Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - December 4, 2017

Agreements

Reliance power signs Agreement for Gas-based power plant in Bangladesh

  • Reliance Power has signed agreements to set up the first phase of the integrated 750 MW gas-based power plant at Meghnaghat near Dhaka
  • And 500 mmscfd LNG Terminal at Kutudbia Island in Bangladesh for $1 billion
  • Largest Investment: This represents the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh and the largest investment in Bangladesh’s energy sector

International Relations

Maldives signed FTA with China

Maldives-China FTA

  • In a sudden move that has sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi, Maldives rammed through its Free Trade Agreement with China in the Maldivian parliament last night in a session attended by only 30 out of 85 members.
  • The haste with which the government, led by President Abdulla Yameen, decided to pass the pact the session took barely half an hour is being perceived here as Male trying to cosy up to China.
  • This is Maldives’s first FTA with any country, and China’s second FTA with any country in South Asia after Pakistan.
  • There are concerns that it could lead to increased Chinese military presence in the island nation.

Enlighten about it -

  • This comes in the backdrop of Yameen planning to visit Beijing in December.
  • This will be a reciprocal visit after the first-ever visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Maldives in September 2014.
  • Maldives is the only country in the neighbourhood which has not been visited by Prime Minister in the last three-and-half years after he cancelled a proposed trip in March 2015 due to the turbulent political situation.
  • Maldives and India do not have a Free Trade Agreement.

Views of Maldives Government

  • According to the Maldives Presidential office’s statement, the FTA will enable exemption of duties on fisheries products exported to the world’s largest consumer market.
  • Maldives transitioned from Least Developed Country (LDC) to Middle-Income Country status on 1st January 2011.
  • However, this growth was accompanied with huge duties levied on fish products exported to the international market,” the statement said.
  • Also, Maldivian government has extended invitations to establish free trade agreements with countries including Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and countries of the European Union.
  • However, it doesn’t name India.

Views of Maldivian Opposition

  • Criticizing the FTA with China, Opposition leader emphasized that such an agreement will be detrimental to our economy as balance of trade is greatly in favor of China.
  • Also, the FTA cannot be implemented until the legislation is passed.
  • The Opposition demanded that the implementation of the FTA with China should be suspended till a proper feasibility study is conducted.

Space

Chinese satellite detects mysterious signals

  • A Chinese satellite which was sent to the skies to look for evidence of the annihilation or decay of dark matter particles in space has detected unexpected and mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of the invisible matter.

Dampe

  • The satellite, Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), also called Wukong or “Monkey King”, has measured more than 3.5 billion cosmic ray particles with the highest energy up to 100 tera-electron-volts (TeV).
  • DAMPE has opened a new window for observing the high-energy universe, unveiling new physical phenomena beyond our current understanding.

How will DAMPE help in Space studies?

  • Precise measurement of cosmic rays, especially at the very high energy range, is important for scientists to look for traces of dark matter annihilation or decay.
  • It will help in understanding the universe’s most energetic astrophysical phenomena, such as pulsars, active galaxy nuclei and supernova explosions.
  • The data may inspire some new ideas in particle physics and astrophysics.
  • Based on the satellite’s data, scientists drew the cosmic ray electron and positron spectrum.
  • All the 61 elementary particles predicted by the standard model of particle physics have been found.

Dark Matter

  • Dark matter, which cannot be seen or touched, passes right through us as if we do not exist.
  • The ghost-like material is one of the great mysteries of science.
  • Scientists calculate that normal matter such as galaxies, stars, trees, rocks and atoms accounts for only about five per cent of the universe.
  • However, about 26.8 per cent of the universe is dark matter and 68.3 per cent dark energy.

Other Probes

  • Some other probes dedicated to exploring the evidence of annihilation or decay of dark matter particles in space are NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a particle physics detector operating on the International Space Station.

NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope

  • The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly called the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit.
  • It helps in studying astrophysical and cosmological phenomena such as active galactic nuclei, pulsars, other high-energy sources and dark matter.
  • It was launched in 2008 and is a joint venture of NASA, the United States Department of Energy, and government agencies in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.

Guidelines

Guidelines by the supreme court to curb road accidents

Guidelines

  • Addition of a chapter on road safety in school curriculum
  • Audits of two most accident-prone stretches of highways/expressways in each state as a pilot programme.

Suggestions by SC appointed committee on Road Safety

  • Frame a road safety policy
  • Constitute state road safety councils
  • Establish a lead agency to act as the secretariat of the road safety council
  • Coordinate all activities such as licensing issues, acquisition of road safety equipment such as cameras and speed governors.
  • Strengthen norms for crash testing of light vehicles.

Government’s Response

  • Already acted on most of the guidelines.
  • Would take some time to build capacity in the field of road safety audit.
  • Requested the court to permit states to set their own targets for completing the road safety audits.

Nuclear Energy

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant

  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently inaugurated construction work on the much-awaited Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Ishwardi, located in the western part of the country.
  • The plant is expected to add 2,400 MW of electricity to the national grid by 2024, helping the country meet its increasing demand for electricity.
  • Implementation of the project: The mega project is being implemented by state-run Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission with financial and technological support from Russia through its state nuclear agency, Rosatom.

NITI Aayog

Strategy on Resource Efficiency

  • NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India have released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency.
  • The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.
  • This strategy is the first policy document to emphasize resource productivity in the country.
  • The Strategy emphasizes on Sustainable Public Procurement (SSP) as an action agenda which will be the market transformation tool to transform to a resource efficient economy.
  • The document is developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Indian Resource Panel (InRP) in April 2017.

Enlighten about the InRP

  • The new Indian Resource Panel (InRP) was officially unveiled in 2016, making India one of the first emerging economies to set up a national advisory body on resource efficiency.
  • The InRP was created with support from the International Climate Initiative as part of the project ‘Resource efficiency and secondary raw materials management as a contribution to climate change mitigation’.
  • The InRP will issue recommendations to Indian businesses and policy-makers on improving the general conditions for resource efficiency.

Tourism Sector

6th International Tourism Mart

  • The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the North Eastern States is organising the “International Tourism Mart” (ITM) in Guwahati, Assam.
  • The 6th International Tourism Mart, will put the spotlight on India’s “Act East Policy”, blossoming ties with ASEAN and the larger East Asia region, home to the world’s rapidly growing economies and India’s emerging tourism markets.

Enlighten about International Tourism Marts

  • The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis.
  • The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
  • This is the 6th International Tourism Mart and an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
  • It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.

Some more facts –

  • The North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products.
  • The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, its festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination waiting to be explored.

Government Reforms

Controller General of Accounts

  • The Controller General of Accounts, Department of Expenditure has launched the upgraded version of Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) primarily to cater to the needs of central civil pensioners and other stakeholders in the Ministries/Departments and Banks.
  • The website has been developed in-house by the NIC Wing of CPAO.
  • The website provides a single window for both accessing pension related information and facilitating grievance Redressal of pensioners.
  • The Controller General of Accounts is the apex Accounting Authority of the Central Government and exercises the powers of the President under Article 150 of the constitution for prescribing the forms of Accounts of the Union and State Governments on the advice of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
  • It is the Principal Accounting Adviser to Government of India and is responsible for establishing and maintaining a technically sound Management Accounting System.
  • The Office of CGA prepares monthly and annual analysis of expenditure, revenues, borrowings and various fiscal indicators for the Union Government.
  • Under Article 150 of the Constitution, the Annual Appropriation Accounts (Civil) and Union Finance Accounts are submitted to Parliament on the advice of Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Cyclone Ockhi

  • The deep depression which had formed in the Bay of Bengal near Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, bordering Kerala, has now intensified into a cyclonic storm named Ockhi.
  • The name Ockhi was given by Bangladesh which in Bengali means ‘eye’.

How are cyclones named?

  • The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) started the tropical cyclone naming system in 2000.
  • Tropical cyclones are named to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings.
  • The Cyclones worldwide are named by 9 regions — North Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, Central North Pacific, Western North Pacific, North Indian Ocean, South West Indian Ocean, Australian, Southern Pacific, South Atlantic.
  • Cyclones in the North Indian Ocean basin are named by the Indian Meteorological Department and the first tropical cyclone was named in 2004 as Onil (given by Bangladesh).
  • Eight north Indian Ocean countries — Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, gave eight names each which was combined into a list of 64 names.
  • One name from each country is picked in an order to name the cyclones.
  • The previous storm Mora that caused severe flooding across Northeast India in May was named by Thailand. Mora is the name of one of the healing stones and also means star of the sea.
  • The next cyclone will be named Sagar — a name given by India.

Bilateral Agreements

India- Spain signed Techno- commercial agreement for three RRTS corridors

  • India and Spain have signed Techno-commercial agreement to provide institutional mechanism for mutual cooperation in field of urban transport and for construction of the three Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS).
  • Three RRTS corridors Delhi-Meerut Smart Line, Delhi – Panipat Smart Line and Delhi – Alwar Smart Line have been prioritised for implementation in the first phase.

RRTS

  • RRTS is first of its kind project in India, with design speed of 180 kmph.
  • It will use state-of-the-art technologies for track structure, rolling stock and signalling system.
  • The three RRTS corridors will significantly reduce travel time between important NCR towns.
  • On completion, RRTS will emerge as fastest, comfortable and safe mode of transport in NCR.
  • Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor will be first corridor to be implemented for which pre-construction activities including geo-technical investigations, detailed design, utility shifting planning and traffic diversion planning are in progress.

Techno-commercial agreement

  • The agreement will enable availability of technical advice on specific issues, besides providing training and collaboration in technical areas of track, signalling, rolling stock, multi-modal integration, safety, station design etc.
  • It will also provide institutional mechanism for mutual cooperation in field of urban transport and especially in implementation of RRTS project.
  • National Capital Region Transport Corporation, a joint venture between Union Government and state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi is mandated to design, construct, operate and maintain rail based RRTS in National Capital Region (NCR).

Defence

52ND Raising Day of BSF observed

  • The Border Security Force (BSF), the biggest border guarding force in the world celebrated its 52nd Anniversary of Raising Day.
  • Various cultural programmes were organised for BSF veterans and personnel during the Raising Day celebrations.

Border Security Force (BSF)

  • BSF is the sentinels of Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It came into existence on 1st December, 1965.
  • It was created by merging various State Armed Police Battalions for achieving better coordinated synergy between border guarding functions in peace time and fighting war during eventuality on both Western and Eastern fronts.
  • BSF is deployed on Indo-Pakistan International Border, Indo-Bangladesh International Border, Line of Control (LoC) along with Indian Army and in Anti-Naxal Operations.
  • Since its inception, BSF has proven its credentials during various counter insurgency and anti-militancy operations, internal security duties, natural calamities etc.

AJEYA WARRIOR- 2017 INDO -UK combined military exercise held in Rajasthan

  • The Combined Military exercise ‘Ajeya Warrior- 2017’ between India and the UK was held at Mahajan Field Firing Range near Bikaner of Rajasthan.
  • It was third joint military exercise between India and UK.
  • The first exercise was conducted in 2013 at Belgaum, Karnataka and second exercise was held in 2015 in UK.

Enlighten about the Exercise

  • The objective of this exercise is to increase mutual cooperation and coordination between two countries.
  • Both armies will learn and share from each other’s experiences. About 120 Army personnel from both armies participated in exercise.
  • 20 Rajputana Rifles unit of Indian Army and first battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment of UK Army had participated in the exercise.
  • 20 Rajputana Rifles has special experience in field of counter terrorism in Operation Pawan and operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • First Battalion of Royal Anglian Regiment has experience of showing war skills in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • The 14-day exercise was conducted in multiple modes nodules in order to achieve complete integration between two contingents at every stage.
  • The exercise provided field commanders and troops and opportunity to interact with each other in matters professional, social and cultural.

Festivals

KATHAKAR -International storyteller Festival held in New Delhi

  • 7th edition Kathakar
  • International Storytellers Festival was held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi.
  • It was inaugurated by Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju.
  • The partners for this edition of three day festival are IGNCA of Union Ministry of Culture in Delhi, Heritage Transport Museum, Gurugram and National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai

Enlighten about Kathakar

  • Kathakar is special initiative, to promote the oral storytelling tradition which has existed across the world.
  • It is only oral storytelling festival in India.
  • It is part of bigger initiative Ghummakkad Narain- the Travelling Literature Festival which was started under aegis of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010.
  • It aims to preserve art form and also create new audiences for same.

Cabinet Decisions

National Nutrition Mission

  • The Union Cabinet approves setting up of National Nutrition Mission (NNM) with three year budget of 9046.17 crore rupees commencing from 2017-18.
  • The NNM, as an apex body under Ministry of Women and Child Development will monitor, supervise, fix targets and guide nutrition related interventions across the Ministries.
  • It will monitor various schemes contributing towards addressing malnutrition.

Whats the need

  • There are number of schemes directly and indirectly affecting nutritional status of children (0-6 years age) and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Inspite of these, level of malnutrition and related problems in country is high.
  • There are number of schemes but there is lack in creating synergy and linking between schemes to achieve common goal. NNM through robust convergence mechanism and other components will strive to create synergy.

Function of NNM

  • Introducing a very robust convergence mechanism including ICT based Real Time Monitoring system.
  • It will incentivize states/UTs for meeting the targets. It will also incentivize Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) for using IT based tools. It will eliminate registers used by AWWs.
  • It will introduce measurement of height of children at the Anganwadi Centres (AWCs).
  • It will aid to conduct Social Audits. It will set-up Nutrition Resource Centres, involving masses through Jan Andolan for their participation on nutrition through various activities, among others.

Implementation strategy and targets

  • It will be rolled out in three phases from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  • It will set targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anemia among young children, women and adolescent girls and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • Its implementation strategy will be based on intense monitoring and Convergence Action Plan right upto grass root level.
  • Though NMM has set target to reduce stunting is atleast 2% per annum, but it will strive to achieve reduction in stunting to 25% by 2022 (Mission 25 by 2022) from 38.4% (NFHS-4).

Major impact

  • NMM through set targets will strive to reduce level of anemi, stunting, under-nutrition and low birth weight babies.
  • It will also create synergy, issue alerts for timely action, ensure better monitoring, and encourage States/UTs to perform, supervise Ministries and States/UTs to achieve targeted goals.

Coverage and Beneficiaries

  • All States and districts will be covered in phased manner i.e. 315 districts in 2017-18, 235 districts in 2018-19 and remaining districts in 2019-20. More than 10 crore people will be benefitted by this programme.

Financial Outlay

  • NNM has been set with total amount of Rs. 9046.17 crore that will be expended for three years commencing from 2017-18.
  • It will be funded by Government Budgetary Support (50%) and 50% by International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD aka World Bank) or other MDB.
  • Government budgetary support would be 60:40 between Centre and States/UTs, 90:10 for Northeast region and Himalayan States and 100% for UTs without legislature.
  • Total Union Government share over period of three years would be Rs. 2849.54 crore.