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Insights Daily Current Events, 07 December 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 07 December 2015


Paper 3 Topic: Space.

PSLV bags two more US launch orders

PlanetiQ, one of several companies in the US developing constellations of small satellites to collect weather data, has announced that it will launch its first two satellites in late 2016 on PSLV.

  • The company has said that the first two of a planned constellation of twelve satellites will fly as secondary payloads on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) scheduled to launch in November 2016. The satellites will be placed into orbit at an altitude of 800 kilometers.
  • Until about a year ago, U.S. satellite operators could not conceive of launching from India because of a longstanding U.S. policy bar. In recent years, established U.S. launch companies have moved on to lifting far heavier satellites, leaving a demand for launchers that can put smaller satellites in space.
  • In September, US operator Spire Global became the PSLV’s first US customer by getting four 4-kg-each Lemur satellites from Sriharikota.

About PSLV:

  • It is the first operational launch vehicle of ISRO. PSLV is capable of launching 1600 kg satellites in 620 km sun-synchronous polar orbit and 1050 kg satellite in geo-synchronous transfer orbit.
  • PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage is one of the largest solid propellant boosters in the world and carries 139 tonnes of propellant.
  • ISRO has envisaged a number of variants of PSLV to cater to different mission requirements. There are currently three operational versions of the PSLV — the standard (PSLV), the core-alone (PSLV-CA) without the six strap-on booster motors, and the (PSLV-XL) version, which carries more solid fuel in its strap-on motors than the standard version.
  • So far, PSLV has launched 87 satellites.

sources: the hindu, wiki.


Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

India may ratify WTO trade facilitation pact

India is likely to ratify the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), aimed at easing customs rules to expedite trade flows, during the Nairobi meeting of the global trade body from December 15 to 18.

  • However, a matter of concern is that India might not take advantage of the entire range of flexibilities in the TFA available for similar developing countries to determine which commitment they will implement at what time.
  • Not using all the available safeguards could lead to greater chances of India finding it difficult to implement all its TFA-related commitments on time, thereby giving opportunities to other countries to drag it India to the WTO’s dispute settlement panel.
  • The flexibilities available in the TFA for developing countries include the one allowing them to take sufficient time in implementing certain commitments and the provision to seek assistance or support from donor countries for capacity building.
  • In November last year, WTO member countries had adopted a “protocol of amendment” to make the TFA a part of the overall WTO Agreement. However, the TFA will become operational only after two-thirds of the members ratify it. So far, only 53 of the 162 member countries have done so.

India is planning to ratify the TFA as part of the government’s initiatives to attract more investment by improving India’s ranking in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” report.

Trade facilitation:

  • The Trade Facilitation Agreement forms part of the Bali Package agreed by members at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali.
  • The agreement contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures through effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It also contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
  • It is being believed, especially by the proponents of the agreement that deal could add $1 trillion to global GDP and also can generate 21 million jobs by slashing red tape and streamlining customs.

sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Singapore pips Mauritius as India’s top FDI source

Singapore has replaced Mauritius as the top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India during the first half of the current financial year.

  • According to the recently released data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), during April-September 2015, India has attracted $6.69 billion (Rs 43,096 crore) FDI from Singapore while from Mauritius, it received $3.66 billion (Rs 23,490 crore). Foreign investment from Singapore was $2.41 billion in the year-ago period.
  • Singapore accounts for 15% of the total FDI India received between April 2000 and September 2015. However, Mauritius makes up 34% of FDI during the same period.
  • Sectors that attracted the highest foreign investment during April-September 2015 include computer software and hardware ($3.05 billion), trading ($2.30 billion), services and automobile ($1.46 billion each) and telecommunications ($659 million).
  • Foreign investment is crucial for India, which needs about $1 trillion by March 2017 to overhaul infrastructure such as ports, airports and highways, and to boost growth.

According to experts, the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Singapore which incorporates Limit-of-Benefit (LoB) clause, has provided comfort to foreign investors based there to invest in India.

LoB clause:

LoB clauses are typically aimed at preventing ‘treaty shopping’ or inappropriate use of tax pacts by third-country investors. The LOB clause limits treaty benefits to those who meet certain conditions including those related to business, residency and investment commitments of the entity seeking benefit of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA).

sources: bs.


Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

India’s forest cover goes up, shows report

Recently released biennial report of Forest Survey of India showcases how India has added 3,775 sq km to its green cover since 2013. It also reported an increase of 2,402 sq km in the very dense forest category that had remained static since 2007.


  • The 2015 report shows that while 2,511 sq km of prime forests have disappeared altogether, 1,135 sq km of non-forest areas have become either very dense or mid-dense forests during that time.
  • Even accounting for the non-forest areas now recorded as dense and mid-dense forests, the net loss of forests in these prime categories works out to be 1,376 sq km — more than twice the area of Mumbai — in two years.
  • The states of J&K, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Manipur, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands took major hits in the loss.
  • The overall gain of 2,402 sq km of very dense forests since 2013 is largely due to positive results from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • Andman and Nicobar islands have gained a remarkable 1,932 sq km of very dense forests, putting 5,686 sq km — or 84% — of its entire forest cover of 6,751 sq km under the top category. Uttar Pradesh added 572 sq km of very dense forest — a jump of 35% since 2013. Tamil Nadu reported a net gain of 100 sq km of very dense forest.
  • Madhya Pradesh remains the state with largest forest cover, 77,462 sq km. Followed by Arunachal Pradesh with 67,248 sq km and Chhattisgarh having 55,586 sq km.
  • Mizoram has the highest forest cover (88.9%), followed by Lakshadweep with 84.6%. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur have more than 75% of area under forest.

While an area of at least 1 hectare (0.01 sq km) with a canopy density of 10% is considered forest, prime forests are classified as very dense and mid-dense with canopy densities of at least 70% and 40% respectively.

sources: bs.


Paper 3 Topic: disaster management.

Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs. 50,000 for those who were seriously injured in the recent Tamil Nadu floods.


In pursuance of an appeal by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in January, 1948, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.

  • The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
  • Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment, etc.

Some facts:

  • The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.
  • The corpus of the fund is invested with banks in fixed deposits.
  • Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.
  • PMNRF has not been constituted by the Parliament.
  • The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes.
  • PMNRF is exempt under Income Tax Act.
  • Prime Minister is the Chairman of PMNRF and is assisted by Officers/ Staff on honorary basis.
  • These contributions also qualify as CSR (corporate social responsibility) spend for companies, making it more attractive in terms of tax exemptions.

Type of contributions accepted in PMNRF:

  • PMNRF accepts only voluntary donations by individuals and institutions.
  • Contributions flowing out of budgetary sources of Government or from the balance sheets of the public sector undertakings are not accepted.

At the time of natural calamity of devastating scale, Prime Minister, makes an appeal for donation to the fund.

sources: the hindu, pib.