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25 March, 2021

106 Min Read

GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government policies and interventions
National Rail Plan (NRP) for India 2030

National Rail Plan (NRP) for India 2030

  • Indian Railways have prepared a National Rail Plan (NRP) for India – 2030.
  • The Plan is to create a ‘future ready’ Railway system by 2030.
  • The NRP is aimed to formulate strategies based on both operational capacities and commercial policy initiatives to increase modal share of the Railways in freight.
  • The NRP is for the entire Indian Railways network and not only for districts connected to the existing rail network but also districts indirectly impacted by rail transportation. In effect virtually all the districts of the country get linked to the plan.
  • The objective of the Plan is
    1. To create capacity ahead of demand, which in turn would also cater to future growth in demand right up to 2050 and
    2. Increase the modal share of Railways to 45% in freight traffic and to continue to sustain it.
  • To achieve this objective all possible financial models including Public Private Partnership (PPP) are being considered.

Features of the National Rail Plan

  • Formulate strategies based on both operational capacities and commercial policy initiatives to increase modal share of the Railways in freight to 45%.
  • Reduce transit time of freight substantially by increasing average speed of freight trains to 50Kmph.
  • As part of the National Rail Plan, Vision 2024 has been launched for accelerated implementation of certain critical projects by 2024 such as 100% electrification, multi-tracking of congested routes, upgradation of speed to 160 kmph on Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes, upgradation of speed to 130kmph on all other Golden Quadrilateral-Golden Diagonal (GQ/GD) routes and elimination of all Level Crossings on all GQ/GD route.
  • Identify new Dedicated Freight Corridors.
  • Identify new High Speed Rail Corridors.
  • Assess rolling stock requirement for passenger traffic as well as wagon requirement for freight.
  • Assess Locomotive requirement to meet twin objectives of 100% electrification (Green Energy) and increasing freight modal share.
  • Assess the total investment in capital that would be required along with a periodical break up.
  • Sustained involvement of the Private Sector in areas like operations and ownership of rolling stock, development of freight and passenger terminals, development/operations of track infrastructure etc.

Source: PIB

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GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government Schemes & Programmes
Champion Services Sectors

Champion Services Sectors

  • Champion Services Sectors refers to the 12 identified sectors where the Government wants to give focused attention for promoting their development, and realizing their potential.
  • These include
    1. Information Technology & Information Technology enabled Services (IT& ITeS),
    2. Tourism and Hospitality Services,
    3. Medical Value Travel,
    4. Transport and Logistics Services,
    5. Accounting and Finance Services,
    6. Audio Visual Services,
    7. Legal Services,
    8. Communication Services,
    9. Construction and Related Engineering Services,
    10. Environmental Services,
    11. Financial Services and
    12. Education Services.
  • A dedicated fund of Rs. 5000 crores has been proposed to be established to support initiatives for sectoral Action Plans of the Champion Sectors.

Background

  • The Group of Secretaries in their recommendations to the Prime Minister, had identified ten Champion Sectors, including seven (7) manufacturing related sectors and three (3) services sectors, for promoting their development and achieving their potential.
  • It was subsequently decided that Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the nodal department for 'Make in India', would spearhead the initiative for the Champion Sectors in manufacturing and Department of Commerce would coordinate the proposed initiative for the Champion Sectors in Services.
  • Accordingly, Department of Commerce, with wide stakeholder consultation coordinated the preparation of draft initial sectoral reform plans for several services sectors and, subsequently the action plan.

Rationale and Objective

  • The idea was launched and accepted on 28 February 2018.
  • This initiative is expected to enhance the competitiveness of India's service sectors thereby creating more jobs in India, contributing to a higher GDP and export of services to global markets.

Targets

  • The share of India's services sector in global services exports was 3.3% in 2015.
  • Based on this initiative, a goal of 4.2% has been envisaged for 2022.
  • The share of services in Gross Value Added (GVA) was about 53% for India in 2015-16 (61% including construction services).
  • This initiative is expected to raise the share of services in GVA to 60% (67% including construction services) by the year 2022.

Champion Services Sector Scheme

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme of Department of Commerce.
  • The main objectives of Champion Services Sector Scheme are as follows:
    1. Sectoral and cross cutting issues including domestic regulatory reforms, skill development, data protection regime etc.
    2. New initiatives to prevent India’s service sector from losing its competitive position in the global market.
    3. Increased productivity and competitiveness of the Champion Service Sectors will enhance services gross value added contributed by domestic services sectors.
    4. It will boost India’s service sector’s exports.
    5. Skill training and Employment creation.
  • Under the Champion Services Sector Scheme (CSSS) a total amount of Rs.3369.75 Cr for 3-5 years (2019-20 to 2023-24) has been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee based on the proposals submitted by the concerned Ministry/Department, details of which are at Annexure.
  • As per the guidelines of the Scheme, there is a three-tier monitoring mechanism, namely
    1. the concerned Ministry/Department,
    2. the Department of Commerce and
    3. the Committee of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary

Following is the structure of the Umbrella scheme:

Source: PIB

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GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government policies and interventions
Make in India initiative

Make in India initiative

  • Make in India initiative was launched on September 25, 2014 with the objective of facilitating investment, fostering innovation, building best in class manufacturing infrastructure, making it easy to do business and enhancing skill development.
  • The initiative is further aimed at creating a conducive environment for investment, modern and efficient infrastructure, opening up new sectors for foreign investment and forging a partnership between government and industry through positive mindset.
  • Since its launch, Make in India initiative has made significant achievements and presently focuses on 27 sectors under Make in India 2.0.
  • Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade is coordinating action plans for manufacturing sectors, while Department of Commerce is coordinating service sectors.

The list of sectors under Make in India 2.0 is given below:

Manufacturing Sectors

  1. Aerospace and Defence
  2. Automotive and Auto Components
  3. Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices
  4. Bio-Technology
  5. Capital Goods
  6. Textile and Apparels
  7. Chemicals and Petro chemicals
  8. Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM)
  9. Leather & Footwear
  10. Food Processing
  11. Gems and Jewellery
  12. Shipping
  13. Railways
  14. Construction
  15. New and Renewable Energy

Service Sectors

  1. Information Technology & Information Technology enabled Services (IT &ITeS)
  2. Tourism and Hospitality Services
  3. Medical Value Travel
  4. Transport and Logistics Services
  5. Accounting and Finance Services
  6. Audio Visual Services
  7. Legal Services
  8. Communication Services
  9. Construction and Related Engineering Services
  10. Environmental Services
  11. Financial Services
  12. Education Services
  • The Government of India is making continuous efforts under Investment Facilitation for implementation of Make in India action plans to identify potential investors.
  • Support is being provided to Indian Missions abroad and State Governments for organising events, summits, road-shows and other promotional activities to attract investment in the country under the Make in India banner.
  • Investment Outreach activities are being carried out for enhancing International co-operation for promoting FDI and improve Ease of Doing Business in the country.
  • India has registered its highest ever annual FDI Inflow of US $74.39 billion (provisional figure) during the last financial year 2019-20 as compared to US $ 45.15 billion in 2014-2015.
  • In the last six financial years (2014-20), India has received FDI inflow worth US$ 358.30 billion which is 53 percent of the FDI reported in the last 20 years (US$ 681.87 billion).
  • Steps taken to improve Ease of Doing Business include simplification and rationalisation of existing processes. As a result of the measures taken to improve the country’s investment climate, India jumped to 63rd place in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking as per World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR) 2020.
  • This is driven by reforms in the areas of Starting a Business, Paying Taxes, Trading Across Borders, and Resolving Insolvency.
  • Recently, Government has taken various steps in addition to ongoing schemes to boost domestic and foreign investments in India.

These include the National Infrastructure Pipeline, Reduction in Corporate Tax, easing liquidity problems of NBFCs and Banks, policy measures to boost domestic manufacturing. Government of India has also promoted domestic manufacturing of goods through public procurement orders, Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP), Schemes for Production Linked Incentives of various Ministries.

Source: PIB

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GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government Schemes & Programmes
Social Security Schemes for Organised and Unorganised sector

Social Security Schemes for Organised and Unorganised

  • As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation of the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, in the year 2017-18, the total employment in both organized and unorganised sector in the country was around 47 crores.
  • Out of this, around 9 crores are engaged in the organized sector and the balance of 38 crores are in the unorganized sector.

The categories of the workers have been divided into three categories i.e.

  • Establishments with 10 or more workers;
  • Establishments with 20 or more workers;
  • Workers engaged in unorganised sector

Employees State Insurance Act, 1948

  • The ESI Act, 1948 is Social Security legislation applicable to all factories & notified establishments employing ten or more persons, which are located in ESI notified areas and as such it does not apply to the unorganised sector.
  • Employees earning wages up to Rs 21,000 per month (Rs 25,000/- in the case of persons with disability) are coverable under ESI Scheme and are entitled to all benefits available under ESI Act, 1948.
  • At present the ESI Scheme stands extended to 575 districts in 35 States/ Union territories.
  • The total number of Insured Persons covered under ESI Scheme as on 31.03.2020 are 3.41 crore and the total beneficiaries are 13.24 crore.
  • ESI contributions @ 4% are paid by employers, of which the employees or workers contribute to the extent of 0.75% of their wages and the employers contribute to the extent of 3.25% of their wages.
  • Such contributions entitle them to all benefits available under the ESI Act.

Organised Sector: EPFO

The benefits of social security to the workers employed in organised sector establishments with 20 or more workers under the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 are extended through following three schemes:

  1. The Employees’ Provident Funds Scheme, 1952;
  2. The Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995;
  3. The Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme, 1976.

The Employer and Employee both contribute @ 12% of wages towards provident fund. Out of this, 8.33% is diverted towards pension Fund. Employer also contributes to EDLI Scheme @ 0.5 % of wages. During the year 2019-20, 4.89 crores members contributed under the Scheme.

Unorganised Sector: Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

  • For the workers engaged in the Unorganised sector, social security benefits are being addressed through the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 now subsumed in the Code on Social Security, 2020.
  • The Act empowers the Central Government to provide Social Security benefits to unorganised sector workers by formulating suitable welfare schemes on matters relating to
    1. Life and disability cover,
    2. Health and maternity benefits,
    3. Old age protection and
    4. Any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government.
  • The State Governments are also empowered to formulate suitable welfare schemes on the matters regarding housing, provident funds, educational schemes, skill upgradation, old age homes etc.

Life and Disability cover: Unorganised Sector

  • Life and disability cover is provided through Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana (PMJJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Surksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).
  • Benefits under the schemes are for Rs.2 lakh on death due to any cause & permanent disability , Rs.1.0 Lakh on partial disability and Rs.4 lakh on death due to accident to the unorganised workers at the annual premium of Rs.342/- (Rs.330/- for PMJJBY + Rs.12/- for PMSBY) depending upon their eligibility.
  • The eligible Unorganised Workers can avail the scheme from their respective banks at annual premium of Rs. 342/-. As on 30.12.2020, 9.70 and 21.87 crore people have been enrolled under PMJJBY and PMSBY respectively.

Health and Maternity Benefits: Unorganised Sector

  • The health and maternity benefits are addressed through Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) which is a universal health scheme administrated by the National Health Authority.
  • The number of eligible beneficiaries under Social Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 on the basis of select deprivation and occupational criteria across rural and urban areas is 10.74 Crore families (50 crore people).
  • The Scheme gives flexibility to States/UTs to run their own health protection scheme in alliance with AB-PMJAY. The States/UTs implementing AB-PMJAY have further expanded the coverage of the scheme to include 13.13 crore families (65 crore people).

Old Age Protection: Unorganised Sector

  • For old age protection to unorganised sector workers including traders, shopkeepers and self- employed persons, the Government has launched two flagship schemes namely Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-DhanYojana (PM-SYM) and National Pension Scheme for Traders, Shopkeeper and Self-Employed Persons (NPS- Traders).
  • Under the schemes, beneficiaries are entitled to receive minimum monthly assured pension of Rs.3000/- after attaining the age of 60 years.
  • The workers in the age group of 18-40 years whose monthly income is below Rs.15000/- can join the PM-SYM scheme and Traders, shop keepers and self-employed persons whose annual turnover is not exceeding Rs.1.5 crore can join NPS – Traders scheme.
  • These are voluntary and contributory pension schemes and monthly contribution ranges from Rs.55 to Rs.200 depending upon the entry age of the beneficiary.
  • Under both the schemes, 50% monthly contribution is payable by the beneficiary and equal matching contribution is paid by the Central Government. Both the schemes are being implemented in all the States/UTs of India.
  • The details of numbers of beneficiaries as on 28.02.2021 under PMSYM and NPS Traders, 44.90 Lakh and 43,700 respectively.

Health Insurance for Domestic Workers

  • The number of Domestic workers as per Census 2011 is 47.81 lakhs.
  • The Central Government had enacted the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, now subsumed in the Code on Social Security, 2020, for providing social security to all unorganized workers including domestic workers.
  • The Act provides formulation of social security schemes viz. life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits & old age protection by the central Government.
  • The state Government are mandated under the Act to formulate suitable welfare schemes for unorganized sector workers including domestic workers relating to provident fund, employment injury benefits housing, education schemes for children, skill up gradation of workers, financial assistance & old age homes.
  • Central Sector Schemes like PMJJBY, PMSBY, PM-SYM provide social security cover to all the unorganised workers including domestic workers in respect of life & disability cover, insurance and pension.
  • Ayushman Bharat PMJAY provides secondary and tertiary health benefits to all unorganized workers including domestic workers who are covered as eligible beneficiaries as per Socio Economic Caste census Data, 2011.
  • Ministry of Labour& Employment is in the process of developing a comprehensive National Data base of the Unorganized workers (NDUW) to collect relevant information of unorganized workers including domestic workers and inter-alia help in delivery of various social security and welfare schemes being implemented for them.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Economic Issues Infrastructure
Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC):

Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC):

  • Ministry of Railways is executing the work of construction of two dedicated freight corridors namely Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors (EDFC & WDFC) to augment the rail transport capacity along above routes to meet the growing need of the economy and facilitate faster evacuation of freight traffic.

What is Dedicated Freight Corridor?

  • It is a high speed and high capacity railway corridor that is exclusively meant for the transportation of freight, or in other words, goods and commodities.
  • DFC involves the seamless integration of better infrastructure and state of the art technology.

The salient features of DFC are as under:

  1. Maximum permissible Speed - 100Kmph
  2. Long haul and Higher Trailing load - upto 13000 tonnes per train
  3. Double stack trains on WDFC
  4. Efficient handling and value added services at freight terminals of DFC.
  5. Enhanced axle load of 25 tonnes
  6. Higher maximum moving dimension of Wagons
  7. Automatic Signalling with Mobile Train Radio communication
  8. Overall enhanced throughput

DFC consists of two arms:

  1. Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC)
  2. Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC)

Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC):

  • It starts at Sahnewal (Ludhiana) in Punjab and ends at Dankuni in West Bengal.
  • The EDFC route has coal mines, thermal power plants and industrial cities. Feeder routes are also being made for these.
  • The EDFC route covers Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
  • The World Bank is funding a majority of the EDFC.
  • The 351-km-long ‘New Bhaupur-New Khurja section’ will decongest the existing Kanpur-Delhi main line and double the speed of freight trains from 25 kmph to 75 kmph.

Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC):

  • The other arm is the around 1,500-km WDFC from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, touching all major ports along the way.
  • The WDFC covers Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
  • It is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
  • Connecting Link for Eastern and Western Arm: It is under construction between Dadri and Khurja.
  • The industrial corridor of Delhi-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata are also being developed around both these DFCs.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd.

  • DFCCIL under the Ministry of Railways is a special purpose vehicle tasked with planning and completion of 3,306 kms of DFCs.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi and is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU).
  • It engages in the planning and development, deployment of monetary resources, building, upkeep, and the operation of the DFCs.

Benefits of Dedicated Freight Corridors:

  • Dedicated Freight Corridors will offer higher transport output with faster transit of freight trains. Running of planned double stack container trains and heavy haul will also add to the carrying capacity.
  • The unit cost of freight transport will substantially be reduced and there will be significant savings in the Logistics cost as well.
  • This would improve the supply chain for the industries/logistics players etc. in DFC’s catchment areas leading to additional freight volumes and growth of EXIM traffic as well.
  • The above advantages of DFC will promote Industrial activities in the region by levaraging the Industrial corridors/townships being implemented along the DFC route.
  • Development of New Freight terminals, Multimodal Logistics parks and Inland Container Depots along both Eastern and Western DFC are in different stages of implementation.

Recent News: New Freight Corridor

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the New Rewari-New Madar section of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and flagged off the world’s first 1.5-km-long electrified double stack long haul container train.
  • Mr. Modi said the project was part of the mission to modernise the country’s infrastructure and was being seen as a game changer for the India of 21st century.
  • The section, which became operational after a hard work of five to six years, would be beneficial to farmers, industrialists and businessmen in the National Capital Region, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Significance

  • The corridor would lead to the development of growth centres and points in several cities, creation of job opportunities and conditions attracting more investments.
  • It would give a new fillip to the local industries and manufacturing units by providing them faster and cheaper access to the national and international markets.
  • They would get easy access to the ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  • In all, 133 railway stations in nine States would be impacted by the Dedicated Freight Corridor.
  • New multi-model logistic parks, freight terminals, container depots/terminals and parcel hubs would be developed at these places.
  • It would not only benefit villages, farmers, the poor and the small businesses, but also attract big manufacturers, he said.
  • With the launch of the double stack long haul container train between New Ateli in Haryana and New Kishanganj in Rajasthan, India had also entered the club of nations with such high capabilities.

Northeast link

  • Given the rapid infrastructural expansion, all the Northeast State capitals would soon be linked to the national rail network. The work of indigenously developing high-speed tracks was also under way.
  • Earlier, Mr. Modi listed several initiatives, including a digital payment of Rs.18,000 crore to farmers under the direct benefit transfer scheme, taken by the government in the past couple of weeks, to highlight the speed with which important projects were being implemented despite the COVID-19 induced crisis.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Economic Issues Financial inclusion
Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana

Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana

  • The scheme Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana was introduced by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) on pilot basis for a period of 2 years w.e.f. 01.07.2018 for providing relief to the Insured Persons (IPs) who have become unemployed.
  • Under this scheme relief in the form of cash compensation to the extent of 25 per cent of the average per day earning was paid upto a maximum of 90 days of unemployment subject to conditions that the employee should have completed two years of Insurable employment and has contributed not less than Seventy-Eight (78) days in each of the four consecutive contribution periods immediately preceding to the claim of the relief.
  • Since its inception till 18.03.2021, a total of 43299 beneficiaries have availed relief under the scheme and an amount of Rs.57.18 crore has been disbursed.

The scheme has been extended for the period from 01.07.2020 to 30.06.2021.

  • The rate of relief has been doubled from 25 per cent to 50 per cent average per day earning of employee.
  • The Insured Person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years immediately before his/ her unemployment and should have contributed for not less than 78 days in the contribution period immediately preceding the unemployment and minimum 78 days in one of the remaining three contribution periods in two years prior to unemployment. Earlier this condition was a minimum contribution of 78 days in four contribution periods prior to unemployment with minimum two years insurable employment.
  • Claim shall become due 30 days after date of unemployment. Earlier this period was 90 days.
  • The claim of the IP need not be forwarded by the employer. The claim may be submitted by an IP in the prescribed claim form duly completed online or directly to the branch office.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Biodiversity & Environment
Increasing House Sparrow Population in India

House Sparrow population was on the decline in cities, for decades. But now the citizen-led movements across various states are facilitating the increase of House Sparrow population.

About House Sparrow:

  • House Sparrow(Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world.

Characteristics of House Sparrow:

  • The male and female House Sparrow are easily distinguishable not in size but in colouration. The male is dark brown with a black bib, grey chest, and white cheeks. Whereas the female is light brown throughout its body, with no black bib, crown, or white cheeks.
  • The bird stays close to human habitations. So it is among the most commonly found bird species in urban cities.

Habitat of House Sparrow:

  • The house sparrow is widespread across the world, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica, and countries like China and Japan.
  • It is native to Eurasia and North Africa.
  • In India, House Sparrow is found throughout the country. It is found up to the Assam valley and lower parts of the Assam hills. In the eastern Himalayas, the house sparrow species is replaced by the Eurasian tree sparrow.

Protection:

  • State Bird: House Sparrow is the State bird of Bihar and Delhi.
  • World Sparrow Day: It is celebrated every year on March 20 to raise awareness about the bird.
  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Causes of Decline:

  • The unfriendly architecture of our homes.
  • The use of chemical fertilizers in crops.
  • Noise pollution.
  • Exhaust fumes from vehicles.

Conservation Initiatives:

  • In Odisha, the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee started a campaign in 2007. They distributed earthen pot bird nests to homes in Odisha. This has led to an increase in the sparrow population.
  • In Visakhapatnam, a filmmaker in association with city-based NGO Green Climate has made a film on sparrow conservation. In that, they mentioned the need to save the house sparrow species.

Source: TH

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GS-III : S&T Space
Indo French Space Collaboration

Indo-French Space Collaborations

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and French space agency Centre National dEtudes Spatiales (CNES) are working on their 3rd joint satellite mission.
  • ISRO and CNES have completed the feasibility study to realise the earth observation satellite mission with TRISHNA, thermal infrared imager.
  • TRISHNA will monitor the water cycle to help in properly utilizing it.
  • ARGOS of CNES will be integrated into ISRO’s OCEANSAT-3 satellite.
  • ARGOS is the data collection and location system of its kind dedicated to studying and preserving the environment.
  • ISRO-CNES Human Space Programme (HSP) Working Group had discussed about medical aspects of human spaceflight and is finalising an arrangement to formalise cooperation in the field of space medicine.
  • There are discussions on establishing ‘NavIC’ reference station in France and CNES ‘Scintillation’ receivers in India.

Previous Joint Satellite Missions

  • MEGHA-TROPIQUES (2011) - This Indo-French joint satellite mission that was launched to study the tropical atmosphere and climate related to aspects such as monsoons, cyclones, etc.
  • SARAL (2013) - This mission was launched to study the ocean from space using altimetry.

Source: TH

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GS-III : S&T S&T
Asteroid 2001 FO32- The Largest Asteroid to pass by Earth in 2021

Asteroid 2001 FO32

  • Asteroid 2001 FO32 is the largest asteroid passed by Earth in 2021.
  • It was discovered 20 years ago by Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program in Socorro, New Mexico in 2001.
  • When it is at its closest to Earth, it is at a distance of 2 million km (Equal to 5¼ times the distance between Earth & moon). So, it has been designated as a “potentially hazardous asteroid”.
  • The reason for the asteroid’s close approach is its highly eccentric orbit around the Sun, an orbit that is tilted 39° to Earth’s orbital plane.
  • This orbit takes the asteroid closer to the Sun than Mercury, and twice as far from the Sun as Mars.

Source: TH

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GS-II : Important Bills Important Bills
National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021

National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021

The Bill seeks to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals.

Key features of the Bill include:

  • Allied health professional:
    1. The Bill defines ‘allied health professional’ as an associate, technician, or technologist trained to support the diagnosis and treatment of any illness, disease, injury, or impairment.
    2. Such a professional should have obtained a diploma or degree under this Bill. The duration of the degree /diploma should be at least 2,000 hours (over a period of two to four years).
  1. Healthcare professional:
    1. A ‘healthcare professional’ includes a scientist, therapist, or any other professional who studies, advises, researches, supervises, or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or promotional health services.
    2. Such a professional should have obtained a degree under this Bill. The duration of the degree should be at least 3,600 hours (over a period of three to six years).
  2. Allied and healthcare professions:
    1. The Bill specifies certain categories of allied and healthcare professions as recognised categories.
    2. These are mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill and include life science professionals, trauma and burn care professionals, surgical and anaesthesia related technology professionals, physiotherapists, and nutrition science professionals.
    3. The central government may amend this Schedule after consultation with the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Profession.
  3. National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions:
    1. The Bill sets up the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions.
    2. The Commission will consist of: (i) the Chairperson, (ii) Vice-Chairperson, (iii) five members (at the level of Joint Secretary) representing various Departments/ Ministries of the central government, (iv) one representative from the Directorate General of Health Services, (v) three Deputy Directors or Medical Superintendents appointed on a rotational basis from amongst medical institutions including the AIIMS, Delhi and AIIPMR, Mumbai, and (vi) 12 part-time members representing State Councils, among others.
  4. Functions of the Commission: The Commission will perform the following functions with regard to Allied and Healthcare professionals:
      1. framing policies and standards for regulating education and practice,
      2. creating and maintaining an online Central Register of all registered professionals,
      3. providing basic standards of education, courses, curriculum, staff qualifications, examination, training, maximum fee payable for various categories, and
      4. providing for a uniform entrance and exit examination, among others.
  5. Professional Councils:
    1. The Commission will constitute a Professional Council for every recognised category of allied and healthcare professions.
    2. The Professional Council will consist of a president and four to 24 members, representing each profession in the recognised category.
    3. The Commission may delegate any of its functions to this Council.
  6. State Councils:
    1. Within six months from the passage of the Bill, state governments will constitute State Allied and Healthcare Councils.
    2. The State Councils will consist of: (i) the Chairperson (at least 25 years of experience in the field of allied and healthcare science), (ii) one member representing medical sciences in the state government, (iii) two members representing state medical colleges, (iv) two members representing charitable institutions, and (v) two members from each of the recognised categories of allied and healthcare professions, nominated by the state government, among others.
    3. The State Councils will: (i) enforce professional conduct and code of ethics to be observed by allied healthcare professionals, (ii) maintain respective State Registers, (iii) inspect allied and healthcare institutions, and (iv) ensure uniform entry and exit examinations.
  7. Establishment of institutions:
    1. Prior permission of the State Council will be required to: (i) establish a new institution, or (ii) open new courses, increase the admission capacity, or admit a new batch of students to existing institutions.
    2. If such permission is not sought, then any qualification granted to a student from such an institution will not be recognised under the Bill.
  8. Offences and penalties:
    1. No person is allowed to practice as a qualified allied and healthcare practitioner other than those enrolled in a State Register or the National Register.
    2. Any person who contravenes this provision will be punished with a fine of Rs 50,000.

Source: TH

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GS-III : S&T Space
Bacteria found on International Space Station named after Indian scientist

4 species of bacteria have been discovered onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

About the Discovery:

  • One of the bacteria has been named after Indian biodiversity scientist Seyed Ajmal Khan (Methylobacterium ajmalii).
  • Four strains of bacteria belong to this family
  • These bacteria aid in plant growth.
  • While one strain was identified as Methylorubrum rhodesianum bacteria, the other three strains were previously undiscovered.

International Space Station (ISS)

  • It is a modular space station or a habitable artificial satellite.
  • It has been installed in low Earth orbit.
  • It is a multinational collaborative project that involves the participation of five space agencies namely, NASA from United States, Roscosmos from Russia, JAXA from Japan, ESA from Europe, and CSA from Canada.
  • The station is divided into two parts. The first part is the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) which is operated by Russia and the second part of United States Orbital Segment (USOS) which is run by the United States in association with other nations.

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues Banking
RBI Committee to Study Applications for Universal Banks & Small Finance Banks

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced the creation of a Standing External Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Shyamala Gopinath for evaluating applications for Universal Banks and Small Finance Banks.

This is part of the central bank’s earlier announced plan to give banking permits on a continuous basis to candidates, a process that is is commonly known as ‘on-tap’ licensing.

About On tap licensing:

  • It means the RBI window for granting banking licences will be open throughout the year.

What is Universal banking?

  • It is a system of banking where banks undertake a blanket of financial services like investment banking, commercial banking, development banking, insurance and other financial services including functions of merchant banking, mutual funds, factoring, housing finance, insurance etc.

RBIs universal bank licensing guidelines:

  • Individuals/professionals who are ‘residents’ and have minimum 10 years of experience in banking and finance at a senior level.
  • The initial minimum paid-up voting equity capital for a bank shall be Rs. 5000 Cr.
  • The bank shall get its shares listed on the stock exchanges within 6 years of the commencement of business by the bank.
  • The bank is precluded from having any exposure to its promoters, major shareholders who have shareholding of 10 per cent or more of paid-up equity shares in the bank, the relatives of the promoters as also the entities in which they have significant influence or control.
  • The bank has to open at least 25 per cent of its branches in unbanked rural centres. (PT)
  • The bank shall comply with the priority sector lending targets and sub-targets as applicable to the existing domestic scheduled commercial banks.
  • The board of the bank should have a majority of independent directors.

Small Finance Banks (SFBs)

  • They are niche banks that focus and serve the needs of a certain demographic segment of the population.
  • The objectives of setting up of small finance banks will be to further financial inclusion by
    • (1) the provision of savings vehicles
    • (2) supply of credit to small business units; small and marginal farmers; micro and small industries; and other unorganised sector entities, through high technology-low cost operations.
  • SFBs was recommended by the Nachiket Mor committee on financial inclusion.

Scope of activities of SFBs

  • The small finance banks shall primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.
  • There will be no restriction in the area of operations of small finance banks.

Criteria for setting up SFBs

  • Individuals/professions with 10 years of experience in finance, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), micro finance companies, local area banks are eligible to set up SFBs.
  • The minimum paid-up equity capital for small finance banks shall be Rs. 100 crore.
  • The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to the paid-up equity capital of such small finance bank shall at least be 40 per cent and gradually brought down to 26 per cent within 12 years from the date of commencement of business of the bank.
  • The small finance banks will be required to extend 75 per cent of its Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) to the sectors eligible for classification as priority sector lending (PSL) by the Reserve Bank.
  • SFBs have to maintain Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) and Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) as per RBI norms.
  • At least 50 per cent of its loan portfolio should constitute loans and advances of up to Rs. 25 lakh.

What can Small Finance Banks do?

  • Sell forex to customers.
  • Sell mutual funds, insurance and pensions.
  • Can convert into a full-fledged bank.

What Small Finance Banks can’t do?

  • Extend large loans.
  • Cannot float subsidiaries and deal in sophisticated products

Source: TH

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GS-II : Important reports Important reports
Global Hunger Index- Criteria, Methodology & India's Ranking

The government has questioned the methodology and data accuracy of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, alleging that children considered healthy were also counted to determine the ranking.

India was ranked at the 94th position out of 107 countries that were studied.

About Global Hunger Index:

  • The report is a peer-reviewed publication released annually by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.
  • It tracks hunger at global, regional and national levels.

How are Countries ranked?

  • The GHI scores are based on a formula that captures three dimensions of hunger—insufficient caloric intake, child undernutrition, and child mortality—using four component indicators:
    • UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is under-nourished, reflecting insufficient caloric intake
    • CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (low weight-for-height), reflecting acute undernutrition.
    • CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (low height-for-age), reflecting chronic undernutrition.
    • CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

Scoring Index:

  • The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst. Values less than 10 reflect low hunger and values of 50 or more are extremely alarming.

Key findings:

  • India has the highest prevalence of wasted children under five years in the world, which reflects acute undernutrition.
  • The report put India under serious category with the score of 27.2.
  • In the region of the south, east, and south-eastern Asia, the only countries which fare worse than India are Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
  • The child stunting rate in India was 37.4 %.
  • The child wasting was at 17.3 %.
  • The undernourishment rate of India was at 14% and child mortality at 3.7 %.

Source: TH

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GS-II : Indian Polity Supreme court
NV Ramanna to be the next Chief Justice of India

The current Chief Justice of India(CJI) has recommended Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as the next CJI.

About Chief Justice of India(CJI):

Chief Justice of India is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of India. He/she is also the highest-ranking officer of the Indian judiciary.

Constitution on appointment of CJI:

  • The Constitution of India does not have any specific provision for criteria and procedure for appointing the CJI.
  • Article 124(1) and the 2008 amendment of the Indian Constitution states that there shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and no. of judges as prescribed by Parliament.
  • Initially, the prescribed no. of judges was 7 excluding CJI. Now the no. is 34 judges including the CJI.

Convention for appointment of CJI

  • When the incumbent CJI retires (all Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65), the senior-most judge in the SC becomes the CJI.
  • Seniority is not defined by age but by the number of years an individual has been serving as a judge of the apex court.

What is the procedure?

  • The procedure to appoint the next CJI is laid out in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) between the government and the judiciary.
  • The procedure is initiated by the Law Minister. He/she shall seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at the ‘appropriate time’(near to the date of retirement of the incumbent CJI).
  • The CJI sends his recommendation to the Law Ministry. If there are any doubts, the CJI can consult the collegium as per article 124(2), regarding the fitness of an SC judge to be elevated to the post.
  • After receiving a recommendation from CJI, the law minister forwards it to the Prime Minister. The PM will then advise the same to the President.
  • The President administers the oath of office to the new CJI.

Does the government get a say in the appointment of CJI?

  • Except for the law minister seeking the recommendation from the incumbent CJI and forwarding it to the Prime Minister, the government has no say in the appointment of the CJI.

However, the key difference between the appointment of the CJI and the other SC judges are,

  • In the appointment of CJI, the government cannot send the recommendation of the CJI (or the collegium) back for reconsideration.
  • But in the appointment of SC Judges, the government can do so. However, if the collegium reiterates those names then the government cannot object any further.
  • This convention has been broken twice. In 1973, Justice A. N. Ray was appointed superseding 3 senior judges.
  • Also, in 1975 Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg was appointed as the CJI superseding Justice Hans Raj Khanna.

Source: TH

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