India has many strands to its cultural heritage, which require to survive, grow and evolve as living cultures.
Factors such as the pace of socio-economic and environmental changes and the advent of new technologies are posing unprecedented threats to the continuity of these cultural heritages. Increasing awareness of these threats have brought about demands from communities not only to preserve and renew their languages, traditions and culture, but also to reinvigorate their cultural identity and creativity.
In view of the increasing concern of the community to preserve and promote our heritage and to enable them to participate and contribute to its promotion, it was considered necessary to set up an organization which would facilitate and support institutions and individuals in this endeavour.
The National Culture Fund (NCF) was established as a funding mechanism distinct from the existing sources and patterns of funding for the arts and culture in India. It will enable institutions and individuals to support arts and culture directly as partners with its government.
The National Culture Fund (NCF) was created as a Trust in November 1996. The Govt. of India vide their orders in Aug.-Sep.98 notified that the donations to the national Culture Fund will be eligible for tax benefit under section 10 (23C) (iv) and 80 G(2) of the Income Tax Act.
NATIONAL CULTURE FUND Set up by the Government of India, Ministry of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Culture under the Charitable Endowments Act, 1890
OBJECTIVES The NCF endeavours to: Preserve and promote our precious tangible and Intangible heritage in partnership with the community.
The NCF is managed and administered by a council to decide the policies and an Executive Committee – to actualize those policies. The Council is chaired by the Union Minister of Tourism & Culture and has a maximum strength of 24 including both the Chairman and Member Secretary, A team of 19 members represent various fields including corporate sector, private foundations and not-for-profit voluntary organizations. The purpose for this structure is to increase non-government representation in the decision making process.
What was the plea all about? The petition sought a declaration that Article 370 of the Constitution had lapsed with the dissolution of constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir on January 26, 1957 and it cannot be treated as mandatory for exercise of powers of the President.
The plea has also sought that the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir be declared as “arbitrary, unconstitutional and void”, claiming that it was against the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and contrary to the dictum of “One Nation, One Constitution, One National Anthem and One National Flag”. It has sought declaring as arbitrary some provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which deals with permanent residency and flag of the valley among other issues, for being violative of the Preamble and the Indian Constitution.
The petition has said that continuance of two parallel constitutions, one for the Centre and other for the state of Jammu and Kashmir, “reeks of a weird dichotomy” as most of the provisions of the Indian Constitution has already been extended to the state.
It has alleged that due to vote bank politics, successive governments did nothing to repeal Article 370 and Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was adopted much after the Indian Constitution came into force. It also added that the instrument of accession of October 26, 1947 does not talk about separate Constitution or constituent assembly for the state.
What is Article 370? Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir. Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370. All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.
Important provisions under the article: According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir. Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression. The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
Under Article 370, the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state. The Jurisdiction of the Parliament of India in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is confined to the matters enumerated in the Union List, and also the concurrent list. There is no State list for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
At the same time, while in relation to the other States, the residuary power of legislation belongs to Parliament, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the residuary powers belong to the Legislature of the State, except certain matters to which Parliament has exclusive powers such as preventing the activities relating to cession or secession, or disrupting the sovereignty or integrity of India.
The power to make laws related to preventive detention in Jammu and Kashmir belong to the Legislature of J & K and not the Indian Parliament. Thus, no preventive detention law made in India extends to Jammu & Kashmir. Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policy) and Part IVA (Fundamental Duties) of the Constitution are not applicable to J&K.
Demands: The petition asked the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines to protect the workers’ rights. The petition sought the recognition of domestic work under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Their work hours should be reduced to eight a day and they should be given a mandatory weekly off as a basic right under Article 21.
Need for guidelines: Indian homes have witnessed a 120% increase in domestic workers in the decade post liberalisation. While the figure was 7,40,000 in 1991, it has increased to 16.6 lakh in 2001.
However, latent classism and lack of education make domestic workers prone to violence and abuse at the hands of their employers and placement agencies. Worsening their vulnerabilities are the absence of proper documentation, which also increases their reliance on employers to access social security benefits.
As employment is largely through word of mouth or personal referrals, employment contracts are rarely negotiated, leaving the terms of employment to the whims of the employer. Other issues include- Major incidences of violence (physical and sexual) by employers and the lack of redressal machinery for workers in this rapidly developing domestic services industry.
Who is a domestic worker? A domestic worker is a person who is involved in domestic work like cleaning, washing, cooking etc. He/she plays an important role in the wellbeing of the family but are often neglected and abused by the members of family and the society.
Way ahead: If the domestic workers are taken as assets & human resource, their standard of living will increase if minimum wage is fixed. It is also important to create awareness about the significant role played by the domestic workers in the wellbeing of the members of family and society as a whole, thereby imparting behavioural change.
Backgrounder- International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers: The ILO convention 189 on domestic workers mainly aims to provide domestic worker a decent working condition with daily and weekly (at least 24 h) rest hours, entitlement to minimum wage, to choose the place where they live and spend their leave and protective measures against violence etc.
Why India has not ratified the convention? Daily household work is not considered as an economic activity in Indian society.
Lack of education, awareness and domestic worker unions among domestic workers which are mainly women centric. Labour legislation comes under state government. The national laws and practices are not fully into conformity with the provisions of the Convention.
One of the clauses of convention mentions “written contracts”. Chances of misuse as many domestic workers are illiterate. Fear of misuse of unionisation: one of the clauses says “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”.
Background: The amendments were: The introduction of S. 17 A (1) by which prior permission for investigation of corruption offences was required from the government. The removal of S. 13 (1) (d) (ii) (criminal misconduct) from the Act. It had earlier made it an offence for a public servant to abuse his position to give pecuniary or other advantage to a third party.
Highlights of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018: Punishment for bribe-taking enhanced: Minimum punishment of 3 yrs, extendable up to 7 yrs with fine; from the earlier 6 months, with extension up to 3 yrs. ‘Undue Advantage’ expanded: The earlier limited definition of “undue advantage” expanded to now include “anything other than legal remuneration”.
Gifts criminalised: Gifts received for established undue advantage/mala-fide motive are now considered an act of corruption.
Collusive bribe-givers criminalised: For the first time, the giving of bribe has now been made a direct offence on par with taking of bribe. At the same time, protection has been built-in against coercive bribery, as long as the victim comes forward within 7 days.
Corporate bribery criminalised: Superiors to be held if employee/agent has bribed with their approval, for advancement of the organisation’s interests.
Immediate forfeiture: Law enforcement empowered for immediate attachment & forfeiture of illegal property of a public servant, invoking provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Timely trial mandated: To conclude the investigation and trial within 2 yrs, extendable up to 4 yrs.
Outcomes of the Singapore Ministerial Meeting: India had scored big diplomatic points at the Singapore meeting by getting the countries gathered to omit the phrase ‘significant conclusions’ from the leaders’ statements. Some major economies such as China and Japan felt that the phrasing should be that “substantial conclusions” had been achieved. India strongly opposed this.
Why India opposed? India discovered that in some countries’ trade parlance, ‘substantial conclusions’ is a legal terminology. Adopting the term would have implied that discussions on market access were over, and that those countries would have to disclose the discussions to their Parliaments, and to their public. This has serious implications because only five out of 16 chapters had been concluded, and after the meeting in Singapore only seven had been concluded. None of the 7 chapters settled had to do with market access, discussions on which would have been seriously jeopardised.
After India pointed this out, several other countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Australia also took up the issue and supported India’s position on the matter.
What you need to know about RCEP? RCEP 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. Aim: RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
Why has it assumed so much significance in recent times? When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people. India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
Why is India concerned? Greater access to Chinese goods may have impact on the Indian manufacturing sector. India has got massive trade deficit with China. Under these circumstances, India proposed differential market access strategy for China.
There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.
Why India should not miss RCEP? If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive with other RCEP members’ exports in each RCEP market, and the ensuing export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and the subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee can only be left to imagination. Some of the sectors that have been identified as potential sources of India’s export growth impulses under RCEP to the tune of approximately $200 billion.
There are more compelling trade and economic reasons for RCEP to become India-led in future, than otherwise. India would get greater market access in other countries not only in terms of goods, but in services and investments also.
The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will support projects to provide nutritional support to children under five years old, pregnant women and lactating mothers at risk, and emergency health care for the vulnerable.
Need: Venezuela has been in an economic depression for at least half a decade, adding to hyperinflation and mass food shortages. Millions of citizens have left Venezuela to find more opportunity in other Latin American countries.
About the UN Central Emergency Response Fund: It is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 15, 2005 and launched in March 2006.
With CERF’s objectives to 1) promote early action and response to reduce loss of life; 2) enhance response to time-critical requirements; and 3) strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises, CERF seeks to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts.
The fund is replenished annually through contributions from governments, the private sector, foundations and individuals.
Allocations: The CERF grant element is divided into two windows: Rapid Responses (approximately two thirds of the grant element) The Rapid Response window provides funds intended to mitigate the unevenness and delays of the voluntary contribution system by providing seed money for life-saving, humanitarian activities in the initial days and weeks of a sudden onset crisis or a deterioration in an ongoing situation. The maximum amount applied to a crisis in a given year typically does not exceed $30 million, although higher allocations can be made in exceptional circumstances.
Underfunded Emergencies (approximately one third of the grant element). The Underfunded Emergencies window supports countries that are significantly challenged by “forgotten” emergencies.
What is the Venezuela crisis? Hyperinflation is the biggest problem faced by Venezuela. The inflation rate there is expected to reach a stunning one million per cent this year, putting it on par with the crises of Zimbabwe in the 2000s and Germany in the 1920s, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government claims that the country is the victim of an “economic war” and that the major issues are due to opposition “plots” and American sanctions.
What caused this increase? The plummeting oil prices since 2014 is one of the main reasons why Venezuela’s currency has weakened sharply. The country, which has rich oil reserves largely depended on it for its revenue. But when the oil price dropped drastically in 2014, Venezuela which received 96 per cent of its revenue from the oil exports, suffered a shortage of foreign currency. This made import of basic essentials like food and medicines difficult.
The report notes that the central bank can transfer Rs 1 trillion to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve and can go up to Rs 3 trillion if the total capital is included.
How does a central bank like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) make profits? The RBI is a “full service” central bank — not only is it mandated to keep inflation or prices in check, it is also supposed to manage the borrowings of the Government of India and of state governments; supervise or regulate banks and non-banking finance companies; and manage the currency and payment systems. While carrying out these functions or operations, it makes profits.
Typically, the central bank’s income comes from the returns it earns on its foreign currency assets — which could be in the form of bonds and treasury bills of other central banks or top-rated securities, and deposits with other central banks.
It also earns interest on its holdings of local rupee-denominated government bonds or securities, and while lending to banks for very short tenures, such as overnight. It claims a management commission on handling the borrowings of state governments and the central government.
Its expenditure is mainly on the printing of currency notes and on staff, besides the commission it gives to banks for undertaking transactions on behalf of the government across the country, and to primary dealers, including banks, for underwriting some of these borrowings.
What is the nature of the arrangement between the government and RBI on the transfer of surplus or profits? Although RBI was promoted as a private shareholders’ bank in 1935 with a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore, the government nationalised it in January 1949, making the sovereign its “owner”. What the central bank does, therefore, is transfer the “surplus” — that is, the excess of income over expenditure — to the government, in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
Does the RBI pay tax on these earnings or profits? No. Its statute provides exemption from paying income-tax or any other tax, including wealth tax.
How does the government build this surplus into its Budget early in the year? Well before the annual Budget is unveiled, senior RBI and government officials discuss the likely amount which could be transferred. Typically, the government pitches for a higher share of the surplus while the central bank sometimes prefers to set aside funds for contigencies. Based on these talks, and calculations such as likely income and earnings, an indicative figure is given to the government, which it puts under the head ‘non-tax revenue’ in the receipts budget.
Is there an explicit policy on the distribution of surplus? No. But a Technical Committee of the RBI Board headed by Y H Malegam, which reviewed the adequacy of reserves and a surplus distribution policy, recommended, in 2013, a higher transfer to the government.
Earlier, the RBI transferred part of the surplus to the Contigency Fund, to meet unexpected and unforeseen contigencies, and to the Asset Development Fund, to meet internal capital expenditure and investments in its subsidiaries in keeping with the recommendation of a committee to build contigency reserves of 12% of its balance sheet. But after the Malegam committee made its recommendation, in 2013-14, the RBI’s transfer of surplus to the government as a percentage of gross income (less expenditure) shot up to 99.99% from 53.40% in 2012-13.
It was NASA’s ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes. All but one of the previous U.S. touchdowns was successful. NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.
About InSight Mission: InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
It will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth. It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.
Significance of the mission: The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created. But InSight is more than a Mars mission – it is a terrestrial planet explorer that would address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science – understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.
InSight would delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: Its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).
InSight seeks to answer one of science’s most fundamental questions: How did the terrestrial planets form?
Why Mars? Previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, signatures of the planet’s formation can only be found by sensing and studying its “vital signs” far below the surface.
In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small. This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed. It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Scientists know that Mars has low levels of geological activity. But a lander like InSight can also reveal just how active Mars really is.
It is designed and developed by Allahabad Bank (Nodal bank).
Benefits of PAiSA: Another effort by the government to connect directly with the beneficiaries for ensuring greater transparency and efficiency in delivery of services. DBT of subvention on monthly basis under DAY-NULM will give the necessary financial support to small entrepreneurs in a timely manner. All 35 States/UTs & all scheduled commercial banks, RRBs and Cooperative Banks are expected to be on board the PAiSA portal the year end.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched the National Festival for Children of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) – Hausla 2018.
The inter-Child Care Institution festival draws children from 18 States for the various events like painting competition, athletics meet, football, chess competition and speech writing as part of the Festival.
Reason behind Hausla: To provide a national platform for the children from CCIs across India to showcase their talent. To make them realize the hidden talent they possess To help take it forward in their life. Theme of the Event – “Child Safety”
The Government of Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China have amended the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) by signing a Protocol.
Purpose of the amendment of DTAA: For the avoidance of double taxation. For the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Additional changes by signing the Protocol: It updates the existing provisions for exchange of information to the latest international standards. It incorporates changes required to implement treaty related minimum standards under the Action reports of Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, where India participated on an equal footing.
Legal Provision: Under Section 90 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, India can enter into an agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for the avoidance of double taxation of income, for the exchange of information for the prevention of evasion.
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA): It is referred as Tax Treaty, a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries. A DTAA applies in cases where a tax-payer resides in one country and earns income in another.
DTAAs can either be comprehensive to cover all sources of income or be limited to certain areas such as taxing of income from shipping, air transport, inheritance, etc. India has DTAAs with more than eighty countries.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $200 million loan to finance widening and upgrading of about 230 Kilometers State Highways in Bihar to all-weather standards with road safety features.
Advantages of improved roads under the Project: It will contribute to savings in vehicle operating cost and travel time. It will reduce vehicle emissions, and It will improve road safety.
Asian Development Bank (ADB): The Asian Development Bank was conceived in the early 1960s as a financial institution that would be Asian in character and foster economic growth and cooperation in one of the poorest regions in the world. It assists its members, and partners, by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
ADB is composed of 67 members, 48 of which are from the Asia and Pacific region. Established on 19 December 1966 Headquartered — Manila, Philippines Official United Nations Observer
Voting rights It is modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions. United States > Japan > China > India >Australia
What’s the issue? The proposed four-lane expressway to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Bardinath in the hill state has been among the flagship projects of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
But the idea of the 900-kilometre road network in the sensitive mountains of Uttarakhand drew scepticism from environmental activists who fear the highways and the tourists they would bring in will be at the cost of the ecological balance.
About Chardham project: The project involves developing and widening 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores.
The highway will be called Char Dham Mahamarg(Char Dham Highway) and the highway construction project will be called as Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana (Char Dham Highway Development Project).
The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.
Why disband CWC? According to the experts, the panel has too much on its plate and it needs to go for better regulatory framework. It is a body which is doing multiple jobs—collecting data, making policies, giving technical and financial approvals to various projects, monitoring and what not. It is not capable of doing all this.
Long- and short-term measures to save Ganga (Experts views): For restoring the e-flows, all proposed projects in the Ganga River Basin should be cancelled. The construction of all projects in the headstreams of the river should also be cancelled.
Among medium-term measures, old dams should be decommissioned. The inland waterways and riverfront development projects should be withdrawn as they are harming the Ganga.
An autonomous institute for the Ganga should be established rather than a one controlled only by the government.
On policy front, a national river policy and a separate national urban water policy to govern the urban use of water resources should be put in place. No use of machinery to extract sand and other boulders from the riverbed should be proposed. To improve the base flows, improve upon crop pattern and better irrigation methods.
Other suggestions include- reducing groundwater extraction from the Ganga, promoting rainwater harvesting, ensuring better functioning of existing sewage treatment plants in the Ganga basin (to ensure clean river), comprehensive Ganga law on the lines of the draft given by late G D Agarwal, establishing protected zones in origin stretches of all major rivers and tributaries (for biodiversity conservation), teaching ecology in all science and engineering curricula across the country and studying of climate change impacts on the Ganga, among many others.
About CWC: Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
Functions: The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development. It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.
If proven, it would be the first instance of human offspring having been produced with specific desired attributes, using newly-developed tools of gene “editing”.
What are Genes and what is gene- editing? Genes contain the bio-information that defines any individual. Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioural traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.
An ability to alter this information gives scientists the power to control some of these features. Gene “editing” — sometimes expressed in related, but not always equivalent, terms like genetic modification, genetic manipulation or genetic engineering — is not new.
What is CRISPR-Cas9? The clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) (CRISPR-Cas9) system has revolutionised genetic manipulations and made gene editing simpler, faster and easily accessible to most laboratories.
CRISPR technology is basically a gene-editing technology that can be used for the purpose of altering genetic expression or changing the genome of an organism.
The technology can be used for targeting specific stretches of an entire genetic code or editing the DNA at particular locations. CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
How it works? CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information.
The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or “edited”, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand. A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself. Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.
Concerns: Tampering with the genetic code in human beings is more contentious. Leading scientists in the field have for long been calling for a “global pause” on clinical applications of the technology in human beings, until internationally accepted protocols are developed.
Issues: Study by Stanford University, U.S., found that the CRISPR-Cas9 system introduces unexpected off-target (outside of the intended editing sites) effects in mice. The fear that the CRISPR system is being prematurely rushed for clinical use lingers. Three recent reports have exacerbated this fear even further.
Studies highlighted that CRISPR-Cas9-edited cells might trigger cancer. May increase the risk of mutations elsewhere in the genome in those cells. Although, CRISPR-Cas9 technology has been successfully used to cure several diseases however, it remains many things are not clear like how we should determine which disease or traits are appropriate for gene editing. Ethical concerns: In addition, there are concerns with manipulating human embryos for own interest.
Way ahead: This CRISPR technology is indeed a path-breaking technology, to alter genes in order to tackle a number of conventional and unconventional problems, especially in the health sector. However, experiments and tests to validate its use must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny by the regulators, and their use must be controlled to prevent commercial misuse.
Background: The Committee has assessed the landscape of these stranded assets and identified the various reasons that have contributed to the current scenario. The report has also suggested measures to resolve the challenges. These power plants were first identified by the Ministry of Power as stressed assets in March 2017.
Multiple reasons behind the crisis: The HLEC identified several critical reasons that have contributed to the crisis, which has been festering for more than two years now. While the Twelth Five Year Plan had envisaged a capacity addition requirement of 88 GW, 99 GW capacity was added during the corresponding period — this led to a glut of supply, causing plants to perform below their rated capacities.
Apart from this, the debt burden of the distribution utilities and the financial stress on banks/financial institutions as well as promoters and bidders.
It is important to note that a significant chunk of the problem has been caused by the erratic coal supply and the uncertainty of coal supplies due to scrapping of mine auctions by the Supreme Court. Clearly, institutional challenges related to the government have contributed to the problem.
In the case of the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP), for which bidding took place, several players quoted very aggressively, a decision they have since come to regret. Several other promoters did not even secure coal linkages before commencing with the project. Cost and time overruns also took place with some.
Few Suggested solutions: Coal supply is an inter-ministerial issue, whereby the ministries for coal and railways have been requested to work out mechanisms to address short-term issues of supply, alongside the sale of coal at notified prices without entering bidding in case of short term power purchase agreements.
Further, linking coal supply to power plant efficiency is a good way to incentivise better, newer and more efficient assets. Closing down of old, inefficient thermal power units make for good economics and good environmental sense.
Several measures related to power markets to address the financial risks have been strongly recommended by the HLEC. These include getting NTPC or any other agency to act as an aggregator for power purchases, which can subsequently be sold to distribution utilities.
Further, suggestion on payment security mechanism—all PPAs have a support for a letter of credit (LoC) for one month’s purchase equivalent to guarantee it. It would rather be prudent to increase the value of the LoC instead of seeking a separate mechanism, and ensure that it can trigger automatically against a payment default or delay.
Way ahead: In conclusion, the HLEC has shown that ways can be found to sort out the mess within the thermal power sector for coal fired power plants. However, the sole focus on coal has meant that gas-based power plants will have to wait for their turn under the sun.
Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM): The findings are based on ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). The model analyses global water anomalies using observed temperature and precipitation.
Highlights of the report: The forecast predicts severe to exceptional surplus water for regions including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Mizoram. Moderate to severe deficits were forecast for Bihar.
From February through April, deficits in India are expected to moderate overall and some regions in the country’s eastern third will normalise. However, intense deficits will persist throughout Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and along the Tungabhadra River through Karnataka.
The forecast for the final months — May through July (2019) — indicates primarily moderate deficits in India and pockets throughout the region. Some surpluses are expected in Jammu and Kashmir, northern Pakistan, along the Gandaki River in central Nepal, and pockets of Tamil Nadu.
The 12-month forecast through July 2019 indicates exceptional (greater than 40 years) water deficits in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.
Though this September’s extreme heat was unrelated to El Niño — which usually introduces warm dry conditions — El Niño is being blamed for low rainfall during the June-to-September monsoon season. The monsoon rain deficits have caused drought-like conditions in almost a third of Indian districts, and added stress for the farmers.
The report also notes that India’s coffee production is expected to fall to its lowest in five years due to flood damage to plantations in southern states such as Kerala and Karnataka. India exports about three quarters of the coffee it produces, and flood damage has been reported in all key producing areas of the country. The future forecast will help visualise the impact and intensity at a large scale.
The Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR) is a biennial effort led by the UN Environment to evaluate the capacities and performance of the nations around the world to measure sustainability of economy and wellbeing of their people.
What is Inclusive Wealth Index? The inclusive wealth index is a tool assessing a nation’s ability to look after its wealth in a way that is sustainable and safeguards its future generations. While GDP measures the size of a country’s economy, inclusive wealth index focuses on stocks of manufactured, human and natural capital.
The Index provides important insights into long-term economic growth and human well-being. The Index measures the wealth of nations through a comprehensive analysis of a country’s productive base and the country’s wealth in terms of progress, well-being and long-term sustainability.
Highlights of the report: The Inclusive wealth (IW) in 135 countries was higher in 2014 compared to the level in 1990 and the global growth rate of IW was 44% over the indicated period, which implies an average growth rate of 1.8% per year. However, during the same period the global GDP growth per year was 3.4%, which is close to twofold of the annual growth rate of growth in IW.
The biennial report finds The Republic of Korea, Singapore and Malta as the nations that have had the most economic growth. The report also revealed that carbon damage is relatively larger in high-income countries.
Performance of India: India too sails in the same boat, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had said last month in a report on environment accounts. It had revealed that India’s economic growth took a toll on its natural assets like forests, food and clean air. It had added that when the average growth rate of gross state domestic product (GSDP) during 2005-15 for almost all the states was around 7-8%, 11 states registered a decline in their natural capital.
Way ahead: The report comes after the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said that the world has just 12 years left to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The health of an economy is drawn from the health of the environment. Therefore, to make the right choices that will keep us on a sustainable path, we have to be able to properly measure our progress. The report will equip policy-makers with the right numbers, so that they can make the right decisions to deliver results for generations to come. These reports remind the world about how important sustainable use of natural resources is.
About UN Environment: The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. Its mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
The World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UN Environment is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.
About HysIS and its significance: The primary goal of HysIS is to study the Earth’s surface in visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
HysIS will be ISRO’s first full-scale working satellite with this capability. While the technology has been around, not many space agencies have working satellites with hyperspectral imaging cameras as yet.
A hyperspectral imaging camera in space can provide well-defined images that can help to identify objects on Earth far more clearly than regular optical or remote sensing cameras.
The technology will be an added advantage of watching over India from space for a variety of purposes such as defence, agriculture, land use, minerals and so on.
Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman has formally launched ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’.
The event showcased salient inventions and innovations achieved by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), and Ordinance Factories (OFs) which have resulted in successful filing of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) applications.
The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the programme.
Objective: As part of the ongoing initiatives to enhance self-reliance in defence, the Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti aims to provide a boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.
Other Highlights: IPR emerged as a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity. It was highlighted the need to migrate from the culture of seeking Transfer of Technology (ToT) from foreign sources to generating Intellectual Property in India, to achieve the goal of self-reliance in Defence sector.
IP Facilitation Cell: It was established in April this year. To achieve ambitious targets of training 10,000 personnel of Ordnance Factories (OFs) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) on IPR. To facilitate filing of at least 1,000 new IPR applications.
What are Intellectual Property Rights? According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), IPRs are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.
MoS (Home) Shri Kiren Rijiju inaugurates 14th Formation Day of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
Theme of the Year: “Early Warning for Disasters” Early warning is a major element of disaster risk reduction and can minimize the loss of lives and economic impacts. Timely early warning is key to a structured and efficient response. Measures to be taken:
Early warning systems need to involve the communities at risk. Generate public awareness. Effectively disseminate warnings, and Ensure there is a constant state of preparedness. Background:
On 23 December 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act, which led to the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers, to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India. Parent department: Ministry of Home Affairs
Context: Indian scientists have discovered in India an endangered sub-species of hog deer (Axis porcinus annamiticus), earlier believed to be confined to the eastern part of central Thailand.
Key facts: Researchers reported the presence of a small population of hog deer in Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), Manipur. The population genetically resembles A. p. annamiticus. The study indicates that the western limit of hog deer is Manipur; not central Thailand as believed.
Significance: Since hog deer is losing habitat in other countries, the genetically distinct and evolutionarily significant population found in KLNP— considered a biodiversity hotspot on the India-Myanmar border—is significant for conservation.
The hog deer or Pada is an endangered species in the IUCN Red List and is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The species has lost ground in most of its distribution range. A small and isolated population of under 250 was reported from Cambodia. However, it was widely distributed throughout the Southeast Asian countries at the beginning of the 20th century.
Two sub-species of hog deer have been reported from its range. The western race is distributed from Pakistan and the terai grasslands (along the Himalayan foothills, from Punjab to Arunachal Pradesh), while the eastern race of hog deer is found in Thailand, Indo-China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.