FCRA rules Amended
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has relaxed norms for farmer, student, religious and other groups who are not directly aligned to any political party to receive foreign funds if the groups are not involved in “active politics”.
- The Ministry notified new rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 thereby amending the FCRA Rules, 2011.
- The new rule said, “The organisations specified under clauses (v) and (vi) of sub-rule (1) shall be considered to be of political nature, if they participate in active politics or party politics, as the case may be.”
- The 2011 rules on said clauses dealt with “guidelines for the declaration of an organisation to be of a political nature, not being a political party”, and the Central government could specify an organisation as that of political nature based on six criteria.
- Clause V of Rule 3 (FCRA 2011) qualified a political group as, “organisations of farmers, workers, students, youths based on caste, community, religion, language or otherwise, which is not directly aligned to any political party, but whose objectives as stated in the memorandum of association, or activities gathered through other material evidence, include steps towards advancement of political interests of such groups”.
- The other 2011 clause (VI) qualified a group as political if the “organisation by whatever name called habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like rasta roko, jail bharo, rail roko, bandh or hartal in support of public causes”.
- A new clause has been inserted which says that groups mentioned in Clause V and VI will only be considered a political group by the Centre if they participate in “active politics or party politics”.
- As per the FCRA, members of legislatures, political parties, government officials, judges and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution
- FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country.
- The Act, first enacted in 1976, was amended in the year 2010, when a slew of new measures were taken by the Union Home Ministry to regulate foreign donations. It was again amended in September this year.
- The Act is applicable to all associations, groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who intend to receive foreign donations.
- The new rules also make new FCRA registrations more stringent.
- Any organisation that wants to register itself under FCRA “shall be in existence for three years” and should have “spent a minimum amount of ₹15 lakh on its core activities for the benefit of society during the last three financial years”.
- However, exceptions could be granted “provided that the Central Government, in exceptional cases or in cases where a person is controlled by the Central Government or a State Government may waive the conditions”.
- The amended rules also said that office bearers of NGOs or organisations seeking registration under the FCRA must submit a specific commitment letter from the donor indicating the amount of foreign contribution and the purpose for which it was being given.
- Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) at Jamnagar and National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA) at Jaipur on 5th Ayurveda Day (i.e) 13th November, 2020.
- These institutions are expected to play global leadership roles in the growth and development of Ayurveda in the 21st Century.
- The Ayurveda Day is being observed every year from 2016, on the day of Dhanwantri Jayanti.
- This year it falls on 13th November 2020.
- Ayurveda day is more an occasion of re-dedication to the profession and the society, than one of festivities or celebrations.
- Potential role of Ayurveda in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic will be the focus of this year’s ‘Ayurveda Day Observation.
- Utilising the immense untapped potential of AYUSH systems of healthcare for providing effective and affordable solutions for India’s public health challenges is a priority of the Government.
- Consequently, modernisation of AYUSH education is also a priority area.
- Dedication to the nation of ITRA, Jamnagar as an Institution of National Importance and NIA, Jaipur as an Institution Deemed to be University is a historic step not just in the modernization of Ayurveda Education, but in the evolution of traditional medicine itself.
- This will provide them the autonomy to upgrade the standard of Ayurveda education, frame various courses as per emerging national and international demand and excel in modern research to generate more and more evidences.
Cabinet approves PLI Scheme to 10 key Sectors for Enhancing
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval to introduce the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme in the following 10 key sectors for Enhancing India’s Manufacturing Capabilities and Enhancing Exports – Atmanirbhar Bharat.
The PLI scheme will be implemented by the concerned ministries/departments and will be within the overall financial limits prescribed.
- Savings, if any, from one PLI scheme of an approved sector can be utilized to fund that of another approved sector by the Empowered Group of Secretaries. Any new sector for PLI will require fresh approval of the Cabinet.
Cabinet Approves Revamped VGF Scheme
- The government approved the revamped viability gap funding (VGF) scheme envisaging a total outlay of ₹8,100 crore for encouraging investment in social as well as economic infrastructure projects.
- The revamped scheme will provide financial support to PPP projects in the infrastructure sector spread over a period of five years ending 2024-25.
- Of the total amount of ₹8,100 crore, ₹6,000 crore has been earmarked for PPP projects in the economic infrastructure segment and remaining ₹2,100 crore for social infrastructure projects.
- The earlier VGF scheme was limited to projects concerning economic infrastructure.
- The revamped VGF scheme will attract more PPP projects and facilitate private investment in the social sectors (health, education, waste water, solid waste management and water supply, among others).
The new scheme will have two components
- The sub-scheme-1 would cater to social sectors such as waste water treatment, water supply, solid waste management, health and education sectors, which often face bankability issues on account of poor revenue streams.
- The projects eligible under the sub-scheme-1 should have at least 100 per cent operational cost recovery.
- The central government will provide a maximum of 30% of the total project cost (TPC) of the project as VGF.
- State government, sponsoring central ministry or statutory entity may provide an additional support up to 30% of TPC.
- The sub scheme-2 will support demonstration or pilot social sectors projects. The projects may be from health and education sectors where there is at least 50% operational cost recovery.
- In such projects, central and state governments together will provide up to 80 per cent of capital expenditure and up to 50 per cent of operation and maintenance (O&M) costs for the first five years.
- The Centre will provide a maximum of 40% of the TPC of the project.
- It may provide a maximum of 25% of operational costs of the project in the first five years of commercial operations.
- Under the earlier VGF scheme, as many as 64 projects were accorded ‘final approval’ with a total project cost of ₹34,228 crore and VGF of ₹5,639 crore. Till the end 2019-20, VGF of ₹4,375 crore was disbursed.
- The aim of the scheme is to promote PPPs in social and Economic Infrastructure leading to efficient creation of assets and ensuring their proper Operation and Maintenance and make the economically/socially essential projects commercially viable. The scheme would be beneficial to public at large as it would help in creation of the Infrastructure for the country.
- The new Scheme will come into force within one month of the approval of Cabinet. Proposed amendments under the revamped VGF scheme would be suitably incorporated in the Guidelines for the Scheme.
- Revamping of the proposed VGF Scheme will attract more PPP projects and facilitate the private investment in the social sectors (Health, Education, Waste Water, Solid Waste Management, Water Supply etc.).
- Creation of new hospitals, schools will create many opportunities to boost employment generation.
- The revamped Scheme will be financed from budgetary support of Ministry of Finance.
- The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance introduced “the Scheme for Financial Support to PPPs in Infrastructure” (Viability Gap Funding Scheme) in 2006
- with a view to support infrastructure projects undertaken through PPP mode
- that are economically justified but commercially unviable due to large capital investment requirements, long gestation periods and the inability to increase user charges to commercial levels,
- VGF up to 40%of the Total Project Cost (TPC) is provided by the Government of India (Gol) and the sponsoring authority in the form of capital grant at the stage of project construction (20%+20%).
President’s Chair of Excellence on National Security
- On the occasion of Diamond Jubilee of the NDC, President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the establishment of “President’s Chair of Excellence on National Security” at the National Defence College (NDC).
- Colleges and universities across the world have “Chairs of Excellence” and other similar positions for professors to spur intellectual and academic calibre.
- The President’s Chair of Excellence on National Security will not only help in enhancing the intellectual capital of the college but also go a long way in uplifting its credibility and reputation.
- The college runs a 47-week long uniquely designed course on “National Security and Strategic Studies” for 100 course members, of whom 25 are from friendly foreign countries.
- The number of seats in the NDC will be increased from 100 to 120 within the next two years due to the huge demand from friendly foreign countries.
- Additional seats will be given to Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh when the capacity is increased from next year.
- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Maldives have been offered seats for the first time in the NDC’s one-year course from next year.
- NDC was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India in 1960 and has completed 60 years of its formation on 27 April 2020.
International Financial Services Centres Authority (Banking) Regulations, 2020
- The IFSC Authority, after detailed deliberations, approved the International Financial Services Centres Authority (Banking) Regulations, 2020.
- Banking constitutes one of the major focus areas of IFSC and is expected to drive and facilitate the other constituent operations in the IFSC in due course.
- A self-contained regulation laying down the major principles of banking operations at IFSCs is thus an important step in the IFSC reaching its desired potential.
The salient aspects of the Banking Regulations include:
- Laying down the requirements for setting up IFSC Banking Units (IBUs).
- Permitting persons resident outside India (having net worth not less than USD 1 Million) to open foreign currency accounts in any freely convertible currency at IFSC Banking Units (IBUs).
- Permitting persons resident in India (having net worth not less than USD 1 Million) to open foreign currency accounts in any freely convertible currency at IFSC Banking Units (IBUs) to undertake any permissible current account or capital account transaction or any combination thereof under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) of the Reserve Bank of India.
- Laying down the permissible activities of IBUs including credit enhancement, credit insurance, and sale, purchase of portfolios, engage in factoring and forfaiting of export receivables and undertake equipment leasing, including aircraft leasing.
- Permitting the Authority to determine business that a Banking Unit may be permitted to conduct in INR with persons resident in India and persons resident outside India, subject to settlement of the financial transaction in relation to such business in freely convertible foreign currency.
International Retail Business Development Committee report
- The IFSC International Retail Business Development Committee was appointed by International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) on Aug 3, 2020 with a mandate to submit a report in three months’ time.
- The Committee had earlier submitted two interim reports covering banking and insurance and in the final report it included recommendations on Capital Markets.
- The terms of reference of the Committee were to create a roadmap for the development of international retail business in the IFSC and also make other suggestions.
- The Committee also made recommendations for the overall development of the IFSC.
- The Committee highlighted the opportunity for FinServ from India and taking India global through the IFSC.
- The Committee suggested that IFSCA should balance a robust regulatory framework with ease of doing business and aim to benchmark itself with the best-in-class jurisdictions.
- It suggested that, there is immediate potential to promote international retail business in the IFSC, it will meet the three key objectives:
a) Boosting job creation,
b) Generating additional revenue for India, and
c) Attracting funds (especially from the Indian Diaspora) for building India’s infrastructure.
- In light of the duty enjoined on the IFSCA by the International Financial Services Centres Act, 2019, the Committee outlined the dual role of IFSCA of development and regulation and stressed that the role of development would be critical in the initial years as IFSCA builds a conducive ecosystem for financial institutions to operate in the IFSC.
Some of the Key recommendations of the report for Banking, Insurance and Capital Markets segment are as below:
- Permit retail participation including Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) investments by resident Indians and enable IFSC Banking Units (IBUs) to provide banking products and solutions to retail/ individual clients.
- Wealth management capabilities should be enabled in the IBU by allowing investments in various markets across different geographies.
- Permit IBUs to offer foreign currency (FCY) clearing services from the IFSC. For this purpose, a central clearing mechanism should be set-up in the IFSC.
- Permit IBUs to obtain Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) license and invest in rupee-denominated Government Securities (G-Secs), corporate bonds and other permissible rupee-denominated securities.
- Permit IBUs to extend financing to Indian exporters for pre-shipment (in addition to post shipment) in FCY.
- Permit IBUs to open current account (including Escrow account) for all entities who wish to do so.
- Remove the requirement to maintain liquidity ratios [Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR)].
- Permit Non-resident Indians (NRIs)/ Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) to buy Life Insurance policies for themselves as well as their family members who are based in India and abroad from companies set up in the IFSC and allow them to pay premium in the currency of their choice (including Indian rupees).
- Allow insurance companies to offer health insurance products to NRIs/PIOs including covering their family members who are based in India.
- Insurers be allowed to set up subsidiaries in IFSC to promote business.
- IFSC should emerge as Reinsurance Hub for Asia and Africa with more reinsurers encouraged to set up base in IFSC. IFSC can also emerge as Aviation insurance Hub for the world.
- Reduce Net Owned Funds (NOF) requirement to INR 5 bn to promote mid-sized foreign reinsurers to set up base in the IFSC.
- Indian investors be allowed to set up direct and reinsurance companies with lower capital requirements to promote insurance abroad.
- Foreign reinsurance brokers be encouraged to set up base in IFSC to create a vibrant insurance market.
- Asset Management and Capital Markets:
- Permit resident individuals to invest in Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) or Mutual Funds (MFs) in the IFSC via the LRS route.
- Permit resident individuals to invest in companies listed on the IFSC exchanges via the LRS route.
- Develop a framework for allowing foreign or Indian issuers to raise equity or debt in the IFSC.
- Allow wholly owned subsidiaries of banks to operate as Trading/ Clearing Members without setting up a separate company.
- Implement a separate safe harbour regime which is simple and practical for IFSC Fund Managers and which is comparable to other international jurisdictions.
- Develop a payment system for USD and other FCY settlements in the IFSC.
- Allow hybrid structures such as a Variable Capital Company (VCC) for managing funds in the IFSC.
- The Government of India had constituted the IFSCA with Shri Injeti Srinivas as its Chairman earlier this year to develop and regulate all international financial services in the IFSC in India.
50% Transportation Subsidy
- Under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, Operation Greens Scheme TOP to TOTAL, 50% transportation subsidy is now made available for air transportation for 41 notified fruits and vegetables from North-Eastern and Himalayan States to any place in India.
- Airlines will provide the transport subsidy directly to the supplier/consignor/consignee/ agent by way of charging only 50% of the actual contracted freight charges and will claim the balance 50% from Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) as subsidy.
- In relaxation of other conditions for Operation Greens – TOP to TOTAL Scheme for transportation through Airlines from eligible airports, all consignment of notified fruits and vegetables irrespective of quantity and price would be eligible for 50% freight subsidy.
- The transportation subsidy was earlier extended under Operation Greens Scheme for Kisan Rail Scheme with effect from 12.10.2020.
- Railways charge only 50% of freight charges on the notified fruits and vegetables.
Inter-Ministerial Committee to strengthen the Capital Goods Sector
- The government has set up a 22-member inter-ministerial committee in strengthening the Capital Goods(CG) Sector through interventions that help the CG Sector in contributing more actively in the national goal of achieving a USD 5 trillion economy and a USD 1 trillion manufacturing sector.
- Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) is being constituted with representation from all the concerned Ministries / Departments dealing with the CG sector and using CG machinery to regularly meet and deliberate to address the issues and bottleneck pertaining to the sector.
- The Committee will look into on all such issues pertaining to the Capital Goods Sector including technology development, mother technology development, global value chains, testing, skill training, global standards, and reciprocity issues, custom duties to make this sector globally competitive and to become the manufacturing hub for the world.
- The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) under the chairmanship of Secretary, DHI.
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) report
- Sixty-eight per cent of the newly elected Bihar MLAs have pending criminal charges, with 51% of them having declared serious cases against themselves, including rape and murder, according to a report.
- In its analysis of the election affidavits of 241 of the 243 winning candidates, the ADR found that the number of winners with criminal cases had increased from 142 or 58% of the total in 2015 to 163 or 68% in 2020.
- Winning candidates who had declared serious criminal cases, including murder, kidnapping and crimes against women, also increased to 123 or 51% from 98 or 40% in the 2015 Assembly polls.
- Seventy-three per cent of the RJD and 64% of the BJP winning candidates had declared cases against themselves.
- The Bihar polls were the first general elections to be held after the Supreme Court in February directed political parties to publish details of why they selected a candidate with criminal antecedents.
- The ADR report also found that 81% of the newly elected MLAs had declared assets over ₹1 crore, an increase from 67% of the members elected in 2015.
- An analysis of the assets of the 96 re-elected MLAs found that their assets had grown by an average of 67% from 2015 to 2020.
- 34% of the winning candidates had educational qualifications between Class V and XII and 62% had declared themselves to be graduates or above.
Operation Thunder 2020
- The India Customs intercepted an 18-tonne shipment of red sandalwood destined for the United Arab Emirates, during a month-long “Operation Thunder 2020”, coordinated by the Interpol and the World Customs Organisation, which involved law enforcement agencies in 103 countries.
- The operation resulted in large seizures of protected wildlife and forestry specimens and products, triggering arrests and investigations worldwide.
- The participating countries focused mainly on the species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- Wildlife and forestry crime is the world’s fourth largest illegal trade — a lucrative illegal business with far-reaching and devastating consequences not just for the environment but also for society, public health and global economics.
- “Operation Thunder 2020” is the fourth in a series of “Thunder” operations carried out annually since 2017.
Iran Uranium Stockpile Still Violates Atomic Deal
- Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in a landmark nuclear deal with world powers and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency said.
- The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
- The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.
- Iran has openly announced all violations of the nuclear deal in advance, which have followed the decision by the U.S. to pull out unilaterally in 2018.
- The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for the curbs on its nuclear program.
- The goal of the agreement is to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
- Before agreeing to the nuclear deal, Iran enriched its uranium up to 20% purity, which is a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%.
- In 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000 kilograms (7.72 tons) with higher enrichment, but it didn’t pursue a bomb.
- In the quarterly report distributed to members, the IAEA said it still has questions from the discovery last year of particles of uranium of man-made origin at a site outside Tehran not declared by Iran.
- The United States and Israel had been pressing the IAEA for some time to look into the Turquzabad facility, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the U.N. in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”
Scorpene Class Submarine Vagir Launched
- Indian Navy’s fifth Scorpene class submarine Vagir, having superior stealth features like the advanced acoustic absorption technique, was launched at the Mazagon Dock in south Mumbai.
- Vagir is part of the six Kalvari-class submarines being built in India. The submarines, designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, are being built as part of Indian Navy’s Project-75.
- These submarines can undertake missions like anti- surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying, and area surveillance.
- Vagir is named after the Sand Fish, a deadly deep sea predator of the Indian Ocean.
- The first Vagir, a submarine from Russia, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on December 3, 1973, and was decommissioned on June 7, 2001 after almost three decades of service to the nation.
- The state-of-art technology used in the submarine has ensured superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic absorption techniques, low radiated noise levels, and hydro- dynamically optimised shape and also the ability to attack the enemy using precision guided weapons.
- The attack can be launched with both torpedoes and tube launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface.
- Two submarines of the ongoing Project-75 Scorpene programme at MDL, Kalvari and Khanderi, have been commissioned into the Indian Navy.
- The third submarine, Karanj, is in the last phase of rigorous sea trials.
- The fourth Scorpene, Vela, has commenced her sea trials, whilst the sixth and last submarine, Vagsheer, is being readied for boot together.
- The Serum Institute of India (SII) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) announced the completion of enrolment of Phase-3 clinical trials for COVISHIELD in India.
- The ICMR and the SII have further collaborated for clinical development of COVOVAX (Novavax) developed by Novavax, USA, and upscaled by the SII.
- ICMR had funded the clinical trial site fees while SII had funded other expenses for COVISHIELD.
- At present, the SII and the ICMR are conducting Phase-2 and 3 clinical trials of COVISHIELD at 15 different centres, across the country.
- COVISHIELD has been developed at the SII Pune laboratory with a master seed from Oxford University/Astra Zeneca.
- The vaccine made in U.K. is currently being tested in large efficacy trials in U.K., Brazil, South Africa and the U.S.
- “The promising results of the trials so far give confidence that COVISHIELD could be a realistic solution to the deadly pandemic.
- COVISHIELD is by far the most advanced vaccine in human testing in India.
- Based on the Phase 2/3 trial results, the SII with the help of the ICMR will pursue the early availability of this product for India.
- The ICMR added that the U.S.-based Novavax has initiated its late phase trials in South Africa and U.K. and will soon commence the same in the U.S.
Jharkhand Assembly Passes Resolution on Sarna Code
- The Jharkhand Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution seeking the inclusion of Sarna as a separate religion in Census, 2021.
- Recently, the Jharkhand government convened a special session and passed a resolution to send the Centre a letter to recognise Sarna religion and include it as a separate code in the Census of 2021.
What is the Sarna religion?
- The followers of Sarna faith believe pray to nature.
- The holy grail of the faith is “Jal, Jungle, Zameen” and its followers pray to the trees and hills while believing in protecting the forest areas.
- Jharkhand has 32 tribal groups of which eight are from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
- It is believed that 50 lakhs tribal in the entire country put their religion as ‘Sarna’ in the 2011 census, although it was not a code.
What has been the politics around it?
- Many of the tribals who follow this faith have later converted to Christianity—the state has more than 4% Christians most of whom are tribals.
- Some who still follow the Sarna faith believe the converted tribals are taking the benefits of reservation as a minority as well as the benefits given to Schedule Tribes.
- They also believe that benefits should be given specifically to them and not those who have converted.
What sense does a separate code make?
- The protection of their language and history is an important aspect with tribals.
- Between 1871 and 1951, the tribals had a different code.
- However, it was changed around 1961-62. Experts say that when today the entire world is focusing on reducing pollution and protecting the environment, it is prudent that Sarna becomes a religious code as the soul of this religion is to protect nature and the environment.
3,000-year-old fortress unearthed in Golan Heights
- Archaeologists unveiled a fortified structure from the time of the King David on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that sheds light on the borders of a Biblical Israeli ally.
- The 3,000-year-old fortress, found near the Jewish settlement of Hispin ahead of works to build a new neighbourhood, is believed to have belonged to the Geshurites, King David’s allies.
- Locally quarried basalt boulders form the metre-and-a-half thick walls of the hilltop complex.
- Diggers found a large stone with an engraving of two horned figures stretching out their arms and a statuette of a woman holding a musical instrument, possibly a drum.
- That also links to finds from the Iron Age, similar artefacts uncovered in Bethsaida, “a site linked to the capital of the Geshur kingdom” that lies west of Hispin on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
- There is source material indicating “family ties” between the Geshur kingdom and the kingdom of David.
Unique Maritime Cluster Coming Up At Gift City In Gujarat
What is the Maritime Cluster project?
- The concept of maritime cluster is new to India, but these clusters have been driving some of the most competitive ports of the world like Rotterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Oslo, Shanghai, and London.
- Simply put, a maritime cluster is an agglomeration of firms, institutions, and businesses in the maritime sector that are geographically located close to each other.
- The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), a nodal agency of the Gujarat government, has been trying to develop such a cluster at GIFT City in the state capital Gandhinagar through its subsidiary Gujarat Ports Infrastructure and Development Company Ltd (GPIDCL).
- This cluster will initially consist of Gujarat-based shipping lines, freight forwarders, shipping agents, bunker suppliers, stevedores, and ship brokers with chartering requirements.
- In the second stage, the cluster would attempt to bring Indian ship owners, ship operators, Indian charterers and technical consultants scattered in cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi to Gujarat.
- Thereafter it would target to attract global players in the maritime sphere.
What is the need for a maritime cluster?
- This project will try to bring back businesses that have migrated over the years to foreign locations due to the absence of the right ecosystem in the country.
- Because we didn’t have the ecosystem, a lot of Indian companies have moved to foreign locations. For instance, Adani Group has the biggest port in Gujarat, but for their chartering needs, they are based out of Dubai.
Apart from attracting maritime businesses, what else will the maritime cluster do?
- An Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre will be set up under the aegis of the Gujarat Maritime University, which will come up at the maritime cluster.
- A centre such as this does not currently exist in India.
- This centre will function like the Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre (EMAC) at the Dubai Maritime Cluster, China Maritime Arbitration Commission in the Greater Bay Area in China, and the Singapore Centre for Maritime Arbitration in the Singapore Maritime Cluster, among others.
- This centre in Gujarat will provide an option to Indian players seeking to avoid availing the services of international alternate dispute resolution hubs which entail huge costs, time, and travel.
- The cluster is also expected to house the office of the Director General of Shipping.
How old is this project and what is the current status?
- While the project was conceptualised back in 2007, it received in-principle approval from the state government only in 2015.
- A high-level committee was also formed to pilot this project.
- It is only last month that approval from the government to be based out of GIFT City for maritime cluster operations.
Spacex-NASA’s Upcoming Crew-1 Mission
- On November 14, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying a crew of four people to the International Space Station (ISS) on a six-month-long mission.
- NASA certified SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket, making it the first spacecraft certification provided by the space agency.
- This means SpaceX can now operate regular flights to the space station.
- Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA in September 2014 to develop transportation systems meant to transfer crew from the US to the ISS.
- Earlier in May, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS, becoming the first crewed flight to launch from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.
So what is the Crew-1 mission?
- The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, whose objective is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
- The Crew-1 mission will launch the agency’s astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
- At the ISS, the crew will join the members of Expedition 64, the space station crew currently in residence at the ISS.
- Crew-1 will be the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS and is the first of the three scheduled flights scheduled over the course of 2020-2021.
What will members of Crew-1 do at the ISS?
- At the ISS, the Crew-1 team will join members of Expedition 64 and conduct microgravity studies and deliver new science hardware and experiments that they will carry with them to space aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
- Some of the research that the crew is carrying with themselves includes materials to investigate food physiology, which will study the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and how those improvements can help crews adapt to spaceflight.
- Another experiment aboard the Crew Dragon is a student-designed experiment titled, “Genes in Space-7” that aims to understand how spaceflight affects brain function.
- Other experiments include research that will enable scientists to understand the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms, experiment on the role of microgravity on human health and another on how microgravity affects heart tissue.
Database of Migrant Workers
- The Finance Ministry has given its go-ahead for the creation of the first ever national database of migrant labour to provide a platform for workers and employers, and for the government to implement specific programmes for such labourers.
- The Ministry of Labour & Employment has envisaged development of a ‘National Database of Unorganised Workers’ (NDUW) seeded with Aadhaar. The project will enrol all unorganised workers, including migrant workers.
- It will help workers to share information about his/her skill which, in turn, will make it easy for employers to find suitable person.
- Apart from being a platform for employer and potential employee, it can be helpful in providing welfare schemes or implementing social security initiatives.
- Also, the movement of labour can be tracked in a situation like a Covid-induced lockdown so they can be assisted when in desperation.
A rough estimation of size
- The Code on Occupational Health, Safety and Working Conditions enables the provision for maintaining a database of migrant workers to help in targeting, skill mapping and utilising government schemes effectively.
- The Code ensures that migrant workers get journey allowance once a year from employers to visit their home towns.
- Migrant workers keep moving from one place to another place in search of work and such workforce also keeps shifting from one sector to another depending upon the opportunities (such as more wages, duration, and continuity of work), hence, it is not easy to keep record/data of migrant labour workforce.
- However, according to the Economic Survey 2016-17, the size of the workforce as per Census 2011 was 482 million people and based on extrapolation, this figure would have exceeded 500 million in 2016.
- If the share of migrants in the workforce is estimated to be even 20 per cent, the size of the migrant workforce can be estimated to be over 100 million in 2016 in absolute terms.
- Researchers have found a new “hidden” gene in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that may have contributed to its unique biology that has triggered pandemic in the world.
- The study mentioned that the virus has about 15 genes in total, and this unique gene that they have found overlaps these genes (genes within genes).
- Overlapping genes may be one of an arsenal of ways in which coronaviruses have evolved to replicate efficiently, thwart host immunity, or get themselves transmitted.
- Knowing that overlapping genes exist and how they function may reveal new avenues for coronavirus control, for example, through antiviral drugs.
- This gene — ORF3d — is also present in a previously discovered pangolin coronavirus. This could answer repeated loss or gain of this gene during the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses.
- ORF3d has been independently identified and shown to elicit a strong antibody response in Covid-19 patients.
- According to researchers, overlapping genes are hard to identify, and most scientific computer programs are not designed to find them. However, they are common in viruses.
Sputnik V, Claims 92 Per Cent Efficacy
- Russia’s Gamaleya Centre and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) have said Sputnik V, their Covid-19 vaccine, has shown efficacy of 92 per cent after its second dose.
- The announcement comes within days of American company Pfizer claiming over 90 per cent efficacy, following an interim analysis from late stage Phase III trials.
- Registered in early August, Sputnik V was the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus, created on the platform of human adenoviral vectors.
- The vaccine came in for criticism from some scientific quarters for rushing through with its registration, though some countries proceeded with efforts to acquire it.
China Launches ‘the World’s First 6g Experimental Satellite’
- China has successfully launched what was billed as ‘the world’s first 6G experimental satellite’.
- The satellite would test a type of communication waves that could boost the current streaming speeds by 100 times.
- The satellite carries multiple experiment devices and is due to test the technology of terahertz waves in space.
- Terahertz waves, which are high-frequency radiation, allow data to travel at 50 gigabits a second. That offers streaming speeds about 100 times faster than those possible today, in which wireless networks reach a top speed of 500 megabytes.
- The satellite was blasted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China’s Shanxi Province by a Long March-6 carrier rocket.
- The rocket also carried 10 commercial remote sensing satellites known as NewSat9-18, which were developed by Argentinian company Satellogic.
THE EVOLUTION OF MOBILE BROADBAND UP TO 5G
- The evolution of the G system started in 1980 with the invention of the mobile phone which allowed for analogue data to be transmitted via phone calls.
- Digital came into play in 1991 with 2G and SMS and MMS capabilities were launched.
- Since then, the capabilities and carrying capacity for the mobile network has increased massively.
- More data can be transferred from one point to another via the mobile network quicker than ever.
- 5G is expected to be 100 times faster than the currently used 4G.
- Whilst the jump from 3G to 4G was most beneficial for mobile browsing and working, the step to 5G will be so fast they become almost real-time.
- That means mobile operations will be just as fast as office-based internet connections.
Potential uses for 5g include:
- Simultaneous translation of several languages in a party conference call
- Self-driving cars can stream movies, music and navigation information from the cloud
- A full length 8GB film can be downloaded in six seconds.
5G is expected to be so quick and efficient it is possible it could start the end of wired connections.
Que- Bahrain’s Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister who had held the post since Independence in 1971, died recently belongs to which country