India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit
- The Prime Minister of India, and the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, H.E. Mr. Xavier Bettel, held the first-ever India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit.
- The two Prime Ministers underlined the excellent relations between India and Luxembourg based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
List of Agreements acknowledged on the occasion of India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit
1- MoU between India International Exchange (India INX) and Luxembourg Stock Exchange
- Provides for cooperation in financial services industry, maintenance of orderly markets in securities respective country, ESG (environmental, social and governance) and green finance in the local market.
2- MoU between State Bank of India and Luxembourg Stock Exchange
- Provides for cooperation in financial services, industry maintenance of orderly markets in securities respective country, ESG (environmental, social and governance) and green finance in the local market.
3- MoU between Invest India and Luxinnovation
- Supporting and developing mutual business cooperation between Indian and Luxembourg companies, including promotion and facilitation of inbound FDI, coming from or proposed by Indian and Luxembourgish investors.
15th G20 Leaders Summit
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will be attending the 15th G20 Summit chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the theme “Realising the Opportunities of 21st Century for All” on 21-22 November 2020.
- The upcoming summit is the second G 20 Leaders’ meeting in 2020.
- The focus of the upcoming G20 Summit will be on an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19.
- During the G 20 Summit, the leaders will discuss pandemic preparedness and the ways and means to restore jobs.
- The leaders will also share their vision for building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future.
- India will enter the G20 Troika, along with Saudi Arabia when Italy will take over the Presidency of the G-20 on 1st December, 2020.
Financial Management and Governance Reform Initiatives
- The Ministry of AYUSH has rolled out a set of initiatives to improve Financial Management and accelerate Governance Reforms.
- These initiatives have two thrust areas, namely the Government Schemes (both Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored) and the Autonomous Bodies of the Ministry.
- Drawing up the list of financial and governance reforms, and designing programme/schemes to ensure that fund flow is reached to Project Implementation Agency in a seamless and direct manner are among the ground work activities identified.
- These will be supplemented with timely release of funds to State Governments with matching shares and pre-defined triggers so that there is no parking of funds at any level.
- These steps, thus serve to nullify some of the frequently observed bottlenecks that delay government projects.
- An immediate impact of this initiative has been the increased adoption of the Public Financial Management System,, by the Autonomous Bodies and Schemes Units of the Ministry.
- The practice of the Autonomous Bodies (ABs) entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ministry of AYUSH with performance targets has also been adopted and implementation with respect to many of the ABs.
- These MoUs will help to align the outcomes of the Autonomous Bodies with the goals and objectives of the Ministry, and to eliminate overlaps and wastages of efforts and resources.
- In order to pre-empt leakage and increase speed, all payments like stipends to students etc., will be through electronic mode, on the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) platform.
- Introduction of Third Party Evaluation of all Government Schemes of the Ministry is another step, and this will be carried out by November, 2020.
- This will lead to objective evaluation of outcomes and consequent performance improvement.
- National Ayush Mission (NAM) is a flagship project with country-wide impact on promotion of AYUSH systems, special efforts will be taken to streamline its operations.
- Steps are initiated to develop a portal, on the lines by N-FAMS (NHM Financial Accounting Management System) for National AYUSH Mission (NAM) – March, 2021.
- It was also decided to develop a Dashboard for real time monitoring of flow of funds.
My Stamp on Chhath Puja
- Ministry of Communications released a “My Stamp on Chhath Puja”.
- My Stamp is an innovative concept initiated by Department of Posts. Any common person or corporate organisation can now book order and get a personalised photograph or an image of a Postage Stamp.
- My Stamp is one of the unique products being offered by India Post, which has gained its popularity in customised gifting category.
- A special cover on the theme ‘Chhath- A symbol of Simplicity and Cleanliness ‘was also released.
- Chhath Puja is the only festival in which we worship not only the rising sun but also the sunset i.e. Usha and Pratyusha.
- The worship of Surya and ChhathiMaiya is unique to the traditions and propagates values of simplicity, purity and discipline.
LAND MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS)
- As part of efforts to improve overall management of defence land, for the first time a Land Management System (LMS) has been developed by Department of Defence in conjunction with Directorate General Defence Estates, DGDE and Armed forces.
- The portal was formally launched by Raksha Mantri.
- The Intra-net portal shall digitize all requests of defence land management received by the Department in future.
- It is also in process of progressively capturing archival data into the system.
- All data for cases since 2016 have already been captured and are available in the portal.
- Progressively, data of prior period will also be entered in the portal which is meant only for departmental use and it is not open for the public.
- The portal is expected to bring in greater speed, transparency and efficiency into the Land Management System (LMS) of the Department.
- With integration of GIS based tool, it will improve decision making process by removing duplication/unnecessary communication between various stakeholder groups involved in the decision-making process.
- The technical support for this GIS-based system has been provided by BISAG, India’s premier organization in GIS based informatics.
- The software, apart from capturing the textual details of all proposals relating to defence management, integrates these textual details with Raksha Bhoomi software as well as other relevant GIS-layers which include satellite imagery of the area, other amenities etc.
Vatayan Lifetime Achievement Award
- Union Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ will be conferred with the Vatayan Lifetime Achievement Award on 21st November, 2020.
- This award will be another in the list of many other national and international awards and honours conferred to the Minister for writing, poetry and other literary works.
- He has earlier received several awards in the field of literature and administration including Sahitya Bharati Award by the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
- Sahitya Gaurav Samman by Former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
- Bharat Gaurav Samman, Good Governance Award by Dubai Government,
- Outstanding Achievement Award by Global Organization of Person of Indian Origin by Mauritius,
- Awarded in Ukraine in the area of environmental protection.
- He is also honoured with “Himal Gaurav Samman” by Nepal.
- The German version ‘nureinWunsch” of Shri Nishank’s story collection ‘Just a Desire’, is published in Afro Asian Institute, Hamburg.
- His ‘Sparsh Ganga’ initiative was included in Mauritius school curriculum.
- He is actively associated with various Social activities such as unique drive of `Swaran Ganga.
- Vatayan International Awards given by the Vatayan-UK organization in London, honours poets, writers and artists for their exemplary work in their respective fields.
- Earlier many eminent personalities like Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar have been awarded the Vatayan Awards for their literary contribution.
Energy Technology Perspectives 2020
- Executive Director of International Energy Agency (IEA), Mr. Fatih Birol said that India has moved to the Centre stage of international Energy Affairs and is a role model for other major emerging economies.
- Speaking at a virtual launch of the Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, a new study of IEA which focusses on the technology needs and opportunities for reaching international climate and sustainable energy goals,
- Praised the Indian government for its efforts in providing clean energy to millions by way of schemes like Ujjawala and Ujala.
- The IEA report lays stress, especially on
- how Governments have an outsized role to play in supporting transitions towards low emissions
- by way of effective policy toolkits towards tackling emissions
- From existing infrastructure and technologies, strengthening markets for technologies at an early stage of adoption, developing and upgrading infrastructure that enables technology deployment, boosting support for research, development and demonstration and expanding international technology collaboration.
Meghalaya Integrated Transport Project (MITP)
- The Government of India, the Government of Meghalaya and the World Bank signed a $120 million project to improve and modernise the transport sector of state of Meghalaya.
- This will help Meghalaya to harness its vast growth potential for high-value agriculture and tourism.
- The project will improve about 300 km of strategic road segments and stand-alone bridges by using innovative, climate resilient, and nature-based solutions.
- It will also support innovative solutions such as precast bridges to reduce both time and cost of construction.
- This project will tap into Meghalaya’s growth potential in two ways.
- Within the state, it will provide the much-needed transport connectivity.
- It will also position Meghalaya as a major connecting hub for international trade through the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and the Nepal Corridor.
- This operation will also support state government’s “Restart Meghalaya Mission” to revive and boost development activities affected due to COVID-19 pandemic.
- The $120 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a maturity of 14 years including a grace period of 6 years.
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
- Main component organization of the World Bank.
- It provides loans at market rates of interest to middle-income developing countries and creditworthy lower-income countries.
- Most of its funds come from sales of bonds in international capital markets.
- More than 180 countries are members of the IBRD.
- Each member’s voting power is linked to its capital subscription; the U.S., with some one-sixth of the shares in the IBRD, has veto power over any proposed changes to the bank.
- It established in 1945, which provides debt financing on the basis of sovereign guarantees.
Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge
- Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs stated that Government of India is committed to ensure that no person needs to enter a sewer or septic tank, unless absolutely unavoidable in the interest of greater public hygiene.
- Launching the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge in New Delhi.
- Aims to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of ‘hazardous cleaning.
- The Challenge, aptly launched on the occasion of World Toilet Day, is aimed at preventing ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning.
- To mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations of 243 cities by 30th April 2021.
- The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013) and various judgements of Hon’ble Supreme Court expressly prohibit hazardous cleaning, i.e. manual entry into a septic tank or sewer without protective gear and observing operating procedures.
- Despite this, recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities of society, continue to be an issue of concern.
- The actual on-ground assessment of participating cities will be conducted in May 2021 by an independent agency and results of the same will be declared on 15 August 2021.
- Cities will be awarded in three sub-categories – with population of more than 10 lakhs, 3-10 lakhs and upto 3 lakhs, with a total prize money of Rs 52 crores to be given to winning cities across all categories.
‘The Republican Ethic’ and ‘Loktantra Ke Swar’
- Ministry of Information & Broadcasting unveiled e-book versions of two books ‘The Republican Ethic Volume III’ and ‘Loktantra Ke Swar’.
- The Republican Ethic, Volume 3, is a collection of selected speeches of the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind during the third year of his presidency.
- Divided into eight sections, the 57 speeches covered in this volume reflect the thoughts and vision of Shri Kovind for building a new India that is forward looking, growing and also strongly rooted in its historical and cultural value systems.
- The ideals of justice, equality, fraternity, non-violence, universal brotherhood, inclusive growth and special concern for vulnerable segments of the society are recurrent themes in his speeches.
- This book contains his vision of a vibrant India of the 21st century, powered by its gifted people and guiding our world towards a safer and greener future.
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will inaugurate the virtual 3rd Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo (RE-INVEST 2020), on 26 November 2020.
- 3rd RE-Invest will build upon the success of the first two editions held in 2015 and 2018 and provide an international forum for investment promotion in renewable energy.
- RE-INVEST 2020 will include a two-day virtual conference on renewables and future energy choices and an exhibition of manufacturers, developers, investors and innovators engaged in the clean energy sector.
- The event will provide a great opportunity to various countries, states, business houses & organizations to showcase their strategies, achievements and expectations.
- It would facilitate collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in India, which has emerged as one of the world’s largest renewable energy markets today.
- Ministerial Delegations from across the world, global industry leaders, and large number of delegates are expected to participate in the event.
- During the last six years, India’s renewable energy capacity has increased by two and half times.
- Solar energy capacity has increased 13 times.
- The share of non-fossil fuel energy sources in our power generation capacity has increased to 136 GW, or about 36 per cent of our total capacity.
- By 2022, the share is expected to further increase to over 220 GW.
- Role of renewables in the farm sector, PM- KUSUM scheme, aims to replace 20 lakh diesel pumps with stand-alone Solar Pumps, solarize 15 lakh grid connected pumps, and 10 GW decentralized solar power plants in uncultivable lands of farmers within next four years.
- Solar flares or sudden explosion of energy caused by tangling, crossing, or reorganizing of magnetic field lines near sunspots and active regions, has been probed by scientists for years, and much of it still remain a mystery.
- Solar physicists have explored the first evidence of a significant number of plasma blobs, which they have observed associated with the biggest solar flare of the decade on September 10, 2017.
- Their statistical analysis of the plasma blobs or plasmoids, which are aftermaths of the solar flare, reveals a very hot current sheet with temperature over 20 million Kelvin.
- These current sheets are formed when magnetic fields of opposite polarities come close to each other and reconfigure, giving rise to a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection.
- This process is accompanied by the release of large amount of energy stored in the magnetic fields very fast and drives the eruption (CME) as well as heat the local plasma. Thus, the current sheets are often very hot.
- The research provides the first evidence of significant number of plasma blobs along with the current sheet in the wake of a solar flare that could help delve deeper into solar flares.
- It could be a step further in our understanding on the role of formation of plasma blobs in current sheets for dissipating a large amount of magnetic energy in a short time during or after solar flares.
Hydrogel from Spirulina
- An injectable hydrogel derived from spirulina can help accelerated wound repair in internal injuries and rapid healing in diabetic patients.
- Repeated dressing of diabetic wound badly affects its healing process while it is difficult to assess the wound repair in internal injuries due to treatment complications.
- To address this need, Scientists at the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali have recently developed an injectable hydrogel from κappa-carrageenan, a water-soluble polysaccharide found in edible red seaweeds and a pigmented protein called C-phycocyanin found in spirulina.
- The gelling property of κ-carrageenan was utilized by the researchers along with C-phycocyanin as an injectable and regenerative wound dressing matrix to heal the wound rapidly and also to monitor it progress in real-time.
- The matrix developed was highly biocompatible.
- The hydrogel matrix developed is fluorescent and allowed in vivo Near-infrared (NIR) imaging.
- Thus, it could help monitor the recovery of the wound by taking the time-lapse 3D images of the hydrogel filled wound.
- Changing depth of the wound bed allow detection of the percentage recovery in wounds.
- The anti-inflammatory response and rapid blood clotting ability of κ-carrageenan-C-phycocyanin (κ-CRG-C-Pc) further empowered its applicability in rapid blood clotting, anti-inflammation, and appropriate monitoring of accelerated wound recovery.
- The synthesized hydrogel will be highly beneficial for people of all age groups in wound healing applications.
- Its injectable property allowed its application in tough to reach internal injuries without opening the peritoneum of the patients.
- It also holds promise to be utilized in high altitude frost injury application due to its self-healing properties.
Moody’s Revises India’s 2020-21 Gdp Contraction
- Moody’s Investors Service has revised its GDP projection for India in 2020-21 to a 10.6% contraction compared to a 11.5% drop it had estimated.
- The rating agency has also marginally elevated its forecast for 2021-22 GDP growth from 10.6% to 10.8%.
- Moody’s termed the Centre’s November 12 package of stimulus measures ‘credit positive’.
- The latest measures aim to increase the competitiveness of India’s manufacturing sector and create jobs, while supporting infrastructure investment, credit availability and stressed sectors.
- Along with the wage support provided to businesses by the government in the form of new employees’ EPF contributions, the push to scale up production under the Production-Linked Incentives scheme could increase employment in India’s persistently soft labour market.
- The extension of the emergency credit line guarantee scheme till March 2021, with the inclusion of stressed sectors under its ambit, ‘will boost credit flow, a key element in the economy’s recovery’.
- Moody’s expects the general government fiscal deficit to remain wide, reaching around 12% of the GDP, with some upside risk, in 2020-21,
- before narrowing to about 7% of GDP over the medium term,
- Which would still be higher than the deficit of 6.5% of GDP recorded in 2019-20.
Constitutional Validity of Centre’s Newly Enacted Three Farm Laws
- The Supreme Court restored a PIL, which was dismissed earlier, challenging the constitutional validity of Centre’s newly enacted three farm laws on a ground that Parliament lacked power to make legislations on the subject as ‘agriculture’ is a state subject in the Constitution.
- The three laws — Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
- These laws came into being from September 27 after President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent.
- These pleas have sought setting aside of these statutes on various grounds.
- In PIL, questioned these laws as “being contra to the Article 246 of the Constitution” as the agriculture falls in the State list instead of Union List and hence, Parliament has no power to legislate on the subject.
- The agriculture is placed at entry 14 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
- Entry 14 – Agriculture, including agricultural education and research, protection against pests and prevention of plant diseases.
Tree Canopy Lab
- Google has launched a tool that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and aerial imaging to map tree canopy coverage in a city and plan future tree-planting projects accordingly.
- Tree Canopy Lab is a part of Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer platform and Los Angeles is the first city where the project is piloted.
- The company plans to add data on hundreds more cities.
- Google collects the aerial imagery primarily in the spring, summer and fall seasons, and includes an overlay of imported public data from external sources, such as heat risk data, population density data, land use data and neighbourhood boundary data.
- To estimate tree canopy coverage, Google analyses the imagery with 3D digital surface models and generates a vegetation probability model.
- Any values above a certain threshold are classified as a tree canopy and using estimates generated by the model, overall coverage for each area is determined.
- The tool puts the data collected via aerial imagery on a map with population of neighbourhood areas and their vulnerability to high temperatures.
- By clicking on an area on the map, viewers can learn about the tree coverage, average heat health index and average population density per area.
- They can also understand how heat and population density correlate with tree coverage and land type distribution across neighbourhoods.
- The aim is to plant trees in areas that are more exposed to high temperatures and help cities reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
Covid-19 Vaccine For Older Age Groups
- The coronavirus vaccine developed by teams at the University of Oxford has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and those over 70 years of age.
- The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine is safe and well tolerated with a lower reactogenicity profile in older adults than in younger adults, meaning the older age groups could build immunity to the disease.
- These findings are encouraging because older individuals are at disproportionate risk of severe COVID-19 and so any vaccine adopted for use against SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] must be effective in older adults.
- This means there are now four promising vaccines on the horizon after Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik and Moderna already reporting good preliminary data from Phase 3 trials.
- Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by pharma major AstraZeneca.
- Antibodies play an important role in the immune response to viruses.
- The latest trial assessed both the quantity and quality of antibody found in participant blood samples.
- An ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay – a plate-based laboratory technique) was used to detect and measure the quantity of antibodies in the blood that recognise the spike protein.
- In addition to measuring the quantity of antibody, the study also examined the quality of antibody, its ability to neutralise the virus.
- Like the previous study, good levels of neutralising antibodies were produced, and this was consistent across all age groups.
- T-cells play an important role in the immune response to viral infections.
- Some T-cells are responsible for killing viruses inside infected cells, whilst others are responsible for providing help to other components of the immune response.
- There is increasing evidence that T-cells play an important role in preventing serious disease with natural infection of the COVID-19 virus.
- The latest trial shows that after a single vaccination, T-cell responses were highly comparable in all ages and across different doses.
- The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has busted an international drug smuggling racket with the seizure of over half a kg of cocaine couriered from Trinidad & Tobago to Mumbai.
- Codenamed ‘Calypso’, the operation spanning three days was carried out in Mumbai and Rajasthan’s Udaipur.
- The agency initially intercepted a courier packet containing a steam iron press, inside of which 504 gram of cocaine was found.
- The packet, which had been sent from Trinidad & Tobago to Mumbai, was seized.
Oxford Economics India’s Growth Forecast
- Global forecasting firm Oxford Economics revised downwards its India growth forecast over the medium term to an average 4.5% over 2020-25, from its pre-pandemic projection of 6.5%.
- It said India’s post-COVID-19 scars could be among the worst in the world.
- An adequate and well-designed fiscal stimulus would halve this impact by limiting deterioration in pre-COVID-19 headwinds.
- Indian government has announced various schemes and reforms this year, with an eye on the medium-to-long-term growth.
- However, its policy implementation track record is mixed and is likely to have been weakened further by recent social and institutional developments that detract from its capacity to focus on economic policy-making.
- Beyond 2020, Oxford Economics said India remains one of the most rapidly growing economies in our baseline.
- But, that is not enough to preclude a large medium-term output loss in the wake of COVID-19.
- It’s likely that headwinds already hampering growth prior to 2020 — such as
- Stressed corporate balance sheets, elevated non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks, the fallout in non-bank financial companies (NBFCs), and labour market weakness — will worsen.
- The central government’s fiscal deficit will widen to 7% of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2020-21 from 4.7% in 2019-20, it’s unlikely to deliver a meaningful boost to growth because it’s not the result of a surge in spending.
- On the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, the global forecasting firm said that while not a reform in itself, the scheme is an important fiscal incentive that could impart a significant boost to manufacturing and investment in principle.
- Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service upped India’s growth forecast to (-) 10.6% for the current fiscal, from its earlier estimate of (-) 11.5%.
- It said the latest stimulus prioritises manufacturing and job creation and shifts focus to longer-term growth.
One District One Product digital map
- The Ministry of Food Processing launched the GIS One District One Product (ODOP) digital map of India.
- Also virtually inaugurated the capacity building component of the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Scheme (PM-FME Scheme).
- The way forward is in local – local manufacturing, local market, and local supply chain.
- Capacity building is an important component of the PM-FME scheme, which envisages imparting training to food processing entrepreneurs, various groups, viz.,
- SHGs / FPOs / co-operatives, workers, and other stakeholders associated with the implementation of the scheme.
- The training of master trainers aims to benefit nearly 8 lakh beneficiaries from micro-enterprises, including members of Farmer Producer Organizations, Self-Help Groups, cooperatives, tribal communities, and others.
- NIFTEM and IIFPT play a key role by providing training and research support to selected enterprises/ groups/ clusters in partnership with State Level Technical Institutions.
- The Master Trainers will train the District Level Trainers, who will train the beneficiaries.
- States have also identified the food products of districts, keeping in view the availability of existing clusters and raw materials, under the scheme.
- The GIS ODOP digital map of India provides details of ODOP products of all the states and facilitates the stakeholders.