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14 May, 2020

70 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II RERA Act,2016
GS-III Desert Locusts
Liquidity lifeline: On Nirmala’s MSME package Economic Issues
Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA),2010
Malnutrition Economic Issues
Smart Metering Programme (SMP)
GS-IV New habits-COVID-19 Ethics
PT Pointer FORCE (‘Fiscal Options and Response to Covid-19 Epidemic’) Economic Issues
BIO International Convention International treaties and conventions
TIR Convention International treaties and conventions
Rhododendron Human Geography
New Green Building Code
Cartosat-2
First Total Yoga Village Art and Culture
Operation Swarn
GS-II :
RERA Act,2016

RERA Act,2016

Objectives of RERA

  • Enhance transparency and accountability in real estate and housing transactions.
  • Boost domestic and foreign investment in the real estate sector.
  • Provide uniform regulatory environment to ensure speedy adjudication of disputes.
  • Promote orderly growth through efficient project execution and standardization.
  • Offer single window system of clearance for real estate projects.
  • Empower and protect the right of home buyers.

Provisions

Establishment of state level regulatory authorities- Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA): The Act provides for State governments to establish more than one regulatory authority with the following mandate:

    • Register and maintain a database of real estate projects; publish it on its website for public viewing,
    • Protection of interest of promoters, buyers and real estate agents
    • Development of sustainable and affordable housing,
    • Render advice to the government and ensure compliance with its Regulations and the Act.
  • Establishment of Real Estate Appellate Tribunal- Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals.
  • Mandatory Registration: All projects with plot size of minimum 500 sq.mt or eight apartments need to be registered with Regulatory Authorities.
  • Deposits: Depositing 70% of the funds collected from buyers in a separate escrow bank account for construction of that project only.
  • Liability: Developer’s liability to repair structural defects for five years.
  • Penal interest in case of default: Both promoter and buyer are liable to pay an equal rate of interest in case of any default from either side.
  • Cap on Advance Payments: A promoter cannot accept more than 10% of the cost of the plot, apartment or building as an advance payment or an application fee from a person without first entering into an agreement for sale.
  • Defines Carpet Area as net usable floor area of flat. Buyers will be charged for the carpet area and not super built-up area.
  • Punishment: Imprisonment of up to three years for developers and up to one year in case of agents and buyers for violation of orders of Appellate Tribunals and Regulatory Authorities.

Benefits

  • Timely delivery of flats
    • Developers often make false promises about the completion date of the project, but hardly ever deliver.
    • Strict regulations will be enforced on builders to ensure that construction runs on time and flats are delivered on schedule to the buyer.
    • If the builder is not able to deliver the flats on time, he/she will have to refund the purchaser with interest.
  • Furnishing of accurate project details:
    • In the construction stage, builders promote their projects defining the various amenities and features that will be part of the project. But not everything goes as per plan, with several features missing.
    • As per the Act, there can't be any changes to a plan.
    • And if a builder is found guilty of this, he/she will be penalized 10% of the project’s costs or face jail time of up to three years.
  • Specifying carpet area:
    • Generally, builders sell flats on the basis of built-in area, which includes a common passage area, stairs and other spaces which are 20-30% more than the actual flat’s area.
    • But, not all buyers are aware of the concept of carpet area.
    • With this Act it will become mandatory to declare the actual carpet area.
  • All clearances are mandatory before beginning a project:
    • Builders often attract buyers with huge discounts and pre-launch offers. And, the buyer, enticed by the offers, does not bother about the clearance.
    • But, due to delays in getting clearance, the buyer does not get the flat on time.
    • This Act ensures that developers get all the clearances before selling flats.
  • Each project should have a separate bank account:
    • Developers raise funds through pre-launch offers and use them to purchase some other land or invest it in other projects.
    • This Act will make it compulsory that a separate bank account be maintained for each project.
    • Each transaction will have to be recorded, and diversion to another project will not be entertained.
  • After sales service:
    • As per an interesting clause in the Act, if the buyer finds any structural deficiency in the development of the building, the buyer can contact the builder for after sales service.
    • But, the buyer should approach the builder within 5 years of purchase to rectify such defects without further charges.

Concerns

  • Past real estate projects not included
  • Delay from government agencies
  • No compulsory regulation for projects less than 500 square meter.
  • New project launches expected to be delayed.
    • Because a project will not be allowed to launch without the requisite clearances from the government (which generally takes two to three years), projects will automatically get delayed.
  • It does not deal with the concerns of developers regarding force majeure (acts of god outside their control) which result in a shortage of labour or issues on account of there not being a central repository of land titles/deeds.
  • State governments regulated real estate before RERA as land and land improvement are in the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • RERA has been enacted under Concurrent List. This has increased the tussle between various states and Centre over implementation of RERA.

 

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GS-III :
Desert Locusts

Desert Locusts

Context

Agriculture Minister Shri Narendra Singh Tomar interacts with Pesticide Industry representatives on the Desert Locust Control.

Central and State Governments are working together on the Desert Locust Control measures and have been able to check its spread. New machines have been ordered from the United Kingdom and will arrive soon.

About Desert Locusts

  • With the arrival of the monsoon, locust swarms enter the Scheduled Desert Areas of India via Pakistan for breeding in the summer of June/ July, but this year, presence of Locust Hoppers was reported from April 11, 2020; and Pink Adult Swarms were reported since April 30 in border Districts of Rajasthan and Punjab, which have been controlled and control operations against new swarms is going on.
  • Desert locusts flourish when arid areas are doused with rain, because they seek to lay their eggs in damp, sandy soil near vegetation that can sustain the young until their wings develop enough for the insects to forage farther afield.
  • Their life cycle consists of three phases: egg, hopper, and adult.

Reasons for its uncontrolled spread

  • One reason for this was the uncontrolled swarms of the previous season in Pakistan that breed continuously.
  • In 2018 and 2019, a series of cyclones that scientists link to unusually warm seas rolled in off the Indian Ocean and soaked a sandy desert in the Arabian Peninsula known as the Empty Quarter. A locust boom followed.
  • Swarms of Pink Immature Adults fly high and travel long distances with strong winds coming from Pakistan.
  • Most of these Pink Immature Adults settle on trees during the night and mostly fly during the day.

Dangers of a Desert Locusts

  • An adult desert locust can munch through its own bodyweight, about 0.07 ounces, of vegetation every day.
  • Swarms can swell to 70 billion insects—enough to blanket New York City more than once—and can destroy 300 million pounds of crops in a single day.
  • Even a more modest gathering of 40 million desert locusts can eat as much in a day as 35,000 people.
  • The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization warns that if they migrate further into agricultural areas, millions of people could face hunger.

Steps taken by the Indian Government to control Desert Locusts

  • The Locust Control Offices are working since April 11, 2020 with 50 spray equipment/vehicles, in coordination with officials of District Administration and State Agriculture Department.
  • Tractor mounted sprayers and fire-tender vehicles deployed at various locations are being used in locust control.
  • A high-level virtual meeting on desert locusts in Southwest Asian countries (Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan) was held on March 11, 2020.
  • States are being made aware of Locust forecasts and advisories are also being issued continuously.
  • So far the Hoppers and Pink Swarms have been controlled in an area of 14,299 hectares of Jaisalmer, Sri Ganganagar, Jodhpur, Barmer and Nagaur districts in Rajasthan and Fazilka district of Punjab. Presently, swarms of immature Pink Locusts are active in Barmer, Phalodi (Jodhpur), Nagaur, Sriganganagar and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan.

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Liquidity lifeline: On Nirmala’s MSME package

Liquidity lifeline: On Nirmala’s MSME package

Introduction

The first tranche of announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan on Wednesday is impressive indeed.

Focus areas

  • The measures announced will go a long way in lifting the spirits of the two key and troubled sectors of MSMEs and non-banking finance companies.
  • While for the MSMEs it is an existential crisis, for the NBFCs it is one of liquidity.

Fiscal package for MSMEs

  • The massive ?3-lakh crore collateral-free assistance handed out to MSMEs will help them crank up their operations.
  • The Government has extended a sovereign credit guarantee for the complete amount as banks may otherwise have been reluctant to support troubled borrowers.
  • The ?20,000 crore partially guaranteed subordinated debt programme and the ?50,000 crore fund of funds scheme will help boost the equity portion on MSME.

 

Subordinated Debt

 

Subordinated debt is riskier than unsubordinated debt. Subordinated debt is any type of loan that's paid after all other corporate debts and loans are repaid, in the case of borrower default. Borrowers of subordinated debt are usually larger corporations or other business entities. Subordinated debt is the exact opposite of unsubordinated debt in that senior debt is prioritized higher in bankruptcy or default situations.

 

When a corporation takes out debt, it normally issues two or more bond types that are either unsubordinated debt or subordinated debt. If the company defaults and files for bankruptcy, a bankruptcy court will prioritize loan repayments and require that a company repay its outstanding loans with its assets. The debt that is considered lesser in priority is the subordinated debt. The higher priority debt is considered unsubordinated debt.

 

 

Fiscal Stimulus to NBFCs

  • NBFCs, housing finance firms and micro finance entities get a much required liquidity boost in the form of a ?30,000 crore scheme wherein their debt paper will be fully guaranteed by the government.
  • With this, and the partial credit guarantee scheme of ?45,000 crore, the government has broken the logjam wherein banks were unwilling to extend credit despite the RBI’s strong push.
  • This should largely attenuate the liquidity crisis in the non-banking space for now.

The Minister has also done well in addressing the liquidity issues of power distribution companies through a ?90,000 crore infusion that will be securitised on their receivables and backed by a State government guarantee.

While the headline numbers appear big, the reality is that the government will be called upon to bear the liability only if the economic situation becomes hopeless; it may not come to that.

Issues

  • The government did not specify interest cap on these loans without leaving it to individual lenders as each of them has its own rate structure.
  • The scheme could have been extended until the end of this financial year instead of until October 31.
  • India is now entering the monsoon season when activity is traditionally dull, so it is not clear how many borrowers will get the benefit.
  • There are no measures for the migrant workers in its announcements.

 

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GS-III :
Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA),2010

FCRA

Context

A decision by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to donate $3.6 million to Indian labs and research agencies to assist in countering COVID-19 pandemic could run into delays, given that the agency has been placed on a “watch list” since Decemver 2019.

About FCRA

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) is a consolidating act passed by the Government of India in the year 2010. It seeks to regulate the foreign contributions or donations and hospitality (air travel, hotel accommodation etc) to Indian organizations and individuals and to stop such contributions which might damage the national interest.

Since the Act is internal security legislation, despite being a law related to financial legislation, it falls into the purview of Home Ministry and not the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Need for FCRA:

The act aims at keeping a check on foreigners influencing the Indian electoral politics, journalists, public servants etc. for wrong purposes or activities detrimental to the public interest. Those violating the provisions of FCRA can be jailed up to a term of 5 years.

Salient features of FCRA 2010:

The FCRA was enacted in 1976 in order to maintain strict control over voluntary organisations and political associations that received foreign fundings.

In the year 1984, an amendment was made to the act requiring all the Non Governmental Organisations to register themselves with the Home Ministry. In 2010, the act was repealed and a new act with strict provisions was enacted.

Provisions of the FCRA 2010:

A provision was made for the cancellation of registrations of NGOs if the Home Ministry believes that the organisation is political and not neutral.

The registration certificate granted to the NGOs under the 2010 act came with a five year validity.

A provision was inserted stating that the assets of the person who has become defunct needs to be disposed off in a manner stated by the government.

A separate account needs to be maintained by the organisations to deposit the Foreign Contributions received and no other funds except for Foreign Contributions shall be deposited in that account.

Every bank would be obligated to report to the prescribed authority, the amount of foreign remittances received and other related details such as the source, manner of receipt etc.

Who can accept Foreign Contribution?

Organizations working for definite cultural, social, economic, educational or religious programs, if and only if they are

  • Registered with the Home Ministry
  • Maintaining a seperate account listing the donations received from foreigners, getting it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submitting it to the Home Ministry, every year.

Who are debarred from receiving Foreign Contribution?

  • Candidate contesting an election
  • Cartoonist, editor, publishers of registered newspaper
  • Judge
  • Government servants or employee of any corporation
  • Member of any legislature
  • Political parties
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Malnutrition

Malnutrition

  • Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
  • The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions.
    • One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).
    • The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).
  • In April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025.
  • The Sustainable Development Goal (SD Goal 2: Zero hunger) aims to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure all people – especially children – have access to sufficient and nutritious food all year round.

Global Nutrition Report

The Global Nutrition Report was conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013. The first report was published in 2014.

It acts as a report card on the world’s nutrition—globally, regionally, and country by country—and on efforts to improve it. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative, consisting of a Stakeholder Group, Independent Expert Group and Report Secretariat.

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GS-III :
Smart Metering Programme (SMP)

Smart Metering Programme (SMP)

Part of: GS-III- Energy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

According to the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), the Smart Metering Programme (SMP) is helping electricity distribution companies (discoms) generate 95% of billing efficiency during the lockdown. The discoms using smart meters have seen 15-20% average increase in monthly revenue per consumer. EESL, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Power, Government of India, is the designated agency to implement the smart metering programme in India.

  • Smart Meter National Programme:
    • It is being implemented to deploy smart meters across the country.
    • Under this programme, a total of 12,06,435 smart meters have been installed till date to enhance consumer convenience and rationalise electricity consumption.
  • ?Smart Meters - Advanced meter devices having the capacity to collect information about energy, water, and gas usage at various intervals and transmitting the data through fixed communication networks to utility, as well as receiving information like pricing signals from utility and conveying it to consumers.
  • Innovation: With electricity demand expected to rise by 79 % in the next 10 years, India is on a path of transforming its energy mix with innovation.
  • Reduction in AT&C Losses:
    • To meet energy needs, along with enhancing energy production, the nation also needs to cut Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses to below 12% by 2022, and below 10% by 2027.
    • Smart meters minimize human intervention in metering, billing and collection, and help reduce theft by identifying loss pockets.
  • Smart Meters are part of the Smart Grid:
    • Smart grid includes the creation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
    • AMI describes the whole infrastructure from Smart Meter to a two way-communication network to control center equipment and applications that enable the gathering and transfer of energy usage information in near real-time.

Benefits of Smart Meters

  • Operational Benefits: It incentivises energy conservation by checking data-entry errors and billing efficiencies, and cutting the costs of manual meter reading through a web-based monitoring system.
  • Smart meters deployed can also switch to prepaid mode.
  • Benefits to Customers
    • It enhances consumer satisfaction through better complaint management, system stability, reliability and transparency.
    • The new meters have the Time of Day (ToD) tariff feature which allows consumers to reschedule electricity usage to the off-peak hours and reduction in the bill amount significantly.

Challenges

  • High Capital Costs: A full scale deployment of smart meters requires expenditures on all hardware and software components,network infrastructure and network management software, along with costs associated with the installation and maintenance and information technology systems.
  • Integration: Samrt Meter is a complex system of technologies that must be integrated with utilities' information technology systems, including Customer Information Systems (CIS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Outage Management Systems (OMS),Mobile Workforce Management (MWM), Distribution Automation System (DAS), etc.
  • Standardization: Interoperability standards need to be defined, which set uniform requirements for technology, deployment and general operations.
  • Release of Radiation: Unlike the electronic meter, the smart meter allows ‘communication’ among the consumer and the meter, hence there is probability of release of radiation.
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GS-IV : Ethics
New habits-COVID-19

Forced to adopt new habits-COVID-19

Overcoming inertia

Starting new habits is tough and requires overcoming inertia. Most of the time humans like maintaining the status quo.

The majority of us don’t change the default settings when we buy a new mobile phone.

Nor we do change the default settings of any new app we download.

The tendency to stick with defaults happens across different aspects of our lives, from personal to social to office work.

Rise of New habits

  • This pandemic has jolted us out of our inertia. We’re now doing new things that we haven’t done before.
  • Those not used to cleaning their own dishes or homes are doing so now. Those not used to working from home are forced to do so now. Managers who wouldn’t allow their teammates to work from home have no choice but to ask them to work from home now.
  • The pandemic has forced us to start new habits by breaking away from our status quo.

Physical distancing habit in India

One habit that we Indians are not used to is maintaining sufficient physical distance from one another in public spaces.

There are many reasons for this are:

  1. Urban cities are densely packed with people. Houses in slums are cramped.
  2. Few roads have footpaths, forcing pedestrians to take up a portion of the road.
  3. Lanes are narrow; even main roads are narrow.
  4. Trains and buses are always packed.
  5. Queues are long. The population is overwhelming.

Environmental factors

  • Behavioural science studies are showing evidence that a large part of human behaviour is led by environmental factors.
  • In normal times we don’t pay much attention to our environment because we don’t need to. If one has to take a crowded train to work because of lack of better choice, we get used to it because the goal is to get to office, in time.
  • The environment becomes part of our sub-conscious.
  • We navigate through life, lanes, stations, etc. without paying much attention to our surroundings. But the pandemic is now making us aware of our surroundings.
  • Besides behaviours like hand washing, sanitising and wearing masks to prevent contracting COVID-19, the pandemic is driving another big behavioural change — keeping safe distance.

Behavioural nudges

  • Merely informing people that they need to maintain at least six-feet distance from one another is not enough. People tend to forget about distancing while talking to one another. Maintaining distance is an alien concept for us.
  • That’s why we’re now seeing examples of behavioural design nudges in our environment that help us in maintaining distance in public spaces. Markings in the form of circles and squares are being painted outside grocery stores and pharmacies to help people maintain distance.
  • People are now standing in these circles and squares while waiting in queues.

Maintaining physical distancing

  • Around the world behavioural design nudges are being implemented to help people keep safe distance from one another.
  • Restaurants in Hong Kong are putting tapes over alternate tables so that people do not occupy tables next to each other.
  • A bus station in Thailand has put stickers on alternate seats so that people sit leaving one seat empty.
  • Schoolchildren in Hangzhou, China are being made to wear caps with fan-like blades so that they cannot come close to other children.
  • A police station in Thailand has placed transparent protective shields on desks creating a barrier between the police inspector and civilians.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
FORCE (‘Fiscal Options and Response to Covid-19 Epidemic’)

FORCE (‘Fiscal Options and Response to Covid-19 Epidemic’)

A group of 50 IRS officers thought it their duty to help the government in this hour of crisis. They prepared a report titled ‘Fiscal Options and Response to Covid-19 Epidemic’, or FORCE, and submitted it to the government.

In order to tide over the financial crisis, the report suggested :

1. Raising the highest slab rate to 40% for income above ?1 crore

2. Re-introducing the wealth tax for those with wealth of ?5 crore or more

3. Providing an additional one-time cess of 4% on taxable income of ?10 lakh and above for COVID-19 relief

4. Providing tax relief for sectors hit hard by COVID-19

5. Re-introducing the inheritance tax.

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GS-II : International treaties and conventions
BIO International Convention

BIO International Convention

The BIO International Convention is hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). India is represented by Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

  • The key benefits of attending the BIO International Convention are access to global biotech and pharma leaders via BIO One-on-One Partnering, exposure to industry though-leaders and networking opportunities.
  • BIO is the largest trade organization in the world that represents the biotechnology industry.
  • The organization was found in 1993 and its members include companies that make Pharmaceutical drugs, biofuels, industrial enzymes, and genetically modified crops.
  • The Biotechnology Heritage Award presented annually at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).
  • The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of biotechnology through discovery, innovation, and public understanding.
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GS-II : International treaties and conventions
TIR Convention

TIR Convention

India became the 71st country to ratify the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) Convention. TIR Convention is an international transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It came into force from 1975.

  • The TIR Convention facilitates the international carriage of goods from one or more customs offices of departure to one or more customs offices of destination (up to a total of four customs offices departure and destination) and through as many countries as necessary.
  • It would enable India to move goods seamlessly along the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and also boosting trade with the Central Asian Republics and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
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GS-I : Human Geography
Rhododendron

Rhododendron

Rhododendron is a large genus of flowering plants and is found mainly in Eastern Himalayas, Western Himalayas and Nilgiris. Some plants of Rhododendron are evergreen and some are deciduous in nature.

  • The species is found in varied habitats from subtropical forest to alpine shrubs, rhododendrons range from dwarf shrubs to large trees.
  • The cold, moist slopes and deep valleys of the eastern Himalayas form a conducive habitat for the luxuriant growth of Rhododendron species and rich diversity in North Eastern States.
  • The species has been designated as the State tree of Uttarakhand and its blooming in the Garhwal Himalayas is celebrated as ‘Phool Sankranti’, a festival of flowers.
  • The studies on the flowering cycle have revealed that they are prominent indicators of climate change.
  • In high altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh rhododendrons are routinely cut for firewood by local people, forest fires in the dry seasons in Manipur and Nagaland were threatening the survival of many species.
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GS-III :
New Green Building Code

New Green Building Code

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) launched a code for new commercial buildings in the country. Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2017 was developed by Ministry of Power and BEE.

  • The code sets parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design with the inclusion of passive design strategies.
  • It promotes low-carbon growth and lead to 30-50% energy savings by commercial buildings by 2030.
  • In order for a building to be considered ECBC-compliant, it will need to demonstrate minimum energy savings of 25 per cent.
  • Additional improvements will enable new buildings to achieve higher grades like ECBC+ or SuperECBC, leading to further energy savings of 35 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.
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GS-III :
Cartosat-2

Cartosat-2

Cartosat – 2 launched through PSLV C-38. Cartosat is a series of earth observation satellites placed in Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (PSSO).

  • PSLV is the third generation launch vehicle of India. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.
  • The imageries from Cartosat-2 series satellite will useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and manmade features and various other Land Information System (LIS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) applications.
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GS-I : Art and Culture
First Total Yoga Village

First Total Yoga Village

Kunnamthanam in kerala is the first total yoga village with at least one member of each family in the panchayat trained in yoga.

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GS-III :
Operation Swarn

Operation Swarn

Operation Swarn is launched by the Railway Ministry to improve services in Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains.

  • Under the project, the Indian Railways will focus attention on 10 key areas — punctuality, cleanliness, linen, coach interiors, toilets, catering, staff behaviour, security, entertainment, housekeeping and regular feedback.
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