Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - January 5, 2018

Geographical Indicator

GI recognition: Famed Nilambur teak -

  • Kerala’s Nilambur teak aka Malabar teak has found its place in the Geographical Indications (GI) Registry.
  • GI tag denotes quality and origin of the products and helps keep unscrupulous commercial operators at bay.
  • The golden brown teak is known for its log dimensions, desired wood figure and wide reputation in the world of trade.
  • Its durability is attributed to the synergistic effect of total extensive components and the resistance to fungal decay to naphthoquinone and derivatives it contains.
  • The hydrophobicity, anti-oxidant properties and oily nature are due to a caoutchouc compound.

Cabinet Decisions

Establishment of new AIIMS
Approved by the Cabinet
Where –
Bilaspur (H.P)

  • The Union Cabinet approved establishment of new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).
  • The new AIIMS will be completed in a period of 48 months

Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana

  • PMSSY was announced in 2003.
  • Its objectives are correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/reliable tertiary healthcare services and augment facilities for quality medical education in the country.
  • It establishes AIIMS in various regions of India apart from different government colleges.
  • It is funded from different centrally sponsored schemes relating to creating infrastructure on health.

Bills

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 Passed by The Lok Sabha

  • Lok Sabha has passed The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to allow government to take up infrastructure projects within prohibited areas around protected monuments.
  • The Bill amends the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.

Enlighten about AMASR Act, 1958

  • The AMASR Act provides for preservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • It provides for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for protection of sculptures, carvings and other like objects. It was passed in 1958.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India functions under the provisions of this act.
  • The Act prohibits construction in ‘prohibited area’, an area of 100 meters around protected monument.
  • It does not permit construction in such prohibited areas even if it is for public purposes, except under certain conditions.
  • The central government can extend the prohibited area beyond 100 meters.

Enlighten about the amended Bill

  • The Bill amends provision related construction in ‘prohibited areas’ in the parent bill to permit construction of public works in ‘prohibited areas’ for public purposes.
  • It introduces definition for ‘public works’, which includes construction of any infrastructure that is financed and carried out by central government for public purposes.
  • The Bill empowers central government to allow public works based on recommendation of National Monuments Authority (NMA) on application forwarded by relevant central government department, that seeks to carry out construction for public purposes in a prohibited area.
  • The Bill empowers NMA to consider an impact assessment of proposed public works in prohibited area, including its archaeological impact, visual impact and heritage impact.
  • NMA will make a recommendation, for construction of public works to the central government, only if it is satisfied that there is no reasonable possibility of moving the construction outside the prohibited area.

Home Affairs

Exemption for cruise tourists with e-visa from biometric enrolment

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on request of the Ministry of Shipping has exempted cruise tourists arriving with e-visa from the requirement of biometric enrolment for a period of three years i.e. till 2020.
  • The purpose of the move is to promote cruise tourism in the country and make India attractive cruise tourist destination.

Enlighten about it

  • This simplified immigration clearance procedure will make immigration clearance of such passengers faster, leaving them with more time to spend on shore.
  • This is also important factor that will help cruise lines decide whether or not to include a destination in their itinerary.
  • This simplified immigration clearance procedure is part of a series of steps to attract and to enhance cruise passenger experience at the major ports.

Ministry of shipping –

  • The Ministry of Shipping has been working towards simplifying immigration clearance procedure and providing passengers with customer friendly and hassle free logistics process when they embark on or disembark from their cruise at Indian ports.
  • E-visa facility is being implemented in five major ports viz. Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai.
  • Till now biometrics of passengers were required at port of first arrival for immigration clearance.
  • However, the immigration procedure was taking more than internationally accepted norm of clearing immigration for all cruise passengers in a maximum of 90 minutes.

Defence

Barak Missiles, PGM Bombs
Final approval for procurement given by defence Ministry

  • The Defence Ministry has given its final approvals for the procurement of 131 Barak missiles for Indian Navy and 240 precision-guided munitions (PGM) for Indian Air Force (IAF) together estimated at Rs.1,714 crore.
  • The proposals were cleared by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. It is a regular procurement through the revenue expenditure.

Precision-guided munitions (PGM)

  • The 240 KAB-1500 PGMs will be procured from Rosoboronexport of Russia at a cost of Rs.1,254 crore. PGM is variant of the KAB PGMs.
  • It has been in service of IAF and has been employed by Su-30 fighter jets.
  • Due to the value of the contract, the approval of Defence Ministry was required,” a defence official said.
  • This procurement will address the deficiency of Precision Guided Munitions in IAF arsenal and also enhance offensive capabilities of the IAF.

Barak surface-to-air missiles (SAM)

  • 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and associated equipment will be bought from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd for Rs.460 crore.
  • They will be installed on all frontline warships of the Indian Navy.
  • These are SAM designed to be used as a ship-borne anti-missile defence system.

Regulatory Bodies

Telecommunication Interconnection Regulations, 2018 By TRAI

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued the Telecommunication Interconnection Regulations, 2018, that are effective from February 1.
  • It lay down the ground rules for telcos to enter into initial interconnect pacts, provision points of interconnection (POIs) needed to complete calls, undertake augmentation of such points and the associated charges.
  • It has termed interconnection the “lifeline of telecommunication services”.

New regulations

  • Phone companies have to ink interconnect pacts on a non- discriminatory basis within 30 days of receiving a request from any licensed carrier.
  • Also, a telco receiving an interconnection request has to offer a draft interconnect pact within five days to the requestor, who, in turn, can submit suggestions/objections in the next five days.
  • Currently, there is no explicit timeline for inking of interconnect agreements.
  • Telcos flouting Trai’s interconnection regulations would “be liable to pay an amount, by way of financial disincentive”, capped at “Rs 1lakh per day per licensed service area.
  • A telco seeking POIs will be liable to furnish a six-month bank guarantee from the date of initial interconnection for the total number of ports sought, if such a demand is made by the telco offering interconnection.
  • However, interconnection levies such as set-up charges and infrastructure charges “may be mutually negotiated” between service providers as long as they are “reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory”.
  • But Trai has mandated a detailed process for disconnection of POIs, directing a telco to initially issue a show cause notice of 15 working days citing reasons for the same.

National Knowledge Network (NKN)

  • India has kicked off the process of appointing a telecom company that will connect and extend its state-of-the art National Knowledge Network (NKN) to research and education networks in six South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation member states — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka excluding Pakistan

Enlighten about NKN

  • NKN is a multi-gigabit pan-India network which facilitates the development of India’s communications infrastructure, stimulates research and creates next generation applications and services.
  • With its multi-gigabit capability, NKN aims to connect all universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions across the country to address such paradigm shift.
  • It enables collaboration among researchers from different educational networks such as TEIN4, GARUDA, CERN and Internet2.
  • It also enables sharing of scientific databases and remote access to advanced research facilities.
  • The leading mission oriented agencies in the fields of nuclear, space and defence research are also part of NKN.

International connectivity

  • India has now decided to extend the NKN to the global research and education networks in Saarc nations.
  • NKN will be connected from Afghanistan to Delhi or Mumbai, from Bangladesh to Kolkata or Delhi, from Bhutan to Kolkata or Delhi, from Nepal to Kolkata or Delhi, from Maldives to Chennai or Mumbai and from Sri Lanka to Chennai or Mumbai.
  • A state-of-the-art management centre and Network Operations Centre will also be set up to run the NKN network.
  • The connection from Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka to India would be through a submarine cable for international connectivity.

Agriculture

Speed breeding technique To boost wheat production

  • Australian scientists have developed the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ technique that can boost the production of the crop by up to three times.
  • DS Faraday: The scientists have used the technique to develop the new ‘DS Faraday’ wheat variety due for release to industry this year.
  • DS Faraday is a high protein, milling wheat with tolerance to pre-harvest sprouting.
  • By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses scientists could grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year – as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field.
  • The quality and yield of the plants grown under controlled climate and extended daylight conditions was as good, or sometimes better than those grown in regular glasshouses.

Enlighten About the speed breeding technique

  • This technique uses fully controlled growth environments and can also be scaled up to work in a standard glass house.
  • It uses LED lights optimised to aid photosynthesis in intensive regimes of up to 22 hours per day.
  • LED lights significantly reduce the cost compared to sodium vapour lamps which have long been in widespread use but are ineffective because they generate much heat and emit poor quality light.

Space

China to Launch a Lunar Probe on far side of moon Chang’e 4 project

  • China announced its plans to launch a lunar probe in 2018 to achieve the world’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon to showcase its ambitious space programme.
  • The mission is called Chang’e 4 project.

Enlighten About the mission

  • Chang’e 4 is the fourth mission in the country’s lunar mission series which is being named after the Chinese moon goddess.
  • A Long March 4C rocket will start its course to 60,000 kilometers behind the moon carrying a 425-kilogram relay satellite.
  • This relay satellite will act as an initial communication link between earth and the lunar far side.
  • Once China’s space agency succeeds in establishing the link, China will trigger the second part of the mission i.e. sending a lander and rover to the unexplored region of the moon.

Significance of the mission

  • According to experts, landing on the far side of the moon is undoubtedly one of the most challenging missions ever launched by any of the world’s superpowers.
  • The far side of the moon known as ‘South Pole-Aitken Basin’still remains a mystery among space scientists and by sending a probe there, China will outdo the historical achievements of the US and USSR.
  • Communication difficulties will be the main problem faced by the Chinese team as they try to land on the other side of the moon.
  • China is expected to consider using options like radio telescopes developed by Heino Falcke of Radboud University to communicate in the absence of a transmitting medium.

China’s lunar exploration programmes (so far )

  • China began their lunar exploration program in 2007 by launching a simple lunar orbiter named ‘Chang’e 1’.
  • The second mission in the program named ‘Chang’e 2’ was launched in 2010, and it was later followed by the third mission ‘Chang’e 3’.
  • ‘Chang’e 3’ made headlines all around the world as it marked the first soft moon landing since 1976.

Environmenrt

China starts collecting environment tax

  • China has started collecting an environment tax to better protect the environment and cut pollutant discharge, as the country’s Environmental Protection Tax Law took effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
  • This is China’s first tax clearly designed for environmental protection, which will help establish a “green” financial and taxation system and promote pollution control and treatment of pollutants.
  • Under the Environmental Protection Tax Law, which targets enterprises and public institutions that discharge listed pollutants directly into the environment, companies will pay taxes for producing noise, air and water pollutants as well as solid waste.
  • Individuals do not need to pay the tax as it is applicable only to enterprises, public institutions and other business operators.

Bills

NABARD Bill

  • The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017, was recently passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in August, 2017.

Enlighten about the Bill

  • The Bill seeks to amend the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act, 1981.
  • Under the 1981 Act, NABARD may have a capital of Rs 100 crore.
  • This capital can be further increased to Rs 5,000 crore by the central government in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The Bill allows the central government to increase this capital to Rs 30,000 crore.
  • The capital may be increased to more than Rs 30,000 crore by the central government in consultation with the RBI, if necessary.
  • Under the 1981 Act, the central government and the RBI together must hold at least 51% of the share capital of NABARD.
  • The Bill provides that the central government alone must hold at least 51% of the share capital of NABARD.
  • The Bill transfers the share capital held by the RBI and valued at Rs 20 crore to the central government.
  • The central government will give an equal amount to the RBI.
  • The Bill replaces the terms ‘small-scale industry’ and ‘industry in the tiny and decentralised sector’ with the terms ‘micro enterprise’, ‘small enterprise’ and ‘medium enterprise’ as defined in the MSME Development Act, 2006.
  • Under the 1981 Act, NABARD was responsible for providing credit and other facilities to industries having an investment of upto Rs 20 lakh in machinery and plant.
  • The Bill extends this to apply to enterprises with investment upto Rs 10 crore in the manufacturing sector and Rs five crore in the services sector.
  • Under the 1981 Act, experts from small-scale industries are included in the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council of NABARD.
  • Further, banks providing loans to small-scale, tiny and decentralised sector industries are eligible to receive financial assistance from NABARD. The Bill extends these provisions to the micro, small, and medium enterprises.
  • The Bill substitutes references to provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 under the NABARD Act, 1981, with references to the Companies Act, 2013.
  • These include provisions that deal with: (i) definition of a government company, and (ii) qualifications of auditors.

Enlighten about NABARD

  • It is an apex development and specialized bank established on 12 July 1982 by an act by the parliament of India.
  • Its main focus is to uplift rural India by increasing the credit flow for elevation of agriculture & rural non farm sector.
  • It was established based on the recommendations of the Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the chairmanship of Shri B. shivaraman.
  • It replaced the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).
  • It has been accredited with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.