Press Information Bureau (PIB)-15th March to 21st March , 2017

Press Information Bureau (PIB)- 15th March to 21st March, 2017 (PIB Weekly Compilation)


Archive



Cabinet approves Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas

{Environment}


Source: PIB

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, its approval for marketing and pricing freedom to the Coal Bed Methane (CBM) Contractors to sell the CBM at Arm’s Length Price in the domestic market. While discovering the market price for Arm’s Length Sales, the Contractor has to ensure a fully transparent and competitive process for sale of CBM with the objective that the best possible price is realized for the gas without any restrictive commercial practices.

Coal Bed Methane (CBM)

  • India has the fifth largest proven coal reserves in the world and thus holds significant prospects for exploration and exploitation of CBM.
  • Coal has the ability to store gas in significant amounts, because its surface can adsorb gases.
  • Although the form of coal is solid and it looks like ahard rock, but there are a lot of pores smaller than a micron scale, so that coal is like a sponge.
  • This condition causes the coal surface becomes so broad so that it can absorb large amounts of gas. If the gas pressure is higher, the ability to adsorb gas coal will also increase.
  • Gas trapped in coal mainly consist of methane gas, so the gas is generally referred to as Coal Bed Methane or CBM. CBM is classified as an unconventional energy.
  • Permeability in coal is created by naturally occuring fractures referred as cleats.
  • Coal bed methane is similar to natural gas, differing only in the way that it is formed and stored in the Earth’s crust
  • Unlike much natural gas from conventional reservoirs, coal bed methane contains very little heavier hydrocarbons such as propane or butane, and no natural gas condensate. It often contains up to a few percent carbon dioxide

Exploration in India

  • The Gondwana sediments of eastern India host the bulk of India’s coal reserves and all the current CBM producing blocks.
  • The vast majority of the best prospective areas for CBM development are in eastern India, situated in Damodar Koel valley and Son valley.
  • CBM projects exist in Ranging South, Raniganj East and Raniganj North areas in the Raniganj coalfield, Currently, commercial production has commenced from Raniganj South CBM block operated by M/s. GEECL since July 2007.

Exploitation of Coal Bed Methane and Oil & Natural Gas has been placed under the administrative control of Ministry of Petroleum. They are governed by Oil Fields (Regulations and Development Act, 1948) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules, 1959. The safety aspects are covered under the Oil Mines Regulation, 1984.

Advantages of CBM as a fuel CBM is an environmentally safe gas:

  • Methane has been labelled as a Green House Gas (GHG) by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Its global warming potential is 21 times more than that of the Carbon Dioxide. But CBM is considered as a clean fuel which on combustion emits only carbon dioxide and water.
  • So, is not only considered as an efficient fuel. Using CBM as a fuel will halt its emission into environment and thus reducing emission of green house gas from coal mining.
  • Extraction of CBM prior to coal mining activities makes mining activities safer by degassing the coal seams. Extraction of CBM would help in increasing the domestic gas production.

Benefits of extracting methane before mining operations

  • Enhances the productivity of coal because less slowdowns in production caused by gas.
  • Reduction in dust concentrations due to reduction in velocity.
  • Improves safety of mines due to the lower methane contents.
  • Improved worker comfort.

Third Generation Nuclear Reactors

{Science and Technology}


Source: PIB

  • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has designed Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) for utilisation of Thorium.
  • This reactor has several passive safety systems and runs on coolant flow by natural circulation.
  • It meets all the post Fukushima requirements and can withstand severe accidents without exposing radiation in the environment.
  • It meets all the safety features of 3rd generation reactors.
  • AHWR design has been reviewed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has accorded pre-licensing approval. Government of India has given ‘in principle’ approval for constructing AHWR in Tarapur, Maharashtra.

Atomic Energy in India:

Atomic Energy has a key role in reducing the carbon intensity of the overall Power sector of India.

  • While renewable sources of energy are environment friendly, they are intermittent sources of power. Nuclear power, being a non-intermittent and concentrated source of power with negligible carbon footprint, is an essential component of the Indian power-mix to meet the International environmental commitments of India.
  • India has limited domestic uranium resources while we have abundant Thorium. To exploit Thorium, our planners have envisaged the Three Stage Nuclear Power Program.
  • Indigenously built Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) form the backbone of the first stage Indian nuclear power program. PHWRs use domestic natural uranium (UO2) containing 0.7 % fissile U-235 and 99.3% U-238 as fuel and Heavy water as moderator and primary coolant.
  • Reprocessing of the spent fuel from PHWRs and waste management are important components of the three stage nuclear program. These technologies were developed with total indigenous efforts. Uranium and Plutonium are chemically separated and recycled, while the other radioactive fission products were separated and sorted according to their half lives and radioactivity and stored with minimal environmental impact.
  • Pu-239 extracted from the spent fuel serves as the fuel for the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) – part of the second stage of the nuclear program.FBR fuel is so designed that a blanket of U-238 surrounds fuel core. U-238 undergoes transmutation to produce fresh Pu-239. Thus an FBR not only consumes Pu-239 but also breeds more Pu-239 than it consumes. But FBR technology is very complex and only advanced countries like USA, UK, France, Japan and USSR have mastered this technology.

Three Stages:

  • India announced its entry into this exclusive club when the 40 MWth Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) went critical in the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam in October 1985. A unique feature the FBTR is the indigenously developed U-Pu carbide fuel rich in Pu. With the operational experience gained from FBTR, India embarked upon the construction of a500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) which is likely to be operational in 2017.
  • Th-232, which is abundant in India, is not a fissile material. However, by a neutron capture reaction, Th-232 transforms into U-233, which is a fissile material like U-235 and Pu-239.
  • The strategy of the three stage program is to convert Th-232 into U-233 in the fast reactors. U-233 will be the fuel in the futuristic third stage of nuclear program.
  • Further, it is proposed to use thorium along with a small feed of plutonium-based fuel in Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs) which are expected to facilitate large-scale thorium utilization.

BARC has active groups for Research and Development in Reactor Technologies, Fuel reprocessing and waste management, Isotope Applications, Radiation Technologies and their application to health, agriculture and environment, Accelerator and Laser Technology, Electronics, instrumentation and reactor control and Materials Science.


Cabinet approves revised MoU with Bangladesh to set up Border Haats

{International Relations}


Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet has approved Revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Mode of Operation (MoO) between India and Bangladesh for establishing Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border.

The revised MoU and MoO will provide a legal framework for establishment and operationalization of additional Border Haats along India-Bangladesh border.

Keyfacts

  • The Border Haats aim at promoting traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets across the India-Bangladesh border.
  • It will help to improve economic well-being of marginalised sections in remote areas across along the border.
  • The Border Haats allows to people living in border areas to trade in specified products in accordance with the regulations agreed and notified by both Governments.
  • Currently four Border Haats are operational, two each in Meghalaya and Tripura, along the border.
  • They were established and operationalized under the MoU and MoO signed between Bangladesh and India in 2010. Subsequently, an Addendum to MoO of Border Haats was also signed in May, 2012.

Govt launches new scheme for developing export linked infrastructure – (Ministry of Commerce & Industry)

{Infrastructure}


Source: PIB

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) seeks to bridge the infrastructure gap and provide forward and backward linkages to units engaged in trade activities.

  • The government has launched a new scheme — TIES — for developing export linked infrastructure in states with a view to promote outbound shipments.
  • The Scheme is focussed on addressing the needs of the exporters. It focus is not just to create infrastructure but to make sure it is professionally run and sustained.

Authorities of this scheme:

  • Empowered Committee to periodically review the progress of the approved projects in the Scheme and will take necessary steps to ensure achievement of the objectives of the Scheme.
  • The proposals of the implementing agencies for funding will be considered by aninter-ministerial Empowered Committee specially constituted for this Scheme to be chaired by the Commerce Secretary.
  • While appraising the project the justification, including the intended benefit in terms of addressing the specific export bottlenecks, would be evaluated.

Key facts:

The scheme would provide assistance for setting up and up-gradation of infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, cold chains, trade promotion centres, dry ports, export warehousing and packaging, SEZs and ports/airports cargo terminuses.

About TIES:

  • After delinking of the ASIDE Scheme in 2015, the State Governments have been consistently requesting the support of the Centre in creation of export infrastructure.
  • This support is imperative to act as an inducement to the States to channelize funds from their increased devolution towards creation of export infrastructure.
  • The objective of the proposed scheme is to enhance export competitiveness by bridging gaps in export infrastructure, creating focused export infrastructure, first mile and last mile connectivity for export-oriented projects and addressing quality and certification measures.

Eligible for this scheme:

  • The Central and State Agencies, including Export Promotion Councils, Commodities Boards, SEZ Authorities and Apex Trade Bodies recognised under the EXIM policy of Government of India; are eligible for financial support under this scheme.
  • The Central Government funding will be in the form of grant-in-aid; normally not more than the equity being put in by the implementing agency or 50% of the total equity in the project. (In case of projects located in North Eastern States and Himalayan States including J&K, this grant can be upto 80% of the total equity).
  • The grant in aid shall, normally, be subject to a ceiling of Rs 20 Cr for each infrastructure project.
  • The implementing agencies shall provide details of the financing tie-ups for the projects which will be considered before approval of the project. Disbursement of funds shall be done after financial closure is achieved.

The other salient features of the scheme include promotion of leveraging of funds from other sources including bank financing; no recurring costs of the land to be included; and operating & maintenance costs to be met through pay and use charges.


Draft Bill against Human Trafficking

{Social issue}


Source: PIB
The upcoming Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill’ 2017, aims to prevent trafficking of persons, to provide care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking, to prosecute offenders and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Key facts:

  • The proposed legislation defines “child” as a person who has not completed the age of eighteen years.
  • It provides for care, protection and rehabilitation of victims and in case of child victim, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act’ 2015 shall apply.
  • In addition, it defines some new forms of trafficking as aggravated or otherwise and prescribes stringent punishment to persons committing the offence of trafficking for the purposes of forced or bonded labour, administering chemical substance or hormone for the purposes of attaining sexual maturity in victims etc.
  • It envisages establishment of well-coordinated institutional mechanisms at District, State and National level for prevention and investigation of offences and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking.
  • At the grass root level, the District Anti Trafficking Committee have been entrusted with various functions including creating awareness generation programs, community mobilization and empowerment of vulnerable social groups against Trafficking of Persons.
  • The Rehabilitation Fund so constituted also provides for awareness generation programmes for prevention of Trafficking of Persons.

National Health Mission

{Health issue}


Source: PIB

The National Health Mission (NHM) aims for attainment of universal access to equitable, affordable and quality health care services, accountable and responsive to people’s needs, with effective inter-sectoral convergent action to address the wider social determinants of health.

Under NHM, support to States/UTs is provided for five key programmatic  components:

  • Health Systems Strengthening including infrastructure, human resource, drugs & equipment, ambulances, MMUs, ASHAs etc under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
  • Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Services(RMNCH + A)
  • Communicable Disease Control Programmes
  • Non-Communicable Diseases Control Programme interventions upto District Hospital level
  • Infrastructure Maintenance- to support salary of ANMs and LHVs etc.

The objectives of NHM are summarised as under:

  • Reduction in child and maternal mortality
  • Prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, including locally endemic diseases.
  • Access to integrated comprehensive primary health care.
  • Population stabilisation, gender and demographic balance.
  • Revitalize local health traditions & mainstream AYUSH.
  • Universal access to public services for food and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene and universal access to public health care services with emphasis on services addressing women’s and children’s health and universal immunisation.
  • Promotion of healthy life styles.

The NHM has been successful in accelerating the decline of Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Under 5 Mortality Rate (U5MR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR). It has also achieved many of the disease control targets.


Human Development Index

{Development and Employment}


Source: PIB

According to the report ‘Human Development in Andhra Pradesh’ prepared for Government of Andhra Pradesh by Center for Economic and Social Studies in 2016, the rank of Andhra Pradesh in Human Development Index(HDI) among 21 major States of India was 12 in 2004-05 and 9 in 2011-12. This reflects declining inequalities in HDI across the districts. The same is evident in case of the three components of HDI, viz., standard of living, health and education.

The initiatives taken by the Government to further increase the HDI in the country include:
Health Care:

  • Promoting institutional deliveries,  strengthening of health infrastructure, training of service providers in management of emergency obstetric care and skilled birth attendance,
  • providing ante-natal and post-natal care, organising village health and nutrition days, engagement of an accredited social health activist (ASHA) in the community,
  • establishing referral systems including emergency referral transport, training of service providers in integrated management of neo-natal & childhood illness, training of ASHAs in Home based new born care, training of health care providers in essential new-born care and resuscitation,
  • providing new-born care at all levels, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding, establishment of nutritional rehabilitation centres,  strengthening routine immunisation programme, focussing on reduction in morbidity and mortality due to acute respiratory infections (ARI) and diarrhoeal diseases,
  • Introduction of name based web enabled tracking of pregnant women & children (Mother and Child Tracking System) to ensure antenatal, intra-natal and postnatal care to pregnant women and care to new-borns, infants and children.

Education:

  • Enactment and operationalisation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, SarvaShikshaAbhiyan, Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary level, setting up of Kasturba Gandhi BalikaVidyalaya, MahilaSamakhya programme, scheme for providing quality education in Madarasas.

Schemes/Policies:

  • Improving the purchasing power of the people through various income generating schemes including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
  • The National Food Security Act, 2013 aims to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.

National Physical Laboratory(NPL)- CSIR dedicates the first “Pristine air-quality monitoring station at Palampur” to the Nation

{Environment}


Source: PIB

National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has established an atmospheric monitoring station in the campus of Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur (H.P.) at an altitude of 1391 m for generating the base data for atmospheric trace species & properties to serve as reference for comparison of polluted atmosphere in India.

At this station, NPL has installed state of art air monitoring system, greenhouse gas measurement system and Raman Lidar. A number of parameters like CO, NO, NO2, NH3, SO2, O3, PM, HC & BC besides CO2 & CH4 are being currently monitored at this station which is also equipped with weather station (AWS) for measurement of weather parameters.

In India, air quality parameters are mostly measured in industrial and residential areas, however, data for air quality of pristine atmosphere is not available in India. NPL’s station will contribute to fill this important gap. The NPL’s station will also serve as a base station for inter-comparison of air quality monitoring equipment being used in India to improve quality of monitored data in India.

The data taken at this station during past one year shows that the pollution levels are far below the limits of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In addition, this new station has the experimental facilities to investigate the aerosol/cloud interactions, and such investigations would be helpful in generating a better understanding of the Earth’s climate system.


Government allows RBI to print Rs 10 plastic notes

{Governance}


Source: PIB

  • The Union Finance Ministry has given permission to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to conduct field trials of plastic (polymer-based) currency notes of Rs 10 denominations.
  • These notes will be first introduced in five cities (not yet declared) across the country with diverse geographical and climatic conditions.
  • The Finance Ministry has asked the RBIto go ahead with the procurement of the requisite plastic substrate material and approved the printing of plastic Rs. 10 notes.
  • The plastic notes are considered to be cleaner than paper (cotton substrate-based) currency notes. They will last longer (average life span of about 5 years) and are difficult to counterfeit.
  • Plastic currency notes were first adopted by Australia in 1988and are now used in more than 20 countries. These notes are smaller and stronger than cotton-based paper notes. They also have more security features that make them harder to counterfeit.

Mechanism to procure bumper crops

{Agriculture}


Source: PIB
The production of a crop depends upon several factors including availability of cultivable land, vagaries of nature, temperature, weather and rainfall scenario, etc.

As a result of very good rainfall during monsoon 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by the Government, the country has witnessed record foodgrains production in the current year.

Steps taken:

  • The Central Government extends price support forprocurement of wheat and paddy through Food Corporation of India (FCI) and State Agencies at Minimum Support Price (MSP)
  • Procurement at MSP is open ended, whatever foodgrains are offered by the farmers, within the stipulated procurement period and which conforms to the quality specifications prescribed by Government of India (GOI), are purchased at MSP (and bonus/incentive ,if any) by the Government agencies including FCI, for Central Pool
  • However, if any producer/farmer gets better price in comparison to MSP, he is free to sell his produce in Open Market to private traders/anyone
  • Coarse grains are purchased by State Government with permission of Central Government, upto the extent it is required in their Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)
  • Under Price Support Scheme (PSS), the procurement of oil seeds, pulses and cotton through Central Nodal Agencies at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is also undertaken
  • The basic objectives of PSS are to provide remunerative prices to the growers for their produce with a view to encourage higher investment and production and to safeguard the interest of consumers by making available supplies at reasonable prices with low cost of intermediation
  • Further, Government of India also implements Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for procurement of agricultural and horticultural commodities which are perishable in nature and are not covered under the Price Support Scheme (PSS)
  • The objective of intervention is to protect the growers of these commodities from making distress sale in the event of a bumper crop during the peak arrival period when the prices tend to fall below economic levels and cost of production

bumper crops:

The slang term “bumper crop” refers to an unusually large harvest. A bumper crop was a harvest which was so large that it swelled the baskets and containers used to ship things to market. Although this term refers specifically to agricultural products.


Scientists discover five new sub-atomic particles at CERN

{Agriculture}


Source: PIB
Scientists using Large Hadron Collider accelerator (LHC) at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) have discovered a new system of five particles all in a single analysis.

This discovery is unique as observing five new states all at once is very rare. According to the standard convention, these particle states were named Oc(3000)0, Oc(3050)0, Oc(3066)0, Oc(3090)0 , Oc(3119)0.

The numbers indicate their masses in megaelectronvolts (MeV), measured by LHCb experiment, one of seven particle physics detector experiments collecting data at LHC, world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

  • The new particles were found to be in excited states(a particle state that has a higher energy than the ground state or absolute minimum configuration) of a particle called Omega-c-zero.
  • Omega-c-zero is a baryon. It is a particle with three quarks, containing two strange and one charm quark. It decays via the strong force into another baryon, called Xi-c-plus (containing a “charm”, a “strange” and an “up” quark) and a kaon K-. Xi-c-plusparticle further decays in turn into a proton p, a kaon K- and a pion p+.
  • LHCb collaboration by analysing trajectories and energy left in the detector by all the particles in this final configuration were able to trace back the initial event he decay of the Omega-c-zero and its excited states.
  • Now quantum numbers of these new particles, characteristic numbers used to identify the properties of a specific particle and their theoretical significance will be determined.

Significance of the Discovery: It will contribute to understanding how the three constituent quarks are bound inside a baryon. It will also help to probe the correlation between quarks, which plays a key role in describing multi-quark states, such as tetraquarks and pentaquarks.

About Baryon:

  • Baryon is a composite subatomic particle made up of three quarks(a triquark, as distinct from mesons, which are composed of one quark and one antiquark).
  • Baryons and mesons belong to the hadron family of particles, which are the quark-based particles. The most familiar baryons are the protons and neutrons that make up most of the mass of the visible matter in the universe.

Cabinet approves four GST Bills

{Economic Development}


Source: PIB
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the following four GST related bills:

  • The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The CGST Bill)
  • The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The IGST Bill)
  • The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The UTGST Bill)
  • The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to the States) Bill 2017 (The Compensation Bill)

The passage of these four GST related bills will pave the way for the biggest reform in the area of Indirect Taxes in the history of independent India.

Significance:

  • By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax, it would mitigate cascading or double taxationin a major way and pave the way for a common national market.
  • The Goods and Services Tax will thus help in the realization of the objective of “One Nation, One Tax” and improve the Ease of Doing Business climatein the country.
  • It will also indirectly benefit the common man by reducing the tax burdenespecially on the daily consumer items of the common man.
  • Introduction of GST would also make Indian products competitive in the domestic and international markets. Studies show that this would have a boosting impact on economic growth.
  • It is expected that the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax law will lead to an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by 1-2%. This in turn will lead to the creation of more employment and increase in productivity.   
  • The GST regime will bring in more transparency and efficiencywith the minimization of human interface in the tax administration in the country.
  • The GST regime is also likely to lead to a reduction in tax evasionas a result of the computerization of the taxation process.
  • This tax, because of its transparent and self-policing character, would be easier to administer. This will in turn lead to increase in revenue collection for the Centre and the States.

New Grading Pattern by NAAC

{Education}


Source: PIB
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has introduced a revised grading pattern with effect from 1st July 2016. The NAAC has identified the following seven criteria to serve as the basis for its assessment of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs):

  • Curricular Aspects
  • Teaching-learning and evaluation
  • Research, consultancy and extension
  • Infrastructure and learning resources
  • Student support and progression
  • Governance , Leadership and Management
  • Innovations and Best Practices

As per the revised grading system, HEIs are awarded eight types of letter grades viz. A++, A+, A, B++, B+, B, C and D.

HEIs with Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) ranging between 3.76 and 4.00 get the highest grade of accreditation i.e. ‘A++’ whereas, institutions with CGPA of 1.5 or less are not accredited.

The revised grading pattern has the potential to make differentiation within HEIs in terms of their qualitative performance and to ensure healthy competition among these institutions to improve the standards of Higher Education.

Higher education accreditation is a system of quality assurance under which services and operations of HEIs or programs are evaluated by an external agency to determine if applicable standards of education are met.

The highest grade of accreditation depends on how the HEIs have taken steps to improve upon the education infrastructure as per the set standards/criteria outlined by NAAC under the revised grading system.

The revised grading system provides a larger scope for healthy competition in the education sector and HEIs which are graded less than ‘A++’ are expected to strive towards achieving the standards set by NAAC for the award of the highest grading.


Government Aims To Make India A Global Biotech Hub By 2020  –  BIRAC

{Environment}


Source: PIB
BIRAC has been hailed as one of the most effective government measures to create an enabling environment for research and development to flourish in a country. It aim to develop India into a global innovation hub by 2020 and BIRAC has paved the way to deliver on that mandate.

The 5th Foundation Day themed ‘Impacting the Biotech Innovation Ecosystem’ was presided over by and attended by a large number of dignitaries from the scientific and industry sectors both from within the country and oversees.

About BIRAC:

  • Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) was incorporated on 20th March, 2012 as a not-for-profit public sector enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India
  • It acts as an interface agency to support emerging biotech enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation, to address nationally relevant product development needs.
  • BIRAC’s efforts have been focused on enhancing the innovation research capacities within the biotech industries, and encouraging young entrepreneurs to take their innovation ideas towards scale-up and commercialization, so as to meet the country’s challenge for Affordable Product Development for masses without undermining the quality .
  • With over 500 Biotech Industries, Startups and Entrepreneurs supported, today there are more than 50 products and technologies commercialized or in an advanced stage for commercialization.

Review of implementation of SEZ Policy (Ministry of Commerce & Industry)

{Economic Development}


Source: PIB

Ongoing review and reform, as necessary, of Government policy and procedure is inherent to Public Policy.

The Government, on the basis of inputs/suggestions received from stakeholders on the policy and operational framework of the SEZ Scheme, periodically reviews the policy and operational framework of SEZs and takes necessary measures so as to facilitate speedy and effective implementation of SEZ policy.  Whenever, SEZ policy is reviewed, efforts are made to maintain a level playing field for Domestic Tariff Area industries vis-a-vis SEZ units/Developers.

The following initiatives have been taken in recent years for implementation of the SEZ policy in the country and resolve the issues therein:

  • Minimum Land Area requirement for setting up of new SEZs has been reduced to 50% for Multi-product and Sector-specific SEZs.
  • Sectoral broad-banding has been introduced to encompass similar / related areas under the same Sector.
  • A new sector ‘agro-based food processing’ sector has been introduced to encourage agro-based industries in SEZs.
  • Dual use of facilities like Social & Commercial infrastructure by SEZs and non-SEZs entities has been allowed in order to make SEZ operations more viable.
  • Online processing of various activities relating to SEZ Developers and Units has been introduced for improving ease of doing business.

SEZ in India

This policy intended to make SEZs an engine for economic growth supported by quality infrastructure complemented by an attractive fiscal package, both at the Centre and the State level, with the minimum possible regulations.

SEZs in India functioned from 1.11.2000 to 09.02.2006 under the provisions of the Foreign Trade Policy and fiscal incentives were made effective through the provisions of relevant statutes.

The main objectives of the SEZ Act are:

(a) generation of additional economic activity

(b) promotion of exports of goods and services;

(c) promotion of investment from domestic and foreign sources;

(d) creation of employment opportunities;

(e) development of infrastructure facilities;

It is expected that this will trigger a large flow of foreign and domestic investment in SEZs, in infrastructure and productive capacity, leading to generation of additional economic activity and creation of employment opportunities.

The SEZ Act 2005 envisages key role for the State Governments in Export Promotion and creation of related infrastructure.

The SEZ Rules provide for:

” Simplified procedures for development, operation, and maintenance of the Special Economic Zones and for setting up units and conducting business in SEZs;

  • Single window clearance for setting up of an SEZ;
  • Single window clearance for setting up a unit in a Special Economic Zone;
  • Single Window clearance on matters relating to Central as well as State Governments;
  • Simplified compliance procedures and documentation with an emphasis on self certification
  • Approval mechanism and Administrative set up of SEZs

Approval mechanism

The developer submits the proposal for establishment of SEZ to the concerned State Government. The State Government has to forward the proposal with its recommendation within 45 days from the date of receipt of such proposal to the Board of Approval. The applicant also has the option to submit the proposal directly to the Board of Approval.

Chairman : Secretary, Department of Commerce

Once an SEZ has been approved by the Board of Approval and Central Government has notified the area of the SEZ, units are allowed to be set up in the SEZ. All the proposals for setting up of units in the SEZ are approved at the Zone level by the Approval Committee consisting of Development Commissioner, Customs Authorities and representatives of State Government.


Concessions under APTA (Ministry of Commerce)

{Economic Development}


Source: PIB

The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA, formerly the Bangkok Agreement) is an Agreement signed since 1975.

The current membership of APTA consists of six countries, namely, Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka.  (NO USA)

Key facts:

  • Three Rounds of tariff concessions have already been exchanged among the member countries till 2003. The tariff concessions being granted to APTA member States, on Margin of Preference basis, are being expanded under the fourth round of exchange of tariff concessions.
  • The APTA Ministerial Council in its meeting held on 13th January, 2017 has formally approved the implementation of the fourth round of exchange of tariff concessions.
  • APTA is a preferential treaty based on Margin of Preference.
  • Concessions on tariff lines offered by China and Korea, inter-alia, cover certain textiles and chemical products, which are likely to benefit the Indian exporters.
  • Some of items on which concessions have been offered by China and Korea include certain organic and inorganic chemicals, knitted and crocheted fabrics, and articles of apparel and clothing accessories etc.

APTA:

  • APTA aims to promote economic development through the adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade expansion and provides for economic integration through coverage of merchandise goods, services, investment and trade facilitation.
  • Open to all developing member countries, APTA is a truly region-wide trade agreement spanning East and South Asia, with potential to expand to other sub-regions, including Central Asia and the Pacific.
  • APTA is the first plurilateral agreementamong the developing countries in the region to adopt common operational procedures for certification and verification of the origin of goods and it has the longest effective implementation period amongst the trade agreements in the entire Asia-Pacific.
  • Notably, APTA is the only operational trade agreement linking China and India, two of the fastest growing markets in the world, and other major markets such as the Republic of Korea.

Measurement of Emissions

{Environment}


Source: PIB

  • Emission Intensity is calculated by dividing ‘Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions’ by ‘Total Gross Domestic Product (GDP)’ of a country.
  • India has committed to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Goal of reducing Emissions intensity of GDP allows a country to reduce its emissions even while its GDP grows.
  • The NDC was framed by adopting an inclusive process of consultations with key Ministries, State Governments, civil society organisations, think-tanks, and technical and academic institutions. Each country has chosen its own metric for climate action. Many other developing countries also use Emission Intensity of GDP for the purpose.
  • Each Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is independently anchored by respective Ministries in-charge of implementing the Mission.
  • Following the Paris Agreement, the Missions continue to contribute to the declared goal of reduction of emissions intensity of GDP as also other sustainable development goals outlined in the NDC.

Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) to be merged with State Bank of India (SBI)

{Banking Sector}


Source: PIB
To ensure greater banking services outreach to a larger number of women, at a faster pace

Union Government is committed to enhance the access to financial services to the population at large and women in particular

Key facts:

  • The objectives of affordable credit to women as well as propagation of women-centric products need to be quickly achieved through a wider network and lower cost of funds.
  • The decision to merge BMB with SBI has been taken in view of the advantage of the large network of SBI among other things. In the three years since BMB was established, it has extended loans of Rs 192 crores to women borrowers, while the SBI group has provided loans of about Rs.46,000 crore to women borrowers.
  • Out of the total workforce of around 2 lakh employees in SBI, 22% are women. SBI group already has 126 exclusive all-women branches across the country while BMB has only seven. The proportion of administrative and managerial cost in BMB is much higher to reach the same coverage. For the same cost, a much higher volume of loans to women could be given through SBI.

The Union Government is committed to enhance the access to financial services to the population at large and women in particular.  Under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, preference is given to women for overdraft facility.  Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana had 73% women borrowers in the previous financial year.


International Diamond Conference “Mines to Market 2017”

{Economic Development}


Source: PIB

India is the largest cut and polished diamond manufacturer in the world. 93 % of its production is exported

Key facts:

  • The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India hosted the International Diamond Conference.
  • The conference was held with an objective ofbringing together the leading Miners, Diamantaires, Retailers, Bankers and Analysts from across the globe on a platform to discuss the supply and demand issues faced by the Global Diamond Industry.
  • The conference witnessed Ministers from mining countries, delegates from Mining Companies, heads of Retail and Luxury brands, Int. Diamond heads of various banks and other prominent personalities of the Diamond industry.

 GJEPC:

  • The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) was set up by the Ministry of Commerce and industry, Government of India (GoI) in 1966.
  • It was one of several Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) launched by the Indian Government, to boost the country’s export thrust, when India’s post-Independence economy began making forays in the international markets.
  • Since 1998, the GJEPC has been granted autonomous status. The GJEPC is the apex body of
  • the gems & jewellery industry and today it represents over 6,000 exporters in the sector.

1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) Meeting

{Sustainable Development}


Source: PIB

1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) meeting was recently held in New Delhi. The meeting was hosted by the Program Management Unit at BIRAC (PMU-BIRAC) and is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Welcome Trust.

GCI

The Grand Challenges India (GCI) is a mission-directed research initiative, collaboratively launched in 2012 under the umbrella of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DBT and BMGF.

Key facts:

  • As India transitions from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, the GCI partnership has ushered a new wave of innovative solutions to help address issues that are inextricably linked to social impact. This aims to achieve the said goals by reconnecting Science to People and available scientific data & evidences to the societal problems for finding tangible solutions.
  • Programs such as Grand Challenges India are providing global innovators and researchers a fantastic platform to collaborate and progress through the innovation ecosystem by developing their ideas and concepts.
  • The GCI provides financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to support the advancement of the GCI mission to enhance health, extend healthy lives, and reduce the burdens of poverty.
  • The GCI covers all kinds of health and developmental priorities, ranging from maternal and child health, infectious diseases, vaccines, point-of-care diagnostics, agriculture, food and nutrition to other related arenas of developing nations as per individual requirements. Most importantly, this partnership signifies a convergence between Indian and global priorities and synergistic new initiatives of the Government such as Swachh Bharat, Start-up India and others.
  • GCI promotes scientific and technological advances which aim to find solutions to key health and development challenges through research and innovation, by funding Indian researchers. Projects are selected based on national and societal need and transparent calls are made for proposals seeking the best ideas. Under this initiative, the DBT and the Gates Foundation have pledged an investment of up to US$25 million each, over a period of 5 years.

 

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