03, April 2018

Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment – 2020

  • A supersonic parachute that will help NASA missions to land on Mars, was successfully launched into the sky during a key test designed to mimic the conditions of entering the red planet. The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) was launched aboard a sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in the US.
  • An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). The Mars 2020 mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth.

  1. New plant species found in Western Ghats

Source: The Hindu

Grass-like plant, discovered in Ponmudi, has been named Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis

  • Researchers have reported the discovery of a new plant species from the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Classified as a sedge, the grass-like plant has been named Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis, after the locality from which it was found.

Key facts:

  • The new species belongs to the Cyperaceae family. In India, the genus is represented by 122 species, of which 87 are reported from the Western Ghats. Many of the known Cyperaceae species are medicinal plants or used as fodder.
  • The researchers have recommended a preliminary conservation assessment of the plant as ‘critically endangered,’ according to IUCN criteria. The report says the species is highly prone to wild grazing.

  1. Delhi becomes first city to roll-out Euro VI fuel

Source: The Hindu

New Delhi has become the first city in India to deploy Bharat Stage 6 Fuel for both petrol and diesel. two years ahead of the rest of the county. The idea behind this implementation two years ahead of the previously scheduled date of April 1, 2020, is to help battle Delhi’s long-standing terminal pollution problem.

BS norms

  • The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time-lag of five years.

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm. As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.

Important to upgrade these norms

  • Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
  • With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.

The government could face two key challenges in implementing the decision:

  • First, there are questions about the ability of oil marketing companies to quickly upgrade fuel quality from BS-III and BS-IV standards to BS-VI, which is likely to cost upwards of Rs 40,000 crore.
  • Second, and more challenging, is the task of getting auto firms to make the leap. Automakers have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US.

  1. ‘ Samridhi – the virtual assistant’

Source: PIB

 SIDBI celebrated it’s Foundation day on April 2nd with launch of ‘ Samridhi – the virtual assistant’. It will answer standard queries of aspirants 24*7.

SIDBI:

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was set up on 2nd April 1990 under an Act of Parliament.
  • It acts as the Principal Financial Institution for Promotion, Financing and Development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector as well as for co-ordination of functions of institutions engaged in similar activities.

CriSidEx: The MSE sentiment index

The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs launched CriSidEx , India’s first sentiment index for micro and small enterprises ( MSEs) developed jointly by CRISIL & SIDBI.

  • CriSidEx is a composite index based on a diffusion index of 8 parameters and measures MSE business sentiment on a scale of 0 (extremely negative ) to 200 ( extremely positive).
  • The crucial benefit of CriSidEx is that its readings will flag potential headwinds and changes in production cycles and thus help improve market efficiencies. And by capturing the sentiment of exporters and importers , it will also offer actionable indicators on foreign trade.

Why India needs an MSE sentiment index

  • Effective policy making is a function of the quality of information at hand.
  • Because data on micro and small enterprises (MSEs) comes with a significant lag, a comprehensive and concise lead + lag indicator of ground-level sentiment becomes a crucial tool for policy makers, lenders, trade bodies, economists, rating agencies and the MSEs themselves.
  • Till now, there was no such barometer available in India, though indices and sentiment surveys to track large and mid-sized corporates area plenty and have been in existence for decades.
  • While there have been ad hoc surveys by chambers of business and specific agencies as one-time efforts, a continuous survey leading toan index is a first.
  • Reasons why CRISIL and SIDBI decided to launch the CRISIL-SIDBI MSE Sentiment Index, or CriSidEx.

 The case for CriSidEx

  • Limited representation of MSEs – which account for 90% of enterprises in India, and are the second-largest employers after agriculture – in macro and micro assessments
  • Existing business indices focus on predicting the direction of annual change of GDP but not the impact at micro level in each industry/sector
  • Policy makers unable to assess the impact of their decisions on MSEs
  • Lack of data on employment and production cycles, which can be the basis of estimation of employment and capital formation in the MSE sector
  • Significant lag in availability of financial information of MSEs restricts lenders from taking timely credit decisions. Access to formal finance remains the key challenge for MSEs
  • MSEs are unable to assess how they are faring versus peers
  • There is no sector-specific index that projects changes in sentiment and which will help MSEs take important decisions

Objectives of CriSidEx

  • Improving market efficiency by assessing the factors that push or curb growth
  • Gauging the sentiment of the MSE sector and its constituents
  • Assessing trends, predicting headwinds and the factors responsible in the MSE sector
  • Anticipating and planning changes in production cycles
  • Altering business strategies on time and helping businesses plan their growth
  • Providing valuable information to policy makers and other stakeholders to study the changes in the economic environment that may occur

  1. Adopt a Heritage Project

Source: PIB

Infrastructure conglomerate GMR and tobacco company ITC Ltd are currently bidding to adopt the Taj Mahal under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project.

  • The iconic tomb in Agra was not initially on the list of monuments to be adopted under the Adopt a Heritage scheme, because of its importance. However, it was added to the list in February and a seven-member Oversight and Vision Committee will now decide whom to hand over the bid to.

Heritage Project:

  • The ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’ of Ministry of Tourism was launched on World Tourism Day i.e. 27th September, 2017. This project is a key initiative of Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archeological Survey of India (ASI), to develop the heritage sites / monuments and making them tourist-friendly to enhance the tourism potential and their cultural importance in a planned and phased manner.
  • The project plans to entrust heritage sites/monuments and other tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of tourist amenities. The project aims to develop synergy among all partners.
  • Successful bidders selected for adopting heritage sites / monuments by the Oversight and Vision Committee shall be called as Monument Mitras. The basic and advanced amenities of the tourist destinations would be provided by them. They would also look after the operations and the maintenance of the amenities. The ‘Monument Mitras’ would associate pride with their CSR activities.

Key facts:

  • In 2007, the government of Maharashtra had announced its own adopt-a-monument scheme, inviting private and public sector companies to adopt heritage sites for a period of five years. This was extended to 10 years in 2014 because of the poor response from companies. So far, the only site to be adopted by a private company under this scheme is Osmanabad district’s Naldurg fort, where tourism amenities are now being managed by Unity Multicons.

  1. World Heritage Site

Source: The Hindu

As many as 6 monuments/historical sites in the North Eastern states have been identified tentatively for listing under World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

Monuments/sites identified/placed under tentative list for listing under world heritage in the north eastern states are:

  1. Apatani Cultural Landscape, Arunachal Pradesh.
  2. Iconic Saree Weaving Clusters of India.
  3. Moidams – the Mound – Burial System of the Ahom Dynasty, Assam.
  4. Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh.
  5. River Island of Majuli in midstream of Brahmaputra River in Assam.
  6. Thembang Fortified Village, Arunachal Pradesh.

 UNESCO world heritage site:

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • As of July 2017, 1,073 sites are listed: 832 cultural, 206 natural, and 35 mixed properties, in 167 states. Italy is the home for the largest number of sites with 53.

Selection of a site:

  • To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.

Legal status of designated sites:

  • UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.

What are endangered sites?

  • A site may be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger if there are conditions that threaten the characteristics for which the landmark or area was inscribed on the World Heritage List. Such problems may involve armed conflict and war, natural disasters, pollution, poaching, or uncontrolled urbanization or human development.
  • This danger list is intended to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures. Threats to a site can be either proven imminent threats or potential dangers that could have adverse effects on a site.
  • The state of conservation for each site on the danger list is reviewed on a yearly basis, after which the committee may request additional measures, delete the property from the list if the threats have ceased or consider deletion from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List.

  1. Guidelines for accreditation of journalists

Source: The Hindu

Noticing the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists.

Highlights:

  • Accreditation of a journalist (both television and print) can be cancelled/annulled if the new reported by them is found to be “fake”.
  • On receiving complaints of “fake news” will be referred to Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media & to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media.
  • Both the agencies will have to dispose off each complaint within 15-days. During the period of probe, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended.
  • The Accreditation Committee of the Press Information Bureau, which consists of representatives of both the Press Council of India and NBA, shall be invariably be reached out to for validating any accreditation request of any news media agency.
  • If publishing or telecast of fake news is confirmed, the journalist’s accreditation shall be suspended for 6 months for first violation, one year for second violation and will be permanently cancelled if there is a third violation.
  • Additionally, while examining the requests seeking accreditation, the regulatory agencies “will examine whether the `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists” and it would be “obligatory for journalists to abide by these guidelines”.

 What’s the concern?

  • Some incidents in the past few years have shown that society and its conflicts manifest themselves in what has come to be known as “fake news” — and the internet does aid its rapid distribution. That is not the malaise of the internet or social media platforms, however. It is the actors, very often, competing political and other special interests which are producers of such content. But, fake news is a huge problem and demands an urgent solution.

Way ahead:

  • Social media platforms are a modern-day Roman Forum. These platforms are agnostic wondrous architectures, enabling different forms and types of self-expression. However, the need for checks around credibility and authenticity seem to have long forgone. What stays is the need for freedom. Which is warranted, of course. Yet, at the same time, need a sense of direction. With a critical sense of objectivity. Social media services can simply not afford to step in the conversation and regulate it.

 



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