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08 March Current Affairs

International Women’s Day 2019

In News:

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a day when the world comes together to appreciate womanhood and their importance in society. The day also celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Details:

Earlier, it was called National woman’s day and was acknowledged by the U.S. on February 28, 1909. This was done because of the labour movement which was started in 1908 where 15000 female employees went on strike in New York City to protest against poor working conditions.

National Women’s Day was recognised as International Women’s Day only in 1910 after German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin suggested at an International Conference.

Themes:

This year the themes for International Women’s Day are #BalanceforBetter, which is described as a “call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world” and “More Powerful Together”. The themes stress upon the need for more men to get involved in the fight against gender equality and feminism.

Why March 8?

It was on this day that women in Soviet Russia gained the right to vote in 1917, hence March 8 was declared a national holiday for them. The United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace in 1977.

“Dictionary of Martyrs”

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently released the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle.

Aim:

The aim is to nurture and recall the brave deeds of the heroes of our freedom struggle.

Key facts:

The project for compilation of “Dictionary of Martyrs” of India’s Freedom Struggle was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of uprising of 1857.

Definition: In this dictionary a martyr has been defined as a person who died or who was killed in action or in detention, or was awarded capital punishment while participating in the national movement for emancipation of India.

It includes ex-INA or ex-military personnel who died fighting the British. It includes the martyrs of 1857 Uprising, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34), Quit India Movement (1942-44), Revolutionary Movements (1915-34), Kissan Movements, Tribal Movements, Agitation for Responsible Government in the Princely States (Prajamandal), Indian National Army (INA, 1943-45), Royal Indian Navy Upsurge (RIN, 1946), etc. Information of about 13,500 martyrs has been recorded in these volumes.

Significance:

A nation that does not honour and remember those who created, or are an important part, of its history, often does not have a secure future. In that sense, this effort is not just a way to cherish the past, but is also a way to secure the future. This was the first attempt at compiling the names of martyrs on this scale. This shall have a positive influence on the future generations, and inspires them to think of “India First.”

Measures to promote Hydro Power Sector

In News:

Cabinet has approved measures to promote the Hydro Power Sector.

These measures include:

Large Hydropower Projects to be declared as Renewable Energy source (as per existing practice, only hydropower projects less than 25MW are categorized as Renewable Energy).

Hydropower Projects (HPO) as a separate entity within non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligation to cover LHPs commissioned after notification of these measures (SHPs are already covered under Non-Solar Renewable Purchase Obligation).

The trajectory of annual HPO targets will be notified by Ministry of Power based on the projected capacity addition plans in hydropower sector. Necessary amendments will be introduced in the Tariff Policy and Tariff Regulations to operationalize HPO.

Tariff rationalization measures including providing flexibility to the developers to determine tariff by back loading of tariff after increasing project life to 40 years, increasing debt repayment period to 18 years and introducing escalating tariff of 2%;

Budgetary support for funding flood moderation component of hydropower projects on case to case basis.

Budgetary support for funding cost of enabling infrastructure i.e. roads and bridges on case to case basis as per actual, limited to Rs. 1.5 crore per MW for upto 200 MW projects and Rs. 1.0 crore per MW for above 200 MW projects.

Major Impact including employment generation potential:

As most of the hydro power potential is located in the higher reaches of Himalayas and North- East Region, it will result in overall socio-economic development of the region by providing direct employment in the power sector.

Provide indirect employment/ entrepreneurial opportunities in the field of transportation, tourism and other small scale businesses.

It provides a stable grid considering 160 GW capacity addition by 2022 from infirm sources of power like solar and wind.

India’s hydropower potential:

India is blessed with immense amount of hydro-electric potential and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario.

India is endowed with large hydropower potential of 1,45,320 MW of which only about 45,400 MW has been utilized so far. Only about 10,000 MW of hydropower has been added in the last 10 years.

The hydropower sector is currently going through a challenging phase and the share of hydropower in the total capacity has declined from 50.36% in the 1960s to around 13% in 2018-19.

Why hydropower?

Besides being environment friendly, hydropower has several other unique features like ability for quick ramping, black start, reactive absorption etc. which make it ideal for peaking power, spinning reserve and grid balancing/ stability.

Further, hydropower also provides water security, irrigation and flood moderation benefits, apart from socio-economic development of the entire region by providing employment opportunities and boosting tourism etc.

The importance of hydropower is increasing even more as the country has targeted to add 160 GW of intermittent Solar and Wind power by 2022 and 40% of the total capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 to honour its Nationally Determined Contribution for Climate Change.

Challenges ahead:

DISCOMS are reluctant sign Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) Hydro Power due to higher tariff, particularly, in the initial years. One of the reasons for high tariff of hydropower is the loading of cost of flood moderation and enabling infrastructure in the project cost.

Due to inherent risks associated with the sector, such as geological surprises, natural calamities, environmental & forest issues, and rehabilitation and resettlement issues apart from commercial risks and change of river basin during operation, many developers are averse to enter into the sector. The major commercial deterrents for the private developers are high capital cost and long payback period due to high gestation period which may also create issues in financing.

The other issue related to Hydropower projects is financing and evacuation. Hydro Power projects are capital-intensive and financing them for long such as 20 years is really a challenge. Further, a number of hydropower projects are located in remote sites in states which do not have enough demand for electricity that presents geographical constraints in developing requisite transmission infrastructure for evacuation.

How much is the world’s electricity supplied by Hydroelectric Power Plants?

2700 TWH is generated every year. Hydropower supplies at least 50% of electricity production in 66 countries and at least 90% in 24 countries.

What is the classification of Hydro Projects based on Installed Capacity?

  • Micro: upto 100 KW.
  • Mini: 101KW to 2 MW.
  • Small: 2 MW to 25 MW.
  • Mega: Hydro projects with installed capacity >= 500 MW.
  • Thermal Projects with installed capacity >=1500 MW.

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)

In News:

Cabinet approves Continuation of Atal Innovation Mission.

About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM):

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its objective is to serve as a platform for promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.

The Atal Innovation Mission shall have two core functions:

Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs.

Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated.

Impact:

The Mission has undertaken many bold and forward-looking initiatives such as Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) and Atal Incubation Centres (AIC), which have received great traction;

Many Ministries/Departments of Government of India have initiated innovation related activities with the help and technical support of AIM.

Under the ATL program, more than 10,000 schools are expected to establish these labs by 2020.

More than 100 Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) are likely to established around the country, supporting at least 50-60 startups each over the first five years.

More than 100 innovators/startups are expected to receive some support for productizing their innovations.

Each incubator is expected to foster 50-60 technology driven innovative Startups every four years.

The potential for employment generation from these innovations driven Startups is quite high.

Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the “Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)” for Flood Management Works in entire country and River Management Activities and works related to Border Areas for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20 with a total outlay of Rs.3342.00 crores.

Salient features:

The Scheme “FMBAP” has been framed by merging the components of two continuing XII Plan schemes titled “Flood Management Programme (FMP)” and “River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas (RMBA)”.

The aim of the Scheme is to assist the State Governments to provide reasonable degree of protection against floods in critical areas by adopting optimum combination of structural and non-structural measures and enhancing capabilities of State/ Central Government officials in related fields.

The works under the scheme will protect valuable land from erosion and flooding and help in maintaining peace along the border.

The Scheme aims at completion of the on-going projects already approved under FMP. Further, the scheme also caters to Hydro-meteorological observations and Flood Forecasting on common rivers with the neighbouring countries.

The Scheme also includes survey and investigations, preparation of DPR etc. of water resources projects on the common rivers with neighbouring countries like Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, Sapta Kosi-Sun Kosi Projects in Nepal which would benefit both countries.

Benefits:

The FMBAP Scheme will be implemented throughout the country for effective flood management, erosion control and anti-sea erosion.

The proposal will benefit towns, villages, industrial establishments, communication links, agricultural fields, infrastructure etc. from floods and erosion in the country.

The catchment area treatment works will help in reduction of sediment load into rivers.

Funding pattern:

The funding pattern for FM Component for works in general category States will continue to be 50% (Centre): 50% (State) and for projects of North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the funding pattern will continue to be 70% (Centre): 30% (State). RMBA component being specific to activities in border areas with neighbouring countries and in accordance with bilateral mechanisms, the projects / works will continue to be funded as 100% grant-in-aid / central assistance.

International Finance Corporation (IFC)

In News:

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India signs a Cooperation Agreement with the International Finance Corporation to further build the capacity of the Insolvency Professionals, and Insolvency Professional Agencies for the purposes of the effective implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 among others.

About the International Finance Corporation (IFC):

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is an international financial institution that offers investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries.

It is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.

It was established in 1956 as the private sector arm of the World Bank Group to advance economic development by investing in strictly for-profit and commercial projects that purport to reduce poverty and promote development.

The IFC is owned and governed by its member countries, but has its own executive leadership and staff that conduct its normal business operations.

It is a corporation whose shareholders are member governments that provide paid-in capital and which have the right to vote on its matters.

Functions:

It offers an array of debt and equity financing services and helps companies face their risk exposures, while refraining from participating in a management capacity.

The corporation also offers advice to companies on making decisions, evaluating their impact on the environment and society, and being responsible.

It advises governments on building infrastructure and partnerships to further support private sector development.

Ethanol production gets a leg-up

In News:

To boost sugar mills’ ethanol-production capacity and help them pay off mounting arrears to cane farmers, the Union government has approved ₹3,355 crore in incentives.

Details:

The CCEA has approved ₹2,790 crore for bank loan interest subvention to mills, and ₹565 crore for loan interest subvention to the molasses-based standalone distilleries.

Impact:

Banks will be able to extend soft loans worth ₹15,500 crore to mills and distilleries under the scheme. This is likely to benefit 268 mills and create an additional 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity, according to industry estimates.

The decision to encourage ethanol production would have a longer term impact, with the creation of 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity in addition to the existing 355 crore litres. This will help the sugar industry reduce surplus production by diverting the surplus sugarcane for ethanol.

Benefits of ethanol blending:

Increased ethanol blending in petrol has many benefits including reduction in import dependency, support to agricultural sector, more environmental friendly fuel, lesser pollution and additional income to farmers.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme:

It was launched by the Government in 2003 on pilot basis which has been subsequently extended to the Notified 21 States and 4 Union Territories to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.

It aims at blending ethanol with petrol, thereby bringing it under the category of biofuels and saving millions of dollars by cutting fuel imports.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme is being implemented by the Ministry or Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).

This intervention also seeks to reduce import dependency for energy requirements and give boost to agriculture sector.

Demand:

India is the third largest consumer of energy in the world after China and the US. Currently, the country is dependent on imports for about 82.1% of its crude oil requirement and to the extent of about 44.4% in case of natural gas.

India is expected to need 10 billion litres of ethanol annually to meet the 20% blending target in 2030 if petrol consumption continues to grow at the current pace. At present, the capacity stands at 1.55 billion litres a year.

Concerns and challenges:

There has been a consistent shortfall in supply of ethanol in the past, mainly on account of the cyclical nature of the sugarcane harvests in the country. There is “lack of an integrated approach in the EBP across its value chain.”

Way ahead:

The National Policy on Bio-fuels has set a target of 20% blending of biofuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. This will require an integrated approach in the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP). The time is ripe for a cogent and consistent policy and administrative framework in the program implementation for the success of EBP.

Source: The Hindu

Regional Air Connectivity- UDAN

In News:

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the extension of time and scope for revival and development of un-served and under-served air strips of State Governments, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Civil enclaves, CPSUs, helipads and water aerodromes. The revival of these un-served and under-served air strips will be carried out under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).

Background:

The AAI has developed 38 unfrequented and less frequented airports since the launch of the scheme in March 2017. As many as 750 routes have been awarded for connecting 77 un-served airports, 21 under-served airports, ten waterdromes and 31 helipads.

About UDAN:

UDAN, launched in April 2017, is a flagship scheme of the Union Government to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.

The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was launched in June 2016.

Objectives of the scheme:

The primary objective of RCS is to facilitate / stimulate regional air connectivity by making it cheap and affordable.

Promoting affordability of regional air connectivity is envisioned under RCS by supporting airline operators through: Concessions and Financial (viability gap funding or VGF) support.

Significance:

The scheme gives India’s aviation sector a boost by giving a chance to small and first-time operators to be a part of the rapid growth in passenger traffic.

Source: The Hindu

Institutions in News- Securities Appellate Tribunal

SAT is a statutory body established under the provisions of Section 15K of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992.

To hear and dispose of appeals against orders passed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India or by an adjudicating officer under the Act and to exercise jurisdiction, powers and authority conferred on the Tribunal by or under this Act or any other law for the time being in force. It covers the whole of India.

Nari Shakti Puraskar

To acknowledge Women’s achievements, the Government of India confers Nari Shakti Puraskars on eminent women and institutions in recognition of their service towards the cause of women empowerment. The Nari Shakti Awards were initiated in the year 1999.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development announces these national level awards for eminent women, organisations and institutions.

The Nari Shakti Puraskar carries a cash award of Rs.1 Lakh and a certificate for individuals and institutions.

‘Bolo’ app

In News:

Google has launched a new application called ‘Bolo’ that aims to help children in primary school to read in Hindi and English.

Details:

The app, which is being launched in India first, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology.

It comes with a built-in fun and helpful reading buddy, an animated character called ‘Diya’. The reading material available on the app will be completely free of cost.

The app aims to help improve the reading ability of children, as the lack of it can significantly impact further education and ultimately children’s ability to realise their full potential.

India, Russia sign deal on nuclear submarine

In News:

India has sealed a $3-billion deal with Russia for leasing a nuclear-powered attack submarine for the Indian Navy for a period of 10 years.

Details:

Under the pact, Russia will have to deliver the Akula class submarine, to be known as Chakra III, to the Indian Navy by 2025.

It will be the third Russian submarine to be leased to the Navy. India Navy has taken two more submarines from Russia on lease. The first Russian nuclear-powered submarine — christened INS Chakra — was taken in 1988 under a three year lease. A second INS Chakra was taken on lease in 2012 for a period of 10 years.

 

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