Sunday, 31 July 2016


1. Vermin tag arbitrary, welfare board tells Supreme Court :

The Supreme Court has asked animal rights organisations to make representations before the Centre
regarding three notifications declaring nilgais, monkeys and wild boar as vermin, with the Animal Welfare Board of India terming the government’s step an arbitrary decision.
Animal Welfare Board had questioned the notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change declaring nilgais, monkeys and wild boar as vermin for one year in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has also termed this as an arbitrary decision.
About Animal Welfare Board of India:
The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country of India.
§ The Animal Welfare Board of India was established in 1960 under Section 4 of The Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
§ The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
§ It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations.
§ The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and
Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
§ The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and
Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
2. Centre notifies amended RBI Act to usher in MPC
The government has moved to give statutory backing to the monetary policy committee (MPC). In this regard, the centre has notified the changes made to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act.
§ This paves the way for a resetting of the monetary policy framework that will shift the responsibility of maintaining inflation targets on a six-member panel, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor  getting a casting vote in case of a tie.
§ According to the monetary policy framework, agreed by RBI and the government last year, the central bank will look to contain inflation within a band of 4% plus/minus 2 percentage points from next year.
The idea of setting up an MPC was mooted by an RBI-appointed committee led by deputy governor Urjit Patel in February 2014 though that committee had recommended a five-member committee where three members would be from RBI and two external members would be appointed by the RBI governor and the deputy governor in-charge.
It is a six member panel which will have the responsibility of maintaining inflation targets. The MPC will set interest rates to keep retail inflation within targets. Inflation targets will be set once every five years.
§ The Committee is to meet four times a year and make public its decisions following each meeting.
§ The committee will have six members. Of the six members, the government will nominate three. The
RBI Governor will chair the committee. The governor, however, will not enjoy a veto power to overrule the other panel members, but will have a casting vote in case of a tie. No government official will be nominated to the MPC.
§ The other three members would be from the RBI with the governor being the ex-officio chairperson.
Deputy governor of RBI in charge of the monetary policy will be a member, as also an executive director of the central bank. Decisions will be taken by majority vote with each member having a vote.
§ The government nominees to the MPC will be selected by a Search-cum-Selection Committee under
Cabinet Secretary with RBI Governor and Economic Affairs Secretary and three experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy as its members.
§ Members of the MPC will be appointed for a period of four years and shall not be eligible for

3. National Skill Development Mission:

§ The National Skill Development Mission aims to provide a strong institutional framework at the Centre and States for implementation of skilling activities in the country.
§ The Mission will have a three-tiered, high powered decision making structure. At its apex, the Mission’s Governing Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, will provide overall guidance and policy direction.
§ The Steering Committee, chaired by Minister in Charge of Skill Development, will review the Mission’s activities in line with the direction set by the Governing Council. The Mission Directorate, with Secretary,
Skill Development as Mission Director, will ensure implementation, coordination and convergence of
skilling activities across Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments.
§ The Mission will also run select sub-missions in high priority areas.
§ The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Directorate of Training will function under the overall guidance of the Mission.
§ The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) provides a natural home for the
Mission, organically linking all three decisions making levels and facilitating linkages to all Central
Ministries/Departments and State Governments.
4. Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh will get to claim Indian citizenship

The home ministry has prepared draft amendments to citizenship law that will exempt minority citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh who have come to India out of fear of religious persecution from being tagged as “illegal migrants“.
§ The changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955, will give a legal path to the refugees to remain in India and even claim citizenship.
§ As per the proposed amendments to Citizenship Act, December 31, 2014 will be designated as the cut-off date for refugees to be eligible to apply for citizenship.
§ Also, Section 2 (1)(b) of the Act will have a provision that will exempt such citizens from being deemed “illegal migrants”.
§ Besides, the government is also looking at simultaneous amendments to the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946.
Way ahead:
The draft will shortly be shortly sent to the cabinet for its approval.
The move stands to benefit nearly 2 lakh Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh who often complain they are treated as “second-class citizens” and are vulnerable to violence. They have also often found themselves at the receiving end of blasphemy laws .

The Act seeks to cover all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized.
Some important provisions of the Act:
§ The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of
complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
§ The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
§ Along with the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act also includes organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector,
organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes,
stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment
including the transportation.
§ Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
§ The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
§ The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence. The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.
§ Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be
punishable with a fine of up to 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment includes physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing any pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal conductof a sexual nature. Besides, implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental treatment inemployment, implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status, interference with herwork and humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety may also amount to sexual harassment.

6. 1st Meeting of National Committee on Ramayana Circuit & Krishna Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme
The 1st Meeting of National Committee on Ramayan Circuit and National Committee on Krishna Circuit
under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism was recently held under the chairmanship of the
Minister of Tourism & Culture Dr. Mahesh Sharma.
Key facts:
§ Under Ramayana Circuit, 11 destinations spread across 6 states have been proposed. The destinations covered are: Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringhverpur & Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh); Sitamarhi, Buxar & Darbhanga (Bihar); Jagdalpur (Chattisgarh); Bhadrachalam (Telangana); Hampi (Karnataka); and Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu). Expert committee has suggested to include Chitrakoot (Madhya Pradesh), Nashik & Nagpur (Maharashtra) and Mahendragiri (Odisha) in the proposed circuit.
§ Under Krishna circuit, 12 destinations spread across 5 states have been proposed. The destinations
covered are: Dwarka (Gujarat); Nathdwara, Jaipur & Sikar (Rajasthan); Kurukshetra (Haryana),
Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon & Govardhan (Uttar Pradesh); Puri (Odisha). The
destinations were approved by the expert committee.

Swadesh Darshan scheme:
The Ministry of Tourism has launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 2014-15 with an aim to develop theme based tourist circuits in the country on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner by synergizing efforts to focus on needs and concerns of all stakeholders to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities.
Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, thirteen thematic circuits have been identified, for development
namely: North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit,
Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit
and Heritage Circuit.

7.New education policy draft clashes with RTE
Several recommendations in the draft National Education Policy, 2016 will require amendments to the Right to Education Act, 2009.
§ The draft National Education Policy insisting on “consolidation”, proposes merging “small, non-viable” schools. This subverts the RTE Act on neighbourhood schools being located “within a walking distance of one kilometre” for children attending Classes 1 to 5.
§ The draft emphasizes “school mapping” – as opposed to RTE’s “child-mapping” – but stresses that for children attending “non-viable” schools, transport must be provided.
§ The proposal to extend the 25% economically weaker section quota in private schools to minority
institutions will also need an amendment. The committee notes that number of schools claiming
religious or linguistic minority status has increased tremendously.
§ The RTE mandates a no-detention policy -banning grade-repetition -till Class VIII; the draft
wants it limited to Class V. Its recommendations cover remedial classes “by school teachers or
volunteers” and supplementary examinations.
§ The committee suggests amending the RTE to “provide, in addition to infrastructure, learning outcomenorms that affect quality of education”, a longstanding private school demand.

8. Draft forest policy out, brace for green tax :
The environment ministry has come out with a draft National Forest Policy (NFP). The policy is aimed at facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour among stakeholders. The draft policy has been prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM).
§ The policy proposes levy of a green tax and calls for safeguarding forest land by exercising strict restraint on diversion for non-forestry purposes like mining and industrial projects and practising responsible eco-tourism in forest areas to ensure safety of wildlife.
§ It aims to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover.
§ The new policy will replace the existing one that has been guiding the government to manage forests since 1988.
§ On generating resources to manage the forest cover, the draft policy said the budget of the forestry sector should be appropriately enhanced so that the objectives enshrined in this policy can be achieved. The policy will guide the forest management of the country for the next 25-30 years.
§ The policy also proposes to levy environmental cess, green tax, carbon tax etc. on certain products and services.
§ On the contentious issue of diversion of forests for mining and industrial projects, the draft policy said, “Forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure needs to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted.”
§ The draft policy also called for developing “sound eco-tourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities. “
§ The policy envisages that a national implementation framework be put in place within six months of the notification, to deliver on the commitments. It also urged states to formulate their forest policies and prepare an implementation framework.
§ The policy also emphasised on large-scale expansion of agro-forestry and farm forestry through
incentives and operational support systems such as lowering input costs and enabling access to
reasonably priced quality planting material.

9. Jews In Maharashtra To Get Minority Status :

Maharashtra government has approved a proposal to grant minority status to Jews in the state. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister.
§ After being officially recognised as a minority community, the Jews would enjoy several privileges like other minority communities.
§ This decision will benefit students from these communities to avail scholarships from the state
government and setting up of educational institutions.
§ It would become easier for them to register their marriages. They would also be able to set up their own educational institutes and practice and promote their culture.
Jews have been a part of the Indian society for over 2,300 years now. According to 2001 Census, the number of Jews living in India was 4,650 with 2,466 of them residing in Maharashtra. The Jews of Manipur and Mizoram identify themselves as Beni Menashe. There are also some in Andhra Pradesh who call themselves Bene Ephraim Jews. India is one of the few countries in the world where Jews have never faced any harassment or persecution.
10. National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP) 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP).
§ The NMEP primarily aims at accelerating the exploration activity in the country through enhanced
participation of the private sector.
§ The policy emphasizes on making available baseline geoscientific data of world standards in the public domain, quality research in a public-private partnership, special initiatives for search of deep-seated and concealed deposits, quick aerogeophysical surveys of the country, and creation of a dedicated geosciences database etc.
§ The Ministry of Mines will carry out auctioning of identified exploration blocks for exploration by private sector on revenue sharing basis in case their exploration leads to auctionable resources. The revenue will be borne by the successful bidder of those auctionable blocks.
§ If the explorer agencies do not discover any auctionable resources, their exploration expenditure will be reimbursed on normative cost basis.
§ Government will carry out a National Aerogeophysical Program for acquiring state-of-the-art baseline data for targeting concealed mineral deposits.
§ A National Geoscientific Data Repository is proposed to be set up to collate all baseline and mineral exploration information generated by various central & state government agencies and also mineral concession holders and to maintain these on geospatial database.
§ Government proposes to establish a not-for-profit autonomous institution that will be known as the
National Centre for Mineral Targeting (NCMT) in collaboration with scientific and research bodies,
universities and industry for scientific and technological research to address the mineral exploration
challenges in the country.
§ There are also provisions for inviting private investment in exploration through attractive revenue
sharing models.
§ On the lines of UNCOVER project of Australia, the government intends to launch a special initiative to probe deep-seated/ concealed minerals deposits in the country in collaboration with National Geophysical Research Institute and the proposed NCMT and Geoscience Australia.
In order to implement the recommendations of the NMEP, initially an amount of about Rs.2116 crore over 5 years would be required over and above the annual plan budget of the Geological Survey of India under the Ministry of Mines. The NMEP will benefit the entire mineral sector across the country.

11. Middle-aged smoke and drink the most: Survey

According to data from the Sample Registration System (SRS) Baseline Survey 2014, released by the Registrar General of India, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh had the highest proportions among people who reported to be smokers and alcohol drinkers respectively.
Highlights of the survey:
§ A fourth of West Bengal men smoke and a third of Chhattisgarh men drink — the highest among the 21 ‘bigger states’ for which data is available.
§ Maharashtra has the lowest proportion of male smokers and drinkers, at 2% and 2.7%.
§ There are more smokers (11.4%) than drinkers (10%).
§ People in the age group 45-59 reported the highest proportion both in smoking and drinking while the 15-29 age group reported the lowest.
§ The numbers are significantly low for women — a mere 0.7% of total women, for both smoking and drinking. At 3%, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the highest proportion of female drinkers.
§ 13 of the 21 states have more drinkers than smokers, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana — where the difference is the highest.
§ Caste-wise, reported drinking is more among men belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (18.2%). This can explain why Chhattisgarh tops the drinking list, as the State has a large adivasi population.
§ Smoking is most prevalent among the Scheduled Castes (16.3%).
§ Overall, 1.4% people reported to have quit smoking and drinking. For every seven men who smoke and for every eight men who drink, there is one who has quit the respective habit.

University Grants Commission (UGC):
The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up in 1956, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
§ It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognized universities and colleges.
§ Previously, UGC was formed in 1946 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and, Delhi. In 1947, the Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.
§ After independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan and it recommended that the UGC be reconstituted on the general model of the University Grants Commission of the United Kingdom.
§ The UGC was however, formally established in November 1956, by an Act of Parliament as a statutory body of the Government of India.
12. Use of potassium bromate as food additive banned:

The government has banned the use of potassium bromate as a food additive following a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study that found its presence in bread caused cancer.
A recent study had found that 84% of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate. The two food additives are banned in many countries and are listed as “hazardous” to public health. According to the study, potassium bromated typically increases dough strength, leads to higher rising and gives uniform finish to baked products.
Potassium iodate is a flour treatment agent.
What is Potassium Bromate and how it works?
It is added to wheat flour to strengthen the dough and to allow it to rise higher. It bleaches the dough and increases its elasticity by making tiny bubbles that help the bread rise.
§ However, the real problem arises when bromate flour isn’t baked for long enough or at a high enough temperature, or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place.
Health impacts:
§ The chemical is said to cause renal tubular tumours (adenomas and carcinomas) thyroid follicular
tumours peritoneal mesotheliomas in laboratory animals.
§ Also, long-term carcinogenicity studies and in vivo and in vitro mutagenicity studies showed that
potassium bromate was a “genotoxic carcinogen” or a chemical agent that damaged genetic information, causing mutations.

13. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) :

NPPA is an organization of the Government of India which was established, inter alia, to fix/ revise the prices of controlled bulk drugs and formulations and to enforce prices and availability of the medicines in the country, under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995.
§ The organization is also entrusted with the task of recovering amounts overcharged by manufacturersfor the controlled drugs from the consumers. It also monitors the prices of decontrolled drugs in order
to keep them at reasonable levels.
Functions of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority:
§ To implement and enforce the provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order in accordance with the powers delegated to it.
§ To deal with all legal matters arising out of the decisions of the Authority.
§ To monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
§ To collect/ maintain data on production, exports and imports, market share of individual companies, profitability of companies etc, for bulk drugs and formulations.
§ To undertake and/ or sponsor relevant studies in respect of pricing of drugs/ pharmaceuticals.
§ To recruit/ appoint the officers and other staff members of the Authority, as per rules and procedures laid down by the Government.
§ To render advice to the Central Government on changes/ revisions in the drug policy.
§ To render assistance to the Central Government in the parliamentary matters relating to the drug
14. About NIIF:

National Infrastructure and Investment Fund (NIIF) was set up as a trust with a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore.
§ The Fund aims to attract investment from both domestic and international sources.
§ The government’s contribution would be limited to 49% of the subscribed capital.
§ The government will seek participation from strategic investors such as sovereign fund, quasi sovereign funds and multilateral or bilateral investors, which can help leverage this fund to many times.
§ Cash-rich PSUs, pension funds, provident funds, National Small Saving Fund will be able to pick up stake in the fund.
§ The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, NIIF would solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.
§ Sovereign funds and pension funds from a number of countries, including the U.K., UAE, Russia and Singapore, have already expressed interest in investing in NIIF. India and the UAE signed a pact to mobilise up to $75 billion long-term investment.

15. Soon, an e-drop box for kids to report abuse :

The ministry of women and child development (WCD) is working on an e-dropbox that will let children
complain about abuse, molestation or harassment in everyday situations in school, bus, tuition classes or at home. Simple language, pictures and icons will be used to ensure that even young children can use this facility.
§ The e-dropbox will be hosted on the website of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
(NCPCR). The icons and the response system are being designed by the commission.
The project was inspired by Delhi Police’s ‘Operation Nirbheek’, under which complaint boxes were placed in different schools, allowing girls to anonymously complain about any abuse. Many of the complaints were converted into FIRs. They helped bring to light incidents of abuse at homes and schools that children were too scared or inhibited to speak about.
Why this is necessary?
A 2007 government study found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don’t report the assault to anyone. The survey, carried out across 13 states and with a sample size of 12,447, revealed that 53.22% of children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, with Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Delhi reporting the highest percentage of such incidents. In 50% of the child abuse cases, the abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust, and most children didnot report the matter to anyone.
16. Crime drops as Chittoor embraces community policing in a big way

With 4,500 volunteers enrolled as Community Police Officers (CPOs) in just five months, the community policing effort launched by the Chittoor district police in Andhra Pradesh has evoked an overwhelming response. Professionals, including doctors, lawyers and engineers and students have signed up to help in various aspects of policing.
§ CPOs are being used in almost all areas of policing, including crime, traffic regulation, night beats,
security duties, road accidents, data entry and operations against red sanders smuggling.

Who are CPOs?
CPOs are community police officers who do not require any education qualification. They should be just above 18 years of age with good health and clean background. Women and transgenders can also be CPOs. After preliminary training, the CPOs would also be eligible for special orientation in their field of interest.The concept’s motto is to promote people-friendly policing where there will be zero crime rate.

What is prior referral category?
Prior referral category (PRC) country means visas are issued by the respective Indian missions and consulates after running a thorough background check on individual applicants.
Countries in PRC:
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons come under the restrictedcategory, requiring prior security clearance from the intelligence agencies for obtaining a visa.

17. India signs agreement with IBRD :

The Government of India and the World Bank have signed a US$ 9.2 million grant agreement under the World Bank-Global Environment Facility (GEF) Program for the Efficient and Sustainable City Bus Service Project to improve the efficiency and attractiveness of bus services in select Indian cities.
Key facts:
§ The project will demonstrate low cost high impact initiatives in efficient bus operations by focusing on modernizing city bus services through modern depots for improving the maintenance of buses; introducing modern Intelligent Transport Systems and Management Information Systems for better planning and management of operations; and by providing technical support to vehicles and drivers for better fuel efficiency, among others.
§ Demonstration cities where the various initiatives for improving city bus services will be undertaken are Mira Bhayandar in Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Bhopal.
§ This project will complement the Government of India’s Bus Funding Scheme launched to promote public transport by supporting cities to modernize their bus services.
§ The initiatives for modernizing city bus transport services under this project will also help select cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) while offering practical transport solutions.
§ The project is designed to specifically focus on identifying regulatory, institutional and fiscal constraints to operation of sustainable city bus services and address the weak capacity in the urban bus sector and facilitate the development of a vibrant urban bus sector community through the development of a comprehensive capacity building program.

18. India joins The Hague Code of Conduct :

India has joined The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC).
§ India’s joining the Code signals its readiness to further strengthen the global non-proliferation regimes.
§ The government has also made it clear that this joining will not have any impact on the national security as well as country’s missile programmes.
About HCoC:
HCoC is a global ballistic missile proliferation regime established in 2002. It is a voluntary legally nonbinding multilateral body aimed at preventing the spread of ballistic missiles that can deliver weapons of mass destruction.
§ It is the only multilateral code in the area of disarmament which has been adopted over the last
years. It is the only normative instrument to verify the spread of ballistic missiles.
§ The HCOC does not ban ballistic missiles, but it does call for restraint in their production, testing,
and export. Presently, there are 137 signatories.
§ The Code is meant to supplement the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) but its
membership is not restricted. Under the Code, States make politically binding commitments to curb the proliferation of WMD-capable ballistic missiles and to exercise maximum restraint in developing,
testing, and deploying such missiles.
§ Given the similarities between the technologies used in ballistic missiles and civilian rockets, the Code also introduces transparency measures such as annual declarations and pre-launch notifications
regarding ballistic missile and space launch programs.
§ Austria is the administrative Central Contact of the Code, coordinating the information
exchange under HCOC.

19. Crucial meetings await Parrikar on sidelines of Shangri-La Dialogue :

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is in Singapore to attend the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue. On the
sidelines, he will also be holding crucial meetings with his counterparts from France and the U.S.
§ The Shangri-La Dialogue hosted annually by independent think-tank International Institute
for Strategic Studies, is being held from June 3-5.
§ It is attended by defence ministers and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific countries besides those of other countries.
What is the Shangri-La Dialogue?
The dialogue, also called as IISS Asia Security Summit, was launched in 2002 by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government. This annual dialogue brings together defence ministers and military chiefs from 28 Asia-Pacific countries to talk about security in the region. It gets its name from the location of the meeting, the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
Why is the Shangri-La Dialogue important?
§ The dialogue gathers military representatives from some of the world’s most powerful countries to
discuss pressing and significant defence and security issues.
§ The meeting is a chance for defence ministers, military chiefs and high-ranking defence officials to hold bilateral meetings on its sidelines.
§ It is also attended by legislators, academic experts, journalists and business delegates from around the globe, making it a vehicle for public policy development and discussions on defence and security in the Asia-Pacific.
20. India, U.S. to ratify Paris deal by 2017 :

India and the U.S have agreed to initiate domestic processes to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change — negotiated by over 190 countries in December 2015 — and complete the process within this year .
What are conference visas?
Conference visas are issued for seminars, workshops and conferences organised by government departments, Union ministries, public sector undertakings, central educational institutions or public funded universities.
What is prior referral category?
Prior referral category (PRC) country means visas are issued by the respective Indian missions and consulates after running a thorough background check on individual applicants.
Countries in PRC:
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons come under the restricted category, requiring prior security clearance from the intelligence agencies for obtaining a visa.

21. India eyes uranium from Africa

India is planning to ask African countries to relax commitment to the Pelindaba Treaty which controls supply of uranium from key mineral hubs of Africa to the rest of the world. As part of this, President Pranab Mukherjee would begin the process by trying to convince Namibia in his upcoming trip, to implement a bilateral treaty with India and supply uranium to Indian nuclear energy projects.
India and Namibia signed two MoUs on Cooperation in the field of geology and mineral resources and Cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy during the visit of President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba to India in 2009. However, the Pelindaba Treaty has prevented it from ratifying the agreements. Namibia is the fourth largest producer of uranium. 

About Pelindaba treaty:
The Pelindaba Treaty signed in 1996, also known as the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, aims at preventing nuclear proliferation and preventing strategic minerals of Africa from being exported freely. The treaty was signed in 1996 and came into effect with the 28th ratification on 15 July 2009.
§ The Treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition,
testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to
the Treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by Treaty parties.
§ The Treaty also prohibits any attack against nuclear installations in the zone by Treaty parties and
requires them to maintain the highest standards of physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment, which are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
§ It also requires all parties to apply full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities.
§ It covers the entire African continent along with few islands. Presently, the treaty has been ratified by 40 countries.

22. Shanghai meet crucial for NSG nod :

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Central Asian leaders, including Kazakh President Nazarbayev in Tashkent on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, to make a final attempt to push through India’s NSG membership. India is slated to join the SCO after its membership was approved last year.
About the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
It is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
§ The SCO is seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
§ With observer states included, its affiliates account for about half of the world’s population.
§ The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General
Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth
of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
§ India and Pakistan were accepted as full members of the organization in July 2015.
§ Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia enjoy observer status.

23. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership:
The RCEP is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far – the other two being the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and the TTIP (Trans -atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
§ The agreement is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
§ RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

24. India sets sights on gold in ocean
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a 15-year contract by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for undertaking exploration and other developmental activities related to polymetallic sulphides in the allotted area of 10,000 sq km.
Key facts:
§ By signing the contract, India’s exclusive rights for exploration of polymetallic sulphides in the allotted area in the Central Indian Ridge, and South West Indian Ridge in Indian Ocean will be
§ It will also enhance India’s presence in the Indian Ocean where other players like China, Korea and Germany are active.
§ The program will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the participation of various national institutes and research laboratories and organisations.
§ Previously, in 2002, the government was granted permission only to explore ocean regions and prospect for precious metals.

What are PMS?
Deep seabed polymetallic sulphides (PMS) containing iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold, platinum in variable constitutions are precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from deep interior of the oceanic crust discharged through mineralized chimneys. PMS in the Ocean Ridges have attracted worldwide attention for their long term commercial as well as strategic value.
§ Initial estimated resource of polymetallic nodules on the site retained by India on the central Indian
Ocean basin is 380 million tonnes with 0.55 tonnes of cobalt, 4.7 tonnes of nickel, 4.29 tonnes of copper and 92.59 tonnes of manganese.
About ISA:
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, that was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.
§ It is an organization established by the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. It was
established in 1994.
§ ISA governs non-living resources of seabed lying in international waters.

25. International Continental Scientific Drilling Program:
It is a multinational program to further and fund geosciences in the field of Continental Scientific Drilling. It was founded in February 1996 in the German Embassy in Tokyo as a result of the German Continental Deep Drilling Program.
§ The research findings will provide direct insight into Earth processes by testing geological models.
§ The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences serves as the headquarters for the ICDP.
§ Members of ICDP: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA and UNESCO.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


1.India moves up in ‘ease of doing business’ ranking :

India now ranks 130 out of 189 countries in the ease of doing business 2016, according to a World Bank report.
• The original ranking for 2015 had been pegged at 142, which would give India a jump of 12 ranks, but the WB's mid-year revision had bumped up India's rank to 134.
• The improvement in two indicators, ‘starting a business’ and ‘getting electricity,’ pushed India up the ladder, according to the report.
• The report also commended the legislative changes that eliminated the minimum capital requirement and the requirement to obtain a certificate to start business operations.

2. 'Sin tax' for alcohol, tobacco industries in GST regime  :

Alcohol and tobacco industries will soon have to pay more taxes towards an additional ‘sin tax’ under the proposed GST structure.
• There is a provision in the proposed GST bill under which the sinful industries such as alcohol and tobacco will have to pay an additional tax. However, the rate at which this tax would be levied under the proposed GST regime is not yet decided.

What is Sin tax?

• ‘Sin tax’ is a globally prevalent practice under which products like alcohol and tobacco attract higher rates of tax. Typically, ‘sin tax’ is an excise tax that is levied on products and services considered to be bad for health or society such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling.


The Reserve Bank of India has issued guidelines for the gold monetization scheme that allow banks to fix their own interest rates on gold deposits.
Gold Monetisation scheme:
• Through the Gold Monetisation Scheme, gold in any form can be deposited with banks for a period of one to 15 years. This gold will earn interest and redemption will be at the prevailing market value at the end of the tenure of deposit.
• The scheme also provides for incentives to the banks, while individuals and institutions can deposit as low as 30 gm of gold, while the interest earned on it would be exempt from income tax as well as capital gains tax.
• The scheme is aimed at mobilising a part of an estimated 20,000 tonnes of idle precious metal with households and institutions.
• This scheme was actually announced in the Budget for 2015-16.

4. Maharashtra imposes tax to tackle drought :
In a bid to raise funds to tackle the drought situation, the Maharashtra government has decided to impose ‘drought tax.’
• This is the first time since 1973 that a state government has decided to take such a drastic step.
• This tax is meant to help farmers who have been hit by one of the worst droughts in recent times. Drought tax includes:
• Tax on petrol and diesel, VAT on liquor, cigarettes and beverages, and surcharge on VAT for gold and diamond jewelleries.
• A tax of Rs. 2 per litre would be charged on petrol and diesel, while Value Added Tax (VAT) on liquor, cigarettes and beverages has been raised by 5%. Also, the surcharge on VAT for gold and diamond jewelleries has been raised from 1 to 1.20 %.

The PMJDY was conceived as a national mission on financial inclusion with
the objective of covering all households in the country with banking facilities and having a bank account for each household.
• It is a scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion.
Benefits under PMJDY Scheme:
• Interest on deposit.
• Accidental insurance cover of Rs.1.00 lac
• Accounts can be opened with zero balance. No minimum balance required.
• Life insurance cover of Rs.30,000/-
• Easy Transfer of money across India
• Beneficiaries of Government Schemes will get Direct Benefit Transfer in these accounts.
• After satisfactory operation of the account for 6 months, an overdraft facility will be permitted
• Access to Pension, insurance products.
• Accidental Insurance Cover, RuPay Debit Card must be used at least once in 45 days.
Overdraft facility upto Rs.5000/- is available in only one account per household, preferably lady of the household.

6. India now most attractive investment destination: EY
India has been named the most attractive country for investment in a survey of more than 500 global investors published by accounting firm EY (Ernst & Young).
• According to the survey, the second most favoured investment destination is China and is followed by Southeast Asia and Brazil.
• 32% of the 505 executives questioned said India was their favoured market for investment, with China second on 15% of the vote. About 62% said they were looking at manufacturing, both to serve the Indian and global markets from India.
• Perception about India’s macroeconomic stability is up to 76% in 2015 in comparison to 70% in.
• Perception about political and social stability is up from 59% in 2014 to 74% in 2015.
• For relaxation in FDI policy the score improved from 60% in 2014 to 68% in 2015.
• For government’s efforts to ease doing business the score has improved from 57% in 2014 to 67% in 2015.
• Compared to the 2014 survey, the number of respondents, who believe that India would be among the world’s leading top three destinations for manufacturing by 2020, had increased from 24% to 35%, while those who believed India would evolve as a regional and global hub for operations was up from 9% to 21%.
• Among specific reforms expected to drive growth, 89% of the investors polled said that investment in infrastructure projects and the 100 Smart Cities project would be significant.
• Financial inclusion, including Digital India and the Government’s proposal to reduce the rate of corporate tax from 30 %to 25%, were considered significant by 83% of the respondents.
• Implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and legislation on land acquisition were also mentioned by investors as important for attracting FDI.
• Investors rated India’s domestic market and availability of labour among the most attractive features for doing business.

7. Sunderbans to get a student army of conservationists :

An ambitious project has been started in West Bengal under which Schoolchildren in the Sunderbans area will learn about tiger conservation and pass on the experience to their elders.
• Under this project, two fully equipped edutainment boats carrying a projector, a sound system, generators, a library, films related to conservation and wildlife photographs will be launched in the Sunderbans which will help students in understanding the importance of this area.
• The Sundarbans is a natural region in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
• The Sundarbans covers approximately 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 sq mi) of which 60% is in Bangladesh with the remainder in India.
• It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Mangroves in India:

• Mangroves in India account for about 3% of the world’s mangrove vegetation. Mangrove cover in India is 4,662 sq. km, which is 0.14% of the country’s total geographical area.
• Sundarbans in West Bengal accounts for almost half of the total area under mangroves in the country. Mangrove in India is famous for its rich variety of flora and fauna.
Composition of Mangroves in India:
The very dense mangrove comprises 1,403 sq. km (30.10% of the total mangrove cover), moderately dense mangrove is 1,658.12 sq. km (35.57 %) while open mangroves cover an area of 1,600.44 sq. km (33%).
9.What is Bioethanol?
Bioethanol is a form of quasi-renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks. It can be made from very common crops such as sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn. It is also made from corn, potatoes, milk, rice, beetroot and recently grapes, banana and dates depending on the countries agricultural strength.
• It is blended with petrol to make a truly sustainable transport fuel.
• It is used in cosmetic and other manufacturing processes.

10. What are INDCs?
These are individual country commitments which are expected to indicate through their form and strength what shape any 2015 agreement might take.
• Countries across the globe have committed to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015.
• In preparation, countries have agreed to publicly outline what post- 2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
• The INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement with bottom-up system-in elements through which countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities, within the ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
• The INDCs will not only contain steps taken towards emission reductions, but also aim to address steps taken to adapt to climate change impacts, and what support the country needs-or will provide to address climate change.
• In February 2015, Switzerland became the first nation to submit its INDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, later followed by the European Union.

11. India to cut emissions intensity :

The Union Environment Ministry has finally submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels.
• All nations were due to come out with emission targets ahead of a climate change conference in Paris in December, where they are supposed to adopt a landmark deal to fight climate change.
• Including India, 120 countries have now submitted their INDCs.
India’s proposed targets:
1. Reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.
2. Achieve about 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance.
3. Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

12. Green India Mission Plans of Four States Approved :

National Mission for a Green India (GIM) falling under the Environment Ministry has approved annual plans for Kerala, Mizoram, Manipur and Jhakhand.
Green India Mission:
• It is one of the eight Missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
• It acknowledges the influence forests have on environmental amelioration through climate change mitigation, food security, water security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest dependent communities.
• It hinges on decentralized participatory approach involving grass root level organizations and community in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring.
• It lays emphasis on landscape approach and convergence with complementary schemes and programmes for better coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas in a holistic and sustainable manner.

13. Taking cue from Centre, State bans a drug to save vultures :

The kerala state government has withdrawn Ketoprofen, a non – steroid anti- inflammatory drug (NSAID) used extensively for veterinary purposes, to save the vulture population in three districts of the state.
• The State government had included Ketoprofen based on an effort to identify an alternative to the banned drug Diclofenac.
• The Centre had banned Diclofenac multi-vial doses after wildlife biologists proved that presence of the drug in the carcasses of the cattle caused the vulture population to dwindle drastically.
How vultures are affected by these drugs?
• Vultures act as scavengers, preying on dead animals. Diclofenac in carcasses lead to slow death of vultures.
• Ketoprofen, which is seen as an alternative, causes the same effect on the vulture population.

14. West Bengal to get India’s first dolphin reserve :

India’s first community reserve to protect the endangered Gangetic river dolphins will come up in West Bengal. This decision was taken at the recently held State Wildlife Board meeting in WB.
• The reserve will be set up in the Hooghly river.
• The methodology to develop the community reserve is being chalked out by a separate committee. The committee will take a decision based on inputs from all stakeholders since it’s a community reserve.

15.  Gangetic Dolphin:

• The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges- Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. It is a freshwater dolphin.
• Once found in thousands, there are fewer than 2,000 Gangetic dolphins left in the country in the entire distribution range along the Ganga and Brahamaputra river system.
• It was declared as the National Aquatic Animal in 2010.
• One of the main threats to the species is loss of habitat due in large part to the creation of dams and irrigation projects. It is also threatened by removal of river water and siltation arising from deforestation, pollution and entanglement in fisheries nets.
This species is also referred to as the "blind dolphin".
• It has been classified as “endangered” by the IUCN.

16. Fishermen apprehensive as Kerala prepares to roll out World Bank-aided project :

The Kerala government is gearing up to implement an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project aimed at livelihood improvement of coastal communities and conservation of the coastal ecosystem, amid voices of protest from the fishermen community.
• The project director has already been appointed by the government.
Why the fishermen are opposing?
The fishermen are apprehensive about the project and its impact on the coastline. They fear the project would pave the way for a construction spree, jeopardising the fragile coastal environment and further endangering their livelihood.

17. Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM):

• ICZM aims to improve livelihood of coastal communities and conserve the coastal ecosystem.
• The ICZM plan involves identification of infrastructure requirements and livelihood improvement means in coastal districts. Conservation of mangroves is among the components.
• The national component of the project includes mapping of the country’s coastline and demarcation of the hazard line.
• It is a World Bank assisted project.
• It is being implemented by the Department of Forests and Environment with assistance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
• The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai, will provide scientific and technical inputs.
Kerala will be included in the second phase of the Rs.1,155.63-crore project that has already covered Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal.

18. Project Loon:

• Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas.
• The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds.
How it operates?
• The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
• Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building.
• The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet.
Why stratosphere was chosen?
Google asserts that the stratosphere is advantageous because of its relatively low wind speeds and minimal turbulence. Google also claims that it can model, with reasonable accuracy, the seasonal, longitudinal, and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km stratospheric layer.

19. First Scorpene class submarine set afloat :

Kalavari, the first of Scorpene class submarines being manufactured at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL), was recently set afloat in the Mumbai naval dockyard.
• The submarine will now undergo rigorous harbour trials and tests which will certify each system to its fullest capacity.
Kalvari is first of the Indian Navy’s Scorpene class stealth submarines being built under the Project 75, under collaboration with M/s DCNS, France.

20. Chemistry Nobel for mapping how cells repair damaged DNA :

Tomas Lindahl, Paul L. Modrich and Aziz Sancar have jointly won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for having mapped and explained how the cell repairs its DNA and safeguards its genetic information.
Lindahl, of the Francis Crick Institute in London, was honoured for his discoveries on base excision repair — the cellular mechanism that repairs damaged DNA during the cell cycle.
• Modrich, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, was recognised for showing how cells correct errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division.
• Sancar, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was cited for mapping the mechanism cells use to repair ultraviolet damage to DNA.

21. Kajita, McDonald win physics Nobel for neutrino work :

Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering the "chameleon-like" nature of neutrinos, work that yielded the crucial insight that the tiny particles have mass.
Kajita showed in 1998 that neutrinos captured at the detector underwent a metamorphosis in the atmosphere. Three years later McDonald found that neutrinos coming from the sun also switched identities.

22. What are neutrinos?

Neutrinos are miniscule particles created in nuclear reactions, such as in the sun and the stars, or in nuclear power plants. There are three kinds of neutrinos.
• Neutrinos interact with matter via the weak force. The weakness of this force gives neutrinos the property that matter is almost transparent to them.
• Since they rarely interact, these neutrinos pass through the Sun, and even the Earth, unhindered. There are many other natural sources of neutrinos including exploding stars (supernovae), relic neutrinos, natural radioactivity, and cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere of the Earth.
• The neutrino was proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930; but it took another 26 years for it to be actually detected. In 1956 Reines and Cowan found evidence of neutrino interactions by monitoring a volume of cadmium chloride with scintillating liquid near to a nuclear reactor. Reines was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 in part for this revolutionary work.

23. 3 win Nobel Prize in Medicine for parasite-fighting therapies :

Three scientists from the US, Japan and China have won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people every year.
The three scientists are:
1. Santoshi omura from Japan
2. Youyou tu from China
3. William campbell from Ireland
• Campbell and Omura were cited for discovering avermectin, derivatives of which have helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms that affect millions of people in Africa and Asia.
• Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has helped significantly reduce the mortality rates of malaria patients. Tu Youyou is the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate.
River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. About 90% of the disease occurs in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Lymphatic filariasis can lead to swelling of the limbs and genitals, called elephantiasis, and it’s primarily a threat in Africa and Asia. The WHO says 120 million people are infected with the disease, without about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that still kills around 500,000 people a year, mostly in Africa, despite efforts to control it.

24. DRDO sets up world's highest terrestrial centre in Ladakh

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has established the world's highest terrestrial centre at 17,600 feet above sea level at Changla near Pengong lake in Ladakh.
key features:
• The centre will serve as a natural cold storage for preserving rare and endangered medical plants for generations to come.
• The centre will act as an important utility for research work in frontal areas of food and agriculture and bio-medical sciences for well being of the soldiers deployed in high altitude cold desert.
• Other activities that are proposed to be undertaken here include human physiological work, designing, testing, validation and demonstration of mobile and portable greenhouses, soil-less microfarming technologies for fresh food in remote landlocked posts besides conservation and propagation of endangered extreme altitude medicinal plants and others.

25. GAGAN:

GAGAN was develped by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a cost of Rs. 774 crore, over 15 years.
• GAGAN will provide augmentation service for the GPS over the country, the Bay of Bengal, South East Asia and Middle East and up to Africa.
• Some of its benefits are improved efficiency, direct routes, increased fuel savings, approach with vertical guidance at runways, significant cost savings because of the withdrawal of ground aids and reduced workload of flight crew and air traffic controllers.
• Gagan works by augmenting and relaying data from GPS satellites with the help of two augmentation satellites and 15 earth-based reference stations.
The system utilises the satellite-based wide area augmentation system (SBAS) technology which has been developed by Raytheon.

26. Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme – “VIKALP”: 

The Rail Ministry has announced a new scheme, called VIKALP, that would allow wait-listed passengers of a train to opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains.
• The Alternate Train Accomodation Scheme (ATAS), also called VIKALP, will come into effect beginning 1st November on a pilot basis for six months on Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Jammu routes for tickets booked online.
• The scheme has been launched with a view to provide confirmed accommodation to waitlisted passengers and also to ensure optimal utilisation of available accommodation
• In this scheme, wait listed passengers of a train can opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains.

26. NPAs:

In August 2015, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the road sector was responsible for the second highest amount of NPAs, after the steel sector.
A recent Crisil report said “almost half of the road projects, being constructed under the build, operate, transfer with a sanctioned debt of Rs. 45,900 crore, are at high risk of not being completed.

27. Indian islands to be developed under Swiss challenge model :

The Centre is going to implement a comprehensive plan to develop Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, for an integrated modernisation of the region, under its 'Sagarmala' initiative.
• The plan is to develop these islands under the 'Swiss challenge system'.
What is swiss challenge system?
Swiss challenge method is a process of giving contracts. Any person with credentials can submit a development proposal to the government. That proposal will be made online and a second person can give suggestions to improve and beat that proposal.
• It is a method where third parties make offers (challenges) for a project within a designated period to avoid exaggerated project costs.
Is it new to India?
• The Swiss challenge method is one that has been used in India by various states including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Gujarat for roads and housing projects.
In 2009, the Supreme Court approved the method for award of contracts.

28. Sagarmala Initiative:

The Sagarmala project seeks to develop a string of ports around India’s coast. The objective of this initiative is to promote “Port-led development” along India’s 7500 km long coastline.
• It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and promotion of the optimum modal split, enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services.
• The Union Ministry of Shipping has been appointed as the nodal ministry for this initiative.

29. Nirbhay:

• Nirbhay is an all-weather low-cost long-range cruise missile with stealth and high accuracy. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km. It weighs about one tonne and has a length of 6 metres.
• Its relatively slow flight speed allows it to navigate its way precisely to the target.
• The Nirbhay cruise missile is an Indian version of the American Tomahawk.
• The missile is capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air.
• In particular, Nirbhay is being adapted for the Indo/Russian Su- 30MKI. The missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
• The missile is also capable of flying at different altitudes ranging from 500 m to 4 km above the ground and can also fly at low altitudes to avoid detection by enemy radar.
A key hurdle to developing a long-range cruise missile like the Nirbhay is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which forbids signatory countries from assisting or providing technology to any other country developing a cruise missile with a range of 300 km or more.

What is Zero rating?
Zero Rating is a practice by which Internet operators offer free data for specific applications. Advocates of Zero Rating services have argued that this enables those offline to try online services, thereby bridging the digital divide.

30. Cyberdome to become operational next month :

Cyberdome, the hi-tech centre for cybersecurity being set up by the Kerala Police, is expected to become operational by mid-November this year. about Cyberdome:
Cyberdome will be a hi-tech centre for cyber security. The project is worth Rs.2-crore. The project is being established on the public-private partnership model with the technical support offered by IT companies.
Unique features of the project:
• As many as 500 ethical hackers and cybersecurity experts would be involved in the project
• It would have centres for social media awareness, protection of children on the Internet, Internet monitoring and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in service delivery.
• It would also host an Anti-Cyber Terror Cell and a cyber security training unit.
• It would be equipped with an automated crime intelligence gathering unit and a unit for anti-piracy on the Internet.
• It will have its server hosted at the State Data Centre. Software companies will provide technical support on a voluntary basis, develop software for the purpose, and supply technical manpower.
• The station will be manned by police officers with IT-related qualifications. The Additional Director General of Police (Crimes) will be in charge of the project.
• Cyberdome would be open to new models of partnership to find solutions to emerging threats and challenges.

31. NISAR:

• The Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is a joint project between NASA and ISRO to co-develop and launch a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar satellite.
• The satellite will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequency and it is planned to be used for remote sensing to observe and understand natural processes of the Earth.
• It is slated to be launched in  2020-21.
• NISAR would provide information about a place more frequently than older satellites orbiting the Earth at present.
• Among the objectives of NISAR are estimation of soil moisture, agriculture and forest biomass.
• It is also designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet's most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.