ForumIAS: Facts in News (February 1st–7th 2018)

Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the First week of February 2018.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

Bills, Policies, Programs, Schemes, Orders, Judgments
Making health insurance workContext:
• The National Health Protection Scheme is disconnected from primary care.
Ayushman Bharat programme:
• The Government has recently announced two major initiatives i.e. Health and Wellness Centre and National Health Protection Scheme in health sector, as part of Ayushman Bharat programme.
• This was aimed to address health holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems, covering both prevention and health promotion.
Health and Wellness Centre:
• Under this scheme 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
• These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
• These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
• The Budget has allocated Rs.1200 crore for this flagship programme. Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.
National Health Protection Scheme:
• This scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries).
• It will provide coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
• This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme.
A shot in the arm for Urban Rejuvenation MissionContext:
• According to the Budget proposals for 2018-2019, the total outlay for the Urban Rejuvenation Mission, which includes projects under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities Mission, will be Rs. 12,169 crore.
Allocation in details:
• The Smart Cities Mission will get Rs. 6,169 crore in 2018-2019, including Rs. 169 crore towards capacity building for urban development.
• This will be used to develop 100 smart cities.
• Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), the allocation proposed is Rs. 6,000 crore.
• This will be towards the Urban Rejuvenation Mission of 500 cities.
• Under the AMRUT programme, the State-level plans of Rs. 77,640 crore for 500 cities have been approved.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT):
• Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2015.
• It aims to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation.
• The scheme is dependent with public private partnership model (PPP) model.
Smart Cities Mission:
• Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India.
• Its mission is to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
• The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
Limited succorContext:
• The recent Union Budget 2018 does well to focus on senior citizens.
Initiatives for senior citizens in the Union Budget 2018:
• Affording a five-fold increase in the exemption limit on interest income from savings, fixed and recurring deposits held with banks and post offices to Rs 50,000, and doing away with the requirement for tax to be deducted at source on such income.
• Proposal to raise the annual income tax deduction limit for health insurance premium and/or medical reimbursement to Rs 50,000 for all seniors.
• To set the ceiling for deduction in lieu of expenses incurred on certain critical illnesses to Rs 1 lakh, irrespective of the age of the senior citizen.
• Extending the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana by two years, up to March 2020, and doubled the cap on investment in the scheme to Rs 15 lakh.
Nepal gets a high Rs 650 crore outlayContext:
• For India’s development and diplomatic engagement under the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Budget has allocated Rs. 5545 crore.
Other budget allocation under Neighbourhood First’ policy:
• For building infrastructure in Chabahar and the Seychelles have also been granted allocations of Rs 150 crore and Rs 350 crore respectively.
• South Asia University, a major educational initiative for the South Asian region, has received Rs 375 crore and the Nalanda University got Rs 200 crore.
‘Neighbourhood First’ policy:
• The “neighborhood first” policy is the striking feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s diplomatic approach.
• In his government’s strategic imagination, India’s relations with neighboring countries must receive topmost priority.
• Prime Minister Modi selected Bhutan and Nepal for his first visits as part of his ‘Neighbours First’ foreign policy initiative.
Agriculture needs more than just quick fixesContext:
• The government’s efforts to focus on the welfare of farmers in the Union Budget are admirable but care should be taken to address the sector’s competitiveness in a global scenario.
Important agrarian initiatives in the Union Budget:
• The target for agricultural credit has been increased to Rs 11 lakh crore from Rs 10 lakh crore last year.
• Rs 2,000 crore has been announced for development of agricultural market infrastructure to link 22,000 local rural markets to the electronic national agriculture market platform.
• The government launched ‘Operation Green’, and allocated ₹500 Crore to promote farmer producer organisations and agri-logistics associations.
Supreme Court refers jallikattu challenge to Constitution BenchContext:
• The Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench to decide whether the people of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra can conserve jallikattu and bullock-cart races as their cultural right and demand their protection under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.
Article 29(1) in The Constitution Of India 1949:
• Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.
• Jallikattu is a traditional spectacle in which a Bos indicus bull is released into a crowd of people and multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump on the bull's back with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape.
• Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop.
• In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull's horns.
• Jallikattu is typically practised in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day, which occurs annually in January.
Centre’s plan may boost farmers’ solar power useContext:
• The Centre has announced Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan scheme for promoting decentralized solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan:
• The scheme provides for 17.5 lakh off grid solar pumps to begin with.
• The Indian farmer will effectively bear only 10 % of cost for solarising his agricultural pump.
• The government will spend Rs 48, 000 crore over 10 years as central financial assistance (CFA).
• A similar amount will have to be given by the states and the financing institutions towards Kusum, which is to be put up to the cabinet for approval.
• The scheme will have four components, including setting up 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and incentivising discoms to buy the electricity produced, distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps, solarising exisiting pumps of 7,250 MW and government tube wells of 8,250 MW capacity.
Outward Direct Investment (ODI) policyContext:
• The proposed Outward Direct Investment (ODI) policy may contain provisions to make it easy for many Indian firms to go global and expand.
Outward Direct Investment (ODI) policy:
• An outward direct investment (ODI) is a business strategy in which a domestic firm expands its operations to a foreign country.
• This can take the form of a green field investment, a merger/acquisition or expansion of an existing foreign facility.
• Employing outward direct investment is a natural progression for firms if their domestic markets become saturated and better business opportunities are available abroad.
Statistical data:
• India’s ODI rose 56.1% year-on-year from $6.8 billion in 2014-15 to $10.6 billion in 2015-16, and further up by 39.37% to $14.8 billion in 2016-17.
• Top ten ODI destination countries in FY’15, FY’16 and FY’17 included Mauritius, Singapore, the U.S., the UAE, the Netherlands, the U.K, Switzerland, Russia, Jersey and British Virgin Islands.
• Cumulatively, these nations were the beneficiaries of 84% or more of India’s ODI during each of those financial years.
Social issues
‘When 2 adults marry, none should interfere’Context:
• Hearing a petition, to make honour killing a specific crime, the Supreme Court said that no one has individual, group or collective right to harass a couple.
Honour killing:
• Honour killing is defined as the killing of a relative who is perceived to have brought dishonour on the family.
• It involves the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017Context:
• The Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017, containing data from 26 districts in 24 States, has some national-level findings that should cause concern.
Key findings of Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017:
• India’s youngsters aged 14-18 cannot read their own language fluently.
• 36% do not what is the name of country’s capital.
• More than half struggle with division (3 digits by 1 digit) problems.
• 47% of all 14 year-olds in the sample could not read English sentences.
• For 18-year-old youth, this figure is closer to 40.
• Of those who could read English sentences, 79 per c could translate it in their language.
• 36% children did not name the capital of the country answered correctly.
• 58 per cent could not identify the map of their state
• School drop- out rate is 10 per cent more in girls than boys at age 18
• 40 per cent could not tell time in hour and minutes
• 73 per cent of youngsters had access to mobile phones
• Only 28 per cent had used the internet—26 per cent had used computers in last one week. 64 per cent had never used the internet
Annual Status of Education Report (ASER):
• Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is India's largest NGO-run annual survey.
• It is being conducted by Pratham since 2005 to evaluate the relevance and impact of its programs.
• Findings are disseminated at national, state, district and village levels, and influence education policies at both state and central levels.
Link between sanitation, stunting questionedContext:
• Stunting among children, or low height for age, is common in developing countries with poor sanitation.
• Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation
• Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
Findings about stunning published in The Lancet Global Health, 2018:
• Stunting among children, or low height for age, is common in developing countries with poor sanitation.
• Scientists hypothesise that this is because open defecation and unclean water expose children to faecal bugs.
• Even if these pathogens do not cause diarrhoea, they inflame a child’s gut and hamper the food absorption.
Art and culture
‘Indus script was written from right to left’Context:
• Scientists have studied the Indus script and calculated that it must flow from right to left.
Highlights of the study:
• In a language, some words are used more often than others.
• Similarly, some letters of the alphabet occur more at the start of words and others are more common at the end of words.
• The variation faced by different letters may be measured using two independent statistical indices, the Gini index and Shannon’s entropy.
• Scientists have established that there is a difference between these measures when calculated for the first letter and the last letter.
• This difference between start and end of a word makes it possible for them to identify whether the word is written from left to right or the other way around.
Indus script:
• The Indus Script is the writing system developed by the Indus Valley Civilization.
• It is the earliest form of writing known in the Indian subcontinent.
• During the early Harappan phase (c. 3500-2700 BCE), the earliest known examples of the Indus Script signs can be found, attested on Ravi and Kot Diji pottery excavated at Harappa.
• Based on the fact that only one sign is displayed on the pottery surface, these examples represent a premature stage in the development of the Indus Script.
• Its full development was reached during the Urban period (c. 2600-1900 BCE), when longer inscriptions are recorded.
• Thousands of inscriptions are known from some 60 excavation sites: most of them are short, the average length is five signs and none of them is longer than 26 signs.
Stone tools offer insights into history of human evolutionContext:
• Researchers suggest that hominids in India may have developed a Middle Palaeolithic culture phase around 3,85,000 years ago and continuing up to around 1,72,000 years ago.
Hominids in India:
• The peopling of India refers to the migration of Homo sapiens and earlier hominids into the Indian subcontinent.
• Modern humans settled India in multiple waves of early migrations, over tens of millennia.
• The first migrants came with the Southern Coastal dispersal, ca. 60,000 years ago, where-after complex migrations within south and Southeast Asia took place.
Middle Palaeolithic:
• The Middle Paleolithic (or Middle Palaeolithic) is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia.
• The Middle Paleolithic broadly spanned from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago.
• The Middle Paleolithic was succeeded by the Upper Paleolithic subdivision which first began between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago.
• Modern humans began migrating out of Africa during the Middle Stone Age/Middle Paleolithic around 100,000 or 70,000 years ago and began to replace earlier pre-existent Homo species such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus.
• However, recent discoveries of fossils originating from what is now Israel, indicate that our species (Homo sapians) lived outside of Africa 185,000 years ago; some 85,000 years earlier than previous evidence suggests.
Alam Beg, martyer of sepoy Mutiny, wants to return homeContext:
• A 160-year-old skull of sepoy Alam Beg, now in the possession of a historian in London, is proof that colonial rulers who brought many modern practices to India were also at times inhuman.
Alam Beg:
• In 1857, Alam Beg, also known as Alum Bheg, was a soldier with the 46th Bengal Native Infantry, an arm of the East India Company.
• The Mutiny that year, after having covered the north Indian heartland, spread to Sialkot (now in Pakistan), where Alam Beg and his companions tried to follow their fellow soldiers and attacked the Europeans posted there.
• On July 9, 1857, they killed seven Europeans, including an entire Scottish family.
• Alam Beg, along with his comrades, left Sialkot and trekked all the way to the Tibetan frontier only to be turned away by the guards on the Tibetan side. He was reportedly arrested from Madhopur, a scenic town on the northern part of the Indian Punjab and taken back to Sialkot.
• A year later, he was tried for the brutal killing of the Scottish family and blown up from the mouth of a cannon
Pre-Christian era artefacts unearthed in OdishaContext:
• The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered pottery pieces, and tools made of stones and bones believed to be of the pre-Christian era from a mound in Jalalpur village of Cuttack district
Other discoveries:
• The ASI teams have also come across a couple of circular wattle and daub structures, which were predominantly used by people to take shelter during the pre-Christian era, in 12 trenches being dug simultaneously.
• Discovery of tortoise shell, dolphin and shark teeth and fish bones indicated that the settlement could have been closer to the sea coast.
• Some rice grains have also been detected.
• Rich materials found from excavation sites indicate that the people had a subsistence economy and they largely relied on agriculture, fishing and hunting.
Significance of the discovery:
• Discoveries of ancient artefacts indicate that a rural settlement might have thrived in that period.
• Continuity in the progress of rural culture from a pre-historic era has been found.
International Relations
Indian aid for Palestine diplomatic instituteContext:
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly from Amman in Jordan on February 10th to arrive in Palestine where he is expected to lay the foundation stone of a new diplomatic training institute.
Significance of the visit:
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine.
• The visit is aimed at de-hyphenating India’s policy towards Israel and Palestine that was reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2017 visit to Tel Aviv when he skipped Palestine.
Budget allocation:
• The Government of India has already sanctioned US$4.5 million for the Indo-Palestine Diplomatic Institute.
Other initiatives between India and Palestine:
• A new agreement on IT-training was sealed during President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to India in 2017 when both sides signed five agreements.
• India also pledged $1.25 million humanitarian assistance to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in 2016.
Forging a new nuclear dealContext:
• Even after a decade, there has been no progress on the India-US civil nuclear deal.
The Indo-US Nuclear deal:
• Signed in 2005, The 123 Agreementsigned between the United States of America and the Republic of India is known as the S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement or Indo-US nuclear deal.
Objectives of Indo-US Nuclear deal:
• As per the deal, India agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear activity.
• India also agreedopen up the civilian part to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
• In return, the US offered to resume full nuclear trade (selling of reactors, transfer of technology, Uranium sale) with India, ending its nuclear ostracism.
Westinghouse team’s visit revives hopes for Kovvada plantContext:
• Officials of Westinghouse Electric will visit India next week to discuss a reworked deal for nuclear reactors for the proposed nuclear plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Kovvada.
Kovvada Atomic Power Project:
• Kovvada Atomic Power Project is a proposed 6,600 MW nuclear power station in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India.
• The agreement that was expected to be signed by July 2017 had been further delayed after both Westinghouse Electric as well as Toshiba ran into major financial trouble.
• Discussions are in progress between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and WEC to arrive at a viable project proposal.
• In December 2017, the Andhra Pradesh government said it had completed the land acquisition for the Kovvada “nuclear park” where the reactors are expected to be built.
• Westinghouse has announced it will no longer carry out the construction of the power project, but will only provide reactors and components.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL):
• Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) was created in September 1987 under the Companies Act 1956.
• It is a government-owned corporation of India based in Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra.
• It is administered by the Department of Atomic Energy, Govt. of India (DAE).
• It has an objective of undertaking the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the atomic power stations for generation of electricity.
Italian anti-corruption officials to meet Indian counterpartsContext:
• An Italian delegation of senior anti-corruption officials is expected to visit India soon for a meeting with the representatives of various enforcement agencies, headed by a senior Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), functionary, to discuss issues of mutual cooperation in investigations.
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC):
• Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964.
• It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority.
• It is charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India, advising various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
• The Commission shall consist of:
• A Central Vigilance Commissioner - Chairperson
• Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members
PM to lay foundation stone of temple in UAEContext:
• As a part of a three – nation tour scheduled from 9th to 12th February, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be laying foundation stone of temple in UAE.
The three-nation tour:
• Three-nation tour will begin in Palestine and end in Oman
• P.M Modi would begin his visit from the Jordanian capital of Amman, from where he will be travelling to the West Bank territory of Palestine.
• Apart from laying the temple foundation, P.M. Modi will visit the Wahat Al Karama, the memorial to fallen soldiers of the UAE.
• He will also address the World Government Summit in Dubai.
• Modi will visit a Shiva temple in Oman during his first visit to that country on February 12.
• He will hold bilateral meetings with the two Prime Ministers of Oman.
Maldives government declares emergencyContext:
• The Maldives government has declared a state of emergency for 15 days.
Reason behind this declaration:
• The Supreme Court had asked for the immediate release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders
• However, the President had defied the order.
• President Yameen then proceeded to declare a 15-day state of emergency.
RBI likely to keep repo rate on holdContext:
• The six-member monetary policy committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to maintain the status quo for the third straight review meeting.
Monetary Policy Committee:
• The Monetary Policy Committee of India is a committee of the Reserve Bank of India
• It is responsible for fixing the benchmark interest rate in India.
• The committee comprises six members - three officials of the Reserve Bank of India and three external members nominated by the Government of India.
• The Governor of Reserve Bank of India is the chairperson ex officio of the committee.
Courting the rankingsContext:
• Reports of India moving into the top 100 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business global ranking is credible.
Ease of Doing Business (EODB) index:
• The Ease of Doing Business (EODB) index is a ranking system established by the World Bank Group.
• In the EODB index, 'higher rankings' (a lower numerical value) indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights.
• A nation’s ranking in the “ease of doing business” index is based on the average of 10 sub-indices which are: starting a business; dealing with construction permits; getting electricity connections; registering property; getting credit; protecting minority investors; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; and resolving insolvency.
General Data Protection Regulation Context:
• With less than four months to go for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation to kick in, “too many companies are still not prepared” for the regime that would also cover Indian IT firms.
General Data Protection Regulation (EU):
• The General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.
• The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.
• It was adopted on 27 April 2016 and will become enforceable from 25 May 2018, after a two-year transition period.
Goodbye to fiscal consolidationContext:
• In the context of the recent union budget, the government has taken pride in having restored the economy to the path of fiscal consolidation.
Current statistics of fiscal deficit target:
• The fiscal deficit target for 2017-18 had been set at 3.2% of GDP for 2017-18 and 3.0% for 2018-19.
• The fiscal deficit for 2017-18 has ended up at 3.5%.
• The Budget for 2018-19 puts paid to these objectives for now.
• For 2018-19, the government has set a target of 3.3%.
• The fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP has now been pushed to 2020-21.
Fiscal deficit:
• The difference between total revenue and total expenditure of the government is termed as fiscal deficit.
• It is an indication of the total borrowings needed by the government.
• While calculating the total revenue, borrowings are not included.
For more equity: on long-term capital gains taxContext:
• The Union Budget 2018-19 announced the reintroduction of the long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax for stock market investors.
• In 2004-2005, the government had abolished LTCG tax replacing it with securities transaction tax (STT).
Provisions of the reintroduction of the long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax:
• The gains would be computed based on the share price on January 31st, 2018.
• Long-term capital gains exceeding Rs 1 lakh would be taxed at 10% without the benefit of indexation.
Long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax:
• Long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax is the tax paid on profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held for a particular time-frame.
Fearing cryptocurrenciesContext:
• Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are not legal form of money in India.
• A cryptocurrency is a digital currency created and stored electronically in blockchain.
• It uses encryption techniques to control creation of monetary units and to verify the transfer of funds for which it is very secure.
• It has no physical form and is not redeemable in another commodity like gold.
• Its supply is not determined by any central bank or authority and the network is completely decentralised.
• Bitcoin, Litecoin, Namecoin and PPcoin are examples of cryptocurrencies.
‘Services growth in Jan. fastest in three months’Context:
• According to a survey, the Indian services sector has registered the fastest rise in activity in three months driven by a renewed increase in new business orders.
Highlights of the Report:
• The Indian service sector continued to expand in January, 2018.
• Also, the rate of job creation was the fastest since last September, 2017.
• The seasonally-adjusted Nikkei Services Business Activity Index rose to 51.7 in January from 50.9 in December, 2017.
The manufacturing muddleContext:
• The Union Budget has reinforced the correction of the Inverted Duty Structure (IDS) which has adversely impacted manufacturing for decades.
Inverted Duty Structure (IDS):
• Inverted duty structure is a situation where import duty on finished goods is low compared to the import duty on raw materials that are used in the production of such finished goods.
Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh to be part of India’s tiger censusContext:
• Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh will be a part of India’s Tiger estimation exercise.
Highlights of the tiger estimation exercise:
• The current survey is divided into 4 phases.
• The survey would reveal its data in 2019.
• The Tiger Census is commissioned by the Union Environment Ministry’s National Tiger Conservation Authority.
• Along with tigers, the survey also collects information on the prey population of deer and other animals.
• This year, android phones and app is being used to store data. Previously data were manually logged in which resulted in errors.
Dust mitigation plan must for firms Context:
• The Environment Ministry has made it mandatory for companies seeking environment clearance to ensure that they put in place a dust mitigation plan.
Requirements specified in a gazette notification by Central Pollution Control Board:
• Roads leading to or at construction sites must be paved and black-topped
• There could be no soil excavation without adequate dust mitigation measures in place
• No loose soil, sand, construction waste could be left uncovered
• A water sprinkling system was mandatory, and the measures taken should be prominently displayed at the construction site
• The grinding and cutting of building materials in open area is prohibited and no uncovered vehicles carrying construction material and waste would be permitted.
Central Pollution Control Board:
• The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
• It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
• The board conducts environmental assessments and research.
• It is responsible for maintaining national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with zonal offices, tribal, and local governments.
• It has responsibilities to conduct monitoring of water and air quality, and maintains monitoring data.
• The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.
• It advises the central government to prevent and control water and air pollution.
• It also advises the Governments of Union Territories on industrial and other sources of water and air pollution.
First family tree for tropical forestsContext:
• According to several Indian scientists, tropical forests in different continents across the world are related and share a common ancestry.
Highlights of the study:
• Five major forest regions have been identified in the tropics: the Indo-Pacific, Subtropical, African, and American and Dry forests.
• Tropical forests in Africa and South America are closely related, with most of the differences between them occurring within the last 100 million years.
• This likely reflects patterns of plate tectonics, as South America and Africa broke apart resulting in the formation of the Atlantic Ocean that started approximately 140 million years ago.
• Dry forests found in India, America, Africa and Madagascar are also closely related to each other.
Odisha ready to welcome olive ridleysContext:
• Fencing along the sea coast to protect the olive ridley turtles during their mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery in Odisha is being increased by two more kilometres this year.
Highlights of the fencing:
• Every year, a 3.5-kilometre-long stretch of the beach from Gokharkuda to Podampeta used to be temporarily fenced to stop predators from harming the olive ridleys during nesting and the eggs in their nests
• This temporary fencing also checks olive ridleys and their hatchlings from straying towards land
• This year the forest department has decided to extend the fencing for another two kilometres towards the north from Podampeta to Bateswar temple on the coast.
Olive ridley sea turtle:
• The olive ridley sea turtle is also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle.
• They are smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
• They are primarily found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and warm waters of Atlantic Ocean.
Tulsi and ashvagandha to purify Neknampur Lake in HyderabadContext:
• India’s largest ‘floating treatment wetland’ will use hydroponics to clean up Neknampur Lake.
Floating Treatment Wetland (FTW) on Neknampur Lake:
• The FTW on Neknampur Lake was inaugurated on February 2, World Wetlands Day.
• Measuring 3,000 sq. ft., the FTW is a joint effort of Dhruvansh, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority, the Ranga Reddy district administration and other organisations.
• It has already been recognised by the India Book of Records as the largest FTW in the country.
Floating Treatment Wetlands:
• Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) are an emerging innovation in green technology that has demonstrated significant potential for stormwater management.
• FTWs are designed to float on the surface of a wet pond, providing a growing medium for emergent wetland plants.
• Floating mats or rafts are built in a way to support vegetation grown hydroponically and plant stems are held above water level with the roots submerged below the surface.
• Several plants on this FTW help clean the lake by absorbing nutrients such as excess nitrates and oxygen present in the water.
Science and Technology
Agni 1 test-fired off the Odisha coastContext:
• India successfully test-fired its short-range nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-1 with a strike rang of over 700 km from a test range off the Odisha coast.
• Agni-I is a short-range ballistic missile.
• It has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.
• It is a single-stage missile developed after the Kargil War to fill the gap between 250 km range of Prithvi-II and 2,500 km range of Agni-II.
• It was first launched on 25 January 2002 from a road mobile launcher at Integrated Test Range (ITR), Wheeler Island.
Security and Defense
Rs. 370 cr. allotted for building border infraContext:
• The government has recently sanctioned nearly Rs. 370 crore to the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) for construction of bunkers and special climate-controlled huts in forward areas.
Border Security Force (BSF):
• Established on December 1st, 1965, the Border Security Force (BSF) is a Border Guarding Force of India.
• It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs.
• It is a paramilitary force charged with guarding India's land border during peace time and preventing transnational crime.
• It currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force.
Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP):
• Raised on 24 Oct, 1962, Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is deployed on border guarding duties.
• It is deployed from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh covering 3488 km of Indo-China Border and manning Border Outposts on altitudes ranging from 9000’ to 18700’ in the Western, Middle and Eastern sectors of the Indo-China Border.
• It is a specialized mountain force and most of the officers and men are professionally trained mountaineers and skiers.
• Being the first responder for natural disaster, it has been carrying out numerous rescue and relief operations across the country.
INS Karanj boosts Navy’s firepowerContext:
• The Navy’s third state-of-the-art Scorpene class submarine, INS Karanj, has been recently launched.
Special features of Scorpene-class submarine Karanj:
• Scorpene-class submarine Karanj is loaded with superior stealth features and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons.
• The attack by INS Karanj can be launched with both torpedoes and tube launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface.
• The stealth of this potent platform is enhanced by the special attention given to various signatures.
• It is designed to operate in all theatres, with means provided to ensure inter-operability with other components of a Naval Task Force.
Scorpene-class submarines:
• The Scorpene deal was signed for India in October 2015 and the first submarine was due to be delivered by 2012.
• Scorpene submarines can undertake a wide range of missions such as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine-laying and area surveillance.
• A sophisticated and state-of-the-art Shore Integration Facility has been developed at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) for integration and simulation of various equipment of the Scorpene submarine combat system for which there was no facility available in the country.
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