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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 12th October to 18th October – 2020

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  • October 23, 2020
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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 12th October to 18th October – 2020

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Announcement of measures of Rs 73,000 crore to stimulate consumer spending in the economy in an effort to fight the slowdown due to COVID-19 pandemic

(Topic: Government schemes and policies to boost the economy)

The understanding- 

  • Indications are that savings of government and organised sector employees have increased and we want to incentivise such people to boost demand for the benefit of the less fortunate.
  • If demand goes up based on the stimulus measures announced today, it will have an impact on those people who have been affected by COVID-19 and are desperately looking for demand to keep their business going.
  • Today’s solution should not cause tomorrow’s problem. The Government does not want to burden the common citizen with future inflation and also not put the Government debt on an unsustainable path.

The proposals presented by the Finance Minister are designed to stimulate spending in a fiscally prudent manner as some of the proposals are for advancing or front-loading of expenditure with offsetting changes later while others are directly linked to increase in GDP. 

Consumer Spending

  • Leave Travel Concession (LTC) Cash Voucher Scheme: The biggest incentive for employees to avail the LTC Cash Voucher Scheme is that in a four-year block ending in 2021, the LTC not availed will lapse, instead, this will encourage employees to avail of this facility to buy goods which can help their families.
  • Special Festival Advance Scheme: A Special Festival Advance Scheme for non-gazetted employees, as well as for gazetted employees too, is being revived as a one-time measure to stimulate demand.

Capital Expenditure

  • Special Assistance to the States: Money spent on infrastructure and asset creation has a multiplier effect on the economy. It not only improves current GDP but also future GDP. The Government wants to give a new thrust to Capital Expenditure of both States and Centre.
  • Enhanced Budget Provisions: Additional budget of Rs. 25,000 crore, in addition to Rs. 4.13 lakh crore given in Union Budget 2020, is being provided for Capital Expenditure on roads, defence, water supply, urban development and domestically produced capital equipment.

NITI Aayog Announces Governing Structure of India Energy Modelling Forum

(Topic: International organisations)

India Energy Modelling Forum (IEMF)—jointly launched by NITI Aayog and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the US–India Strategic Energy Partnership—on 2 July.

Part of the Sustainable Growth pillar of the US–India Strategic Energy Partnership (SEP), IEMF aims to engage Indian researchers, knowledge partners, think tanks and national and international government agencies and departments for modelling and long-term energy planning.

The governing structure of IEMF will consist of an inter-ministerial and a steering committee.

  • The inter-ministerial committee will be convened by NITI Aayog and headed by its CEO, and comprise senior officials from the ministries of petroleum and natural gas; power; new and renewable energy; coal; environment, forest and climate change; and department of science and technology. This committee will review the studies/modelling activities and provide directions and new areas of research.
  • The steering committee will shortlist policy issues to be taken up for study and might form various taskforces depending on the specific studies/modelling exercises to be carried out.

India and the US have a long-standing collaboration on energy. The Sustainable Growth pillar, one of the four of the US–India SEP, is being chaired by NITI Aayog and USAID. This pillar brings together Indian and US researchers and decision-makers to collaborate in three focal areas: energy data management; energy modelling, and promotion of low carbon technologies. IEMF was launched under the area of energy modelling. 


5th Meeting of the India-Mexico Bilateral High Level Group on Trade, Investment and Cooperation

(Topic: India and other countries)

Both sides discussed a number of bilateral ongoing and outstanding issues, ranging from Audio-visual Co-production, Bilateral Investment Treaty, market access for agricultural products, a cooperation framework on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) & Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) measures between the two countries, co-operation in the Intellectual Property Rights, and exploring ways to promote tourism and people-to-people contact between India and Mexico.

Two business to business MoUs were signed, to foster the cooperation in the respective domains. 

  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the Electronics & Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC) of India and the Mexican Chamber of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technologies (CANIETI) was signed. 
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Mexican Business Council of Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE) for promoting the development of business relations between India and Mexico was also signed.

They also agreed to expand and diversify the bilateral trade relationship to tap the potential of the complementarities between India and Mexico through enhanced cooperation in pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, healthcare, agro-products, fisheries, food processing and aerospace industry etc. A ‘Joint Statement’ after the successful conclusion of the meeting was issued.


Cabinet approves Rs. 5718 crore World Bank aided project STARS

(Topic International organization and India)

The STARS project seeks to support the states in developing, implementing, evaluating and improving interventions with direct linkages to improved education outcomes and school to work transition strategies for improved labour market outcomes. The overall focus and components of the STARS project are aligned with the objectives of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of Quality Based Learning Outcomes.

About the project

  • Implementation of the Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project with a total project cost of Rs 5718 crore with the financial support of World Bank amounting to US $ 500 million (approximately Rs. 3700 crore).
  • STARS project would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education. (MOE)
  • Setting up and support to the National Assessment Centre, PARAKH as an independent and autonomous institution under Department of School Education and Literacy, MOE.
  • The project covers 6 States namely Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha. 

The Project envisions improving the overall monitoring and measurement activities in the Indian School Education System through interventions in selected states. The project shifts focus from the provision of inputs and maintaining of outputs to actual outcomes by linking the receipt and disbursement of funds to these outcomes. 

The STARS Project has two major components:

 1)  At the national level, the project envisages the following interventions which will benefit all states and UTs:

  • To strengthen MOE’s national data systems to capture robust and authentic data on retention, transition and completion rates of students.
  • To support MOE in improving states PGI scores by incentivizing states governance reform agenda through SIG (State Incentive Grants).
  • To support the strengthening of learning assessment systems.
  • To support MOE’s efforts, establish a National Assessment Center (PARAKH) – to leverage the experiences of states selected for the operation by collecting, curating and sharing these experiences with other states through online portals (e.g. Shagun and DIKSHA), social and other media engagement, technical workshops, state visits and conferences.
  • Further, the STARS project includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the National Component which would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made and health disasters. It will help the government respond to situations leading to loss of learning such as school closures/infrastructure damage, inadequate facilities and use technology for facilitating remote learning etc.  The CERC component would facilitate the rapid re-categorization of financing and the utilization of streamlined financing request procedures.

2) At the State level, the project envisages:

  • Strengthening Early Childhood Education and Foundational Learning
  • Improving Learning Assessment Systems
  • Strengthening classroom instruction and remediation through teacher development and school leadership
  • Governance and Decentralized Management for Improved Service Delivery.
  • Strengthening Vocational education in schools through mainstreaming, career guidance and counselling, internships and coverage of out of school children

The STARS project also aims to focus on initiatives of PM e-Vidya, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission and National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Some of the measurable outcomes of the project are –

  • Increase in students achieving minimum proficiency in grade 3 language in selected states,
  • Improvement in secondary school completion rate, 
  • Improvement in governance index scores, 
  • Strengthened learning assessment systems, 
  • Partnerships developed to facilitate cross-learning between states
  • Improvement in the State level service delivery such as Strengthening planning and management capacities for decentralized management by training of BRCs and CRCs, Strengthened school management by training of Head Teachers and Principals for improved education service delivery.

Prelims-oriented News

Prime Minister of New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern 

Zozila Tunnel – the longest tunnel road in Asia

13th October: Philately Day; marks the collection, appreciation and research activities on stamps and other philatelic products. Philately is the study of postage stamps and postal history.

15th October: Mahila Kisan Diwas

Kamdhenu Deepawali Abhiyan – Promoting extensive use of cow-dung/ Panchgavya products this Diwali Festival

SLINEX-20: Indian Navy – Sri Lanka Navy Maritime Exercise

BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile Successfully Test Fired

  • BrahMos, the supersonic cruise missile was successfully test fired, hitting a target in the Arabian Sea. The missile hit the target successfully with pin-point accuracy after performing high-level and extremely complex manoeuvres.
  • BrahMos as ‘prime strike weapon’ will ensure the warship’s invincibility by engaging naval surface targets at long ranges, thus making the destroyer another lethal platform of Indian Navy. The highly versatile BrahMos has been jointly designed, developed and produced by India and Russia.
  • In the last few weeks, India has test fired a number of missiles including a new version of the surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile BrahMos and anti-radiation missile Rudram-1.
  • The original 290-km range BrahMos has already been deployed in Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh during the ongoing military confrontation with China.

Exercise Suraksha Kavach- Joint Anti-Terrorist Exercise By Army and Maharashtra Police

  • The aim of the exercise was to harmonize the drills and procedures of both Army and Police for activating anti-terrorist Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) to counter any terrorist actions in Pune.

Launch of ‘KAPILA’ Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness campaign:

  • On the 89th birth anniversary of former President and Scientist Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
  • India has a proud history of Nalanda and Takshila Universities so we already had the intellectual property inherited within our culture. India has to again lead the world as Vishwaguru in the field of patents
  • For India to become a $5 trillion economy, we have to be more aware of protecting intellectual property.

Buldhana Pattern of water conservation gets national recognition

  • NITI Ayog is formulating National Policy on water conversation under ‘Buldhana Pattern’
  • Synchronization of national highway construction and water conservation was achieved for the first time in Buldhana district, by using soil from the water bodies, nallas and rivers. This consequently lead to the increase in capacity of water storage across the water-bodies in Buldana district and it came to be known as ‘Buldhana Pattern’.
  • ‘Tamswada Pattern’ of water conservation project taken up in Nagpur and Wardha district  in which rain water harvesting, conservation and groundwater recharge works were done in order to increase the water storage capacity of natural water bodies  situated in these two districts of Eastern Vidarbha.

Aquaponics – Type of Agriculture: An emerging technique in which both fishes as well as the plants are grown in an integrated manner. The fish waste provides fertilizer for growing plants. The plants absorb nutrients and filter the water. This filtered water is used to replenish the fish tank. 

  • This is an environment friendly technique.
  • Help the farmer in increasing the productivity of his land and also augment his income

Nirbadh initiative of EPFO: To further enhance ease of living experience for its members, EPFO has recently launched WhatsApp based helpline-cum-grievance redressal mechanism, under its series of Nirbadh initiatives aimed at ensuring seamless and un-interrupted service delivery to subscribers during COVID-19 pandemic.

Dust can reduce the effect of nuclear weapons: Dr Meera Chadha from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, New Delhi – Her recent study published in the ‘Proceedings of Royal Society A, London’ illustrates the reduction in energy released and damage radius from an intense explosion (nuclear explosion in particular) by introduction of dust particles. She has shown how the blast waves from the explosion decayed in the process.

7th Justice Ministers’ Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): To be hosted by Union Law Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad

  • To deliberate on areas of cooperation
  • Creating favourable conditions for resolving disputes
  • Implementation of the Action Plan of the Working Groups of Experts on Forensic Activities and Legal Service

ADB, India sign

  1. $270 million loan to develop water supply and integrated storm water and sewage management infrastructure and strengthen capacities of urban local bodies (ULBs) for improved service delivery in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
  2. $300 Million Loan to Develop Rajasthan’s Secondary Towns – to finance inclusive and sustainable water supply, sanitation infrastructure and services, and strengthen the institutional capacity of the local governments

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Australia: For collaboration in capacity building, research and development and making impact for sustainable groundwater management

National Supercomputing Mission has been set up  to provide necessary computational power to the Academia, Industry, Scientific and Research Community, MSME and the Start-ups to solve India specific grand challenges and complex real life problems in Science and Engineering.

  • India set to achieve self-reliance in supercomputing with manufacturing critical components in India
  • C-DAC and National Supercomputing Mission Host Institutes sign MOU for establishing Supercomputing Infrastructure in various premier institutions across India
  • C-DAC accelerating pace of research and innovation using computational science techniques with manufacturing Critical Supercomputing components in India, is a step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat

India designated Vice-Chair of OECD Working Group on Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)

Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) is a quality system, which has been evolved by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to ensure that safety data generated on various chemicals like industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals (Human and Veterinary), agrochemicals, cosmetic products, food/ feed additives, and medical devices, etc., can be relied upon by regulatory authorities.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, established the National GLP Compliance Monitoring Authority (NGCMA) with the approval of the Union Cabinet on April 24, 2002. NGCMA is the National body which grants GLP certification to test facilities (TFs) conducting safety studies on new chemicals of the above-mentioned categories in accordance with OECD Principles of GLP and OECD Council norms. The Grant of the first GLP certificate by NGCMA in 2004 was a milestone.

The non-hazardous nature of chemicals needs to be established through studies and data, which is examined by the regulators of the concerned countries to certify that the use of these chemicals does not pose any hazards to human health and the environment.

On March 3, 2011, India became full adherent to the Mutual Acceptance of Data (MAD) in the OECD, which was a historical event. The MAD status has given global recognition to India’s non-clinical safety data by tremendously augmenting its credibility and acceptability across the globe. This has not only boosted the confidence of Indian GLP TFs but also led to removal of technical barriers to trade.

Haryana Government comes up with an innovative solution for Water testing; Launches State of the Art Mobile Water Testing Laboratory Van

The supply of clean and safe water is essential for public health therefore, ensuring supply of water along with regular testing is imperative. The Jal Jeevan Mission of the Ministry of Jal Shakti aims to provide tap water connection to every rural home by 2024. The work under this mission is being done on war footing and the mission gives a lot of emphasis on water quality surveillance and monitoring.

Govt. of Haryana has launched a State of the Art Mobile Water Testing Laboratory Van, fully equipped with multi-parameter system containing analyzers/ sensor/ probes/ instruments meant for water testing. Water Quality in State of Haryana is mainly affected by constituents like total dissolved solids (TDS), Fluoride, nitrate, iron and alkalinity.

  • GPS enabled for location tracking and the analyzed sample data can be transmitted to a centralized PHED server via GPRS/ 3G connectivity with power backup. 
  • It also provides On-site recording and reporting of results through a smart phone or similar device with the ability to send results direct to a web based secure central server. 
  • This mobile van also has a fully automated sensor-based analysis controlled by centrally commanded software. 
  • The LED display unit in the mobile lab gives an instant display of the results immediately after analysis.

PM to release commemorative coin of Rs 75 denomination to mark the 75th Anniversary of FAO

India and FAO: The journey of FAO in making the vulnerable classes and masses stronger, economically and nutritionally, has been unparalleled. India has had a historic association with FAO. 

  • Indian Civil Service Officer Dr. Binay Ranjan Sen was the Director General of FAO during 1956-1967. The World Food Programme, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, was established during his time. 
  • India’s proposals for the International Year of Pulses in 2016 and the International Year of Millets 2023 have also been endorsed by FAO.

Combating malnutrition

India has rolled out an ambitious POSHAN Abhiyaan targeting over 100 million people with the aim to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia, and low birth weight. Malnutrition is a global problem with two billion people suffering from micronutrient deficiency. Nearly 45% of deaths among children are linked to malnutrition. Appropriately, it is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. 

Aligning with the international priority, the development of nutritionally rich varieties of crops with elevated levels of micronutrients iron, zinc, calcium, total protein, quality of protein with high lysine and tryptophan, anthocyanin, provitamin A, and oleic acid, and reduced level of anti-nutritional factors etc. has been accorded top priority by the government. The National Agricultural Research System under the leadership of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) developed 53 such varieties during the last five years.  There was only one biofortified variety developed prior to 2014. 

Transforming Indian thali into nutri-thali

The 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops to be dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister will have up to 3.0-fold increase in nutritional value. 

  • These varieties, along with other food ingredients, will transform the normal Indian thali into nutri-thali. These varieties have been developed by utilizing the local landraces and farmer’s varieties. The high zinc rice has been developed from landraces of Assam rice collected from Garo hills and those of finger millets from Gujarat collections of Dang district.
  • ICAR has started Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) programme for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition, nutri-smart villages for enhancing nutritional security and location specific nutrition garden models are being developed and promoted by KVKs to ensure access to locally available, healthy and diversified diet with adequate macro and micronutrients.
  • The production of bio-fortified crop varieties will be upscaled and linked with government programmes of mid-day meal, Anganwadi etc. to reduce malnutrition and make India Kuposhan Mukta through naturally enriched food ingredients. This will also usher in higher income of farmers and will open new avenues of entrepreneurship development.

India and France re-elected as President and Co- President of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the third assembly of the ISA

New wheat variety helping farmers in a village in Maharashtra double their yield: MACS 6478; The newly developed common wheat or bread wheat, also called high yielding Aestivum, matures in 110 days and is resistant to most races of leaf and stem rust

Hydrogen Fuel

  • Hydrogen does not occur free in nature in useful quantities.
  • It can be made from natural gas or it can be made by passing electric current through water.
  • When hydrogen is burned, it only emits water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced. 
  • It is more efficient than internal combustion engine. 
  • However, manufacturing hydrogen fuel based vehicle is still expensive.

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia

  • An activist for the Indian independence movement and a socialist political leader
  • One of the founders of the Congress Socialist Party and editor of its mouthpiece Congress Socialist
  • Wrote his PhD thesis paper on the topic of Salt Taxation in India, focusing on Gandhi’s socio-economic theory.
  • Also wrote – ‘Marx, Gandhi and Socialism’, ‘Guilty Men of India’s Partition’, etc.

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