ABHYAS – High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT)
DRDO recently conducted the flight test of ABHYAS – High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) from a test range in Odisha.
The configuration of ABHYAS is designed on an in-line small gas turbine engine and it uses indigenously developed MEMS based navigation system.
‘Abhyas’ is designed for autonomous flying with the help of an autopilot.
A Luneburg lens in the nose cone improves the radar cross-section of the target for weapons practice.
It also has an acoustic miss distance indicator (AMDI) to indicate the missed distance.
Retail inflation rose to a six-month high of 2.92 per cent in April due to a spike in food prices, according to data the Central Statistics Office. CPI inflation in April is the highest since October 2018 when the rate was 3.38 per cent.
Rising prices in the food basket, as well as jump in fuel prices, are contributing to the rising inflation.
Rating agency Crisil expects retail inflation to rise by 60 basis points to 4 per cent this fiscal from 3.4 per cent in 2018-19. Within CPI inflation, food inflation is expected to rise in the current year, as last two months witnessed rise in prices of many farm commodities, mainly due to drought in large parts of western and southern India, coupled with an early and harsher-than-usual summer.
What is the impact on interest rates?
Despite rising CPI inflation, analysts expect the Reserve Bank of India to cut repo rate – the rate at which it lends short-term funds to banks – as inflation remains within the RBI’s target of 4 per cent even as growth of the Indian economy has been slowing down.
What Is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them.
Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living; the CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.
Understanding Consumer Price Index (CPI):
The CPI measures the average change in prices over time that consumers pay for a basket of goods and services, commonly known as inflation. Essentially it attempts to quantify the aggregate price level in an economy and thus measure the purchasing power of a country’s unit of currency. The weighted average of the prices of goods and services that approximates an individual’s consumption patterns is used to calculate CPI.
Source: The Hindu
CCMB scientists sequence Asiatic lion genome
For the first time, the entire genome of Asiatic lion has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
The objective is to understand the species at DNA level and study if there are any specific problems with regard to adaptability to environment or behaviour vis-à-vis other big cats.
Need and significance:
This firsthand information would help researchers to better understand the evolution of Asiatic lions and also make possible comparative analysis with other big cats.
The genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics (the differences at the gene level within a population) and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.
The study will enable better disease and population management of the endangered big cat by identifying characteristics which are specific to Asiatic lions.
About Asiatic Lion:
IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
At present the only home of Asiatic lion is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
The population of the endangered Asiatic lion is very low — only 523 animals are present in the Gir forests.
Source: The Hindu
Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act
The Central Government has extended the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for another five years under sub-sections (1) and (3) of section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967) with immediate effect.
The notification states that the LTTE’s continued violent and disruptive activities are prejudicial to the integrity and sovereignty of India; and it continues to adopt a strong anti-India posture as also continues to pose a grave threat to the security of Indian nationals.
About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA):
This law is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
The Act makes it a crime to support any secessionist movement or to support claims by a foreign power to what India claims as its territory.
The UAPA, framed in 1967, has been amended twice since: first in 2008 and then in 2012.
The law is contested for few draconian provisions:
The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political protest.
It empowers the government to declare an organisation as ‘terrorist’ and ban it. Mere membership of such a proscribed organisation itself becomes a criminal offence.
It allows detention without a chargesheet for up to 180 days and police custody can be up to 30 days.
It creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is out of the question. It creates a presumption of guilt for terrorism offences merely based on the evidence allegedly seized.
It authorises the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings) and use secret witnesses but contains no sunset clause and provisions for mandatory periodic review.
Source: The Hindu
Fund for rural agricultural start-ups
NABARD has announced Rs 700-crore venture capital fund for rural agricultural start-ups.
This project was launched by Nabventures, an auxiliary unit of NABARD.
NABARD proposed amount of Rs 500 crore with an option to retain over-subscriptions of Rs 200 crore.
NABARD has given an anchor commitment for the fund, which will be investing across startups engaged in agriculture, food and rural development space.
Significance and benefits of the fund:
The fund will have a high impact as it will provide a boost to investment ecosystem in the core areas of agriculture, food and improvement of rural livelihoods.
It is an apex development and specialized bank established on 12 July 1982 by an act by the parliament of India.
Its main focus is to uplift rural India by increasing the credit flow for elevation of agriculture & rural non farm sector.
It was established based on the recommendations of the Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the chairmanship of Shri B. shivaraman.
It replaced the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).
It has been accredited with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently sold its entire stakes in the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) and National Housing Bank. The decision to divest its entire stake was taken based on the recommendations of the second Narasimham Committee. The government now holds a 100 per cent stake in both NHB and NABARD.
Source: The Hindu
Herbivore Census in Gir forest
Every summer, the Forest Department of Gujarat conducts a Herbivore Census in Gir forest. This year’s exercise is of particular significance because it is the last Herbivore Census ahead of next year’s Lion Census, which is a once-in-five-years exercise.
Coverage: The Herbivore Census covers ungulates such as spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars, as well as Indian langurs and peafowl.
Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions, the endangered species whose only wild population in the world is surviving in the 22,000 sq km Greater Gir area. A count provides a sense of the available of the prey base for lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas and wolves. A strong prey base can reduce depredation of livestock by lions and can reduce man-animal conflict.
In 2013-14, the last Herbivore Census before the previous Lion Census, the total count of all herbivores was 1.32 lakh, higher than the about 1.25 lakh counted in 2012-13.
During summer, foliage is reduced to a minimum in dry and deciduous tropical forests, which affords the best visibility for conducting a census. Also, wild animals concentrate around water points, which in Gir include 450 artificial ones filled by the Forest Department.
What has been the herbivore population trend in recent years?
Since 1974, the population of herbivorous in Gir forest has been on the rise. In 2013, the population of ungulates was estimated to be 1,26,893 or 76.49 animals per square kilometres. That translates to 8000 kg of biomass available to carnivorous, very close to the levels in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The population of ungulates was 1,07,172 in 2010. Incidentally, lion census is due in May next year.
Source: Indian Express
NGOs and regulation of their foreign funding
The Home Ministry has cancelled the FCRA licence of Infosys Foundation after a request was made by the not-for-profit initiative of the IT major.
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.
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.
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
ADMM-Plus Maritime exercise
ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (MS FTX) was held recently. This is the fourth Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (MS FTX) conducted under the ambit of the ADMM-Plus.
It was co-organized by Singapore and South Korea as both nations currently holds co-chairmanship of ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Maritime Security.
Participants: The ADMM-Plus comprises total 18 nation participants which include ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and other 8 includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China, and India.
Strait of Hormuz
It is the waterway separates Iran and Oman, linking the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The Strait is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just two miles (three km) wide in either direction.
5 million barrels per day (bpd) of seaborne oil passed through the waterway in 2016. That was about 30 per cent of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016. About 17.2 million bpd of crude and condensates were estimated to have been shipped through the Strait in 2017 and about 17.4 million bpd in the first half of 2018.
With global oil consumption standing at about 100 million bpd, that means almost a fifth passes through the Strait.
Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq — all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — is shipped through the waterway.
It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar.
Known as the festival of festivals, Thrissur Pooram has a tradition of more than 200 years. This spectacular event was started by Sakthan Thampuran, the erstwhile ruler of Kochi. Held on the Moolam asterism in the Malayalam month of Medam (April-May), festival related events take place at the Vadakkumnathan temple situated in the heart of Thrissur town and the adjoining Thekkinkadu ground.
The pooram festival mainly happens between two groups representing the geographic divisions of Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi. They will compete in their respective presentations of richly caparisoned elephants, traditional orchestra called panchavadyam, the swift and rhythmic changing of brightly coloured and sequined parasols called kudamattom and the dazzling fireworks in the early morning hours are the festival highlights.