Current Affairs Feb 5

Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF)

Why in News?

  • To further strengthen & expand the adoption of Micro Irrigation systems by the farmers in the county for enhancing water use efficiency at farm level, a Budget announcement has been made to double the initial corpus of Micro Irrigation Fund of Rs. 5000 created under NABARD, by augmenting it by another Rs. 5,000 crores.
  • With a view to provide impetus to the Micro Irrigation in the country, MIF with a corpus of Rs. 5000 Crore was created with NABARD during 2018-19.

The major objective of the fund

  • To facilitate the States in mobilizing the resources to provide top up/additional incentives to farmers for incentivising micro irrigation beyond the provisions available under PMKSY-PDMC.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) is implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Per Drop More Crop’ component of ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY-PDMC)’ from  2015-16 in all the States of the country which  focuses on enhancing water use efficiency at farm level through Micro Irrigation viz. Drip and Sprinkler irrigation systems.
  • Besides promoting Micro Irrigation, this component also supports micro level water storage or water conservation/management activities to supplement source creation for Micro Irrigation.
  • Efforts are being made to converge ‘Per Drop More Crop’ Scheme with Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), Namami Gange Districts, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Surakshaevem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM), Water Harvesting Structures through Watershed Development component of PMKSY to propagate micro irrigation intensively to contribute in achieving the desired targets to enhance the water use efficiency in agriculture.
  • The GoI provides 3% interest subvention on loans extended to State Govt. under MIF.



Power Sector Reforms

Why in News?

  • Andhra Pradesh has become the second State to undertake the power sector reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.
  • As part of the reforms, the State has started Direct Benefit transfer (DBT) of electricity subsidy to farmers with effect from September, 2020. Thus, the State has successfully implemented one out of the three stipulated reforms in the power sector.
  • Besides Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh has also undertaken reforms in the power sector.

Power Sector reforms

  • Sitpulated by the Ministry of Finance aim at creating a transparent and hassle free provision of power subsidy to farmers and prevent leakages.
  • They also aim at improving the health of power distribution companies by alleviating their liquidity stress in a sustainable manner.
  • As per the guidelines issued by the Department of Expenditure, the States undertaking reforms in power sector are granted permission to raise additional financial resources of up to 0.25 percent of the GSDP. T

This is linked to a set of 3 reforms in the sector:

(i)         0.05 % of GSDP for reduction in Aggregate Technical & Commercial losses in the State as per prescribed targets.

(ii)        Another, 0.05 % of GSDP is allowed for reduction in the gap between Average Cost of Supply and Average Revenue Realisation (ACS-ARR gap) in the State as per prescribed targets.

(iii)       Finally, 0.15 % of GSDP of the State on introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to all farmers in the State in lieu of free/ subsidised electricity. For this, the State government has to frame a scheme for transfer of cash and implement the scheme in at least one district by 31st December, 2020.

  • The State has informed that the DBT scheme will be rolled out in the entire State from April, 2021 onwards.
  • The States get permission to raise additional funds equivalent to 0.25 percent of GSDP on completion of reforms in each sector.
  • The four citizen centric areas identified for reforms were (a) Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System, (b) Ease of doing business reform, (c) Urban Local body/ utility reforms and (d) Power Sector reforms.
  • Besides Power Sector Reforms, Andhra Pradesh has also completed One Nation One Ration Card reform, Urban Local Bodies Reforms and Ease of Doing Business Reforms.



MOHUA Joins Hands with Zomato

Why in News?

  • As a part of Prime Minister Street Vendor’s AtmaNibhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme, MoHUA entered into MoU with Zomato, to onboard street food vendors on its food-tech platform.
  • This will give street food vendors online access to thousands of consumers and help these vendors grow their businesses.
  • Further, MoHUA launched the Mobile Application for PMSVANidhi se Samriddhi- Socio-economic profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families to link them to various Central Government Schemes.
  • In a first of its kind initiative, MoHUA entered into an MoU with Swiggy on October 5, 2020 and it is now joining hands with Zomato to empower Street Food Vendors with digital technology and facilitate greater income earning opportunities by being present on a popular food-tech platforms.
  • Under the MoU, initially MoHUA and Zomato will run a pilot program by on-boarding 300 vendors across six cities namely – Bhopal, Ludhiana, Nagpur, Patna, Raipur, Vadodara.

PMSVANidhi se Samriddhi

  • A mobile application under PMSVANidhi se Samriddhi was launched today to assist city officials to conduct door to door data collection.
  • MoHUA launched the program PMSVANidhi se Samriddhi—socio-economic profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families in 125 select cities, as an additional component of PMSVANidhi Scheme.
  • The application will enable ULB field functionaries to conduct the socio-economic profiling activity even without any internet connection as well.
  • The program aims to map the socio- economic profile of the PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families, assess their potential eligibility for various Central welfare schemes and facilitate the linkages to these schemes, for their holistic development and socio-economic upliftment.



PM SVANidhi Scheme

  • The Ministry is implementing PM SVANidhi Scheme, since June 01, 2020, for providing affordable working capital loan to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to Covid-19 lockdown.
  • This Scheme targets to benefit over 50 lakh Street Vendors who had been vending on or before 24 March, 2020 in urban areas, including surrounding peri-urban/ rural areas.
  • Under the Scheme, the vendors can avail a collateral free working capital loan of up to Rs. 10,000, of one year tenure.
  • On timely/ early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy @ 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) on quarterly basis. There will be no penalty on early repayment of loan.
  • The Scheme promotes digital transactions through cash-back incentives up to an amount of Rs. 1,200 per annum.



Ropeways and Alternate Mobility Solutions

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will, from now on, also look after the development of Ropeways and Alternate Mobility Solutions.
  • The move is expected to give a boost to the sector, by setting up a regulatory regime, and facilitating research and new technology to come into this sector.
  • An amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 has been notified, to enable this step.


  • Ministry will have responsibility for development of ropeway and alternative mobility solutions technology, as well as construction, research, and policy in this area.
  • Formulation of institutional, financial, and regulatory framework for the technology will also fall under the ambit of this move.

The important benefits of this steps could be :

  • Last mile connectivity for remote locations
  • Reducing congestion on mainstream roads
  • Chance to develop world-class ropeway infrastructure
  • Setting up of an organised and dedicated rope-way and alternative mobility solutions industry
  • New technology, like CPT – Cable Propelled Transit coming to the sector
  • Setting safety norms for unregulated ropeways
  • Allowing freight and goods at remote stations
  • Regulating tariffs structure for the technology




Why in News?

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was actively looking for exports of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas with interest from countries in South East Asia and West Asia and each LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) MK1A jet would cost ₹306 crore.

Unmanned fighter

  • HAL also announced an ambitious futuristic project for the development of an unmanned fighter jet, which would be controlled by a manned aircraft called ‘manned–unmanned’ teaming and
      • Be able to strike deep inside the enemy territory called Combat Air Teaming System (CATS).
  • It would consist of CATS Hunter, CATS Warrior and Alpha-S, all of which are unmanned systems and would be controlled by a manned mother aircraft, a fighter jet, being customised around a LCA and Jaguar aircraft.
  • The CATS warrior would be armed and be able to strike deep inside the enemy territory, while the mothership would be in the Indian territory.
  • It would be powered by the HAL engine that was powering pilotless target aircraft Lakshya .




International Criminal Court

Why in News?

  • The International Criminal Court convicted a Ugandan child soldier-turned-Lord’s Resistance Army commander of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • Dominic Ongwen, 45, was found guilty of 61 charges over a reign of terror in the early 2000s, including the first conviction by the ICC for the crime of forced pregnancy.
  • Ongwen, nicknamed “White Ant”, was convicted of charges including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and the conscription of child soldiers.

About LRA

  • The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni.
  • The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 1,00,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread to three other African nations — Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.



International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • Permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) to prosecute and adjudicate individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • On July 1, 2002, after the requisite number of countries (60) ratified the agreement, the court began sittings.
  • It is headquartered in the Netherlands at The Hague.
  • The ICC was established as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses in cases where national courts fail to act.
  • Unlike the International Court of Justice, which hears disputes between states, the ICC handles prosecutions of individuals.
  • Although the Rome Statute was widely praised (some 140 countries had signed the agreement by the time it entered into force), few countries in the Middle East or Asia joined.
  • Further, by 2002, China, Russia, and the United States had declined to participate, and the United States had threatened to withdraw its troops from United Nations peacekeeping forces unless its citizens (both military and civilian) were exempted from prosecution by the ICC.



Farm Loan Waivers Had Impacted State’s Revenues

Why in News?

  • The XV Finance Commission has expressed concern over the farm loan waivers announced by States like Telangana that had an impact on their finances.
  • “An increasingly important factor, and a worrying one, that has begun to impact the finances of States are the farm loan waivers that have been announced by various States since 2014,” the XV Commission said in its report.
  • Farm loan waivers are often justified on the grounds of falling prices of agricultural commodities and recurring droughts.
  • According to information, 13 States gave no farm loan waivers while seven States including Telangana and Tamil Nadu gave details of waivers aggregating about ₹ 79,000 crore from 2014-15 to 2019-20.
  • However, this data could not be relied on to gauge the actual quantum of farm loan waivers for a number of reasons. Firstly, some of the States did not respond. Second, the data was self-reported and could not be independently verified.
  • The treatment of interest subvention varied across the States.




Boeing announces tie-up for P-8I patrol, IAF VIP aircraft

Why in News?

  • Aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced strategic collaboration agreements with Air Works of India for the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) of the Navy’s P-8I long range maritime patrol aircraft and the VIP transport fleet of the IAF.
  • The Navy operates nine P-8I and will receive another aircraft by year end. A proposal for six more P-8Is is also under negotiation.
  • Air Works undertakes base maintenance for ATR 42/72, A320 and B737 fleet of aircraft from its facilities in Mumbai, Delhi, Hosur and Kochi.
  • It also undertakes modification and assembly of rotary-wing aircraft and is an Authorized Service Centre (ASC) for Bell and Leonardo helicopters.
  • An important aspect of the hub is training programmes to increase skilled manpower by developing sub-tier suppliers and medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) to build high-quality MRO capabilities in India.




Square Kilometre Array

Why in News?

  • Recently, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) Council held its maiden meeting and approved the establishment of the world’s largest radio telescope.
  • SKAO is a new intergovernmental organisation dedicated to radio astronomy and is headquartered in the UK.
  • At the moment, organisations from ten countries are a part of the SKAO. These include Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.

What are radio telescopes?

  • Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can detect invisible gas and, therefore, they can reveal areas of space that may be obscured by cosmic dust.
  • Significantly, since the first radio signals were detected by physicist Karl Jansky in the 1930s, astronomers have used radio telescopes to detect radio waves emitted by different objects in the universe and explore it.
  • The field of radio astronomy evolved after World War II and became one of the most important tools for making astronomical observations since.
  • The Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, which was the second-largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, collapsed in December 2020.
  • The telescope was built in 1963 and because of its powerful radar, scientists employed it to observe planets, asteroids and the ionosphere, making several discoveries over the decades, including finding prebiotic molecules in distant galaxies, the first exoplanets, and the first-millisecond pulsar.

So what is significant about the SKA telescope?

  • The telescope, proposed to be the largest radio telescope in the world, will be located in Africa and Australia whose operation, maintenance and construction will be overseen by SKAO.
  • Some of the questions that scientists hope to address using this telescope include the beginning of the universe, how and when the first stars were born, the life-cycle of a galaxy, exploring the possibility of detecting technologically-active civilisations elsewhere in our galaxy and understanding where gravitational waves come from.
  • The telescope will accomplish its scientific goals by measuring neutral hydrogen over cosmic time, accurately timing the signals from pulsars in the Milky Way, and detecting millions of galaxies out to high redshifts.




Vaccine Passport

Why in News?

  • In an effort to reduce curbs on travel and public life, Denmark said it is in the process of rolling out a digital passport that would show if holders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

How will Denmark’s ‘vaccine passport’ work?

  • The first step will be completed by the end of February, when Danish citizens who have been vaccinated will be able to see a record on a government health website.
  • After another three or four months, the digital passport and an app will be launched.
  • It will function as an “extra passport” that people can carry on their mobile devices.
  • Denmark, along with countries in northern Europe, has in recent years pushed for paperless communications in both the public and private sectors.
  • The corona passport is considered a part of its effort to reduce bureaucracy by using electronic verification.




Fishing Cat

  • The highly elusive fishing cat, a lesser-known feline species, is facing several threats due to its depleting habitat.
  • Listed as ‘vulnerable’ on International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the species has a high probability of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
  • Fishing cats have a patchy distribution along the Eastern Ghats.
  • They abound in estuarine floodplains, tidal mangrove forests and also inland freshwater habitats.
  • Apart from Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh, fishing cats inhabit the Chilika lagoon and surrounding wetlands in Odisha, Coringa and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Reported the presence of the species for the first time in a completely inland freshwater riverine habitat in Srikakulam a couple of years ago.
  • The conservation threats to fishing cats in the Eastern Ghats are mainly habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects], sand mining along river banks, agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer and conflict with humans in certain areas resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings.



EIU’s Democracy Index

  • India slipped two places to 53rd position in the 2020 Democracy Index’s global ranking, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which said the “democratic backsliding” by authorities and “crackdowns” on civil liberties has led to a further decline in the country’s ranking.
  • India is ranked higher than most of its neighbouring countries.
  • India’s overall score fell from 6.9 in 2019 to 6.61 in the Index that provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 167 countries.
  • India’s global ranking slipped from 27th (in 2014) to 53rd as a result of democratic backsliding” under the current regime.
  • Norway topped The Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index report titled “Democracy in sickness and in health?”, with Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada making up the top five.
  • Out of 167 countries, the Democracy Index classifies 23 countries as full democracies, 52 as flawed democracies, 35 as hybrid regimes and 57 as authoritarian regimes. India has been classified as a ‘flawed democracy’ along with countries such as the US, France, Belgium and Brazil.
  • Among India’s neighbours, while Sri Lanka, at 68th rank, is classified as a flawed democracy, Bangladesh (76), Bhutan (84) and Pakistan (105) are classified in the ‘hybrid regime’ category. Afghanistan is ranked 139th and classified as an ‘authoritarian regime’ in the index.
  • Asia continues to lag behind the West in democratic terms having only five ‘full democracies’, compared with western Europe’s 13, but the region has, so far, handled the pandemic much better than virtually any other, with lower infection and mortality rates and a fast economic rebound.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) is the world’s leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis.



Kaliveli Wetlands

Why in News?

  • In a major push to declare Kaliveli wetlands, the second-largest brackish water lake in South India after Pulicat lake, a bird sanctuary, the Villupuram district administration has issued the first declaration under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.


  • Located close to Marakkanam on the East Coast Road, the Kaliveli Lake, spread over an expanse of 670 of catchment area, is said to be one of the major wetlands on the Coromandel Coast after the Pulicat Lake.
  • The lake is connected to the Bay of Bengal by the Uppukalli Creek and the Edayanthittu sanctuary and is visited for nesting by migratory birds on the Central Asian flyway.
  • The southern part of the wetland has been reserved land since 2001.
  • According to a 2004 assessment of the Indian Bird Conservation Network and Bird Life International, Kaliveli supports more than 20,000 birds every year.
  • The lake has a feeding ground for long-distance migrants from the cold subarctic regions of Central Asia and Siberia including Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, White Stork, Ruff and Dublin.



‘Yudh Abhyas’

Why in News?

  • The 16th edition of Indo-US joint military exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ will be held in Rajasthan between February 8 and 21.
  • The exercise near the India-Pakistan border aims at enhancing cooperation and interoperability between the two armies and will focus on counter-terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate.
  • The drill comes days after the air forces of India and France held a five-day joint exercise in Rajasthan in January.
  • Exercise with U.S. Army is significant in terms of security challenges faced by both the nations in the backdrop of global terrorism.
  • The joint military exercise will enhance the level of defence cooperation between both armies which will also foster the bilateral relations between both nations and reiterate India’s key role as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.



Discovery of stars sheds new light on dark matter and galactic cannibalism

  • The discovery of a handful of stars at the edge of a fossil galaxy has shed new light on dark matter and provided clues of a possible early instance of galactic cannibalism.
  • Tucana II is an ultrafaint dwarf galaxy about 163,000 light years from Earth and is thought to be a remnant from the formation of the earliest galaxies in the universe.
  • It was already known to contain ancient stars, including some with a very low metal content, indicating they formed shortly after the big bang.
  • Now researchers say they have discovered a handful of stars far from the centre of Tucana II, revealing the galaxy to be larger than previously thought and offering fresh clues as to its formation.
  • Crucially, the newly discovered stars were up to about 3,500 light years from the centre of the galaxy, compared with up to about 1,100 light years for the previously known stars, and were found to have an even lower metal content, suggesting they are older.
  • One possibility is that the outer stars may have originated elsewhere, hinting that Tucana II may have resulted from the merger of two primitive galaxies – a process thought to have occurred in other, younger galaxies, and that has been suggested by simulations to have occurred in ancient dwarf galaxies like Tucana II.
  • However, with so few stars in the galaxy that means Tucana II would have to contain about four times as much dark matter as previously thought.