Goods and Services Tax (GST)

[pib] Introduction of E-way Bill System

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: e-way bill, GST

Mains level: Issues related to the implementation of GST


News

E-way Bill System

  1. The E-way Bill System has been introduced nation-wide for inter-State and intra-State movement of goods.
  2. The objectives of E-way bill system are as below:
  1. single and unified E-way bill for inter-State and intra-State movement of goods for the whole country in self-service mode,
  2. enabling paperless and fully online system to facilitate seamless movement of goods across all the States,
  3. improve service delivery with quick turnaround time for the entire supply chain and provide anytime anywhere access to data/services,
  4. to facilitate hassle free movement of goods by abolishing inter-State check posts across the country.
  1. The Government undertook various corrective steps in this regard viz., new Information Technology (IT) infrastructure including high end servers were installed to handle the increased load on the system.
  2. The upgraded system is capable of handling a peak load of 75 lakh E-way bills per day.

Back2Basics

E-way bill

  1. EWay Bill is an electronic way bill for movement of goods which can be generated on the eWay Bill Portal
  2. Transport of goods of more than Rs. 50,000 (Single Invoice/bill/delivery challan) in value in a vehicle cannot be made by a registered person without an eway bill
  3. When an eway bill is generated a unique eway bill number (EBN) is allocated and is available to the supplier, recipient, and the transporter
  4. An e-way bill is valid for 1 day for distance less Than 100 Kms and additional 1 day for every additional 100 Kms or part thereof
  5. The validity of Eway bill can be extended

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[pib] Strategic Investment Fund under NIIF

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NIIF, Strategic Investment Fund

Mains level: Government initiatives for reviving infrastructure sector and providing required capital to the sector.


News

Strategic Investment Fund (under NIIF)

  1. Three funds have been established by the Government under the NIIF platform and registered with SEBI as Category II Alternative Investment Funds.
  2. NIIF II (“Strategic Fund”) is one of those three funds. The other two funds are NIIF (or Master Fund) and NIIF Fund of Funds – I.
  3. The objective of this strategic fund is to invest largely in equity and equity-linked instruments.
  4. It will focus on green field and brown field investments in the core infrastructure sectors.
  5. The NIIF Funds work on a model whereby equity participation from strategic partners (including overseas sovereign / quasi-sovereign / multilateral / bilateral investors) is invited, alongside Government’s contribution.
  6. Government’s contribution / share in the corpus will be 49% in each entity set up as an AIF and will neither be increased beyond, nor allowed to fall below 49%.
  7. The whole of 49% would be contributed by the Government of India directly.

Back2Basics

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)

  1. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) is a fund created by the Government of India for enhancing infrastructure financing in the country.
  2. This is different from the National Investment Fund.
  3. Objective: to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects. It could also consider other nationally important projects, for example, in manufacturing, if commercially viable.
  4. NIIF was proposed to be set up as a Trust, to raise debt to invest in the equity of infrastructure finance companies such as Indian Rail Finance Corporation (IRFC) and National Housing Bank (NHB).
  5. NIIF is envisaged as a fund of funds with the ability to make direct investments as required. As a fund of fund it may invest in other SEBI registered funds.
  6. The functions of NIIF are as follows:
  • Fund raising through suitable instruments including off-shore credit enhanced bonds, and attracting anchor investors to participate as partners in NIIF;
  • Servicing of the investors of NIIF.
  • Considering and approving candidate companies/institutions/ projects (including state entities) for investments and periodic monitoring of investments.
  • Investing in the corpus created by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) for investing in private equity.
  • Preparing a shelf of infrastructure projects and providing advisory service

[pib] Vidyalakshmi Portal for Education Loan

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Initiative

Mains level: Effective step of speedy credit facilitation for students


News

Vidyalakshmi Portal

  1. Vidya Lakshmi Portal provides a single window for students to access information and make application for Educational Loans provided by Banks.
  2. This portal has been developed under the guidance of Department of Financial Services (Ministry of Finance), Department of Higher Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development) and Indian Banks Association (IBA).
  3. Students can view, apply and track the education loan applications to banks anytime, anywhere by accessing the portal
  4. It was launched by the Government on August 15, 2015 to ensure that students can avail loans easily through single window system of banks for education loans.
  5. Banks follow Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) guidelines in this regard which stipulates that education loan applications have to be disposed off, in the normal course, within a period of 15 to 30 days.

Innovation Ecosystem in India

Indian-origin mathematician gets prestigious Fields Medal

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Fields Medal

Mains level: Contribution of Indians in the field of science


News

Mathematics Nobel to Indian-origin person

  1. Akshay Venkatesh, a renowned Indian-Australian mathematician, is one of four winners of mathematics’ prestigious Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize for math.
  2. He has won the Fields Medal for his profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics.
  3. The citation for Venkatesh’s medal awarded at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro — highlights his profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics and his strikingly far-reaching conjectures.

About Fields Medal

  1. The Fields medals are awarded every four years to the most promising mathematicians under the age of 40.
  2. The prize was inaugurated in 1932 at the request of Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields, who ran the 1924 Mathematics Congress in Toronto.
  3. Each winner receives a 15,000 Canadian-dollar cash prize. At least two, and preferably four people, are always honoured in the award ceremony.

Indian Missile Program Updates

Ballistic Missile Interceptor AAD Successfully Flight Tested

Image result for Advanced Area Defence (AAD)

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AAD

Mains level: India’s missile arsenal


News

AAD test successful

  1. DRDO has conducted the successful test of the Ballistic Missile Interceptor Advanced Area Defence (AAD) from Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha.
  2. The endo-atmospheric missile, capable of intercepting incoming targets at an altitude of 15 to 25 kms was launched against multiple simulated targets of 1500 km class ballistic missile.
  3. One target among simultaneously incoming multiple targets was selected on real-time, the weapon system radars tracked the target and the missile locked on to it and intercepted the target with a high degree of accuracy.
  4. The complete event including the engagement and interception was tracked by a number of electro-optical tracking systems, radars and telemetry stations.

Advanced Area Defence (AAD)

  1. AAD is an anti-ballistic missile designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 30 km (19 mi)
  2. AAD is a single-stage, solid-fuelled missile.
  3. Guidance is provided by an inertial navigation system.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] NITI Aayog launches Move Hack, a global mobility hackathon

 

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of Move Hack

Mains level: Not Much


News

Move Hack

  1. NITI Aayog has launched Move Hack, a global mobility hackathon to crowdsource solutions aimed at the future of mobility in India.
  2. The hackathon has a two-pronged campaign approach:
  • Just Code It”: aimed at solutions through innovations in technology/product/software and data analysis, and
  • Just Solve It”: innovative business ideas or sustainable solutions to transform mobility infrastructure through technology.
  1. Move Hack is open to individuals of all nationalities, making it a truly global hackathon.

Why such hackathon?

  1. Transportation and mobility are emerging as potential drivers of innovation and economic growth of the 21st
  2. Rapidly evolving technologies and business models for delivering mobility services have dramatic potential to transform the global transportation sector.
  3. Mobility that ranges from pedestrian and personal transport to public transit and freight movement is extremely critical and impacts rural and urban daily lives.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

India ranks 56th in early initiation of breastfeeding, say UNICEF, WHO

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important International institutions

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Highlights of the report

Mains level: Importance of breastfeeding


News

Breastfeeding scenario over the world

  1. A new report released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Sri Lanka at the top of the list of countries with early initiation of breastfeeding.
  2. The report released ahead of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), says that only two in five newborns are breastfed within the first hour of life across the world.
  3. The first feed, or colostrum, is termed as the baby’s first vaccine and is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
  4. Continuous and exclusive breastfeeding thereafter is also important.

Performance of the countries

  1. India ranks 56th among the 76 countries that were analyzed.
  2. Countries like Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Bhutan and Uruguay have fared much better than India, making it into the top 10.
  3. Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Montenegro are at the bottom.

Low awareness holds India back

  1. Though nearly 80% of births are institutional deliveries in India, there are missed opportunities of early initiation of breastfeeding due to low awareness among healthcare staff.
  2. The early initiation period has doubled in NFHS 4 as compared to NFHS 3.
  3. But more progress can be made by capitalizing on opportunities and creating awareness at the community level.

[pib] Cabinet approves Policy Framework for exploration and exploitation of Unconventional Hydrocarbons

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the new policy

Mains level: Hydrocarbon exploration in India


News

Context

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the policy to permit exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons such as Shale oil/gas, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) etc.
  2. It will be carried out under the existing Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs), CBM contracts and Nomination fields to encourage the existing Contractors in the licensed/leased area to unlock the potential of unconventional hydrocarbons in the existing acreages.

Provisions of the new policy

  1. The fiscal and contractual terms of the policy provide for ring-fencing of Petroleum Operations and cost recovery of new hydrocarbon discoveries in PSC block.
  2. Additional 10% rate of Profit Petroleum/ Production Level Payment (PLP) in case of CBM contract, over and above the existing rate of Profit Petroleum/PLP is to be shared with Government on new discoveries.
  3. For nomination blocks, NOCs will be allowed to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons under the existing fiscal and contractual terms of exploration/lease license.

Benefits:

  1. This policy will enable the realization of prospective hydrocarbon reserves in the existing Contract Areas which otherwise would remain unexplored and unexploited.
  2. With this policy dispensation, new investment in Exploration and Production (E&P) activities and chances of finding new hydrocarbon discoveries and resultant increased domestic production thereof is expected.
  3. Exploration and exploitation of additional hydrocarbon resources is expected to spur new investment, impetus to economic activities, additional employment generation and thus benefitting various sections of society.
  4. This will lead to induction of new, innovative and cutting-edge technology and forging new technological collaboration to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons.

Uniform Licensing Regime

  1. As per existing contractual regime of PSCs, existing Contractors are not allowed to explore and exploit CBM or other unconventional hydrocarbons in already allotted licensed/leased area.
  2. Similarly, CBM Contractors are not allowed to exploit any other hydrocarbon except CBM.
  3. With the approval of this policy, there will be complete shift from ‘One hydrocarbon Resource Type’ to ‘Uniform Licensing Policy’ which is presently applicable in Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) and Discovered Small Field (DSF) Policy.

Shale gas basins in India

  1. Presence of Shale oil/gas has a strong possibility in basins such as Cambay, Krishna- Godavari (KG), and Cauvery etc. where mature organic rich Shale exists.
  2. An area of 72,027 sq. km. held under PSCs of Pre- New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP)/NELP regime and 5269 sq. km area under CBM contracts has been opened up for simultaneous exploration and exploitation of conventional or unconventional hydrocarbons.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[pib] Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS) to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Particulars of CFS

Mains level: Facilitating Indian defence manufacturers abroad


News

Context

The Union Cabinet has approved the first extension of Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS) to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad.

Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS)

  1. The scheme envisages GoI to provide counter guarantee and interest equalization of 2 % to EXIM Bank to offer concessional finance to any foreign Govt. or foreign Govt. owned or controlled entity if any Indian entity, succeeds in getting contract for the execution of a project.
  2. Under the Scheme, EXIM Bank extends credit at a rate not exceeding LIBOR (avg. of six months) + 100 bps. The repayment of the loan is guaranteed by the foreign govt.
  3. Under the CFS, the GoI supports Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad since 2015-16.
  4. Since the objectives of the Scheme continue to be relevant, it is proposed to extend the Scheme for another five years from 2018 to 2023.

Major Impact

  1. Earlier, Indian entities were not able to bid for large projects abroad since the cost of financing was very high for them.
  2. Bidders from other countries such as China, Japan, Europe and US were able to provide credit at superior terms, i.e., lower interest rate and longer tenures which works to the advantage of bidders from those countries.
  3. Also, by having projects of strategic interest to India executed by Indian entities, the CFS enables India to generate substantial backward linkage induced jobs, demand for material and machinery in India and also a lot of goodwill for India.

Implementation Strategy and Targets

  1. Under the Scheme, MEA selects the specific projects keeping in view strategic interest of India and sends the same to Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).
  2. The strategic importance of a project to deserve financing under this Scheme, is decided, on a case to case basis, by a Committee chaired by Secretary, DEA.
  3. The Deputy National Security Adviser is also a member of this Committee.
  4. Once approved by the Committee, DEA issues a formal letter to EXIM Bank conveying approval for financing of the project under CFS.

[pib] Nationwide ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’ released

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Index, PAT

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index

  1. Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) has released the ‘State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index’, which assesses state policies and programmes.
  2. The nationwide Index is a joint effort of the NITI Aayog and BEE.
  3. Aim: To create awareness about energy efficiency as a resource and also to develop an action plan for energy conservation initiatives.

Energy Conversation Guidelines

  1. These were also released for energy intensive industries that are covered under the Government’s Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT)
  2. As a part of Indo-Japan Energy Dialogue, Energy Conservation Centre of Japan (ECCJ) and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) have developed Energy Conservation Guidelines for energy intensive industries covering both large as well as MSMEs.

Particulars of the Index

  1. The State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index has 63 indicators across Building, Industry, Municipality, Transport, Agriculture and DISCOM with 4 cross-cutting indicators.
  2. The Index examines states’ policies and regulations, financing mechanisms, institutional capacity, adoption of energy efficiency measures and energy savings achieved.
  3. The required data was collected from the concerned state departments such as DISCOMs, Urban Development Departments, etc., with the help of State Designated Agencies (SDAs) nominated by the BEE.
  4. States are categorized based on their efforts and achievements towards energy efficiency implementation, as ‘Front Runner’, ‘Achiever’, ‘Contender’ and ‘Aspirant’.
  5. The ‘Front Runner’ states in the inaugural edition of the Index are: Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan based on available data.

Back2Basics

Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme

  1. Nodal Agencies: Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under the Ministry of Power,
  2. It isscheme under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) as a part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched in 2012.
  3. In 2012, the Government had set targets to save energy in eight energy intensive sectors, under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  4. Those eight Energy Intensive Sectors included are Chlor-alkali, Pulp & Paper, Textile, Aluminum, Thermal Power plants, Fertilizer, Iron & Steel and Cement.
  5. It is a market based mechanism in which sectors are assigned efficiency targets. The Industries which successfully surpass the assigned targets are given incentives in the form of energy saving certificates (ESCert).
  6. These ESCerts are tradable at two energy exchanges i.e, Power Exchange India and Indian Energy Exchange.
  7. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is the Market Regulator and Bureau of Energy Efficiency is Administrator for the trading of ESCerts.
  8. Implementation: In 3 cycles-
  • PAT cycle I (2012-13 to 2014-15): It was applicable on eight energy intensive sectors which account for 33% of India’s primary energy consumption.
  • PAT cycle II (2016 to 2018-19): It shall include 3 new sectors i.e, petroleum refineries, discoms and railways, along with the previous 8 energy intensive sectors of PAT cycle I.
  • PAT cycle III (2017-2020): It shall include 116 new units under it and have been given a reduction target of 1.06 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Re-structuring of the Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board (ASRB)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance |Ministries & Departments Of The Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASRB

Mains level:  Not Much


News

Context

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for restructuring of Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board (ASRB).

Background

  1. In November 1973, the Cabinet approved inter alia setting up of Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board with a whole-time Chairman.
  2. It was aimed to function as an independent recruitment agency in recruitment to various scientific positions in Agricultural Research Service and Research Management Positions of ICAR/DARE.
  3. In view of the significant increase in work load of ASRB the membership was increased from one to three of ASRB.

Details

  1. The ASRB will now be a 4 Member body instead of 3 Members. It will have a Chairperson and 3 Members.
  2. ASRB would be for a period of three years or till attainment of 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
  3. For the purpose of autonomy, secrecy, accountability and efficient functioning ASRB shall be delinked from ICAR and to be attached with Dept. of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE) under Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare.
  4. The budget head for ASRB may also be delinked from ICAR and be created under DARE, and the ASRB may have its own cadre of administrative staff in the secretariat and have independent administrative control.

How will this impact?

  1. The four Member body comprising of one Chairperson and three Members would help in expediting the work and functioning of ASRB.
  2. It would support in expediting the recruitment process which would be beneficial for the agrarian community and agriculture at large.
  3. Moreover, it will ensure more transparency and efficiency in recruitment of meritorious scientists to various scientific positions in lCAR, the premier agency for agricultural research and education in the country.

Digital India Initiatives

Common Service Centres to implement Ayushman Bharat

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SCSs, CSC 2.0

Mains level: Utilising Digital India infrastructure for AB-NHPM


News

Context

Common Service Center (CSC) and National Health Accounts (NHA) signed a MoU to implement the Ayushman Bharat scheme through three-lakh CSCs across the country.

Quick recap of AB-NHPM

Ayushman Bharat is the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor vulnerable families (around 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage of up to ₹5 lakh (per family per year) for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

How would it facilitate?

  1. According to the MoU, a beneficiary can now visit the nearby CSC to get the benefit of this scheme and CSC will help the beneficiary to identify his name in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare database and his entitlement for the scheme.
  2. The CSCs will help the beneficiary to scan/ upload his KYC documents for verification of his/ her identity and claim his/ her entitlement.
  3. The beneficiary will also have facility to print his/ her Ayushman Scheme card through the centre which will be his/ her base source claim.
  4. CSCs will also provide requisite information about the scheme and promote the same.

Back2Basics

Common Service Center (CSC)

  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), Government of India.
  2. Aim: The CSCs would provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services.
  3. CSCs are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.
  4. CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a SPV incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 by the MeitY to monitor the implementation of the CSCs.
  5. CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme:
  • Digital infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen
  • Governance and services on demand
  • Digital empowerment of citizens
  1. Components of CSCs
  • Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) to provide service to the rural consumer in villages.
  • The agency designated by the State – State Designated Agency (SDA)—to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State.
  • Banking Correspondent Agents / Customer Service Points to deliver various banking and financial services.

CSC 2.0

  1. Under the Digital India programme, at least one CSC (preferably more than one) is envisaged in 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for delivery of various electronic services to citizens across rural India.
  2. CSC 2.0 is a service delivery oriented entrepreneurship model with a large bouquet of services made available for the citizens through optimum utilization of infrastructure already created in the form of SWAN, SSDG, e-District, SDC, and NOFN/BharatNet.

 

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s newest planet hunter starts operations

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: TESS

Mains level:  Missions and its objectives


News

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  1. After a successful launch in April this year, NASA’s newest planet hunter, the TESS has now started its search for planets around nearby stars.
  2. TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.
  3. The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light.
  4. TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth.
  5. These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star.
  6. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.

Biofuel Policy

Rajasthan first State to implement biofuel policy

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: Particulars of the National Policy on Biofuels

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

With emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds

  1. Rajasthan has become the first State in the country to implement the national policy on biofuels unveiled by the Centre in May this year.
  2. It will lay emphasis on increasing production of oilseeds and establish a Centre for Excellence in Udaipur to promote research in the fields of alternative fuels and energy resources.
  3. A biodiesel plant of the capacity of 8 tonnes a day has already been installed in the State with the financial assistance of the Indian Railways.
  4. The State government would promote marketing of biofuels and generate awareness about them.
  5. The Minister said the State Rural Livelihood Development Council would also encourage women’s self help groups to explore the scope for additional income through the supply of biodiesel.

Back2Basics

National Biofuels Policy, 2018

  1. The Union Cabinet approved a national policy on biofuels that seeks to not only help farmers dispose of their surplus stock in an economic manner but also reduce India’s oil-import dependence.
  2. The policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing the use of sugarcane juice, sugar-containing materials like sugar beet, sweet sorghum, starch-containing materials like corn, cassava, damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, rotten potatoes that are unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  3. The policy also provides for a viability gap funding scheme of ₹5,000 crore in six years for second generation (more advanced) ethanol bio-refineries in addition to tax incentives and a higher purchase price as compared to first-generation biofuels.
  4. Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase.
  5. Taking this into account, the policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

India gets STA-1 status from U.S.

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: STA-1

Mains level:  India-US defence relations.


News

A strategic push for India

  1. US government granted India the status of STA-1 a trading partner equivalent to its closest allies in the NATO. This decision is likely to boost India’s defence trade with the U.S.
  2. The US decision to move India into Tier-1 of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA) license is a logical culmination to India’s designation as a Major Defence Partner of the US
  3. It is a reaffirmation of India’s impeccable record as a responsible member of the concerned multilateral export control regimes.
  4. As a result of this move, India will require less number of licences for acquiring U.S. defence exports.
  5. Apart from India, other Asian countries in the STA-1 list are Japan and South Korea.

Way Forward

  1. The move is a sign of trust not only in the relationship but also on India’s capabilities as an economic and a security partner.
  2. This is because it also presupposes that India has the multilateral export control regime in place, which would allow the transfer of more sensitive defense technologies and dual use technologies to India and without the risk of any proliferation.
  3. Currently, 36 countries, mostly all NATO nations, have this status, so it’s a very elevated status from an export control point of view.

Horticulture, Floriculture, Commercial crops, Bamboo Production – MIDH, NFSM-CC, etc.

[pib] Setting up of Vegetable Clusters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MIDH

Mains level: Schemes for promoting Horticulture


News

Mission for Integrated Development Horticulture (MIDH)

  1. MIDH a centrally sponsored scheme is implemented for the holistic development of horticulture sector in the country.
  2. Aim: Promote holistic growth of horticulture sector, including bamboo and coconut through area based regionally differentiated strategies, which includes research, technology promotion, extension, post harvest management, processing and marketing, in consonance with comparative advantage of each State/region and its diverse agro-climatic features.
  3. It covers fruits, vegetables, roots and tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa and bamboo through various interventions.
  4. While Government of India (GOI) contributes 85% of total outlay for developmental programmes in all the states except the states in North East and Himalayas, 15% share is contributed by State Governments.
  5. In the case of North Eastern States and Himalayan States, GOI contribution is 100%.

New cluster based approach under MIDH

  1. Under MIDH, cluster-based approach is adopted for production and linking it with available infrastructure, or to be created, for post harvest management, processing, marketing and export.
  2. The cluster preference is given to those areas where natural resource base and water resources have been developed.
  3. Special emphasis is also given for adoption of area based cluster approach towards developing regionally differentiated crops, which are agro-climatically most suitable for the State/region.
  4. However, the details of clusters including vegetables are not maintained at the Central level.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Leg-up for private sector participation in defence equipment manufacturing

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SPG

Mains level: Indigenization of defence manufacturing


News

Implementing Strategic Partnership guidelines

  1. In a major step towards boosting private sector participation in domestic defence manufacturing, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the implementation of Strategic Partnership guidelines.
  2. SP model aims to revitalise defence industrial ecosystem and progressively build indigenous capabilities in the private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon system for future needs of armed forces.
  3. The guidelines lay emphasis on incentivisation of transfer of niche technology and higher indigenous content.
  4. All procurements under the SP model would be executed by specially constituted Empowered Project Committees to provide focused attention and ensure timely execution.

Four segments of Policy

  1. The SP model has four segments viz. submarines, single-engine fighter aircraft, helicopters and armoured carriers/main battle tanks which would be specifically opened up for the private sector.
  2. Under this policy, one Indian private company would be selected in each segment which would tie-up with shortlisted global equipment manufacturers to manufacture the platforms in India under technology transfer.

Other developments

  1. The DAC also approved platform-specific guidelines for procurement of Naval Utility helicopters
  2. In another decision, the DAC gave approval for the acquisition of eight Fast Patrol Vessels (FPV) for the Coast Guard at an approximate cost of ₹800 crore
  3. These would be indigenously designed and manufactured.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Govt. plans ‘ISRO-like’ ocean mission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the DOM

Mains level: All such missions are important from examination point of view.


News

Deep Ocean Mission

  1. The Centre has drawn up a five-year, ₹8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.
  2. The Union Earth Sciences Ministry tasked with coordinating the exercise unveiled a blueprint of the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM).
  3. Among the key deliverables to achieve these goals are an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy and developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 meters with three people on board.
  4. The focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, underwater vehicles, and underwater robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among other aspects.

Other deep-sea missions

  1. India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometers in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN)
  2. These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
  3. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  4. It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  5. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometres and in the deep sea, lies unexplored and unutilised.
  6. Recently India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from the seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years by International Seabed Authority

Back2Basics

UN International Sea Bed Authority

  1. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body that was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans
  2. It is an organization established by the Law of the Sea Convention
  3. It is based in Kingston, Jamaica
  4. Currently, the Authority has 167 members and the European Union, composed of all parties to the Law of the Sea Convention
  5. The Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities authorizing them to explore, and eventually exploit, specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources essential for building most technological products

Tourism Sector

[pib] 26 religious cities/sites in 19 States have been identified under PRASHAD Scheme

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PRASHAD Scheme

Mains level: Not Much


News

Under the PRASHAD Scheme, 26 religious cities/sites in 19 States have been identified for development which inter-alia include:

Amaravati and Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh), Kamakhya (Assam), Patna and Gaya (Bihar), Dwarka and Somnath (Gujarat), Gurudwara Nada Saheb (Haryana), Hazratbal and Katra (Jammu & Kashmir), Deogarh (Jharkhand), Chamundeshwari Devi (Karnataka), Guruvayoor (Kerala), Una (Himachal Pradesh), Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Trimbakeshwar (Maharashtra), Puri (Odisha), Amritsar (Punjab), Ajmer (Rajasthan), Kanchipuram and Vellankani (Tamil Nadu), Varanasi and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Badrinath and Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Belur (West Bengal).

PRASHAD Scheme

  1. PRASHAD means Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive
  2. A 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Tourism Ministry
  3. Provisions under the scheme include
    • Tourism Promotion and Tourist Ecosystem
    • Vocational Training for Tourists and Hospitality Business
    • Hunar se Rozgar tak (HSRT) and earn while you learn programs
    • Improving Tourist Infrastructure
  1. Provisions regarding Tourist Infrastructure in PRASAD
  • ATM, foreign currency exchange counters
  • Rail, road water transport
  • Green energy streetlights
  • Water adventure sports
  • First-aid centres, Wi-Fi hotspots, Parking facilities
  • Green landscaping, water fountains, walkways, furniture etc.
  • Removing encroachments

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.

Image result for India plans to buy missile shield from U.S.

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NASAMS-II

Mains level: Defending India’s airspace as well as other strategic locations


Shield for NCR

  1. India is in talks with the U.S. to procure an advanced air defence system to defend the National Capital Region (NCR) from aerial attacks
  2. The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) has been initiated

About the project

  1. India is deploying a multi-tiered air defence network to fully secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)
  2. NASAMS is a “highly adaptable mid-range solution” for any operational air defence requirement and provides a tailorable, state-of-the-art defence system
  3. It can maximise the ability to quickly identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, UAV or emerging cruise missile threats
  4. NASAMS-II is an upgraded version of the NASAMS and features new 3D mobile surveillance radars and 12 missile launchers for quicker reaction
  5. India is also in an advanced stage of talks with Russia for the procurement of very long range S-400 air defence systems
  6. India is also developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system