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05 Feb Current Affairs

Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)

In News:

The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is implementing Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) within overall ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) for providing financial assistance to elite athletes included in TOPS for their customized training in world class training institutes/academies within the country and abroad.

About the National Sports Development Fund:

Established in 1998, under Charitable Endowments Act 1890, vide Government of India Notification dated 12th November 1998.

Functions:

The NSDF supports sportspersons to excel in the field by providing opportunities to train under coaches of international repute with technical, scientific and psychological support and also in getting exposure to international competitions.

Financial assistance is also provided to specific projects for promotion of sports and games sponsored by reputed Organizations/Institutes, provided the facilities so created are made available to a sizeable population of the area/region.

The Council:

The Fund is managed by a Council constituted by the Central Government.

Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports is the Chairperson of the council.

The Members of the Council include senior officers in the Department of Sports/Sports Authority of India.

The representatives of the Apex industry organizations namely, FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM have been included in the Council as members.

The representatives of Sports Promotion Boards of reputed organizations are also members of the Council.

Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is the ex-officio Member Secretary of the Council.

Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS):

Launched by Ministry of Sports within the ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).

It aims at identifying and supporting potential medal prospects for upcoming Olympic Games.

It will provide selected sportspersons customized training at institutes having world class facilities and also other necessary support is being provided to the elite athletes. It will also provide a benchmark for selection of athletes on par with international standards.

Under it, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and federations, which are members of Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), will be nodal agencies for disbursal for fund. They will make payments directly to beneficiary person and institution concerned on behalf of athletes.

Source: The Hindu

About National Service Scheme (NSS)

In News:

It is an Indian government-sponsored public service program conducted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of the Government of India.

Details:

The scheme was launched in Gandhiji’s Centenary year in 1969.

Aim: The University Grants Commission (UGC) headed by Dr. Radhakrishnan recommended introduction of national service in the academic institutions on a voluntary basis with a view to developing healthy contacts between the students and teachers on the one hand and establishing a constructive linkage between the campus and the community on the other hand.

The broad objectives of NSS are to:

  • Understand the community in which they work.
  • Understand themselves in relation to their community.
  • Identify the needs and problems of the community and involve them in problem solving process.
  • Develop among themselves a sense of social and civic responsibility.
  • Utilize their knowledge in finding practical solution to individual and community problems.
  • Develop competence required for group living and sharing of responsibilities.
  • Gain skills in mobilizing community participation.
  • Acquire leadership qualities and democratic attitude.
  • Develop capacity to meet emergencies and natural disasters.
  • Practice national integration and social harmony.

Source: The Hindu

Draft National River Ganga Bill, 2018

In News:

National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018- highlights:

Details:

The bill propose to ban the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.

It proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’

The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river. Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed.

The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorized” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water. Carrying out such activities are liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.

The Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) personnel will be provided by the ministry of home affairs and will be deployed by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority. The GPC personnel will have power to arrest those who pollute the river covering offences like obstructing the flow of the river to commercial fishing.

The Bill has listed out a list of offences marked as cognizable which includes:

  • Construction activities causing obstruction in the river.
  • Withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries.
  • Commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries.
  • Discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.

Need:

According to a map of Ganga river water quality presented by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to National Green Tribunal (NGT) in August 2018, only five out of 70-odd monitoring stations had water that was fit for drinking and seven for bathing. After three decades of efforts to clean the national river, it is a sad state of affairs that the river is not even fit for bathing.

Source: The Hindu

Pre-Departure Orientation Programme

In News:

Given the need to orient potential migrant workers with regard to language, culture, do’s and don’ts in the destination country, the emigration process and welfare measures, a Pre-Departure Orientation Training (PDOT) programme has been launched.

Key facts:

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in collaboration with Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) is conducting the PDOT programme under the Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY).

The National Skill Development Corporation is the implementing agency for this programme.

About Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY):

The Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is aimed at skilling Indians seeking employment abroad.

The programme is also aimed at boosting the confidence of the Indian youth so that they don’t feel like strangers when they land in a country of their choice for vocation.

PKVY will train and certify Indians, who are keen on overseas employment in select sectors, in line with international standards.

It will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation through its training partners and in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Skill Development Ministry.

About NSDC:

National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC), established in 2009, is a not- for- profit company set up by the Ministry of Finance.

NSDC aims to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality and for-profit vocational institutions.

Functions:

It provides funding to build scalable and profitable vocational training initiatives.

Its mandate is also to enable support system which focuses on quality assurance, information systems and train the trainer academies either directly or through partnerships.

It also develops appropriate models to enhance, support and coordinate private sector initiatives.

Source: The Hindu

Rules To Allow Employment of Women in Mines

In exercise of the power conferred under Mines Act, 1952, the Central Government has exempted the women employed in any mine above ground and in any mine below ground from the provisions of section 46 of the Mines Act, 1952.

However, it is subject to the following conditions, namely:

In the case of women employed in any mine above ground:

The owner of a mine may deploy women between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am in the mine above ground including opencast workings;

the deployment of women shall be after obtaining the written consent of the concerned woman employee;

the women so deployed shall be provided with adequate facilities and safeguards regarding occupational safety, security and health;

the deployment of women shall be subject to the framing and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures on the basis of the guidelines issued in this regard by the Chief Inspector of Mines from time to time;

the deployment of women shall be in a group of not less than three in a shift.

In the case of women employed in any mine below ground:

the owner of a mine may deploy women between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm in technical, supervisory and managerial work where continuous presence may not be required.

the deployment of women shall be after obtaining the written consent of the concerned woman employee;

the women so deployed shall be provided with adequate facilities and safeguards regarding occupational safety, security and health;

the deployment of women shall be subject to the framing and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures on the basis of the guidelines issued in this regard by the Chief Inspector of Mines from time to time;

the deployment of women shall be in a group of not less than three.

Background:

The Mines Act, 1952, restricted the employment of women in underground mines and also in opencast or aboveground workings of the mine during night hours between 7PM and 6AM.

Several women employees groups, industry and students enrolled with various institutions persuing mining engineering courses at degree and diploma levels have been representing to the government at different forum that women should be provided equal employment opportunity for working in mines. Requests from Mining Companies were also received.

Source: The Hindu

Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

In News:

The Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is organising a meeting of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Cluster Group on Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in New Delhi.

About IORA:

The Indian Ocean Rim Association was set up with the objective of strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean Region

The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.

It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.

India, Australia, Iran, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, Madagascar, UAE, Yemen, Seychelles, Somalia, Comoros and Oman are among the members of IORA.

Significance of IORA:

The existence of IORA is a reminder of the untapped potential of Indian Ocean regionalism. Nearly five decades ago, in the aftermath of decolonisation, the attempt to bring together the Indian Ocean states faltered amidst deep divisions within the littoral and due to the negative impact of the Cold War. Today, the IORA underlines the region’s agency in shaping its own future.

Way ahead:

IORA’s success would depend, to a large extent, upon what the middle powers of the Indian Ocean littoral, like Indonesia, Australia and India, can do. Together the three countries have already breathed new life into an organisation that few had heard of.

Also, India’s growing sea-borne trade and a historic power shift in the Indian Ocean compel Delhi to pay greater attention to securing a sustainable regional order in the vast littoral.

Source: The Hindu

National Testing Agency Launched Mobile App

In News:

National Testing Agency (NTA) has launched a ‘mobile app’ through which students can practice or take mock tests on their own computers or smart phones.

Benefits:

In order to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to lack of resources, NTA has established a network of more than 4000 Test Practice Centres (TPCs) to acquaint the aspirants, especially those from rural areas with Computer Based Tests (CBTs).

Students across the country can register themselves online at NTA Website or ‘NTA Students App’ for visiting the TPCs.

All these services are provided to the students free of cost. So far, more than one lakh students have registered at these TPCs and more than one crore students have benefited from these ‘App & Web’ services.

About NTA:

In pursuance of the Budget Announcement 2017-18, the Union Cabinet, in November 2017, approved creation of the National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the country.

Composition: It will be chaired by an educationist who will be appointed by the MHRD. The agency will have a board of governors who will represent the member institutions.

Source: The Hindu

Elephant corridors

In News:

Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.

Key facts:

The joint venture aims to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years.

The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land.

NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.

What are Elephant Corridors?

Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.

Why protect elephant corridors?

The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.

Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.

Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.

Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.

Need of the hour:

Efforts should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country. This includes acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government. Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is more a conservation imperative.

Related- About Gaj Yatra:

‘Gaj Yatra’, a nationwide campaign to protect elephants, was launched on the occasion of World Elephant Day in 2017. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states. The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species.

The 15 months campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.

Source: The Hindu

Angel tax

In News:

The government has decided to set up a five-member working committee to look into the angel tax issue and come up with guidelines in one week. It also agreed to implement some key changes requested by start-ups regarding the issue.

Details:

Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.

The tax, under section 56(2)(viib), was introduced by in 2012 to fight money laundering. The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.

Why is Angel tax problematic?

There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.

In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) now renamed as the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Proposed reforms:

Earlier, start-ups whose aggregate amount of paid-up share capital and share premium after the proposed issue of share does not exceed ₹10 crore are eligible for exemption from the tax. The government is planning to raise this limit to ₹25 crore.

It is also planning to amend the definition of a start-up to include companies that have been in operation for up to 10 years rather than the previous limit of seven years.

Is Scrapping Angel Tax possible?

The angel tax could not be scrapped as money laundering is a major problem. There is a network of 200 shell companies and they have been under control since 2012, so it cannot be scrapped.

However, concessions are under consideration with the size of the start-up, the duration of its operation, and the income of the angel investor.

Source: The Hindu

Hoveizeh long-range cruise missile

Iran has announced the successful test flight of Hoveizeh long-range cruise missile.

The Hoveizeh Cruise Missile is part of the Soumar family of cruise missile and has a range of over 1,350 km (840 miles).

It is designed to use against ground targets.

The Hoveizeh missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude and is manufactured by the Aerospace Industries Organization of Israel.

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