18 , May 2017

1.NITI Aayog Conducts First Samavesh Meeting
Source: PIB

NITI Aayog has conducted the first Samavesh meeting of the National Steering Group and other knowledge partners under the co-chairmanship of Amitabh Kant, CEO and Ratan P Watal, Principal Adviser, NITI Aayog. The meeting was also attended by representatives of four States- Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Highlights:

  • The objective of the meeting was to bring together 32 premier educational and policy research institutions to boost the development process, improve institutional capacity and forge a field level interface with the community in pursuance with the Prime Minister’s call for a New India 2022,
  • In the meeting, Memorandum of Understands (MoUs) was signed between NITI Aayog and major think tanks across the country with an aim to create an atmosphere of evidence based policy research.
  • This is the first ever initiative undertaken by the government to bring a huge number of institutions across diverse domain themes to deliberate together to promote inclusive development of the country.
  • This network is expected to promote efficient knowledge sharing and information exchange among all partners in order to achieve a sustainable and more inclusive development in line with the National Development Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals and the 15 year Vision, 7 year strategy and 3 year action plan.
  • NITI Aayog has been emphasizing upon the role that can be played by the country’s Premier institutes to promote for inclusive development of the country.
  • As a part of Samavesh initiative, NITI Aayog will launch a new link in its website that would serve as a major repository of knowledge based reports and case studies across different sectors of the economy.

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2.Boost to transform domestic nuclear industry
Source: PIB

Cabinet approves construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). The reactors will have a capacity of 700 MW. These reactors will add 7000 MW capacity and will ramp up nuclear power generation in the country.

Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors:

  • 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.
  • India’s first PHWR was constructed at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan in technical cooperation with the Atomic Energy Canada Ltd (AECL). However, the Canada’s support was immediately withdrawn after India’s first nuclear experiment at Pokhran in 1974.
  • India’s first nuclear power plant with a different design was built at Tarapur in Maharashtra. PHWR units are in operation in Rawatbhata, Kaiga, Kakrapar, Kalpakkam and Narora.

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3.Minister of Railways Releases Third Party Audit Report on Station Cleanliness
Source: PIB

Minister of Railway released Third Party Audit Report on Station Cleanliness and Inaugurated Swachh Rail Portal. Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Beas in Punjab is the Cleanest Station in A1, A Category Stations Respectively. Khammam station Rank 2nd in Station Cleanliness in A Category from 285 Rank previous Year.

Minister of Railways dedicated a “SWACHH RAIL PORTAL” to showcase rankings of stations and trains, methodology adopted for rankings and stations/trains specific dashboards.  This web portal http://www.railswachh.in will also be leveraged to seek passenger feedback on cleanliness on a continual basis.

The parameters adopted for conducting the survey are: Evaluation of Process of cleanliness in Parking, main entry area, main platform, waiting room,(33.33%) direct observation by QCI assessors of cleanliness in these areas (33.33%) and passenger feedback(33.33%). A 24×7 control room was set up and images were geo-tagged to monitor progress.

The survey was conducted by the Quality Council of India, through interviews with respondents on the questionnaire on cleanliness indicators, which was done face to face by survey teams by visiting each of the 407 stations across 16 Zonal Railways. Every passenger was asked to rate the cleanliness of stations objectively on 40 different cleanliness parameters.

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4.CCEA gives Approval to New Coal Linkage Policy
Source: The Hindu

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a new coal linkage policy to ensure adequate supply of the fuel to power plants through reverse auction. The new policy will help in ensuring fuel supplies to the power plants in an organised manner.

Though, the government’s initiatives and prevailing market conditions to a large extent has helped to bring down the prices of the dry fuel and boosted the domestic production, a proper mechanism for providing coal linkages to power plants at competitive rates was lacking. The new policy will address this issue and will ensure proper sourcing of the dry fuel by the power plants as per their schedules.

Coal linkage policy:

Coal linkage policy is a policy designated by the union government for the allocation of coal among thermal power plants. Inadequate availability of domestic coal coupled with high price for imported coal requires the government to allocate the available coal rationally among the power plants. This is especially necessary as the coal producing firms are public sector companies. Also, the pricing of coal is another important issue. In this context, the government designates coal linkage policies to allocate coal among different thermal power plants.

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5.NTRO now under Intelligence Act
Source: The Hindu

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor (NSA) will now have the same “norms of conduct” as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

The Home Ministry issued a notification on May 15 listing NTRO under The Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985, a demand being made by the organisation for over a decade now.

The act prevents employees of a notified agency from forming unions/associations, bars them from communicating with the press or publishing a book or other document without permission of the head of the intelligence organisation.

NTRO:

  • The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) is an Indian highly specialized technical intelligence gathering agency under NSA, which acts as the primary advisor on security issues to the Prime Minister and the Union Council of Ministers of India.
  • NTRO’s activities include developing technology and satellite and terrestrial monitoring. These technologies include cryptology, Cyber security and data management. NTRO inherited a number of R&AW’s techint assets.

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6.Cabinet limits maternity benefit to first live birth
Source: The Hindu

Under the ongoing Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana(pilot project in 53 districts) every pregnant and lactating woman above the age of 19 years is given Rs 6,000 each for two live births. The Maternity Benefit Programme is meant to compensate women for their pregnancy related wage loss and ensure adequate nutrition for good maternal and child health.

New changes:

  • The Union cabinet has decided to limit the benefits of a maternity assistance scheme to only the first live birth of a mother, instead of the existing practice of giving it for two live births. Also, the cabinet extended the scheme to all districts.
  • The cabinet has given “post-facto sanction” for implementing the scheme from January 2017 to March 2020
  • The money would be granted if the woman chose institutional delivery and vaccinated the child.
  • The change in the scheme would almost halve the number of beneficiaries if the scheme is limited to the first child.

Contradiction: The government went for meagre budget allocation of Rs 2,700 in Union Budget 2017 whereas, a report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (2012-13) had drawn up a way higher annual estimate — of Rs 14,512 crore per year — for universalising the scheme.

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7.Cabinet nod for changing law to allow construction near protected monuments
Source: The Hindu

The government has approved amendments to ‘the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act’ for allowing construction of Centre-funded infrastructure projects within the limits of “prohibited area” around protected monuments.

This law will be amended to allow “public work of national importance” in the prohibited areas.

‘Prohibited area'(under the law):
An area of 100 metres around protected monuments. Currently, construction is not allowed in the prohibited area except for repair and renovation works.

At Present: As many as 3,686 monuments and sites are centrally-protected under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for their maintenance.

About AMASR Act:

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) is an act of parliament that provides for the preservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance, for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for the protection of sculptures, carvings and other like objects.
  • It was passed in 1958.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India functions under the provisions of this act.

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