21, December 2016

1.India, Kyrgyztan to step up defence, business ties

Source: Indian Express and The Hindu

Decided to strengthen ties in security, mining, IT, agriculture and energy.

  • India and Kyrgyztan on Tuesday agreed to step up defence cooperation and investments, as they signed a bilateral investment pact
  • Discussed work together to secure our youth and society against common challenges of terrorism, extremism and radicalism. We agreed on the need to coordinate and work closely in addressing and overcoming these challenges for our common benefit.

Signed Agreements are  in the fields of Tourism, Agriculture and Food Industry, Youth development and student exchange and broadcasting and exchange of audiovisual programmes.

Highlights of bilateral ties:

India and Kyrgyzstan have also initiated the Bilateral Investment Treaty. The Central Asian nation bordering China is strategically important for India and both countries have been steadily ramping up defence collaboration.

Following a bilateral summit at Hyderabad House, the delegations finalised plans to hold the annual joint military exercises named “Khanjar-IV” in February-March.

  • The “Khanjar-II” exercises were held in March 2015 in Kyrgyzstan and “Khanjar-III” in March-April 2016 in Gwalior.
  • A joint statement which marked the end of the visit took note of the IT support that India had provided to the Kyrgyz military institutions, including building three IT centres in the past two years.

It also noted the high-altitude Kyrgyz-Indian Mountain Training Centre being built in the city of Balykchi, which will be used to train Indian military personnel. The visiting delegation also welcomed India’s proposal for training Kyrgyz forces for U.N. peacekeeping assignments.

  • Both sides reiterated the demand for global counter-terror norms to fight terrorism in Asia, and called for the adoption by the United Nations of the draft Comprehensive Convention on Combating International Terrorism.
  • India’s support to building the transport network in Iran and Afghanistan, This will increase regional connectivity and help connect Kyrgyztan with Iran, Afghanistan and beyond.

2.Year End review: Department of Atomic Energy

Source: PIB

1.8th Nuclear Energy Conclave.  The 8th Nuclear Energy Conclave was organised by India Energy Forum in New Delhi on September 30, 2016. 

  • The Theme of the Conference this year was “Meeting the Non-Fossil Energy Targets through Nuclear Power”.
  • The Conclave focussed on advanced technologies for safer and cleaner fossil energy leveraging domestic engineering/manufacturing/construction capabilities, advancement of technology within the country, Safety and Regulation.
  1. International Conference on “India’s role in Global Nuclear Governance”. A three-day International conference on “India’s role in Global Nuclear Governance” .
  • The conference was organized by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
  • This conference brings together scholars working on global nuclear governance in India and abroad to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the emerging nuclear governance architecture. It focuses on how India can play a more proactive role as a driver of new ideas on the subject.
  1. Hall of Nuclear Energy inaugurated in Delhi. The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh inaugurated the “Hall of Nuclear Power” in New Delhi on January 16, 2016.
  • Northern India’s first permanent exhibition on nuclear power, built in the national capital at National Science Centre (NSC).
  • The exhibition, titled ‘Hall of Nuclear Power – Atoms Serving the Nation’ is spread over an area of about 700 sq. m., with over 60 permanent exhibits, covering various aspects of nuclear energy, with prime focus on nuclear power plant safety and applications for human welfare, which include nuclear medicine, food irradiation, as well as several other day-to-day applications of nuclear energy.
  1. BARC develops kit for detection of Chromium contamination of water (August 17, 2016).
  • BARC has developed a simple, user friendly, quick and cost effective kit for onsite determination of Cr (VI), which meets IS10500 as well as EPA criterion.
  • It provides the much needed solution to measure the level of Chromium contamination in drinking water and tap water, lakes, rivers as well as ground water.
  • This is yet another example of BARC’s efforts towards ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Government of India. This kit can be used for detection of carcinogenic Chromium in ground water around the Ganga belt.
  1. Cabinet grants ‘in-principle’ approval to the LIGO-India mega science proposal.
  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ‘in principle’ approval to the LIGO-India mega science proposal for research on gravitational waves.
  • The proposal, known as LIGO-India project (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in India) is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The approval coincided with the historic detection of gravitational waves a few days ago that opened up of a new window on the universe to unravel some of its greatest mysteries.
  1. India becomes Associate Member of CERN, Geneva.

India and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) signed an agreement making India an Associate Member State of CERN.

  • This follows CERN Council’s adoption of the resolution to this effect on September 15, 2016. The agreement was signed by Sekhar Basu, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and CERN Director General Dr. Fabiola Gianotti in Mumbai.
  • Participation in CERN programmes is a success story of scientific collaborations and cooperation where researchers from large number of national Institutes and Universities from India work together in forming active collaborations in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge, achieving scientific and engineering breakthrough as well as training the next generation of scientists.
  1. India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in Nuclear Energy.

Prime Minister of India and the Japanese Prime Minister, signed the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between the two countries, on November 11, 2016, which reflects a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership in the cause of clean energy, economic development and a peaceful and secure world.

  1. Unit 1, (1000 MWe) of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) was dedicated to the nation on August 10, 2016 by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Russian President Shri Vladimir Putin.

 Unit 2 (1000 MWe) of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project achieves criticality and dedicated to the nation.

  • Second Nuclear power reactor Unit of 1000 MWe capacity at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu achieved criticality on 10th July, 2016.
  • This is the second 1,000 MWe pressurised water reactor to go critical in the country. The first unit at Kudankulam went critical in July 2013.
  • The Unit 2 (1000 MWe) of Kudankulam Project was later dedicated to the Indo-Russian Partnership on October 15, 2016 during the BRICS Summit by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin.

Foundation laying of Units 3 & 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. On October 15, 2016, laying of Foundation Concrete of Units 3&4 of KKNPP was also done by the Prime Minister and Russian President.

Kudankulam is the highest capacity generating nuclear power plant in India. Beyond power generation, the project is also seen as a symbol of maintaining cordial relations between India and Russia.

KNPP reactor

Kudankulam, or Koodankulam, is India’s first nuclear plant to use imported PWR technology. The existing nuclear power plants in India use pressurised heavy water reactor or boiling water reactor technology.


KNPP uses the advanced version of Russian-developed PWR nuclear technology, VVER-1000 type reactors, also known as water-water power reactors.

VVER technology has completed more than 1,500 reactor-years of operating time.

KNPP uses AES-92, also called the V-466 model, which is the latest version of the third-generation VVER-1000. This integrates active and passive safety measures, including passive heat removal system (PHRS), hydrogen re-combiners, core catcher, hydro accumulators and quick boron injection system (QBIS). This multi-layered safety feature ensures the plant and environment are safe.

3.‘24×7 Power For All’

Source: PIB

Next step towards ‘24×7 Power For All’: launches GARV-II App to track Rural Household Electrification and Citizen Engagement Window ‘SAMVAD’

  • Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, launched the ‘GARV-II’ App, as the next step in Government of India’s aim to provide access to electricity to all households in the country.
  • Under this module, village-wise and habitation-wise base line data on household electrification for all States, as provided by them, has been incorporated.


  • The Minister informed that the status of village-wise works sanctioned under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and release of funds to the States for these projects has also been mapped in ‘GARV-II’ to monitor progress of works in each village.
  • Is an important part of the ‘Digital India Initiative’ of Government of India and will contribute in further development of the villages. In order to bring more transparency.
  • Urged State governments to determine an average price for electricity connections for APL (Above Poverty Line) families across the State so that they can be given electricity connections through the option of paying by easy monthly installments. The Minister said that the Government aims to achieve ‘24×7 Power for All’ and does not distinguish between BPL and APL households.
  • During the event, unveiled the Citizen Engagement Window ‘SAMVAD’ which has been created to enhance participation of public at large.

4.National Commission for Protection of Child Rights gets SKOCH Awards for POCSO e-Box

Source: PIB

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) of Ministry of Women and Child Development has been conferred the Skoch Silver and Skoch Order-of Merit award.

  • The award was received by NCPCR Chairperson Smt. Stuti Kacker from Sh. Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & IT .
  • The two awards were received by NCPCR for applying technology to develop an electronic drop box, POCSO e-Box for registering complaints on Child Sexual Abuse.

POSCO e-Box:

  • The e-Box is incorporated prominently in the home page of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) website http://ncpcr.gov.in/ where a user has to simply push a button named POSCO e-Box.
  • POCSO e-box is a unique endeavour by NCPCR for receiving online complaint of Child Sexual Abuse directly from the victim. The system maintains confidentiality of the victim/ complainant. Through a well defined procedure complaints are directly followed up by a team which counsels the victim, providing further guidance for required legal action.
  • According to a study, conducted by Ministry of Women & Child Development during 2007, about 53% of children surveyed, reported having faced one or the other form of sexual abuse in their lifetime.

5.Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana- social welfare scheme

Source: PIB

Government has approved Rs. 8000 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) for release of 5 crore deposit free new LPG connections to Women of BPL families over three years, i.e. FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The scheme will be implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. This is first time in the history that Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas is implementing such an enormous welfare scheme which will benefit Crores of women belonging to the poorest households.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Under the PM Ujjwala Yojana, the government aims to provide LPG connections to BPL households in the country. The scheme is aimed at replacing the unclean cooking fuels mostly used in the rural India with the clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas)

Objectives: Ujjwala Yojana is aimed at providing 5 Crore LPG connections in the name of women in BPL (Below Poverty Line) households across the country.

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.



Eligibility for PM Ujjwala Yojana:

  • The applicant should be a women above the age of 18 years.
  • The women applicant should belong to BPL (Below Poverty Line).
  • The women applicant should have a saving bank account in any nationalized bank across the country.
  1. Direct Benefit Transfer in PDS Kerosene Scheme (DBTK)

Jharkhand has become first State in the country to implement DBTK and others have been requested to join the Scheme.

  • Under the Scheme, the Kerosene is being sold at non-subsidised price and subsidy, as admissible, is being transferred to consumers directly into his/her bank account.
  • The States would be given cash incentive of 75% of subsidy savings during the first two years, 50% in the third year and 25% in the fourth year.
  • In case the States voluntarily agree to undertake cuts in kerosene allocation, beyond the savings due to DBT, a similar incentive would be given to those States/UTs.
  • The initiative of the Government is aimed at rationalizing subsidies based on approach to cut subsidy leakages, but not subsidies themselves. The scheme will also stop diversion of Kerosene.
  • State Government of Karnataka had volunteered to undertake cut in Kerosene allocation and the similar proposal has also been received from Government of Haryana and Government of Telangana.
  • Further, Government of Haryana has requested to make the State Kerosene free by 31.03.2017.
  • NCT of Delhi and UT of Chandigarh have been declared Kerosene Free cities effective 1st October, 2013 and 1st April, 2016 respectively and hence no PDS SKO allocation is made to them.
  1. PAHAL: World’s largest Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme: PAHAL (Pratyaksh Hasthantarit Labh) is the world’s largest Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme. Through PAHAL, subsidy given to consumers is directly transferred to the registered account of the consumer without involving any intermediary.

PAHAL Scheme has been acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cash transfer programme (households). More than Rs. 38,276 crore of subsidy has been transferred to the LPG consumers through 204 crore transactions since inception of the Scheme.

6.Can courts make life terms more rigorous, asks SC

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court will examine whether courts are statutorily empowered to make life imprisonments harsher for convicts by adding the term “rigorous” while delivering a sentence of life imprisonment.

It would consider whether the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) or any other penal law empowered the courts to add the term ‘rigorous’.

Supreme court examine

The Supreme Court decided to hear on this aspect while considering the appeal filed by Ram Kumar Sivare, who is serving rigorous life term in a Chattisgarh jail, for murder.

Challenging the High Court verdict in the murder case, Sivare’s lawyer and senior advocate contended that the judgment pronounced by the lower courts was “unconstitutional and ultra-vires” as penal and procedural laws do not empower them to qualify the life sentence awarded to a convict with the term “rigorous”.

The award of rigorous life imprisonment by the lower court and the Chattisgarh High Court is violative of Article 21 (protection of life and liberty) and 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution,” the lawyer said


The State High Court had upheld the trial court judgment convicting and awarding life term to Sivare and Bhuneshwar Prasad for stabbing to death Anil Bhoyar on January 5, 2010 near a government hospital in Durg district of Chhattisgarh following a quarrel over a minor issue.

  1. Credit costs pose a hurdle to the dream of a less cash economy

Source: The Hindu

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular asking banks to waive off charges levied on transactions by merchant establishments using point of sale (PoS) terminals. “Customer charges, if any, being levied on all such transactions (are)waived till December 30, 2016, subject to review,” the banking regulator.

Merchant Discount Rate (MDR): The rate that a business is charged for debit and credit card services provided by its merchant account is called a merchant discount rate.

  • To promote greater use of debit cards, public sector banks and some of the private sector banks have decided to waive the MDR charges till 31.12.2016.

MDR for debit cards has been capped by the banking regulator at 1 per cent per transaction while for credit cards – where there is no cap – the rate could go up to 2.5 per cent.

Point of Sale terminals: How do they work? Towards cashless economy

The government wants banks to install three lakh Point of Sale terminals in the next three months. Following the withdrawal of high-value currency notes, activity at PoS terminals saw exponential growth, even as the number of new such machines installed has also gone up.

What is a PoS terminal?

  • A point-of-sale (POS) terminal is a computerised replacement for a cash register which can process credit and debit cards.
  • A customer needs to enter a card PIN to complete the transaction using the PoS terminal.

How to install one?


If you are a merchant, then you can request the bank where you have an account to install PoS

What are the charges?

  • The end-customer does not have to pay any charges for swiping his or debit/credit cards at the PoS terminals.
  • However, the merchant has to pay the issuer bank what is known as merchant discount rate (MDR). The issuer bank is the one which installs the machines at the merchant establishment.
  • In theory, though customers don’t have to pay, in practice, merchants increase the cost of the product and services sold, in a move to pass on the charge incurred by them to the customer.

Separate charges for debit and credit cards

  • MDR is capped for debit cards but not for credit cards. Effective July 1, 2012, RBI capped the MDR for debit cards at 0.75 per cent of the transaction amount for value up to Rs.2,000 and 1 per cent for a transaction amount for value above Rs.2,000.
  • For credit cards, the MDR varies between 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent.
  • Following the withdrawal of legal tender status to the old Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes, RBI had asked banks to waive off the MDR till the end of December.
  • Last week, RBI also lowered the MDR cap for debit cards effective between January 1 to March 31, 2017. In this period, MDR is capped at 0.25 per cent for debit card transactions up to Rs.1,000 and 0.5 per cent for transactions above Rs.1,000 up to Rs.2,000.

Sharing of charges

The MDR that the merchant pays is divided among three entities, the issuer bank (which issues the debit card), the acquirer bank (which installs the PoS), and the payment gateway. The issuer bank get the maximum share of the MDR.

  1. A clue into making of biodegradable plastic

Source: The Hindu

For the first time, scientists from MIT have succeeded in decoding the structure of an enzyme that is used by bacteria to make polymer chains which is used for storing carbon when going through nutrient deficits.

What is special about these polymers is that they make up a range of “biodegradable” plastics.

  • Known as Polyhydroxyalkanoic acids (PHAs), these polymer chains have properties ranging from thermoplastics to elastomers depending on the type of monomers attached to them.
  • Their property of being biodegradable renders them of great value in producing environment-friendly plastics for industrial use; however, the process is not cost-effective.

One such PHA is polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). Knowing the structure of the enzyme PHB synthase can greatly help in developing the process further. While the present work does not promise biodegradable plastic at competitive rates just yet, it is a step in that direction.

In making these polymers, a culture of a gram negative bacteria — Cupriavidis necator — is allowed to multiply significantly on a substrate.

  • Then the colony is put through a deficiency of a particular nutrient, while being supplied carbon.
  • In response, the bacteria produce these long polymer chains to store the available carbon. The polymers can be extracted from the bacteria and used. A bacterium can produce polymers that measure up to 85 per cent of its weight.

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