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28 August Current Affairs

Heritage Circuit and North East Circuit

In News:

The Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned two new projects under Heritage and North East Circuits of Swadesh Dashan Scheme for Rs. 164.95 Crores in Punjab and Tripura.

Heritage Circuit:

Under Heritage Circuit in the state of Punjab, the project covers sites of Anandpur Sahib – Fatehgarh Sahib – Chamkaur Sahib – Ferozpur – Amritsar – Khatkar Kalan – Kalanour – Patiala at the cost of Rs. 99.95 crores.

The project includes development of Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar for Rs. 8 Crores, development of Tourist Infrastructure and Heritage Path at Anandpur Sahib for Rs. 28.99 crores, development of Tourist Infrastructure at Fatehgarh Sahib among others.

The facilities being developed include Virtual Reality Shows (Jallianwala and Hussainiwala Border), beautification and landscaping, interpretation centres, façade development, wayside amenities, parking, CCTV and Wi-Fi facilities, Cafeterias, Open Air Theatre, drinking water facility etc.

North East Circuit:

Under North East Circuit in Tripura, the sites of Surma Cherra- Unakoti- Jampui Hills- Gunabati-Bhunaneshwari- Matabari- Neermahal- Boxanagar- Chotta khola- Pilak- Avangchaarra are covered with total project cost of Rs. 65 Crores.

The project envisaged infrastructural development of the sites with special emphasis on developing an Interpretation Centre, Tourist Visitor Centres, Cafeteria, Last Mile Connectivity, Illumination of sites and monuments, Wayside Amenities, Floating Jetties, Camping Grounds, Parking Facilities, Adventure Activities, Ghat Development at above sites.

About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

The Tourism Ministry had launched ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme with an objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  • The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding.
  • To leverage the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.
  • Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).
  • A National Steering Committee (NSC) will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.
  • A Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.
  • PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.

Source: PIB

China may scrap limit on number of children

In News:

China is planning to scrap the limit on the number of children couples can have. A draft civil code that would end decades of controversial family planning policies has been prepared.

Highlights:

  • The code would get rid of a policy that has been enforced through fines but was also notorious for cases of forced abortions and sterilisation in the world’s most populous country.
  • The code omits any reference to “family planning” — the current policy which limits couples to having no more than two children.
  • Other proposed changes include a one-month cooling off period before a divorce, during which either party can withdraw their application.

The long history of limits on the number of children a couple can have:

The Communist Party began enforcing a one-child policy in 1979 to slow population growth. The limit was raised to two children in 2016 as the nation scrambled to rejuvenate its greying population of some 1.4 billion.

The need for removal of restrictions:

Concerns are mounting that an ageing and shrinking workforce could slow down its economy, while gender imbalances could lead to social problems. Also, childbirths have not increased as much as forecast since the two-child policy came into force.

Why One Child Policy was adopted by China?

One child policy was adopted by China in 1979 out of the Malthusian fears that unchecked population growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe. It was also a response to concerns about food shortages.

What is Malthusian theory all about?

Thomas Robert Malthus was the first economist to propose a systematic theory of population. He articulated his views regarding population in his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), for which he collected empirical data to support his thesis. He argued that if left unchecked, a population will outgrow its resources, leading to a host of problems.

Why China changed its policy?

China has a population of over 1.4 billion, 30% of which is over the age of 50. There is also huge gender imbalance. Now, China needs more people for joining workforce. The working population in China is coming down and elderly population is going up. So Communist Party of China has changed one-child policy to a two-child policy as the country is looking further ahead that China to have larger families.

What’s good about One Child Policy?

  • Helps to ease the over population problems.
  • It is seen as practical by some families.
  • Lowers the poverty rate.

Why it isn’t a good idea?

  • The enforcement is unequal.
  • It is a human rights violation.
  • Shrinking work population.
  • Gender imbalance due to the strong cultural preference of boys for labor and work.
  • Increase in abortions and female infanticide.
  • Extra babies end up being illegal and never becoming a citizen, due to fines.
  • Intrudes on people’s personal values and opinions.

Why such policies are not suitable for India?

The implications of such a policy being enforced in India would surely have been more disastrous than it did in China.

India is way behind China in basic development indicators like life expectancy, IMR and maternal mortality rate. The preference of a male child, the regional disparities in development, and the growing intolerance against minorities in the present milieu would be further magnified with the state entering homes and enforcing such strict norms.

The fact that women are at the receiving end of such policies in a patriarchal society is another story in itself. The burden of limiting family size falls on the woman, and most often female sterilisations are promoted rather than giving the couple the choice of contraception.

Limiting family size cannot be an end in itself at the neglect of basic needs and services like food security, housing, education, and health. It is important for a state to universalise these basic services than to impose a diktat of population control. When China imposed a one-child policy, it had already created a strong base for its population, despite which the consequences were severe. Therefore, it would be disastrous for India to even walk that path.

Source: The Hindu

Odisha to come up with single revenue code

In News:

The Odisha government has proposed to come up with a single revenue act by merging various revenue laws enacted at different point in times.

Details:

In this regard, the state government has prepared the draft ‘Odisha Land and Revenue Code’ by taking into consideration the Odisha Survey and Settlement Act, 1958, the Odisha Special Survey and the Settlement Act 2012, the Odisha Government Land Settlement Act, 1962, the Odisha Prevention of Land Encroachment Act, 1972, the Odisha Land Reforms Act, 1960, the Odisha Consolidation of Holdings and Prevention of Fragmentation of Land Act 1972 and the Odisha Estates Abolition Act, 1951.

Need for a uniform revenue code:

The need for a single Revenue Code arises out of the fact that there are many revenue Acts in vogue in Odisha governing the land revenue administration which were enacted years back and are unable to meet the changing needs.

Existence of so many revenue Acts and Rules often create confusion among the field-level revenue functionaries in interpretation of such laws which ultimately leads to delay in disposal of cases and sufferings for the public.

The main purpose is to end the numerous laws and introduction of a single code having simplified procedures and enabling provisions for speedy disposal of the revenue cases which will benefit the public.

What next?

The code will be published inviting suggestions and objections from all sections and after scrutiny of feedbacks, necessary changes will be effected and steps will be taken for enactment of the code.

Source: The Hindu

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

In News:

The United States and Mexico have agreed to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), putting pressure on Canada to agree to new terms on auto trade and dispute settlement rules to remain part of the three-nation pact. If talks with Canada are not wrapped up by the end of this week, Trump plans to notify Congress that he has reached a deal with Mexico, but would be open to Canada joining.

Highlights of the new deal:

  • The deal would require 75% of auto content to be made in the NAFTA region, up from the current level of 62.5%. A fact sheet describing the bilateral agreement specified the content would be made in the United States and Mexico.
  • The deal improves labour provisions, in part by requiring 40% to 45% of auto content to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. That measure could move some production back to the United States from Mexico and should lift Mexican wages.
  • The United States relented on its demand for an automatic expiration for the deal, known as a “sunset clause.” Instead, the United States and Mexico agreed to a 16-year lifespan for the deal, with a review every six years that can extend the pact for 16 years.
  • Mexico agreed to eliminate dispute settlement panels for certain anti-dumping cases, a move that could complicate talks with Canada, which had insisted on the panels.

What is NAFTA?

NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)

Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.

What was the purpose of NAFTA?

In 1993 the European Union (EU) created a “single market”—one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. This allowed every country and business in the EU to have access to more than 500 million consumers.

NAFTA, which was approved that same year, was designed to have a similar effect, providing a way to allow the exchange of goods and services to flow more freely across national borders without the artificial restrictions.

NAFTA provided for progressive elimination of all tariffs on any goods qualifying as North American. The deal also sought to protect intellectual property, establish dispute-resolution mechanisms, and, through corollary agreements, implement labor and environmental safeguards.

Why is NAFTA controversial?

NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first [free trade agreement] involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country. Some people felt that allowing free trade with a developing country provides an incentive for U.S-based business to move their operations to that country.

Since its implementation NAFTA has remained a prime target of trade protectionists (those who advocate taking measures such as taxing imports to “protect” domestic industries from foreign competition).

Source: The Hindu

Aeolus Satellite

In News:

The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched Aeolus satellite that will measure winds around the globe and help improve weather forecasting. The Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite was launched into polar orbit on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Aeolus satellite:

Aeolus is the first satellite mission to acquire profiles of Earth’s wind on a global scale. These near-realtime observations will improve the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction and advance our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability.

Aeolus is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions, which address key scientific challenges identified by the science community and demonstrate breakthrough technology in observing techniques.

Named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’ by the Gods, this novel mission will not only provide much-needed data to improve the quality of weather forecasts, but also contribute to long-term climate research.

The Aeolus satellite carries just one large instrument – a Doppler wind lidar called Aladin that will probe the lowermost 30 km of the atmosphere to measure the winds sweeping around our planet.

Significance and need for information on wind:

Many aspects of our lives are influenced by the weather. It goes without saying that accurate forecasts are important for commercial undertakings such as farming, fishing, construction and transport – and in general make it easier to plan the days ahead.

In extreme circumstances, knowing what the weather will bring can also help save lives and protect property. Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, meteorologists urgently need reliable wind-profile data to improve accuracy further.

Aeolus wind mission will demonstrate that measuring global wind-profiles from space, using laser technology, can meet this requirement.

Source: The Hindu

Government announces Regulations for Drones

In News:

The government has announced the Drone Regulations 1.0. These regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018. They are intended to enable visual line-of-sight daytime-only and a maximum of 400 ft altitude operations.

Categories:

As per the regulation, there are 5 categories of RPAS categorized by weight, namely nano, micro, small, medium and large.

Operational/ Procedural Requirements:

  • All RPAS except nano and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies are to be registered and issued with Unique Identification Number (UIN).
  • Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP) shall be required for RPA operators except for nano RPAS operating below 50 ft., micro RPAS operating below 200 ft., and those owned by NTRO, ARC and Central Intelligence Agencies.
  • The mandatory equipment required for operation of RPAS except nano category are (a) GNSS (GPS), (b) Return-To-Home (RTH), (c) Anti-collision light, (d) ID-Plate, (e) Flight controller with flight data logging capability, and (f) RF ID and SIM/ No-Permission No Take off (NPNT).
  • For flying in controlled Airspace, filing of flight plan and obtaining Air Defence Clearance (ADC) /Flight Information Centre (FIC) number shall be necessary. Minimum manufacturing standards and training requirements of Remote Pilots of small and above categories of RPAS have been specified in the regulation.

Other highlights:

No Drone Zones: The regulation defines “No Drone Zones” around airports;near international border, Vijay Chowk in Delhi; State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations/vital and military installations; etc.

Operations through Digital Platform: Operations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)  to be enabled through Digital Sky Platform. The RPAS operations will be based on NPNT (No Permission, No Take off).

There will be different colour zones visible to the applicant while applying in the digital sky platform, viz, Red Zone: flying not permitted, Yellow Zone (controlled airspace): permission required before flying, andGreen Zone (uncontrolled airspace): automatic permission.

Enforcement Actions: The enforcement actions are, (a) suspension/ cancellation of UIN/ UAOP in case of violation of regulatory provisions, (b) actions as per relevant Sections of the Aircraft Act 1934, or Aircraft Rules, or any statutory provisions, and (c) penalties as per applicable IPCs (such as 287, 336, 337, 338, or any relevant section of IPC).

What next?

Going forward, the Drone Task Force will provide draft recommendations for Drone Regulations 2.0. These regulations will examine, inter alia, the following issues:

  • Certification of safe and controlled operation of drone hardware and software.
  • Air space management through automated operations linked into overall airspace management framework.
  • Beyond visual-line-of-sight operations.
  • Contribution to establishing global standards.
  • Suggestions for modifications of existing CARs and/or new CARs.

Way ahead:

Flying drones safely in India will require research and development to understand how they can be best used in India’s unique landscape. Such R&D occurs best in a market-oriented environment, which will not happen unless civilian drone use is permitted. Building profitable companies around drone use can be complicated when the core business model is illegal.

Source: PIB

Close watch on climate change

In News:

The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is considering a Rs. 79-crore proposal to study the impact of climate change on Kerala.

Details:

Proposed by: The project has been proposed by the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) under the Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR).

Highlights of the project:

Objectives: The Kerala project will analyse the trends in climatic elements, their spatial pattern and its relationship with extreme events such as El Nino, cyclones etc. The objective of the project is to develop a framework and decision support tool to assess the climate change impact on livelihood and developmental processes.

Focus areas: The ambitious project, spread over a period of three years, will assess the impact of climate change on agriculture (including plantation crops and spices); fisheries (marine and inland); industries; health; transport — vehicular and inland water transports; tourism; biodiversity; forestry; and landslips.

The project involves experts from various scientific institutions across the country. It consists of 25 work packages and covers all the aspects of climate change adaptations for Kerala.

The experts will study the spatial and temporal changes in water resources (surface and groundwater — quantity and quality). Researchers will also assess the monsoonal variations and its impact, besides looking at the climate change scenario on the islets of Kerala.

Significance:

It assumes significance in the wake of devastating floods that ravaged many parts of the State as the research initiative will specifically assess the dynamics of riverine discharge and saline water incursion under the climate change scenario.

Facts for Prelims:

CSIR-NISCAIR is the nodal institute to develop climate change adaptation programmes for islands and coastal ecosystems as part of the 12th Five Year Plan programme approved by the CSIR.

Source: The Hindu

Lakhwar Multipurpose Project

In News:

The Centre has signed MOU with Uttarakhand, UP, HP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi for Construction of Lakhwar Multipurpose Project on Yamuna Near Dehradun.

Key facts:

  • Project Will Generate 300 MW of Power Create 33,780 Hectare Irrigation Potential and 78.83 MCM Water Availability.
  • Uttarakhand Will Bear the Cost of Power Component, Get the Total Benefit of Power Generation.
  • Centre will Fund 90% of Irrigation Component, the Six States to the Fund Remaining 10% and Share Water Proportionately.

Source: PIB

Lakhwar Multi- Purpose Project

  • Lakhwar Project is a multipurpose scheme, primarily a peaking power station, on river Yamuna in the district of Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
  • The scheme envisages construction of 204 m high concrete dam on river Yamuna near Lohari village. The Multipurpose scheme also envisages construction of Vyasi HEP (2×60 MW) (Hathiari power station) downstream of Lakhwar HEP.
  • The scheme also includes construction of a barrage at Katapathar about 3 Km downstream of Hathiari power station (Vyasi HEP) on river Yamuna.

Galileo

  • Galileo is a navigation satellite program being developed by the European Union as a rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System.
  • It was commissioned in 2003 and is due for completion by 2020.
  • It is a project of the European Commission and European space agency.
  • It consists of 24 satellites in which 22 are currently in orbit and it is likely to reach 30 in 2021.
  • It promises eventual real-time positioning to accuracy of one metre or less.
  • The project has recently emerged as a flashpoint between Britain and the EU in the Brexit process.
  • It is because of UK’s access to sensitive security information could be restricted after Brexit.

Share Buyback

  • A buyback is a mechanism through which a listed company buys back shares from the market.
  • It can be done either through open market purchases or through the tender offer route.
  • Under the open market mechanism, the company buys back the shares from the secondary market while under tender offer, shareholders can tender their shares during the buyback offer.
  • A company prefers buyback usually when it has a significant cash reserve and feels that the shares are not fairly valued at the current market price.
  • The brought back shares will have increased Earnings per share (EPS) by default.
  • It is because a buyback is usually done at a price higher than the then prevailing market price, shareholders get an attractive exit option, especially when the shares are thinly traded.
  • A company can use a maximum of 25% of the aggregate of its free reserves and paid-up capital for a buyback.
  • Both Institutional investors and retail shareholders take part in a buy back offer.
  • SEBI has recently revised the buy back regulations that stipulate 15% reservation for retail shareholders in a buy back offer.
  • It gives retail investors a fair share in the offer, which otherwise could see large institutional investors tendering their shares leaving little or no room for small investors.

Bureau of Indian Standards

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the National Standard body of India which sets the quality regulations for various product.
  • BIS is set to formulate new standards to measure quality of services offered to consumers across different sectors.
  • The initial focus will be the 12 champion services sectors identified by the government.
  • These include IT, tourism and hospitality, transport and logistics, accounting and finance services, legal services, communication services and construction.
  • A framework for quality services will be provided to consumers and a benchmark to deal with consumer complaints will be set by BIS.

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