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16 July Current Affairs

President nominates four members to Rajya Sabha

In News:

In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 80 of the Constitution of India, and on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President of India has made four nominations to the Rajya Sabha.

Details:

The nominated members are- Ram Shakal, Rakesh Sinha, Raghunath Mohapatra and Sonal Mansingh.

Nominated member of the Rajya Sabha:

Under article 80 of the Constitution, the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) is composed of not more than 250 members, of whom 12 are nominated by the President of India from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.

Powers and privileges:

  • Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
  • They take part in the proceedings of the House as any other member.
  • They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.
  • But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
  • A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution.
  • A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.
  • Under MPLADS, the Nominated Members of the Rajya Sabha may select any Districts from any State in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.

Rationale behind the principle of nomination:

By adopting the principle of nomination in Rajya Sabha, the Constitution has ensured that the nation must also receive services of the most distinguished persons of the country who have earned distinction in their field of activity, many of whom may not like to face the rough and tumble of the election.

By nominating them to Rajya Sabha, the State not only recognises their merit and confers honour on them, but also enables them to enrich the debates by their expertise and knowledge that they have in different areas.

Source: PIB

Direct benefit transfer (DBT)

In News:

Acknowledging that problems have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.

Problems highlighted by the RBI:

  • Inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels.
  • Insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms.
  • A weak grievance redressal system.

Why cash transfer is better than the public distribution system (PDS)?

  • Cash transfer mode reduces the need for large physical movement of food grains.
  • Given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides “greater autonomy” to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
  • It also reduces the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the existing system of distribution of food grains in fulfilment of provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution:

RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules. The pre-conditions include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database, and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.

Background:

With the aim of reforming Government delivery system by re-engineering the existing process in welfare schemes for simpler and faster flow of information/funds and to ensure accurate targeting of the beneficiaries, de-duplication and reduction of fraud Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) was started on 1st January, 2013.

JAM Trinity:

DBT by leveraging the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobiles) trinity and the technological prowess offers to drastically improve the benefit delivery system in the country. The JAM Trinity will enable this novel system to transfer benefits in a leakage-proof, well targeted, cashless and timely manner.

Way ahead:

The success of an ambitious and a highly desirable initiative like DBT depends on a set of a few critical factors. For a heterogeneous and a large country like India, it becomes imperative that these critical success factors are ensured to achieve smooth rollout of a programme like DBT. The key success factors or enablers for an efficacious Implementation of DBT would include: JAM Trinity, Business Correspondents (BC) Infrastructure, payment bank and mobile money.

Source: The Hindu

World Customs Organisation (WCO)

In News:

India has become the Vice-Chair (Regional Head) of the Asia Pacific Region of World Customs Organisation (WCO) for a period of two years, from July, 2018 to June, 2020. Being the Vice Chair of AP Region of WCO will enable India to take on leadership role.

About WCO:

The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.

Today, the WCO represents 182 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.

As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organization with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.

The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions. Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.

Roles and functions:

As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its Members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services provided either directly by the Secretariat, or with its participation.

Besides the vital role played by the WCO in stimulating the growth of legitimate international trade, its efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognized internationally.

WCO has also been responsible for administering the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Customs Valuation, which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin, which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.

Source: PIB

IFFCO iMandi

In News:

It is an e-commerce platform launched by IFFCO to address all needs of the farming community associated with it. For this initiative, IFFCO has partnered with Singapore-based technology firm iMandi.

Details:

Target: Through this e-commerce platform, IFFCO is targeting to reach GMV (gross merchandise value) of $5 billion in the next two years by catering needs of 5.5 crore farmers already associated with it.

Features of IFFCO iMandi:

  • The e-commerce platform is one stop shop for agri inputs and produce, FMCG, electronics, loans, insurance etc.
  • It has features like buy-sell, communication, entertainment and information/advisory content to keep farmers engaged.
  • Using it, farmers buy all agri inputs of IFFCO, including fertilisers, agro chemicals and seeds at discounted price and get free delivery at their doorstep.

About Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO):

IFFCO is large scale fertiliser cooperative federation in India which is registered as Multistate Cooperative Society. It is one of India’s biggest cooperative society which is wholly owned by Indian Cooperatives.

Source: The Hindu

Jute sector

In News:

The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector.

Challenges:

  • More than 100-year-old Jute sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity, right away.
  • The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
  • The sector is still primitive, involves labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.
  • With raw jute prices remaining below the support price in 2017-18, area-under-cultivation may stagnate in 2018-19.

Efforts to support the sector:

A recent initiative called ‘The Jute Foundation’ (TJF) is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product. It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.

The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India is planning to introduce a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.

Jute Technology Mission (JTM):

Jute Technology Mission (JTM) was approved by the government of India in 2006 and it has 4 mini Missions. The Objectives of the JTM are as follows:

  • To strengthen agricultural research and technology achievements.
  • Development/extension of raw jute Ministry of and transfer of improved technology.
  • To develop efficient market linkages Ministry of for raw jute.
  • To modernize, technologically upgrade, improve productivity, Textiles diversify and develop human resource for the jute industry.

Facts for Prelims:

West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.

Source: The Hindu

Bansagar canal project

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Bansagar canal project in Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.

Bansagar canal project:

  • Bansagar Dam project is a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Bansagar Dam is a multipurpose river Valley Project on Sone River situated in the Ganges Basin in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The total canal network under it is 171 kms long.
  • Canals under this project will bring waters from Shahdol district in Madhya Pradesh for Adwa Barrage, Meza Dam and Jirgo reservoir.
  • The project aims to provide a big boost to irrigation in the region. It promises to be greatly beneficial for the farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.
  • As per the projections, the project will benefit 1 lakh 70 thousand farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts.

About Son River:

Son River of central India is the second largest of the Ganges’s southern tributaries after Yamuna River.

The Son originates near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh just east of the headwater of the Narmada River, and flows north-northwest through Madhya Pradesh state before turning sharply eastward where it encounters the southwest-northeast-Kaimur Range.

Son is an extension of the Narmada Valley, and the Kaimur Range an extension of the Vindhya Range.

Source: PIB

Right of First Refusal (ROFR)

In News:

Right of first refusal is a contractual right, but not obligation, to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can.

Details:

If the entity with the right of first refusal declines to enter into a transaction, the owner of the asset who offered the right is free to open the bidding up to other interested parties.

A proposed move by the Centre to abolish the ROFR clause for transportation of Indian cargo by Indian-flagged vessels, the only benefit available to Indian shipping companies is threatening the existence of the domestic shipping industry.

Concerns:

If the clause is scrapped, it could hurt the Indian shipping industry. Indian shipping companies have a combined fleet of 1,372 ships with a total capacity of 12.35 million Gross Tonnage (GT).

The move may also prompt Indian Shipping firms to de- register their vessels from India and flag them in tax havens of Panama and Bahama to survive and compete with foreign lines.

Currently, 92% of India’s export import trade is carried by foreign flag ships. And the 8% that is assured to Indian ships is likely to go if the ROFR is scrapped.

Why maintain ROFR clause?

The right of first refusal is the only incentive to the Indian flag, which suffers from many disadvantages versus foreign flags.

De-registering of vessels from the Indian flag will be a strategic blow to Indian security as merchant naval fleet always acts as a second line of defence for coastal security.

Source: The Hindu

Sangita Kalanidhi award

In News:

Renowned Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam has been selected for 2018 Sangita Kalanidhi award of Music Academy for her contribution to Carnatic music.

About the award:

Sangita Kalanidhi Award was instituted by the Music Academy, Chennai.

It is the title awarded yearly to a Carnatic Musician.

Source: PIB

Vikas Engine

In News:

ISRO has successfully conducted ground test of its high thrust version of Vikas Engine.

Key facts:

Vikas Engine is the workhorse liquid rocket engine powering the second stage of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), second stage and the four strap on stages of Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the twin engine core liquid stage (L110) of GSLV Mk-III.

Source: PIB

Golden jackal

In News:

Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest is forcing the golden jackal (Canis aureus) out of its habitat, triggering a conflict with the local communities.

Key facts:

The Golden Jackal is a wolf-like canid that is native to Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and regions of Southeast Asia.

The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’ and it preys on wild crab and fish.

Source: PIB

Social Media Communication Hubs

  • The Supreme Court recently took a strong note of the social media communication hub proposed by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • It is a hub for monitoring online data and will be setup in each district across the country.
  • Using this analytical tool, the Centre wishes to track social media movements in every district of the country to predict a global public perception.
  • It may also help in tackling fake news and the Centre will gauge people’s reactions to their schemes and strategies.
  • The SC has observed that it would result in creating a surveillance state.

MeerKAT radio telescope

  • MeerKAT telescope is a scientific mega-project in South Africa.
  • It will be an array of 64 interlinked receptors to unlock cosmic conundrums from dark energy to detecting extraterrestrial life.
  • A receptor is the complete antenna structure, with the main reflector, sub-reflector and all receivers, digitisers and other electronics installed.
  • It will be incorporated into the complex Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument.
  • It is the biggest radio telescope of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Golden Jackel

  • Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest is forcing the golden jackal out of its habitat.
  • The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’ and it preys on wild crab and fish.
  • The Golden Jackal is widespread in North and north-east Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Europe and the entire Indian Subcontinent.
  • In India, jackal populations achieve high densities in pastoral areas such as Kutch, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
  • It is present in all protected areas of India except for those in the high elevation regions of the Himalayas.
  • The species is included in CITES Appendix III (in India).
  • Jackals feature on Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) of India and are afforded the least legal protection (mainly to control trade of pelts and tails).

Harrier birds

  • Harrier birds are migratory raptor species that regularly visits vast swathes of India.
  • India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
  • Recent reports highlights that the numbers of birds visiting the site are declining.
  • While a general declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district.
  • In Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Western Marsh Harriers declined significantly, leaving the area nearly deserted.
  • The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture.
  • Excessive use of pesticides in farms in and around the roosting sites could also be a reason for the lowered population counts.

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