Policy to boost Agricultural Exports
Why in News?
- The Government introduced a comprehensive Agriculture Export Policy with the following vision:
“Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India a global power in agriculture, and raise farmers’ income.”
Inter-alia, the objectives of the Agriculture Export policy are as under:
- To diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports, including focus on perishables.
- To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports.
- To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary issues.
- To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chains.
- To enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose residential schools/hostels
Why in News?
- In a befitting honour to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Ministry of Education has decided to name residential schools/ hostels funded under Samagra Shiksha of MoE, as “Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose residential schools/hostels”.
- The association of these schools with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose will act as an inspiration to the children and also motivate the teachers, staff and administration to enable them to achieve high standards of excellence.
- This will also help create awareness about the facility of these Residential Schools and Hostels in difficult areas and inspire these schools to achieve high standards of quality education.
- The Ministry of Education under Samagra Shiksha provides financial assistance to states and UTs for opening and running of Residential Schools and Hostels in hilly terrain, small and sparsely populated areas for children who are in need of shelter and care, in addition to the provision of regular schools.
- The objective is to ensure universal enrolment and provide schooling facilities in areas which are sparsely populated (mostly tribal areas) where opening of schools may not be viable and for children in urban areas who are in need of care and protection.
1st ASEAN-India Hackathon 2021
Why in News?
- The Hackathon concluded with more than 300 students, mentors, and officials participating from 10 ASEAN countries and India.
- The ASEAN-India Hackathon-2021 aims at enhancing the cooperation between India and ASEAN countries in science, tech and education.
- All the ASEAN countries participated in this unique initiative of providing innovative solutions to overcome the challenges under two broad themes of Blue Economy and Education.
- Student teams from all the 10 ASEAN countries as well as India participated in this ASEAN-INDIA Hackathon.
- The students were divided in 54 cross-country teams, where each team consists of six students and two mentors.
- These diverse teams competed on developing the best solution for 11 problem statements provided by various reputed organisations and government bodies.
- The Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell and the All India Council for Technical Education in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and ASEAN countries organized the first ASEAN-India Hackathon.
Measures for Population Control
- The Government has been implementing the National Family Planning Program which provides voluntary and informed choices to the beneficiaries through a target free approach with the objective of checking population increase in the country.
- A National Population Policy has been formulated in the year 2000 with the long-term objective of attaining population stabilisation by 2045.
Various initiatives have been taken under the National Family Planning Program providing broad range of services mentioned as follows:
- New Contraceptive Choices: The current contraceptive basket comprising of Condoms, combined oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraceptive pills, Intrauterine contraceptive uterine device (IUCD) and sterilization has been expanded with inclusion of two new contraceptives- Injectable contraceptive (Antara programme) and Centchroman (Chhaya).
- Post-partum Intrauterine contraceptive device (PPIUCD) incentive scheme under which PPIUCD services are provided post-delivery.
- Compensation scheme for sterilization acceptors which provides compensation for loss of wages to the beneficiary and also to the service provider and team for conducting sterilisation.
- National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS) under which clients are compensated in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization operations.
- Family Planning Logistics Management Information System (FP-LMIS): dedicated software has been launched to ensure smooth forecasting, procurement and distribution of family planning commodities across all the levels of health facilities.
- Mission Parivar Vikas: Mission ParivarVikas has been introduced for substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in seven high focus states having TFR of more than 3 namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Assam..
- Scheme for Home Delivery of contraceptives by ASHAs at doorstep of beneficiaries has been taken up.
- Scheme for provision of Pregnancy Testing Kits in the drug kits of ASHA for use in communities.
The following schemes provide for involvement of private partnerships for provisioning of Family Planning services:
- Accreditation/ Empanelment of private facilities/providers: The private facilities/providers are accredited/ empanelled through State/District Quality Indemnity subcommittee for provision of free sterilization services. The accredited facilities are also provided indemnity coverage.
- Clinical Outreach Teams (COT) Scheme provides for family planning services through mobile teams from accredited organizations in far-flung, underserved and geographically difficult areas in the seven Mission ParivarVikas States namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Assam.
Pre and Post Matric Scholarship Schemes
Why in News?
- The scholarships are disbursed directly to beneficiaries through DBT under these Schemes and neither any State-wise allocation of fund is made nor any amount is released to them against disbursement of scholarships.
Various Govt Schemes
- The Government has implemented the following welfare schemes to address the economic poverty for the six (6) centrally notified minority communities namely, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh, especially economically weaker & downtrodden sections, across the country:-
(1) Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme- Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship Scheme – For educational empowerment of students.
(2) Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme – Provide fellowships in the form of financial assistance.
(3) NayaSavera – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme – The Scheme aims to provide free coaching to students/candidates belonging to minority communities for qualifying in entrance examinations of technical/ professional courses and Competitive examinations.
(4) Padho Pardesh – Scheme of interest subsidy to students of minority communities on educational loans for overseas higher studies.
(5) NaiUdaan – Support for students clearing Prelims conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), State Public Service Commission (PSC) Staff Selection Commission (SSC) etc.
(6) NaiRoshni – Leadership development of women belonging to minority communities.
(7) SeekhoAurKamao – Skill development scheme for youth of 14 – 35 years age group and aiming at improving the employability of existing workers, school dropouts etc.
(8) Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK) restructured in May 2018 earlier known as MsDP – Implemented for the benefit of the people from all sections of the society in identified Minority Concentration Areas for creation of assets in education, skill and health sectors.
(9) JiyoParsi – Scheme for containing population decline of Parsis in India.
(10) USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) launched in May 2015.
(11) NaiManzil – A scheme for formal school education & skilling of school dropouts launched in Aug. 2015.
(12) Hamari Dharohar- A scheme to preserve rich heritage of minority communities of India under the overall concept of Indian culture implemented since 2014-15.
(13) Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) implements education and skill related schemes as follows:-
(a) Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for Meritorious Girls belonging to the Minorities
(b) Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme started in 2017-18. for providing short term job oriented skill development courses to youth belonging to minority communities.
(c) Bridge Course for madarsa students & school dropouts by Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh and JamiaMilliaIslamia, New Delhi under NaiManzil scheme.
(d) Swachh Vidyalaya.
(14) Equity to National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) for providing concessional loans to minorities for self-employment and income generating ventures.
“NAI ROSHNI SCHEME”
- “NaiRoshni”, a scheme for Leadership Development of Minority Women is being implemented across India with an aim to empower and instill confidence in women by providing knowledge, tools and techniques for interacting with Government systems, banks and other institutions at all levels.
- This includes empowerment of the trainee women so that they become independent and confident members of the society.
- The overall objective of the scheme is to embolden the minority women to move out of the confines of their homes and community and assume leadership roles in society.
- The scheme provides for six days training programme followed by handholding for a period of one year.
- The training is provided on various pre-designed Training modules covering issues relating to women viz. Leadership of Women through participation in decision making, Educational Programmes for women, Health and Hygiene, Legal rights of women, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, Swachh Bharat, Life Skills, and Advocacy for Social and Behaviourial change.
- The number of minority women benefitted State wise /UT wise under the scheme is given in Annexure (below).
- The Scheme is being implemented through Non-Governmental Organisations empanelled under the NaiRoshni Scheme as per scheme guidelines in force.
- While NaiRoshni scheme targets women beneficiaries specifically, other schemes of the Ministry also lay lot of emphasis on minority women.
- In SeekhoAurKamao (Learn & Earn) Scheme, 33% of the total beneficiaries are women. Similarly in NaiManzilscheme , 30% of the total beneficiaries are women. These schemes help in economic empowerment of the Minority women.
1st India-Bahrain Joint Working Group meeting
Why in News?
- The 1st meeting of the Joint Working Group in the field of Renewable Energy between India and the Kingdom of Bahrain held recently.
- A Memorandum of Understanding between India and Bahrain was signed in July 2018 for promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy.
- Both sides underscored importance of renewable energy to meet climate change goals, and presented the initiatives taken, progress made and future targets set by their respective governments as well as opportunities available in this sector.
- Both sides agreed to forging deeper engagement in capacity building and focused cooperation between concerned agencies as well as private sector of the two countries in this sector, particularly in the field of solar, wind and clean hydrogen.
Guidelines of Floating Structures
Why in News?
- Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has finalized and issued the guidelines for floating structures, with a vision to set up world-class floating infrastructure all along the coastline, in the upcoming projects as per the provisions contained in the guidelines.
- The guidelines sets out various technical aspects for implementation of Floating Jetties / Platforms for Marinas, Minor Harbors, Fishing Harbours / Fish landing centers, Waterdromes and such other similar facilities in coastal areas, estuaries, waterways, rivers and reservoirs.
- These guidelines may also be suitably utilized for floating pontoons/platforms in various waterborne systems and floating wave attenuators (or breakwaters) for Minor Harbors/Fish Landing facilities.
Advantages & Benefits
- Floating structure because of its inherent advantages is an attractive solution and hence being promoted by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
- The benefits of floating jetties/structures over the conventional quay and fixed concrete structures include its cost-effectiveness, faster implementation, easily expandable and re-locatable; and having minimal environmental impacts.
- Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has successfully implemented few projects including setting up of passenger floating jetties in Goa, water-aerodromes at Sabarmati River & at Sardar Sarovar Dam (for the seaplane services) which are working satisfactorily.
- These guidelines would be helpful for all Maritime states, State Maritime Boards, Major Ports, IWAI and Fisheries Departments of all State governments for their upcoming projects.
Agency on Surveillance
Why in News?
- The Centre denied granting blanket permission to any government agency for interception or monitoring of any messages or information under its surveillance programmes such as Centralized Monitoring System (CMS), Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).
- Permission from the competent authority (Union Home Secretary) is required, as per due process of law and rules in each case.
- The affidavit came in response to a petition seeking to constitute a permanent independent oversight body comprising of judicial and parliamentary representatives, for reviewing lawful interception and monitoring orders or warrants under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Information Technology Act.
- The Ministry, however, opposed the plea saying that “the existing safeguards of oversight by a high-level committee chaired by Cabinet Secretary at the Central level and chaired by Chief Secretary at the State level, are adequate and provide effective supervision”.
- It stated that “grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cross-border terrorism, cybercrime, organised crime, drug cartels cannot be understated or ignored and a strong and robust mechanism for timely and speedy collection of actionable intelligence including digital intelligence, is imperative to counter threats to national security”.
- In India communications surveillance is currently permitted on a wide variety of broadly worded grounds.
Why in News?
- Public sector firms engaged in activities allied to the farm sector, such as provision of seeds to farmers, or procurement and distribution of food for the public distribution system, will not be up for sale under the new disinvestment policy announced in the Budget.
- While the policy has specified four strategic sectors where ‘bare minimum’ public sector presence will be retained.
- Ongoing transactions for strategic disinvestment such as the sale of Air India, Pawan Hans and BPCL shall continue to be undertaken as per the existing procedure.
- Niti Aayog will be in charge of recommending which public sector firms in strategic sectors should be retained, considered for privatisation or merger or ‘subsidiarisation’ with another public sector firm, or simply closed.
- After a core group of secretaries on disinvestment considers the Aayog’s recommendations, a ministerial group including the Finance Minister, Road Transport and Highways Minister and the minister in charge of the administrative ministry in charge of the public sector enterprise concerned will examine the proposals.
- Among other ventures, “central public sector enterprises concerned with assisting farmers in mainly getting access to seeds; promoting innovation in agriculture; or, procurement and distribution of food for Public Distribution System” are excluded from the policy.
- The excluded list also includes public sector firms ‘maintaining critical data having a bearing on national security’, security printing and minting companies and those providing support to vulnerable groups through financing of SCs, STs, minorities, backward classes, and Safai Karmacharis.
- Development financing or refinancing institutions and autonomous bodies, some of which may have been set up by Acts of Parliament, will not be part of the disinvestment policy. Firms manufacturing aids and appliances for the physically challenged, will also remain in the public sector.
- Not-for-profit companies formed for different promotional purposes have also been excluded. The policy also won’t affect departments like Railways and Post that undertake commercial operations with a development mandate, major port trusts and the Airport Authority of India.
Kakatiya-era Rama temple
Why in News?
- A 13th century Sri Pattabhi Sita Rama Swamy temple founded by Rani Rudrama Devi of the Kakatiya dynasty has been revered as the Sri Santhana Venugopala Swamy temple by the people of Brahmana Kothapalli village in Nellikuduru mandal of Mahabubabad district.
- Historians credit this as at least 300 years older than the Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy temple at Bhadrachalam.
- It also has a shrine for Lord Siva, and it is quite interesting to note that being an ardent devotee of Lord Siva, Rudrama Devi constructed a temple dedicated to Sri Rama.
- There is a common pillared mukha mandapa hall and entry is through a highly carved doorway at the east. The doorway is very distinctive and rarest of its kind for it has the dancing image of Anjaneya with folded hands, and is flanked by two dancing vanaras playing musical instruments on its decorated lintel.
- After the vestibule, there are three sanctum sanctorums. The central cellar enshrines Sri Santhana Venugopala Swamy in a standing position holding a flute in his hand, with Rukmini and Satyabhama on either side.
- The pillars of the temple are of a decorative variety and carry plain capitals as well as brackets akin to the Kakatiya temples at Hanamkonda and Warangal.
Retail investors to be able to buy G-Secs directly
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it would allow retail investors to open gilt accounts with the central bank to invest in government securities directly and without the help of intermediaries.
- The Central government and the Reserve Bank have taken several measures to encourage retail investment in government securities.
- “These include introduction of non-competitive bidding in primary auctions, permitting stock exchanges to route primary purchases and allowing a specific retail segment in the secondary market.”
- In continuation of these efforts,It is proposed to provide retail investors with online access to the government securities market — both primary and secondary — directly through the Reserve Bank (Retail Direct).
- This is a major structural reform placing India among select few countries which have similar facilities.
- This measure together with HTM [hold to maturity] relaxation, will facilitate smooth completion of the government borrowing programme in 2021-22.
What are government securities, or g-secs?
- These are debt instruments issued by the government to borrow money. The two key categories are treasury bills – short-term instruments which mature in 91 days, 182 days, or 364 days, and dated securities – long-term instruments, which mature anywhere between 5 years and 40 years.
But can’t retail investors already invest in g-secs?
- Small investors can invest indirectly in g-secs by buying mutual funds or through certain policies issued by life insurance firms.
- To encourage direct investment, the government and RBI have taken several steps in recent years. Retail investors are allowed to place non-competitive bids in auctions of government bonds through their demat accounts. Stock exchanges act as aggregators and facilitators of retail bids.
Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)
Why in News?
- The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, has decided to keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 4.0%.
- Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains unchanged at 3.35% and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 4.25%.
- These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 % within a band of +/- 2 %, while supporting growth.
- It has also projected the real GDP growth at 10.5% in 2021-22 — in the range of 26.2 to 8.3% in H1 and 6.0 % in Q3.
One nation one ombudsman
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank announced it will be integrating consumer grievances redressal under a single ombudsman as against three schemes working at present.
- There are dedicated ombudsman schemes devoted to consumer grievance redressal in banking, non-bank finance companies and digital transactions, respectively, at present.
- To make the alternate dispute redress mechanism simpler and more responsive to the customers of regulated entities, it has been decided to implement, inter alia, integration of the three Ombudsman schemes and adoption of the ‘One Nation One Ombudsman’ approach for grievance redressal.
- The move is intended to make the process of redress of grievances easier by enabling the customers of the banks, NBFCs and non-bank issuers of prepaid payment instruments to register their complaints under the integrated scheme, with one centralised reference point.
- The RBI is targeting to roll out the e-Integrated Ombudsman Scheme in June 2021.
- The RBI had operationalised complaint management system (CMS) portal as one stop solution for alternate dispute resolution of customer complaints not resolved satisfactorily by the regulated entities.
Denmark’s artificial energy island project
Why in News?
- The Danish government approved a plan to build an artificial island in the North Sea as part of its effort to switch to green energy.
- The project is being called the largest construction project to be undertaken in Denmark’s history.
What is an energy island?
- An energy island is based on a platform that serves as a hub for electricity generation from surrounding offshore wind farms.
- The idea is to connect and distribute power between Denmark and neighbouring countries. Denmark has already entered into agreements with the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium to begin the joint analysis of connections in the energy island.
- One of these islands will be located in the North Sea and the second island, called the island of Bornholm, will be located in the Baltic Sea.
- The move has come after the EU announced its plans to transform its electricity system to rely mostly on renewables within a decade and to increase its offshore wind energy capacity by over 25-fold by the year 2050.
- The artificial island, primary purpose is to provide large-scale offshore wind power.
- According to the Danish Energy Agency, as part of the Climate Agreement for Energy and Industry, Denmark wants to become the first country in the world to begin working on such energy islands with a total capacity of about 5 GW offshore winds. The construction of both islands is expected to be complete by 2030.
Why in News?
- An expert body under India’s apex drug regulator has recommended against granting approval to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine under emergency circumstances in the country, prompting the American drug giant to withdraw its request.
What is this Covid-19 vaccine?
- Pfizer developed this vaccine, ‘BNT162b’, in collaboration with German biotech firm BioNTech. The vaccine uses mRNA technology, which makes use of the messenger RNA molecules that tell cells what proteins to build.
- The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein–the part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that allows it to penetrate the cells and spread the Covid-19 infection in the body.
- Once injected into the body, the cells will use the mRNA’s instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which is in return expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
- Unlike several other vaccine candidates, mRNA vaccines are synthetically developed–they don’t need the virus to be cultivated and replicated, just the code for the most crucial part that the body’s immune system is to target.
- Another advantage is that they can be manufactured at a large scale in large vats called bioreactors.
Green Zone Sites for Drones
Why in News?
- In a bid to facilitate operations by No-Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT) compliant drones for various commercial applications, the Centre approved 26 more green zone sites across the country.
- NPNT is an automated green signal without which drones are not authorised to fly. Digital Sky is currently being developed to handle these automatic flight authorisations.
- The approval given by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence is in addition to the nod already given for six green zone sites.
- In the latest list, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of sites with eight; followed by Jharkhand (six); Chhattisgarh (four); Telangana (two) and one each in Andhra Pradesh; Gujarat; Meghalaya; Mizoram; Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
- Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), popularly referred to as drones, are a technology platform with wide-ranging applications.
- In August 2018, India announced the release of its Civil Aviation Regulations to enable safe flying of RPAS in India.
- To get permissions to fly, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan. Flying in the ‘green-zones’ will require only intimation of the time and location of the flights via the portal or the app.
- Permissions will be required for flying in ‘yellow zones’ and flights will not be allowed in the ‘red zones’.
‘Switch Delhi’ campaign
Why in News?
- Delhi’s Chief Minister launched the ‘Switch Delhi’ campaign and said his government will ensure that within the next six months, only electric vehicles are hired by different departments.
- Under the campaign, awareness will be created about the benefits of electric vehicles and how it can contribute to making Delhi clean and pollution-free.
- “In ‘Switch Delhi’ campaign, awareness will be created about the benefits of electric vehicles and how it can contribute to making Delhi clean and pollution-free.
- Under its electric vehicle policy, the Delhi government has planned extensive subsidies on purchase of electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers, besides waiving road tax and registration charges.
- The government has fixed an ambitious target of 25 per cent electric vehicles among total vehicle registrations in Delhi by 2024.