06, April 2018

Steps taken to facilitate engagement of foreign faculty by IITs

  • In order to address shortage of faculty in premier educational institutions, including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), various measures have been decided, especially for recruitment of foreign faculty.
  • These include creation of pan-IIT faculty pool, effective use of VAJRA Scheme of Department of Science & Technology (DST), appointment of eligible OCI Card holders as permanent faculty, hassle-free visa to foreign faculty, reducing of annual income ceiling from US$ 25,000 to Rs.9.10 lakh per year.
  • In addition to this, Government has also launched the Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) to enable foreign faculty to teach courses in the higher educational institutions in India.
  • VAJRA (Visiting Advanced Joint Research) Faculty scheme that enables NRIs and overseas scientific community to participate and contribute to research and development in India

Investments in research infrastructure in premier educational institutions to be stepped up considerably through RISE

  • The Government has announced to step up investments in general and research infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions, by launching a major initiative named ‘‘Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022’’ with a planned total investment of Rs. 1,00,000 crore in next four years. Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be suitably structured for funding this initiative.
  • In addition to Government equity, HEFA would leverage funds from the market to service the requirements of the Centrally Funded Institutions (CFIs).
  • The different areas where resources would include providing World Class infrastructure for teaching in the CFIs, building robust research eco system, providing linkages between Labs, building high-end Labs to support high-end research, completion of construction of (28) new institutions started since 2014 and providing for infrastructure of the institutions that are expected to be opened in accordance with the requirements of the growing economy.

HEFA

  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) for creation of high quality infrastructure in premier educational institutions.
  • The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter).
  • The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.

  1. UTTAM APP for Coal Quality Monitoring

Source: PIB

UTTAM is an Example of Leveraging Technology to Ensure Transparency and Efficiency in Coal Quality Monitoring Process to Bring Coal Governance Closer to People

Specific benefits of the UTTAM App would be

  • For Subsidiary structure : The information about subsidiary wise declared GCV will help citizens and coal consumers to compare and assess the coal quality coming from a particular mine.  It will provide a proper mapping of declared grade of coal dispatch to the consumers.
  • For Coal consumer portal – The portal would give detailed information for coal consumers regarding the Third Party Sampling parameters. The App will give access for monitoring coal quality to individual coal consumers.

  1. Project to Support ASEAN Countries

Source: PIB

As announced by the Prime Minister of India in the India-ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Summit in October 2010, ISRO is pursuing a proposal to support Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to receive and process data from Indian remote sensing satellites (RESOURCESAT-2 and OCEANSAT-2) and also to provide training in space science, technology and applications.

  • All the 10 members of ASEAN, viz., Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will get benefitted from this project.

Key facts:

  • India pursues international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space with space agencies of 43 nations and 5 multilateral bodies. As part of this, ISRO keeps developing new products and services, jointly with partnering agencies, through joint missions, scientific instruments accommodation, data sharing and exchange of expertise.
  • ISRO has built and launched ‘South AsiaSatellite’ on May 5, 2017 to provide satellite communication services to individual South Asian nations and also across the region.
  • India participates in international disaster management mechanisms including International Charter “Space and Major Disasters“, Sentinel Asia programme of Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF), UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) and UN Platform for Space based Information for Disaster management and Emergency Response (UNSPIDER).
  • India, as a member of the International COSPAS-SARSAT system for search and rescue operations, provides distress alert and position location services to India and seven neighbouring countries.
  • India has also been providing training programmes on space technology applications to officials from other countries.

  1. Promotion of e-learning

Source: PIB

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched many schemes for promoting e-learning across students in schools & Universities.The key e-learning initiatives run by MHRD are as follows:-

  • SWAYAM: The ‘Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) an integrated platform for online courses, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and covering school (9th to 12th) to Post Graduate Level. At present, about 1000+ MOOCs Courses are listed on SWAYAM, wherein about 30 Lakhs students have enrolled to these courses. It also offers online courses for students, teachers and teacher educators
  • SWAYAM Prabha: SWAYAM Prabha is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on 24X7 basis. It has curriculum based course content covering diverse disciplines.
  • National Digital Library (NDL): The National Digital Library of India (NDL) is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. There are more than 153 Lakhs digital books available through the NDL.
  • E-pathshala: E-books of the resources developed by National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) / State Institutes of Education (SIEs), State boards etc. SIEs in multiple languages and uploaded on e-pathshala website and disseminated through mobile app (android, iOS and Windows). E-pathshala has been listed/made available on the UMANG App of Govt. of India, which was launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on 23 November, 2017 during GCCS-2017.
  • National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER): To make digital resources available for teachers and students as free and open source material. To enable the participation of the community in development and sharing of digital resources. To facilitate the adoption and creation of digital resources in different Indian languages.

  1. Utilisation of funds under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao(BBBP) Scheme

Source: PIB

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme aims to address the issue of decline in Child Sex Ratio (CSR) through a mass campaign across the country targeted at changing societal mindset and creating awareness about the criticality of the issue, which itself requires long-term attitudinal change. However, scheme has been received well and in the last three years, several local innovative interventions have been demonstrated by the districts with support from Departments of WCD, Health & Education.

  • There is a strong emphasis on mindset change through training, sensitization, awareness raising and community mobilization on ground.
  • BBBP scheme has no provision for individual cash incentive/cash transfer component by Government of India and thus is not a DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) scheme.

Key facts:

  • During 2016-17,Rs. 43.0 crore was allocated for the BBBP Scheme, but Rs. 32.69 crore could be released.
  • To keep the efficiency of BBBP for deliverance of its objectives, the funding structure of the Scheme was revised as per guidelines from the Ministry of Finance in August, 2016.
  • As such from the Financial Year 2016-17, under BetiBachaoBetiPadhao campaign, the Ministry has started the disbursement of grant-in-aids directly to the District Collectors/ Commissioners of selected districts for implementation of BBBP Campaign in their District.

  1. Supplementary Nutrition Programme under ICDS Scheme

Source: PIB

Anganwadi Services under Umbrella ICDS is universal and a self-selecting scheme.

Key facts:

  • All children below 6 years of age, Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers are eligible for the services including Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) provided under the scheme.
  • The services are provided to those who visit AnganwadiCenters and enroll themselves. As on 31 December 2017, 844 lakh beneficiaries have availed the Supplementary Nutrition service at Anganwadi Services (AWCs).
  • World Health Organization (WHO) prescribed standards for monitoring the growth of children below 5 years, which have been adopted by the Government to measure nutritional status of children, using weight-to-age (underweight) as an indicator under as of Umbrella Integrated Child Development Services Scheme.

Implementation:

  • The implementation of ICDS Scheme is continuously monitored through prescribed monthly & annual progress reports, reviews as well as supervision visits etc. Based on the inputs and feedbacks received, State Governments/UT Administrations are advised through letters and review meetings to address the deficiencies and to improve the implementation of the Scheme.
  • All the Anganwadi Centers are required to maintain the growth monitoring chart for assessing the nutrition status of children set by WHO.
  • These growth charts help in identifying children in various categories like normal Children, moderately underweight Children and severely underweight children. The tracking through these charts help detect growth faltering and facilitate prompt action and referral.

  1. Prime Minister to inaugurate International Energy Forum in New Delhi

Source: PIB

India will host the 16thInternational Energy Forum (IEF) Ministerial Meeting from 10-12th April 2018 in New Delhi. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will formally inaugurate the Meeting on 11th April 2018. The biennial IEF Ministerial Meetings are the world’s largest gathering of Energy Ministers who engage in a dialogue on global energy issues.

Significance:

  • The IEF Ministerial meetings are informal dialogues, at both the political and technical levels, aimed to improve policy and investment decisions, and through increased knowledge and experience sharing.
  • Global energy security, sustainable and inclusive growth, energy access and affordability, fiscal regimes and legal reforms to attract investments in the energy sector and energy sector digitalization-benefits and challenges would be part of the deliberations among other important issues.

IEF:

  • The International Energy Forum (IEF) is an inter-governmental arrangement set up in 1991, based in Riyadh which serves as a neutral facilitator of informal, open, informed and continuing global energy dialogue among its members comprising of energy producing and energy consuming states, including transit countries.
  • There are 72 membercountries of IEF, including India, covering all six continents, which are signatories to the Charter of the IEF. Its membership accounts for 90% of global supply and demand for oil and gas.
  • The Executive Board (EB) set up in 2002 comprising of 31 designated representatives of Ministers of the member states comprise the governing board of IEF. It meets twice a year.
  • International Energy Agency (IEA) and Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are non-voting members of the Executive Board.
  • The EB is chaired by the Host State of the next biennial Ministerial Meeting. Currently, India is the Chair of the Executive Board of IEF.
  • By virtue of being among the top 11 largest consumers of oil and gas (India is presently 4th), India has been the Permanent Member of the Executive Board since its set-up in 2002. India had earlier hosted the 5th IEF Ministerial in 1996 at Goa

  1. POSHAN Abhiyaan

Source: PIB

The annual targets set under POSHAN Abhiyaan beginning 2017-18 are as under:

Targets:

  • Prevent and reduce stunting in children (0-6years): By 6% @ 2% p.a.
  • Prevent and reduce under-nutrition (underweight prevalence) in children (0-6 years): By 6% @ 2% p.a.
  • Reduce the prevalence of anemia among young Children(6-59 months): By 9% @ 3% p.a.
  • Reduce the prevalence of anemia among Women and Adolescent Girls in the age group of 15-49 years: By 9% @ 3% p.a.
  • Reduce Low Birth Weight (LBW): By 6% @ 2% p.a.

 POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan was launched on International Women’s day (March 8) in 2018 to boost nutrition among children and women.
  • The Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively.
  • The target of the mission is to bring down stunting among children in the age group 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.

  1. BIS Act 2016

Source: PIB

A Parliamentary Consultative Committee recently reviewed the activities of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and laid emphasis on easy redressal mechanism of complaints, mandatory certification, enhancing consumer confidence through publicity and various other interactive measures.

It also stressed on the effective implementation of the provisions of new BIS Act 2016.

BIS Act 2016:

  • Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 which was notified on 22nd March, 2016, came into force with effect from 12th October, 2017. Parliament had in March 2016 passed the law to replace the BIS Act of 1986.

Highlights of the act:

  • National standards body: The Act establishes the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
  • Compulsory certification: The Act has enabling provisions for the Government to bring under compulsory certification regime any goods or article of any scheduled industry, process, system or service which it considers necessary in the public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, safety of the environment, or prevention of unfair trade practices, or national security.
  • Hallmarking: Enabling provisions have also been made for making hallmarking of the precious metal articles mandatory.
  • Simplified conformity: The new Act also allows multiple type of simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity against a standard which will give simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to the standards and get certificate of conformity.
  • Authority for verification: The Act enables the Central Government to appoint any authority/agency, in addition to the BIS, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity.
  • Repair or recall: There is also a provision for repair or recall, including product liability of the products bearing Standard Mark but not conforming to the relevant Indian Standard.

BIS:

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
  • The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
  • As a corporate body, it has 25 members drawn from Central or State Governments, industry, scientific and research institutions, and consumer organisations.
  • It also works as WTO-TBT enquiry point for India.

  1. RBI bars banks from dealing with virtual currencies

Source: The Hindu

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to stop providing service to any entity dealing with virtual currencies, with immediate effect. It has also asked regulated entities that are already providing such services to exit the relationship within three months.

Background:

  • Widely seen as a disruption for the traditional banking and financial institutions, cryptocurrencies have gained significant traction over the last half a decade, at the same time creating a regulatory nightmare for banking regulators across the globe. At present, there are around 969 cryptocurrencies in existence across the globe, with a total market capitalisation close to 116 Billion USD.

What are virtual/ cryptocurrencies?

  • Founded as a peer-to-peer electronic payment system, cryptocurrencies enable transfer of money between parties, without going through a banking system.
  • These digital payment systems are based on cryptographic proof of the chain of transactions, deriving their name, Cryptocurrency. These employ cryptographic algorithms and functions to ensure anonymity (privacy) of the users (who are identified by an alphanumeric public key), security of the transactions and integrity of the payment systems.

Associated concerns:

  • Despite numerous advantages and user friendly processes, cryptocurrencies have their own set of associated risks in the form of volatility in valuation, lack of liquidity, security and many more.
  • Cryptocurrencies are being denounced in many countries because of their use in grey and black market There are two sets of interconnected risks; one being to the growth and expansion of these platforms in the uncertain policy environment, and the other being the risks these platforms pose to the users and the security of the state.
  • They also have the potential use for Illicit Trade and Criminal Activities and can be used for Terror Financing.
  • They also have the Potential for Tax Evasion.

Regulation of these currencies:

  • The acceptability of cryptocurrencies as a legal instrument currently varies from country to country; while some are in the process of formulating laws and measures, others are yet to respond to this disruptive change.
  • The burgeoning use of cryptocurrencies in terror financing, ransomwares, illicit drugs or arms trade and cybercrime has also raised red flags among the security and law enforcement agencies. They may well have the potential to displace the existing financial systems which enable electronic flow of money across different political boundaries.

  1. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)

Source: The Hindu

The government’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) is in talks with private equity firm Everstone Group for a tie-up to manage its Green Growth Equity Fund (GGEF).

GGEF:

  • The Green Growth Equity Fund will be the second investment platform to be set up by NIIF.
  • GGEF, which will invest in renewable energy assets, is a joint venture between NIIF and the UK government.
  • GGEF would be managed by a third-party investment manager, selected by NIIF Limited and the UK government through an efficient and robust screening and selection process.
  • India and the UK joint UK-India Fund, namely a Green Growth Equity Fund; Aims to leverage private sector investment from the City of London to invest in Green Infrastructure Projects in India;
  • Both Governments reaffirmed their commitment to anchor invest up to £120 million each (i.e. totally £ 240 million) in the Joint Fund which will be established under the NIIF framework.

NIIF:

  • NIIF was set up in 2015 as an investment vehicle for funding commercially viable greenfield, brownfield and stalled projects in the infrastructure sector.
  • NIIF will invest in areas such as energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India.
  • The corpus of the fund is proposed to be around Rs40,000 crore, with the government investing 49% and the rest to be raised from third-party investors such as sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds, endowments etc.
  • NIIF’s strategy includes anchoring equity, quasi-equity and debt funds in partnership with investors targeting investments across the relevant sectors in India.



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