Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 26, 2017

Agriculture

Muddle over nod for GM mustard

  • In May, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared the controversial transgenic mustard, DMH-11, for commercial cultivation.
  • However, the records of that meeting, held on May 12 and now made public, do not record any such approval.
  • Though cleared by the GEAC, a full release is contingent on approval by the Environment Minister.

Enlighten about Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee

  • It is established under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
  • It is the apex body for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recom¬binants
  • It is also responsible for ap¬proval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products including experimen¬tal field trials

Enlighten about GM mustard

  • The GM mustard in question (DMH-11) has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of Delhi University.
  • If it gets the green light from the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India.
  • Right now, only GM cotton is allowed.
  • GEAC is the environment ministry’s regulator for GMOs and transgenic products.

Government Schemes

SAUBHAGYA – an insight

Some issues related to this scheme

  • It expects the poor to pay the bills without providing any subsidy to ease their burden
  • This new scheme is just a way of refurbishing the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
  • The DDUGJY scheme of rural electrification launched in July 2015, which aimed to electrify all un-electrified villages by May 2018

Issue with the definition of an ‘electrified village’

  • According to the definition, a village is considered to be electrified if 10% households have an electricity connection and related basic infrastructure
  • Furthermore, even in these 10% of households, there is no promise of minimum hours of supply

Regular supply of electricity is not possible in current circumstances

  • Industry estimates suggest that this scheme would potentially require an additional 28,000 MW and additional energy of about 80,000 million units per annum, which is roughly 7% of India’s current installed power capacity
  • There is a power shortage even at this moment leading to scheduled and unscheduled load shedding, often up to 10 hours or more
  • The problem is graver still in interior rural India

Bilateral Relations

Support more security help to Kabul - INDIA

  • Expressed its support for the negotiated political reconciliation with the Taliban, by saying that it should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
  • It, however, did not insist on respect for Afghanistan’s constitution.
  • The New Development Partnership, launched at the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council was assessed as a significant step in building upon the highly successful development cooperation of the past 16 years.
  • The new-generation India-assisted projects, including in the fields of health, agriculture, drinking water supply, education, renewable energy, infrastructure development, skill development and capacity building, among others, will further contribute to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, economic development and effective governance.
  • On connectivity, the establishment of the air freight corridor was acknowledged as an important factor in providing Afghan farmers a direct and easy access to the Indian market.

Cabinet Decisions

Finalisation of New Medical Commission Bill

  • A Bill that will bring to an end the current system of regulation of medical education through the Medical Council of India (MCI) has been finalised and sent to the Cabinet.

Enlighten about New Medical Commission Bill

  • The National Medical Commission Bill envisages a four-tier structure for the regulation of medical education, with a 20-member National Medical Commission (NMC) at the top.
  • The commission will perform overall supervision over four autonomous boards that will deal with undergraduate and post-graduate education, assessment and rating of medical institutions and registration of medical practitioners and enforcement of medical ethics.
  • There will also be a Medical Advisory Council, constituted by the central government, like the commission and the boards.
  • The council, which will be advisory in nature, will meet at least once a year.
  • It will serve as the primary platform through which states will put forward their views and concerns before the NMC and help shape the overall agenda in the field of medical education and training.

Why such a bill?

  • As a concept, the NMC has been in the making for years, given the perception of corruption in the MCI and recommendations from many committees including the Ranjit Roychowdury Committee and Parliamentary Standing Committee for Health and Family Welfare.
  • The standing committee said that the main objective of the regulator of medical education and practice in India is to regulate quality of medical education, tailor medical education to the healthcare needs of the country, ensure adherence to quality standards by medical colleges, produce compCLt doctors possessing requisite skills and values as required by our health system and regulate medical practice in accordance with the professional code of ethics.
  • However, the Medical Council of India was repeatedly found short of fulfilling its mandated responsibilities.
  • It was the Niti Aayog that pushed for a change in the appeal structure.

The draft sent to the Cabinet incorporates two significant changes from what the Health Ministry had proposed:

  • Only five members of the NMC will be elected while the others will be nominated by the government and the government will be the second appellate authority in case disputes arise.
  • The first change was made after the PMO sought a reduction in the number of elected members.
  • It would ensure that the government has more leverage and prevent the system from descending into the present state where the MCI and government are often at loggerheads on many issues.
  • There are also ex-officio members in the commission that include nominees from the Ministry of Health, Department of Pharmaceuticals, Human Resource Development and Director General of Health Services

Enlighten about MCI

  • The MCI was established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933, as an elected body for maintaining the medical register and providing ethical oversight, with no specific role in medical education.
  • The Amendment of 1956, however, mandated the MCI to maintain uniform standards of medical education, both under graduate and postgraduate; recommend for recognition/de-recognition of medical qualifications of medical institutions of India or foreign countries; accord permanent registration/provisional registration of doctors with recognised medical qualifications; and ensure reciprocity with foreign countries in the matter of mutual recognition of medical qualifications.
  • The second amendment came in 1993,under this amendment, the role of the MCI was reduced to an advisory body with the three critical functions of sanctioning medical colleges, approving the student intake, and approving any expansion of the intake capacity requiring prior approval of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Infrastructure Development

Approval of Highway projects including Bharatmala by Government

  • The Bharatmala project will build over 20,000 km of highways in the first phase in border and other areas.
  • Bharatmala is a mega plan of the government and the second-largest highways project after NHDP that saw development of about 50,000 km, and aims at improving connectivity.

Economic Corridor development project

  • The Cabinet also gave the go ahead to other highway projects for development of over 80,000 km of highways including Bharatmala project in the next five years.
  • It also includes economic corridor developments aimed at faster movement of cargo.
  • The government had earlier planned to develop economic corridors with a length of about 21,000 km besides 14,000 km of feeder routes.
  • The corridors included Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi, to name a few.

Public Investment Board

  • The PMO had asked for Public Investment Board’s (PIB) clearance to the first phase of the project.
  • PIB, chaired by the expenditure secretary had later approved it.
  • Other members of PIB included secretaries of economic affairs, Niti Aayog, statistics and programme implementation, environment and forests, besides the secretary of the administrative ministry

Economy

Government Roadmap for strengthening Banking Sector

  • The government has announced a Rs 2.11 lakh crore two-year road map for strengthening NPA-hit public sector banks
  • It includes re-capitalisation bonds, budgetary support, and equity dilution
  • The capital infusion will be accompanied by reforms to enable the state-owned banks to play major role in the financial system and give a strong push to the job-creating MSME sector

How will the balance be raised?

  • The balance will be raised by banks from the market by diluting government equity
  • The government equity, as per the current policy, can come down to 52 per cent in state-owned banks

Rising level of NPA

  • NPAs of banks have increased from Rs 2.78 lakh crore in March 2015 to a staggering Rs 7.33 lakh crore as on June 2017

Plan for MSMEs

  • MSMEs will be handheld by extending support through compulsory TReDS (Trade Receivables electronic Discount System) registration by major PSUs within next 90 days, for shortening the cash cycle
  • TReDS is an institutional setup for flow of finance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through multiple financiers at a competitive rate

Bilateral Relations

India – U.S Trade Policy Forum (TPF)

  • On the agenda of the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF), scheduled to be held in Washington DC on October 26

Issues to be discussed

  • Important issues are to be discussed like ‘visa curbs’ of the U.S.
  • And India’s ‘high tariffs’ on manufactured products and ‘restrictions’ on e-commerce
  • Also, both the countries will try to expedite the conclusion of negotiations on a bilateral social security pact (or totalisation agreement)

Concerns of India and the US

  • The TPF is also likely to take up the ‘challenges’ that American innovative industries face due to India’s ‘weak’ Intellectual Property Rights regime
  • It would also discuss the ‘non-tariff barriers’ of the U.S. that are adversely impacting India’s agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other industrial exports

Environment

Use of pet coke in NCR banned by SC

Prohibition on the industrial use of pet coke and furnace oil in NCR regions

  • The Supreme Court directed the prohibition of industrial use of pet coke and furnace oil in NCR regions from November 1, 2017
  • In its order on May 2, the court had directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to fix sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide standards for these industries
  • The order follows the recommendation of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to ban the sale, distribution, and use of furnace oil and pet coke in the NCR
  • Their use is already prohibited in Delhi

Fine on Environment ministry, order to demolish parking lot near Taj Mahal

  • SC also imposed a fine of Rs. 2 lakh on the Ministry of Environment for not fixing any emission standards for industries using pet coke and furnace oil in the NCR region
  • The Supreme Court said fixing emission norms for industries using these toxic materials was vital for public health
  • In a separate hearing, the same SC Bench ordered the demolition of a high-tech, multi-parking lot built a kilometer from the Taj Mahal

Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA)

  • It is a Central Government constituted committee for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 7, 199893
  • It was constituted under subsection (1) and (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 by MoEFCC
  • This authority was constituted with sole objective of assisting SC for protecting and improving the quality of environment and preventing, controlling and abating air pollution in Delhi NCR

Harmful effects of use of furnace oil and pet coke

  • Petroleum coke, also called pet coke or petcoke, is a solid carbon material that resembles coal; it is a product of oil refining
  • Petroleum coke or Pet Coke is used by industries as fuel and contains various dangerous chemicals and heavy metals such as Chromium, Vanadium, etc
  • Pet coke also has high Sulphur contents which on burning releases large amounts of Sulphates into the atmosphere

Textile Sector

Ministries of Power & Textiles join hands for SAATHI initiative

  • Ministries of Power and Textiles have joined hands under SAATHI (Sustainable and Accelerated Adoption of efficient Textile technologies to Help small Industries) initiative.
  • Under this initiative, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a PSU under Ministry of Power, will procure energy efficient powerlooms, motors and rapier kits in bulk and provide them to small and medium Powerloom units at no upfront cost
  • The SAATHI initiative will be jointly implemented by EESL and office of Textile Commissioner on pan-India basis.
  • It will be implemented in key clusters such as Erode, Surat, Ichalkaranji, etc.
  • It is based on the aggregation, bulk procurement and financing model that EESL
  • Under this initiative, unit owner does not need to allocate any upfront capital cost to procure these equipment and also not need to allocate additional expenditure for repayment.
  • The repayments by unit owner to EESL will made from savings that accrue as result of higher efficiency equipment's and cost savings.

Facts

World’s oldest maritime astrolabe that guided ships to India found

  • Britain-based shipwreck hunter has found maritime astrolabe, a navigation tool that guided Portuguese explorers on perilous voyage to India in 16th century.
  • It dates between 1495 and 1500 and has been confirmed as world’s oldest astrolabe.
  • The maritime astrolabe was discovered during from a shipwreck off coast of Oman in 2014 and recently was confirmed world’s maritime oldest by Warwick University based on laser scans.
  • Carries personal emblem of King Manuel I of Portugal, who came to throne in October 1495.
  • It is claimed that it was discovered from shipwreck of ship called Esmeralda, which was part of Vasco da Gama’s second expedition
  • An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers and navigators to measure inclined position in sky of celestial body, day or night.
  • It can be used to identify stars or planets and to determine local latitude

Governance

CVC to develop Integrity Index of 25 Organizations

  • In line with the broader strategy and emphasis on preventive vigilance, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) believes that the next level of systemic change can be through the tool of Integrity Index.
  • The CVC has therefore decided to go in for development of the Integrity Index-based on bench-marking of internal processes and controls within an organisation as well as management of relationships and expectations of outside stakeholders.

The main objectives of Integrity Index:

  • Define what constitutes Integrity of Public Organizations.
  • Identify the different factors of Integrity and their inter-linkages.
  • Create an objective and reliable tool that can measure the performance of organizations along these above factors.
  • Validate the findings over a period of time to improve upon the robustness of the tool that measures Integrity.
  • Create an internal and external ecosystem that promotes working with Integrity where public organizations lead the way.
  • CVC has adopted a research-based approach for creating an integrity index that various organizations can use to measure themselves

Defence

INS Sukanya at Indonesia for Coordinated Patrol of IMBL

  • INS Sukanya arrived at Belawan Indonesia to participate in the 30th edition of CORPAT (Coordinated Patrol) and 3rd bilateral exercise between the Indian Navy and the Indonesian Navy.
  • The exercise is aimed to foster closer maritime ties with countries located on the rim of the Indian Ocean.

Corpat

  • CORPAT is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Indonesia.
  • Both countries have been carrying out maritime exercise twice a year since 2002

Significance

  • It demonstrates India’s commitment to its ties with Indonesia and to the maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The exercise seeks to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship between India and Indonesia
  • As part of the Indian Government’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), Indian Navy has also been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with EEZ surveillance, Search and Rescue and other capability enhancement activities

IAF show scorches Lucknow-Agra highway

  • A major touchdown exercise of the Indian Air Force was held on the Agra Lucknow expressway at Bangarmau in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh today. As many as 20 fighter aircraft took part in the special exercise.
  • The drill witnessed the participation of a C-130J transport aircraft with Garud commandos for assault landing as well as three Jaguars, six Mirages, six SU 30s in touch down and take off operations.
  • This is the second time that a touchdown exercise was held at Agra Lucknow expressway.