Kurnool Airport inaugurated
- Kurnool is the 6th airport in Andhra Pradesh to become functional after Kadapa, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati, Rajahmundry & Vijayawada.
- The flight operations at Kurnool airport will commence on 28th March 2021 under the Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (RCS-UDAN).
- Direct flight operations to Bangalore, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai will bring the region closer to the major hubs in the South India.
- Kurnool is the judicial capital of Andhra Pradesh and a historical hub of the country.
- The place is famous for its mighty caves and temples.
- The city of Kurnool lies on the banks of the Tungabhadra River and, Nallamalas mountain hill range runs parallel.
- Moreover, Famous tourist spots include Nallamala Forest, Ahobilam, Belum Caves, Mahanandi, Mantralayam, Orvakal, Sangameshwaram, Kethavaram and Kalva Bugga.
IEPFA’s Mobile App
Why in News?
- Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs launched Central Scrutiny Centre (CSC) and Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority’s (IEPFA) Mobile App — two tech-enabled initiatives by Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
- Digital India is a campaign launched by the Government of India in order to ensure that the Government’s services are made available to citizens electronically by making the country digitally empowered in the field of technology.
- Central Scrutiny Centre will scrutinize certain Straight Through Process (STP) Forms filed by the corporates on the MCA21 registry and flag the companies for more in-depth scrutiny.
- The IEPFA App will have the facility of tracking the status and progress of the IEPF claim refund process. Moreover, it also provides a mechanism for investors and common citizens to report on the suspected fraudulent schemes.
- Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) is implementing National Aquifer Mapping and Management program (NAQUIM), which envisages mapping of aquifers (water bearing formations), their characterization and development of Aquifer Management Plans to facilitate sustainable management of Ground Water Resources.
- NAQUIM was initiated in 2012 as a part of the ‘Ground Water Management and Regulation’ scheme with the objectives to delineate and characterize the aquifers and develop plans for sustainable ground water management in the country.
- Out of nearly 33 lakh sq km geographical area of the country, a mappable area of around 25 lakh sq km has been identified by the CGWB to be covered under this programme.
Measures to Achieve Energy Transition towards Clean Energy
- Government of India has set a target for installing 175 GW of Renewable Energy capacity (excluding large hydro) by the end of 2021-22 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from Biomass and 5 GW from Small Hydro.
- In order to become self-reliant in power generation and achieving energy transition towards clean energy, Government has inter-alia taken following measures:
- The renewable energy capacity to go up to 450 GW.
- Phase-wise retirement of old polluting coal based power plants.
- Setting up of Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Parks to provide land and transmission to RE developers on a plug and play basis.
- Schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Surakshaevam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM), Solar Rooftop Phase II, 12000 MW CPSU Scheme Phase II, etc.
- Laying of new transmission lines and creating new sub-station capacity under the Green Energy Corridor Scheme for evacuation of renewable power.
- Notifying Bidding Guidelines for tariff based competitive bidding process for procurement of Power from Grid Connected Solar PV and Wind Projects.
- Declaring Large Hydro Power (LHPs) (>25 MW projects) as Renewable Energy source.
- Hydro Purchase Obligation (HPO) as a separate entity within Non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO).
- Tariff rationalization measures for bringing down hydro power tariff.
- Budgetary Support for Flood Moderation/Storage Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs).
- Budgetary Support to Cost of Enabling Infrastructure, i.e. roads/bridges for hydro projects.
- ₹ 1.5 crore per MW for projects upto 200 MW
- ₹ 1.0 crore per MW for projects above 200 MW.
Budget Session of Parliament adjourns sine die
Bills passes in the session:
- During this Session a total of 20 Bills (17 in Lok Sabha and 03 in Rajya Sabha) were introduced.
- 18 Bills were passed by Lok Sabha and 19 Bills were passed by Rajya Sabha.
- Total number of Bills passed by both Houses of Parliament is 18.
Some important Bills, passed by Houses of Parliament are as under:-
Economic sector/ease of doing business measures
- The Mines and Minerals (Developments and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 proposes to develop the mining sector to its full potential for faster economic growth.
- The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 aims to achieve the objective of Government’s FDI Policy by raising the limit of foreign investment in Indian insurance companies from the existing 49 per cent to 74 per cent and to allow foreign ownership and control with safeguards.
- The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 addresses the concerns raised by stakeholders after the enactment of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019.
- The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 proposes to establish the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development to support the development of long-term non-recourse infrastructure financing in India.
- The Major Port Authorities Bill, 2021 aims to provide greater autonomy, flexibility to the Major Ports and to professionalise their governance by repealing the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 increases upper gestational limit for termination of pregnancy and to strengthen access of woman to comprehensive abortion care with compromising the service and quality of safe abortion.
- The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021 seeks to provide for regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals, assessment of institutions, maintenance of a Central Register and State Register and creation of a system to improve access, research and development and adoption of latest scientific advancement and connected.
Social justice reforms
- The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amends the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 in respect of the State of Tamil Nadu.
- The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 will extend the Act, 2011 for a further period of three years from 01.01.2021 to 31.12.2023.
- The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 will promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive of National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Schemes for Development, Protection and Welfare of Children
- Government of India implements various schemes for the development, protection and welfare of children in the country, including rural children, as detailed below:
- Anganwadi Services, under umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme which provides a package of six services including Supplementary Nutrition (SNP) to children in the age group of 0-6 years. The scheme is implemented through a network of approx. 14 lakh Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) across the country.
- Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), is an on-going Centrally-Sponsored Scheme which covers all school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided Schools, Special Training Centres etc. supported under Samagra Shiksha programme.
The objectives of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme are as follows:
- Improving the nutritional status of children in Classes I-VIII.
- Encouraging poor children, belonging to disadvantaged sections, to attend school more regularly and help them concentrate on classroom activities.
- Providing nutritional support to children of elementary stage in drought-affected areas during summer vacation.
- Environment Education, Awareness and Training (EEAT) scheme is an ongoing scheme which aims to promote environmental awareness and mobilize student’s participation for environment conservation.
- The objectives of the scheme are achieved through three programmes namely National Green Corps (NGC) – “Ecoclub” Programme, National Nature Camping Programme (NNCP) and Capacity Building Activities (CBA).
- Under the National Green Corps (NGC) programme, about 1.6 lakh schools and colleges have been identified as Eco-clubs, wherein, nearly forty lakh students are participating in awareness programmes on various environmental issues like pollution, waste management, etc.
- The Government of India has enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 with the objective to prohibit child marriages rather than only restraining them. The Act prohibits the solemnization of child marriages where a person who, if a female has not completed 18 years of age and if a male has not completed 21 years of age. According to the Act, child marriage is a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
- Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme is implemented by the Government as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
- The objective of the scheme is to create a safe and secure environment for overall development of children who are in need of care and protection.
- This includes orphan/abandoned/surrendered children. Under the scheme, institutional care is provided through Child Care Institutes (CCIs) as a rehabilitative measure.
Initiatives by Government for reducing Gender Gap
Why in News?
- As per the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020 published by the World Economic Forum, India ranks 112 out of 153 countries with a score of 0.668 out of 1.
- India ranked 108 out of 149 countries with a score of 0.665 as per the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2018.
- Thus, India’s performance has marginally improved from 0.665 in 2018 to 0.668 in 2020.
- Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) consists of four dimensions, namely,
- Economic participation and opportunity
- Educational attainment
- Health and survival, and
- Political empowerment.
- As per the computational mechanism of GGGI, highest performance score on each of these four dimensions is 1.
- In order to improve India’s status in this index, this Ministry has adopted two-pronged strategy
- Monitoring the performance by engagement with Publishing Agency of GGGI, namely, World Economic Forum
- Identification of Reform Areas and Reform Actions in consultation with concerned Ministries and Departments.
Some major initiatives taken by Government of India for removing the gender gap in all aspect of social, economic and political life are as follows:
Economic Participation & Opportunity and Health & Survival: Various programmes/Schemes that are intended towards women development and empowerment are:
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) ensures the protection, survival and education of the girl child.
- Mahila Shakti Kendra (MSK) aims to empower rural women with opportunities for skill development and employment.
- Working Women Hostel (WWH) ensures the safety and security for working women.
- Scheme for Adolescent Girls aims to empower girls in the age group 11-18 and to improve their social status through nutrition, life skills, home skills and vocational training
- Mahila Police Volunteers (MPV) envisages engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers in States/UTs who act as a link between police and community and facilitates women in distress.
- Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) is an apex micro-finance organization that provides micro-credit at concessional terms to poor women for various livelihood and income generating activities.
- The National Crèche Scheme ensures that women take up gainful employment through providing a safe, secure and stimulating environment to the children.
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandna Yojna aims to provide maternity benefit to pregnant and lactating mothers.
- Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana aims to provide housing under the name of the woman also.
- Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) aims to enable a large number of Indian youth including women to take up industry-relevant skill training in securing a better livelihood.
- Deen Dayal Upadhyay National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) focuses on creating opportunities for women in skill development, leading to market-based employment.
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana empowers women and protects their health by providing LPG cylinder free of cost.
- Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna (SSY) – Under this scheme girls have been economically empowered by opening their bank accounts.
- Skill Upgradation & Mahila Coir Yojna is an exclusive training programme of MSME aimed at skill development of women artisans engaged in coir Industry.
- Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) – a major credit- linked subsidy programme aimed at generating self-employment opportunities through establishment of micro-enterprises in the non-farm sector
- Female Entrepreneurship: To promote female entrepreneurship, the Government has initiated Programmes like Stand-Up India and Mahila e-Haat (online marketing platform to support women entrepreneurs/ SHGs/NGOs), Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme (ESSDP). Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) provides access to institutional finance to micro/small business.
- Educational Attainment: Several steps and initiatives have been taken up in school education system such as National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 and flagship programme like Samagra Shiksha and the subsequent Right to Education Act (RTE). Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) have been opened in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs). Gender sensitisation is also done which includes gender sensitization Module – part of in-service training, construction of toilets for girls, construction of residential quarters for female teachers and curriculum reforms.
- Political Participation: To bring women in the mainstream of political leadership at the grass root level, government has reserved 33% of the seats in Panchayati Raj Institutions for women.
- Capacity Building of Panchayat Stakeholders including Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) of Ministry of Panchayati Raj is conducted with a view to empowering women to participate effectively in the governance processes.
Posting Retired Judges
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court pushed for the appointment of retired judges to battle pendency of cases in High Courts.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India said retired judges could be chosen on the basis of their expertise in a particular field of dispute and allowed to retire once the pendency in that zone of law was over.
- The Bench said retired judges who had handled certain disputes and fields of law for over 15 years could deal with them faster if brought back into harness as ad-hoc judges.
- Ad-hoc judges will be treated as the junior most.
- The appointment of ad-hoc judges was provided for in the Constitution under Article 224A (appointment of retired judges at sittings of High Courts). Under the Article, the Chief Justice of a High Court for any State may at any time, with the previous consent of the President, request any person who has held the office of judge of that court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a judge of the High Court for that State.
National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development
Why in News?
- The Rajya Sabha cleared the legislation to establish the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID), which was announced in the Budget speech by Finance Minister as the principal development financial institution (DFIs) for infrastructure financing.
- The concept of DFIs had already been tried, tested and rejected.
- The first such institution was set up in 1948. In 1991, Manmohan Singh, as Finance Minister, had set up the Narsimham committee, which came to the conclusion that the era of DFIs was over.
- The Act empowers the government to extend sovereign guarantee in case of a default. No external oversight, no surveillance, no CAG, no monitoring, but the government will extend sovereign guarantee.
- Protection provided to management for the decisions it takes as an “act of good faith”.
Electoral Bond Scheme
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court reserved its order on a plea seeking a stay on the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of state assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
What are electoral bonds?
- Announced in the 2017 Union Budget, electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments used to donate money anonymously to political parties.
- A bearer instrument does not carry any information about the buyer or payee and the holder of the instrument (which is the political party) is presumed to be its owner.
- The bonds are sold in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore, and the State Bank of India (SBI) is the only bank authorised to sell them.
- Donors can purchase and subsequently donate the bonds to their party of choice, which the party can then cash through its verified account within 15 days.
- There is no limit on the number of bonds an individual or company can purchase. SBI deposits bonds that a political party hasn’t enchased within 15 days into the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
Why are electoral bonds being so vehemently opposed by transparency activists?
- The anonymity provided to donors donating electoral bonds is the point of contention here.
- Through an amendment to the Finance Act 2017, the Union government has exempted political parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.
- In other words, they don’t have to disclose details of those contributing by way of electoral bonds in their contribution reports filed mandatorily with the Election Commission every year.
- This means the voters will not know which individual, company, or organisation has funded which party, and to what extent. Before the introduction of electoral bonds, political parties had to disclose details of all its donors, who have donated more than Rs 20,000.
- According to transparency activists, the change infringes the citizen’s ‘Right to Know’ and makes the political class even more unaccountable.
What is the Election Commission’s stand on electoral bonds?
- The Election Commission, in its submission to the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in May 2017, had objected to the amendments in the Representation of the People (RP) Act, which exempt political parties from disclosing donations received through electoral bonds.
- It described the move as a “retrograde step”.
Earth’s giant carbon sinks may have been overestimated
- The storage potential of one of the Earth’s biggest carbon sinks – soils – may have been overestimated, research shows. This could mean ecosystems on land soaking up less of humanity’s emissions than expected, and more rapid global heating.
- Soils and the plants that grow in them absorb about a third of the carbon emissions that drive the climate crisis, partly limiting the impact of fossil-fuel burning.
- Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere can increase plant growth and, until now, it was assumed carbon storage in soils would increase too.
- But the study, based on over 100 experiments, found the opposite. When plant growth increases, soil carbon does not.
- The finding is significant because the amount of organic carbon stored in soils is about three times that in living plants and double that in the atmosphere. Soils can also store carbon for centuries, whereas plants and trees rot quickly after they die.
- In grasslands, elevated CO2 led to 9% plant growth – less than forests – but soil carbon rose by 8%.
Species of Elephant
- There are now three recognised species of elephant – the Asian elephant, the African savanna elephant and the African forest elephant.
- All three are recognised as threatened with extinction after an important revision to the “red list”, where the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) compiles a regularly updated assessment of at-risk plants and animals.
The African forest elephant
- Mainly found in the Congo basin in West Africa, it lives in dense tropical rainforest and is the more threatened of Africa’s two elephant species.
- They are voracious fruit eaters – vital ecosystem engineers that help maintain the health of the rainforests.
- Their scientific name, Loxodonta cyclotis, references their smaller, rounded ears. Their tusks point downwards, occasionally reaching the ground in older males, and their body is higher over the back legs.
- The mammals live in smaller family groups and have longer gestation periods than their savanna relatives.
The African savanna elephant
- The biggest terrestrial animal on Earth lives in larger familial groups in grasslands and deserts, roaming huge distances in central, eastern and southern Africa.
- Savanna elephants have large ears that are the shape of Africa and allow them to cool their bodies more easily, and longer front legs, unlike their forest elephant relatives.
Adapt trees to climate change
- Understanding the genetics of bud-break helps scientists modify or select crop varieties that can be more resilient to climate threat.
- Bud-break — which is when trees leaf out — has undergone a change. Several trees initiate bud-break too early or too late, which affects the harvest.
- Spring, for example, arrived earlier than usual in Kashmir this year due to higher temperatures in February and March. Gul-tour, a spring flowering herb started blooming in mid-February in Kashmir.
- The properties of transcription factors — genes that regulate other genes by binding to deoxyribonucleic acid and giving activation instructions — help scientists determine what other genes might be involved in a process such as a bud-break.
- Early bud-break 1, EBB1 is a positive regulator of bud-break, whereas short vegetative phase, SVL is a negative regulator of bud-break.
- Now, the research team has identified and characterised the early bud-break 3 (EBB3) gene. EBB3 is a temperature-responsive, positive regulator of bud-break that provides a direct link to activation of the cell cycle during bud-break.
Outbreak of infectious diseases
- Change in natural forest cover due to deforestation or afforestation and increase in commodity plantations like oil palm was correlated with outbreaks of infectious diseases globally, found a new study.
- Outbreaks of both vector-borne and zoonotic diseases linked to deforestation increased between 1990 and 2016.
- Deforestation has caused malaria epidemics in South America and that forest clearing had favored the mosquito vector Anopheles darlingi in Southeast Asia for the species complex A. dirus, A. minimus, A. balabacensis
- Any disease caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite or fungi turns zoonotic if the infection jumps from animals to humans, like was the case with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
- Reforestation, especially in areas outside the tropical zone, also induced outbreaks of infectious diseases, the study confirmed.
- Here, reforestation refers to the kind where forest area is expanded to replace grasslands, savannas and open-canopy woodlands.
- In areas where palm oil monoculture increased, the residents were more exposed to infectious diseases. For instance, population of vectors for diseases like dengue, zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever increased in oil palm and rubber plantations.
- Monoculture refers to the cultivation of a single variety of plant species in a large-scale, often replacing the natural growth of the area. The practice is known to cause loss of biodiversity and other ecological disturbances.