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Insights Daily Current Events, 23 January 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 23 January 2016

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Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT.

Google’s fast wi-fi speed thrills browsers at Mumbai Central

Mumbai Central railway station has become the first of the country’s 100 railway stations to be equipped with a high-speed wi-fi service, under a project between RailTel, the Indian Railways’ telecom arm, and the US-headquartered software firm Google.

Benefits:

With Railwire Wi-Fi service, the travelers will be able to easily stream high definition video while they are waiting and also access other useful websites. Google says users of its public Wi-Fi service can save videos offline on its YouTube app for viewing during the journey.

Background:

  • Google had announced its plans to bring high-speed Wi-Fi to 400 Indian railway stations during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Google HQ in Mountain View, California.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai, during his visit to India in December, had given a January deadline for the facility at the first station and, extending support to the Digital India initiative, had said that 100 railway stations will be covered by the end of 2016.

Way ahead:

Google plans to extend the service quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations by the end of this year. The project will eventually cover 400 railway stations across India.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Security challenges.

‘India, France can gain by sharing strategies against terrorism’

In its third edition in the series of bilateral exercises under the ‘Shakti‘ banner the Indian and French troops are jointly participating in a counter-terrorism exercise.

  • The main focus of this year’s exercise is on “counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations.”

Aim of this exercise:

The joint training is intended to focus on high degrees of physical fitness, tactical drills, techniques and procedure.

Why we need such exercises?

  • Such exercises are important for the armies to train together and gain from each other’s rich operational experience.
  • There are differences between the French and Indian experience of handling terror, but both sides will benefit by exchanging ideas and strategies for a larger goal.
  • This exercise will culminate in a tactical exercise encompassing clearing of pockets of terrorists in rural and urban environment.
  • Collaboration with France on counter-terror will also help to bring in anti-terror resolutions at the United Nations and on other multilateral platforms in near future. India needs such international collaboration so that financial channels and political supporters of state- sponsored terrorism can be also dealt with.
  • Greater French support for India’s decades-old anti-terror struggle would help India attain both regional as well as global targets in the fight against terrorism.

The joint exercise will undergo a training schedule aimed at combating conditioning, infantry tactical operations in a counter-terrorism environment and planning of joint operations under the United Nations mandate.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighborhood.

Sri Lanka tops South Asia in human development

The Global Human Development Report (HDR) 2015 has placed Sri Lanka at the 73rd position with an HDI value of 0.757.

Sri Lanka’s performance:

In the previous year’s report, it occupied the 74th place. However, Sri Lanka has maintained its high ranking in human development.

  • But it’s performance in terms of average annual human development index (HDI) growth rate during 1990-2014 is lower than many other South Asian countries.
  • Since the end of the civil war in 2009, the country’s rank went up by five.

Performance of other South Asian countries:

  • According to the document, the region of South Asia includes Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives.
  • While Iran is ahead of Sri Lanka, standing at 69th rank, the Maldives is ranked 104th.
  • India (130th rank) and Bhutan fall under the category of medium human development countries Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan come under the group of low human development countries.
  • Pakistan is placed at 147th

Growth rate:

  • As for the growth rate during 1990-2014, South Asia’s figure was 1.38, the highest among all regions.
  • Within the region of South Asia, Afghanistan tops the list with the value of 1.89 for 1990-2014 followed by Bangladesh (1.64), Nepal (1.49) and India (1.48). Sri Lanka’s score was 0.83.

Key facts:

Who releases the report?

The Global Human Development Report (HDR) is released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

How HDI value is determined?

The Human Development Index is based on assessing progress on three dimensions of human development.

  1. First, a long and healthy life measured through life expectancy of the population.
  2. Second, access to knowledge measured by mean years of education among the adult population, and access to learning and knowledge measured by expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age.
  3. And last, standard of living measured by the country’s per-capita gross national income (GNI).

sources: the hindu.


 

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

FIPB clears 13 FDI proposals worth Rs 6,500 cr

The FIPB has cleared 13 FDI proposals worth Rs 6,500 cr. Telecom tower firm Viom Networks’s FDI proposal was among the 13 projects, that the foreign investment promotion board (FIPB) cleared.

About FIPB:

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), housed in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, is an inter-ministerial body, responsible for processing of FDI proposals and making recommendations for Government approval.

Main tasks:

  • It considers and recommends foreign direct investment (FDI) which does not come under the automatic route.
  • It provides a single window clearance for proposals on FDI in India.

FIPB comprises of the following Secretaries to the Government of India:

  • Secretary to Government, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance – Chairperson
  • Secretary to Government, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry
  • Secretary to Government, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry
  • Secretary to Government, Economic Relations, Ministry of External Affairs
  • Secretary to Government, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

On what basis decisions on FDI are taken by the FIPB?

The extant FDI Policy, Press Notes and other related notified guidelines formulated by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry are the bases of the FIPB decisions.

sources: the hindu, fipb.


 

Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure-airways.

Raju questions 5/20 rule

Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has backed the demand for scrapping of 5/20 rule. During the recently concluded civil aviation conference, he told that the current rules for allowing airlines to fly abroad on the basis of five years of experience and 20 aircrafts in their fleet had no scientific meaning. And hence, the rule should be scrapped.

What is 5/20 rule?

According to the ‘5/20 rule,’ all airlines in India need five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircrafts in its fleet in order to fly abroad. The rule has been a subject of heated debate between domestic airline operators. This was proposed in the new draft civil aviation policy.

Present status:

  • While the private airlines which are allowed to fly abroad — IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet — have all opposed the proposal to abolish the rule, new airlines Vistara and AirAsia India are in strong favour of relaxing the norm.
  • However, the Civil Aviation Ministry is still undecided on whether to keep the 5/20 rule, abolish it or replace it with some other regulation in the civil aviation policy which is yet to go to the Union Cabinet.

sources: the hindu.


 

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

Banks to get commission for unlocking household gold

The centre has decided to pay banks a 2.5% commission to unlock the country’s massive stash of gold under a new gold monetisation scheme.

Why such move?

It is due to a poor response from banks and customers to the ambitious Gold Monetization Scheme.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gold Monetisation Scheme in November 2015 to lure an estimated 20,000 tonnes of gold hoarded in households and temples into the banking system and trim the import bill of the world’s second biggest gold consumer after China.
  • But only a few kilograms trickled in over the last two months as banks showed little interest in popularising the scheme because of negligible returns for them.

What next?

Now the government has decided to pay the participating banks a total commission of 2.5%, including 1.5% handling charges, for the first year.

Why banks are not showing interest?

  • Banks say they cannot offer attractive interest rates unless the government compensated them for the loss from higher rates.
  • Support from banks is crucial to the success of the scheme. Similar programmes in the past have failed as they were not profitable for the banks.

Important features of the Gold monetisation scheme:

  • The scheme will replace the prevailing gold deposit scheme that started in 1999.
  • Deposit limit: Under this scheme the minimum deposit at any one time shall be raw gold (bars, coins, jewellery excluding stones and other metals) equivalent to 30 grams of gold of 995 fineness. There is no maximum limit for deposit under the scheme.
  • Time period: The designated banks will accept gold deposits under the short term (1-3 years) Bank Deposit (STBD) as well as medium (5-7 years) and long (12-15 years) term government deposit schemes.
  • All scheduled commercial banks are allowed to implement this scheme and are also free to fix interest rates.
  • Depositors can also make premature withdrawal of their deposits. It will be subject to a minimum lock-in period and penalty to be determined by individual banks.
  • The existing deposits under the gold deposit scheme, 1999, will be allowed to run until maturity.
  • Under the current scheme, Indians are encouraged to deposit jewellery, bars or coins with banks so it can be refined to meet fresh demand and cut the need for imports.

sources: the hindu.

 

 

Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

Kiran Global Chems unveils ‘green’ cement

Kiran Global Chems Ltd. has introduced its indigenously-developed eco-friendly Geocement.

What is it made up of?

Geocement is made out of industrial wastes. It comes in two-part packing – 35 kg Geocement powder and 15 kg Geobinder liquid. Both can be mixed at construction sites like normal cement. It comprises a range of products including geo-binder, geo-powder and geo-concrete (geocrete), is aimed at cutting down carbon emissions by over 80%.

Benefits of using this cement:

  • According to the company, this cement will play a role in cutting carbon emission levels while being stronger than Portland cement.
  • For every tonne of cement production, there will be about 800 kg of CO2 emission. But Geocement will help cut emissions.
  • The anti-bacterial properties of the cement can be used for construction of underground seweage pipes and toilets as well.

Though some countries have been engaged in development and piloting of green cement, this company is the first one to come out with green cement for commercial use. However, price of Geocement will be slightly higher than normal cement.

Various terminologies:

Geocrete: It is a Geocement concrete made with its powder and binder for various industrial applications. Geocrete would be suitable for high temperature applications and would be fire resistant upto 700oC.

Geopowder: It is a mineral compound – blended with bye-product materials like fly ash, rice husk ash, slag, activated clay, alumina in the geopolymer formation.

Geobinder: It is a specially formulated alkaline activator that acts as binder to the powder.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

India to buy more crude oil from Nigeria

India is planning to import more crude oil from Nigeria.

Why?

India is keen to diversify its oil import basket as Saudi Arabia’s national oil and gas company recently announced that it would be selling oil to its Asian customers, including India, at a premium of $0.6 a barrel above the prevailing market price in February.

Key facts:

  • Nigeria has now agreed to increase the term contract from 1.7 million tonnes per annum to three million tonnes in 2016. The benefit of a term contract is that not only does it assure a certain quantity to be supplied but also ensures a stable price unlike oil bought from spot markets whose price can fluctuate drastically.
  • Nigeria is the third-largest contributor to India’s oil imports, accounting for 11.59 million tonnes (MT) in the first half of this financial year, behind Saudi Arabia (19.56 MT) and Iraq (17.01 MT).
  • Apart from Nigeria, Sudan also wants to increase its engagement with India.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

SC agrees to take up Justice Lodha panel reforms on BCCI soon

The Supreme Court has said that it will soon consider the report of the Justice R.M. Lodha committee.

  • The bench has agreed to hear the plea made by Cricket Association of Bihar for urgent hearing on the recommendations of the Justice Lodha panel submitted to the apex court in a report on January 4, 2016.

Background:

The committee was set up by the Supreme Court to recommend reforms in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The three-member panel was headed by Justice (Retd) RM Lodha.

Important recommendations made by the committee:

Constitute one cricket body for each state: One association of each state will be a full member and have right to vote. One unit should represent one state.

CEO-run organisation: Committee suggested the restructuring of the BCCI’s administrative set-up, proposing the position of a CEO accountable to a nine-member apex council. An apex council for the BCCI comprising 9 members, of which 5 should be elected, 2 should be representatives of players association, and one woman. CEO to be assisted by 6 professional managers and the team of CEO and managers will be accountable to the apex council.

Under RTI: To ensure transparency in its functioning, the panel had said that it is important to bring the body under the purview of the Right to Information Act.

Ethics officer: The committee recommended the institution of the office of an Ethics Officer, who would be responsible for resolving issues related to the conflict of interest. Ethics officer would be a former High Court judge.

Electoral officer: The committee had also suggested the appointment of an Electoral Officer to conduct the Board elections. The electoral officer would oversee the entire election process relating to the office-bearers namely, preparation of voters list, publication, dispute about eligibility of the office-bearers

Ombudsman: It had also proposed an Ombudsman for dealing with internal conflicts. Ombudsman can take cognisance of complaints suo moto, or received complaint or referred complaint by the apex council.

It also suggested that a person cannot be a BCCI office-bearer and a state association office-bearer at the same time.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Disaster and disaster management.

India Signs Financing Agreement with World Bank for US$ 250 Million for Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project

The Financing Agreement for World Bank (IDA) assistance of US$ 250 million for Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project was recently signed between Government of India and the World Bank. 

  • Along with this, a Subsidiary Agreement was also entered into between Government of India and Project Implementing Entity i.e. Government of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The loan is for an implementation period of 5 years. Government of Jammu & Kashmir is the implementing agency.

About the Project:

The project will focus on restoring critical infrastructure using international best practice on resilient infrastructure.

Objective: The objective of the project is to support the recovery and increase disaster resilience in Project Areas and increase the capacity of the Project Implementing Entity to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible crisis or emergency.

Benefits of this project:

  • By strengthening disaster risk management systems and institutions, the project will benefit the entire affected region.
  • The primary beneficiaries would be the communities in the districts of Jammu & Kashmir that were affected by loss of public service infrastructure that will be restored and improved under the project.

 The project has seven components:

  • Reconstruction and strengthening of critical infrastructure.
  • Reconstruction of roads and bridges.
  • Restoration of urban flood management infrastructure.
  • Restoration and strengthening of livelihoods.
  • Strengthening disaster risk management capacity.
  • Contingency Emergency Response.
  • Implementation Support.

sources: pib.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States.

‘Nai Manzil’ Scheme Launched in Jammu and Kashmir

The centre has launched the ‘Nai Manzil’ scheme for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir. The scheme has been launched for girls in Srinagar in three institutions.

  • Under the scheme girls from minority communities will be imparted three month skill development training in seven identified sectors relevant to the region. These include training in saffron processing, food processing, embroidery, computers IT (both software and hardware), Tourism/hospitality, electronics and plumbing. Trainees will also be given stipend of Rs.4500/-for the course.

About Nai Manzil Scheme:

The Nai Manzil Scheme is designed as an integrated education and training programme that provides youth from minority communities skills needed for different tasks in a rapidly changing world. This scheme will also provide avenues for continuing higher education and also open up employment opportunities in the organised sector.

The scheme aims at providing educational intervention by giving the bridge courses to the trainees and getting them Certificates for Class XII and X from distance medium educational system and at the same time also provide them trade basis skill training in 4 courses :

  • Manufacturing
  • Engineering
  • Services
  • Soft skills

Targeted groups: The scheme is intended to cover people in between 17 to 35 age group from all minority communities as well as Madrasa students.

sources: pib.