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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 1st January to 8th January – 2021

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  • January 12, 2021
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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 1st January to 8th January – 2021

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GS-2

COVID19 Vaccine Rollout

India moved a step closer to getting a vaccine against the novel coronavirus as two candidates — Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield — have been recommended by a government-appointed panel to the DCGI for emergency use in the last two days.

As per an official release, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) made its recommendations in respect of the accelerated approval process request of the SII, Bharat Biotech International Ltd as well as about phase-III trials of Cadila Healthcare Ltd.

  • The DCGI formally announced the approval of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield for ‘restricted use’ in the country
  • DCGI VG Somani said both the drug firms have submitted data on their trial runs and both have been granted permission

The Announcement

The overall efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was 70.42%, while Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was “safe and provides a robust immune response. The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) has reviewed the data on safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine and recommended for grant of permission for restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains. The clinical trial ongoing within the country by the firm will continue.

M/s Serum Institute of India, Pune has presented a Recombinant Chimpanzee Adenovirus vector vaccine (Covishield) encoding the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) glycoprotein with technology transfer from AstraZeneca/Oxford University. 

  • The firm submitted safety, immunogenicity and efficacy data generated on 23,745 participants aged ≥ 18 years or older from overseas clinical studies. The overall vaccine efficacy was found to be 70.42%. 
  • Further, M/s Serum was granted permission to conduct Phase-II/III clinical trial on 1600 participants within the country. 
  • The firm also submitted the interim safety and immunogenicity data generated from this trial and the data was found comparable with the data from the overseas clinical studies.

M/s Bharat Biotech has developed a Whole Virion Inactivated Corona Virus Vaccine (Covaxin) in collaboration with ICMR and NIV (Pune), from where they received the virus seed strains.

  • This vaccine is developed on Vero cell platform, which has well established track record of safety and efficacy in the country & globally.
  • The firm has generated safety and immunogenicity data in various animal species such as mice, rats, rabbits, Syrian hamster, and also conducted challenge studies on non-human primates (Rhesus macaques) and hamsters. All these data has been shared by the firm with CDSCO.
  • Phase I and Phase II clinical trials were conducted in approx.800 subjects and the results have demonstrated that the vaccine is safe and provides a robust immune response.  
  • The Phase III efficacy trial was initiated in India in 25,800 volunteers and till date, ~22,500 participants have been vaccinated across the country and the vaccine has been found to be safe as per the data available till date.

M/s Serum and M/s Bharat Biotech vaccines have to be administered in two doses. All the three vaccines have to be stored at 2-8° C.

Year End Review- 2020 – Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment

The vision of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is to build an inclusive society wherein members of the target groups can lead productive, safe and dignified lives with adequate support for their growth and development. 

It aims to support and empower its target groups through programmes of educational, economic and social development and rehabilitation wherever necessary. 

The mandate of the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment is empowerment of the socially, educationally and economically marginalised sections of the society including 

(i) Scheduled Castes 

(ii) other Backward Class 

(iii) Senior Citizens 

(iv) Victims of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse 

(v) Transgender Persons 

(vi) Beggars 

(vii) Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) 

(viii) Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) and 

(xi) Economically Weaker Section (EWS)

Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment was set up in May 2012 with the aims to facilitate empowerment and inclusion of the persons with disabilities and acts as a nodal agency to look after all development agenda of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).

Major Achievements

  • Prime Minister distributes daily living aids and devices to senior citizens & Divyangjan at the biggest ever RVY & ADIP camp at Prayagraj
  • The transgender persons (protection of rights) act, 2019 comes into effect: The Rules ensure that comprehensive welfare measures reach the Transgender Community and help them come into the mainstream of the Society. The right to self-perceived gender identity and the procedure to issue the Transgender certificate and Identity card has been defined in the Rules. The process has been made smooth and hassle free to ensure that Transgender persons are able to attain their self-perceived identity card without any inconvenience.
  • National Portal for transgender persons launched: The most important benefit is that it helps the transgender person to get the I-Card without any physical interface and without having to visit any office. Through the Portal, they can monitor the status of their application that ensures transparency in the process.
  • Ambedkar social innovation & incubation mission under venture capital fund for SCS (ASIIM) started
  • 24×7 toll-free mental health rehabilitation help line KIRAN-(1800-599-0019) launched: offer mental health rehabilitation services with the objective of early screening, first-aid, psychological support, distress management, mental wellbeing, promoting positive behaviours, psychological crisis management etc. It aims at serving people experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, adjustment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, pandemic induced psychological issues & mental health emergencies.
  • Historic MoU signed between ISLRTC and NCERT for converting educational materials in to Indian sign language
  • NashaMukt Bharat: Annual Action Plan (2020-21) for 272 Most Affected Districts E-Launched on International Day against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking
  • Week Long “Ekam Fest” organized to Promote Craftsmanship & Products OfDivyang Artisans and Entrepreneurs
  • Launched Mobile Application “Swachhata Abhiyan” Mobile APP, which has been Developed to Identify and Geotag the data of Insanitary Latrines and Manual Scavengers

Year End Review- 2020 – Ministry of Electronics & IT

  • Aarogya Setu was downloaded nearly 17 Crore times; Predicted large number of potential COVID-19 hotspots
  • DigiLocker, the digital platform for issuance and verification of documents issued by Government and private departments,  achieved 5.19 crore registered users; over 426 crore documents have been issued from 722 Issuer organisations
  • Digital Skilling initiative launched by MeitY and NASSCOM in emerging technologies; The initiative aims to cover 7 lakh IT professionals in the next 5 years
  • eHospital , a one stop solution for connecting patients, hospitals and doctors, implemented in 418 establishments with about 17.5 crore transactions
  • Jeevan Pramaan, a biometric-enabled digital service for pensioners to submit their Digital Life Certificates (DLC) online, processes 4.31 crore Digital Life Certificates (DLC) online till November 2020
  • UMANG, a mobile app, is a unified platform aggregating major govt services (center, state and local bodies); 2084 services are available and the app is integrated with Aadhaar, DigiLocker, Payment Gateway etc.
  • India’s first global summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI), RAISE 2020, was inaugurated by Prime Minister and featured 320+ keynote speakers from 21 countries with over 79,000+ registered users from 147 countries for the virtual summit; AI Startup Challenge saw participation from 299 startups, out of which 21 startups (15 winners and 6 special mentions).
  • Jan Dhan Yojana – 41.49 crore beneficiaries with about Rs 1.32 lakh crore balance; 1.26 lakh bank mitras delivering doorstep banking services.
  • Aadhaar – 127 crore enrollments, with 4,947 e-Authentication and 879 crore e-KYC done.
  • National Language Translation Mission platform has 4 startups undergoing incubation to develop and deploy innovative solutions in Indian languages and stimulate massive public participation.

Year End Review- 2020 – Ministry of Tribal Affairs

  • Includes 23 additional MFP items in MSP list: MSP for MFP scheme is to  address several issues of exploitation by local traders, ensuring fair returns on their produce. The Scheme provides a social safety net to these underprivileged forest dwellers, and to aid in their empowerment.
  • M/O Tribal Affairs receives Skoch gold award for its “Empowerment of tribals through it enabled scholarship schemes”
  • ‘Goal’ programme launched for digital skilling of tribal youth across India in partnership with Facebook: The GOAL programme is designed to provide mentorship to tribal youth through digital mode. The digitally enabled program envisages to act as a catalyst to explore hidden talents of the tribal youth, which will help in their personal development as well as contribute to all-round upliftment of their society.
  • Tribal Health & Nutrition Portal – ‘Swasthya’ launched; opens National overseas portal & tribal fellowship portal: The e-portal on tribal health and nutrition named ‘Swasthya’, is a first of its kind e-portal, providing all health and nutrition related information of the tribal population of India in a single platform. Swasthya will also curate innovative practices, research briefs, case studies, and best practices collected from different parts of India to facilitate the exchange of evidence, expertise and experiences.
  • MOTA & IIPA sign MoU for setting up National Institute of tribal research at IIPA Campus, New Delhi
  • In a new convergence based initiative, Van Dhan Kendras to be transformed into tribal enterprises mode under a cluster based model of development

ADB, India sign $10 million loan to support project preparation to expand horticulture in Himachal Pradesh

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $10 million project readiness financing (PRF) to help finance piloting activities, and design and capacity building for an ensuing project that aims to expand horticulture production and farm household income in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh.

The PRF project will support advance actions to achieve high level of project readiness through detailed design activities, capacity building of state level agencies, and creating an enabling environment for subtropical horticulture development in the state.

The PRF project aims to ensure implementation readiness with prior testing of new production technologies and marketing systems so that the ensuing project is cost-effective and gets completed in a timely manner to enhance farm profitability. The ensuing project, to be designed by the PRF, will support development of subtropical horticulture, including cultivation of fruits and vegetables, in the state’s southern region which is currently lagging due to limited access to perennial water sources, crops losses due to wild animal encroachment and limited access to high value markets.

The pilot activities supported by the PRF project include 

  • Establishment or rehabilitation of 16 irrigation schemes for water extraction, distribution and storage; 
  • Developing 17 subtropical horticulture plots for ultra-high density production of selected fruits;
  • Fencing horticulture plots to protect crops from animal predation; and 
  • Forming community horticulture production and marketing associations to build their capacities for business and marketing.

These pilot activities will then be scaled up under the ensuing project to be implemented in 7 districts of Himachal Pradesh. The PRF also supports establishment of water user association (WUAs) on completed irrigation schemes and enhancing women’s participation.

ADB, India sign $231 million loan to enhance power generation capacity in Assam

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $ 231 million loan to augment electricity generation capacity in the state of Assam through construction of a 120 megawatts (MW) hydroelectric power plant that will enhance availability of electricity for households.

This is the third tranche loan for the ongoing Assam Power Sector Investment Programme that was approved by the ADB Board in July 2014. The programme, including its two previous tranches, focuses on enhancing capacity and efficiency of the energy generation and distribution systems in Assam to improve electricity service to end users.

  • The project will add to Assam’s power generation capacity from clean hydroelectric source and improve electricity availability.
  • Increased supply of affordable and clean electricity facilitated through the project will help improve living conditions, promote business expansion, and increase employment opportunities in the state beside reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The proposed hydroelectric project is run-of-the-river project over Kopili river which will help increase electricity supplied from clean energy by 469 gigawatthour (GWh) by 2025 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

Part of the loan will be used for project capacity building of Assam Power Generation Corporation Limited (APGCL) on construction, operations and maintenance and safeguards. The project will finance APGCL’s enterprise resource planning system. It will also contribute to improving gender equity by enhancing the gender capacity of APGCL and improve women’s participation and contribution in training and community led interventions.

A $2 million grant from Japan fund for poverty reduction (JFPR) is also associated with the project to finance equipment and consulting services to improve capacity for resource management and community resilience.

ADB, India sign $100 million loan to upgrade power distribution system in Bengaluru

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $100 million loan to modernise and upgrade the power distribution system to enhance the quality and reliability of electricity supply in Bengaluru city in the state of Karnataka. Beside the $100 million sovereign loan, ADB will provide a $90 million without sovereign guarantee loan for the project to Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM), one of five state-owned distribution utilities in Karnataka.

The project demonstrates an innovative financing arrangement, the first of its kind for ADB, by combining sovereign and non-sovereign loans for a state government-owned enterprise. This is intended to significantly reduce the sovereign exposure and help BESCOM move towards a market-based approach for raising funds for capital expenditure.

Conversion of overhead distribution lines into underground cables will help build an energy-efficient distribution network, reduce technical and commercial losses and minimize electricity outage resulting from natural hazards such as cyclones and external disturbances to overhead lines.

In parallel to underground distribution cables, over 2,800 km of fibre optical cables will be installed to strengthen communication network. Moving about 7,200 km of distribution lines underground will help reduce technical and commercial losses by about 30%. The fibre optical cables will be used for smart metering systems, distribution automation system (DAS) in the distribution grid, and other communication networks. The project will install 1,700 automated ring main units adapted with a DAS to monitor and control the distribution line switchgears from the control centre.

The loan will strengthen the capacity of BESCOM in operation and maintenance of underground cabling, environment and social safeguards, financial management and commercial financing. Improved financial management capability will help BESCOM access domestic and international commercial financing market.

World Bank Signs $105 Million Project to Improve Waterways in West Bengal

The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the World Bank signed a $105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal.

The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project will

  • Facilitate passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly river; 
  • Undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area; 
  • Enhance the quality of life of its residents; and 
  • Contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector

The Inland waterways are now emerging as a cost effective and an environment friendly option for passenger and freight movement. This Project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in West Bengal and help in the economic development of the state by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centers in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area.

The project will cover the five most populous districts of southern West Bengal, including its urban agglomeration — the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) where around 30 million people or one-third of West Bengal’s population live.

West Bengal’s ferries can provide an efficient, flexible mode of public transport for both passengers and freight, saving on operating costs and travel time when compared with road journeys. The existing ferry system, operational for decades, caters to less than 2 percent of the passenger traffic and a small portion of the freight movement. Developing the river transport infrastructure will enable a large population of the state to utilize its waterways, have alternative, multi-modal options for transportation for both freight and passengers, connect the hinterland with Kolkata Metropolitan Area’s markets and job centers and emerge as a logistics hub. 

To better cope with increased precipitation and flooding, climate-smart engineering solutions will be applied, including modular floating designs for ferry access points at the passenger terminals. In addition, the project will facilitate disable-friendly amenities, ensure women’s safety and encourage women’s employment in the IWT Department as well as with the ferry operators.

Seventh Trade Policy Review of India at the WTO

The second and final Session of India’s seventh Trade Policy Review (TPR) concluded at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. The TPR is an important mechanism under the WTO’s monitoring function in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined by the WTO with an aim to contribute towards improved adherence to WTO rules, while providing constructive feedback to the Member under review.

  • Appreciated India’s efforts and commitment towards this transparency exercise
  • Introduction of a path-breaking structural reform in the form of Goods & Services Tax by India, during the review period, was also commended. 
  • The Discussant specifically observed India’s proactive efforts in the implementation of WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and the role played by it in furthering “Ease of Doing Business” in the country, while observing the highly improved ranking of India in the “Trading across Borders” indicator under the Doing Business Report. 
  • WTO Membership has been appreciative of the steps taken by India for liberalizing its FDI regime and India’s National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, 2016.

GS-3

Year End Review 2020 of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmer Welfare

Unprecedented Enhancement in Budget Allocation: In the year 2020-21, the Budget allocation has been increased by more than 6 times to Rs. 1,34,399.77 crore. 

Record foodgrains production: The foodgrains production has increased from 251.54 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 296.65 million tonnes in 2019-20 which is the highest ever foodgrains production. As per third advanced estimates, horticulture production during 2019-20 is 319.57 MMT which is the highest ever for Indian horticulture.

Determination of MSP at one-and-a half times the cost of production – Government has increased the MSPs for all mandated Kharif, Rabi and other commercial crops with a return of at least 50 per cent over all India weighted average cost of production from the agricultural year 2018-19.

Income support to farmers through PM KISAN: Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) was introduced by the central government in February 2019 under which Rs. 6,000 per year is transferred to the beneficiary farmer’s account per year in three instalments. Since the inception of the Scheme, more than 1,10,000 crore rupees have been released so far and 10.59 crore farmer families have been benefitted.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has completed 4 years of its implementation covering over 23 crore farmer applications and benefitting over 7.2 Crore applicants. During this period nearly ₹17,450 crores were paid by farmers as their share of premium against which claims of over ₹87,000 Crores have been paid to them. This means that for every 100 rupees of premium paid by farmers, they have received ₹532 as claims.

Institutional credit for agriculture sector: 

  • Increase from Rs. 7.3 lakh crore in 2013-14 to Rs. 13.73 lakh crore in 2019-20 with a target to reach Rs. 15 lakh Crore in 2020-21.
  • Rs 2 lakh crore concessional credit boost to 2.5 crore farmers through Kisan Credit Cards is envisaged.

Providing Soil Health Cards to farmers: Soil health cards have been issued free of cost to 10.74 crore farmers in first cycle, i.e., 2015-16 to 2016-17 and 11.75 crore farmers in second cycle i.e. 2017-18 to 2018-19 under a nationwide programme.

Promotion of organic farming in the country: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana was initiated in 2015-16 to promote organic farming in the country.

  • 30,934 clusters benefitted.
  • An area of 6.19 lakh ha has been covered and 15.47 lakh farmers have been benefitted.
  • 3.5 lakh farmers are registered on to the dedicated web portal- www.Jaivikkheti.in to market their produce.
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region (MOVCDNER) has been launched.
  • 169 Farmer Producer Companies have been formed comprising of 83,096 farmers and 79,445 ha area.
  • Export of ginger, turmeric, chillies, processed pineapple etc, to USA, UK, France, Dubai, Swaziland has been firmed up. Contract farming of black Thai ginger, medicinal plants has been initiated

Neem Coating of Urea: Neem Coated Urea introduced since 2015-16 for reduced use of chemicals, improved soil health, overall increase in crop yields and reduction in the use of urea for non- agricultural purposes.

Agri Infrastructure Fund: Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) was launched with the aim to provide medium to long term debt financing for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support. The scheme shall be in effect for 10 years i.e. from FY 2020 to FY 2029.  As on date, 3,064 projects of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies worth a loan amount of Rs. 1,565 crores have been sanctioned by NABARD to 3,064 PACs under the scheme. PACs Projects worth Rs. 3,500 Crore have already been structured for financing under the scheme.

Promotion of FPOs: Scheme for Formation and Promotion of 10,000 FPOs with a total budgetary provision of Rs. 6,865 Crore was launched in 2020. Under the Scheme, formation of 10,000 FPOs across the country is targeted in five years period till 2023-24, while providing adequate handholding to each FPO for five years from the formation for which support will continue till 2027-28.

National Bee and Honey Mission: NBHM has been launched in 2020 as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Rs.500 crore for the period 2020-2021 to 2022-2023 has been allocated for the sector. Projects worth Rs. 100 crore is targeted for December 2020.

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana: Per Drop more Crops component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY – PDMC) aims to increase water use efficiency at the farm level through precision micro irrigation technologies i.e. drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. Additional 50.1 lakh hectare area has been covered under micro irrigation from the year 2015-16 till date in the country. An amount of Rs. 13309 crores as central assistance has been provided to states under PMKSY since 2015-16.

Changes in Disaster Relief Standards: Major changes were made in disaster relief standards such as the assistance amount of all categories was increased by one and a half times. Where earlier compensation was payable only on crop loss of more than 50%, Now compensation is payable even if the loss is 33% only. The amount received by the kin of the victims of natural disasters has been increased from Rs.1.5 lakh to Rs.4 lakh. Assistance in all matters of admissibility has been increased from one hectare to two hectares.

E-NAM extension: In 18 states and 03 UTs, 1000 markets have been integrated with the E-NAM Platform. 1.68 crore farmers are registered on the platform as well as 1.52 lakh  traders.  A total volume of 3.94 crore metric tonnes has been traded on the platform for a total value of Rs. 1.15 lakh crore. Farmer Product Organizations (FPO) were integrated with E-NAM Platform and trade started through the Platform.

Improvement in farm produce logistics, Introduction of Kisan Rail:

  • A farmer friendly mobile application ‘ Kisan Rath ‘ app to facilitate the farmers and traders in search of transportation vehicles for primary and secondary transportation for the movement of agricultural and horticultural products.  
  • The country’s First Kisan Rail started between Deolali and Danapur station on 08.07.2020. Another Kisan Rail has been operated between Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh to Adarsh Nagar, Delhi.
  • Till 11.12.2020, 84 trips have been made by these Kisan Rails carrying 23,219 tonnes earning a revenue of Rs. 901.3 lakhs for the Government.

Creation of a Start-up Eco system: 424 start-ups in the agriculture and allied sectors have been selected for funding for a sum of Rs. 45.38 crore in instalments and Rs.19.70 crore has been released as a 1st instalment for funding these start-ups. These start-ups were trained for two months at various agribusiness incubation centres i.e. Knowledge Partners (KPs) & RKVY-RAFTAAR Agribusiness Incubators (R-ABIs).

IMD issues a Statement on Climate of India during 2020

  • The year 2020 as the eighth warmest year on record since 1901
  • 12 out of 15 warmest years were during the recent fifteen years (2006-2020)
  • Past decade (2001-2010/ 2011-2020) was also the warmest decade on record
  • Rainfall over the country as a whole during the SW monsoon season (June-September) was above normal (109 % of LPA)
  • The 2020 Northeast monsoon season (October-December) rainfall over the country as a whole was normal (101% of LPA)
  • During 2020, 5 cyclones formed over the North Indian Ocean. These are Super cyclonic Storm AMPHAN, Very Severe Cyclonic Storms NIVAR & GATI, Severe Cyclonic Storm NISARGA, and Cyclonic Storm ‘BUREVI’
  • The country also experienced other high impact weather events like, extremely heavy rainfall, floods, landslide, thunderstorm, lightning, cold waves, etc

Joint study group and surveillance squad constituted to check Ammoniacal Nitrogen in River Yamuna

The possible reasons could be 

  • Discharge of untreated sewage from upstream towns in Haryana, 
  • Discharge from industrial units, Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) and Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), 
  • Illegal discharge of sewage from unsewered colonies in outer Delhi through tankers, 
  • Lean flow in the River Yamuna and 
  • Anaerobic decomposition of accumulated sludge on river bed.​

The Way Forward

  • A study group comprising Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, Haryana, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi has been constituted. 
  • The group will review uniform monitoring protocol and requirement of strengthening monitoring mechanism, analyse past data and carry out field survey to identify critical hotspots as well as period of high anomia levels. 
  • It has also been asked to suggest short and long term measures for sustained solutions, and submit its report within a month. 
  • Also, it was agreed to constitute a Joint Surveillance Squad comprising DJB, DPCC, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi, HSPCB and Irrigation and Water Resources Department,Haryana.

Year End Review – 2020 Ministry of Defence

  • The Department of Military Affairs was set up and the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) created.
  • Indian Army has resolutely countered adversaries on the Line of Control (LC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and carried out relentless Counter Insurgency (CI)/ Counter Terrorist (CT) operations. 
  • Defending the territorial integrity of India in Galvan Valley has been the most shining example of the valour of our forces this year in which 20 brave India soldiers made the supreme sacrifice.              
  • India categorically conveyed China that any attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo at the border is unacceptable and that India is determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. 
  • To make Indian Army future ready, budgetary constraints for capability development and meeting other requirements have been removed.
  • Eight Rafale aircraft inducted and operationalised on 20th September, 2020, sending strong message for those who challenge India’s sovereignty. With its world class capability, Rafale aircraft is a game changer for India’s national security.
  • Air version of supersonic BrahMos Air missile integrated on Su-30 MKI.
  • The strength of Indian Navy furthered with the commissioning of i) INS Kavaratti (P31), a fully combat-ready Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvette and ii) commissioning of warship IN LCU L57. 
  • Aligning with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 unveiled.  It aims to give impetus to the growing domestic industry and achieve enhanced self-reliance in defence manufacturing.
  • Defence Offset Guidelines 2020 promulgated to attract investments and technology through offsets to enhance capabilities in the domestic Defence manufacturing sector and promote the “Make in India” initiative.
  • Modernization/ up-gradation of facilities and new infrastructure creation by Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories Board launched.
  • Out of 43 ships on order for Indian Navy, 41 are being built indigenously and AoN exists for construction of 44 ships and submarines to be built indigenously.
  • Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board initiated to enhance their efficiency and accountability.
  • Foreign Direct Investment limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route raised from 49% to 74%.
  • DRDO’s pursuit of self-reliance and successful indigenous development and production of strategic systems and platforms such as Agni and Prithvi series of missiles; light combat aircraft, Tejas; multi-barrel rocket launcher, Pinaka; air defence system, Akash; a wide range of radars and electronic warfare systems; etc., have given quantum jump to India’s military might. 
  • Women’s participation has been increasing over the years and the Government is further enhancing their role on priority.  Short Service Commissioned (SSC) Women Officers granted permanent commission   in all ten streams of Indian Army. Four women officers have been appointed onboard Indian Navy ships.  Captain Tania Sher Gill, led an all-men contingent in Republic Day Parade 2020.
  • Border  Roads Organisation continued with works of strategic importance like Construction of Major Bridges,  Roads,  Tunnels  and  Snow Clearance for opening of Strategic Mountain Passes braving  Covid-19 threat.
  • World’s longest Highway tunnel – Atal Tunnel  built by BRO dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 3rd October 2020.
  • 80-kilometre-longRoad link from Dharchula (Uttarakhand) to Lipulekh (China Border) inaugurated on 20th May 2020.
  • 44 Bridges of strategic importance in sensitive areas close to Western, Northern and North Eastern Borders, across seven States and UTs opened on 12 October.
  • The 11th edition of India’s biennial military exhibition, DefExpo was held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, which showcased the potential of the country as a global defence manufacturing hub. More than 1,000 defence manufacturers and 150 companies from all over the world took part in this Expo.

Armed Forces played pivotal role in mitigating the sufferings of the people in the face of  novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Right from rescuing stranded Indians from COVID-19 affected areas, such as China, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, etc, to providing relief materials to all across the country, Armed Forces have put in place all its medical and manpower resources. Hospitals of the Armed Forces and medical facilities have been dedicated to treat COVID-19 patients and some of its bases were turned into quarantine centres. 

Besides the all-out efforts of Armed Forces, its various organisations and arms like Armed Forces Medical Services, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings, Ordnance Factory Board, Indian Coast Guard, Cantonment Boards, National Cadet Corps contributed in their own ways to fight this pandemic.  

Prelims-oriented news

Launch of Toycathon-2021 and Toycathon Portal

  • Toycathon aims to tapIndia’s one billion USD toy market
  • Toycathonto capture innovative prowess of 33 crores students
  • School children to innovate, design and conceptualize toys
  • Prizes worth Rs. 50 lakh for Toycathon-2021 winners

This Toycathon is aimed to conceptualize innovative toys based on the Indian value system which will inculcate the positive behaviour and good value among the children.

Japan’s Official Development Assistance for the COVID-19 crisis response support loan for social protection: Loan of an amount of JPY 30 billion (approx. Rs. 2,113 crore); This programme loan aims to support India’s efforts to provide coordinated and adequate social protection to the poor and vulnerable across the country against the severe impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.

40th Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica launched

  • This Indian expedition marks four decades of country’s scientific endeavour to the southern white continent. 
  • The 40th expedition journey will be flagged off from Goa on January 5, 2021, with 43 members onboard. 
  • The chartered ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin will make this journey and will reach Antarctica in 30 days. 
  • After leaving behind a team of 40 members, it would return to India in April 2021. 
  • On return, it will also bring back the winter team of the preceding trip.

The Indian Antarctic expeditions began in 1981. The first trip comprised of a team of 21 scientists and support staff led by Dr SZ Qasim. After a humble beginning, the Indian Antarctic programme has now credited to have built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica—named Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati. As of today, India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri and Bharati. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.

The preceding 39th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was launched in November 2019. It mounted 27 scientific projects, focusing on climate process and its linkages with climate change, crustal evolution, environmental processes and conservation, the ecosystem of terrestrial and near shore regions, observational research, and polar technology. Two additional collaborative projects with the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan were also undertaken. After completing its mission mandate, it returned to India in May of 2020. It also replenished the annual supplies of food, fuel, provisions, snowmobiles, and spares for operations and maintenance of life support systems at Maitri and Bharati. It cruised a team of 48 members to Antarctica for winter operations.

The scientific and logistic activities of the 40thIndian Antarctic expedition are limited due to the existing challenges associated with COVID-19 pandemic. The focus is to support the ongoing scientific projects on climate change, geology, ocean observations, electric and magnetic flux measurements, environmental monitoring; resupplying of food, fuel, provisions and spare; and accomplishing the return of the winter crew. India is committed to maintaining the continent of Antarctica free of COVID-19. The expedition will duly follow all protocols for the deployment of men and material as per Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs(COMNAP). Extra precautions of sanitizing the cargo, mandatory fourteen days of quarantine (pre-, and post-expedition), and RT-PCR testing before boarding the ice-class vessel is also being conducted.

TRIFED under M/O Tribal Affairs initiates Marketing & Logistics intervention for promoting products of North – East in collaboration with DoNER and India Post

To implement a successful marketing and logistic intervention for promoting the rich and traditional tribal products of the North Eastern states. The aim of this initiative is to create a brand for products from that region, increase awareness of the brand across the globe and provide national and international market access. With the focus on products of the North-Eastern region, and the facilitation and onboarding of more tribal suppliers will result in enhancing tribal entrepreneurship in the region, hence increasing incomes and also generate livelihood for the tribal communities.

The planned interventions include the identification of suppliers and weaving clusters; sourcing of products, training and development of tribal resources, procurement and aggregation of tribal products and transportation and distribution of the selected products to Tribes India outlets and end customers. DoNER will work on these activities through its agencies and TRIFED will use its extensive network of outlets and its e-commerce platforms for the marketing and branding in domestic and international markets.

The collaboration aligns with the ‘Act East’ policy of the government to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region at different levels. The objective is to increase the sale of the North-Eastern products to 4 fold. This will help in enhancing income generation of tribal suppliers and contribute effectively to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and the Vocal for Local, Buy Tribal initiative.

By GI tagging the products, the transparency regarding the origin of the product can be ensured. This will help North East in generating awareness about region, its rich traditions and quality across the globe.It has been decided to collaborate with India Post for all logistics requirements arising from this initiative.

Light House projects (LHPs) under Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC)

At six sites across six States

  • The Prime Minister cited these light house projects as an example of the approach of the present Government. Today, the country has chosen a different approach, adopting a different route and a better technology, to complete the projects faster.
  • These light house projects will be made up of modern technology and innovative processes and reduce the construction time and make a more resilient, affordable and comfortable house for the poor. These light houses have innovations in construction technology. 
  • For example the project  in Indore will not have brick and mortar walls, instead they will use the prefabricated Sandwich Panel system. 
  • The light houses in Rajkot will be built using french technology and have monolithic concrete construction technology using tunnel and the house will be more capable of withstanding disasters. 
  • In Chennai, US and Finland technologies will use the Precast Concrete system, which will construct the house faster and cheaper. 
  • In Ranchi houses will be built using Germany’s 3D construction system. Each room will be made separately and then the entire structure will be added in the same way as Lego Blocks toys. 
  • Houses are being built in Agartala with the steel frames using New Zealand’s technology which can withstand major earthquake risk. 
  • Canada’s technology is being used in Lucknow, which will not require plaster and paint and will use the entire walls already prepared to build houses faster. 
  • Thousands of houses will be built in 12 months at every location which will act as incubation centers through which our planners, architects, engineers and students will be able to learn and experiment with new technology. 
  • A certificate course will be  started to upgrade the skills related to new technology to the people in the construction sector, so that the people can get the best technology and material in the world in house construction.
  • In PM Awas Yojna construction’s focus is both on innovation and implementation as per the local needs and expectations of the home-owners. It is a complete package as every unit is equipped with electricity-water-gas connection. Transparency is being ensured through the technologies like geo-tagging and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to the beneficiaries.
  • The new scheme that was taken up during the Corona pandemic i.e. Affordable Renting Housing Complex Schemes: Government is working with industry and other investors to provide housing with fair rents to the workers who come to work from various states to different states. Their housing conditions are often unhygienic and undignified. Effort is to provide them fair rent dwellings in the vicinity of their workplace.

Year End Review- 2020: Ministry of Panchayati Raj

SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas0: Towards the objectives of socio-economic empowerment of the rural mass and making them self-reliant, a Central Sector Scheme, “Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas’ was launched by the Prime Minister on 24th April 2020. The scheme aims to provide the ‘record of rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited rural areas in villages and issuance of property cards to the property owners.

e-Gram Swaraj e-Financial Management System: In order to strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), eGramSwaraj, a Simplified Work Based Accounting Application for Panchayati Raj, was launched on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day on April 24, 2020. It has been developed amalgamating the functionalities of all the applications under e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP).

People’s Plan Campaign (PPC)- Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas: Inspired by the visible and quite satisfactory performance of the Gram Panchayats, Gram Sabhas and other stakeholders involved in the PPC during 2018-19 and 2019-20 and to provide sustainability to the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) formulation process into a participative and transparent exercise, the process of GPDP preparation for the financial year 2021-22 again has started in Campaign mode from 2nd October, 2020 as PPC-2020-21.

AuditOnline: Online Audit of Panchayat accounts: AuditOnline not only facilitates the auditing of accounts but also provisions for maintaining audit records that have been carried out. This application also seeks to streamline the process for audit inquiries, draft local audit reports, draft audit Paras etc.

Geo-tagging of assets: As a part of effective monitoring, it is imperative to have field-level monitoring of physical progress of the works. Further, supplementing to strengthening the system; geo-tagging of assets (on completion of work) is of utmost importance. Ministry has developed mActionSoft – a mobile based solution to help in capturing photos with Geo-Tags (i.e. GPS Coordinates) for the works which have asset as an output.

Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan (GKRA): Government of India had launched GKRA in six States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to provide gainful employment to the migrant labourers who had returned to their native villages due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. 

Year End Review: Department of Sports

  • First anniversary of Fit India Movement celebrated; Prime Minister holds Fit India Dialogue, launches Age Appropriate Fitness Protocols
  • WHO lauds the Campaign “Fitness Ka Dose Aadha Ghanta Roz.”
  • Setting up of 1000 Khelo India Centres announced
  • 20 new disciplines are now eligible for Government jobs under sports quota
  • Yogasana gets formal recognition as a competitive sport
  • Ministry includes Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba in Khelo India Youth Games 2021

Year End Review- 2020: Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers

  • DoP approved 15 FDI proposals worth ₹ 1,512 crore in 2020; 11 more for worth of ₹ 7,211 crore are under consideration
  • Government gave Nutrient Based Subsidy of Rs. 15801.96 and Urea subsidy of Rs. 53950.75 crores on Fertilizers during 2020
  • Total sale of fertilizers recorded at 451.16 LMT from 1st April to 15th December, 2020
  • Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals setting up six Plastic Parks in the country
  • Four Petrochemical Investment Regions (PCPIRs) policies being implemented in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu; expected to attract investment of around Rs. 7.63 lakh crore
  • Supply of HCQ and paracetamol: During this period, GoI constituted an Inter-ministerial Empowered Committee to make recommendation for the export of drugs/ items requested by foreign governments especially drugs like Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol. Using a reporting framework for production and supply of these medicines coordinated by NPPA, the Empowered Committee made recommendation for release of surplus drugs produced to foreign countries after ensuring the sufficient domestic availability.
  • Role of Jan AushadhiKendras during COVID 19 crisis: In the wake of COVID 19 crisis, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) has been rendering essential services to the nation. The stores are functional and maintaining operations as part of their commitment to ensure uninterrupted availability of essential medicines at the PMBJK.

Ministry of Tourism: Year End Review 2020

  • 68 webinars organized by M/o Tourism till date under Dekho Apna Desh Series; series continue to provide thrust to the rich culture of tourism in India
  • With viewership of over 3 lakh, Dekho Apna Desh Series gets a huge thumbs up
  • SAATHI initiative launched to assist hospitality industry to continue to operate safely and instill confidence about safety of the hotel/unit in view of COVID-19 caused disruptions
  • 34399 accommodation units registered on the NIDHI portal so far
  • ‘Stranded in India’ portal reaches out to thousands of stranded foreign tourists and extends support during COVID-19 lockdown
  • Several important projects under PRASHAD and Swadesh Darshan scheme completed and inaugurated
  • Year 2020 saw varied activities by M/o Tourism to promote spirit and essence of EBSB
  • Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) Certification Programme: Ministry of Tourism has launched the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) Certification Programme, a Pan-India online learning program accessible from different digital devices. The programme aims at enhancing the overall experience of tourists by creating a pool of local, trained professionals. It will help in creating employment opportunities at the local level even in remote areas with tourism potential.
  • Incredible India Website launched: in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish languages to attract tourists from these regions
  • NIDHI: Ministry of Tourism has created the National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry (NIDHI) to get a clear picture of the geographical spread of the Hospitality Sector, its size, structure and existing capacity. It will serve as a common repository of data from Ministry of Tourism, State Departments of Tourism and Industry and enable the Central and State Governments to deliver better support and services including policies and strategies.

Cabinet approves signing of Memorandum of Cooperation between India and Japan on Partnership in “Specified Skilled Worker”

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Government of India and Government of Japan, on a Basic Framework for Partnership for Proper Operation of the System Pertaining to “Specified Skilled Worker”.

The Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) would enhance people-to -people contacts, foster mobility of workers and skilled professionals from India to Japan.

Beneficiaries: Skilled Indian workers from fourteen sectors viz. Nursing care; Building cleaning; Material Processing industry; Industrial machinery manufacturing industry; Electric and electronic information related industry; Construction; Shipbuilding and ship-related industry; Automobile maintenance; Aviation; Lodging; Agriculture; Fisheries; Food and beverages manufacturing industry and Food service industry would have enhanced job opportunities to work in Japan.

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