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Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC – 8th March to 14th March – 2020

  • IASbaba
  • March 16, 2020
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IASbaba's Press Information Bureau, UPSC Articles
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Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC – 8th to 14th March, 2020

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GS-1

Average Life Expectancy

(Topic: Population and Associated Issues)

As per the report titled SRS Based Life Table 2013-17 published by the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, Government of India, the average life expectancy at birth has increased from 49.7 during 1970-75 to 69.0 in 2013-17, registering an increase of 19.3 years during this period. As per the same report, the life expectancy at birth for male and female during 2013-17 were 67.8 and 70.4 years respectively.

The measures taken/proposed by the Government of India for providing better health services to ensure healthy life and to further improve the average life expectancy of the people in the country are as follows:

  • Mobilization of public health action at multiple levels
  • The Ayushman Bharat effort, with its two components of Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), addresses disparity in access and reduces out of pocket expenditure for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization for 40% of India’s population. The scheme provides hospital care for about 1,350 illnesses at secondary and tertiary level empanelled public and private hospitals. HWC encourages healthy choices and behaviours including Yoga and other physical activities
  • National Health Mission (NHM) is creating a network of 1,50,000 HWCs by upgrading existing Sub Centres (SCs) and Primary Health Centres (PHCs) to provide Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC), which is universal and free to all those who access public health facilities. The CPHC basket of services cover 12 key service areas, which go beyond the Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) services to include screening and care for NCDs (diabetes, high blood pressure, oral, breast, cervical cancers etc.), elderly care, palliative and rehabilitative care, Oral, Eye and ENT care, mental health and first level care for emergencies and trauma etc.
  • Continuum of care is being provided to all elderly citizen of age above 60 years from preventive and promotive up to rehabilitation in Geriatric units of District Hospital, Community Health Centres and Primary Health Centres under National programme for Healthcare of Elderly (NPHCE)
  • Palliative care is being provided to terminal cases of Cancer, AIDS etc. under National programme for Palliative Care (NPPC)
  • Providing financial support in the form of untied funds, annual maintenance grants and Rogi Kalyan Samiti (RKS) funds for development of health facilities and ensuring services
  • Providing infrastructural support to State/UTs in constructing new health facilities and/or for up-gradation of infrastructure, Mother & Child Health (MCH) wings, up-gradation of the trauma centres & First Referral Units, Operationalization of the blood banks etc.
  • Operationalizing health facilities in rural areas (through placement of human resources in difficult areas, supply of equipment, drugs and diagnostics)
  • In addition, certain new initiatives have been undertaken like the 
  • Screening for Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)
      • Mothers Absolute Affection: to promote exclusive breastfeeding
      • Pradhan Mantri Shurakshit Matratva Abhiyan: to improve access to specialist maternal care through voluntary participation of private providers
  • Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program
      • Mission Indradhanush: to immunise partially or uncovered population
  • Rashtriya Swasthya Bal Karyakram (RBSK)
    • Kayakalp: to promote cleanliness, hygiene and Infection Control Practices in public Health Care Facilities
    • Labour room quality improvement initiative- LAQSHYA: Initiative to reduce preventable maternal and new-born mortality, morbidity and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in Labour room and Maternity OT and ensure respectful maternity care
    • Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan (SUMAN): to end all preventable maternal and neonatal deaths) etc

GS-2

Constitution of Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DWBDNCs)

(Topic: Government schemes for minorities)

  • To formulate and Implement Welfare and Development programme as required, for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities
  • To identify the locations/areas where these communities are densely populated
  • To assess and identify gaps in accessing existing programmes and entitlements and to collaborate with Ministries/Implementing agencies to ensure that ongoing programmes meet the special requirements of De-notified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities
  • To monitor and evaluate the progress of the schemes of Government of India and the States/UTs with reference to De-notified Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities
  • To redress the grievances of DNTs communities and fulfill their expectations

Socio-economic and educational empowerment of women from minority communities

(Topic: Government schemes for empowering women)

Pradhan Mantri Jan VikasKaryakram (PMJVK): Earlier known as Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, in identified Minority Concentration Areas (MCAs) of the country with the objective of developing socio-economic assets and basic amenities in these areas to bring them at par with other parts of the country. The thrust of the PMJVK programme is to allocate at least 80% of the resources for education, health and skill development and at least 33-40% of the resources for women centric projects.

Socio-Economic-Educational Empowerment of Minority Women: Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship Scheme – For educational empowerment of students; Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for Meritorious Girls belonging to the Minorities.   More than 1.94 Crore girl students have benefitted during the last 5 years. Others schemes include: “Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme”; “Naya Savera” – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme; “Padho Pardesh” and “Nai Udaan”.

Leadership Development: “Nai Roshni” scheme and various welfare schemes – Leadership development of women belonging to minority communities.About three (3) lakh women have been provided various leadership development training in the last five years.

Skill Development:

  • “Gharib Nawaz Swarojgar Yojna”  for providing shortterm job oriented skill development courses to youth belonging to minority communities
  • “Seekho Aur Kamao” – Skill development scheme for youth of 14 – 35 years age group and aiming at improving the employability of existing workers, school dropouts etc.
  • Nai Manzil – A scheme for formal school education & skilling of school dropouts.
  • 4.35 lakh women have been provided employment oriented skill development training
  • “Hunar Haats”,organised by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in various cities, offer unique opportunities to young entrepreneurs and aspirants to experiment and explore novel means of creativity coupled with livelihood.” “Hunar Haats” have a 50% reservation for women. It started at 20%, but over the years it has increased to ensure more women’s participation. There are a large number of women self-help groups associated with Hunar Haats.1.35 lakh women artisans have benefitted through Hunar Haats during the last three (3) years

Haj without “Mehram: Restrictions lifted on Muslim women going for Haj without “Mehram” (male companion).  5,544 Muslim women have performed Haj without “Mehram” during the last three (3) years

Social Empowerment: Brought the law to ban the social evils like Triple Talaq.   Constitutional and Social rights of Muslim women have been ensured


Malnutrition among Women

(Topic: Government schemes for empowering women)

As per the recent report of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – 4 conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2015-16, 22.9% women (15-49 years of age) are underweight (BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2). 

The five States having highest percentage of malnutrition among women are 

  1. Jharkhand (31.5%)
  2. Bihar (30.4%)
  3. Dadra and Nagar Haveli (28.7%)
  4. Madhya Pradesh (28.4%)
  5. Gujarat (27.2%)
  6. Rajasthan (27%)

The Government has accorded high priority to the issue of malnutrition and is making serious efforts to address this issue. Several schemes with direct as well as indirect interventions are being implemented across the country. Schemes like Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY) under the Umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme are direct targeted interventions being implemented to address the problem of malnutrition among women and children in the country.

  • Anganwadi Services Scheme aims to improve the nutritional and health status of pregnant women & lactating mothers and reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition. Under the Scheme, pregnant women and lactating mothers are provided supplementary nutrition, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up and referral services.
  • Scheme for Adolescent Girls is implemented for out-of-school adolescent girls in the age group of 11-14 years for self-development and empowerment of adolescent girls; improvement of nutritional and health status; to promote awareness about health, hygiene & nutrition; support to out-of-school Adolescent Girls for successful transition back to formal schooling or bridge learning/skill training; upgrade their home-based skills and life skills.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is implemented with an aim to provide cash incentive to improve health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) and to compensate partially the wage loss in terms of cash incentive so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first child.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan: One of the goals of POSHAN Abhiyaan is to achieve improvement in nutritional status of Adolescent Girls, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers in a time bound manner

Further, to address malnutrition among women, the steps taken under the National Health Mission (NHM), a flagship programme of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, are

  • Anaemia Mukt Bharat
  • Organization of Monthly Village Health
  • Sanitation and Nutrition days for provision of maternal and child health services and creating awareness on maternal and child care
  • Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation
  • Calcium supplementation and promotion of iodized salt

Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram

(Topic: Government schemes for empowering women)

To eliminate out of pocket expenses for both pregnant women and sick infants accessing public health institution for treatment. The initiative was estimated to benefit more than 1 crore pregnant women access public health institutions every year in both urban and rural areas.

Entitlements for Pregnant Women under JSSK:

  • Free and zero expense Delivery and Caesarean Section
  • Free Drugs and Consumables
  • Free Essential Diagnostics (Blood, Urine tests and Ultra sonography etc.)
  • Free Diet during stay in the health institutions (up to 3 days for normal delivery and 7 days for caesarean section)
  • Free Provision of Blood
  • Free Transport from Home to Health institutions
  • Free Transport between facilities in case of referral
  • Drop Back from institutions to home after 48 hrs stay
  • Exemption from all kinds of User Charges

Entitlements for Sick infants under JSSK till one year after birth:

  • Free and zero expense treatment
  • Free Drugs and Consumables
  • Free Diagnostics
  • Free Provision of Blood
  • Free Transport from Home to Health institutions.
  • Free Transport between facilities in case of referral
  • Drop back from institutions to home
  • Exemption from all kinds of user charges

The institution of Lokpal is fully functional

(Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies)

The President, on the recommendation of the duly constituted Selection Committee, appointed the Chairperson and eight Members of the Lokpal who assumed charge of their offices on 23rd and 27th March, 2019 respectively.

  • The Lokpal is an independent statutory body established under Section 3 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.  
  • In terms of Section 48 of the said Act, the Lokpal is required to present annually to the President a report on the work done by it, which is caused to be laid in both the Houses of the Parliament. Since the Lokpal was operationalized at the far end of March, 2019, no such report has been submitted by the Lokpal. Hence, details of the cases registered and action taken thereon by the Lokpal are not available.
  • The form for making a complaint has been devised keeping in view various provisions of the Act relating to processing of the complaints and the same is annexed to the rules.

Cabinet approves scheme for ‘Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP)’ to boost exports 

(Topic: Start-up, Manufacturing and export)

  • A mechanism would be created for reimbursement of taxes/ duties/ levies, at the central, state and local level, which are currently not being refunded under any other mechanism, but which are incurred in the process of manufacture and distribution of exported products. 
  • This scheme is going to give a boost to the domestic industry and Indian exports providing a level playing field for Indian producers in the International market so that domestic taxes/duties are not exported.
  • The refunds under the RoDTEP scheme would be a step towards “zero-rating” of exports, along with refunds such as Drawback and IGST. This would lead to cost competitiveness of exported products in international markets and better employment opportunities in export oriented manufacturing industries.

Startup India Action Plan

(Topic: Start-up, Manufacturing and export)

The flagship initiative has an objective to build a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country that will drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities.

The action plan comprises of 19 action items spanning across areas such as “Simplification and handholding”, “Funding support and incentives” and “Industry-academia partnership and incubation”. Since its inception, 28,979, Startups across the country have been recognised by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) as on March 2020.

  1. Compliance Regime based on Self-Certification with an objective to reduce the regulatory burden on Startups thereby allowing them to focus on their core business and keep compliance cost low.
  2. Startup India Hub with an objective to create a single point of contact for the entire Startup ecosystem and enable knowledge exchange and access to funding.
  3. Rolling out of Mobile App and Portal with an objective to serve as the single platform for Startups for interacting with Government and Regulatory Institutions for all business needs and information exchange among various stakeholders.
  4. Legal Support and Fast-tracking Patent Examination at Lower Costs with an objective to promote awareness and adoption of IPRs by Startups and facilitate them in protecting and commercializing the IPRs by providing access to high quality Intellectual Property services and resources, including fast-track examination of patent applications and rebate in fees.
  5. Relaxed Norms of Public Procurement for Startups with an objective to provide an equal platform to Startups across sectors vis-à-vis the experienced entrepreneurs/ companies in public procurement.
  6. Faster Exit for Startups with an objective to make it easier for Startups to wind up operations.
  7. Providing Funding Support through Fund of Funds with a Corpus of Rs. 10,000 crores with an objective to provide funding support for development and growth of innovation driven enterprises.
  8. Credit Guarantee fund for Startups with objective to catalyze entrepreneurship by providing credit to innovators across all sections of society.
  9. Tax Exemptions on Capital Gains with an objective to promote investments into Startups by mobilizing the capital gains arising from sale of capital assets.
  10. Tax Exemptions to startups for 3 Years with an objective to promote the growth of Startups and address working capital requirements.
  11. Tax Exemption on Investments above Fair Market Value with an objective to encourage seed-capital investment in Startups.
  12. Organizing Startup Fests for Showcasing Innovation and Providing a Collaboration Platform with an objective to galvanize the Startup ecosystem and to provide national and international visibility to the Startup ecosystem in India.
  13. Launch of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) with an objective to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Startup businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
  14. Harnessing Private Sector Expertise for Incubator Setup with an objective to ensure professional management of Government sponsored / funded incubators, Government will create a policy and framework for setting-up of incubators across the country in public private partnership.
  15. Building Innovation Centres at National Institutes with an objective to propel successful innovation through augmentation of incubation and R&D efforts.
  16. Setting up of 7 New Research Parks modelled on the Research Park Setup at IIT Madras with an objective to propel successful innovation through incubation and joint R&D efforts between academia and Industry.
  17. Promoting Start-ups in the Biotechnology Sector with an objective to foster and facilitate bio-entrepreneurship.
  18. Launching of Innovation Focused Programs for Students with an objective to foster a culture of innovation in the field of Science and Technology amongst students.
  19. Annual Incubator Grand Challenge with an objective to support creation of successful world class incubators in India.

New Textile Policy – 2020

(Topic: Start-up, Manufacturing and export)

Government is formulating a New Textile Policy for overall development of the sector. Inputs from all the state governments, individuals through e-portal and different associations are being solicited under broad topics like cotton, silk, jute, wool, man-made fibre, handloom, handicrafts, powerloom, technical textiles, technology & machinery upgradation, infrastructure (spinning, weaving & processing) and human resource development.

Over a period of time, textile industry is facing some problems like technological obsolesce, high input cost (power & capital), poor access to credit, fragmented units, absence of fibre neutrality etc.  

Silk Samagra Scheme for Development of Sericulture

Sericulture is an agro-based cottage industry having huge employment and income generating potential in rural and semi-urban areas. Silkworm rearing is mainly practiced in rural areas of the country providing livelihood to weaker section of the society.  

Around 12,03,942 farming families and 56,013 reeler families are involved in Sericulture related activities in the country. 

The Government of India through Central Silk Board has been implementing a Central Sector Scheme “Silk Samagra” an Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry (ISDSI) during the year (2017-20) with an aims & objective to scale up production by improving the quality and productivity and to empower downtrodden, poor & backward families through various activities of sericulture in the country. The scheme comprises four (4) major Components viz. 

(i) Research & Development, Training, Transfer of Technology and I.T. Initiatives

(ii) Seed Organizations

(iii) Coordination and Market Development

(iv) Quality Certification Systems (QCS)/Export Brand Promotion and Technology Up-gradation

Modernisation of Jute Mills

There is an urgent need for modernization of jute mills and jute diversified producing – MSME units. Modernization will lead to increase productivity of jute machinery and making them efficient by replacing old machines by new and technologically advanced machines.

Government of India through National Jute Board is implementing Incentive Scheme for Acquisition of Plant & Machinery (ISAPM).  

  • An incentive of 20% of the cost of new machinery for jute mill and 30% for JDP – MSME units is considered for reimbursement, subject to maximum of Rs 2.50 crore per unit. 
  • Under the scheme, Capital Subsidy amounting to Rs 4933 lakh to jute mills and JDP units has been released during 2014-15 to 2018-19.

For the revival of jute mills, some major steps have been taken by the Government some of which are:

  1. Imposition of Anti-Dumping Duty:  Government of India also imposed Anti-Dumping Duty to protect Indian Jute growers and farmers. After the imposition of Anti-dumping duty from 2017, an additional demand of 2 lakh Metric Tonnes has been generated in the domestic market for the jute industry, which has led to the reopening of more than 10 Jute Twine Mills located in Andhra Pradesh, benefitting 20,000 workmen directly and indirectly. Therefore, Anti-dumping duty has served to protect the interests of Indian Jute Industry and the persons engaged in the industry.
  2. Jute Packaging Materials (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) Act, 1987: Under the Jute Packaging Materials (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) [JPM Act], 1987, Government specifies the commodities and the extent to which they are mandatorily required to be packed in Jute Packaging Materials. At present, a minimum of 100% of food grains and a minimum of 20% of sugar are to be compulsorily packed in jute sacking. On an average, the annual Government support to jute industry on this account amounts to Rs.7500 crores.    
  3. Inclusion of jute products under Technical Textiles items:- Recently, Directorate General of foreign Trade (DGFT) has issued a Notification in 2019 incorporating 207 items as Technical Textiles out of which 15 items are related with jute.
  4. Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Raw Jute and Mesta:- Minimum Support Price for raw jute and mesta is fixed every year to protect the interest of farmers. While fixing prices of different grades, the issue of discouraging production of lower grade jute and encouraging production of higher grades jute are taken into consideration so as to motivate farmers to produce higher grade jute.
  5. Incentive Scheme for Acquisition of Select Machinery:- To increase the productivity of the jute machinery and make them efficient by replacing the old machines by new and technologically advanced machines, NJB has been implementing schemes for modernization of jute industry. During the Jute Technology Mission (JTM) (2007-2013), a scheme known as ‘Acquisition of Plant and Machinery’ (APM) (Capital subsidy) was instrumental in bringing in investment of more than Rs. 500 crore. Considering success of the JTM scheme, the Incentive Scheme for Acquisition of Plant and Machinery was launched in 2013. The scheme in its present form is valid upto 31st March 2020.
  6. On- Going Scheme for Jute Farmers: JUTE –ICARE: This pilot project launched in 2015 is aimed at addressing the difficulties faced by the jute cultivators by providing them certified seeds at subsidized rates, seed drills to facilitate line sowing, nail-weeders to carry out periodic weeding and by popularising several newly developed retting technologies under water limiting conditions. This has resulted in increased returns to jute farmers. Encouraged by the success of this pilot project, the project has been extended till 31st March, 2020. This Ministry has given a total of Rs. 45.35 crore grant to NJB for a period of three years (2017-18 to 2019-20).
  7. Usage of Jute Geo-Textiles (JGT) in NER States:- Jute geotextiles being technical textiles is an eco-compatible solution to crucial geotechnical problems such as Soil erosion, Consolidation of Soft Soil, Construction of Rural Roads and for agro-textile applications. Continuous interactive awareness programmes have been organized with the Engineers and other stakeholders in various states including North East for increasing uses of jute geotextiles. The progress in application of jute geotextiles includes, 118 rural roads (approx. 900 K.Ms) under PMGSY, 36 flood embankments in West Bengal, 9 roads in UP (43 K.Ms) under constructions, 2 river embankments in Bihar under constructions, 1 road in Tamil Nadu (2.8 K.Ms) under PMGSY and Indian Railway used about 46 lakhs sq.mtrs. of JGT has strengthening embankment.
  8. Measures for the benefit of workers, artisans and small producers and for promotion of the jute industry:

(a) Export Market Development Assistance Scheme to facilitate registered manufacturer exporters of jute products to participate in international fairs and take business delegations abroad for export promotion of lifestyle and other diversified jute products.

(b) Jute Integrated Development Scheme (JIDS) aims at setting up local units and agencies at distant locations around the country through collaboration with bona-fide bodies to carry out various activities. JID agencies act as a facilitator for rendering the backward and forward linkages to the existing and potential entrepreneurs, imparting awareness and training at grass-root levels mainly on technology application and design /product development and disseminations. JID agencies are also a prime source for market facilitation to the Jute Diversified Products (JDP) units, SHGs, WSHGs, NGOs.

(c) Jute Raw Material Bank (JRMB) Scheme aims at accelerating the pace of JDP activities in the country by catering to the jute unorganised sector and the production units so that jute raw material is supplied to them regularly at economic rates i.e. mill gate price plus actual transportation cost, to help them manufacture high value products, both for domestic and international markets.

(d) Retail Outlet of Jute Diversified Products Scheme for providing assistance to jute entrepreneurs for opening of outlets of jute lifestyle jute products in Metro Cities, State capitals, District Head Offices and Tourist spots.

(e) Design Development Scheme – NJB Jute Design Cell at NID for development of Jute Shopping Bags and Lifestyle Accessories has also been set up at the Innovative Centre for Natural Fibres (ICNF) of NID (National Institute of Design), Ahmedabad whose prime objective is to develop newer and innovative Products through design and technology intervention for value addition and better market at home and abroad. NID has already developed more than 100 woven, dyed, finished samples for jute lifestyle accessories and has showcased low cost jute carry bags as an alternative against plastic bags, collapsible Jute bags, etc. Jute bags, namely, fashion bags, Tote bags, foldable hand bags at various fairs, exhibitions in domestic and international markets.

     9. Focused Market Initiatives for organising and participation in Jute Fairs, National Fairs / Regional Fairs, Export oriented fairs in India & abroad to extend marketing support to the artisans, small and micro entrepreneurs:

(a) Skill Development Program: Various Skill Development programmes are conducted for providing training on manufacture of jute diversified products to correctional homes like inmates of Tihar Jail, New Delhi, families/beneficiaries of the Delhi Police, Border Security Force (BSF) and other institutions. Many of the beneficiaries have started production and marketing of jute products with the support of NJB.

(b) Continuous Market Support is provided to jute artisans, entrepreneurs, weavers, NGOs, Women Self Help Groups for selling, marketing and promotion of their products in India and abroad. The fairs organized by NJB are means of livelihood to these groups of people. 

(c) Development & Promotion of Jute Diversified Products:- Several steps have been taken for promoting better agronomic practices in jute farming, promotion of the Jute Diversified Products (JDPs) and their marketing, support for technological up-gradation of jute mills, etc.

(d) Subsidy Scheme for Distribution of Certified Seeds:- This is a scheme for distributing certified jute seeds to the farmers. Certified jute seeds are being distributed at a subsidy of Rs. 40/kg under the scheme. The network of Jute Corporation of India (JCI) is being utilized for implementation of the scheme. The scheme aims at improving the quality and productivity of raw jute and fetching better returns to the farmers.

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS)

The Government is implementing Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS), a credit linked Capital Investment Subsidy (CIS) scheme during 2016 to 2022 with an outlay of Rs. 17822 crore to catalyze capital investments for technology upgradation and modernization of the textile industry.

  • The scheme promotes ease of doing business in the country and achieve the vision of generating employment and promoting exports through “Make in India’’ with “Zero effect and Zero defect” in manufacturing. 
  • The scheme facilitates augmenting of investment, productivity, quality, employment, exports along with import substitution in the textile industry. 
  • It also indirectly promotes investment in textile machinery (having benchmarked technology) manufacturing. 

Scheme for Production and Employment Linked Support for Garmenting Units (SPELSGU) under ATUFS: To incentivize production and employment generation in the garmenting sector vide


Steps Taken to Boost Export

(Topic: Start-up, Manufacturing and export)

Primary focus: 

  • To refund duties and taxes levied on inputs used in production of export products
  • Reduce cost disability by providing incentives to specified products
  • Improve all-round ease of doing business
  • Enhancing competitiveness and growth in exports of all products groups across all destinations

Government is taking holistic measures to make exports competitive whether it is ensuring access to affordable credit, initiating exporter friendly schemes, promoting districts as export hubs, improving logistics and improving utilisation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

In order to boost India’s exports, Government has taken several steps, including:

  • A new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20 was launched which rationalised the earlier export promotion schemes and introduced two new schemes, namely Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) for improving export of goods and ‘Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS)’ for increasing exports of services. Duty credit scrips issued under these schemes were made fully transferable.
  • Incentives for labour intensive / MSME sectors were increased by 2%.
  • A new Logistics Division was created in the Department of Commerce for integrated development of the logistics sector. India’s rank in World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index moved up from 54 in 2014 to 44 in 2018.
  • Interest Equalization Scheme on pre and post shipment rupee export credit was introduced, providing interest equalisation at 3% for labour intensive / MSME sectors. The rate was increased to 5% for MSME sectors with effect from 2018 and merchant exporters were covered under the scheme with effect from 2019.
  • For improving ease of doing business, online issuance of Importer Exporter Codes (IEC), has been started. India’s rank in World Bank ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking improved from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019 with the rank in ‘trading across borders’ moving up from 122 to 80.
  • A new scheme called “Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES)” was launched with effect from 2017 to address the export infrastructure gaps in the country.
  • A comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” was launched on 6th December, 2018 with an aim to double farmers’ income by 2022 and provide an impetus to agricultural exports.
  • A new scheme called “Transport and Marketing Assistance” (TMA) has been launched for mitigating disadvantage of higher cost of transportation for export of specified agriculture products.

Protecting IP Intensive Industries

(Topic: IP and industry)

Intellectual Property (IP) intensive industry is not defined. But the Department has taken various initiatives to strengthen Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Regime in India like legislative improvements, modernisation of IP offices, manpower augmentation, use of IT and technology, e-filing of applications, acceptance of email in all IPO transactions, online delivery of certificates of grant/registration of patent, trademark and designs in digital format, use of video-conferencing for hearing of IP applications, SMS alert to get updates, expedited examination of IP applications, spreading awareness in IPR, India’s accession to WIPO administered treaties, signing of pilot Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) project with Japan in the month of December 2019.

Impacts of the initiatives:

  • Period of examination of new Trademarks applications has been reduced from 13 months to less than 30 days
  • Trademark is registered in less than 7 months, if there are no objections or opposition filed, as compared to 3-5 years required earlier
  • 11.25 lakh trademark registrations in just four and half years (2015 to 2019)   as compared to 11 lakh registrations during 75 Years (1940-2015)
  • Patent examination increased from 22631 in 2014-15 to 85426 in 2018-19
  • Time required for patent examination reduced from average 72 months in 2014- 2015 to average around 36 months in 2019
  • Grant of patents has increased from 5,978 in 2014-15 to 15,283 in 2018-19
  • The Government of India has been working steadily to improve India’s ranking in Global Innovation Index (GII) and this is evident from the fact that India has been consistently moving up on global ranking in past few years. India’s ranking has improved from 81 in 2015 to 52 in 2019 in GII
  • Amendments in IP Acts are considered by the Government of India as and when deemed necessary

Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 Introduced in the Lok Sabha

(Topic: Schemes in Infrastructure – Ports)

The Bill seeks to provide for regulation, operation and planning of Major Ports in India and to vest the administration, control and management of such ports upon the Boards of Major Port Authorities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi had approved the proposal of Ministry of Shipping to replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 by the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020.  This will empower the Major Ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernizing the institutional framework of Major Ports.

Aim:

  • Decentralizing decision making and to infuse professionalism in governance of major ports
  • Helps to impart faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability
  • Reorienting the governance model in central ports to landlord port model in line with the successful global practice
  • Help in bringing transparency in operations of Major Ports

Features:

  • The Bill is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections has been reduced to 76 from 134 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete Sections.
  • The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority which will comprise of 11 to 13 Members from the present 17 to 19 Members representing various interests.  A compact Board with professional independent Members will strengthen decision making and strategic planning. Provision has been made for inclusion of representative of State Government in which the Major Port is situated, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Defence and Customs, Department of Revenue as Members in the Board apart from a Government Nominee Member and a Member representing the employees of the Major Port Authority.
  • The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined.  Port Authority has now been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects.  PPP operators will be free to fix tariff based on market conditions. The Board of Port Authority has been delegated the power to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
  • An Adjudicatory Board has been proposed to be created to carry out the residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for Major Ports, to look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires, to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to revive such projects and to look into complaints regarding services rendered by the ports/ private operators operating within the ports would be constituted.
  • The Boards of Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff except in national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default.  In the present MPT Act, 1963 prior approval of the Central Government was required in 22 instances.
  • The Board of each Major Port shall be entitled to create specific master plan in respect of any development or infrastructure established or proposed to be established within the port limits and the land appurtenant thereto and such master plan shall be independent of any local or State Government regulations of any authority whatsoever. 
  • Provisions of CSR & development of infrastructure by Port Authority have been introduced.
  • Provision has been made for safeguarding the pay & allowances and service conditions including pensionary benefits of the employees of major ports and Tariff of Major Ports.

GS-3

Groundwater affects Himalayan slip and climate as the mountains dance to its tune

(Topic: Climate change)

Researchers from Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, have found the mighty Himalayas subside and move up depending on the seasonal changes in groundwater. Since Himalayas play a very important role in influencing climate in the Indian subcontinent, the study funded by DST will help in understanding how hydrology affects climate.

The Himalayan foothills and the Indo-Gangetic plain are sinking because its contiguous areas are rising due to tectonic activity associated with landmass movement or continental drift.

The new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research shows that subsidence and uplift are found to be associated with seasonal changes in groundwater, apart from the normal, common reasons. Water acts as a lubricating agent, and hence when there is water in the dry season, the rate of slip of the fault in this region is reduced.

Nobody till now has looked at the rising Himalayas from a hydrological standpoint. Ajish Saji, working towards his Ph.D. under Prof Sunil Sukumaran, has looked at this phenomenon through this innovative prism. The water storage and surface load variations are quite tricky to quantify through the application of extant global models.

In the Himalaya, seasonal water from glaciers, as well as monsoon precipitation, plays a key role in the deformation of the crust and the seismicity associated with it. The subsidence rate is associated with groundwater consumption.

The researchers have made the combined use of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data, which has made it possible for them to quantify the variations of hydrologic mass. The GRACE satellites, launched by the US in 2002, monitor changes in water and snow stores on the continents. This made it possible for the IIG team to study terrestrial hydrology.

Groundwater affects Himalayan slip and climate as the mountains dance to its tune

Groundwater affects Himalayan slip and climate as the mountains dance to its tune

A Schematic illustration of the study area in a GPS and GRACE satellite perspective view

According to the researchers, the combined GPS and GRACE data suggest a 12% reduction in the rate of the subsurface slip. This slip refers to how fast the fault is slipping relative to the foot and hanging wall. 

The slip occurs at the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT), due to hydrological variations and human activities, over which there is the periodic release of accumulated strain.


Sewage Water Treatment

(Topic: Waste Management, Environment)

Discharge of untreated & partially treated sewage and industrial effluent is primary cause of pollution of river and water bodies.  As per the report published by Central pollution Control Board (CPCB) in March, 2015; sewage generation from urban areas in the country is estimated at 61, 948 million litres per day (mld), against which available sewage treatment capacity was 23,277 mld.

Discharge of raw sewage into water bodies cause depletion of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) in river and thus, adversely impact aquatic life. Cleaning of river through proper sewage management is a continuous process and Central Government is supplementing the efforts of the State Governments and Union Territories in addressing the challenges of pollution of rivers by providing financial and technical assistance  through schemes like National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and Namami Gange.

  • Operation and maintenance (O&M) of STP and sewage pumping station is the responsibility of the State Governments/Urban local body concerned
  • Lack of adequate sewer networks & house connection and unsatisfactory operation and maintenance are major reasons for underutilization of sewage treatment plants (STPs). Central Government has been regularly asking the States to improve the performance of STPs
  • In addition, CPCB had issued directions to the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 asking them to issue directions to Local Authorities responsible for sewage management in their respective cities/towns and to submit time bound action plans for collection, transportation and treatment of sewage generated in urban area
  • CPCB has also issued directions to Local Authorities under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for sewage management in Class I Cities and Class II towns and asked them to ensure that treated waste water is disposed in rivers and water bodies in accordance with the stipulated standards

Share of Gas in the Energy Basket

(Topic: Energy)

Natural Gas being an alternative cleaner fossil fuel has a major role in catering the growing energy demand in a sustainable manner. 

To increase the share of gas in the primary energy mix of the country, Government is progressively taking steps to enhance domestic gas production and develop requisite gas infrastructure including gas pipelines, city gas distribution networks and import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals. 

The initiatives to develop eco-system of gas infrastructure across the country have a potential of investment of about Rs. 2.00 lakh crore in Gas Grid, LNG Terminal and City Gas Distribution (CGD) networks in next 5-8 years. As per the present policy, Government is meeting the entire requirement of CNG (Transport) and PNG (Domestic) segment of CGD networks by supplying domestic gas, which is cheaper than imported gas.

Government has taken several policy measures/initiatives to enhance exploration & production of oil and gas in the country which include:

  • Policy for Relaxations, Extensions and Clarifications under Production Sharing Contract (PSC) regime for early monetization of hydrocarbon discoveries, 2014
  • Discovered Small Field Policy, 2015
  • Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, 2016
  • Policy for Extension of Production Sharing Contracts, 2016 and 2017       
  • Policy for early monetization of Coal Bed Methane, 2017
  • Setting up of National Data Repository, 2017 of Unapprised areas in Sedimentary Basins
  • Re-assessment of Hydrocarbon Resources
  • Policy framework to streamline the working of Production Sharing Contracts in Pre-NELP and NELP Blocks, 2018
  • Policy to Promote and Incentivize Enhanced Recovery Methods for Oil and Gas Policy framework for exploration and exploitation of Unconventional Hydrocarbons under existing Production Sharing Contracts, Coal Bed Methane contracts and Nomination fields, 2018

In addition, Government in February, 2019 approved major reforms in exploration and licensing policy to enhance exploration activities, attract domestic and foreign investment in unexplored/unallocated areas of sedimentary basins and accelerate domestic production of oil and gas from existing fields. The policy reforms inter alia aim to boost exploration activities with greater weightage to work programme, simplified fiscal and contractual terms, bidding of exploration blocks under Category II and III sedimentary basins without any production or revenue sharing to Government. 

Further, reforms envisage simplified fiscal incentives and incentivizing gas production including marketing and pricing freedom. The policy also provides more functional freedom to National Oil Companies for collaboration and private sector participation for production enhancement methods in nomination fields. Streamlining approval processes and promoting ease of doing business including electronic single window mechanism is also an important aspect of policy reforms.


Parliament Passes the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020

(Topic: Schemes in the Energy sector)

Parliament passed The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for amendments in Mines & Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.

The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020, will open a new era in Indian coal & mining sector specially to promote Ease of Doing Business. The Bill will transform the mining sector in the country boosting coal production and reducing dependence on imports.

  • Companies which do not possess any prior coal mining experience in India and/or have mining experience in other minerals or in other countries can participate in auction of coal/lignite blocks. This will not only increase participation in coal/lignite block auctions, but also facilitate the implementation of FDI policy in the coal sector.
  • The Bill also allows prospecting licence-cum-mining lease (PL-cum-ML) for coal/lignite which increases the availability of coal & lignite blocks, and coal blocks of varying grades in a wide geographical distribution will be available for allocation.
  • The successful bidders/allottees have now been entitled to utilize mined coal in any of its plants or plants of its subsidiary or holding company. Amendments also provide for allocation of the coal mine to the next successful bidder or allottee, subsequent to termination of its allocation along with the matters incidental to it. A provision has also been made for appointment of designated custodian for management of the mines, apart from Schedule II mines, which have come under production and whose vesting/ allotment order has been cancelled.
  • With the amendments, environment and forest clearances along with other approvals and clearances shall automatically get transferred to the new owners of mineral blocks for a period of two years from the date of grant of new lease. This will allow new owners to continue with hassle free mining operations. During the period, they may apply for the fresh licence beyond the period of two years.
  • The auction of lease of mines can now be started before expiry of lease period. It will enable the state government to take advance action for auction of mineral blocks so that the new lease holder could be decided before the existing lease gets expired. This will help in seamless production of minerals in the country.
  • The new provisions will also augment the exploration of the deep seated minerals and minerals of national interest by allowing Non Exclusive Reconnaissance Permit (NERP) holders to apply for composite licence or Mining Lease (PL-cum-ML).Various repetitive and redundant provisions of MMDR Act and CMSP Act have also been omitted for Ease of Doing Business.

The Bill replaces the ordinance for amendment of the MMDR Act 1957 and CMSP Act which was promulgated on 10th January 2020.


Cost-effective technology can convert solar energy to industrial process heat

(Topic: New technology – energy)

Scientists from the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, an autonomous institution under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have developed a cost-effective solar receiver tube technology for industrial process heat applications.

The receiver tube technology developed by the ARCI team efficiently absorbs solar radiation and converts it into heat for the targeted applications, especially in industries. It exhibits high corrosion resistance suitable for Indian weather conditions.

Scientists from ARCI have developed a cost-effective wet chemical process to prepare absorber coating on stainless steel tubes suitable for industrial process heat applications.  The receiver tube achieved around 93 % absorptance (effectiveness in absorbing radiant energy, It is the ratio of the absorbed to the incident radiant power) and around 14 % emittance (amount of light, emitted by an area of the surface of a radiating body) along with good thermal stability and high corrosion resistance. The absorber coating has been successfully validated for heat gain and heat loss studies in a testing facility established at ARCI.

Two patent applications have been filed for this technology, and an MoU has been signed with M/s. Greenera Energy India Private Limited for technology transfer, which plans to mass-produce the solar receiver tube for wider market absorption.


ARI Scientists Study methane-oxidizing bacteria for methane mitigation and value addition

(Topic: New technology – Agriculture and environment)

Scientists at Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, have isolated 45 different strains of methanotrophic bacteria which have been found to be capable of reducing methane emissions from rice plants.

  • Methanotrophs metabolise and convert methane into carbon-di-oxide. They can effectively reduce the emission of methane, which is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG) and 26 times more potent as compared to carbon-di-oxide.  
  • In rice fields, methanotrophs are active near the roots or soil-water interfaces.
  • Rice fields are human-made wetlands and are waterlogged for a considerable period. Anaerobic degradation of organic matter results in the generation of methane. Rice fields contribute to nearly 10% of global methane emissions.
  • Preliminary experiments indicated that when methanotrophs were inoculated rice plants showed lower methane emissions, higher methane oxidation potential and better/ neutral effect on plant growth.

Besides methane mitigation studies, methanotrophs can also be used in methane value addition (valorization) studies. Bio-methane generated from waste can be used by the methanotrophs and can be converted to value-added products such as single-cell proteins, carotenoids, biodiesel, and so on. The team is further working on methane valorization studies from the isolated methanotrophs. Such studies help reduce GHG emissions, especially anthropogenic or man-made emissions, which a pressing need in the age of global warming.


Scientists explore gut microbial diversity in healthy pregnant women and infants

(Topic: Technology – Human health)

The influence of the gut microbial community (gut microbiota) on various aspects of human health, has been gaining increasing attention of researchers in recent times. This community, which comprises various types of microbes including several useful ones, is shaped by different factors from the time an individual is born. 

Alterations in this community have been found to be associated with physiological, metabolic, and immunological changes, and to correlate with conditions of health and disease. It is now recognized that understanding the changes that this community undergoes during the crucial stages of life could play a big role in determining and predicting the health status of an individual. 

Pregnancy is a unique biological stage, with the body undergoing multiple changes simultaneously, including weight gain, as well as metabolic, hormonal, and immunological changes. Recent studies suggest that alterations in the gut microbiome may be associated with unhealthy pregnancy, complications in pregnancy, or poor birth outcomes. Hence, deeper insights into the microbial alterations occurring during pregnancy would be valuable.

Exploratory investigations carried out by Dr. Yogesh Shouche and his group at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune, have provided glimpses into the changes occurring in the gut microbiota during the two vital stages in human life – pregnancy and infancy

  • They studied the gut microbial communities from twenty healthy Indian mother-infant dyads at different stages of pregnancy and early infancy, using tools of molecular biology, called high throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
  • They did not observe major changes in the overall gut bacterial diversity and composition during pregnancy. 
  • However, the alterations observed in infants between the period from birth to six months of age were quite significant. In general, a reduction was observed in the bacteria belonging to the genera, Staphylococcus and Enterococcus, along with an increase in bacteria belonging to the genera, Bifidobacterium. 
  • The microbial community appeared to be more stable at the age of six months, with a gut microbiota composition somewhat similar to the mothers’, indicating a shift towards a mature and stable adult-like gut environment.
  • The group also assessed the influence of maternal factors like socioeconomic status and type of diet, on the maternal gut microbial composition, and the impact of the mode of birth and type of feeding on infant gut microbial diversity. Their findings suggest that mothers who consumed a mixed diet (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) had a higher and significantly different gut microbial diversity, than those following a strict vegetarian diet.

These findings could serve as a basis to design a comprehensive study to further investigate if and how maternal diet could influence pregnancy and shape the maternal as well as infant gut bacterial diversity in the Indian population. The other maternal and infant-associated factors studied by them did not appear to influence the gut bacterial diversity of mothers during pregnancy or infants during early infancy.

Unlike other similar studies done with the Indian population, which were mainly intervention-based or disease-associated investigations, Dr. Shouche’s group studied the gut microbial profiles in healthy mother-infant dyads, which therefore reveal the types of organisms associated with normal health conditions in pregnancy and infancy. Though preliminary, the findings of these studies have provided a basis for designing further investigations on larger cohorts to gain deeper insights into the associations of gut bacterial diversity with other host-associated factors. 


Scientists pave way for potential new therapy for tongue cancer

(Topic: Technology – Human health)

A new therapy for tongue cancer could be in the offing, with a team of scientists at the Department of Biotechnology’s Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics coming out with a new insight into the mechanism by which an anti-cancer protein helps in the development of cancer when it mutates.

Human cells carry a protein called p53. It is very helpful as it controls several fundamental processes including cell division and repair of damaged DNA. It functions by binding directly to DNA leading to the production of proteins needed for regular cellular functions as well as effectively blocking cancer development.

However, its ability to prevent cancer is significantly compromised, if it mutates. More importantly, recent studies have reported that some specific and common mutated p53 forms even activate cancer growth.

  • In a new study, scientists at CDFD have identified rare p53 mutant forms unique to Indian tongue cancer and the likely means by which these mutant p53 cause cancer. 
  • For this, they collected tongue cancer samples from post-surgery patients and screened them for modifications in a gene called TP53. 
  • The gene is a sequence of nucleotides (building blocks) in the DNA that code for the production of the p53 protein.
  • Further, by using state of the art technologies, they identified target genes of the mutant p53 protein. 
  • Of these, a gene called SMARCD1 was the most prominent. SMARCD1 encodes a protein that along with several other proteins constitutes a multi-protein complex involved in changing the structure of DNA enabling the production of proteins from genes. 
  • Surprisingly, the scientists found that SMARCD1 was an exclusive target of mutations observed in Indian tongue cancer patients. Further studies showed the ability of SMARCD1 to increase cancerous features in tongue cancer cells.

The results of the study can be employed to develop therapies to treat tongue cancer, a common debilitating cancer in India.


Relationship between obesity and colon cancer explored at the molecular level

(Topic: Technology and findings – Human health)

Obesity per se does not cause cancer. But, the behaviour and prognosis of cancer can vary depending on whether or not the cancer patient is co-morbidly obese. Many different factors can cause obesity. One of the major reasons is genetic in nature. 

A mutations or small changes in the DNA can make one obese by making an important signalling pathway called the leptin signalling pathway non-functional. Leptin signalling pathway is involved in regulating food intake, energy consumption and body fat content, by mediating communication of the gut and fat cells with the brain.

To determine whether obesity resulting from leptin deficiency could have any influence on cancer, Dr. Manoj Kumar Bhat and his research team at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune studied the differences in the incidence and progression of colon cancer when it occurs in association with genetically-linked obesity, vis-a-vis when it occurs in association with diet-induced obesity.

Their studies in laboratory-bred mice revealed significant differences between these two groups. Further, these differences were found to be strongly correlated with the balance between two important molecules, leptin and TNF alpha, which influence the growth of cancer cells. These studies were carried out with approval from the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee, following humane and ethical procedures as per the applicable rules. They have provided valuable insights into the molecular connections underlying the relationship of diet-induced and genetics-associated obesity with colon cancer. These findings warrant further exploration through more in-depth clinical studies, to determine if they have any implications in and relevance to the management of cancers.


New approach to speed up red blood cells generation in the lab

(Topic: Technology and findings – Human health)

Transfusion of red blood cells (RBCs) is a life-saving treatment for numerous conditions such as severe anaemia, injury-related trauma, supportive care in cardiovascular surgery, transplant surgery, pregnancy-related complications, solid malignancies and blood-related cancers. 

However, blood banks particularly in developing countries often face a severe shortage of whole blood as well as components of blood like red blood cells.

  • Researchers across the world are exploring possibilities to generate RBCs outside the body (in vitro) from haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). 
  • These HSCs have the capability to give rise to the different types of cells found in the blood.
  • Various groups have been able to produce RBCs in the laboratory from HSCs. However, the process takes a long time – around twenty-one days. 
  • The resources required to grow cells in the laboratory over such a long duration can be very expensive for generation of RBCs on a large scale for clinical purposes.

National Biopharma Mission

(Topic: Technology – Human health)

The National Biopharma Mission (NBM) is an industry-Academia Collaborative Mission for accelerating biopharmaceutical development in the country. 

Under this Mission the Government has launched Innovate in India (i3) programme to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector. The mission will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC). The mission was approved in 2017 at a total cost of Rs 1500 crore and is 50% co-funded by World Bank loan

  • Development of product leads for Vaccines, Biosimilars and Medical Devices that are relevant to the public health need by focussing on managed partnerships
  • Upgradation of shared infrastructure facilities and establishing them as centres of product discovery/discovery validations and manufacturing
  • Develop human capital by providing specific trainings to address the critical skills gap among the nascent biotech companies across the product development value chain in areas such as Product development, intellectual property registration, technology transfer and regulatory standards.
  • Technology Transfer Offices: To help enhance industry academia inter-linkages and provide increased opportunities for academia, innovators and entrepreneurs to translate knowledge into products and technologies5 Technology Transfer Offices are being considered for funding under NBM.

Defence Corridors

(Topic: Defence related news)

  • Two Defence Industrial Corridors in the Country, one in Uttar Pradesh and another in Tamil Nadu will be set up.
  • Setting up of Defence Industrial Corridors would catalyse indigenous production of defence and aerospace related items, thereby reducing our reliance on imports and promoting export of these items to other countries.  This will lead to achieve India’s goal of self-reliance in defence, generation of direct/indirect employment opportunities and growth of private domestic manufacturers, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Star-ups.

Export of Tejas Fighter Jet

(Topic: Defence)

HAL is currently producing Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) – Tejas, to meet Indian Air Force requirements.  In order to export LCA to other friendly countries, the following activities have been carried out:-

  1. The platform has been showcased by way of flying displays at various foreign exhibitions and also briefing about the platform has been given to various foreign delegations who have visited HAL facilities.
  2. The company has responded to Request for Information (RFI) from overseas.  Formal Request for Quotation (RFQ) has not been received in order to process the proposal.

Modernisation of Armed Forces

(Topic: Defence)

Government is taking measures for modernisation of the Armed Forces, through procurement of new equipment and upgrading of existing equipment so as to ensure that the Armed Forces are equipped to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges.  The modernisation projects are progressed as per the approved Capital Acquisition Plans and in terms of the extant Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).

Capital procurement of defence equipment is undertaken from various domestic as well as foreign vendors, based on threat perception, operational challenges and technological changes and to keep the Armed Forces in a state of readiness.

During the last three years and in the current year, 197 contracts have been signed for capital procurement/upgradation of defence equipment for Armed Forces such as Missiles, Aircraft, Artillery guns, Assault Rifles, Radars, Rockets, Helicopters, Weapons, Simulators, Ballistic Helmets, Bullet Proof Jackets and Electronic Fuzes and Ammunition.

Prelims oriented News

Nari Shakti Puraskar: The Nari Shakti Puraskar, instituted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, are “National Award in recognition of exceptional work for women empowerment” conferred every year on March 8 as a mark of respect and recognition for those who have demonstrated exemplary courage and stellar contribution towards empowerment of women. Click here to read in detail

The WOS-A scheme provides platform to women scientists and technologists for pursuing research in basic or applied sciences and offer them opportunity to work as bench-level scientists. This scheme plays pivotal role in gender mainstreaming and also training and retaining women in the system as well as prevents brain drain from S&T system. The support is available in five disciplines under WOS-A are namely, Physical & Mathematical Sciences (PMS), Chemical Sciences (CS), Life Sciences (LS), Earth & Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) and Engineering Technology (ET)

Sagarmala Programme

The Sagarmala programme is the flagship programme of the Ministry of Shipping to promote port-led development in the country through harnessing India’s 7,500 km long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes. The main vision of the Sagarmala Programme is to reduce logistics cost for EXIM and domestic trade with minimal infrastructure investment.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan DhanYojana (PM-KMY)

  • To provide social security to Small and Marginal Farmers in their old age when they have no means of livelihood and minimal or no savings to take care of their expenses
  • Under this scheme, a minimum fixed pension of Rs.3,000/- is provided to the small and marginal farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria, on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • Small and Marginal Farmers between the age of 18 to 40 years are eligible to join this scheme. For enrollment, the eligible farmer is required to approach the nearest Common Service Center (CSC) or the Nodal Officer (PM-Kisan) nominated by the State / UT Governments. 
  • It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme. The eligible farmer is required to contribute to a Pension Fund between Rs.55 to Rs.200 per month depending on the entry age. The Central Government also contributes in equal amount to the Pension Fund.

Formation and Promotion of Farmer Produce Organizations (FPOs)

Aim: To form and promote 10,000 new FPOs

  • Under the scheme, a total number of 2000 FPOs have been proposed to be formed in 2020-21. 
  • No state-wise target has been decided as the FPOs will be formed based on justified produce clusters. 
  • Under the scheme, it will be ensured that adequate support is extended to States of North East and hilly areas to offset deficiency in specialized manpower and expertise available in such areas. 
  • The minimum members per FPO in case of plain areas will be 300; while in North-Eastern and Hilly Region, it will be 100.

Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries

The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying is implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries, for overall development of the fisheries sector in the country including support for development of fish farms in both fresh and salt water in the country. 

The CSS inter-alia provides financial assistance for development of fisheries and aquaculture sector including 

  • Construction of ponds
  • Fish seed rearing ponds
  • Productive utilization of inland saline/alkaline areas for aquaculture
  • Renovation of ponds
  • Development of waterlogged areas

During past five years between 2015 and 2019, a total area of 42632.40 Hectare has been brought under aquaculture in both fresh and saline water areas.

Steps to boost domestic investments in India

In order to protect, support and promote small enterprises as also to help them become self-supporting, a number of protective and promotional measures have been undertaken by the Government. The various types of help extended by different support agencies of the Government are 

  • Credit Support
  • Marketing Support 
  • Entrepreneurship Development
  • Technology Upgradation
  • Industrial Infrastructure
  • Technical Training
  • Institutional Structure
  • Assistance Programmes
  • Special incentives for setting up of Enterprises in backward areas etc.

While most of the institutional support services and incentives are provided by the Central Government, others are offered by the State Governments in varying degrees to attract investments and promote small industries with a view to enhance industrial-production and to generate employment in  their respective States.

Children of Prisoners

As per Section 2 (14) (vi) of the JJ Act, a child who does not have parents and no one is willing to take care of, or whose parents have abandoned or surrendered him is included as a “child in need of care and protection.” The Act provides a security net of service delivery structures including measures for institutional and non-institutional care to ensure comprehensive well-being of children in distress situations. The primary responsibility of execution of the Act lies with the States/UTs.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a centrally sponsored Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme (erstwhile Integrated Child Protection Scheme) for supporting the children in difficult circumstances. 

  • The primary responsibility of implementation of the scheme lies with the State Governments/UT Administrations. 
  • Under the scheme institutional care is provided through Child Care Institutes (CCIs), as a rehabilitative measure. 
  • The programmes and activities in Homes inter-alia include age-appropriate education, access to vocational training, recreation, health care, counselling etc. 
  • Under the non-institutional care component, support is extended for adoption, foster care and sponsorship. 
  • Further CPS also provides for “After care” services after the age of 18 years to help sustain them during the transition from institutional to independent life.

National Creche Scheme

National Creche Scheme (earlier named as Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme) is being implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through States/UTs to provide day care facilities to children (age group of 6 months to 6 years) of working mothers. The salient features of the National Creche Scheme are as follows:

  1. Day-care Facilities including Sleeping Facilities
  2. Early Stimulation for children below 3 years and pre-school Education for 3 to 6 years old children
  3. Supplementary Nutrition ( to be locally sourced)
  4. Growth Monitoring
  5. Health Check-up and Immunization

Further, the guidelines provide that:

  1. Crèches shall be open for 26 days in a month and for seven and half (7-1/2) hours per day
  1. The number of children in the crèche should not be more than 25 per crèche with 01 Worker and 01 helper respectively
  2. User charges to bring in an element of community ownership and collected as under: 
  • BPL families – Rs 20/- per child per month
  • Families with Income (Both Parents) of upto Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 100/- per child per month 
  • Families with Income (Both Parents) of above Rs. 12,000/- per month – Rs. 200/- per child per month

6453 creches are functional across the country under the National Creche Scheme.

Grants have been released to the State Governments/UT Administration for crèches found functional and taken over by them.

As on date, the Government of Kerala has taken over 479 creches under the erstwhile RGNCS and running under National Creche Scheme.

Regular and strict monitoring is conducted at different levels to ensure effective running of the scheme and also to ensure that the beneficiaries are delivered services as envisaged in the scheme. Monitoring of implementation of the scheme is being undertaken through meetings and video conferences with the officials of State Governments/ UT. Ministry officials undertake field visits to ascertain the status of implementation of the scheme. NITI Aayog conducts the third party evaluation.

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