Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - June 20, 2018

Bilateral Relations

2+2 dialogue India-U.S. meet

What

  • The first-ever meeting of the Ministers for External Affairs and Defence with their U.S. counterparts next month.
  • The July meeting in Washington DC between Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman and their U.S. counterparts, called the two-plus-two discussions, is expected to further cement the India-U.S. engagements.

Key focus - COMCASA

  • The key focus areas of the meeting will be finding a breakthrough in concluding the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), one of the four foundational agreements that helps the U.S. to intensify its defence cooperation with a partner nation.

Importance given to India by the USA

  • Indications emerging from the U.S. side is that they are keen to stress the importance given to India in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was recently renamed Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), symbolic of the significance U.S. attaches to India in the region.

Enlighten about agreements (to be discuss in the upcoming meeting)

  • Apart from the foundational agreements, the U.S. is also keen on a broad based intelligence-sharing agreement with India as the two countries have vastly expanded their counter-terror cooperation.
  • In this context, the fourth foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), will be significant.
  • COMCASA and BECA are the two foundational agreements that India is yet to sign.
  • It has already signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
  • The most significant of them is LEMOA, which gives both nations access to each other’s military facilities.
  • The U.S. has been engaging India since 2002 on the foundational agreements, but successive governments have been wary of giving in to the U.S. demands.

Enlighten about the foundation agreements

  • The COMCASA will facilitate transfer of encrypted communications systems.
  • The agreements are a key requirement by Washington for sharing h-tech military hardware, especially armed drones which the U.S. is willing to supply to India.
  • Sale of armed drones is high on the agenda of the 2+2 dialogue.

Defence Technology and Trade Initiative

  • As part of improving high tech cooperation, India and the U.S. announced the ambitious Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and India was designated a major defence partner. But it has not made any progress.

Banking

Marginal Cost of funding based Lending Rate (MCLR)

What’s the NEWS

  • Millions of customers are paying a higher interest rates on home and auto loans, among others, in effect ensuring that public sector banks avoid further losses.
  • This is because the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is yet to mandate banks to allow customers who signed up for loans in the erstwhile ‘Base Rate’ regime and who are paying higher rates, to shift to the current ‘MCLR’ structure, which is lower than the base rate.

Why banks are reluctant to move to MCLR structure

  • If banks shift their customers to MCLR that could impact their interest income further
  • Base rate is the erstwhile loan pricing mechanism which was replaced by MCLR — the Marginal Cost of funding based Lending Rate — from April 1, 2016.
  • The one-year MCLR of banks, to which a bulk of the loan rates are linked, is lower than the base rate.
  • For example, SBI’s base rate is 8.7% while its one-year MCLR is 8.25% — a difference of 45 basis points.
  • A large proportion’ of loans is still linked to the base rate.
  • Base rate would be linked to MCLR from April 1 2018 since MCLR is more sensitive to policy rate signals, it has been decided to harmonise the methodology of determining benchmark rates by linking the base rate to the MCLR with effect from April 1, 2018 but still it has not been shifted by the banks

FOCUS

National Electricity Distribution Company(proposed by the government) A pan-India power distribution company

What

  • The proposed National Electricity Distribution Company can procure electricity at competitive rates and help address the issue of stressed assets in power sector

Why this move

  • The Centre has set a December 2018 deadline to provide electricity connections to more than 40 million rural and urban households under the Saubhagya scheme
  • Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya scheme, which was launched last year, is expected to boost electricity demand in the country.
  • Distribution companies have so far been the weakest link in the electricity value chain.
  • Poor payment records of state-owned electricity distribution companies (discoms) have not only adversely affected power generation companies, but has contributed in causing stress in the banking sector as well.
  • Rising non-performing assets (NPAs) in the power sector has been a major concern.
  • The problem only multiplies with the states refusing to ink new power purchase agreements (PPAs), as they are not willing to buy more electricity.

Role of National electricity distribution company (NEDC)

  • A national electricity distribution company can procure electricity at competitive rates and help address the issue of stressed assets in power generation.

Specifications of NEDC

  • The proposed National electricity distribution company would be as per the lines of ESSL
  • EESL is an energy services company, jointly operated by four state run firms—NTPC Ltd, Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation and Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd.

Health and Family Welfare

National Health Profile-2018 India’s First Ever Nationwide Healthcare Establishment Census

WHAT

  • Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare released the National Health Profile (NHP)-2018 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI)
  • The National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
  • The National Health Resource Repository (NHRR) - Country’s first ever national healthcare facility registry of authentic, standardized and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare establishments has also been launched

Enlighten about the Health Profile

  • It is an important tool as it has helped in designing various programmes.
  • The data is an important source of navigation. It helps in understanding the goals, our strengths and weaknesses and it is also an important means to strategize.
  • Data is not only important for understanding the health indicators of the Country, but it also provides an opportunity to monitor the situation.

Enlighten about the National Health Resource Repository (NHRR)

  • The vision of the NHRR Project is to strengthen evidence-based decision making and develop a platform for citizen and provider-centric services by creating a robust, standardized and secured IT-enabled repository of India’s healthcare resources.
  • NHRR will be the ultimate platform for comprehensive information of both, Private and Public healthcare establishments including Railways, ESIC, Defense and Petroleum healthcare establishments.
  • Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, over 20 lakh healthcare establishments like hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census capturing data on over 1,400 variables.

Enlighten about the work of CBHI

  • The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has actively engaged with key stakeholders including leading Associations, Allied Ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.
  • This resource repository shall enable advanced research towards ongoing & forthcoming healthcare challenges arising from other determinants of health like - disease, environment etc.
  • Approximately 4,000 trained professionals are dedicatedly working to approach every healthcare establishment for information collection.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the project technology partner adhering to paramount Data Security.

Enlighten about Central Bureau of Health Intelligence

  • Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), established in 1961, is the health intelligence wing of the Directorate General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health & FW, GOI with the vision to have “A strong Health Management Information System in entire country”.
  • This national institution is headed by a SAG level medical officer with specialization in public health administration of Central health services (CHS), supported by officers from Indian Statistical Services as well as CHS and through its six field survey and training units.
  • The Mission of CBHI is “To strengthen Health Information system in each of the district in the country up to facility level for evidence based decision making in the Health Sector”

Expected benefits of NHRR

  • The NHRR project to provide comprehensive data on all health resources including private doctors, health facilities, chemists, and diagnostics labs,
  • Some key benefits of the NHRR Project are to create a reliable, unified registry of Country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas.
  • Additionally, it shall generate real-world intelligence to identify gaps in health and service ratios, and ensure judicious health resource allocation and management.

Human Resource Development

The National Digital Library of India Launched NDLI can be accessed through www.ndl.gov.in

  • The Union Human Resource Development Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar launched the new digital initiative of HRD Ministry ‘National Digital Library of India’on the occasion of National Reading Day (19 june)
  • This National Digital Library of India (NDLI) is a project of the Ministry of Human Resource Development under the aegis of National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT).
  • The objective of NDL is to make digital educational resources available to all citizens of the country to empower, inspire and encourage learning.
  • National Digital Library of India is developed by IIT Kharagpur.

Enlighten about NDL

  • NDL is the Single Window Platform that collects and collates metadata from premier learning institutions in India and abroad, as well as other relevant sources.
  • It is a digital repository containing textbooks, articles, videos, audio books, lectures, simulations, fiction and all other kinds of learning media.
  • The National Digital Library is a 24x7 ubiquitous knowledge resource that is accessible to anyone with internet access and it is built to enable the rise of Digital India.
  • Anybody can access the digital library anytime and anywhere absolutely free of cost and will contribute greatly to the Government’s commitment towards “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat”.
  • NDLI is a digital library that makes quality learning resources available to all learners and has 1.7 Crore content from more than 160 sources, in over 200 languages
  • Apart from website, NDL is also available on the Mobile app.
  • NDLI Mobile app is enabling access to rich digital content of libraries across the country and even foreign repositories to users even in the remotest of areas.

Enlighten about the National virtual Library of India

  • It a massive online library with resources covering tens and hundreds of fields, ranging from arts, music, dance, culture, theatre, science and technology to education, archaeology, literature, museums, cartography maps, e-papers and manuscripts, among others , in all possible forms collated and made available on a single online platform.
  • This programme is a part of the National Mission on Libraries of the Ministry of Culture.

NITI Aayog

To Coordinate Policy Approaches for Agriculture and MGNREGS Chief Ministers Subgroup Constituted Unanimous Decision taken during the Fourth Governing Council Meeting of NITI Aayog

WHAT

  • Government has set up a Chief Ministers Subgroup to Coordinate Policy Approaches for Agriculture and MGNREGS with the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh as the Convener and CMs of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim along with the Member NITI Aayog, Shri Ramesh Chand as its members.

WHY

  • The move comes in the backdrop of the vision of the Prime Minister towards Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022 which requires a multi-dimensional and inclusive approach.
  • It comes close on the heels of the unanimous decision taken at the 4th meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog on 17thJune.
  • During the deliberations it was suggested to come out with approaches with special emphasis on pre-sowing and post-harvest interventions using MGNREGS, for creating durable assets that double incomes of farmers and reduce agrarian distress.

Enlighten about it

  • The Prime Minister nominated the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh to convene a Sub-Group of seven Chief Ministers for coordinated policy approach on the Agriculture Sector and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Terms of Reference of the Sub-Group

  • To suggest a wider choice of State specific interventions both for pre-sowing and post-harvest to further improve the thrust on incomes, water conservation and waste to wealth.
  • To align works under MGNREGS fully to the requirements of achieving the goal of Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022. This will improve thrust on Water Conservation, individual Beneficiary Schemes, Construction of Rural Haats, Vermi-Composting etc.
  • To make recommendations on interventions of MGNREGS that can facilitate reduction of agrarian distress including work availability, wage rates, seasonality etc.
  • To explore the possibilities of MGNREGS as a livelihood resource for development and diversification of livelihoods of small and marginal farmers specially belonging to SC/ST households.
  • To suggest ways of aligning MGNREGS and its livelihood thrust with women Self Help Groups (SHGs), producer Groups, and Producer Companies to enable a better use of resources for livelihood.
  • To explore successful convergence of program resources across Departments to ensure optimal fund utilization, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability.

The Sub-Group will submit its report within three months from its date of constitution.
The first meeting of the Sub-Group is expected to be held within the next month, as per the convenience of the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh.

Sources – PIB, LiveMint, The Hindu