Insights Daily Current Affairs, 27 December 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 27 December 2017


 

Paper 1:

 

Topic: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

 

‘Prasad’ scheme

Context: The parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture has referred to the tourism ministry’s flagship Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (Prasad) scheme as one whose conceptualisation is “radically wrong” and which needs a “complete relook”.

 

What’s the issue?

The standing committee noted that the scheme was not running properly even three years after its launch. It said, “States are not actually buying the idea of tourism department and their plan. The committee visited Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and during deliberations of the committee, it came to know that they have their own tourism policy. But it seems there is no coordination with the central government.” The standing committee was also dissatisfied with the government’s response blaming state government agencies for the delay.

The committee also notes that there is something radically wrong with the conceptualisation of the ‘Prasad’ scheme itself. The committee finds that study of the ‘Prasad’ scheme shows that it has not been properly conceived at all. Even today, without government intervention, there are many other well operated religious circuits in the country.” The standing committee recommended that the ministry undertake a “complete relook” of the scheme.

 

About PRASAD scheme:

PRASAD scheme aims to create spiritual centres for tourism development within the nation. To implement the PRASAD scheme a Mission Directorate has been set up in the Ministry of Tourism.

Twelve cities namely Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Gaya(Bihar), Dwaraka(Gujarat), Amritsar(Punjab), Ajmer(Rajasthan), Kanchipuram(Tamil Nadu), Vellankani(Tamil Nadu), Puri(Odisha), Varanasi(Uttar Prasesh), Mathura(Uttar Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Kamakhya (Assam) have been identified for development under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) by the Ministry of Tourism.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Atal Innovation Mission

Context: NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Government of India’s flagship program to promote innovation and entrepreneurship nationwide in schools, universities and industry, has selected additional 1500 Schools for establishment of Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs).

The addition of these schools will give a major boost to realize the vision of the mission to ‘Cultivate One Million children in India as the Innovators of tomorrow’. With this announcement of the new Atal Tinkering Labs, AIM, has selected 2441 Schools across India to establish ATLs to date since it began its operations over a year ago.

 

What are Atal Tinkering Labs?

ATLs are innovation play workspaces for students between Grade VI to Grade XII, stimulating innovations combining science & technology. These open-ended innovation workspaces equipped with state of the art technologies like 3D printers, Robotics, Sensor Technology Kits, Internet of Things, miniaturized Electronics etc enable the students to learn and solve local community problems using emerging Technologies. Students are encouraged to explore and experience Design Thinking and Innovation, using a do-it-yourself approach, and develop innovative solutions to India’s social, community or economic problems.

 

Background:

NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission is among one of the flagship programs of the Government of India to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country to set up the Atal Tinkering Labs across the country. The Mission has / is in the process of setting up 900+ such labs across India and aims to have 2,000 such labs by end of 2017.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

 

Public Financial Management System (PFMS)

Context: The home ministry has directed all NGOs, business entities and individuals who receive funds from abroad to open accounts in any of the 32 designated banks, including one foreign, within a month for higher level of transparency. It also asked them to ensure that such funds are not utilised for activities detrimental to the national interest.

The directive to the NGOs, companies and individuals to open foreign contribution accounts in banks, which are integrated with the central government’s Public Financial Management System (PFMS), came for providing a higher level of transparency and hassle-free reporting compliance.

 

Background:

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 provides for the regulation of acceptance of the foreign funds or foreign hospitality by certain individuals, associations, organisations and companies “to ensure that such contributions or hospitality is not being utilised for the activities detrimental to the national interest”.

 

About PFMS:

What is it? The PFMS, which functions under the Controller General of Accounts in the Ministry of Finance, provides a financial management platform for all plan schemes, a database of all recipient agencies, integration with core banking solution of banks handling plan funds, integration with state treasuries and efficient and effective tracking of fund flow to the lowest level of implementation for plan scheme of the government.

Significance of PFMS: Introduction of the PFMS resulted in effectiveness and economy in public finance management through better cash management for government transparency in public expenditure and real-time information on resource availability and utilisation across schemes. It also resulted in improved programme administration and management, reduction of float in the system, direct payment to beneficiaries and greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


 

Paper 3:

 

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Finance Ministry to issue recapitalisation bonds to PSBs

Context: The Ministry of Finance is likely to issue the first tranche of recapitalisation bonds to public sector banks (PSB) in early January. The recapitalisation bonds will not be sold in open market and will be issued to all banks. Apart from this, the government will also infuse capital worth Rs 8,000 crore on the basis of performance.

 

Background:

Earlier in October, the government had announced an unprecedented PSU banks recapitalisation programme of Rs 2.11 lakh crore. This was essential to improve the lending capacity of the banks and to increase public spending on infrastructure.

 

Nature of re-cap bond:

The government will issue bonds worth Rs 1.35 lakh crore to PSBs against equity shares. This then becomes a cash-neutral transaction (instead of a direct cash infusion). The government can also float a bank holding company, transfer all its shares in PSBs to this corporate entity, infuse some capital into this entity. This entity then borrows in the market against its equity as a AAA Quasi-Sovereign entity and uses the money to recapitalise the banks.

 

Fiscal implication:

Since upfront it’s a cash neutral transaction, fiscal deficit will be impacted only by the interest cost on the bonds that the government pays every year. The government’s overall debt/GDP ratio though will increase to the extent of the bond issued and so will its repayment obligations. Whenever the banks require liquidity, they can sell these bonds in the market, raise cash and use it for either lending or write-off purposes.

 

Significance of this move:

Ultimately, this recapitalisation will lead to an improvement in the government’s finances as it would also be able to sell its stake in public sector banks at much higher valuations. Even on the demand side, some banks who were not investing their extra cash into debt securities due to capital shortage may now be able to do so instead of placing them with the Reserve Bank of India’s reverse repos.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Context: A commerce ministry-appointed panel has suggested few changes in the existing SEZ rules.

 

Background:

In order to align the SEZ rules 2006 with the GST (Goods and Services Tax) laws as well as for removal of various difficulties faced, the committee was constituted by the ministry to make necessary recommendations.

 

Proposed changes:

  • The Board of Approval (BoA), the highest decision making body for SEZs, should be given additional powers to exempt units and developers from certain rules to promote these zones.
  • The other suggestions include submission of GST registration certificate instead of sales tax registration. It also provides for obtaining national security clearance as per guidelines issued by the home affairs ministry.
  • The committee has also sought the establishment of a SEZ Rules Interpretation Committee to help in ease of operations, as well as suggestions to reduce paper work for developing SEZ units.

 

What is a SEZ?

A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a geographical region that has economic laws more liberal than a country’s typical economic laws. They are established with an aim to purport development , promote rapid economic growth by providing tax and business incentives for attracting  foreign technology along with investment. These are not merely SEZ’s but may be called as “favorite Investment destinations” for foreign establishments. Such units would be future sources of employment, hubs of latest technologies and equipped with the best infrastructure.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: pollution.

 

Centre releases draft action plan to tackle air pollution in Delhi

A high-level task force headed by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister has released a 12-point draft plan to tackle pollution in Delhi NCR. The task force includes senior officials from the environment, agriculture, earth sciences, transport, power and petroleum ministries and principal secretaries of Delhi and NCR states.

 

Proposed measures:

  • Put in place a plan to manage crop stubble and ensure that data on its burning is generated independently and in real time by monitoring the fires.
  • Punitive measures for polluting industries have to be stricter and clearly defined to fix accountability which seems to be very relaxed in the current plan and, finally, the PMO has to intervene at the national level to act on the rising air pollution and health crises.
  • Conduct source-attribution studies for NCR every year. The lack of data has been a problem in implementation of pollution-control measures. The last comprehensive study on air pollution in Delhi NCR was done by IIT-Kanpur in 2015.
  • Nitrogen oxide emissions from thermal power plants should be brought under control. In December 2015, the environment ministry notified stricter standards for thermal power plants. None of the plants met the deadline to comply with the norms this year. These include limits for particulate matter, sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide.
  • Decongestion measures must be implemented in choke points in Delhi, Meerut, Rohtak and Gurugram. Recommendations to improve public transport include adding buses, improving last-mile connectivity, launching a journey planner app integrating Metro, DIMTS and DTC services.
  • An anti-pollution helpline has also been proposed along with an app whereby people can submit photos of violations to get prompt remedial action.
  • The action plan called for strict action against polluting brick kilns, especially in areas such as Bagpat (Uttar Pradesh) and Jhajjar (Haryana), operating without environmental clearance. These kilns are required to migrate to zig-zag technology that reduces particulate matter pollution.
  • The task force also called for promotion of electric vehicles to tackle transport-related pollution. State and municipal bodies have been asked to manage solid waste better and ensure no fire outbreaks at landfills. Agencies involved in large construction projects have been directed to set up facilities to take care of construction and demolition waste and recycle as far as possible.

 

Background:

The task force was formed after a severe spell of pollution in the region in November when air quality remained at hazardous levels for almost two weeks. The centre and the Union environment ministry faced flak for failing to coordinate actions across states that impacted Delhi NCR’s air quality.

The environment secretary is tasked with ensuring implementation of the measures, while the task force will step in occasionally to monitor progress. The direct intervention by the PMO would give the action plan more heft.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: pollution.

 

Blue Flag for Beach Clean-up

 

The environment ministry has launched a pilot project named ‘Blue Flag’ for beach clean-up and development.

 

About the Blue Flag project:

The prime objective of the project is to enhance standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches. Under the project, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme.

 

Sources: toi.


Facts for Prelims:

 

‘Mission Seven Summits’:

What is it? After scaling of Mt Everest in 2005, IAF launched a unique and unprecedented series of mountaineering expedition ‘Mission Seven Summits’ with an aim to fly the tricolour and the IAF flag on the highest peaks in every continent. With this, the IAF has become the first organisation in India to achieve this unique feat.

The highest peak on each continent – Asia Mt. Everest, Australia Mt. Kosciuszko, South America Mt. Aconcagua, Antarctica Mt. Vinson Massif, North America Mt. Denali, Europe Mt. Elbrus and Africa Mt. Kilimanjaro – are part of Misson7Summit.

 

Yaogan 30 project:

Context: China has launched its Long March 2C rocket with a trio of Yaogan-30 satellites into space. Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Yaogan-30 03 trio consists of three identical satellites equipped with two deployable solar arrays.

Yaogan is a series of Earth-observing satellites launched by China since 2006. The satellites are intended for scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment and disaster monitoring.