09, February 2017

The Government of Gujarat on becoming the first State for establishing Cashless System for distribution of foodgrains.

Arunachal Pradesh Becomes the First NE State To Implement E-Cabinet Solution.

Implemented by the department of Information Technology and Communication, the solution lets Ministers prepare for cabinet meetings, conduct them and review minutes, entirely without paper.

The government will also introduce initiative called as DigiGaon to provide tele-medicine, education and skills through digital technology to the people.

The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement

The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA, formerly the Bangkok Agreement) is an Agreement signed since 1975. The current membership of APTA consists of six countries, namely, Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka.

  • Three Rounds of tariff concessions have already been exchanged among the member countries till 2003.
  • The tariff concessions being granted to APTA member States, on Margin of Preference basis, are being expanded under the fourth round of exchange of tariff concessions.
  • Concessions on tariff lines offered by China and Korea, inter-alia, cover certain textiles and chemical products, which are likely to benefit the Indian exporters. Some of items on which concessions have been offered by China and Korea include certain organic and inorganic chemicals, knitted and crocheted fabrics, and articles of apparel and clothing accessories etc.

TAMRA

  • Ministry of Mines- TAMRA Portal and Mobile Application to ensure transparent award of Statutory Clearances for Mining Operations. TAMRA (Transparency, Auction Monitoring and Resource Augmentation) which is a step to speed up mining activity in India and facilitate all the stakeholders to track the status of the statutory clearances associated with mining blocks for getting mines to reach till operationalisation for the same.
  • TAMRA will be an interactive platform for all the stakeholders to compress the timelines for statutory and other clearances as it would help minimize the gestation period for commencing production.

1.Cabinet approves ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ for covering 6 crore rural households

Source: The Hindu

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister approved ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ (PMGDISHA) to make 6 crore rural households digitally literate.

The outlay for this project is Rs.2,351.38 crore to usher in digital literacy in rural India by March,.2019.

This is in line with the announcement made by Finance Minister in the Union Budget 2016-17.

Key facts:

PMGDISHA is expected to be one of the largest digital literacy programmes in the world.

  • Under the scheme, 25 lakh candidates will be trained in the FY 2016-17; 275 lakh in the FY 2017-18; and 300 lakh in the FY 2018-19. To ensure equitable geographical reach, each of the 250,000 Gram Panchayats would be expected to register an average of 200-300 candidates.
  • Digitally literate persons would be able to operate computers/digital access devices (like tablets, smart phones, etc.), send and receive emails, browse internet, access Government Services, search for information, undertaking cashless transactions, etc.
  • The implementation of the Scheme would be carried out under the overall supervision of Ministry of Electronics and IT in active collaboration with States/UTs through their designated State Implementing Agencies, District e-Governance Society (DeGS), etc

Background:

  • As per the 71st NSSO Survey on Education 2014, only 6% of rural households have a computer.
  • This highlights that more than 15 crore rural households (@ 94% of 16.85 crore households) do not have computers and a significant number of these households are likely to be digitally illiterate.
  • The PMGDISHA being initiated under Digital India Programme would cover 6 crore households in rural areas to make them digitally literate. This would empower the citizens by providing them access to information, knowledge and skills for operating computers / digital access devices.
  • As the thrust of the Government is on cashless transactions through mobile phones, the course content would also have emphasis on Digital Wallets, Mobile Banking, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS), etc.

2.Heavy Water Reactors

Source: PIB

Threat of climate change and importance of sustainable development has brought nuclear power in sharper focus in recent times.

Growth of nuclear power worldwide, however, requires satisfactory technological response to challenges of very high level of safety and security assurance (as dictated by very large increase in number of reactors), ability to perform with lower level of technological infrastructure as it prevails in several developing countries, high degree of fuel use efficiency and superior waste disposal options.

PHRWRs

At present, Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) are under construction in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Haryana.  More PHWRs are proposed to be set up in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Karnataka.

Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR)

  • A pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel, that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator.
  • The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a typical pressurized water reactor.
  • While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it yields greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel enrichment facilities (mitigating the additional capital cost of the heavy water) and generally enhancing the ability of the reactor to efficiently make use of alternate fuel cycles.

PHWRs are expected to contribute a significant portion of electricity to be generated from nuclear sources in the country.

Advanced Heavy water reactor:

  • Development of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, AHWR300-LEU, is an effort to realise these futuristic objectives through innovative configuration of present day technologies.
  • AHWR300-LEU possesses several features, which are likely to reduce its capital and operating costs.
  • An Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) is designed in BARC to demonstrate commercial utilisation of thorium.

The proposed design of the AHWR is that of a heavy-water-moderated nuclear power reactor that will be the next generation of the PHWR type. The AHWR is a vertical pressure tube type reactor cooled by boiling light water under natural circulation.

The design is being developed at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai and is an important step towards the third stage of Indian nuclear power programme, which envisages use of thorium fuel cycles for commercial power generation.

3.Uranium Reserves in Meghalaya

Source: PIB

Uranium mineralization in Meghalaya has been found over a large area around Domiasiat, Wahkyn, Lostoin etc.

Key facts:

  • Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) under Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has already made a plan to develop the mineral resources at Domiasiat under the name of “Kylleng Phendengsohiong Mawthabah (KPM) Uranium Mining Project”.
  • The project has the potential to generate substantial nuclear fuel for the atomic power plants of the country.
  • The Detailed Project Report of the KPM Uranium Mining Project has been approved by Atomic Energy Commission, environmental clearance for this project has been obtained from Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) in December 2007.
  • An agreement has also been signed between UCIL and the land owners of the project site in May 2007 for acquisition of land on annual lease rent basis.
  • Approval to execute land lease with land owners, grant of mining lease and Consent for Establishment has been taken up with Meghalaya State Government.

4.ISRO Rover on Lunar Surface

Source: PIB

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to deploy a rover on the lunar surface in the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

Chandranyyan 2

  • The Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to the Moon, is a totally indigenous mission comprising of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover.
  • After reaching the 100 km lunar orbit, the Lander housing the Rover will separate from the Orbiter. After a controlled descent, the Lander will soft land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a Rover.
  • The six-wheeled Rover will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.
  • The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil. Collection of soil and rock sediments is not planned in this mission.
  • ISRO is working towards the launch of Chandrayaan-2 during the first quarter of 2018.

Key facts:

  • It is planned to be launched as a composite stack into the Earth Parking Orbit (EPO) of 170 X 18,500 km by GSLV-Mk II. The Orbiter carries the combined stack up to moon till the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI). The combined stack is then inserted into a lunar orbit of 100 km x 100 km. The Lander is separated from the Orbiter in this orbit.
  • During 2010, it was agreed that Russian Space Agency ROSCOSMOS would be responsible for lunar Lander and ISRO will be responsible for Orbiter and Rover as well as Launch by GSLV. Later, due to a shift in the programmatic alignment of this mission, it was decided that the Lunar Lander development would be done by ISRO and Chandrayaan-2 will be totally an Indian mission.
  • Chandrayaan 1 which the spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon.

5.Land Sensing Satellite Data

Source: PIB

Isro and USGS

  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been signed on July 09, 2016 for cooperation in the exchange and use of satellite remote sensing data.
  • Under this MoU, USGS is facilitating availability of data of Indian region using American remote sensing satellites viz. Landsat-7 and Landsat-8 to ISRO.
  • ISRO is facilitating availability of data of US region using Indian remote sensing satellite ‘Resourcesat-2’ to USGS.
  • The sharing of each other’s satellite remote sensing data provides enhanced frequency of earth observation data to both organisations.
  • The AWiFS payload (onboard Resourcesat-2) enables USGS to acquire earth observation data every 5 days. The Landsat satellites enable ISRO to acquire multi-spectral earth observation data including thermal data. These data sets help both countries to carry out applications in the field of natural resources inventory & management and disaster management support.

6.Intellectual Property index: India remains near bottom

Source: The Hindu

India remains near the bottom in an international Intellectual Property (IP) index by being ranked 43rd out of 45 countries, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC).

Global ranking:

  • The report said it includes 90% of global gross domestic product, and grades countries on patents, trademarks, copyright, trade secrets, enforcement, and international treaties.
  • Only two countries were ranked below India – Pakistan (44th) and Venezuela (45th).
  • The U.S., the U.K., Germany, Japan, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Singapore, South Korea and Italy completed the top 10 ranks. Among the BRICS countries China was ranked 27th, South Africa (33rd), Brazil (32nd) and Russia (23rd).

Issues

While the Indian government issued the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy in 2016, IP-intensive industries continued to face challenges in the Indian market with regard to the scope of patentability for computer-implemented inventions, Section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act (that prevents ever-greening of patents), and the recent High Court of Delhi decision regarding photocopying copyrighted content.

India’s weakness

  • India’s key areas of weakness includes that “overall, National IPR Policy does not address fundamental weaknesses in India’s IP framework, limited framework for protection of life sciences IP, patentability requirements being outside international standards, lengthy pre-grant opposition proceedings in place, and the 2016 High Court ruling on copyright infringement in the University of Delhi copy-shop case continuing to weaken the enforcement environment for rights holders.
  • Previously used compulsory licensing for commercial and nonemergency situations, (as well as India’s) limited participation in international IP treaties.

What are the key findings?

  • Its key findings included that a number of countries introduced new enforcement mechanisms and specialized IP courts to better combat counterfeiting and piracy.
  • Besides, free trade agreements signed in 2016 helped raise the bar for protection of life sciences IP, copyrighted content online, and enforcement against IP theft.
  • Various governments undertook a review of their IP laws, recognizing that IP laws must keep pace with the emerging challenges IP owners face.
  • Economies leveraged international partnerships through Patent Prosecution Highways, adding that despite these positive developments, some countries took steps to restrict IP rights in 2016. Also, countries introduced new requirements for local production, procurement, and manufacturing.
  • A number of governments attempted to limit the scope of patentability via both judicial decisions and legislation. Both individual governments and representatives of the multilateral institutions encouraged public officials to utilize compulsory licenses and expand exceptions and limitations in the name of increasing access.

7.Indian govt. to make a pitch for global services pact before WTO chief & India Inc

Source: The Hindu

World Trade Organisation (WTO) on New Delhi’s proposal for a global pact to boost services trade.

The proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement at the WTO-level aims to ease norms including those relating to movement of foreign skilled workers/professionals across borders for short-term work.

Objectives:

  • Among the objectives of the proposed pact, is ensuring portability of social security contributions, as well as making sure fees or charges for immigration or visas are reasonable, transparent, and non-restrictive (or impairing the supply of services) in nature.
  • It also aims to pave the way for a single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals. Besides, the proposal is to ensure cross-border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism, publication of measures impacting services trade and timely availability of relevant information in all the WTO official languages as well as free flow of data/information for cross-border supply of services

Issues:

The officials will stress that the TFS Agreement will be “meaningful only if it has comprehensive scope and covers measures across all modes of supply (for services delivery in cross-border trade), relating to entry into the market as well as those applied post-entry.”

Background:

  • However, that the proposed services pact is similar to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods adopted by the WTO Members in 2014 to ease customs norms for boosting global goods trade.
  • The proposed TFS pact is also about ‘facilitation’ – that is “making market access ‘effective’ and commercially meaningful and not about ‘new’ (or greater) market access.”
  • World Bank data shows the growing share of services in the world economy, adding, however, that global trade flows in services remain subject to numerous border and behind-the-border barriers.



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