Daily Current Affairs
Atal Pension Yojana
Atal Pension Yojana has added over 1 crore subscribers since its launch in May 2015, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) said recently. Atal Pension Yojana (APY) was launched in May 2015 and current number of subscriber stands at 1.10 crore.
The Atal Pension Yojana became operational from June 1, 2015 and is available to all the citizens of India in the age group of 18-40 years.
- Under the scheme, a subscriber would receive a minimum guaranteed pension of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 per month, depending upon his contribution, from the age of 60 years.
- The same pension would be paid to the spouse of the subscriber and on the demise of both the subscriber and the spouse, the accumulated pension wealth is returned to the nominee.
- The Central Government would also co-contribute 50% of the total contribution or Rs. 1000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account, for a period of 5 years, that is, from 2015-16 to 2019-20, to those who join the NPS before 31st December, 2015 and who are not members of any statutory social security scheme and who are not Income Tax payers.
Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad’s (IIMA’s) centre for innovation, incubation, and entrepreneurship (CIIE) has launched ‘Bharat Inclusion Initiative’.
About Bharat Inclusion Initiative:
- The Bharat Inclusion Initiative aims to provide a continuum of solutions to inclusion-focused tech entrepreneurs across the pre-incubation, seed and scale-up stage and help them jump to the next orbit.
- It is a $25 million initiative that will look to mentor and invest in start-ups in the early stage and seed segment over the next three-four years.
- The fund will look at start-ups in areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, education, agriculture, and health.
- The initiative received an initial pledge of $12.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and Omidyar Network.
Trade facilitation pact in services
India has pitched for inclusion of the trade facilitation pact on services in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) saying it would help promote growth of the global economy.
On the lines of the trade facilitation pact in goods, India has submitted a detailed proposal to the WTO to negotiate a trade facilitation agreement in services (TFS). India is pitching for this pact as the sector contributes over 60% to the GDP and 28% to total employment.
About Trade Facilitation agreement in services:
- The TFS proposal aims at liberalising rules for movement of professionals and other steps to reduce transaction costs with a view to boost growth of the services sector.
- It will focus on issues like liberalised visa regime, long-term visas for business community and freer movement of professionals for the greater benefit of both India and the world, among others.
- The proposed agreement would set provisions on all four modes of services supply of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
- For services supplied through “mode 3” (a foreign company setting up subsidiaries or branches to provide services in another country), it suggests streamlining the setting up of businesses through a “single window”.
- For the cross-border movement of services suppliers (known as “mode 4”), it suggests simplifying work permit and visa procedures and ensuring that measures relating to taxation, fees and social security contributions do not unfairly disadvantage foreign service suppliers.
- Other suggestions include enhancing cooperation among authorities, facilitating cross-border data flows, and allowing WTO members to comment on measures before their entry into force. The proposal also foresees special and differential treatment for developing countries.
Need for Trade Facilitation in Services:
The TFS Agreement, in conjunction with enhanced liberalization commitments, would help realize the fuller potential for trade in services. Global trade in services represents a contradiction in the macroeconomic sphere. It has about 70.5% of share in world GDP and 50.9% share in employment. However, relative to this, its share in global exports is lower than that of trade in goods, despite having a higher share in GDP. This dichotomy suggests that there are more barriers existing for trade in services as compared to trade in goods.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has asked the developer of GM Mustard to undertake “field demonstration” to generate additional data to check whether the transgenic oilseed affects honey bees and other pollinators and also whether it negatively impacts soil health.
GEAC had last year given its nod to this indigenously developed transgenic oilseed and recommended it to the environment ministry for final clearance. However, the government later asked it to re-examine the entire issue after receiving several representations both in support and against GM mustard.
The developer – Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of the Delhi University – will now have to undertake field demonstrations on GM mustard in an area of five acres at two or three different locations to generate relevant data before approaching the regulator again for its consideration of commercial release.
The GEAC’s latest move of asking the applicant to undertake “field demonstration” has drawn flak from farm activists. They have been opposing environmental release of any genetically engineered crops on the ground of its adverse impact on human health and biodiversity even as a sub-committee of the central regulator had concluded in 2016 that the GM mustard would be safe for human consumption and environment.
- The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests under ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- The GEAC is responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials (Biosafety Research Level trial-I and II known as BRL-I and BRL-II).
Startup Ranking Framework
30 States and Union Territories have participated in the State Startup Ranking Framework 2018 launched by DIPP.
- The participating States and UTs shall now be evaluated on a score of 100, against 38 action points categorized into 7 areas of intervention such as Startup Policy and implementation, Incubation support, Seed Funding, Angel and Venture Funding, Simplification of Regulations, Easing Public Procurement and Awareness & Outreach.
- In order to evaluate States/UTs in a balanced and transparent manner, the assessment will be based on the aggregate score of the documentary proofs substantiating the implementation of action points by the State/ UT Government and also feedback from Startup ecosystem beneficiaries/components.
- DIPP has appointed seven dedicated evaluation committees involving members from all relevant departments and reputed players in the ecosystem, for evaluating States’ responses in each area of intervention.
About the Ranking Framework:
- The key objective of the Startup States and UTs Ranking Framework is to encourage States and UTs to take proactive steps towards strengthening the Startup ecosystems at the local level.
- The Ranking Framework will measure the impact of each step initiated at the local level for building a strong Startup ecosystem. The Ranking Framework will also enable contnuous learning through the dissemination of good practices.
- The Ranking Framework is based on the feedback collected from Startup ecosystem stakeholders, which include startups, mentors, investors, accelerators, incubators and the government bodies. Areas which should be given greater thrust like seed funding support, women entrepreneurship are given more score.
Significance of Startups:
India is home to about 20,000 startups, with about 1,400 beginning operations every year. They are not only driving economic growth but also leading to technological innovations and employment generation in every state. Entrepreneurs are introducing new solutions everyday and also improving existing processes. To encourage and help statrups the Govt of India has taken the lead in creating policies and a framework. Many States and UTs have a startup focussed environment with ease of doing business for startups.
First all- woman Post Office Passport Seva Kendra
The 192nd Post Office Passport Seva Kendra, opened recently in Phagwara in Punjab, will be the first in the country to have all-women staff.
National Dengue Day 2018
National Dengue Day is observed on May 16 in order to create awareness regarding the viral disease.
- Spread of the disease: It is contagious and can easily be spread from one person to another. The disease is mainly caused by 1 of the 4 closely related dengue viruses. The fever is transmitted when Aedes mosquito infected with dengue virus bites a person.
- Symptoms: High fever, severe headaches, nausea, joint and muscle pain are some of the symptoms of the disease, which typically starts after 6 days of being infected with it. Those with weak immune system are at the higher risk of dengue.
- Prevention: The best way to prevent the disease is to try the best not to get bit by mosquitoes. Keep your surrounding clean and increase the usage of mosquito repellents. Avoid roaming in grassy areas in night. Don’t forget to close door and windows of your house. To prevent breeding of mosquitoes, avoid still water near your surroundings.
- Kolleru hosted Pelican Festival at the Atapaka bird sanctuary earlier this year.
- The Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country.
- More than 5,000 spot-billed pelicans, also known as grey-headed pelicans, visited the lake.
- The birds roost, breed and fly with their young ones during the winter season in the region.
- Kolleru is the nesting place for many migratory birds.
- It is located between the delta of Godavari and Krishna River.
- Similarly a three-day annual Flamingo Festival was held at Pulicat Lake and Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh.
India- 3rd largest solar market
- India emerged as the third largest solar market in the world in 2017 behind China and the US.
- According to a report by Mercom Communications India set a new record with 9.6 GW of solar installations in 2017,
- It was more than double the 4.3 GW installed in 2016.
- The large-scale project development accounted for 92 per cent of the all-time cumulative solar installations in India.
- The Government has also recently released the National solar-wind hybrid policy to improve the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix.
- The policy provides for a comprehensive framework to promote large grid-connected wind-solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid system.
Sanctuaries that conserve Great Indian Bustard
- The following are the sanctuaries that shelter or were set up to conserve a very unique species that’s now critically endangered – the great Indian bustard.
- Desert National Park, Thar Desert, Rajasthan
- It is the State bird of Rajasthan.
- The Desert National Park is spread across Jaisalmer and Barmer districts of Rajasthan.
- The Park also welcomes the migrant Houbara Bustard and several other bird species
- Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Gujarat
- The sanctuary is dominated by vast swathes of grasslands.
- It was declared a sanctuary in 1992
- Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra
- It is also known as the Jawaharlal Nehru Bustard Sanctuary of Maharashtra.
- This sanctuary is located in Ninnaj, over 20 km from the city of Solapur.
- Unconfirmed reports suggest that today those sprawling grasslands are home to perhaps not a single bustard.
- The great Indian bustard (or simply Indian bustard) is a large, white-and-brown bird with wing markings and a black crown.
- A bird native to India and Pakistan, it has today lost almost 90 % of its original habitats.
- It is believed to have disappeared from States such as Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The largest population is found in Rajasthan, with a few birds in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- Recently, officially confirmed reports stated that there have been no sightings of the bird for the last few years at both the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary (and Ghatigaon Sanctuary) in Gwalior district and the Karera Sanctuary in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh.
- Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico have developed a biologically inspired membrane.
- It can capture 90 per cent of carbon dioxide from the smoke of coal-fired power plants at a low cost.
- They call it a “memzyme” as it has an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, developed by living cells over millenia to help get rid of CO2.
- The 18 nanometer water-based membrane has the capability to capture the overwhelming majority of CO2 molecules from a rising cloud of coal smoke.
- The membrane turns the gas briefly into carbonic acid and then bicarbonate before exiting immediately downstream as CO2 gas.
- This pure form of CO2 can be harvested and used by oil companies for resource extraction.
Rare earth mineral
- A “semi-infinite” stores of rare earth minerals, crucial in the making of leading-edge technologies like smart phones, radar devices and hybrid vehicles, have been found.
- It is stashed in deep sea sediments near Japan’s Minamitori Island.
- A study says that the reserve holds 16 million tones of rare earths, sufficient to meet the world’s needs for hundreds of years.
- The discovery is significant given the current supply and demand of rare earth metals.
- The discovery could thus end the monopoly of China, which controls about 95 per cent of the rare earths production.
- Japan, the second largest consumer, started looking for its own reserves after China held back shipments in 2010 following a territorial dispute.
- However, extraction of the minerals from the depth of 6,000 metres is likely to pose challenges for resource-poor Japan.