27 June Current Affairs
June 27, 2018
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June 29, 2018
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28 June Current Affairs

Women Entrepreneurs Platform (WEP)

In News:

NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurs Platform (WEP) has signed five separate Statement of Intent (SoIs) with Financial Institutions & Social Organisations. These SOIs will provide financial assistance to women entrepreneurs and address the finance related challenges faced by them through WEP.

About the Women Entrepreneurship Platform:

Aim: The initiative is aimed at building an ecosystem for women across India to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses. This will be done through an enabling network of industry collaborations, partnerships, mentors and peer-to-peer connect.

From providing unique services such as credit evaluation of women-led startups by CRISIL and potential equity investments through an INR 10 crore fund established by DICE Districts, the WEP opens up avenues of growth and opportunity for women entrepreneurs.

Need for economic empowerment of women:

Economically empowered women are major catalysts for development. There is greater recognition of the positive relationship between increased economic activity by women and improved social outcomes. Women often tend to reinvest their income in their children’s education, health and nutrition. This has a positive impact on the potential for economic growth.

Challenges:

India presents lower opportunities for women to assume leadership roles, participation in the workforce or engagement in entrepreneurial activities. Lack of education, technological know-how and cultural bias coupled with stringent business and government regulations are some key impediments that happen to undermine women’s ability to rise to positions of leadership and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities in India.

Way ahead:

Women entrepreneurs have been carving out a niche for them across the globe, including India especially in niche and unconventional businesses. However, there is significant potential to harness the untapped potential of women’s entrepreneurship in India.

Sources: pib.

Export Credit Guarantee Corporation

In News:

Cabinet has approved the capital infusion of Rs.2000 crore for strengthening of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC).

Benefits:

The infusion would enhance insurance coverage to MSME exports and strengthen India’s exports to emerging and challenging markets like Africa, CIS and Latin American countries.

With enhanced capital, ECGC’s underwriting capacity and risk to capital ratio will improve considerably.

With a stronger underwriting capacity, ECGC will be in a better position to support Indian exporters to tap new and unexplored markets.

Increased capital infusion will help ECGC to diversify its product portfolio and provide cost effective credit insurance helping exporters to gain a stronger foothold in the difficult markets.

About Export Credit Guarantee Corporation:

ECGC is a premier export credit agency of the Government of India to provide Export Credit Insurance Services to facilitate exports from the country.

The ECGC offers credit insurance schemes to exporters to protect them against losses due to non-payment of export dues by overseas buyers due to political and / or commercial risks.

Source: PIB

Higher Education Commission of India

In News:

A Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Bill 2018 which seeks to repeal UGC Act and provides for setting up of Higher Education Commission of India has been prepared by the Ministry of HRD.

Roles and functions of Higher Education Commission of India:

The focus of the Commission will be on improving academic standards and quality of higher education, specifying norms for learning outcomes, lay down standards of teaching/research etc.

It will provide a roadmap for mentoring of institutions found failing in maintaining the required academic standards.

The Commission will encourage higher education institutions to formulate a Code of Good Practices covering promotion of research, teaching and learning.

The Commission will also specify norms and processes for fixing of fee chargeable by higher education institutions and advice the Central Government or the State Governments, as the case may be, regarding steps to be taken for making education affordable to all.

The Commission will monitor, through a national data base, all matters covering the development of emerging fields of knowledge and balanced growth of higher education institutions in all spheres and specially in promotion of academic quality in higher education.

Composition:

The proposed commission will have 12 members appointed by the central government, apart from the chairperson and vice-chairperson.

Powers:

  • It shall have the power to enforce its decisions through legal provisions in the Act.
  • It shall have the power to grant authorization for starting of academic operations on the basis of their compliance with norms of academic quality.
  • It will also have the powers to revoke authorization granting to a higher education institution where there is a case of wilful or continuous default in compliance with the norms / regulations.
  • It will also have the power to recommend closure of institutions which fail to adhere to minimum standards without affecting students’ interest.

Brief history of UGC:

Previously, UGC was formed in 1946 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and, Delhi. In 1947, a Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.

After independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan and it recommended that the UGC be reconstituted on the general model of the University Grants Commission of the United Kingdom.

The UGC was however, formally established in November 1956, by an Act of Parliament as a statutory body of the Government of India.

Source: PIB

Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Programme

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of additional 6.5 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facilities at two locations, i.e. Chandikhol in Odisha and Padur in Karnataka, including construction of dedicated SPMs (Single Point Mooring) for the two SPRs. The SPR facilities at Chandikhol and Padur will be underground rockcaverns and will have capacities of 4 MMT and 2.5 MMT respectively.

About SPR programme:

To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi). These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions.

In the 2017-18 budget, it was announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase.

The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

Need for strategic oil reserves:

In 1990, as the Gulf war engulfed West Asia, India was in the throes of a major energy crisis. By all accounts India’s oil reserves at the time were adequate for only three days. While India managed to avert the crisis then, the threat of energy disruption continues to present a real danger even today.

It is unlikely that India’s energy needs will dramatically move away from fossil fuels in the near future. Over 80% of these fuels come from imports, a majority of which is sourced from West Asia. This is a major strategic risk and poses a massive financial drain for an embattled economy and its growing current account deficit.

To address energy insecurity, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government mooted the concept of strategic petroleum reserves in 1998. Today, with India consuming upwards of four million barrels of crude every day (January 2015 figures), the case for creating such reserves grows stronger.

Source: PIB

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme

In News:

Cabinet approves Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to carry out the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme- Revision of ethanol price for supply to Public Sector OMCs.

Significance:

Remunerative price to ethanol suppliers will help in reduction of cane farmer’s arrears, in the process contributing to minimizing difficulty of sugarcane farmers.

Ethanol availability for EBP Programme is expected to increase significantly due to higher price for C heavy molasses based ethanol and enabling procurement of ethanol from B heavy molasses and sugarcane juice for first time.

Benefits of ethanol blending:

Increased ethanol blending in petrol has many benefits including reduction in import dependency, support to agricultural sector, more environmental friendly fuel, lesser pollution and additional income to farmers.

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme:

It was launched by the Government in 2003 on pilot basis which has been subsequently extended to the Notified 21 States and 4 Union Territories to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.

It aims at blending ethanol with petrol, thereby bringing it under the category of biofuels and saving millions of dollars by cutting fuel imports.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme is being implemented by the Ministry or Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).

This intervention also seeks to reduce import dependency for energy requirements and give boost to agriculture sector.

Demand:

India is the third largest consumer of energy in the world after China and the US. Currently, the country is dependent on imports for about 82.1% of its crude oil requirement and to the extent of about 44.4% in case of natural gas.

India is expected to need 10 billion litres of ethanol annually to meet the 20% blending target in 2030 if petrol consumption continues to grow at the current pace. At present, the capacity stands at 1.55 billion litres a year.

Concerns and challenges:

There has been a consistent shortfall in supply of ethanol in the past, mainly on account of the cyclical nature of the sugarcane harvests in the country. There is “lack of an integrated approach in the EBP across its value chain.”

Way ahead:

The National Policy on Bio-fuels has set a target of 20% blending of biofuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. This will require an integrated approach in the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP). The time is ripe for a cogent and consistent policy and administrative framework in the program implementation for the success of EBP.

Source: PIB

Global Environment Facility (GEF)

In News:

India has announced it will increase for the next four years the money it pays to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a mechanism to provide grants for environment projects. India will increase its commitments from $12 million to $15 million to the GEF’s new four-year investment cycle, known as GEF-7.

About GEF:

The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

It is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements.

The World Bank serves as the GEF Trustee, administering the GEF Trust Fund.

It is a FINANCIAL MECHANISM for five major international environmental conventions: the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Source: The Hindu

Solar Charkha Mission

In News:

President Ram Nath Kovind recently launched the Solar Charkha Mission covering artisans in 50 identified clusters.

About Solar Charkha Mission:

The Solar Charkha Mission will generate employment in rural areas and contribute to the green economy. The mission will entail a subsidy of Rs 550 crore in the initial two years for 50 clusters and every cluster will employ 400 to 2000 artisans.

The scheme also aims at linking five crore women across the country to the initiative. The mission is expected to create one lakh jobs during the first two years.

Significance of MSMEs:

  • MSME account for around 60% employment in India.
  • MSME have registered over 10% growth in recent times which is much more compared to large enterprises.
  • This is one sector where people not only exhibit their entrepreneurial skills, become part of large value chains but also become job creators in the process.

Source: PIB

Sagarmala

In News:

The Ministry of Shipping’s flagship programme for port-led-prosperity ‘Sagarmala’ received the ‘Gold Award’ in infrastructure sector in the recently concluded 52nd Skoch Summit 2018. The Sagarmala Programme also received the ‘Order of Merit’ at the Summit.

About Sagarmala:

The Sagarmala project seeks to develop a string of ports around India’s coast. The objective of this initiative is to promote “Port-led development” along India’s 7500 km long coastline.

It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and promotion of the optimum modal split, enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services.

Nodal ministry: The Union Ministry of Shipping has been appointed as the nodal ministry for this initiative.

The Sagarmala initiative will address challenges by focusing on three pillars of development, namely:

  • Supporting and enabling Port-led Development through appropriate policy and institutional interventions and providing for an institutional framework for ensuring inter-agency and ministries/departments/states’ collaboration for integrated development.
  • Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports.
  • Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

Facts for Prelims:

  • The Skoch Awards celebrate human excellence and agents of change in Indian society. They are the highest independently instituted civilian honours in India.
  • Only end-user departments and domain ministries may apply including State undertakings.
  • The Skoch Awards have become the only independent benchmark of best practices in India in the fields of governance, finance, banking, technology, corporate citizenship, economics and inclusive growth.
  • Skoch Consultancy Services is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth.

Source: PIB

Udyam Sangam-2018

Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) launched Udyam Sangam-2018 on June 27, 2018 to celebrate the 2nd United Nations Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day. It is an important effort in developing effective eco-systems for MSME sector.

Source: PIB

Sampark portal

It is a digital platform to connect five lakh job seekers with recruiters. It will be useful in creating a skill pool of workers and connecting trained youth with job opportunities.

Source: PIB

National Export Insurance Account Trust

Cabinet approves a Corpus to National Export Insurance Account Trust. The Corpus would strengthen NEIA to support project exports from the country that are of strategic and national importance.

National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) is a trust set up by the Ministry of Commerce and administered by Export Credit & Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC).

Source: PIB

Ryugu Asteroid

  • A Japanese Probe “Hayabusa2” has recently reached “Ryugu”, an asteroid 300 million km away from Earth.
  • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA has launched the probe in 2014.
  • The aim of the mission is to collect information about the birth of the solar system and the origin of life.
  • It identify suitable sites to take samples from once the probe touches down on the asteroid.
  • It will deploy a small lander and three rovers.
  • It will then blast an artificial crater to analyze material below the asteroid’s surface. After that, the probe will head back to Earth, arriving near the end of 2020 with samples in tow.

Enlightened Anthropocentrism

  • Anthropocentrism refers to a philosophical world view where human beings are superior to other living and non-living things.
  • It justifies the exploitation of nature for the sake of human welfare.
  • Enlightened anthropocentrism is a world view that says humans have ethical obligations towards the environment but those can be justified in terms of obligations towards other humans.
  • For instance, environmental pollution can be seen as immoral because it negatively affects the lives of other people.
  • Similarly, the wasteful use of natural resources is viewed as immoral because it deprives future generations of those resources.