expenses

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability & institutional & other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election Expenditure

Mains level: De-criminalization of Politics


News

Addition in Poll Expenditure

  1. Recently the Supreme Court has directed the Contesting Candidates to publicize information about the criminal cases against a candidate.
  2. The costs incurred on this publication will be counted as part of poll expenditure, according to the Election Commission.
  3. The expenses will be borne by the candidate and the political parties.
  4. This being an expenditure made in connection with the election, if expense is incurred in this regard, the same will be counted for the purposes of election.

Expenditure Caps

  1. There is no limit on the party election expenditure.
  2. For Assembly polls, the cap on expenses by the candidates is between ₹20 lakh to ₹28 lakh.

Revised status

  1. The EC said that the FIR cases essentially have to be given publicity.
  2. If after filing the nomination, the status of the criminal case changes, it will be open to the candidate to notify the revised status to the Returning Officer and publish the revised status.
  3. Separate formats have been specified by the Commission for the candidates and the political parties.
Electoral Reforms In India

Is RBI really being strict with banks under PCA?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PCA, Minimum Capital Requirement

Mains level: NPA problem and solution


News

Criticisms over PCA

  1. Reserve Bank of India is accused of being too stringent in applying the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework for banks.
  2. This has hurt the flow of credit to the economy.

Restrictions on Lending

  1. PCA has been imposed on 11 state-run banks, which did not meet RBI’s specified thresholds on either capital adequacy, asset quality or profitability.
  2. The idea behind this is that banks preserve capital and regain their health, which means that lending takes a hit.

Reality Check

  1. Analysis shows that far from being too stringent, the central bank has shown forbearance with some of the banks that are not already under PCA.
  2. At least four more banks need to be censured for not meeting the central bank’s specified risk thresholds, if RBI follows a strict rule-based approach.
  3. These are Andhra Bank, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank (PNB) and Union Bank of India.
  4. Each of these has breached the maximum permissible levels of 6% for net non-performing advances as a percentage of total advances.
  5. RBI rules state that PCA can be imposed if any one of the risk thresholds for capital, asset quality, profitability or leverage is breached.
  6. However these banks met the minimum capital requirements needed to avoid PCA.

Norms are Conservative

  1. While recognition of NPAs has improved in the Indian banking system, provisioning norms are still conservative.
  2. In jurisdictions where only capital ratios are considered in the PCA framework, NPA provisioning norms are more stringent.
  3. Perhaps RBI’s forbearance has to do with an expectation that the government will recapitalize these banks, so that provisioning for their NPAs do not drag their capital down to low levels.

Back2Basics

Capital adequacy ratio(CAR)

  1. Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is also known as Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR), is the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk
  2. National regulators track a bank’s CAR to ensure that it can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements.
  3. It is a measure of a bank’s capital
  4. It is expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk weighted credit exposures.
  5. This ratio is used to protect depositors and promote stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world
  6. Two types of capital are measured: tier one capital, which can absorb losses without a bank being required to cease trading, and tier two capital, which can absorb losses in the event of a winding-up and so provides a lesser degree of protection to depositors
Banking Sector Reforms

Explained: Section 7 of RBI Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934

Mains level: Govt- RBI autonomy issues


News

Context

  1. Section 7 (1) of The RBI Act, 1934, became a contentious issue after the tension between the central bank and government turned into a public spat over the last few days.
  2. No government has so far invoked this section in the central bank’s 83-year history.

The widening rift

  1. Simmering differences between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government – over issues of public sector bank regulation, resolution of distressed assets and the central bank’s reserves – have reached a high-point.
  2. Disagreements and differences between the central bank and the Centre are traditional and often seen as inevitable.
  3. But the latest tussle between the RBI and the union government is actually a series of smaller disputes .
  4. They go beyond the classic debate and spill into the more contentious realm of policy-making and regulation.

Reaching a Flash Point

  1. Amid these tensions the govt. has initiated steps towards invoking its powers under Section 7 of the RBI Act of 1934.
  2. It is a provision under which the government can give directions to the RBI to take certain actions “in the public interest”.
  3. This provision has been built into the law governing not just the RBI but also regulatory bodies in other sectors.
  4. Until now, however, the government has never exercised its powers under Section 7 of the RBI Act.

Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934

  1. Under Section 7, “The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.
  2. Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.
  3. Section 7 has two parts — consultation and then issuing a direction to the RBI for taking some action in public interest.

 For first time

  1. It is rumored that he government has started the first step towards invoking those powers under Section 7.
  2. It is to start consultations with the RBI Governor on issues such as easing the PCA framework, providing more credit to small units.
  3. Such moves have reportedly upset the central bank.

War of Words over Autonomy

  1. In a speech at a function, RBI Deputy Governor had warned that government.
  2. He said that the Govts. that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution.
  3. While RBI Governors had conflicts with the government earlier too, these had never reached the extent of initiating consultations under Section 7.

Arguments by the government

  1. The autonomy for the central bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, is an essential and accepted governance requirement.
  2. Governments in India have nurtured and respected this.
  3. Both the Government and the Central Bank, in their functioning, have to be guided by public interest and the requirements of the Indian economy.
  4. For the purpose, extensive consultations on several issues take place between the duos, time to time and this is equally true of all other regulators.

Core of the Issue

  1. The government has only initiated consultations with RBI on different issues under Section 7 (1) and not invoked it.
  2. The govt has send written consultations to the RBI citing Section 7, without actually implementing it.
  3. These letters were to do with the Centre’s desire for the:
  • Power sector’s NPAs to be reclassified
  • Issue of RBI’s dividends to the Centre and
  • ’s desire for easing the PCA norms so as to increase lending to the MSME sector

Way Forward

  1. Last year, Former Governor Y V Reddy had noted that the government has powers to give directions.
  2. But, in giving directions also, unlike other statutes, consultation with the Governor is necessary in regard to the RBI before issuing the directions.
  3. Independence to the central bank is granted by the government with a specific purpose.
  4. Experience has also shown that trust and confidence will improve if the spending authority, viz., the government is separate from the money creating authority, that is, central bank or monetary authority.
NPA Crisis

[pib] CVC observes Vigilance Awareness Week 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: About CVC

Mains level: Functioning of CVC


News

Vigilance Awareness Week 2018

  1. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) observes the Vigilance Awareness Week every year during the week in which the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (31st October) falls.
  2. This year the event seeks to motivate stakeholders to collectively participate in the fight against corruption and also aims at raising public awareness regarding the consequences of corruption.
  3. The theme this year will be “Eradicate Corruption-Build a New India.

Awareness activities

  1. Activities to be conducted include taking of the Integrity Pledge by all employees.
  2. A new feature is the establishment of ‘Integrity Clubs’ in schools and colleges to cultivate ethical values in the leaders of tomorrow.
  3. “Awareness Gram Sabhas” are also organized for dissemination of awareness in Gram Panchayats to sensitize the rural citizens about the ill-effects of corruption.
  4. In 2017, 67,131 such Gram Sabhas were organized during the Vigilance Awareness Week.
  5. Seminars, discussions and other outreach events are also organized involving the private sector, professional associations, trade unions and associations for wide participation of all sections of civil society.
  6. Organizations also conduct activities with high visibility and public appeal such as walkathons, marathons, cycle rallies, human chains, street plays and other public functions in various cities and towns across the country.

Back2Basics

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)

  1. It is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption. In 2003, the Parliament enacted a law conferring statutory status on the CVC.
  2. It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority, charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India.
  3. It advises various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
  4. It was set up by the Government of India Resolution on 11 February 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam Committee.
  5. The CVC is headed by a Central Vigilance Commissioner who is assisted by two Vigilance Commissioners.
  6. The Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs (Member) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People.

For further readings, navigate to the page:

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC): Purpose, Functions

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Adjudicating body for benami cases cleared

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Features of the Tribunals

Mains level:  Legal Provisions for speedy trial of Black Money cases in India


News

Appellate Tribunals against Benami Transactions

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of Appellate Tribunal and Adjudicating Authority for speedy disposal of cases related to benami transactions.
  2. Earlier the cabinet had notified sessions courts in 34 states and Union Territories, which will act as special courts for trial of offences under the benami transaction law.
  3. The rules and all the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act came into force on November 1, 2016.

Salient Features

  1. Under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act of 1998, the government will appoint Adjudicating Authority Appellate Tribunal.
  2. The officials will come from the existing posts at the same level from the Income Tax Department and the Central Board of Direct Taxes.
  3. The Adjudicating Authority and Appellate Tribunal will be based in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD).
  4. Benches of Adjudicating Authority may sit in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, and the necessary notification in this regard will be issued after consultation with the Chairperson of the proposed Adjudicating Authority.

Benefits of the Tribunals

  1. The approval will result in effective and better administration of cases referred to the Adjudicating Authority and speedy disposal of appeals filed against the order of the Adjudicating Authority before the Appellate Tribunal.
  2. It would provide first stage review of administrative action under the PBPT Act.
  3. Establishment of the proposed Appellate Tribunal would provide an appellate mechanism for the order passed by the Adjudicating Authority under the PBPT Act.
Black Money – Domestic and International Efforts

Invest India wins UN award for excellence in promoting investments in sustainable development

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy| Investment models

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Make in India, Invest India, Particulars of the UN Award

Mains level: Evaluating the success of Make in India initiatives.


News

UN Award to Invest India

  1. Invest India, the country’s investment promotion body, has won the UN Award for excellence in promoting investments in sustainable development.
  2. The awards is organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at World Investment Forum, Geneva.
  3. It honours investment promotion agencies (IPAs) and their governments for their achievements and showcases best practices in attracting investment into SDG-related projects.

What’s the project all about?

  1. Invest India received the award for excellence in servicing and supporting a major global wind turbines company in the establishment of a blade manufacturing plant in India.
  2. The company committed to train local staff and produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy.
  3. Implementation of the project is expected to reduce India’s wind energy cost significantly.

Back2Basics

Invest India

  1. Invest India is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India and acts as the first point of reference for investors in India.
  2. It is set up as a nonprofit venture under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Government of India.
  3. Operationalized in early 2010, Invest India is set up as a joint venture company between the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry (35% equity), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) (51% equity), and State Governments of India (0.5% each).
  4. Thus, essentially, Invest India is a private company, unlike India Brand Equity Foundation – another investment promotion agency in India set up by the same Ministry – Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  5. Invest India’s specialists provide multiple forms of support such as market entry strategies, deep dive industry analysis, partner search and location assessment, and policy advocacy with decision makers.
  6. Functions:
  • The core mandate of Invest India is investment promotion and facilitation.
  • It provides sector-specific and state-specific information to a foreign investor, assists in expediting regulatory approvals, and offers hand-holding services.
  • Its mandate also includes assisting Indian investors to make informed choices about investment opportunities overseas.
  • Its experts, specializing across different countries, Indian states and sectors, handhold investors.
Make in India: Challenges & Prospects

ICFRE signs two MoUs for Prakriti Programme

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read B2B

Mains level: Imbibing environment conservation and SDG strategies through schooling.


News

Context

  • The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) under the Environment Ministry, signed two pacts to spread awareness about forests, and environment among the youths of the country.

Prakriti Programme

  1. The ICFRE signed MoUs with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and with Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) to launch the ‘Prakriti’ programme.
  2. The programme aims to promote awareness about forests and environment, and to stimulate interest among the students of NVS and KVS in maintaining a balanced environment.
  3. It also aims for acquiring skills that reflect care and protection towards forests, environment and society.
  4. Another objective of the programme is to provide a platform to school children to learn practical skills for judicious use of resources.
  5. It seeks to mobilise a cadre of youths for raising a peoples’ movement committed to conserve forests and the environment.

Particulars of the Programme

  1. Signed for a period of 10 years, the pact is expected to make the youth of the country sensitive towards national and global issues of environment and forests and help them become responsible citizens.
  2. Through this collaboration, knowledge will be imparted to students and teachers of NVS and KVS on environment, forests, and environmental services.
  3. They will be provided contemporary knowledge of forestry research by way of lectures and interactive sessions by scientists of ICFRE.
  4. Visits of students and teachers of NVS and KVS schools will also be arranged to the laboratories and field/experiments of ICFRE institutes for hands-on experiences.

Back2Basics

Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE)

  1. It is an autonomous agency under the MoEFCC.
  2. Headquartered in Dehradun, its functions are to conduct forestry research; transfer the technologies developed to the states of India and other user agencies; and to impart forestry education.
  3. The council has 9 research institutes and 4 advanced centres to cater to the research needs of different bio-geographical regions.
  4. These are located at Dehradun, Shimla, Ranchi, Jorhat, Jabalpur, Jodhpur, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Allahabad, Chhindwara, Aizawl, Hyderabad and Agartala.
  5. Currently ICFRE is focusing on contemporary issues of national and international importance particularly in the areas of climate change, forest productivity, bio-diversity conservation and skill development.

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs)

  1. JNVs are fully residential and co-educational schools affiliated to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) with classes from VI to XII standard.
  2. They are run by Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, New Delhi, an autonomous organization under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of HRD.
  3. JNVs are specifically tasked with finding talented children in rural areas of India and providing them with an education equivalent to the best residential school system, without regard to their families’ socio-economic condition.
  4. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti was established with the primary objective to provide modern quality education to talented children, predominantly from the rural areas, without regard to their family’s socio-economic condition.
  5. JNVs exist all over India, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, where anti Hindi movements were widespread during past times.

Kendriya Vidyalayas

  1. The Kendriya Vidyalayas are a system of central government schools in India that are instituted under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  2. The system came into being in 1963 under the name ‘Central Schools’. Later, the name was changed to Kendriya Vidyalaya.
  3. All the schools are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
  4. Its objective is to educate children of the Indian Defence Services personnel who are often posted to remote locations.
  5. With the army starting its own Army Public Schools, the service was extended (but not restricted) to all central government employees.
  6. A uniform curriculum is followed by these schools all over India.
  7. By providing a common syllabus and system of education, the KVs are intended to ensure that the children of government employees do not face education disadvantages when their parents are transferred from one location to another.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Revised CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CBSE affiliation rules and bye-laws

Mains level: Assured outcome with the new bye-laws and its impacts on schooling.


News

Context

  • The Union HRD Ministry has released the new CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws to ensure speed, transparency, hassle-free procedures and ease of doing business with the CBSE.

What are Bye-laws?

  1. CBSE is a national level Board conducting examinations for Classes X and XII.
  2. It affiliates schools across India and abroad upon fulfillment of various conditions as prescribed in its Affiliation Bye Laws.
  3. The Affiliation Byelaws in position were first made in the year 1988 and were last modified in the year 2012.

What’s special with new Bye-laws?

  1. The new byelaws denote a major shift from the highly complex procedures followed earlier, to a simplified system based on preventing duplication of processes.
  2. There is duplication of processes at CBSE and state government level.
  3. For issuing recognition under RTE Act and NOC, the state education administration verifies various certificates to be obtained from local bodies, revenue department, cooperatives department, etc.
  4. The CBSE re-verifies them after applications are received. This is very long drawn process.
  5. Therefore, to prevent this duplication, schools will now be required to submit only two documents at the time of applying for affiliation, instead of 12-14 documents being submitted earlier.
  6. These documents will include a document vetted by the head of district education administration validating all aspects such as building safety, sanitation, land ownership, etc, and a self-affidavit where the school would certify its adherence to fee norms, infrastructure norms, etc.

 Expected benefits

  1. As a result of this major change CBSE shall not revisit any of the aspects vetted by the state during inspection.
  2. The delay due to scrutiny and non-compliance of deficiencies in these documents shall be drastically curtailed.

Other major benefits include:

i. Outcome based Inspection

  1. Inspection of schools will now be outcome-based and more academic and quality oriented, rather than focussing only on school infrastructure.
  2. The inspection will focus on academic excellence and progress of students over time, innovations and quality of pedagogy, capacity of teachers and teacher training etc.
  3. This will not only help the Board and the school to track students’ progress over time, but will also identify areas that would need further efforts.

ii. Provision of mandatory training

  1. The new affiliation bye laws also lay thrust on achieving academic excellence through mandatory teacher training.
  2. Even the Principals and Vice Principals of every school are expected to undergo two days mandatory training on an annual basis.

iii. Focus on Innovation and Conservation

  1. A special category of innovative schools has been added to include specialized schools which will implement innovative ideas in the fields of skill development, sports, arts, sciences, etc.
  2. The byelaws encourage schools to promote environmental conservation through harnessing solar energy, rain water harvesting, greening of campus, recycling and segregation of waste, Swachhata on campus, etc.

IV.  Ensures Transparency in Fee structures

  1. Regarding fee, the provisions include full fee disclosure to be made and no hidden charges to be levied by schools in the garb of fees.
  2. The byelaws clearly state that fee is to be charged as per the regulation of the government and fee revision shall be subject to laws, regulations and directions of the government.

Way Forward

  1. CBSE has 20783 schools affiliated to it in India and 25 other countries, with over 1.9 crore students in these schools, and more than 10 lakh teachers.
  2. The revised bye laws will positively impact the existing and future schools by easing procedures and redirecting their focus towards improving the quality of education.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] CSIR develops affordable Water Disinfection System “OneerTM”

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OneerTM

Mains level: Provision of Safe Drinking Water


News

OneerTM

  1. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) has developed a Drinking Water Disinfection System with trade name OneerTM.
  2. It is useful for continuous treatment of water and eliminates all disease causing pathogens such as virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and cyst.
  3. It provides safe drinking water to domestic and communities settings as per National and International standards prescribed for potable water (BIS, WHO etc.).
  4. It will provide access to safe and clean drinking water at a cost of just 2 Paise / Ltr.

Importance of the development

  1. A large proportion of India’s rural community is consuming water that does not meet the WHO drinking water quality standards.
  2. According to the World Health Organization, access to safe drinking-water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection.
  3. The Community level model is of 450 LPH capacities which can be scaled up to 5000 to 1 lakh L/day; and is also maintenance and membrane free.
  4. The technology will be helpful especially for rural people since it can be solar powered and this development is in line with the ‘Make in India’ Mission.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Microsoft India signs pact with NITI Aayog for AI tools in agriculture, healthcare

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AI (artificial intelligence)

Mains level: Applications of AI & its future in India


News

Context

  • Microsoft India has signed an agreement with NITI Aayog to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare.

Details of the Agreement

  1. Microsoft India will support NITI Aayog by combining the cloud, AI, research and its vertical expertise for new initiatives and solutions across several core areas.
  2. Microsoft will also accelerate the use of AI for the development and adoption of local language computing.
  3. Under the agreement, Microsoft will provide NITI Aayog advanced AI-based solutions to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare.
  4. It will include farm advisory services, healthcare screening models at Primary Health Cntres, and building capacity for AI through education.
  5. Additionally Microsoft will promote STEM education in the areas of AI studies and data sciences for young women in institutes identified by NITI Aayog.
Blockchain Technology: Prospects and Challenges

[pib] Analytical report of the National Health Profile-2018 released

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Registry and other stakeholders involved, National Health Profile

Mains level: Importance of geo-spatial study of health profile of the country


News

Context

  • The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare has released an Analytical Report of the National Health Profile-2018 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI).

Analytical Report of National Health Profile – 2018

  1. The report indicates that significant progress has been made in the country for various health outcomes, which is an encouraging sign.
  2. The Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
  3. CBHI has been publishing National Health Profile every year since 2005 and this is the 12th

About National Health Resource Repository (NHRR)

  1. The Union Health Ministry June 2018,  has launched the first ever registry in the country registry of authentic, standardised and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare.
  2. Aim: To create a reliable, unified registry of country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas.
  3. The ISRO is the project technology partner for providing data security.
  4. Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, more than 20 lakh healthcare establishments such as hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census, which will capture data on more than 1,400 variables.
  5. The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has looped in key stakeholders, including leading associations, allied ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.
  6. NHRR will be the ultimate platform for comprehensive information of both, Private and Public healthcare establishments including Railways, ESIC, Defense and Petroleum healthcare establishments.

For further readings, supplement this article with:

India launches its first National Healthcare Facility Registry

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.