Jal Jeevan Mission
Why in News?
- The National Jal Jeevan Mission has launched an innovation challenge in partnership with Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade to develop portable devices for water testing.
- To bring an innovative, modular, and cost-effective solution to develop portable devices that can be used at the household level to test the drinking water quality instantly, easily and accurately.
- Water quality testing is one of the priority areas under Jal Jeevan Mission, the flagship programme of Union Government.
- The aim of the innovation challenge is to ensure that water sources are tested at various locations, at different levels; thereby, helping the policy framers to design programs which address the water contamination issues.
- Drinking water supply in rural areas is from both from groundwater (80%) and surface water (20%) sources. However, due to the depleting groundwater level, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, the use of surface water is on the rise.
- The Uniform Drinking Water Quality Protocol, 2019 has specified some important parameters to be monitored for assuring portability of drinking water as per BIS IS 10500:2012 and subsequent amendments.
About JAl Jeevan Mission
- Jal Jeevan Mission is under implementation in partnership with the States to enable every rural home to have tap water connection by 2024.
- The aim of the mission is to provide every rural household potable tap water in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality on a regular and long-term basis.
Good Governance Day 2020
- Good governance is observed annually on December 25. The day is also celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of India’s former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
- The actions that a government takes to manage its affairs in a state or a country can be called Governance.
- In other words, it can be defined as ‘the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented.’
- However, to create awareness of accountability in government among the citizens of India, Good Governance Day is observed every year.
- The day aims to let the citizens, the students, who are the future of the country know about the government’s responsibilities and duties that it needs to fulfill.
Indian Institute of Skills, Mumbai
Why in News?
- The first batch of trainings at the Tata-Indian Institute of Skills, Mumbai was launched.
- With the vision of propelling India to the forefront of skill development and job creation under Skill India Mission and to provide an impetus to Skill India programme through private sector participation.
- The institute is a joint initiative between Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India and Tata Indian Institute of Skills.
- The first batch at TATA-Indian Institute of Skills will commence training with two courses in Factory Automation.
- The institute will also offer scholarships to the first 100 students.
- The primary goal behind setting up the institute is to create industry-ready workforce as per the evolving demands of the national and global markets.
- It aspires to be one of the most premier training institutions in the country and will be equipped with world-class vocational training facilities.
- The institute plans to provide trainings in highly specialized areas such as defense, oil & gas, aerospace, and other emerging businesses to meet industry demands.
University for Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Sciences
Why in News?
- The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry invited comments from the public on a draft Bill for setting up a university for disability studies and rehabilitation sciences.
- The Ministry sought comments on the draft University of Disabilities Studies and Rehabilitation Sciences Bill, 2021.
- The proposed university to be located in Kamrup district, Assam, would be “the first of its kind.”
- The university would be a multi-disciplinary institution for research and courses from Bachelor’s level onward.
- The university was proposed to have eight departments — disability studies; rehabilitation sciences; audiology and speech language pathology; special education; psychology; nursing; orthotics, prosthetics and assistive technology; and inclusive and universal design.
Shortage of professionals
- The Ministry’s proposal stated that there was a shortage of rehabilitation professionals in the country.
- Only 1.65 lakh professionals, including clinical psychologists, caregivers and speech therapists, were registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India.
- The requirement of rehabilitation professionals in the country is about 10 times more.
Electronic-human Resource Management System (e-HRMS)
Why in News?
- The Union Home Secretary and Secretary released the progress report of e-HRMS launched by the Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions on 25th December, 2017.
- It had 25 applications of five modules.
- Application of artificial intelligence tools will greatly help in policy making and in handling of matters related to personnel.
- Through e-HRMS, government employees are accessing their service-related information and it has digitised HR processes in the government of India, leading to several benefits for the employees and increasing efficiency.
- With the advanced version of e-HRMS, employees will be able to not only see all their details with respect to service book, leave, GPF, salary, etc., but also apply for different kind of claims/reimbursements, loan/advances, leave, leave encashment, LTC advances, tour etc. on a single platform.
Why in News?
- The Central Information Commission (CIC), the lead body for implementing the Right to Information Act, has now ruled that the disclosure of identity of electoral bond scheme donors will not serve any larger public interest and will violate provisions of the Act itself.
- The commission observed that the “disclosure of names of donors and the donees may be in contravention of provisions contained in section 8 (1) (e) ( j ) of the RTI Act itself, which exempt a public authority to give a citizen information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrant the disclosure of such information”.
- The electoral bond scheme, which was notified by the Centre in 2018, allows citizens and corporates to buy monetary instruments from the SBI and donate them to a political party, which is then free to redeem it for money.
- The same CIC, in an order issued this January, had directed the Centre to reveal the names of electoral bond scheme donors who wanted their identities to remain confidential.
- Citizen groups have been arguing that the information of donors must be disclosed in the interest of transparency.
Cairn Wins Arbitration Ruling against India
Why in News?
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has ruled that the Indian government was wrong in applying retrospective tax on Cairn.
- In its ruling, the international arbitration court said that Indian government must pay roughly Rs 8,000 crore in damages to Cairn.
What is the dispute all about?
- Like Vodafone, this dispute between the Indian government and Cairn also relates to retrospective taxation.
- In 2006-07, as a part of internal rearrangement, Cairn UK transferred shares of Cairn India Holdings to Cairn India.
- The Income Tax authorities then contented that Cairn UK had made capital gains and slapped it with a tax demand of Rs 24,500 crore.
- Owing to different interpretations of capital gains, the company refused to pay the tax, which prompted cases being filed at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the High Court.
- While Cairn had lost the case at ITAT, a case on the valuation of capital gains is still pending before the Delhi High court.
- In 2011, Cairn Energy sold majority of its India business, Cairn India, to mining conglomerate Vedanta.
- Cairn UK was however not allowed to sell a minor stake of about 10 per cent by the income tax authorities.
- Authorities had also siezed Cairn India shares as well as dividends that the company paid to its parent UK firm.
What has the arbitration court said?
- Cairn Tax Issue was not just a tax related issue but an investment related dispute, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the international arbitration court.
- Akin to the ruling in the Vodafone arbitration case, the PCA at The Hague has once again ruled that the Indian government’s retrospective demand was “in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment”.
- It has noted that Cairn UK’s argument that the demand on them was made after the Vodafone retrospective tax demand, which has since been set aside by Indian courts.
Religious Freedom Bill
Why in News?
- The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet approved the Religious Freedom Bill 2020, which provides for prison term of up to 10 years and fine of ₹ 1 lakh for conversion through marriage or by any other fraudulent means.
- After the approval by the Cabinet, the bill will now be presented in the state Assembly.
- This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly).
- Any marriage solemnized only for the purpose of converting a person will be considered null and void under the provisions of this proposed legislation.
- A provision is also being made that those willing to convert need to apply before the district administration two months prior.
Why in News?
- State-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) is set to diversify into non-coal mining areas as well as make major investments in clean technology in 2021 after demand for the dry fuel remained muted for most of this year amid the coronavirus pandemic impacting economic activities.
- The government recently opened up the country’s mining sector for private players by auctioning 19 blocks.
- Coal demand across the world is projected to fall by around five per cent this year compared to 2019 while various sectoral challenges are expected to persist in 2021.
- CIL will make investments in renewable energy, get into aluminium and clean coal technology.
- In the coming year, CIL is also likely to go ahead with its agenda of achieving one billion tonnes of production target by 2023-24.
- The coal ministry took initiatives to re-visit old laws with an aim to improve efficiency, ease of doing business, and to open up coal sector to improve domestic coal production and reduce imports.
- Prior to amendments in the mining law, there was dominance of public sector companies both in exploration and mining of coal.
- The Mineral Concession Rule, 1960 was governing many aspects of coal mining and required amendment in furthering the coal sector reforms.
- Sustainable Development Cell aims to promote environmentally sustainable coal mining and address environmental concerns during the decommissioning or closure of mines.
- The cell also formulates policy framework for the environmental mitigation measures, including the mine closure fund.
- Global coal consumption is estimated to have fallen 7%, or over 500 million tonnes, between 2018 and 2020.
- In 2019, global coal demand decreased 1.8% after two years of growth as power generation from coal weakened globally, including in India.
- Coal use is anticipated to increase 3.8% in 2021. In the medium term (to 2025), India has one of the highest potentials to increase coal consumption as electricity demand rises and more steel and cement are required for infrastructure projects.
Coal Mining to Be Allowed In Non-forest Areas
Why in News?
- Coal can now be mined on non-forest lands of a mining area by just obtaining preliminary clearance under the the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, according to a recent decision taken by the Union government.
- Under the FCA, 1980, anyone wanting to carry out non-forest activities such as mining has to obtain forest clearance (FC) in two stages. The preliminary clearance is called the Stage I FC.
- However, the FC under the FCA, 1980, is considered granted only after a project gets the Stage II approval.
- The approval is obtained by fulfilling all the stipulated conditions.
- These include paying the cost of compensatory afforestation that is to be carried out and giving the compensatory afforestation land. Under FCA, mining can only start after the FC is granted.
This would be subject to the compliance of the following conditions:
- All the compensatory levies stipulated in Stage I approval have been deposited
- Environment clearances for the total area have been obtained.
- Such permission in the non-forest area shall not create any obligation of fait accompli with regard to Stage II clearance for the proposed forest area
- The FAC is a forest land diversion regulatory body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
- A lot of mining projects had been delayed because of the prohibition of mining in non-forest areas.
World to breach 1.5°C threshold by 2027-2042
Why in News?
- The planet will breach the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels between 2027 and 2042, a group of researchers said.
- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had estimated that breach to occur between now and 2052.
- According to new study, prediction model deployed reduced uncertainties by half compared to the approach used by the IPCC.
- Researchers however, claimed to have introduced a more precise way to project the Earth’s temperature based on historical climate data instead of theoretical relationships, thereby increasing scope for more accurate calculations as well as predictions.
- The IPCC uses the General Circulation Models (GCM) to express wide ranges in overall temperature projections.
- This makes it difficult to circle outcomes in different climate mitigation scenarios.
- For example, an IPCC model would predict a temperature increase of a massive range — between 1.9oC and 4.5oC — if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is doubled.
Carbon Capture Technology Not On Track to Reduce Co2 Emissions
Why in News?
- Global progress on the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology from 2010-2020 was not on track to effectively control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net zero emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
- CCS technology’s target to restrict global warming to 2ºC aims to capture 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions a year by 2025, but it is unlikely to be met, according to a report by International Energy Agency (IEA).
What is carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS)?
- CCUS technology is designed to capture CO2 emissions from combustion of fossil fuels. It can absorb 85-95 per cent of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
- The process starts with the capture of generated CO2, which undergoes a compression process to form a dense fluid. This eases the transport and storage of the captured CO2.
- The dense fluid is transported via pipelines and then injected into an underground storage facility. Captured CO2 can also be used as a raw material in other industrial processes such as bicarbonates.
Why is CCS crucial
- The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming presents four scenarios for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius: All require CO2 removal and three involve major use of CCS.
- The cement, iron and steel and chemical sectors emit carbon due to the nature of their industrial processes and high-temperature requirements. They are among the hardest to decarbonise. CCS can facilitate a just transition by allowing industries to make sustained contributions to local economies while moving toward net-zero.
- Enabling the production of low-carbon hydrogen at scale coal or natural gas with CCS is the cheapest way to produce low-carbon hydrogen.
- India’s Department of Science and Technology has established a national programme on CO2 storage research and, in August 2020, made a call for proposals to support CCS research, development, pilot and demonstration projects.
- This is part of the accelerating CCS technologies (ACT) initiative, for which India has committed one million euros to support Indian participants.
- At least 16 countries, regions and provinces are working together in ACT to fund research and development that can lead to a safe and cost-effective CCUS technology.
China to overtake US as World’s Biggest Economy
Why in News?
- China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy before the end of the decade after outperforming its rival during the global Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report.
- The Centre for Economics and Business Research said that it now expected the value of China’s economy when measured in dollars to exceed that of the US by 2028, half a decade sooner than it expected a year ago.
- With the US expected to contract by 5% this year, China will narrow the gap with its biggest rival.
- Overall, global gross domestic product is forecast to decline by 4.4% this year, in the biggest one-year fall since the Second World War.
- China’s share of global GDP has increased from 3.6% in 2000 to 17.8% in 2019 and will continue to grow.
- It would pass the per capita threshold of $12,536 (£9,215) to become a high-income country by 2023.
- Even so, living standards in China will remain much lower than in the US and western European countries.
- The CEBR said departure from the EU would not prevent the UK – likely to be the world’s fifth biggest economy in 2020 – from being one of the better performing economies in the next 15 years.
- India, after overtaking France and the UK last year, had fallen back behind the UK as a result of a sharp fall in the value of the rupee. But the dip will be short-lived, with the world’s second most populous country on course to be its third biggest economy by 2035.
- Environmental issues would start to have a serious impact on the shape of the world economy over the next 15 years following a period in which the effects of global heating had become apparent more quickly than previously feared.
- “Sea levels are expected to have risen by 45cm from the 2000 base by 2035. This compares with the smaller 20cm rise by 2030 predicted two years ago.”
- The cost of a barrel of crude would fall below $30 by 2035.
Discovery of ‘Cryptic Species’
Why in News?
- A growing number of “cryptic species” hiding in plain sight have been unmasked in the past year, driven in part by the rise of DNA barcoding, a technique that can identify and differentiate between animal and plant species using their genetic divergence.
- The discovery of new species of aloe, African leaf-nosed bats and chameleons that appear similar to the human eye but are in fact many and separate have thrilled and worried conservationists.
- Scientists say our planet might be more biologically diverse than previously thought, and estimates for the total number of species could be far higher than the current best guess of 8.7 million.
- But cryptic discoveries often mean that species once considered common and widespread are actually several, some of which may be endangered and require immediate protection.
- The Jonah’s mouse lemur was only unveiled to the world this summer but is already on the verge of extinction.
- The newly described Popa langur in Myanmar, previously confused with another species, numbers around 200 and is likely to be classified as critically endangered, threatened by habitat loss and deforestation.
- The discovery of these cryptic species has been driven in part by the rise of DNA barcoding, a technique that can identify and differentiate between animal and plant species using their genetic divergence.
- African elephants, Indian vine snakes and South American neotropical birds are among the growing number of unmaskings.
- Thousands more are expected in the coming years, from living creatures and museum samples.
- Canadian professor Paul Hebert, known as the “father of DNA barcoding”.