Insights Daily Current Affairs, 23 July 2018
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies (Partially related to GS Paper 1 topic: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India and social empowerment).
Commission for denotified, semi-nomadic, nomadic tribes
Context: The NITI Aayog has backed a proposal by a panel constituted by the Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment to set up a permanent commission for Denotified (DNT), Semi-Nomadic (SNT), and Nomadic Tribes (NT).
Proposed by Idate Commission:
Bhiku Ramji Idate Commission on DNT, SNT, and NT communities, in its report, had recommended to set up a permanent commission for the communities on the lines of similar commissions for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.
- Composition: In its report submitted to the social justice ministry in January 2018, the Idate Commission said such a permanent commission should have a prominent community leader as its chairperson, and a senior Union government bureaucrat, an anthropologist, and a sociologist as members.
- Other important recommendations of the panel include granting Constitutional protection to these communities under a separate third schedule after Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, making them eligible for reservation, and extending the protective cover of Prevention of Atrocities Act to them.
Need for special attention:
The DNT, NT, SNT communities have been identified as the most marginalised by several commissions set up since Independence. The community has for long not been enumerated in the Census data. The Renke Commission report of 2008 had arrived at a rough estimate of their population being between 10-12 crore but none of its recommendations were implemented.
NITI Aayog’s views:
- NITI Aayog has offered to set up a working group to come up with policy suggestions on many issues of these marginalised communities.
- It has also proposed lowering tuition fees and relaxing admission conditions for children from the communities, and easy allotment of land and housing for members of the community in which 90% or more are landless.
- The Niti Aayog has also supported the panel’s suggestion to form a dedicated National Finance Development Corporation for DNT, SNT and NTs.
What are denotified tribes?
Denotified tribes are those that were labelled as criminals through a legislation by British government and were denotified post-independence, the Nomadic tribes maintain constant geographical mobility while semi-nomads are those who are on the move but return to fixed habitations once a year, mainly for occupational reasons.
- For Prelims: Idate commission, meaning of denotified tribes.
- For Mains: Proposed commission- need, vulnerability of these communities and other welfare measures needed.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Urja Ganga Gas Pipeline Project
Context: Five public sector oil and natural gas companies have signed the joint venture agreement to implement the Rs 6000 Crore gas pipeline grid project in Northeast.
- The five companies are Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), ONGC, GAIL, Oil India Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL).
- The joint venture company will have equal equity contribution from all the partners for development of the natural gas pipeline project.
- The schedule for commissioning the project will be four years, including one year pre-project activities.
- With the signing of the agreement the joint venture company will develop, build, operate and maintain the natural gas pipeline grid.
Northeast gas pipeline grid project:
- The proposed gas pipeline grid will connect Guwahati to the major Northeast cities and major load centers. The project is being implemented under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Urja Ganga Gas Pipeline Project.
- Besides connecting all the state capitals in the region, the pipeline will also connect with the National Gas Grid through Barauni-Guwahati Gas Pipeline, which is being laid by GAIL.
- From Guwahati, the pipeline will extend to Numaligarh, Dimapur, Kohima and Imphal in one direction; Shillong, Silchar, Aizawl and Agartala in the second direction and to Itanagar in the third direction. Gangtok will be connected from Siliguri from the gas pipeline of GAIL coming from Barauni to Guwahati.
About the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project:
- The gas pipeline project aims to provide piped cooking gas to residents of Varanasi and later to millions of people in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
- From Varanasi’s perspective, an 800-km long MDPI pipeline will be laid and 50,000 households and 20,000 vehicles will get PNG and CNG gas respectively. The government estimates that around 5 lakh gas cylinders will be sent at rural areas annually.
- According to GAIL, with the Urja Ganga project, 20 lakh households will get PNG connections. The project is said to be a major step towards collective growth and development of the Eastern region of India.
- GAIL has built a network of trunk pipelines covering the length of around 11,000 km. With Urja Ganga project, this number will further increase by 2540 km.
- For Prelims: Northeast gas pipeline grid project and Urja Ganga Project- key features.
- For Mains: Significance and the need for such projects for India, especially for NE region India.
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
Public Affairs Index 2018
Context: Public Affairs Index (PAI) 2018 has been released by the think tank Public Affairs Centre (PAC).
What is Public Affairs Index (PAI)?
- The index is released since in 2016 by Bengaluru base Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a not for profit think tank which aims to improve governance in India.
- It is based on 10 themes, 30 focus subjects and 100 indicators, relying solely upon government data.
- It covers wide range of themes such as support to human development, social protection, essential infrastructure, women and children, crime, law and order, delivery of justice, transparency and accountability, environment, fiscal management and economic freedom.
- 2018 PAI also included separate index on children of India, giving measure of how child-friendly each of the states are.
- Kerala tops the list as best-governed state in the country. Kerala has topped PAI as the best-governed state for the third consecutive year.
- Kerala is followed by Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat.
- Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar ranked the lowest, indicating higher social and economic inequalities in the states.
Smaller states (with population less than two crore):
Himachal Pradesh topped the list followed by Goa, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura. Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya were ranked at bottom of the index among small states.
Index on children of India:
In the index on children of India, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram topped the index.
- For Prelims: Features of the index and top performers.
- For Mains: Significance of competition among states for promoting public welfare policies.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
International Solar Alliance (ISA)
Context: Myanmar has joined the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA), thus, becoming the 68th signatory to the Framework Agreement of the ISA that aims for optimum utilisation of solar energy.
The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
What it does? As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
When it entered into force? When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.
The ISA is not only expected to spur innovation in the RE space but also help make India a technological hub with independent manufacturing capabilities of RE equipment like solar panels, rather than being dependent on imports, through initiatives like ‘Make in India’. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is expected to play a role in “marrying Indian tech and finance capabilities with specific projects around the world”.
India announced a goal of obtaining 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 at the Paris climate change summit. It is close to achieving 20 GW grid connected solar power generation capacity this fiscal year (2018), in pursuit of achieving its target of 100 GW by 2022.
- For Prelims: ISA.
- For Mains: Renewable energy and its significance, India’s leadership in the sector.
Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
‘Rent-a-lab’ policy to bring revenues to institutions
Context: The government has proposed a new policy that could transform scientific instruments in government labs into lucrative assets generating a steady rental income. The policy is called the Scientific Research Infrastructure Management and Networks (SRIMAN).
Highlights of the policy:
Under the policy, the government plans to hire out to researchers all lab equipment that cost more than ₹10 lakh. This would also reduce the amount of time such expensive instruments remain idle.
How it works?
The new system, according to the policy, envisages institutions declaring on a website how often their instruments would be available for use by those outside the department or university. Those who would like to use, for example, a DNA-sequencing machine, would have to pay a fee and specify the purpose and time they would want it for.
Rationale behind the policy:
Currently, the practice of researchers bidding for time-slots to use lab instruments is typically seen more with very expensive equipment, such as radio telescopes and particle-accelerators, which cost crores of rupees.
Therefore, it was “common” to find in Indian laboratories, expensive equipment lying idle. A “large number” are not shared and are plagued by issues such as maintenance and availability of spares. This adds to the burden of research infrastructure costs.
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the policy.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
NASA’s ‘Remote Sensing Toolkit’
Context: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched the ‘Remote Sensing Toolkit’ to promote commercial use of satellite data.
‘Remote Sensing Toolkit’- What is it?
It is an online toolkit launched with an aim to make it easier for users to find, analyse and utilise the relevant satellite data for their research, business projects or conservation efforts. The toolkit provides a simple system that quickly identifies relevant sources based on user input.
Through its constellation of Earth observation satellites, NASA collects petabytes of data each year. The variety of open source tools created to access, analyse and utilise the data from these satellites is familiar to millions of science users, but accessing and utilising this data remains daunting for many potential commercial users.
This prompted the US space agency to introduce the Remote Sensing Toolkit. The Toolkit will help grow the number of users who put NASA”s free and open data archive to work for people.
NASA’s Technology Transfer program:
It is managed by the NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program ensures technologies developed for missions in exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public, maximising the benefit to the nation.
For Prelims: The toolkit- features, significance and benefits for stakeholders.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting)
Context: Ministry of Earth Sciences has unveiled state-of-the-art Air Quality and Weather Forecast System– SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting) at Chandni Chowk in Delhi. It is first of its kind and most advanced system in India.
SAFAR was developed indigenously by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and operationalized by India Meteorological Department (IMD).
It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
It is integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi. It will monitor all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.
Pollutants monitored: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, CO, NOx (NO, NO2), SO2, BC, Methane (CH4), Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), VOC’s, Benzene, Mercury.
Monitored Meteorological Parameters: UV Radiation, Rainfall, Temperature, Humidity, Wind speed, Wind direction, solar radiation.
Significance of the system:
- It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
- The World Meteorological Organization has recognised SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.
- The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
Facts for Prelims:
- Air Quality Index is a tool for effective communication of air quality status to people in terms, which are easy to understand. It transforms complex air quality data of various pollutants into a single number (index value), nomenclature and colour.
- There are six AQI categories, namely Good + Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. Each of these categories is decided based on ambient concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts (known as health breakpoints).
- AQ sub-index and health breakpoints are evolved for eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (upto 24-hours) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
- For Prelims: SAFAR, AQI- key facts.
- For Mains: Air pollution- challenges, mitigation and concerns.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Odisha police launch drive to bust Pangolin smuggling racket
Context: A special unit of the Odisha Police has launched a drive to bust an international syndicate that peddles “endangered” pangolin, one of the world’s most illegally traded mammals.
MLAT: A process has been initiated to crack the international pangolin smuggling racket, possibly with the help of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). MLAT is an agreement between nations to exchange information or provide legal assistance for enforcing laws.
Pangolins is smuggled for its scales as it believed that they possess magic or charms and have medicinal properties. The scales serves as base component for indigenous (traditional) psychotropic substances. China is main illicit hub (market) for smuggled scales of Pangolins, where they have huge demand for medicinal and magical purposes.
- Pangolin is only scaly mammal on the planet. According to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is also the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia).
- Of the eight species of pangolin worldwide, two are found in India. They are Chinese pangolin, mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin.
Protection Status: Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered” by UN affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered” in IUCN Red List. It is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
Facts for Prelims:
India-assisted ambulance service launched in Sri Lanka:
Context: PM Modi recently launched India-assisted emergency ambulance service in Sri Lanka through video conferencing from New Delhi.
- The service was earlier introduced in two provinces of Sri Lanka with grant assistance from India and it will now be expanded to the remaining seven provinces.
- In total, India has given a grant of $22.8 million- $7.6 million for the first phase and $15.2 million for the country-wide expansion.
- This is the largest Indian grant project in Sri Lanka after Indian housing project.
- Besides providing ambulances, the grant covers training of manpower in India and meeting operational costs for one year.