9 PM Current Affairs Brief – November 29th, 2019

Green Highways Policy-2015

News:Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has informed Lok Sabha about the details of the Green Highways Policy-2015.

Facts:

About Green Highways Policy-2015:

  • Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification & Maintenance) Policy was announced in the year 2015.
  • The policy aims to reduce the impact of air pollution and dust by planting trees and shrubs along the National Highways.They will act as a natural sink for air pollutants and arrest soil erosion at the embankment slopes.
  • It also aims to promote greening and development of eco-friendly National Highway corridors across the country with participation of farmers, private sector and government institutions including Forest Department.

Features of the policy:

  • 1 percent of the total project cost of all highways projects will be kept for the highway plantation and its maintenance.
  • About Rs.1000 crore per year will be available for plantation purpose.
  • The policy will generate employment opportunities for about five lakh people from rural areas.
  • There will be strong monitoring mechanism in place by using ISRO’s Bhuvan and GAGAN satellite systems.Every planted tree will be counted and auditing will be done.

Implementation:

  • The National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) will act as a fund manager for maintaining a green fund and releasing payments based on recommendation of concerned officials and agencies.
  • The contracts for greening highways will be given to NGOS, agencies, private companies and government organisations. These stakeholders will be responsible for the survival and health of trees.

Significance of the policy:

  • The policy provides comprehensive guidelines to ensure uniformity of operations pertaining to enhancement of highway landscapes.
  • The communities will also be benefitted in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development.
  • There will also be huge environmental benefits from this policy.
  • The policy will also help in making India pollution free.It will also help in curtailing the number of road accidents in India.

Additional information:

About NHAI:

  • The National Highways Authority of India was constituted under National Highways Authority of India Act,1988.It is a nodal agency of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • It is responsible for the development, maintenance and management of National Highways entrusted to it and for matters connected or incidental there.

At 17.5 million, Indian diaspora largest in the world: UN report

News:The International Organisation for Migration has released the Global Migration Report 2020.

Facts:

About Global Migration Report:

  • Global Migration Report is International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) flagship publication.
  • It features trends in international migration, discusses emerging policy issues and provides regional recent developments in Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The number of international migrants globally in 2019 were around 272 million which is 3.5% of the world’s population.
  • India had the largest number of migrants living abroad (17.5 million), followed by Mexico and China (11.8 million and 10.7 million respectively).
  • The top destination country remained the United States with 50.7 million international migrants.
  • The top 3 remittance recipients were India (USD 78.6 billion), China (USD 67.4 billion) and Mexico (USD 35.7 billion).
  • The United States remained the top remittance-sending country (USD 68.0 billion) followed by the United Arab Emirates (USD 44.4 billion) and Saudi Arabia (USD 36.1 billion).
  • Between 2013 and 2017,high-income countries experienced a slight drop in migrant workers.But upper middle-income countries observed the biggest increase.
  • The number of internally displaced persons due to violence and conflict has reached 41.3 million.
  • Syria had the highest number of people displaced, followed by Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Bangladesh had the largest number of stateless persons followed by Côte d’Ivoire and Myanmar.

Additional information:

About International Organisation for Migration(IOM):

  • International Organisation for Migration(IOM) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1951.It is headquartered at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants including internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers.
  • It was initially established as the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) to help resettle people displaced by World War II.
  • In September 2016,IOM became a related organization of the United Nations.
  • Currently,it consists of 173 member states with eight states holding observer status.

Disbursement of Funds Under Rashtriya Mahila Kosh

News:Union Minister of Women and Child Development has informed Lok Sabha about the funds disbursed under Rashtriya Mahila Kosh.

Facts:

About Rashtriya Mahila Kosh(RMK):

  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act,1860.
  • It was established in 1993 as an autonomous body under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development for socio-economic empowerment of Women.
  • The vision of the programme is to be a financial service and capacity enhancement institution for social and economic empowerment of poor and marginalized women.
  • The Kosh seeks to enable women to achieve economic independence. It also strive to go beyond credit delivery and provide services for integrated development centred around the needs of poor women.
  • Under the programme,RMK acts a facilitating agency wherein it provides loans to Intermediary Micro-financing Organizations(IMO) which on-lend to Self Help Groups(SHGs) and /or individual women.

Aims and Objectives of the programme:

  • Socio-economic empowerment through multi-pronged effort
  • Providing micro-credit facilities.
  • To promote and support schemes for improvement of facilities for credit for women
  • To demonstrate participatory approaches in the organization of women’s groups for effective utilization of credit resources leading to self-reliance
  • To sensitize existing government delivery mechanisms and increase the visibility of poor women
  • To promote and support the expansion of entrepreneurship skills among women among others.

New snake species found in Arunachal

News:Recently,researchers from Arunachal Pradesh have discovered a new species of non-venomous burrowing snake named Trachischium apteii.

Facts:

About the new species:

  • The species Trachischium apteii was found under fallen logs inside a thickly forested area of the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It belongs to a group of fossorial snakes that live mostly underground, and surface mainly during or after a heavy monsoon shower.
  • The snake is distinguished by smooth and dorsal scales arranged in 15 rows throughout the body.
  • The dorsal colour of the holotype is dark brown to black with faint dorsal longitudinal lines.

Additional information:

About Trachischium species:

  • Trachischium species are commonly called slender snakes.
  • They are currently known by seven species that are distributed across the Himalayas, the Indo-Burma and Indo-China regions.

Lok Sabha takes up all 20 starred questions

News:The 17th Lok Sabha session has taken up all the 20 starred questions in the Question Hour for the first time since 1972.

Facts:

About Question Hour:

  • Question Hour is the first hour of a sitting session of India’s Lok Sabha devoted to questions that Members of Parliament raise about any aspect of administrative activity.
  • The Question Hour are mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of the House.
  • The concerned Minister is obliged to answer to the Parliament, either orally or in writing, depending on the type of question raised.
  • Questions are one of the ways Parliament can hold the Executive accountable.

Types of Questions asked in Question Hour:

Starred Questions:

  • Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer from the Minister in the House and is required to be distinguished by him/her with an asterisk.
  • The answer to such a question may be followed by supplementary questions by members.

Unstarred Questions:

  • An Unstarred Question is one to which written answer is desired by the member and is deemed to be laid on the Table of the House by Minister.
  • Thus it is not called for oral answer in the House and no supplementary question can be asked thereon.

Short Notice Questions:

  • Members may give a notice of question on a matter of public importance and of urgent character for oral answer at a notice less than 10 days prescribed as the minimum period of notice for asking a question in the ordinary course.
  • Such a question is known as ‘Short Notice Question’.

Questions to Private Members:

  • A Question may also be addressed to a Private Member provided that the subject matter of the question relates to some Bill, Resolution or other matters connected with the business of the House for which that Member is responsible.
  • The procedure in regard to such questions is same as that followed in the case of questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary.

Additional information:

About Zero Hour:

  • The time immediately following the Question Hour has come to be known as Zero Hour,
  • It starts at around 12 noon (hence the name) and members can with prior notice to the Speaker raise issues of importance during this time.
  • However,unlike the question hour, the zero hour is not mentioned in the Rules of Procedure.

Cabinet approves Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India-Chile

News:Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and Protocol between India and the Republic of Chile.

Facts:

About Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement(DTAA):

  • Double Tax Avoidance Agreements(DTAAs) is a tax treaty signed between two or more countries.
  • The objective of DTAA is that tax-payers in these countries can avoid being taxed twice for the same income.
  • A DTAA applies in cases where a taxpayer 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 among others.

Significance of DTAA:

  • DTAAs are intended to make a country an attractive investment destination by providing relief on dual taxation.
  • DTAAs also provide for concessional rates of tax in some of the cases.
  • However,DTAAs can also become an incentive for even legitimate investors to route investments through low-tax regimes to sidestep taxation.This leads to loss of tax revenue for the country.

Additional information:

About Base erosion and profit shifting(BEPS):

  • Base erosion and profit shifting refers to the activities of multinational corporations to shift their profits from high tax jurisdictions to lower tax jurisdiction,thereby eroding the tax base of the high tax jurisdictions and depriving them of tax revenue.
  • In order to combat this,many countries entered into agreements to share tax information with each other to enhance transparency and make such profit shifting much harder.

Char Dham Programme

News:Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has informed Lok Sabha about the Char Dham Programme.

Facts:

About Char Dham Programme:

  • The Char Dham programme is an initiative to improve connectivity to the Char Dham pilgrimage centres in the Himalayas namely Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
  • These four ancient pilgrimages sites in Uttarakhand are known as Chota Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of modern day Char Dham sites namely Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram.
  • The works under Char Dham Pariyojna are being implemented on Engineering Procurement and Construction(EPC) mode of contract.
  • These projects are being implemented by three executing agencies of (a)Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, (b)Uttarakhand State PWD, (c)Border Road Organization(BRO) and (d)National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited(NHIDCL).

Features of the programme:

  • The project proposes the widening of single lane roads into double lanes by up to 10 metres,developing highways in Uttarakhand and thereby improving access to the Char Dham.
  • The projects also includes mitigation measures/ stabilisation of chronic landslide & sinking spots/zones as a standalone project or part of road widening projects to avoid landslide and safety of road users.

Additional information:

About EPC model:

  • Engineering procurement and construction(EPC) is the system of private sector participation aimed at overcoming the shortcomings of PPP model.
  • Under EPC model the contractor is legally responsible to complete the project under some fixed predetermined timeline and may also involve scope for penalty in case of time overrun. But the entire cost is borne by the government.
  • In EPC all the clearances, land acquisition and regulatory norms have to be completed by the government itself and the private players do not have to get itself involved in these time taking procedures.

About BRO:

  • The Border Roads Organisation(BRO) was formed in 1960 to secure India’s borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country.It functions under the control of the Ministry of Defence since 2015.
  • BRO executes road construction and maintenance works along the northern and western frontiers primarily to meet the strategic requirements of the army and is responsible for maintenance of over 53,000 km of roads.

Union Minister addresses National Milk Day celebration

News:Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying has addressed entrepreneurs, milk producer farmers on the occasion of National Milk Day-2019 in New Delhi.

Facts:

Key takeaways from the address:

  • Milk production in India has increased significantly from 137.7 million tonnes in 2013-14 to 187.75 million tonnes in 2018-19 thereby indicating an increase by 36.35%.
  • The per capita availability of milk has also increased from 307 grams in 2013-14 to 394 grams in 2018-19.
  • The annual growth rate of Milk Production during the period 2009-14 was 4.2% which has increased to 6.4% during 2014-19.
  • Since last 20 years, India continues to be the largest producer of milk in the world.
  • About 70 million rural households are engaged in dairying in India with 80% of total cow population.
  • The Livestock sector has contributed significantly towards livelihoods and security net for the landless and marginal farmers.
  • During the last 15 years, Milk Cooperatives have converted about 20% of milk procured into traditional and value added products that offers about 20% higher revenue.

Additional information:

About National Milk Day:

  • The National Milk Day is celebrated across the country on November 26 every year on the birthday of Dr. Verghese Kurien.He was the father of the White Revolution in India.
  • The day is celebrated to promote benefits related to milk and milk industry and to create awareness among people about the importance of milk and milk products.

Steps taken by India for livestock sector:

Rashtriya Gokul Mission:

  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission was launched in 2014.It seeks development and conservation of indigenous bovine (cattle) breeds (through selection of high genetic merit bulls for breeding).
  • The mission is under Department of Animal Husbandry and dairying, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Objectives:

  • To undertake breed improvement programme for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve their genetic makeup and increase the stock.
  • To enhance milk production and productivity of indigenous bovine breeds.
  • To upgrade non descript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Red Sindhi etc.
  • Arrange quality Artificial Insemination services at farmers’ doorstep

E-Pashu Haat portal:

  • E-Pashu Haat is a web portal launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It aims to boost dairy productivity in India by organizing the livestock market.
  • The portal allows farmers and entrepreneurs find information about bovine animals, buy or sell livestock, frozen semen and embryos.

Gokul Grams: 

  • An Integrated Indigenous Cattle development Centres “Gokul Grams”- have been established under Rashtriya Gokul mission with the aim of conservation and development of indigenous bovine breeds in a scientific and holistic manner.

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog:

  • It has been established by the government in 2019. It seeks for conservation protection and development of cows and their progeny.
  • It is high powered permanent body. At present it functions as a part of Rashtriya Gokul Mission under Department of Animal Husbandry and dairying, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • The functions of Aayog are to (a)provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes and (b)Ensure proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay National Welfare Fund For Sportspersons

News:Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports has informed Lok Sabha about the National Welfare Fund for Sportspersons.

Facts:

About National Welfare Fund for Sportspersons:

  • Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay National Welfare Fund For Sportspersons (PDUNWFS) was set up in 1982.
  • The fund aims to assist outstanding Sportspersons of yesteryear, living in indigent circumstances who had brought glory to the Country in sports.
  • The scheme has been revised in 2016 to provide for lump sum ex-gratia assistance to outstanding Sportspersons of yesteryears.
  • However,the provision of pension has been done away with as there is already a Scheme of Pension for Meritorious Sportspersons.

Features of the fund:

  • To provide suitable assistance to outstanding sports persons now living in indigent circumstances;
  • To provide suitable assistance to outstanding sports persons injured during the period of their training for competitions and also during the competitions, depending on the nature of the injury;
  • To Provide suitable assistance to outstanding sports persons who bring glory to the country in international sports field and who are disabled as an after effect of their strenuous training or otherwise and to provide them assistance for medical treatment;
  • To provide suitable assistance to promote the welfare of outstanding sports persons generally in order to alleviate distress among them and their dependents in indigent circumstances.

Boosting Textile Industry Through Technology Upgradation

News:Union Minister of Textiles has informed Rajya Sabha about the Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme(ATUFS).

Facts:

About Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme(ATUFS):

  • The Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme was introduced by the Government of India in 1999.
  • It’s objective was to facilitate new and appropriate technology for making the textile industry globally competitive and to reduce the capital cost for the textile industry.
  • In 2015,the government approved Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS) for technology upgradation of the textiles industry.
  • The objective of the ATUFS is to facilitate augmenting of investment, productivity, quality, employment, exports along with import substitution in textile industry and also to indirectly promote investment in textile machinery manufacturing.
  • Under the scheme, higher incentives have been provided to garmenting/technical textiles for reimbursement of Capital Investment Subsidy.

Eligibility of the ATUFS scheme:Only those entities that fall under the following sectors are eligible to apply:

  • Weaving, Weaving Preparatory and Knitting
  • Processing of fibres, yarns, fabrics, garments and made up
  • Handloom Sector
  • Silk Sector
  • Jute Sector
  • Garment/Made up manufacturing
  • Technical textiles.

Additional information:

Other initiatives taken by the Government to boost textile sector:

Power Tex India: 

  • A comprehensive scheme for powerloom sector was launched in April, 2017 with an outlay of Rs. 487 crore for three years. 
  • This scheme has components relating to powerloom upgradation; infrastructure creation and concessional access to credit,.
  • The scheme has been designed to attract investment of Rs.1000 crore and employment to 10000 persons in the powerloom sector and will also result in higher returns to powerloom units.

National Handloom Development Programme and National Handicrafts Development Programme:

  • The programme aims at holistic development of handloom and handicrafts clusters through integrated approach.
  • The strategic interventions under the programme include financial assistance for new upgraded looms and accessories, design innovation, product and infrastructure development, skill upgradation among others.

India Handloom Brand’ Scheme:

  • The scheme has been launched by the Government in 2015 to enhance the quality in weaving, designing and defect free handloom products for safeguarding the interest of the buyers in the domestic and international markets.
  • It will promote production of niche handloom products with high quality, authentic traditional designs with zero defect and zero effect on the environment.

SAMARTH-The Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector (SCBTS): 

  • The scheme has been approved with an outlay of Rs 1300 crore with a target to train 10 lakh people in various segments of textile sector by March 2020.

Scheme for Integrated Textile Park(SITP):

  • This scheme is implemented in Public Private Partnership mode to attract private investments in developing new clusters of textiles manufacturing.
  • Government of India provides financial assistance up to 40% of the project within a ceiling of   Rs. 40 crores. 19 new projects were sanctioned from 2014 onwards.

North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS):

  • This scheme promotes textiles industry in the North Eastern Region by providing infrastructure, capacity building and marketing support to all segments of textile industry.
  • The scheme has an outlay of Rs. 500 crores during 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Coming: A rulebook, bill of rights and ‘Contract’ for the World Wide Web

News:Recently,Sir Tim Berners-Lee,who is the inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced a “Contract for the Web”.

Facts:

What is Contract for the Web?

  • The contract aims to create a global plan of action for all stakeholders to together commit to building a better Web.
  • The contract was created by the World Wide Web Foundation with representatives from over 80 organisations, several countries, tech majors, civil society activists and academics.

What does Contract contains?The Contract consists of 9 principles, three each for governments, private companies, and individuals and civil society to endorse.The principles are:

  • Governments will “Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet”, “Keep all of the Internet available, all of the time”, and “Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights”.
  • Companies will “Make the Internet affordable and accessible to everyone”, “Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”, and “Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst”.
  • Citizens will “Be creators and collaborators on the Web”, “Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity”, and “Fight for the Web so that it “remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere”.

Significance of the contract:

  • Governments who are looking to regulate in the digital era can use the contract as a roadmap to lay out their policies and laws going forward.
  • Companies can also use this as an opportunity to have conversations with governments and civil society towards building a better Web.
  • Citizen action is an important part of the Contract and they can hold governments and companies accountable for violations of its terms.

Implementation of the contract:

  • The ‘Contract for the Web’ is not a legal document or a United Nations document.
  • However,the World Wide Web is in talks with the UN as it cannot force governments or companies to implement it.
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