Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims| Jan 02,2021

DST releases Draft 5th National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for public consultation

News: The draft of the 5th National Science, Technology and Innovation(STI) Policy has been finalized and is now available for public consultation.


Vision of the Policy: The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy will be guided by the following broad vision;

  • To achieve technological self-reliance and position for India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come.
  • To attract, nurture, strengthen and retain critical human capital through a ‘people centric’ science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem.
  • To double the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years.
  • To build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aspiration to achieve the highest level of global recognitions and awards in the coming decade.
    Read Also:Current Affairs 2020-2021

Key Features of the Policy:

  • Open Science Framework: A future-looking, all-encompassing One Nation, One Subscription’ is proposed as part of a new Open Science Framework that will ensure free access to scientific data for all.
  • National STI Laboratory: The policy suggests the establishment of a National STI Observatory that will act as a central repository for all kinds of data related to and generated from the STI ecosystem.
    • From this Observatory, all data and information related to publicly-funded research would be made freely accessible to everyone under FAIR (Fair, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) terms.
  • Improve STI Education: Strategies to improve STI education making it inclusive at all levels and more connected with the economy and society will be developed through processes of skill building, training and infrastructure development.
  • STI Funding: With an aim to expand the financial landscape of the STI ecosystem, each department/ ministry in the central, the state and the local governments, public sector enterprises, private sector companies and startups will set up an STI unit with a minimum earmarked budget to pursue STI activities.
  • Research in STI: Research and Innovation Excellence Frameworks (RIEF) will be developed to enhance the quality of research along with promotion of engagements with relevant stakeholders.
  • Self Reliance in STI: A two-way approach of technology self-reliance and indigenization will be adopted and focused upon in alignment with national priorities like sustainability and social benefit and resources to achieve the larger goal of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
  • Establishment of Strategy Technology Board: The policy proposes the establishment of a Strategic Technology Board that will bridge all strategic government departments and monitor and recommend technologies to be bought or indigenously made.
  • Equity and Inclusion in STI: An India-centric Equity & Inclusion(E&I) charter will be developed for tackling all forms of discrimination, exclusions and inequalities in STI leading to the development of an institutional mechanism.

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PM lays foundation stone of  Light House projects (LHPs) across six states

News: The Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone of Light House Projects (LHPs) at six sites across six  states in the country.


  • LightHouse Projects(LHPs): These are model housing projects with houses built with shortlisted alternate technology suitable to the geo-climatic and hazard conditions of the region.
  • The projects are being constructed under Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) at six sites across six states namely Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh).
  • About 1,000 houses at each location are to be constructed in a year, using six distinct technologies from a basket of 54 such technologies shortlisted under the GHTC-India.
  • Significance: These projects will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses at an expedited pace within twelve months as compared to conventional brick and mortar construction and will be more economical, sustainable, of high quality and durability.

Other Initiatives launched:

  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(PMAY-Urban) Scheme: Under this, 1.09 crore houses had been sanctioned against the demand of 1.12 crore houses, 40 lakh houses handed over to beneficiaries and 70 lakh more houses were under construction.
    • PMAY-Urban: It was launched in 2015 with the aim to provide housing for all in urban areas by year 2022.The Mission provides Central Assistance to the implementing agencies through States/Union Territories (UTs) and Central Nodal Agencies (CNAs) for providing houses to all eligible families/ beneficiaries.
  • ASHA-I: Five incubation centers set up under the Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators-India(ASHA-I) were launched for identifying innovative materials, processes and technology for resource efficient, disaster resilient and sustainable construction.
  • NAVARITIH (New, Affordable, Validated, Research Innovation Technologies for Indian Housing): It is a certificate course on innovative construction technologies.

Additional Facts:

  • GHTC-India: It was launched in 2019 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).
  • Aim: To transform the ecosystem of the housing construction sector in India through lighthouse projects built using advanced proven technologies.
  • Components: The challenge has three components:
    • Conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference
    • Identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the globe and
    • Promoting Potential Technologies through the establishment of Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-I) for incubation and accelerator support.

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Health Ministry plans communication strategy

News: Union Health Ministry has released a communication strategy to support the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in India that seeks to disseminate accurate and transparent information by alleviating apprehensions and ensuring its acceptance.


  • About the strategy: The key areas that will be addressed as part of interventions under the strategy are:
    • Giving information on Covid-19 vaccines
    • Addressing vaccine hesitancy
    • Building vaccine eagerness along with maintaining and sustaining Covid appropriate behaviour.

Key Features of the Communication Strategy:

  • Using Social Influence: The strategy focuses on using social influence or endorsements from experts and official voices to spell out the process of immunisation, emphasise on the safety and efficacy of vaccines and explain the decision to conduct the drive in a phased manner.
  • National Media Rapid Response Cell(NMRRC): A Media Response Cell will be established under its ambit to ensure preparedness through media monitoring and social listening to respond in real time.It will also unfold media and public discourse through extensive monitoring of print, electronic and digital media.
  • Involving Community Based Platforms: Government will involve community mobilisers and frontline workers to engage with the community at various levels to build trust and enable greater confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Adverse Effects due to immunisation: In case of any adverse effects following immunisation (AEFI), the strategy emphasises on supporting the mobilisers and health workforce in managing crisis situations by appealing to the community to stay calm while waiting for a proper diagnosis and prevent aggressive behavior against health workers.

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RBI launches Digital payments index to track transactions

News: Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has launched a composite Digital Payments Index(DPI).


  • Objective: To capture the extent of digitisation of payments across the country given the sharp pick-up in digital transactions seen in the recent past.
  • Parameters: The index comprises five broad parameters with varying weights to measure the penetration of digital payments.The five key parameters include:
    • Payment enablers (25%).
    • Payment infrastructure—demand-side factors (10%).
    • Payment infrastructure—supply-side factors (15%).
    • Payment performance (45%).
    • Consumer centricity (5%).
  • These factors include multiple sub-parameters that would help the regulator conduct its study into the digital payment ecosystem.
  • Duration of Releasing Index: The index shall be published on RBI’s website on a semi-annual basis from March 2021 onwards with a lag of 4 months.
  • Base Year: The index has been constructed with March 2018 as the base period.At a base of 100 for March 2018, the RBI has measured that the index rose to 153.47 and 207.84 in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

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Expert panel grants emergency use authorisation for Oxford vaccine

News: The subject expert committee of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization(CDSCO) has recommended COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield for emergency use authorisation.


  • COVISHIELD: The Oxford vaccine “AZD1222” is being called Covishield in India. Serum Institute of India(SII) has entered into a manufacturing partnership with Oxford University and Pharma major AstraZeneca to produce this vaccine in India.
  • Technology: Covishield is made of a weakened and modified version of adenovirus (a common cold virus) that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.
  • Efficacy: Researchers claimed the vaccine protected against Covid in 62% of those given two full doses and in 90% of those initially given a half dose.
  • Safety: The Lancet publication, a leading medical journal has confirmed that the vaccine was well tolerated and there were no serious safety events confirmed related to the vaccine.
  • Storage: The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2°C to 8°C) for at least six months.

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Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2019-20

News: Reserve Bank of India has released the Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2019-20.


  • About the report: The report is a statutory publication in compliance with Section 36 (2) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.
  • Purpose: It presents the performance of the banking sector, including co-operative banks, and non-banking financial institutions during 2019-20 and 2020-21 so far.

Key Takeaways:

  • Decline in NPAs: Scheduled Commercial Banks(SCBs) gross non-performing assets (GNPA) ratio declined from 9.1% at end-March 2019 to 8.2% at end-March 2020 and further to 7.5% at end-September 2020.
  • Strengthened CRAR Ratio: Capital to risk weighted assets (CRAR) ratio of SCBs strengthened from 14.3% at end-March 2019 to 14.7% at end-March 2020 and further to 15.8% at end-September 2020 partly aided by recapitalisation of public sector banks and capital raising from the market by both public and private sector banks.
  • Policy Measures: The Reserve Bank also undertook an array of policy measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19; its regulatory ambit was reinforced by legislative amendments giving it greater powers over co-operative banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), and housing finance companies (HFCs).
  • Decline in UCBs Balance Sheet: The balance sheet growth of Urban Co-operative Banks(UCBs) moderated in 2019-20 on lower deposit accretion and muted expansion in credit; while their asset quality deteriorated, increased provisioning resulted in net losses.
  • NBFCs: The consolidated balance sheet of NBFCs decelerated in 2019-20 due to near stagnant growth in loans and advances although some improvement became visible.
  • Frauds in Banks: The number of frauds reported by banks in April-September 2020 period declined to Rs 64,681 crore from Rs 1,13,374 crore reported in the same period of the previous year.

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MEA launches Global Pravasi Rishta portal and app

News: Ministry of External Affairs has launched the Global Pravasi Rishta Portal and app in order to connect with nearly 3.12 crore Indians across the world.


  • Objective: To act as a dynamic communication platform by facilitating a three-way communication between the Indian Missions (meaning the embassies), external affairs ministry and Indian diaspora.
  • Key Features of the Portal:
    • The portal will enable the registration of Indian diaspora members(Persons of Indian Origin(PIOs), Non Resident Indians (NRIs), Overseas Citizenship of India(OCIs)) and will help connect the Indian Diaspora members to new and existing government schemes.
    • It will lend a helping hand during crisis management. The Indian diaspora can reach the consular services and officers in time during emergencies.
    • It will provide useful information to the Indian Diaspora such as passport, visa and other consular services.It will also act as a platform for the Government of India(GoI) to take useful opinion from Indian Diaspora in framing policies.
    • Global Pravasi Rishta Portal will facilitate OCI, PIO, and NRI community members by connecting them to various existing and new government schemes which will benefit them in various areas of interest.

Need for such Portal:

  • As of now, there is no effective communication channel available with the ministry to connect with the Indian diaspora worldwide.
  • The Portal will enable three-way communication between the ministry, our missions and the diaspora.
  • The rishta portal will enable communication with the diaspora on a realtime basis and will have the ability to issue emergency alerts and advisories.

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Deadline set for rehab of Assam national park dwellers

News: Assam Chief Minister has asked the State’s Forest and Revenue departments to permanently rehabilitate the indigenous forest dwellers of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park within January 31,2021.


  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park: It is a national park in Assam located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts. It was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
  • River: The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers in the north and Dibru river in the south.
  • Vegetation: It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, canebrakes and grasslands.
  • Climate: It is the largest Salix swamp forest in north-eastern India with a tropical monsoon climate with a hot and wet summer and cool and usually dry winter.
  • Important Bird Area(IBA): It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA), notified by Birdlife International and is also famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
  • Significance: Maguri Motapung wetland is a part of the Reserve.

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