Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 20, 2017

Infrastructure Development

NHAI to get power to speed up Bharatmala programme

  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is set to get the power to approve projects with a construction cost of more than Rs 1,000 crore to ensure faster implementation of the Bharatmala programme.
  • Currently, all highway projects that entail a construction cost of more than Rs 1,000 crore, excluding land, need to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
  • Under the proposal, only public private partnership (PPP) projects under the build-operate transfer (BOT) model, where viability gap funding (VGF) is to be provided by the government, will need CCEA clearance.

Enlighten about Bharatmala project

  • Bharatmala envisions 44 economic corridors across the country at a cost of at least Rs 5 lakh crore.
  • The programme, along with the proposal to enhance NHAI’s powers, is likely to get Cabinet clearance soon.
  • The Bharatmala corridors have been mapped as per traffic density and economic relevance of the cities that will be connected with the help of the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics.
  • The project involves constructing 24,000km of fresh highways.
  • The project is aimed at speeding up cargo movement and the development of multimodal logistics hubs and parks on the periphery of major commercial centres.
  • The project includes construction of feeder routes alongside national highways. Around 80% of Bharatmala will be based on a government funded, engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model while the rest will be a hybrid-annuity public private partnership.

Survey

Survey Report

  • The Jaipur and Srinagar Airport are ranked First and Second respectively in the category of 2-5 million passengers in ACI-ASQ Survey.
  • This is for the second consecutive time that Jaipur Airport has been rated the Best Airport in the World in the traffic volume of 2 to 5 million passengers per year.

Enlighten about ASQ awards

  • The Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards are the aviation industry’s most prestigious accolades.
  • The awards recognize the airports which have achieved the highest passenger satisfaction ratings in the ASQ Survey – the world’s benchmark measure of airport excellence.
  • It is the only worldwide programme to survey passengers at the airports on their day of travel.
  • Every year, the programme delivers some 600,000 individual surveys in 41 languages in 84 countries.
  • It measures passengers’ views on 34 key performance indicators, including airport access, check-in, security screening, restrooms, stores and restaurants.
  • Each airport uses the exact same survey, creating an industry database that allows airports to compare themselves to other airports around the world.
  • The ASQ programme also has a feature that facilitates sharing of best practices among airport operators.

Commerce Ministry

CIPAM-DIPP Launches Logo and Tagline Contest for Geographical Indications of India

  • The Cell for IPR Promotions & Management (CIPAM) under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has launched a logo and tagline/slogan contest for Geographical Indications (GIs) of India on MyGov.in website.
  • Taking forward its ongoing social media campaign #LetsTalkIP, DIPP aims to launch a certifying GI mark/logo that can be used to identify all registered GIs irrespective of the categories, and a suitable tagline/slogan for promotion of GIs.
  • CIPAM has also launched “Gift a GI” campaign to enhance the visibility and thus help in branding and promotion of registered GI products.
  • DIPP is also working with State governments to spread awareness on GIs.

What do the observations tell?

  • The observations place the electromagnetic source at 130 light years away, which matches with the distance to GW170817
  • It confirms that when neutron stars collide into a kilonova — a body 1,000 times brighter than the average Nova — it produces a gamma-ray burst and gravitational waves

Bilateral Disputes

US firms approach USTR against India’s Medical Price control measures

  • American companies producing medical devices and health information systems have approached the US Trade Representative against India’s move to implement price controls on coronary stents and knee replacement implants that they say denying them equitable market access.
  • In a petition, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)requested the US Trade Representative (USTR) to suspend or withdraw India’s benefits under Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

Impact of price control by India on various medical devices

  • Recent reports indicate that the lowering of prices on medical devices which are only one component of overall procedure costs are not being passed along to patients, which needs to be corrected.
  • Price controls may also block innovations and limit patient access to the best available care.

What does India need to do ?

  • India’s focus on controlling prices of high-quality medical devices, without any attempt to address the larger picture and correct inefficiencies
  • A stable and predictable market environment is key to driving investments in R&D, manufacturing, and other services to grow the medical technology industry in India, and meet the current and future needs of all of India’s people.

Economy

The Recent MPC Meeting

  • A majority of the members of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy committee flagged an increase in inflation risks.
  • The central bank held its key policy interest rate at 6%.
  • It also observed that a deceleration in retail inflation had been temporary as headline inflation.
  • The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (RBI Act) has been amended by the Finance Act, 2016, to provide for a statutory and institutionalised framework for a Monetary Policy Committee, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth.

International

Catalonia Issue

  • Spain said it will move to seize some of the Catalan regional government’s powers after its leader warned that he could declare independence, escalating the country’s worst political crisis in decades.
  • The central government in Madrid had given separatist leader Carles Puigdemont time until 10:00 am to say whether or not he was declaring a breakaway state in the semi-autonomous region following a chaotic referendum on October 1.
  • Prime Minister of Spain had warned he would trigger Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution a never before used measure allowing it to impose direct rule over the wealthy northeastern region unless Mr. Puigdemont backed down.

The potential impact of this decision

  • There are fears that such a move, allowing Madrid to potentially suspend Mr. Puigdemont’s government and take over its police force, could spark unrest in a region where even Catalans who oppose independence cherish their autonomy highly.
  • The separatist leader responded that Catalan lawmakers could vote to declare secession unilaterally if Madrid triggers Article 155.
  • Article 155 a process that would take several days to restore legality in the region.
  • The Catalonia crisis has prompted a series of huge street rallies, worried investors and added to the woes of a European Union already grappling with Brexit.
  • Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents are fiercely attached to their own language and culture but are divided on whether to break away from the rest of Spain.
  • But according to the separatist leader his regional administration has a mandate to declare independence from what he says was a 90% “Yes” vote on October 1.
  • But turnout was given as only 43%.
  • Many voters who oppose independence stayed away from a referendum that had been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Environment & Ecology

New Lizard in Eastern Ghats (Large gecko)

  • A team of scientists’ has found Geckos(a new species) from the Eastern Ghats
  • The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species
  • According to a paper published in the taxonomic journal Comptes Rendus Biologies, researchers of the National Centre for Biological Sciences has discovered the gecko from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park
  • According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well

Defence

India eyes military expansion

India’s plan of Military expansion

  • India is working on expanding the military effectiveness of its outpost at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea
  • This includes creation of military infrastructure for greater naval presence in the islands which dominates the strategically important Malacca Strait

Possible reasons behind these steps

  • The military focus is on countering the increasing Chinese presence in the region, which has been a cause of concern
  • Chinese submarines have been sighted in the area and have also been docked at bases in Pakistan and Sri Lanka

Extension of airstrip at INAS Baaz

  • INAS Baaz is the naval aviation base on Campbell Bay on the Great Nicobar island
  • It is currently being extended from 3,050 feet to 10,000 feet
  • The extension is scheduled to be completed by 2021
  • It will allow the Navy to place its modern P-8I surveillance aircraft at INAS Baaz
  • The Navy currently operates its eight P-8I aircraft(procured from the US in 2013) from INS Rajali in Tamil Nadu

Why is INS BAAZ important?

  • Baaz gives us that flexibility which will cover South China Sea
  • Moreover, Baaz is adjacent to Malacca straits, an area of immense strategic interest to us

Other developments

  • The Navy also plans to commission its second Floating Dry Dock Navy (FDDN)
  • It will allow more naval ships to be maintained and serviced in the islands
  • The Navy is also in the process of constructing three forward operating bases (FOBs) in the islands — at Diglipur, Kamorta and at Campbell Bay
  • It will allow its Khukri class corvettes to be distributed across various locations in the archipelago

International Organisations

India, Brazil, South Africa sign IBSA Trust Fund agreement

  • India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) have signed the IBSA Trust Fund Agreement that seeks to fight poverty in developing countries. It was signed at the 8th IBSA trilateral Ministerial Commission Meeting in Durban, South Africa.

IBSA Trust Fund

  • It brings together the three emerging economies of India, Brazil and South Africa to combat poverty in other developing countries.
  • Each country will contribute US $1 million annually to this fund which is managed by the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.

IBSA Dialogue Forum

  • The IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Dialogue Forum is an international tripartite grouping for promoting international cooperation among these countries.
  • It was launched in June 2003.
  • It brings together three large democracies and major economies from three different continents namely, Africa, Asia and South America that represents three important poles for galvanizing South-South cooperation.
  • The forum provides the three countries platform to engage in discussions for cooperation in the field of agriculture, trade, culture, and defence among others.
  • It has become instrumental for promoting closer coordination on global issues between three large multicultural and multiracial democracies and also contributed to enhancing trilateral cooperation in sectoral areas.

Cooperation in IBSA is on three fronts

  • Forum for consultation and coordination on global and regional political issues, such as reform of global institutions of political and economic governance, WTO/Doha Development Agenda, climate change, terrorism etc.
  • Trilateral collaboration on concrete areas and projects, through 14 working groups and 6 People-to-People (P2P) Forums, for the common benefit of three countries
  • Assisting other developing countries by taking up projects in the latter through IBSA Fund.

Literature

US author George Saunders wins 2017 Man Booker Prize

  • American author George Saunders won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, a high-profile literary award for his first full-length novel “Lincoln in the Bardo”.
  • With this, he became second consecutive American writer to win prize after Paul Beatty (for his novel The Sellout), after rules were changed in 2014 to allow authors of any book written in English and published in UK to compete.

Man Booker Prize

  • The Man Booker Prize world’s most prestigious English-language literary award.
  • It was launched in 1969 and presented by the Man Group. It aims at promoting the finest literary work in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom.
  • It carries cash prize of 50,000 pounds.
  • The authors are shortlisted by judges from a wide range of disciplines and all with a passion for quality fiction.

Defence

Bangladesh Navy Ship Somudra Avijan on a goodwill visit to Vishakhapatnam

  • Bangladesh Naval Ship Somudra Avijan arrived Vishakhapatnam on a four-day goodwill visit to the Eastern Naval Command on 16 October 17.
  • Prior to the arrival, the ship carried out Passage Exercise which included naval manoeuvres in the Bay of Bengal prior to entering into the port.

Bilateral Agreements

India inks MoC to send interns to Japan for training

  • India and Japan have signed memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP) to significantly expand the bilateral cooperation s in the field of skill development.
  • India is the third country with which Japan has signed the MoC. Under it, India will send youngsters to Japan as technical interns for on-the-job training for a period of three to five years.

Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP)

  • It was launched by Japan under Technical Intern Training Act scheduled to come into force in November 2017.
  • By 2016-end, approximately 2,30,000 technical intern trainees from multiple countries were trained in Japan under it.

Environment

Sawfish more threatened than tigers, say scientists

  • World Sawfish day was observed on October 17th.
  • The sawfish have been sighted off the Indian coast less than 10 times in over a decade.

Enlighten about it –

  • The sawfish has been included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 enacted to save them from exploitation.
  • There are only five species of the sawfish ever identified — dwarf sawfish, knifetooth sawfish, smalltooth sawfish, largetooth sawfish and green sawfish.
  • Sawfish are elasmobranchs, meaning their skeleton is made of cartilage. They are closely related to sharks and have shark-shaped bodies and, hence, are also called flat sharks.
  • The sawfish family has been assessed either ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Global Red List, considering their threatened status, high extinction risk and observed population decline.

Social

Campaign on ‘women for women’: #IamThatWoman

  • In an attempt to end Gender bias in women against women, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is undertaking an online campaign #IamThatWoman.
  • Through the campaign, the Ministry seeks to highlight the various aspects of women standing ‘by’ and ‘for’ women.
  • Ministry of WCD has urged people to shun stereotypes associated with women harming other women.

Ranking

The Times Higher Education subject-wise rankings

  • The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore and IIT Bombay are among the world’s top 200 institutions for engineering and computer science
  • IISc occupied the 89th spot, IIT Bombay was pegged in the 126- 150 category, globally
  • IITs in Delhi, Kanpur and Kharagpur were placed in the 201-250 band, in that order, and IIT Madras and IIT Roorkee in the 251 – 300 category

Particulars of the ranking

  • The rankings, scored 500 institutions worldwide, as opposed to 100 last year
  • These rankings are on performance parameters such as
  • (1) industry income,
  • (2) international outlook,
  • (3) teaching and research
  • It highlights the educational institutions that are leading in electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and general engineering courses

Top rankers

  • Overall, Stanford University is number one, followed by California institute of Technology, Oxford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge University
  • While India has a total of eleven institutions in the rankings, China has 35 institutions, which is more than any other country in Asia

International Issues

Iran envoy lashes out at the US

  • Iranian Ambassador said that U.S. was trying to ensure that India reduced oil imports from his country
  • It is working to deprive Tehran of the Indian energy market
  • This is after the U.S. announcement of a tougher line on Iran, even imposition of possible new sanctions

Change in trade stats

  • India has cut its oil imports from Iran by approximately 20% in 2017, though its global imports have risen by 5.4%
  • The Petroleum Ministry says India has been trying to “diversify” its imports so as to get more competitive rates
  • One major development is India’s decision to import its first shipment of crude oil from the U.S., giving rise to speculation that New Delhi’s new policy will come at the cost of imports from Iran

Effect on India-Iran relations

  • He said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy shift would not affect the India-Iran relationship
  • Development of the Chabahar port project will remain on track

Other projects

  • The India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement for Chabahar should be ratified by the Iranian parliament in the next few months
  • India committed about $1.6 billion to build the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, which will facilitate trade to Afghanistan along with Chabahar port