PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 13th July to 19th July – 2020

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  • July 21, 2020
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Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC –13th July to 19th July, 2020



India on track to achieving the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) targets for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) & National Health Policy (NHP)

(Topic: Women and SDGs)

Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of India has declined by 9 points in one year as per the Special Bulletin on MMR released by the Registrar General of India. The ratio has declined from 122 in 2015-17 to 113 in 2016-18 (7.4 % decline). 

With this persistent decline, India is on track to achieving the SDG of 70/ lakh live births by 2030 and National Health Policy (NHP) target of 100/ live births by 2020. 

The number of states which have achieved the SDG target has now risen from 3 to 5 viz. Kerala (43), Maharashtra (46) Tamil Nadu (60), Telangana (63) and Andhra Pradesh (65).

There are eleven (11) States that have achieved the target of MMR set by the NHP which includes the above 5 and the states of Jharkhand (71), Gujarat (75), Haryana (91), Karnataka (92), West Bengal (98) and Uttarakhand (99).

The state of Rajasthan has shown the maximum decline of 22 points.

This success can be attributed to the intensive endeavor of the government in achieving impressive gains in institutional deliveries as well as focusing on quality and coverage of services under NHM through various schemes such as 

  • Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram: To benefit pregnant women who access Government health facilities for their delivery. Moreover it will motivate those who still choose to deliver at their homes to opt for institutional deliveries. Completely free and cashless services to pregnant women including normal deliveries and caesarean operations and sick new born (up to 30 days after birth) in Government health institutions in both rural and urban areas.
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana: Under JSY, pregnant women choosing to deliver at the hospital and the health worker who motivated her to take the decision get cash incentives- Rs.1,400 for the woman and Rs.600 for the Accredited Social Health Activist in rural areas and Rs.1,000 and Rs.200 respectively in urban areas.The motto of cash incentive was to reduce financial barriers to accessing institutional care for delivery.
  • LaQshya: MoHFW launched LaQshya to improve the quality of care that is being provided to the pregnant mother in the Labour Room and Maternity Operation Theatres, thereby preventing the undesirable adverse outcomes associated with childbirth. The goal is 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.
  • Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan: The program aims to provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.
  • Government of India also envisages rolling out the overarching SUMAN initiative including the midwifery initiative, assuring delivery of maternal and newborn healthcare services encompassing wider access to free and quality services, zero tolerance for denial of services along with respectful maternity care.


World Youth Skills Day

(Topic: Skill development; Education, Human Resources development)

World Youth Skills Day: 15th July

Youth should skill, reskill and upskill in order to remain relevant in the rapidly changing business environment and market conditions. 

An example – that knowing how a cycle runs is ‘knowledge’ while actually being able to ride a cycle was a ‘skill’. It is important for the youth to realize the difference between the two and their different contexts and implications.

Skill India Mission, launched five years back, has led to creation of a vast infrastructure for skilling, reskilling and upskilling and enhancing opportunities to access employment both locally and globally. It has led to hundreds of PM Kaushal Kendras being set up across the country and increase in the capacity of the ITI ecosystem. Due to these concerted efforts, more than five crore youth have been skilled in the last five years.

Increase in ITI capacity: There has been a substantial increase in the size of the ITI ecosystem, close to 5000 ITIs have been established over the last 5 years with total number of institutes close to 15,000.

Training Under Pradhan Mantri KaushalVikasYojana (PMKVY):

  • Under PMKVY, a total of 92 lakhs candidates have been trained so far across 37 sectors in more than 250 job roles PMKVY is a flagship scheme under MSDE.
  • A special focus was placed on the agricultural sector and 3.42 lakh were trained in special farming. Some special projects were also taken up under which 5514 Jail Inmates and 5549 misguided youth were trained in Delhi.

PMKK: To improve the quality of short-term training, 720+ Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras as Model Skill Centres were opened in 704 districts in India. These are based upon Aspiration, Quality and Self Sustainable principles.

International Collaboration: Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship met officials from counterparts working in skill development across countries like Singapore, UAE, Japan, Canada, Australia  to further build capacity for skilled workforce in the country, jointly work on transnational standards and bridging demand for skilled workforce in these countries by collaborating with them and supplying them with trained professionals.

Increased participation in Apprenticeship Programmes: Various initiatives taken on the Apprenticeship intervention saw a 44% increase in enrolment of apprentices and 10% increase in establishments participating in apprenticeship training, as compared to FY 18-19. A total of 8.61 lakhs people have been engaged under National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) with around 85,000 establishments hiring the apprentices.

Jan ShikshanSansthan (JSS) Scheme: During the last financial year, a total of 4.10 lakhs beneficiaries trained under JSS Scheme as compared to 1.67 lakhs trained during 2018-19, 2.5 times increase over a period of six months.

eSkill India Platform:  NSDC created an e-Skill India, a multilingual e-learning aggregator portal, providing e-skilling opportunities to the Indian youth. eSkill India leverages the skilling opportunities from Indian and global leaders in online learning, by consolidating online courses curated by leading knowledge organizations that share NSDC’s commitment of making India a Skill Capital of the World. 

Vision Report 2025: MSDE has prepared its Vision Report 2025 in consultation with various stakeholders. 

Initiatives for Women: To mark the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020, a two-year programme namely Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme was launched by MSDE at IIM Bangalore, Karnataka. The fellowship programme has been conceptualized under the World Bank loan assisted Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) Programme. Out of the total 75 Fellows selected, 32 are women candidates (43 % of the total).

Initiatives for COVID-19:

  1. A Task Force of the Ministry, which was constituted to plan the strategy in light of COVID, has submitted its report on 16/4/20, with its recommendations in the various areas including steps needed to be taken urgently for the growth of the sector, strategies for Framing Policies which were facing obstacles, preparation of Business Plan for Sector Players to start functioning, steps that Ministries can take for encouraging Make in India and to secure and increase India’s share in World exports.
  2. A number of innovations have been done by ITIs and NSTIs to assist the fight against COVID-19. These include design and development of design robot (to serve food/ medicine to patients) and tele-presentation robot (for enabling tele-monitoring and telemedicine) by ITI Cuttack. ITI Berhampur designed an Aerosol Box which tightly protects the face of the health provider. NSTI developed an aero blaster and handed it to the District Administration for sanitizing the city.

SWADES: A collaborative initiative of the Ministries of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Civil Aviation and External Affairs, SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) is a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission. SWADES aims to create a database of qualified citizens based on their skillsets and experience to tap into and fulfil demand of Indian and foreign companies.

ASEEM: In order to improve the information flow and bridge the demand-supply gap in the skilled workforce market, MSDE recently launched ‘Aatmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)’ portal to help skilled people find sustainable livelihood opportunities. The Artificial Intelligence-based platform has been envisioned to strengthen workforce career pathways by handholding them through their journeys to attain industry-relevant skills and explore emerging job opportunities. 

India–US Strategic Energy Partnership: Sustainable Growth Pillar India Energy Modeling Forum Launch

(Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests)

Sustainable Growth Pillar is an important pillar of India–US Strategic Energy Partnership co-chaired by NITI Aayog and USAID. The SG pillar entails energy data management, energy modelling and collaboration on low carbon technologies as three key activities.

In the joint working group meeting of the Sustainable Growth Pillar on July 2, 2020, an India Energy Modeling Forum was launched.

  • There exist energy modelling forums in different parts of the World. 
  • The Energy Modelling Forum (EMF) in USA was established in 1976 at Stanford University to connect leading modelling experts and decision makers from government, industry, universities, and other research organizations. 
  • The forum provides an unbiased platform to discuss the contemporary issues revolving around energy and environment.

In India, there was no formalized and systematic process of having a modeling forum. Even then, various think-tanks/research organizations like TERI, IRADe, CSTEP, CEEW, NCAER, etc., have been consistently developing scenarios and contributing through modelling studies and analyses to provide required inputs to MoEF&CC and other relevant ministries, including NITI Aayog.

The India Energy Modelling Forum will accelerate this effort and aim to:

  • Provide a platform to examine important energy and environmental related issues;
  • Inform decision-making process to the Indian government;
  • Improve cooperation between modelling teams, government, and knowledge partners, funders;
  • Facilitate exchange of ideas, ensure production of high-quality studies;
  • Identify knowledge gaps at different levels and across different areas;
  • Build capacity of Indian institutions.

NITI Aayog will initially coordinate the activities of the forum and finalizing its governing structure. The forum would include knowledge partners, data agencies and concerned government ministries.

Key Points discussed:

  • India and the United States have announced new areas of research on transformational power generation based on supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycles and advanced coal technologies, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).
  • Smart grids and energy storage is being implemented by consortium comprising of 30 Indian and US entities
  • Policy directions for the societal acceptance of smart grid concepts, Distributed Energy Resources, impact and value of the integrative solutions and emerging role of utilities as Distributed System Operators
  • Common priorities for collaboration evolved in Clean Coal Technologies, Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (sCO2) Power Cycles and Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage (CCUS) technologies

The United States and India share an all-of-the-above approach to energy security and energy access. The two countries recognise the importance of Clean Energy Research, Development and Innovation and are also leading joint research and development (R&D) through the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy-Research (PACE-R) on smart grids and energy storage to increase resilience and reliability of the electric grid.

15th India-EU (Virtual) Summit

(Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)

Focus areas: 

  • India and EU to restart free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations – Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) 
  • To conclude several agreements including – a roadmap for cooperation, an agreement on research sharing for civil nuclear cooperation and launch a maritime security dialogue as well as negotiations between Europol and the CBI
  • Medical developments on vaccines and treatment. 

Major outcomes:

  1. India and EU committed to a framework for strategic cooperation until 2025. (Five-year roadmap for the India-EU strategic partnership.)
  2. Both vowed to cooperate on their response to the coronavirus pandemic and the United Nations Security Council.
  3. To revive talks on a free trade agreement (Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement) that have been suspended since 2013. 
  4. Civil nuclear research and development cooperation agreement between EURATOM and the Department of Atomic Energy.
  5. Exchange best practices in range of areas and the renewal of their science and technology agreement for another five years.

India-EU areas of convergence:

  • India and the EU are natural partners.
  • India-EU partnership is important for global peace and stability.
  • Both share similar ‘universal values’ of democracy, pluralism, respect for international institutions and multilateralism.
  • Share common interest in tackling climate change, and building trade.
  • EU is India’s largest trading partner, while India is the EU’s ninth biggest trading partner.

India-EU areas of divergence:

  • EU leadership had raised concerns over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • EU expressed concerns about India’s “protectionist” tone to “Atmanirbhar Bharat” slogan. 

Do you know? 

  • EU is India’s largest trading partner and investor, and accounts for 11% of India’s global trade. 
  • EU had welcomed India’s election to the UN Security Council next year. 
  • EU has reservations about the model “Bilateral Investment Treaty” (BIT) that India has proposed, especially on dispute mechanisms in Indian courts. 
  • Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement is a Free Trade Agreement between India and EU, which was initiated in 2007.

Turning Crisis into opportunity- Bilateral Health Co-operation between India and Australia

(Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests)

India and Australia have signed an MoU on co-operation in the field of Health and Medicine in 2017. 

The MoU covers areas of mutual interest like the management of communicable diseases like Malaria and Tuberculosis, mental health and non-communicable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, regulation of pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical devices and digitization of health infrastructure. The MoU also covers response to public health emergencies like the present COVID pandemic.

Healthcare in India is one of the fastest growing sectors expected to hit $275 billion mark in the next 10 years. 

  • India’s domestic demand is expected to engine the growth regardless of any turbulence in the global economy. 
  • India also offers vast opportunities in R&D and medical tourism. 
  • India’s traditional holistic medical systems like Ayurveda and Yoga can help Australia curb obesity and related diseases
  • India’s Universal Healthcare Coverage (under Ayushman Bharat) covers a massive 100 million families; 10 million individuals have benefitted in the last year alone; India is committed to eliminating TB by the year 2025; India has also undertaken efforts for mass screening of non-communicable diseases like hypertension, cancer of breast, lung, throat and mouth, etc; 
  • India has also made strides in implementing the Digital Health Blueprint to modernize the health sector and enable streamlined delivery of services to the last citizen; affordable medicines that treat cancer and cardio-vascular ailments and cardiac implants are made available to the poorest of the poor under the (Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) program

Healthcare in Australia

  • Australia’s Universal Telemedicine has helped tackle 19 million cases
  • Its focus on health infrastructure through public and private hospitals and approach on mental health issues are models worth emulating. 

India and Australia

  • India has played a huge role in supplying inexpensive generic drugs supplying 60% of the world’s medicine. India can help Australia in researching new medicines for rare diseases using Genomics and Stem Cell Technology.
  • India’s medical professionals, paramedics and scientists have played a pivotal role in containing COVID-19.  They are helping in drug discovery and in repurposing of existing drugs. They have also isolated the virus in the early onset of diseases and are engaged in studying the virus using Genome sequencing. 
  • India’s drug manufacturers have also enabled India to supply Hydroxychloroquin to 140 countries.”

India-US CEO Forum 2020

(Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests)

The Forum is an effective platform to highlight key issues that affect business entities and to identify areas for closer collaboration for mutual benefit of both economies. This is the fifth time the Forum has been convenedsince its reconstitution in December 2014 by the Governments of India and the USA.

A new set of reforms and policy recommendations, deliberated jointly by CEO forum members, were presented at the meeting, to further boost bilateral investment opportunities across key sectors of the economy, including Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals, Aerospace &Defence, Infrastructure & Manufacturing, Entrepreneurship & Promoting Small Businesses, Energy, Water & Environment, ICT and Digital Infrastructure, Financial Services, Trade & Investments, among others.

USA: The extraordinary cooperation between the two countries during the Covid19 pandemic should continue in areas of building infrastructure, increasing bilateral investments, and generating jobs. They highlighted the areas of unrestricted foreign ownership in certain sectors, policy stability and predictability, timely dispute resolution, protection of intellectual property and continuing investment in infrastructure as some of the key focus areas.

India stressed the global efforts underway to 

  • Rebalance global supply chains, due to both geo-political and trade related issues 
  • Welcomed the opportunity to partner with the US private sector and government to help support and facilitate a strong pivot to India
  • Need for a Free Trade Agreement as a natural progression and outcome of the deepening commercial engagement between the two countries
  • Recognize the contribution of India’s human capital to the US economy, and the need for unhindered cross-border mobility of such talent.

High-Level Segment of ECOSOC

(Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests)

The annual High-level Segment convenes a diverse group of high-level representatives from the Government, the private sector, civil society and academia. 

The theme of this year’s High-level Segment is “Multilateralism after COVID19: What kind of UN do we need at the 75th anniversary”. The theme of the High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC, also resonates with India’s Security Council priority, wherein we have called for ‘reformed multilateralism’ in a post-COVID-19 world. It also recalls India’s role, as the holder of the inaugural Presidency of ECOSOC (Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, in 1946).

Set against the changing international environment and the COVID-19 pandemic, this session will focus on critical forces shaping the course of multilateralism and explore ways to bolster the global agenda through strong leadership, effective international institutions, a broadening of participation and enhanced significance of global public goods.

This will be first opportunity for PM to address the broader UN membership since India’s overwhelming election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council on 17th June, for the term 2021-22. 


Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana  

(Topic: Agriculture)

Launched in 2016 after rolling back the earlier insurance schemes viz. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).

It was formulated in line with One Nation–One Scheme theme by replacing earlier two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS). The scheme’s linkage with parallel programmes like the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ and ‘Digital India’ makes it a truly inclusive and welfare-based scheme.

  • It is an insurance service for farmers for their yields
  • It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claims for the full insured sum.
  • It is the biggest risk cover insurance and safety net provided by the government to farmers at minimal premiums rates.

How can the scheme be made more effective?

In order to make the PMFBY a sustained developmental action for a comprehensive climate risk protection for every Indian farmer, the following action points are suggested:

  • Faster and appropriate claim settlement: The weakness of the PMFBY is the methodology deployed for crop loss assessment: the crop cutting experiments (CCEs).
  • Crop Cutting Experiments: are periodic exercises conducted nationwide every season to determine crop yields of major crops. Sample villages are chosen through scientifically designed surveys, and crops are physically harvested to determine yields.
  • Improvement in the efficacy of the PMFBY: technology use must be intensified. With options available today, such as detailed weather data, remote sensing, modelling and big data analytics, the exercise of monitoring crop growth and productivity can be not only more accurate and efficient but also resource saving. Hybrid indices, which integrate all relevant technologies into a single indicator, are good ways to determine crop losses.
  • Creation of an online portal: the whole process of monitoring can be made accessible and transparent to farmers, policy-makers and insuring agencies alike through an online portal.
  • Universal and free coverage for all smallholders: Farmers’ awareness about the scheme and crop insurance literacy remain low in most States, especially among smallholders in climatically challenged areas in most need of insurance. To increase insurance coverage a system should be thought of whereby every farmer automatically gets insured by the state.
  • Improved and transparent insurance scheme design: Insurance companies are supposed to calculate actuarial rates, and based on tenders, the company quoting the lowest rate is awarded the contract. Science has the capacity today to characterise risks and reconstruct reasonably long-time series of yields. The premium rates, and hence subsidy load on the government, can come down significantly if we make greater use of such proxies and appropriate sum insured levels.

Suggestions by Finance Minister

  • Highlighted the need of carrying out awareness activities to ensure dissemination of information among all farmers in view of Scheme becoming voluntary for all farmers and the need for States to release Premium Subsidy on time to ensure timely settlement of claims
  • Stringent follow up should be done with States where subsidy is pending specially those which are not implementing the Scheme in Kharif 2020 with a view to ensure payment of all pending claims to farmers at the earliest.   
  • Leveraging technology was one of the main focus areas in revamped PMFBY and the Department was working towards migrating to technology assessment of yield by 2023 and survey would be conducted after Rabi-2020-21 to ascertain the impact of the revamped PMFBY.

Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund

(Topic: Agriculture; Animal husbandry, Food processing)

The Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) approved would incentivise infrastructure investments in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants. 

The AHIDF with the interest subvention scheme for private investors will ensure availability of capital to meet upfront investment required for these projects and also help enhance overall returns/ pay back for investors. Such investments in processing and value addition infrastructure by eligible beneficiaries would also promote exports.

Since almost 50-60% of the final value of dairy output in India flows back to farmers, the growth in this sector can have significant direct impact on farmer’s income. Size of dairy market and farmers’ realization from milk sales is closely linked with development of organized off-take by cooperative and private dairies. Thus, investment of Rs. 15,000 crores through AHIDF would not only leverage several times more private investment but would also motivate farmers to invest more on inputs thereby driving higher productivity leading to increase in farmers income. The measures approved today through AHIDF would also help in direct and indirect livelihood creation for about 35 lakh persons.

Did You Know? 

  • India has been the largest milk producer country of the world for the last 22 years.  
  • Currently, milk production of India stands at around 188 million metric tonnes (MMT)—in 2018-19, which is around 21% of world milk production. 

Significance of Milk Sector 

  • Contributes to around 4.5% of national GDP 
  • It is primary source of income for about 100 million rural households—mostly landless, small or marginal farmers. 
  • Of the total value of the agricultural economy, around 28% (Rs 8 lakh crore, or $110 billion) is contributed by dairying. 
  •  Milk production in India has been growing at a CAGR of 4.5% over the past 20 years, compared to less than 2% CAGR of the world. This high growth has enabled India to absorb the growing population especially in rural areas 

Milk Sector & Self-reliance 

  • Self-sufficiency in milk production was achieved decades ago. 
  • During the early 1970s, milk production of India was just one-third that of the US and one-eighth of Europe 
  • At present, India’s milk production is double that of the US and 25% more than Europe’s. 

How was this self-reliance achieved? 

  • During the 1970s, most dairy farmers did not receive remunerative returns due to the long chain of middlemen and lack of access to organised markets.  
  • The scenario changed after the adoption of a three-tier cooperative model, popularly referred to as the Amul model with the three-phase implementations of Operation Flood 
  • This not only led to India becoming the largest producer of milk but also largest consumer of milk globally 
  • India’s per capita milk availability is around 400 gm per day per person, which is higher than global average of less than 300 gm per day per person. 

What needs to be done to sustain India’s self-sufficiency in milk production? 

  1. Supporting Private investments
    • Indian dairy cooperatives and private players could create additional milk processing capacity of 4.5-4.8 crore litre per day in the next decade.  
    • To facilitate this growth, a financial package for dairy and fisheries was announced by Union government during lockdown. 
    • This includes the creation of the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) worth Rs 15,000 crore to support private investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure.  
    • The proposed fund should be channelised through the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). 
  2. Extension of the KisanCredit Card scheme to dairy farmers
    • The government that has announced this extension should implement it effectively at ground level 
    • This will ensure cash flow and meet the working capital requirement of small farmers. 
  3. Holistic Approach
    • A holistic approach is needed to bring unorganised farmers into the fold of the organised sector.  
    • This desires convergence across policies, strengthening Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), common service centres (CSCs), business correspondents (BCs) commodity exchanges and digital markets.  
    • The thrust should be on ensuring that dairy farmers get a reasonable share of the earnings that the private players receive through value addition.  
    • The dairy sector also needs to have its adequate share in the proposed creation of 10,000 farmer producer organisations (FPOs) as part of national policy so that gglomerating FPOs can come up for better convergence. 
  4. Protecting Dairy Farmers from foreign players
    • Allowing cheaper import from milk-surplus economically-developed countries would hit Indian dairy farmers hard. 
    • India withdrew from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations citing apprehensions about cheaper dairy imports impacting the domestic dairy sector. 

Digital Indo- Italian Business Mission on Food Processing

(Topic: Agriculture; Animal husbandry, Food processing)

India and Italy are natural partners, when it comes to the Food Processing Industry and in European Union, Italy has one of the largest Indian diaspora.

With a shift in the industry landscape, many food processing companies are attempting to diversify and expand their product line-up –

  • The versatile equipment that can produce many different product types, allowing companies to increase their output without major changes to their facilities will be the preference. The Italian Food and Equipment related companies therefore have much to look forward to the Indian markets in order to expand their global outreach. 
  • Countries which are looking to re-align their supply chains and, India, also known as the world’s fruit & vegetable basket, offers ample opportunities for sourcing raw material. India also offers one of the fastest growing market for finished processed food products. 
  • Under Digital Sectorial business Mission, 23 Italian companies that are part of this Digital Mission are having a virtual exhibition of their products & services and would be having Business (B2B) Meetings with the end users and other industry players in India. Meetings and the webinars would be spread across the key areas – Fruits & Vegetables, Cereals, Milk & Dairy processing, Packaging & Bottling and also there would be opportunities for technical collaborations with the units located in the Mega Food Parks. 
  • Highlighted various opportunities offered by MoFPI in the form of ready infrastructure such as Mega food parks, agri export zones and industrial parks/estates/clusters/nodes. 

Information frozen in magnetic minerals can forecast climatic changes faster & more accurately

(Topic: Climate Change)

Scientists have tracked Climate change by following the Paleomonsoonal pattern of the subcontinent by harnessing magnetic mineralogy, a technique that is faster and more accurate than existing methods. Magnetic mineralogy is sensitive to changes in ambient chemical and physical processes that result in concentration, grain size, and mineralogy changes.

The team of researchers collated and conducted climatic and environmental studies by collecting sediment samples from different environments and climatic domains of India to glean out the information frozen in magnetic minerals in the form of magnetic parameters like magnetic susceptibility, anhysteretic remnant magnetization, saturation induced remnant magnetization, hysteresis loops and curie temperature.

Climate-related studies are carried out with the help of several proxies like fossils, microorganisms, gases trapped in ice, isotopes, and many others. The study of these changes unravels physicochemical regime operative in the past, helping to gauge the then prevalent climate pattern. 

  • The magnetic minerals are sensitive to physical and chemical environment that they are embedded in. These external changes bring about modifications in the innate structure of these magnetic minerals, transitioning them from one magnetic phase to another. 
  • In this process, the magnetic mineralogy also changes, for example, from magnetite to hematite and vice versa. There are also some intermediate phases that draw the attention of the researchers to complex climatic conditions prevalent over a period of time strictly from these magnetic phases.
  • Generally, the parent rocks from where the sediments are derived do not contain magnetic minerals that are more than 1% by total volume or weight of those rocks. The concentration of magnetic minerals is very low in sediments. 
  • However, this is sufficient to carry out climatic studies since these minerals reveal the true nature of climatic and environmental conditions prevalent at the time of their deposition.

Approval accorded to Zonal Master Plan of Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone

(Topic: Conservation)

The Zonal Master Plan(ZMP), prepared by the Government of Uttarakhand and appraised by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, has been accorded approval by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

The Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone from Gaumukh to Uttarakashi covers an area of 4179.59 sq. kilometer 

To cater to the requirements of the local people without affecting their rights and privileges and also ensuring eco-friendly development for their livelihood security

Zonal master Plan: The ZMP is based on watershed approach and includes governance in the area of forest and wildlife, watershed management, irrigation, energy, tourism, public health and sanitation, road infrastructure, etc. 

  • Provide a boost to conservation and ecology of the area and also to undertake developmental activities as permitted under ZMP.
  • Pave way for faster execution of the ChaarDhaam Project.


A. Indian & EU agree to renew Agreement S&T Co-operation for 5 years

India & the European Union agreed to renew the Agreement on Scientific cooperation for the next five years, 2020-2025, at the 15th India-EU Summit.

  • With the agreement to renew adopted, both India and the EU agreed to further collaborate in research and innovation based on the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity, as established in the India-EU Agreement on Science and Technology concluded in 2001, which expired on May 17.
  • This will help to enhance research and innovation cooperation in different fields like Water, Energy, Healthcare, Agritech & Bioeconomy, Integrated Cyber-Physical Systems, Information and Communication Technologies, Nanotechnology, and clean technologies, etc. It will also strengthen the institutional linkages in research, exchange of researchers, students, startups and attract co-investment of resources for co-generation of knowledge.

B. Low-cost supercapacitor from industrial waste cotton & natural seawater

Scientists have developed a simple, low-cost, environmentally friendly, and sustainable supercapacitor electrode derived from industrial waste cotton which can be used as an energy harvester storage device. 

For the first time, natural seawater is explored as an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, scalable, and alternative aqueous electrolyte, which may replace the existing aqueous-based electrolytes for the economic fabrication of supercapacitor.

Supercapacitor is a next-generation energy storage device that has received extensive research attention owing to advantages such as high power density, long durability, and ultrafast charging characteristic as compared to conventional capacitors and lithium-ion batteries (LIB). 

Benefit: The successful demonstration of the device revealed that solar-powered supercapacitors can not only store the electrical energy but also overcome the drawbacks of the intermittent nature of the solar irradiation. Hence, the integrated solar cell with supercapacitor can be used as an energy harvester storage device due to their long cycle life and maintenance-free power supply. 

Prelims oriented News

Development of India’s first trans-shipment hub: Vallarpadam Terminal of Cochin Port, Kerala

WHO advises 140 tests/day/million population

  • WHO in its Guidance Note on “Public Health Criteria to Adjust Public Health and Social Measures in the Context of COVID-19” has advised comprehensive surveillance for suspected cases. While explaining the concept of comprehensive surveillance and testing of suspect cases, WHO advises that a country needs 140 tests per day per million population.
  • With the various coordinated efforts made by the Centre and the States/UTs, 22 States/UTs in India are already conducting 140 and more tests per day per million. States/UTs are being regularly advised to increase the testing capacity to match the WHO advised levels of testing.

Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan

  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan was launched on 20th June 2020 to boost employment and livelihood opportunities for migrant workers returning to villages, in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
  • This campaign will work in mission mode for 125 days with an outlay of Rs. 50,000 crore.

The major objectives of the initiative include:

  • Provide livelihood opportunity to returning migrants and similarly affected rural citizens
  • Saturate villages with public infrastructure and create livelihood opportunities viz. Roads, Housing, Anganwadis, Panchayat Bhavans, various livelihood assets and Community Complexes among others
  • The basket of a wide variety of works will ensure that each migrant worker is able to get an opportunity of employment according to his skill, in the coming 125 days. The Program will also prepare for expansion and development of livelihoods over a longer term.

Bulk Drugs Park: Department of Pharmaceuticals is finalizing guidelines for selecting locations of three bulk drug parks and four medical devices parks

  • In order to encourage domestic production of critical APIs/ KSM and medical devices, Union Cabinet on March 12, 2020 has approved a scheme for development of three bulk drugs and four medical devices parks in which Government of India will extend Grants-in-Aid to States with a maximum limit of Rs. 1000 Crore per bulk drug park and Rs 100 crore per medical device parks. 
  • In addition, the Government of India have also announced a Production Linked Incentive scheme for promoting domestic manufacturing of key critical Starting Materials/Drug Intermediates & APIs and medical devices across the country. 
  • Benefits:
    • Incremental production of bulk drugs worth about Rs 46,400 crore
    • Scheme for promotion of medical device park will lead to incremental production of medical devices worth about Rs 68,437 crore
    • Significant generation of jobs

PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education

COVID-19 pandemic has led to closure of schools and has impacted over 240 million children of the country who are enrolled in schools. Extended school closures may cause loss of learning. To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, schools will not only have to remodel and reimagine the way teaching and learning have happened so far, but will also need to introduce a suitable method of delivering quality education through a healthy mix of schooling at home and schooling at school.

PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education is for school heads, teachers, parents, and students containing recommended screen time for children, tips on coping with mental/physical stress during Digital Learning & more. The PRAGYATA guidelines include eight steps of online/ digital learning that is, Plan- Review- Arrange- Guide- Yak(talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate. These steps guide the planning and implementation of digital education step by step with examples.

  • Need assessment
  • Concerns while planning online and digital education like duration, screen time, inclusiveness, balanced online and offline activities etc level wise
  • Modalities of intervention including resource curation, level wise delivery etc.
  • Physical, mental health and wellbeing during digital education
  • Cyber safety and ethical practices including precautions and measures for maintaining cyber safety
  • Collaboration and convergence with various initiatives

Indian Railways on MISSION MODE of becoming a “Green Railway” by 2030( Net Zero Carbon Emission)

Railway Electrification, improving energy efficiency of locomotives & trains and fixed installations, green certification for installations/stations, fitting bio toilets in coaches and switching to renewable sources of energy are parts of its strategy of achieving net zero carbon emission.

Electrification: Indian Railways has completed electrification of more than 40,000 route km. Indian Railways has fixed a target of electrification of 7000 RKM for the year 2020-21. All routes on BG network have been planned to be electrified by December 2023. Indian Railways is focusing on electrification of last mile connectivity & missing links. 

Solar energy: Indian Railways is working to harness the potential of 500 Mega Watt (MW) energy through roof top Solar panels (Developer model). Till date, 100 Mega Watt (MW) of solar plants have been commissioned on roof-tops of various buildings including 900 stations.

Wind energy: In the wind energy sector, 103 MW wind-based power plants have already been commissioned.

Coir and Coir Products

  • The export, of coir and coir products from India worth Rs. 2757.90 crore for the year 2019-20, registers an all-time high record, which is around Rs. 30 crore higher than that of the last year
  • While the exports of coir pith, tufted mats, coir Geo-textiles, coir rugs and carpets, coir other sorts, coir rope and power-loom mats registered growth both in terms of quantity and value. The products like hand-loom mats, coir yarn, rubberized coir and power-loom matting showed decline in terms of quantity and increase in terms of value.

Release of Report: Decade of Action: Taking SDGs From Global to Local

NITI Aayog presented India’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, 2020. The HLPF is the foremost international platform for follow-up and review of progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report is a comprehensive account of the adoption and implementation of the 2030 Agenda in India. Apart from presenting a review of progress on the 17 SDGs, the report discusses at length the policy and enabling environment, India’s approach to localising SDGs, and strengthening means of implementation.

Leveraging science, technology and innovation for SDGs, and costing and financing of SDGs are the two levers of strengthening means of implementation which have been introduced this year.

Source: https://static.pib.gov.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/image/image008AOBB.jpg

TIFAC releases report on ‘Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients- Status, Issues, Technology Readiness and Challenges’

The major recommendations

  • Focus on engineering and scale aspect of technology development
  • Need for Mission mode Chemical Engineering with defined targets for uninterrupted synthesis of molecules
  • Create mega drug manufacturing clusters with common infrastructure in India
  • The technology platform to be developed for biocatalysis towards reducing process steps for cost optimization and for fluorination
  • Investment on priority in fermentation sector of large capacity
  • Scale supporting techno-economic feasibility, attention to technologies like hazardous reactions, flow chemistry, cryogenic reactions, and membrane technology

COVID 19 pandemic has firmly put the focus of our Nation on being “AtmaNirbhar”. This paper strongly brought out the import dependence for APIs, especially from China. In view of changing geo-political scenario and recalibrated trade alignments, it is imperative that India become self-reliant in production of APIs.

The pharmaceutical industry in India is third largest in the world, in terms of volume, behind China and Italy, and fourteenth largest in terms of value. It has a strong network of 3,000 drug companies and about 10,500 manufacturing units with a domestic turnover of Rs 1.4 lakh crore (USD 20.03 billion) in 2019, with exports to more than 200 countries in the world.

Despite a very strong base, due to low-profit margins and non-lucrative industry, domestic pharmaceutical companies have gradually stopped manufacturing APIs and started importing APIs, which was a cheaper option with increased profit margins on drugs. With the availability of cheaper APIs from China, the pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on imports. The imports from China have been increasing steadily and now stand around 68%. To address this, TIFAC has recommended policies to address the requirement of APIs in short & medium term to make our country self-reliant.

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