14, April 2018

  1. NASA to study how tiny sea creatures affect Earth’s climate

Source: The Hindu

In a first, NASA is conducting a study of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic, named the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) mission, to see how the tiny sea critters influence the climate in every season.

  • It is the first research mission to conduct an integrated study of all four distinct phases of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom.

NAAMES Mission:

  • The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) is an interdisciplinary investigation resolving key processes controlling marine ecosystems and aerosols that are essential to our understanding of Earth system function and future change.
  • NAAMES is funded by the NASA Earth Venture Suborbital Program and is the first EV-S mission focused on studying the coupled ocean ecosystem and atmosphere.
  • NAAMES consists of four, combined ship and aircraft field campaigns that are each aligned to a specific event in the annual plankton lifecycle.

Objectives:

  • The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) studies the world’s largest plankton bloom and how it gives rise to small organic particles that leave the ocean and end up in the atmosphere, ultimately influencing clouds and climate.
  • The North Atlantic plankton bloom is among the most conspicuous biological events annually recorded by satellite ocean color measurements, yet even fundamental controls on the bloom’s magnitude and interannual variability are controversial. The bloom climax is one event within an annual plankton cycle that essentially oscillates between a decreasing-biomass phase beginning in the summer and an increasing-biomass phase beginning in Winter-Spring and ending with the bloom climax in Spring.

Significance of the mission:

  • NAAMES is a five year investigation to resolve key processes controlling ocean system function, their influences on atmospheric aerosols and clouds and their implications for climate. Observations obtained during four, targeted ship and aircraft measurement campaigns, combined with the continuous satellite and in situ ocean sensor records, will enable improved predictive capabilities of Earth system processes and will inform ocean management and assessment of ecosystem change.

  1. Road map for drones: Government announces 13-member task force

Source: PIB

Apart from developing a road map, the task force would also lay down implementable recommendations for central and state governments, industry and research institutions.

  • With an aim to prepare a road map and fast-track the implementation of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, or drones, in the country, the Centre has announced setting up of a 13-member task force headed by Minister of State for Civil Aviation.

Terms of reference:

  • Apart from developing a road map, the task force would also lay down implementable recommendations for central and state governments, industry and research institutions.
  • The committee’s road map would also focus on R&D, acquisition and commercialisation, application and adoption in specific sectors, regulatory framework as well as preference for Make in India.

Significance of move:

  • That drones have tremendous practical applications can no longer be disputed. Some of India’s startups are revolutionising drone applications in areas as diverse as disaster management, precision agriculture and crop insurance, mining, infrastructure projects, and land records.
  • The increasing use of drone-enabled solutions by various state departments and ministries — such as the railways, surface transport, power, and law enforcement — further validates their efficacy. Yet, the Indian regulatory approach has been unfriendly thus far towards drone innovations and applications.

Draft Regulation on Civil Use of Drones Announced:

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, in November 2017, announced draft regulations on civil use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, commonly known as Drones.
  • As per the draft, all commercial categories of drones except those in the Nano category and those operated by government security agencies, will have to be registered by DGCA in the form of Unique Identification Number (UIN).
  • The Mini and above categories will require Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), but the model aircraft up to maximum take-off weight of 2 Kgs flown below 200 feet inside educational institution premises will not require UIN/UAOP.
  • The draft regulation also mandates tremote pilots to undergo requisite training, except for Nano and micro categories. As per the draft regulation, the Micro and above category drones will have to be equipped with RFID/SIM, return to home option and anti-collision lights.
  • The draft regulation also specifies certain restricted areas for operations of drones. Drones cannot be operated within an area of 5km from airport, within permanent or temporary Prohibited, Restricted and Danger Areas as notified by AAI in AIP and without prior approval over densely populated areas or over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway and within 50 km from international border and beyond 500 m (horizontal) into sea along the coastline.

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.

  1. Baisakhi

Source: The Hindu

Festival of Baisakhi is usually celebrated on April 13, but once in every 36 years the festival is celebrated on April 14. This year the occasion will be commemorated on April 14. It marks the advent of Baisakhi, which is an auspicious day primarily for the Sikh community, and is also known as Vaisakhi, Khalsa Sirjana Diwas, or the birth of Khalsa.

Baisakhi:

  • The word is derived from ‘Baisakh’, which is the second month of the Sikh calendar (Nanakshahi calendar). It signifies a new year of harvest for the community.
  • The festival is primarily a thanksgiving day when farmers pay tribute to their deity for the harvest and pray for prosperity in future.
  • Sikhs follow a tradition named Aawat Pauni on Vaisakhi. People gather to harvest wheat that grew in the winter. Drums are played and people recite Punjabi doha (couplet) to the tune while harvestin on Baisakhi day.
  • Baisakhi also marks the birth of Khalsa, the collective body of all initiated Sikhs, also called the “Guru Panth”– the embodiment of the Guru. On March 30 in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh gathered his followers at his home in Anandpur Sahib, a city which is now home to several Gurdwaras. At this gathering, Khalsa was inaugurated.

 Birth of five ‘K’s:

The five ‘K’s are the five principles of life that are to be followed by a true Khalsa.

  • These include ‘Kesh’ or hair, which implies to leave the hair uncut to show acceptance towards the form that God intended humans to be in;
  • ‘Kangha’ or wooden comb, as a symbol of cleanliness;
  • The third of the marks of being a Sikh pronounced on Baisakhi day was ‘Kara’ or iron bracelet, as a mark to remind a Khalsa of self-restraint;
  • ‘Kacchera’ or knee-length shorts, to be worn by a Khalsa for always being ready to enter battle on horseback; and
  • ‘Kirpan’, a sword to defend oneself and the poor, the weak and the oppressed from all religions, castes and creeds.

Science behind Baisakhi:

  • The festival of Baisakhi is celebrated amongst farmers as the festival of harvest. The month of April is considered as the harvesting time for the Rabi Crops, the crops which are sown during winter seasons.
  • Since the photoperiod becomes larger, the short day plants start to flower and give fruits and grains, which are now ready to be harvested. Therefore, the farmers gear up in their fields and start harvesting the crops.

Other states:

  • In other parts of India at this time, Bengalis celebrate Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year), Assamese celebrate Bohag Bihu (Assamese New Year) and Puthandu (Tamil New Year) is celebrated in Tamil Nadu– as New Year festivals such as Baisakhi.

  1. e-FRRO scheme

Source: PIB

 The government has launched the web-based application ‘e-FRRO’ (e-Foreigners Regional Registration Office) which aims to provide efficient visa related services online to foreigners visiting India.

 ‘e-FRRO’ scheme:

  • The e-FRRO scheme is aimed at building a centralized, transparent online platform for the foreigners to avail visa related services and to provide Faceless, Cashless and Paperless services to the foreigners with user friendly experience.
  • Under the scheme, foreigners would be able to get as many as 27 Visa and Immigration related services in India from the comfort of their place of stay. Using the e-FRRO application, foreigners can apply online on the portal and obtain the service(s) through email/post without appearing in person at the FRO/FRRO office.
  • Advantages of e-FRRO include facilitation of legitimate foreigners through “Digital India” vision of the Government, foreigners need not visit FRRO/FRO office – “Services from the comfort of home”, convenient and Time saving, exclusive dashboard for User friendly experience and Uniform & Standardized Services across the Country.

Significance of the scheme:

  • In 2017, more than one crore foreigners visited India and out of them approximately 3.6 lakhs had to visit FRRO offices spread across the country for various visa-related services. With the launch of the online e-FRRO scheme, their physical visit to the FRRO offices thus been obviated.

  1. Banks must upload daily transaction – wise information under Liberalized Remittance Scheme: RBI

Source: The Hindu

The Reserve Bank has tightened reporting norms for the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS). Now banks will be required to upload daily transaction-wise information undertaken by them under LRS.

LRS:

  • Under LRS, all resident individuals can freely remit $250,000 overseas every financial year for a permissible set of current or capital account transactions.
  • Permitted: Remittances are permitted for overseas education, travel, medical treatment and purchase of shares and property, apart from maintenance of relatives living abroad, gifting and donations. Individuals can also open, maintain and hold foreign currency accounts with overseas banks for carrying out transactions.
  • Not permitted: However, the rules do not allow remittances for trading on the foreign exchange markets, margin or margin calls to overseas exchanges and counterparties and the purchase of Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds issued by Indian companies abroad. Sending money to certain countries and entities is also barred. Under LRS, people can’t send money to countries identified as ‘non cooperative’ by the Financial Action Task Force. Remittances are also prohibited to entities identified as posing terrorist risks.

Why is it important?

  • The LRS represents India’s baby steps towards dismantling controls on foreign exchange movements in and out of the country. It has allowed large numbers of Indians to study abroad and diversify their portfolios from purely desi stocks and property.
  • Ideally speaking, capital controls in any form have no place in a liberalised economy. But for India, which is heavily dependent on imports of critical goods and perpetually spends more foreign exchange than it earns, it is difficult to free up remittances because of the havoc this can wreak on exchange rates

  1. Inflation targeting

Source: The Hindu

 Making a case for doing away with inflation targeting by the RBI, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) member Surjit Bhalla recently said it has made zero impact on prices.

Under the new policy framework, the RBI aims to contain inflation at 4% with a band of (+/-) 2%.

Concerns:

  • Average inflation in 2017-18 was 3.5%. India’s real interest rate is higher by 2.5%, which is 3rd highest in the world.

Inflation targeting

  • Inflation targeting is a monetary policy in which a central bank has an explicit target inflation rate for the medium term and announces this inflation target to the public. It will have price stability as the main goal of monetary policy.
  • Many central banks adopted inflation targeting as a pragmatic response to the failure of other monetary policy regimes, such as those that targeted the money supply or the value of the currency in relation to another, presumably stable, currency.

Why it is good?

  • It will lead to increased transparency and accountability.
  • Policy will be linked to medium/long term goals, but with some short term flexibility.
  • With inflation targeting in place, people will tend to have low inflation expectations. If there was no inflation target, people could have higher inflation expectations, encouraging workers to demand higher wages and firms to put up prices.
  • It also helps in avoiding boom and bust cycles.
  • If inflation creeps up, then it can cause various economic costs such as uncertainty leading to lower investment, loss of international competitiveness and reduced value of savings. This can also be avoided with targeting.

Key facts:

  • Inflation targeting puts too much weight on inflation relative to other goals. Central Banks Start to Ignore More Pressing Problems. Inflation target reduces “flexibility”. It has the potential to constrain policy in some circumstances in which it would not be desirable to do so.
  • Inflation targeting has been successfully practiced in a growing number of countries over the past 20 years, and many more countries are moving toward this framework. Over time, inflation targeting has proven to be a flexible framework that has been resilient in changing circumstances, including during the recent global financial crisis. Individual countries, however, must assess their economies to determine whether inflation targeting is appropriate for them or if it can be tailored to suit their needs. For example, in many open economies, the exchange rate plays a pivotal role in stabilizing output and inflation. In such countries, policymakers must debate the appropriate role of the exchange rate and whether it should be subordinated to the inflation objective.



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