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04 Feb Current Affairs

National Grid

In News:

PM Modi recently dedicated the 220 kV Srinagar- Alusteng – Drass- Kargil – Leh Transmission Line to the Nation. With this, Ladakh is now connected to the National Grid.

Details:

The project has been completed by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a Navratna Company of Government of India, under Ministry of Power.

Benefits of this project: It will result in minimizing the massive use of diesel generating sets during winters, and thus will help in protection of beautiful environment, of pristine Ladakh region. This would also give huge boost to the tourism sector and enhance socio-economic development of Ladakh.

What is National Grid?

It is the high-voltage electric power transmission network in mainland India, connecting power stations and major substations and ensuring that electricity generated anywhere in mainland India can be used to satisfy demand elsewhere.

The National Grid is owned, operated, and maintained by state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India.

It is one of the largest operational synchronous grids in the world with 307.8 GW of installed power generation capacity.

The union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are not connected to the National Grid.

Benefits of a National Grid:

Better availability resulting in lesser power cuts.

More stability in power.

Cross border transmission links:

Presently, India is importing electricity from Bhutan with synchronous transmission links while exporting power to Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar with asynchronous transmission links between the National Grid, and the electricity grids of these countries.

Source: PIB

Know My India Programme

In News:

The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH) is organizing a special workshop for 42 Youth in the age group of 15 to 22 years, who have been victims of communal violence in the past, under the Know My India Programme.

Objectives of the workshop:

To help the children deal with the post-traumatic stress, provide them life tools to manage their emotions and eliminate disturbing impressions of the past events.

To have them experience deep relaxation and peace, give them a broader and more inclusive view of the world and how each individual is connected with the others beyond social identities.

Key facts:

The programme is being organized in collaboration with the Art of Living Foundation.

The Youth come from 6 states including Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Gujarat along with 10 official mentors.

About Know My India Programme:

It is a unique programme initiated by the NFCH to bring together financially assisted children of the Foundation from different States/Regions of the country to promote oneness, fraternity and national integration.

The programme is all about familiarization with the environment, family life, social customs, etc. of the people living in different parts of the country; developing understanding of the common historical and cultural heritage of the country.

NFCH:

It is an autonomous organization under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The main objective of the Foundation is to provide assistance to the children / youth rendered orphan / destitute in communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence for their rehabilitation besides promoting communal harmony and national integration through various activities. The NFCH sponsors/conducts different activities for the promotion of communal harmony and strengthening of national integration.

Source: PIB

Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM)

In News:

20th edition of Bharat Rang Mahotsav is being held in New Delhi.

Details:

It is being organized by National School of Drama (NSD).

Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM):

It is the annual international theatre festival of India organized by the National School of Drama (NSD).

It was established two decades ago to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across India.

Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, BRM has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre groups from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia.

Source: The Hindu

Kerala sets up drug price monitor

In News:

Kerala has become the first State to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU) to track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).

Background:

The move comes more than five years after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) proposed such a system for the States and the Union Territories.

Composition:

The State Health Secretary would be the Chairman of the society and the Drugs Controller would be its member secretary. Its members include a State government representative, representatives of private pharmaceutical companies, and those from consumer rights protection fora. The society would also have an executive committee headed by the Drugs Controller.

Functions:

The new watchdog will offer technical help to the State Drug Controllers and the NPPA to monitor notified prices of medicines, detect violation of the provisions of the DPCO, look at price compliance, collect test samples of medicines, and collect and compile market-based data of scheduled as well as non-scheduled formulations.

Need:

The suggestion to set up PMRUs was made against the backdrop of the lack of a field-level link between the NPPA and the State Drugs Controllers and State Drug Inspectors to monitor drug prices. Pharma companies have been accused of overcharging prices of drugs in the scheduled category fixed by the DPCO and those outside its ambit too.

Source: The Hindu

NGOs and regulation of their foreign funding

In News:

Greenpeace has been forced to close two of its regional offices and “considerably” reduce its staff in India because of a government crackdown on allegedly unlawful foreign funding of NGOs.

Details:

Greenpeace India had its foreign funding blocked in 2015 as part of a nationwide crackdown on charities.

Significance of NGOs:

NGOs play an important role in the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society and their overall development. This is especially true in the case of India, where a vast majority of its population continues to remain under the poverty line and have little or no access to even basic facilities provided by the government.

Regulation of Foreign Funding:

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and rules framed under it (the “FCRA” or “Act”) regulate the receipt and usage of foreign contribution by non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) in India.

Scope and objective of FCRA:

The intent of the Act is to prevent use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activity detrimental to the national interest. It has a very wide scope and is applicable to a natural person, body corporate, all other types of Indian entities (whether incorporated or not) as well as NRIs and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Indian companies and other entities formed or registered in India. It is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

In order to achieve the above objective, the Act:

Prohibits acceptance and use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by a certain specified category of persons such as a candidate for election, judge, journalist, columnist, newspaper publication, cartoonist and others.

Regulates the inflow to and usage of foreign contribution by NGOs by prescribing a mechanism to accept, use and report usage of the same.

Definition:

It defines the term ‘foreign contribution’ to include currency, article other than gift for personal use and securities received from foreign source. While foreign hospitality refers to any offer from a foreign source to provide foreign travel, boarding, lodging, transportation or medical treatment cost.

Acceptance of foreign funds:

The Act permits only NGOs having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme to accept foreign contribution, that too after such NGOs either obtain a certificate of registration or prior permission under the Act.

Registration and prior approval under FCRA:

In order to be registered under the FCRA, an NGO must be in existence for at least three years and must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised. Further, it must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities.

The registration certificate is valid for a period of five years and must be thereafter renewed in the prescribed manner.

NGOs not eligible for registration can seek prior approval from FCRA for receiving foreign funding. This permission is granted only for a specific amount of foreign funding from a specified foreign source for a specific purpose. It remains valid till receipt and full utilisation of such amount.

The Act imposes various conditions on the use of foreign funds and some of them are as follows:

All funds received by a NGO must be used only for the purpose for which they were received.

Such funds must not be used in speculative activities identified under the Act.

Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.

Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.

Reporting requirement:

Every NGO registered or having prior approval under the Act must file an annual report with the Authority in the prescribed form. This report must be accompanied by an income and expenditure statement, receipt and payment account, and balance sheet for the relevant financial year. For financial years where no foreign contribution is received, a ‘NIL’ report must be furnished with the Authority.

Source: The Hindu

Millet Village scheme

In News:

With ‘superfood’ and ‘eat smart’ strategies forming the main ingredients of the latest dietary mantras, Kerala State Agriculture Department is earmarking farm space in more districts for growing nutrient-rich millets.

Details:

The state is also planning to expand its Millet Village scheme to various other districts.

About Millet Village scheme:

It is a special scheme to promote the cultivation of cereals such as millet, ragi, bajra and maize by setting up a millet village at Attappady. The project aimed at protecting seeds of traditional varieties of millets and ensures food security and livelihood for tribals.

What are Millets?

Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.

Benefits of Millets:

An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet.

Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.

The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.

Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.

Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture.

Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.

Efforts by government to promote millets:

In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April.

Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.

Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.

Facts for Prelims:

160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council, held in Rome in December 2018, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.

Source: The Hindu

World Wetlands Day 2019

In News:

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year to mark the Day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.

Details:

India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands.

Theme: “Wetlands and Climate Change”.

About Ramsar convention:

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990). Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.

Significance of urban wetlands:

In focusing on the theme “wetlands for a sustainable urban future”, this year’s World Wetlands Day sheds light on the importance of wetlands for cities. Today, 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. Forecasts expect the urban population to rise to 6.3 billion by 2050 – a more than eightfold increase since 1950. While the urban proportion of the world’s population will more than double from 1950 to 2050, the number of the world’s wetlands has already more than halved over the past 100 years. However, wetlands play a vital role for cities and for the whole of humanity. For instance, they serve as a source of drinking water; they reduce flooding and the vegetation of wetlands filters domestic and industrial waste and improves water quality.

Way ahead:

Wetlands are at risk, from 1900 64% of wetlands around the world have disappeared with severe consequences for those who are living in close proximity with them, mostly Farmers. The International Community should make greater efforts to preserve these wetlands and put Farmers in the best conditions to take advantage of wetlands while respecting them.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s Hubble Telescope

In News:

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a dwarf galaxy in a globular cluster which is only 30 million light-years away.

Details:

The researchers determined that this galaxy — nicknamed Bedin 1, after discovery team leader L. R. Bedin of the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Italy — is a “spheroidal dwarf” just 3,000 light-years wide.

About the Hubble Space Telescope:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space. NASA launched Hubble in 1990.

It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.

Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.

Expanding the frontiers of the visible Universe, the Hubble Space Telescope looks deep into space with cameras that can see across the entire optical spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.

Source: The Hindu

Operation Smile

In News:

The ‘Operation Smile-V’ initiative launched by Hyderabad Police has helped in rescuing 325 children, who were either working as labourers or begging on the streets, since January 1 this year.

Objective:

To trace the missing children and rescue child labourers, Operation Smile-V was launched on January 1 across Telangana.

Operation Smile also called as Operation Muskaan is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children.

Nilavembu kudineer

In News

The Tamil Nadu government has distributed nilavembu kudineer (a Siddha medicine) concoction to treat people infected with dengue during the outbreak.

Nilavembu kudineer:

Under in vitro conditions, nilavembu kudineer (a Siddha medicine) was found to provide protection against chikungunya virus while it was effective as a treatment during acute phase of dengue infection.

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