Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - November 23, 2017

Defence

BrahMos cruise missile

Successfully test-fired from Sukhoi-30 MKI

Enlighten about the event -

  • The world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully test fired from Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Sukhoi30MKI fighter jet for the first time.
  • The missile was gravity dropped from Su-30MKI from its fuselage and two-stage missile’s engine red up and was propelled towards the intended target in Bay of Bengal.

Enlighten about its significance

  • It was for first time that missile was successfully tested from fighter aircraft against sea-based target.
  • It makes IAF first air force in world to have successfully fire air-launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category.
  • This test effectively gives Indian armed forces especially IAF ability to fire Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).
  • With this, India also created world record and completed Supersonic Cruise Missile Triad by successfully test ring of Brahmos from IAF Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft.

BrahMos cruise missile

  • The Brahmos is supersonic cruise missile developed by joint-venture between Russia’s Mashinostroyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It operates on ‘fire and forget principal’ and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against sea and land targets.
  • It is capable of carrying warhead of 300 kilogram (both conventional as well as nuclear) and has top supersonic speed of Mach 2.8 to 3 (roughly three times speed of sound).
  • It is two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant.
  • It is hailed as the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation.
  • Its range was extended 600-km plus and capability to strike the targets with pinpoint accuracy after India became member of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016.
  • The Indian Navy and Army already operate different variants of Brahmos missile

Energy Sector

New National Policy on Biofuels and Pradhan Mantri Ji- Van Yojana

  • A consultative workshop on New National Policy on Biofuels & Pradhan Mantri Ji- Van Yojana (VGF for 2nd Generation Ethanol Bio Refineries) was organized

Organizing Ministry

  • Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas

Why

  • For drafting a suitable roadmap for Biofuels in India.
  • The workshop was organised as the government is promoting Biofuels with an objective to reduce dependency on import of crude oil, savings in foreign exchange, provide better remuneration for the farmers and address growing environment concerns in the light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Commitment at COP 21.
  • During the day long workshop 5 Working Groups on 1-G Ethanol, 2-G Ethanol, Biodiesel, Municipal Solid Wastes to Fuel & Bio-CNG comprising of all the stakeholders (producers, bankers and buyers) deliberated issues related to their segment in detail and came up with many constructive suggestions and inputs.
  • 1-G and 2-G Ethanol, Biodiesel, MSW to Fuel and Bio-CNG together with Methanol(DME) have huge potential in augmenting economic growth, generating employment and doubling farmers’ income.
  • This will be instrumental in achieving the target of 10% import reduction by 2022 set by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

Cabinet Decisions

15th Finance Commission

Approved by Cabinet

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved setting up of 15th Finance Commission (FC).
  • It is a constitutional obligation to set up FC under Article 280 (1) of the Constitution.
  • The Terms of Reference for 15th FC will be notified in due course of time.
  • In terms of constitutional provisions, setting up 15th FC, its recommendations will cover five years commencing on April 1, 2020.

Constitutional Provisions Article 280(1)

  • FC should be constituted within two years from commencement of Constitution.
  • Thereafter at expiration of every 3/5 year or at such earlier time as President considers necessary.
  • In keeping with this requirement, practice has generally been to set up next FC within five years of date of setting up of the previous Finance Commission.
  • 14 Finance Commissions have been constituted in the past.

14th Finance Commission

  • The 14thFinance Commission was set up in January 2013 to make recommendations covering period of five years commencing on April, 2015 to March 2020.
  • It was headed by former RBI Governor YV Reddy.
  • The Commission had submitted its report in December, 2014.
  • The recommendations of 14th FC are valid upto the financial year 2019-20.
  • It had recommended of enhanced devolution — 42% as against 32% — of the taxes from divisible pool to the states.

Finance Commission

  • Article 280 of the Constitution of India provides for FC as a quasi-judicial body.
  • It is constituted by the President of India every fifth year.
  • It consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president.
  • The recommendations made by FC are only advisory in nature and hence, are not binding on the government.
  • It makes recommendations about the following to the President of India:

1. Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between centre and states and allocation between states of respective shares of such proceeds.
2. Principles that should govern grants in aid to states by centre.
3. Measures needed to augment consolidated fund of states to supplement resources of local governments in states on basis of recommendations made by State Finance Commissions.
4. Any other method referred to it by President in interests of sound finance

Cabinet approves expansion of umbrella scheme "Mission For Protection And Empowerment For Women" and introducing a new scheme ' Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra'

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for expansion of the schemes of Ministry of Women and Child Development under Umbrella Scheme "Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women" for a period 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  • CCEA has also given approval to the new scheme called ‘Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra', which will empower rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realize their full potential.

Benefits of the Scheme:

  • The approved sub-schemes are social sector welfare schemes especially for care, protection and development of women.
  • It will also aim at improvement in declining Child Sex Ratio; ensuring survival. & protection of the girl child; ensuring her education, and empowering her to fulfil her potential.
  • It will provide an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building.
  • Student volunteers will encourage the spirit of voluntary community service and gender equality.
  • These students will serve "agents of change" and have a lasting impact on their communities and the nation.

Major activities of the Umbrella Scheme:

  • The new scheme "Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra (PMMSK)" is envisaged to work at various levels.
  • While, National level (domain based knowledge support) and State level (State Resource Centre for Women) structures will provide technical support to the respective government on issues related to women, the District and Block level Centres will provide support to PMMSK and also give a foothold to BBBP in 640 districts to be covered in a phased manner.
  • Community engagement through Student Volunteers is envisioned in 115 most backward districts as part of the PMMSK Block level initiatives.
  • Student volunteers will play an instrumental role in awareness generation regarding various important government schemes/ programmes as well as social issues.
  • More than 3 lakh student volunteers from local colleges will be engaged in this process, while association with NSS/NCC cadre students will also be an option for contributing to nation building as responsible citizens.
  • This will provide an opportunity to Student Volunteers to participate in the development process by bringing change in their own communities and ensuring that women are not left behind and are equal partners in India's progress.
  • The outcome based activities of student volunteers will be monitored through web based system. On completion, certificates for community service, will be displayed on national portal for verification and can also be used as resource /asset for the participating students in future.
  • .
  • To provide comprehensive support to women affected by violence, One Stop Centres (OSCs) will be established in 150 additional districts during the period.
  • These one stop Centres will be linked with women helpline and will provide 24 hour emergency and non-emergency response to women affected by violence both in public and private space across the country.
  • A unique initiative involving engagement of Manila Police Volunteers (MPVs) on a voluntary basis in States/UTs will. also be done to create public-police interface, which will be expanded to 65 districts covering all States /UTs.

Why was the deal cancelled?

  • The decision to cancel the deal was based on the consideration that importing a foreign ATGM at this stage would adversely impact the programme for indigenous development of the weapon system by DRDO.
  • Earlier, India had also rejected an offer from US-based Raytheon-Lockheed Martin for Javelin ATGM in favour of the Israeli weapon system.

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Scheme:

  • One common Task Force shall be created at National, State and district level for planning, reviewing and monitoring all the sub-schemes in this Umbrella, with the objective of ensuring convergence of action and cost efficiency.
  • Every scheme shall have a set of clear, focused target set forth in the guidelines, aligned with SDGs. Mechanism for monitoring of outcome based indicators for all the sub-schemes as suggested by NITI Aayog will be put in place.
  • The schemes will be implemented through the States/UTs and Implementing Agencies. All the sub-schemes have inbuilt monitoring structure at the Central Level, State, District and Block level.

Cabinet approves India’s membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development

  • The Union Cabinet has approved India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD).
  • Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance will take necessary steps to acquire the membership of the EBRD.

Enlighten about it -

  • The membership of EBRD will enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests.
  • It will give India access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
  • It will boost India’s investment opportunities and also improve investment climate in country.
  • The membership of EBRD will help to increase scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, energy and Information Technology.
  • It will also help India leverage technical assistance and sectorial knowledge of EBRD for benefit of development of private sector.
  • The membership of EBRD will also enhance competitive strength of Indian firms and provide enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
  • It will open up new vistas for Indian professionals on one hand and give fillip to Indian exports on other.
  • It will also have positive impact on employment generating potential due to increased economic activities.
  • It will also enable Indian nationals to get employment opportunity in EBRD.

Background

  • Government has decided to expand its presence on the global developmental landscape beyond its association with the Multi-lateral Development Banks (MDBs) owing to country’s impressive economic growth over years and enhanced international political profile.
  • So far, India is member of World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank. It has also joined Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB).

Bilateral Agreements

India-Russia Agreement on cooperation in combating terrorism

  • The Union Cabinet has approved signing an Agreement on Cooperation between India and Russia in field of combating all forms of terrorism and organized crime.
  • The agreement is proposed to be signed during upcoming visit of Indian Delegation led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh to Russia in November, 2017.

Enlighten about the agreement -

  • The proposed Agreement, which will replace previous agreement, signed in October 1993.
  • It is considered as step towards consolidating benefits accrued in field of security and seeks to jointly fight new and evolving risks and threats.
  • The Agreement will reinforce relationship between India and Russia through exchange and sharing of information, expertise, best practices and will help in curbing terrorism and enhancing, security in region.

Enlighten about India & Russia Relations

  • India and Russia have long history of close cooperation in international fora on matters of mutual interest.
  • It has become imperative for countries to work together to combat all forms of terrorism as there is rise in terrorism and organized crime across the world

North-East Development

First North East Development Summit held in Manipur

  • The first ever North East Development Summit (NEDS) 2017 was held in Imphal, Manipur.
  • It was inaugurated by President of India Ram Nath Kovind.
  • It was organised by Delhi-based think tank India Foundation in collaboration with Union Government and Manipur government.

Enlighten about NEDS

  • NEDS 2017 aims to boost trade and investment in underdeveloped region of North East.
  • It also aimed at building confidence and altering perception among visiting delegates and investors.
  • Various international finance agencies laid down their plan for development in the region.
  • Key Focus Areas of NEDS 2017 were Trade and Investment, Connectivity and Infrastructure Development, Tourism Development in North-East India, Skill Development, Capacity Building and Entrepreneurship.