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Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] Ionospheric based monitoring of large earthquakesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ionosphere, CIP

Mains level : Relation between atmosphere and seismic activity


Scientists of Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) an autonomous institution of the DST have extensively studied the signatures of recent large earthquakes into the ionosphere with an ambitious aim to derive the seismic source characteristics from the ionosphere.

CLAIMS

  • The research is a part of the interdisciplinary program ‘Coupled Lithosphere-Atmosphere- Ionosphere-Magnetosphere System (CLAIMS)’ of IIG.
  • CLAIMS focuses on energy transfer to the atmosphere during solid Earth processes such as earthquakes as well as tsunamis.

Key terms: Co-seismic Ionospheric Perturbations (CIP)

  • In general, the Earth crust uplift during an earthquake produces compressional (i.e. pressure) waves in the overlying atmosphere.
  • These waves propagate upward in the region of exponentially decreasing atmospheric neutral density, and thus, wave amplitude increase with atmospheric heights.
  • On arrival at ionospheric heights, the waves redistribute ionospheric electron density and produce electron density perturbations (disruption) known as CIP.

Objective of CLAIMS

  • The spatial distribution of near field co-seismic Ionospheric perturbations (CIP) associated with this event could reflect well the ground deformation pattern evolved around the epicentre.
  • These CIPs were derived using the Global Positioning System (GPS) measured Total Electron Content (TEC).
  • The CIP distribution was estimated at Ionospheric piercing point (IPP) altitude.

Other factors affecting CIP

The major effective non-tectonic forcing mechanisms at ionospheric altitudes are the-

  1. orientation between the ambient geomagnetic field and seismic induced neutral wave perturbations.
  2. orientation between the moving satellite line of sights and the wave perturbations.
  3. ambient ionospheric electron density gradient.

Back2Basics

Ionosphere

  • The ionosphere is the ionized part of Earth’s upper atmosphere, from about 60 km to 1,000 km altitude.
  • It is a region that includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere.
  • It is ionized by solar radiation.
Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

[pib] Biofortified Carrot ‘Madhuban Gajar’PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Madhuban Gajar

Mains level : Bio-fortification and its benefits


 

Madhuban Gajar

  • It is a biofortified carrot variety with high β-carotene and iron content developed by Shri Vallabhhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya, a farmer scientist from Junagadh district, Gujarat.
  • The variety is being cultivated in more than 1000 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh during the last three years.
  • It is a highly nutritious carrot variety developed through the selection method with higher β-carotene content (277.75 mg/kg) and iron content (276.7 mg/kg) dry basis.
  • It is used for various value-added products like carrot chips, juices, and pickles.
  • This carrot variety possesses a significantly higher root yield (74.2 t/ha) and plant biomass (275 gm per plant) as compared to check variety.
Innovation Ecosystem in India

[pib] “Samadhan” ChallengePIBPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAMADHAN Challenge

Mains level : NA


 

A mega online challenge – SAMADHAN – has been launched to test the ability of students to innovate.

“Samadhan” Challenge

  • The Innovation Cell of the Ministry of HRD and All India Council for Technical Education in collaboration with Forge and InnovatioCuris has launched this online challenge.
  • Under the challenge, the students and faculty will be motivated for doing new experiments and new discoveries and provide them with a strong base leading to spirit of experimentation and discovery.
  • The students participating in this challenge will search and develop such measures that can be made available to the government agencies, health services, hospitals and other services for quick solutions to the Coronavirus epidemic and other such calamities.
  • Apart from this, through this challenge, work will be done to make citizens aware, to motivate them, to face any challenge, to prevent any crisis and to help people get livelihood.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAWACH

Mains level : Not Much


Department of Science & Technology has approved setting up of a Centre for Augmenting WAR with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH).

What is CAWACH?

  • CAWACH will help to address various challenges faced by country due to severe impact of COVID-19.
  • CAWACH will identify up to 50 innovations and startups that are in the area of novel, low cost, safe and effective ventilators, respiratory aids, protective gears, novel solutions for sanitizers, disinfectants, diagnostics, therapeutics, informatics and any effective interventions to control COVID-19.
  • The CAWACH’s mandate will be to extend timely support to potential startups by way of the requisite financial assistance and fund deployment targeting innovations that are deployable in the market within next 6 months.
  • The Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), a technology business incubator at IIT Bombay supported by DST has been identified as the Implementing Agency of the CAWACH.
  • It will provide access to pan India networks for testing, trial and market deployment of these products and solutions in the identified areas of priority COVID-19 solutions.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] CCI Green Channel RoutePIBPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CCI Green Channel

Mains level : Not Much


The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has received a request for merger of a company following green channel combination route.

What is a Green Channel Route?

  • In a bid to facilitate mergers and acquisitions (combination) in the country, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has taken inspiration from the customs department and established a ‘green channel’.
  • Every Combination above a certain threshold, seeking to be sanctioned has to necessarily pass the CCI scanner in order to be approved.
  • The CCI characterizes the ‘green channel’ as an automatic system of approval for Combinations wherein the Combination is deemed to be approved upon filing the notice in the format prescribed.
  • The ‘green channel automatic approval upon notification route’ is a right step by CCI towards the propaganda of ease of doing business in India.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] ArogyaSetu AppPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ArogyaSetu App

Mains level : Coronovirus outbreak and its mitigation


 

The Government of India has launched a mobile app ArogyaSetu developed in a public-private partnership to bring the people of India together in a resolute fight against COVID-19.

AarogyaSetu App

  • The App enables people to assess themselves the risk of their catching the Corona Virus infection.
  • It will calculate this based on their interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
  • Once installed in a smartphone through an easy and user-friendly process, the app detects other devices with AarogyaSetu installed that come in the proximity of that phone.
  • The app can then calculate the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters if any of these contacts has tested positive.
  • The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 extended for one yearPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20


The Union Commerce and Industry Ministry has announced changes in India’s Foreign Trade Policy (FTP). The Govt. has decided to continue relief under various export promotion schemes by granting an extension of the existing Policy.

Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20

  • It provided a framework for increasing exports of goods and services as well as generation of employment and increasing value addition in the country, in keeping with the “Make in India” vision of Prime Minister.
  • The focus of the new policy is to support both the manufacturing and services sectors, with a special emphasis on improving the ‘ease of doing business’.
  • It described the market and product strategy and measures required for trade promotion, infrastructure development and overall enhancement of the trade ecosystem.

Features of the FTP 

  • Goods – Earlier there were 5 different schemes (Focus Product Scheme, Market Linked Focus Product Scheme, Focus Market Scheme, Agri. Infrastructure Incentive Scrip, VKGUY) for rewarding merchandise exports with different kinds of duty scrips with varying conditions attached to their use.
  • Duty-free scrips are paper authorisations that allow the holder to import inputs which are used to manufacture products that are exported, or to manufacture machinery used for producing such goods, without paying duty equivalent to the printed value of the scrip.
  • For instance, a duty-free scrip valued at Rupees 1 lakh allows the holder to import goods without paying duty of up to Rupees 1 lakh on the goods.
  • Under the new Foreign Trade Policy, all these schemes have been merged into a single scheme, namely the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (“MEIS“) and there is no conditionality attached to scrips issued under the MEIS.
  • Services – The Served From India Scheme has been replaced with the Service Exports from India Scheme (“SEIS“).
  • SEIS is stated to apply to ‘Service Providers located in India’ instead of ‘Indian Service Providers’.
  • Therefore, SEIS rewards to all service providers of notified services, who are providing services from India, regardless of the constitution or profile of the service provider.
  • Special Economic Zones – The policy outlines extended incentives for Special Economic Zones in India
  • Export Houses – The nomenclature of Export House, Star Export House, Trading House, Star Trading House, Premier Trading House certificate has been simplified and changed to One, Two, Three, Four and Five Star Export House.
  • Status Holders – Business leaders who have excelled in international trade and have successfully contributed to India’s foreign trade are proposed to be recognized as Status Holders and given special privileges to facilitate their trade transactions, in order to reduce their transaction costs and time.
  • Resolving Complaints – In an effort to resolve quality complaints and trade disputes between exporters and importers, a new chapter on Quality Complaints and Trade Disputes has been incorporated into the Foreign Trade Policy.
  • There would be no conditionality attached to any scrips issued under these schemes.
  • For grant of rewards under MEIS, the countries have been categorized into 3 Groups, whereas the rates of rewards under MEIS range from 2% to 5%.
  • Under SEIS the selected Services would be rewarded at the rates of 3% and 5%.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC)

Mains level : Telemedicine and its effectiveness


The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has launched the National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC).

 About CoNTeC

  • The CoNTeC is a Telemedicine Hub established by AIIMS, New Delhi, wherein expert doctors from various clinical domains will be available 24×7 to answer the multifaceted questions from specialists from all over the country.
  • It is a multi-modal telecommunications hub through which 2 way audio-video and text communications can be undertaken from any part of the country as well as the world at large.
  • The modes of communication will include simple mobile telephony as well as two way video communications, using WhatsApp, Skype and Google Duo.
  • The CoNTeC is also fully integrated with the National Medical College Network (NMCN) to conduct a full fledged Video Conference (VC) between the 50 Medical Colleges.

How to Contact the CoNTeC?

  • A single mobile number (+91 9115444155) can be dialled from anywhere in the coutnry/world by COVID-19 treating doctors to reach the CoNTeC which has six lines that can be used simultaneously at present.
  • This number of lines can be increased in future if needed.
  • The incoming calls will be picked up by the CoNTeC Managers, who will then handover the call to the appropriate expert doctors from the clinical domains as desired by the calling specialists managing the COVID-19 cases anywhere in the country.
  • The Managers will guide the callers in establishing a two way video call using the WhatsApp, Skype or Google Duo as preferred by the caller.
  • The callers from the NMCN network can connect anytime using the Telemedicine infrastructure at their end.
G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

[pib] Virtual Summit of G20 LeadersPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G-20 countries

Mains level : Global cooperation for COVID-19 pandemic


A Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit was recently convened yesterday to discuss the challenges posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and to forge a globally coordinated response.

About G20

  • Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
  • Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.
  • To tackle the problems or the address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits.
  • In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
  • The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings. 

Aims and objectives

  • The Group was formed with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to pre-empt the balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organisation.

Member Countries

The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).

  • The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

 Who are the G20 Sherpas?

  • A Sherpa is the personal representative of a head of state or government who prepares an international summit, particularly the annual G7 and G20 summits.
  • Between the summits, there are multiple Sherpa conferences where possible agreements are laid out.
  • This reduces the amount of time and resources required at the negotiations of the heads of state at the final summit.
  • The Sherpa is generally quite influential, although they do not have the authority to make a final decision about any given agreement.
  • The name is derived from the Sherpa people, a Nepalese ethnic group, who serve as guides and porters in the Himalayas, a reference to the fact that the Sherpa clears the way for a head of state at a major summit.
Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Project ‘Isaac’PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project 'Isaac'

Mains level : Not Much


IIT, Gandhinagar has launched Project Isaac to engage its students in creative projects to enhance their critical skills while they are confined to their homes because of Coronavirus.

Project ‘Isaac’

  • The project is inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, who was similarly sent home by Trinity College, Cambridge, because of the Great Plague of London in 1665.
  • During this year, Newton, then a 22-year-old college student developed some of his most profound discoveries, including early calculus, as well as his theories of optics and gravity.
  • As part of the project, four different competitions are being organized by IIT, Gandhinagar to cultivate new skills among students regarding writing, painting, coding, music, creative expression, and so on.
  • Students can take part in competitions online.
Banking Sector Reforms

[pib] Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), CRAR

Mains level : Recapitalization of RRBs


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for continuation of the process of recapitalization of Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) by providing minimum regulatory capital to RRBs which are unable to maintain minimum Capital to Risk weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 9%, as per the regulatory norms prescribed by the RBI.

What is CRAR?

  • CRAR also known as Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk.
  • CRAR is decided by central banks and bank regulators to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.
  • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk-weighted assets of 8%.
  • In India, scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9% while Indian public sector banks are emphasized to maintain a CAR of 12% as per RBI norms.
  • It is arrived at by dividing the capital of the bank with aggregated risk-weighted assets for credit risk, market risk, and operational risk.
  • RBI tracks CRAR of a bank to ensure that the bank can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements.
  • The higher the CRAR of a bank the better capitalized it is.

Why recapitalize RRBs?

  • RRBs are primarily catering to the credit and banking requirements of agriculture sector and rural areas with focus on small and marginal farmers, micro & small enterprises, rural artisans and weaker sections of the society.
  • A financially stronger and robust RRB with improved CRAR will enable them to meet the credit requirement in the rural areas.
  • As per RBI guidelines, the RRBs have to provide 75% of their total credit under PSL (Priority Sector Lending).
  • In addition, RRBs also provide lending to micro/small enterprises and small entrepreneurs in rural areas.
  • With the recapitalization support to augment CRAR, RRBs would be able to continue their lending to these categories of borrowers under their PSL target, and thus, continue to support rural livelihoods.

Back2Basics

Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)

  • RRBs are Scheduled Commercial Banks operating at regional level in different States of India. They are recognized under the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976 Act.
  • They have been created with a view of serving primarily the rural areas of India with basic banking and financial services.
  • However, RRBs may have branches set up for urban operations and their area of operation may include urban areas too.
  • The area of operation of RRBs is limited to the area covering one or more districts in the State.

Their functions

RRBs also perform a variety of different functions. RRBs perform various functions in following heads:

  • Providing banking facilities to rural and semi-urban areas
  • Carrying out government operations like disbursement of wages of MGNREGA workers, distribution of pensions etc.
  • Providing Para-Banking facilities like locker facilities, debit and credit cards, mobile banking, internet banking, UPI etc.
  • Small financial banks etc.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Laser Surface Micro-texturingPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Laser surface micro-texturing

Mains level : NA


International Advanced Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) an autonomous R&D Centre of Dept. of Science and Technology has developed ultrafast laser surface texturing technology, which can improve the fuel efficiency of internal combustion engines.

Laser surface micro-texturing

  • This technology offers precise control of the size, shape and density of micro-surface texture features. This has gained momentum as a way to control friction and wear.
  • In this technology, a pulsating laser beam creates micro-dimples or grooves on the surface of materials in a very controlled manner.
  • Such textures can trap wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
  • The texture surfaces were created on automotive internal combustion engine components, piston rings and cylinder liners using 100 fs pulse duration laser.
  • The micro dimples of 10-20 μm diameter and about 5-10 μm deep which have been created with laser beams had a regular pattern.

Benefits of micro-texturing

  • The created textures were tested in an engine test rig under different speeds and temperatures of coolant and lubrication oil, and it was observed that there was a 16% reduction in the lube oil consumption with the use of texture on the piston rings.
  • The 10-hour lube oil consumption test shows that the blowby substantially reduced with textured rings.
  • Fabrication of a pattern of micro dimples or grooves on the surface of materials results in a change in surface topography which generates additional hydrodynamic pressure, thereby increasing the load-carrying capacity of the surfaces.
  • Hence these become useful for trapping wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Bio-fortified wheat variety- MACS 4028PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level :  MACS 4028

Mains level : Bio-fortification and its benefits


Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology have developed a biofortified durum wheat variety MACS 4028, which shows the high protein content.

 MACS 4028

  • MACS 4028 is a semi-dwarf variety, which matures in 102 days and has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare.
  • It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite.
  • It has a high protein content of about 14.7%, better nutritional quality having zinc 40.3 ppm, and iron content of 40.3ppm and 46.1ppm respectively, good milling quality and overall acceptability.
  • The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) programme for  UNICEF to alleviate malnutrition.

Back2Basics

Biofortification is the idea of breeding crops to increase their nutritional value. This can be done either through conventional selective breeding, or through genetic engineering.

 

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] GreenCo Rating SystemPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GreenCo Rating System

Mains level : Not Much


 

 

The Union Ministry of Railways has informed about the applications of Greenco Ratings on Workshops and Production Units of Indian Railways.

GreenCo Ratings

  • GreenCo Rating is the “first of its kind in the World” holistic framework that evaluates companies on the environmental friendliness of their activities using life cycle approach.
  • Implementation of GreenCo rating provides leadership and guidance to companies on how to make products, services and operations greener.
  • It is developed by Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.
  • It has been acknowledged in India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document, submitted to UNFCCC in 2015.
  • GreenCo rating is applicable to both manufacturing facilities and service sector units.
  • The rating is implemented at unit or facility level. The unit or facility has to be in operation for a minimum period of 3 years. In case of new plants/ facilities minimum 2 years operation is required.

Utility

It helps the industrial units in identifying and implementing various possible measures in terms of energy conservation, material conservation, recycling, utilization of renewable energy, GHG reduction, water conservation, solid and liquid waste management, green cover etc.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Friction-reducing Nanocomposite CoatingsPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nano-composites and its applications

Mains level : Not Much


A group of scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) have developed a process for size-selective deposition of nanocomposite coatings which can reduce friction of these dynamic systems.

What are Nanocomposites?

  • Nanocomposite coatings are formed by mixing two or more dissimilar materials at nanoscale to improve the physical, chemical and physicochemical properties of the new materials.
  • The scientists have found that nickel tungsten-based coatings with infusion of particular sized Silicon Carbide (SiC) submicron particles using a pulsed electroplating can provide an excellent combination of wear and corrosion resistance.

Applications

  • Many aerospace, defence, automobile, space devices need to reduce friction, wear, and tear to enhance the life of components.
  • Lubricating these dynamic systems add to the cost, complexity, and weight of these systems.
  • The coating could help in reducing the friction of such devices.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

[pib] Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) AdvisoriesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PFZ

Mains level : Application based initiaitives by ISRO


The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad has reported that Oceansat Satellite data from ISRO are used to prepare the PFZ advisories on the potential rich fishing areas and provide to the sea faring fishermen in all states.

Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ)

  • This is the first advisory service started by INCOIS. The backbone of this service is the real-time data for ocean color and SST provided by the OCEANSAT and NOAA respectively.
  • This service was started because there was a need to identify the potential fishing zones to help the fishermen to get better catch while they were at the sea.
  • This service was started by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the help of the Department of Space and several institutions under the Ministry of Agriculture.

How it works?

  • This service makes use of parameters such as sea surface temperature and chlorophyll content provided by NOAA-AVHRR and Oceancolor satellites.
  • Features such as oceanic fronts, Meandering Patterns, Eddies, Rings, Up Welling areas etc. are identified sites for fish accumulation.
  • These features can easily be identified from Sea Surface Temperature and Chlorophyll data.
  • The availability of Chlorophyll from OCEANSAT and MOdDIS has further enriched these advisories in the recent years.
  • Hence, PFZ advisories have helped the fishing community to locate the fishing zones with accuracy.

Special advisories for fisherman

  • Another feature of PFZ service is the generation of species-specific advisory to enable the fishermen folk to distinguish between the exploited and under-exploited species in the potential fishing zones.
  • This enables them to have sustainable fishery management by targeting only the under-exploited species in the fishing zones.
  • This approach enables them to avoid fishing the over-exploited species over and over again.
Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[pib] Essential CommoditiesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Essential Commodities Act, PSF

Mains level : Read the attached story


The Price Monitoring Division (PMD) in the Department of Consumer Affairs is monitoring the retail and wholesale prices of 22 essential food commodities due to increased panic buying by customers.

Essential Commodities Act

  • The ECA is an act which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing would affect the normal life of the people.
  • The ECA was enacted in 1955. This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc.
  • It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
  • Additionally, the government can also fix the maximum retail price (MRP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.
  • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and takes them off the list once the situation improves.

How ECA works?

  • If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period.
  • The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to.
  • Anybody trading or dealing in the commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.
  • A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity.
  • This improves supplies and brings down prices. As not all shopkeepers and traders comply, State agencies conduct raids to get everyone to toe the line and the errant are punished.
  • The excess stocks are auctioned or sold through fair price shops.

Ex: The Union Government has brought masks and hand-sanitisers under the ECA to make sure that these products, key for preventing the spread of Covid-19 infection, are available to people at the right price and in the right quality.

What about Food Items?

  • The items covered include rice, wheat, atta, gram dal, arhar dal, moong dal, urad dal, masoor, dal, tea, sugar, salt, Vanaspati, groundnut oil, mustard oil, milk, soya oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, gur, potato, onion and tomato.
  • Based on the deliberations, Government takes various measures from time to time to stabilize prices of essential food items which, inter-alia, include appropriately utilizing trade and fiscal policy instruments like import duty.
  • The govt. can impose stock limits and advise State for effective action against hoarders & black marketers etc. to regulate domestic availability and moderate prices.
  • The government utilizes the buffer of agri-horticultural commodities like pulses, onion, etc. built under Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) to help moderate the volatility in prices.

Back2Basics

Price Stabilization Fund (PSF)

  • The PSF was set up in 2014-15 under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Famers Welfare (DAC&FW) to help regulate the price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities like onion, potatoes and pulses were also added subsequently.
  • Procurement of these commodities will be undertaken directly from farmers or farmers’ organizations at farm gate/mandi and made available at a more reasonable price to the consumers.
  • Losses incurred, if any, in the operations will be shared between the Centre and the States.
  • PSF provides for advancing interest-free loans to State Governments/ UTs and Central agencies to support their working capital and other expenses they might incur on procurement and distribution interventions for such commodities.
  • The scheme provides for maintaining a strategic buffer of the commodities for subsequent calibrated release to moderate price volatility and discourages hoarding and unscrupulous speculation.
  • The PSF is managed centrally by a Price Stabilization Fund Management Committee (PSFMC) which will approve all proposals from State Governments and Central Agencies.
  • The PSF is maintained as a Central Corpus Fund by Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), a society promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture for linking agriculture to private businesses and investments and technology.

With inputs from: http://www.arthapedia.in/index.php?title=Price_Stabilisation_Fund_(PSF)

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0

Mains level : Various initiaitves for rural transformation


The Union Minister for Human Resource Development has informed Lok Sabha about the progress of the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA).

Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0

  • Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0 is the upgraded version of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 1.0.
  • The scheme is extended to all educational institutes; however, under UBA 2.0 Participating institutes are selected based on the fulfilment of certain criteria.

About UBA

  • It is a flagship programme of the Ministry of HRD, which aims to link the Higher Education Institutions with a set of at least 5 villages so that these institutions can contribute to the economic and social betterment of these village communities using their knowledge base.
  • It is a significant initiative where all Higher Learning Institutes have been involved for participation in development activities, particularly in rural areas.
  • It also aims to create a virtuous cycle between the society and an inclusive university system, with the latter providing knowledge base; practices for emerging livelihoods and to upgrade the capabilities of both the public and private sectors.
  • Currently under the scheme UBA, 13072 villages have been adopted by 2474 Institutes.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[pib] Employees’ Pension Scheme (Amendment) Scheme, 2020Govt. SchemesPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EPS Scheme

Mains level : Scope and benefits of EPS


The Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has informed about the total enrollments under EPS.

Employees Pension Scheme (EPS)

  • EPS is a social security scheme that was launched in 1995 and is facilitated by EPFO.
  • The scheme makes provisions for pensions for the employees in the organized sector after retirement at the age of 58 years.
  • Employees who are members of EPFO automatically become eligible for EPS.
  • Both employer and employee contribute 12% of employee’s monthly salary (basic wages plus dearness allowance) to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scheme.
  • EPF scheme is mandatory for employees who draw a basic wage of Rs. 15,000 per month.
  • Of the employer’s share of 12 %, 8.33 % is diverted towards the EPS.

Features of the 2020 Amendment

  • EPS pensioners will get normal pension even after getting a reduced pension due to commutation.
  • On retirement, if the employee opts for commutation of pension, a portion is paid as a lump sum based on the commutation factor while on the balance the pension begins.
  • In simple terms, commutation means a lump sum payment in lieu of periodic payments of pension.
  • In such a case, the amount of pension will be lower than the amount of pension without any commutation.
  • The amendment seeks to restore the original amount of pension as per the commutation table, after 15 years equal to the same amount as it would have been without commutation.

Ro-Pax Ferry ServicePIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ro-Pax Ferry

Mains level : Not Much


 

Mumbai – the first metropolitan city in India has introduced Ro-Pax service to its transport infrastructure. M2M1 Ferry Vessel has commenced operations between Mumbai and Mandwa.

Ro-Pax Ferry

  • Ro-Pax Ferry is a ferry that combines the features of a cruise ship and a roll-on/roll-off service.
  • This service has brought much to the relief of daily commuters, job seekers and holiday-goers travelling between Mumbai and Mandwa and also other parts of Alibaug.
  • Ro-Pax service enables people to ferry along with their vehicles on board, between Mumbai and Mandwa.
  • With this, Mumbai, Alibaug and the adjoining Konkan region will experience a boost in tourism, hinterland connectivity and also job opportunities.