Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 September 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 September 2017


 

Paper 2:

 

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

Cabinet approves Revamped Khelo India Programme

khelo-india

The Union Cabinet has approved the revamped Khelo India programme at a cost of Rs.1,756 crore for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20. This marks a watershed moment in the history of Indian sports, as the Programme aims at mainstreaming sport as a tool for individual development, community development, economic development and national development.

  • The revamped Khelo India Programme would impact the entire sports ecosystem, including infrastructure, community sports, talent identification, coaching for excellence, competition structure and sports economy.

 

Some of the salient features of the Programme include:

  • An unprecedented Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines.
  • Each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship worth Rs. 5.00 lakh for 8 consecutive years.
  • This is the first time ever that a long-term athlete development pathway would be made available to gifted and talented youngsters to excel in competitive sports and will create a pool of highly competitive athletes who can compete to win at the world stage.
  • The Programme aims to promote 20 universities across the country as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sports persons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports.
  • The Programme also aims at creating an active population with healthy life-style.
  • The Programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive, which will not only measure the physical fitness of all children in the age group, but also support their fitness related activities.
  • This programme strives to promote “Sports for All” as well as “Sports for Excellence.”

 

Sources: pib.


 

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

Cabinet approves Extension of time period of Udaan

 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs for extension of time period of the Scheme “Special Industry Initiative for J&K” (Sll J&K)- Udaan till 31st December, 2018 without any modification and cost escalation. Initially the time period of Udaan was upto 2016-17.

 

About Udaan:

Udaan provides exposure to the youth of J&K to the best of corporate India and corporate India to the rich talent pool available in the State. Udaan is a national integration scheme with the goal to mainstream J&K youth with rest of the country. The scheme not only provides skill enhancement and job opportunity but also connects these bright youths from the J&K with the vibrant corporate sector of India.

 

Performance of the scheme:

  • So far, 109 leading Corporate have partnered with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under UDAAN with a commitment to train youth from the State covering Organized Retail, Banking, Financial Services, IT, ITES, Infrastructure, Hospitality etc.
  • So far, 34,587 candidates have been selected of whom 31,903 candidates have joined, 22,237 candidates have completed the training, 7,649 are undergoing training and 14,694 have been offered jobs.
  • In spite of four months of unrest, the scheme has gained a good momentum and pace of implementation has been the best during FY 2016-17 since its inception. More than 12,000 candidates had joined training and nearly 10,000 candidates were offered jobs. 140 mega selection drives were held so far covering all districts of the State.

 

Sources: pib.


 

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

 

‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’

BIMSTEC-Disaster-Management-Exercise-2017-indianbureaucracy

The First ‘BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise- 2017’ (BIMSTEC DMEx-2017) will be conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as the lead agency from October 10-13, 2017 in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). This Exercise will be a platform for sharing Best Practices on all aspects of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), strengthening regional response and coordination for Disaster Management among the BIMSTEC member countries.

 

Key facts:

  • Delegates from all seven nations of the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC) grouping, – namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, representatives from Embassies/High Commissions of BIMSTEC nations in Delhi, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and Senior Officers from the Nodal Ministries are participating in the event.
  • The main focus of the BIMSTEC DMEx-2017 will be on testing the region’s preparedness and resilience towards effective activation of inter-Governmental interaction/dialogue/agreements for immediate deployment of regional resources for disaster response.
  • It will help create synergy and synchronize efforts to institutionalize regional cooperation among the member countries. The exercise will help strengthen the effective utilization of the Search & Rescue Teams for Disaster Relief & Emergency Response, including Emergency Rapid Assessment Teams and Management of mass casualties especially in situations involving breakdown of infrastructure and communication.

 

Background:

The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people, constituting around 22% of the global population with a combined GDP of US $2.7 trillion economy. Majority of the BIMSTEC countries are situated in the South Asian Region (SAR), prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, avalanches and drought.

 

Sources: pib.


 

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

50 nations ink UN nuclear ban treaty opposed by big powers

 

Fifty countries recently signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world’s nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless.

 

Background:

In July 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans and makes it illegal to possess, use, produce, transfer, acquire, stockpile or deploy nuclear weapons. This was the culmination of 10 years of preparation by many national and international organizations. It was signed and approved by 122 of the 123 participant nations, representing two-thirds of the nations in the UN. Interestingly, none of the nuclear weapons nations participated.

 

About the treaty:

The treaty prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons.

  • Under its terms, non-nuclear nations agreed not to pursue nukes in exchange for a commitment by the five original nuclear powers the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee other states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.
  • This is the most significant multilateral development on nuclear arms control since the adoption of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. It has to be ratified by 50 countries to come into force.

 

Why is it being opposed?

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They said a purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns which continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security.

 

What supporters say?

Supporters of the treaty argue that new treaty will close a “legal gap” that exists regarding nuclear weapons, which are not expressly outlawed by the NPT even though their use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict. They argue that the CPNW initiative reinforces the NPT and the requirement in Article VI for nuclear disarmament and that it can reduce the salience nuclear weapons and help prompt more urgent action to reduce nuclear risk and promote disarmament.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

 

Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

Peer-to-peer lending platforms to be treated as NBFCs

 

After a year or more of due-diligence, the RBI has notified that peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms need to be regulated and treated on par with non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). In a notification, the RBI has pressed the need for regulation of this segment, which is fairly nascent in India with only 10-12 small players.

  • While the final guidelines are still awaited, P2P lending platforms such as LenDen Club, Faircent, Qbera, Lendbox, Rupaiya Exchange and Monexo are a relieved lot. The players, had themselves, been asking the apex bank for regulations that would help bring credibility and trust into the business.

 

What is P2P lending?

P2P lending is a form of crowd-funding used to raise loans which are paid back with interest. It can be defined as the use of an online platform that matches lenders with borrowers in order to provide unsecured loans. The borrower can either be an individual or a legal person requiring a loan.

The interest rate may be set by the platform or mutual agreement between the borrower and the lender. Fees are paid to the platform by both the lender as well as the borrower. Borrowers pay an origination fee — either a flat rate fee or as a percentage of the loan amount raised — according to their risk category.

 

Challenges ahead:

At present, the biggest challenge in the sector, which could disrupt the urban financial inclusion space, is that most of the players are outside the formal credit rating and reporting process — a reason why lenders and even several investors shy away from investing.

 

Way ahead:

At present, there are several players catering to different sets of consumers, from young students to farmers. While the final regulatory framework for P2P lenders is awaited, alternative lending platforms that provide loan comparisons, consumer loans to buy household goods or commercial loans are also seeking some guidelines.

Although nascent in India and not significant in value yet, potential benefits that P2P lending promises to various stakeholders (to borrowers, lenders and agencies) and its associated risks to the financial system are too important to be ignored.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

 

Punjab okays crop loan waiver scheme

crop loan waiver scheme

The Punjab government has given its nod to notify the crop loan waiver scheme announced by Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh in the State Assembly earlier in June this year. The state Cabinet in its meeting has decided that besides taking over the entire eligible loan amount of the farmers covered by the debt waiver scheme, the government would also take over the outstanding interest from April 1, 2017, till the date of notification.

  • The notification envisages that in case of marginal farmer (less than 2.5 acres) the entire eligible amount of those farmers who have total outstanding crop loan liability up to ₹2 lakh shall be provided as debt relief and in case of eligible amount of more than ₹2 lakh, only₹2 lakh shall be provided as debt relief.
  • In case of small farmers (from 2.5 acres to less than 5 acres), the entire eligible amount of those farmers who have total outstanding crop loan liability up to ₹2 lakh, shall be provided as debt relief. The scheme will directly benefit nearly 10.25 lakh farmers across the State.

 

Concerns:

According to the Economic Survey 2016-17 (Volume 2), the burden of farm loan waivers could be as much as `2.2-2.7 lakh crore if all states start offering the relief and would stoke short-term deflationary shock in the economy. The survey estimates that loan waivers by all states could reduce aggregate demand by as much as 0.7% of GDP. This is because the states funding the loan waiver would have to prune spending and possibly raise taxes to improve revenue and stick to their fiscal deficit limits, although private demands tends to get a boost from the loan waivers. Even as the central government makes significant efforts toward fiscal consolidation, the higher debt burden of the states could push up general government debt.

 

Way ahead:

It appears that loan waiving can provide a short-term relief to a limited section of farmers; it has a meagre chance of bringing farmers out of the vicious cycle of indebtedness. There is no concrete evidence on reduction in agrarian distress following the first spell of all-India farm loan waiver in 2008. In the longer run, strengthening the repayment capacity of the farmers by improving and stabilising their income is the only way to keep them out of distress.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

A ‘Boat Lab’ to study Brahmaputra

India's first boat lab

The Centre plans to safeguard the fast-eroding Majuli island — Asia’s largest riverine island — using research carried out on floating ‘B4’ boat labs along the Brahmaputra river.

 

Key facts:

  • ‘B4’ – the ‘Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat’, work on which will commence by December, will initially cover the region from Pasighat, Dibrigargh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in the state of Assam, said officials at the Department of Biotechnology. The department has set aside Rs. 50 crore as an initial investment on the project.
  • The large barge (or boat) which will be set up on the river will be a “well-equipped laboratory” with cold storage facilities for holding samples, along with multiple satellite boats or rafts that will venture into shallower and narrower parts of the river to lift samples.
  • The large boat with the permanent lab will be spread over two floors and will go up and down the river. One floor will be dedicated to scientists, while the other floor will be accessible to residents of the area to learn about the eco-system. The idea is to study the changes caused by dams, climate change, human interventions and the eventual effects it has on the river eco-system.
  • The project will “constantly monitor” the impact of various environmental and anthropological factors that affect the river and conduct research to mitigate the effects.
  • The interdisciplinary focus, the work plan for which is developed with IIT Guwahati as the nodal agency, will also aim at a thorough study of freshwater resources of North East India. The integrated approach is aimed to combine data, science and judgement that can impact policy.

 

Background:

Majuli, the first island district of the country, was once 1200 square kilometres but due to excessive erosion has since shrunk to under 500 square kilometres. It is also known for being the seat of Assam’s Vaishnava monasteries. Despite supporting considerable biodiversity, the Brahmaputra has not been studied as extensively as the Amazon.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

India joins quantum computing race

 

Keen to tap into the next big advance in computing technology, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is planning to fund a project to develop quantum computers.

 

What is quantum computing?

First proposed in the 1970s, quantum computing relies on quantum physics by taking advantage of certain quantum physics properties of atoms or nuclei that allow them to work together as quantum bits, or qubits, to be the computer’s processor and memory. By interacting with each other while being isolated from the external environment, qubits can perform certain calculations exponentially faster than conventional computers.

 

How it works?

A quantum computer, still largely a theoretical entity, employs the principles of quantum mechanics to store information in ‘qubits’ instead of the typical ‘bits’ of 1 and 0. Qubits work faster because of the way such circuits are designed, and their promise is that they can do intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers.

 

Way ahead:

Commercial production of quantum computers that would process information faster than today’s supercomputers is still some time away. The industry first has to solve hardware issues in quantum technology, according to an expert. Quantum theory represents the smallest scales and shapes of matter, describing the behaviour of subatomic particles like electrons, protons, neutrons and photons.

 

Sources: the hindu.