28, December 2017

Udyami Mitra Portal

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has launched the ‘Udyami Mitra’ Portal (www.udyamimitra.in) to improve accessibility of credit and handholding services to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
  • Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) have been advised to ensure a target of 7.5% of Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) for Micro Enterprises, that collateral security is not required for loans upto Rs. 10 lakh to MSE sector, a simplified working capital requirement for MSEs.

https://udyamimitra.in/AboutUs

Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for amendment in the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) to further incentivize investments in Electronic Sector and moving towards the goal of ‘Net Zero imports’ in electronics by 2020.

The Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme

  • The Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGS) was launched by the Government of India (GoI) to make available collateral-free credit to the micro and small enterprise sector. Both the existing and the new enterprises are eligible to be covered under the scheme.
  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, GoI and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), established a Trust named Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) to implement the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises.
  • The Banks / Financial Institutions, which are eligible under the scheme, are scheduled commercial banks (Public Sector Banks/Private Sector Banks/Foreign Banks) and select Regional Rural Banks (which have been classified under ‘Sustainable Viable’ category by NABARD).

Eligible Credit Facility

  • The credit facilities which are eligible to be covered under the scheme are both term loans and/or working capital facility up to Rs.100 lakh per borrowing unit, extended without any collateral security and / or third party guarantee, to a new or existing micro and small enterprise.
  • For those units covered under the guarantee scheme, which may become sick owing to factors beyond the control of management, rehabilitation assistance extended by the lender could also be covered under the guarantee scheme.
  • Any credit facility in respect of which risks are additionally covered under a scheme, operated by Government or other agencies, will not be eligible for coverage under the scheme.
  • The guarantee cover available under the scheme is to the extent of maximum 85% of the sanctioned amount of the credit facility.
  • The Guarantee cover under the scheme is for the agreed tenure of the term loan/composite credit. In case of working capital, the guarantee cover is of 5 years or block of 5 years.

Food Legumes Research Platform by International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA)

  • The establishment of FLRP in India will enable India to harness the best of international science in meeting the emerging food security challenges. India would be able to rapidly and effectively absorb the research output achieved in the country by FLRP.
  • A major international R&D institution will make India an even bigger center for agricultural research in the world and this in turn, will attract further research & development investment in the country.
  • In principle’ approval of the Cabinet for conferring on the Food Legume Research Platform of ICARDA an international status as contemplated in Clause 3 of the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947.
  • This is a research set up by an international organization. ICARDA has a good track record of innovation, as in climate resilient technologies including suitable food legume varieties for dry-land production systems.
  • ICARDA will carry out research through a multi-disciplinary team of scientists for enhancing productivity of crops range-land and livestock.
  • This platform will contribute significantly towards reducing poverty, improving food security, improving nutrition and health, and sustaining the natural resource base.

ICARDA: http://www.icarda.org/mission-and-vision (Morocco in North Africa to Bangladesh in South Asia) Not entire Asia and Africa.

GOVERNMENT E-MARKETPLACE (GeM)

  • Based on recommendations of Group of Secretaries made to Hon’ble Prime Minister, the Government decided that GeM SPV will create a one stop Government eMarketplace (GeM) to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.

Cabinet approves MoU on Urea manufacturing Plant in Malaysia

Year end Review 2017: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174837 (HRD)

http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174769 (S and T)

 

Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor

  • The main reasons for selecting PHWRs in the 1960s for the First Stage of the Indian nuclear power programme have been the use of natural uranium oxide as the fuel, the best utilisation of mined uranium in energy production and the prospect of establishing a completely self-reliant technology
  • PWRs and PHWRs in India as the spent fuel of the former which will contain more than 1% of uranium-235 can be reprocessed and further utilized as the fuel in PHWRs operating in tandem. This evolving fuel cycle will eventually extend the power generation from the First Stage of the well- known three stage programme quite significantly.
  • The merit of the closed fuel cycle which has been adopted right from the beginning of the Indian programme is not only in multiplying the fuel resource but also in reducing the radio-active burden of the nuclear waste dramatically.
  • In this context, the successful development of separation of minor actinides from the nuclear waste in India, deployed in pilot plant scale, has drawn world-wide attention.
  • Plutonium recovered by reprocessing of spent fuel from operating PHWRs has been used in making the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel for the full core of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) which has initiated the commissioning activities before commencing operation.
  • With the entry of India in her Second Stage of nuclear power programme in which Fast Breeder Reactors will not only enable the growth of the installed nuclear capacity, but also generate more fissile materials, plutonium-239 and uranium-233 by conversion of fertile isotopes, uranium-238 and thorium-232
  • An enhanced scope and an accelerated implementation of the First Stage of the programme will make a far- reaching impact on securing the energy self-reliance of the country. By operating multiple recycles in the uranium-plutonium fuel cycle the supply of fissile material is expected to be enhanced by a factor of 60 and by using the huge reserve of thorium, the current estimate being four times that of uranium, India can sustain the supply of clean nuclear energy for several centuries.

Interbank Local Currency Credit Line Agreement

  • The initial Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism had a validity of five years, which has expired in March 2017. It is understood that some of the member banks (like CDB and VEB; CDB and BNDES) have entered into bilateral agreements for local currency financing under the Master Agreement signed in 2012.
  • Although the current conditions are not conducive to usage, it was useful to keep the same alive as an enabling feature in case a suitable opportunity materializes in future. Exim Bank raises resources in the off-shore market in diverse currencies and swaps to mitigate the risk.
  • The umbrella Agreement would serve as an enabler to enter into bilateral agreements with member banks subject to national laws, regulations and internal policies of the signatories.

Cooperation Memorandum Relating to Credit Ratings

  • It would enable sharing of credit ratings amongst the BRICS member banks, based on the request received from another bank. This would be an ideal mechanism to mitigate the credit risks associated with cross-border financing.
  • In future, such a mechanism could also serve as pre-cursor to the proposal of having an alternate rating agency by BRICS nations.

1.TIR Convention

Source: PIB

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for India’s accession to the Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) and for completion of necessary procedures for ratification, for its entry into force.

Key facts:

  • The TIR Convention can be an instrument for movement of goods along the International “North-South” Transport (INSTC) Corridor and would be helpful in boosting trade with the Central Asian Republics and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), particularly using ports in Iran like the Chabahar port.
  • The Convention will help Indian traders to have access to fast, easy, reliable and hassle free international system for movement of goods by road or multi- modal means across the territories of other contracting parties.
  • By joining the convention, the need for inspection of goods at intermediate borders as well as physical escorts en route shall be obviated due to reciprocal recognition of Customs controls. Customs clearance can take place at internal Customs locations thereby avoiding clearances at Border Crossing Points and ports that may often be congested. Movement under the TIR can be allowed by checking only the seals and the external conditions of the load compartment or the container thereby reducing border delays, transport and transaction costs thereby leading to increased competitiveness and growth for the trade and transport sectors.
  • The proposal does not result in any direct financial implication for the Government of India as it pertains to India’s accession to an international convention.
  • India and TIR Came in to force 2017

Background:

  • The Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets, 1975 (TIR Convention), is an international transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to facilitate the seamless movement of goods within and amongst the Parties to the Convention. At present there are 70 parties to the Convention, including the European Union.

 

2.Majuli Island in Assam

Source: PIB

Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Road Transport & Highways and Shipping to lay the foundation stone of protection work of Majuli Island from floods and erosion and construction of Brahamputra Board Complex.

  • Brahmaputra Board under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation was entrusted the work of protection of Majuli Island from floods and erosion in 2004.

Key facts:

  • To address the issues of erosion in vulnerable reaches and reclaim more land by pro-siltation and other measures in the east-west reach length of about 80 km on south bank, a DPR was formulated for “Protection of Majuli Island from flood and erosion of river Brahmaputra” as per the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Experts for Majuli Island and Technical Advisory Committee of Brahmaputra Board.

MAJULI Island: (It is recognised as the world’s largest river island)

  • The word Majuli is claimed to be derived from the word ‘MAJULI’ meaning an area surrounded by water.
  • Majuli Island is the nerve centre of Vaishnavite culture developed during the unique Vaishnava Satra system founded by the great saint Srimanta Sankardeva in the 15th century. It is the cultural heritage centre of Vaishnavite culture of Assam.
  • Majuli every year for its uniqueness and Vaishnavite culture making it an important spot in the tourist circuit of Assam. Also, Majuli Island is a serious contender for inclusion in the list of World Heritage Site.
  • It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.
  • Majuli is not a single island within a single parameter, but it is the combination of Cluster of islets formed and developed in the mid-river stream of the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries-the Luit & Kherkatia to the north & north east and north west extremity.
  • The Brahmaputra, according to Gait “flowed down the course of what is now called the Luit river, along the north of the Majuli island while the Dihing followed the present channel of the Brahmaputra to the south of it, and after receiving the waters of the Disang and the Dekhow united with Brahmaputra at the western extremity”.

3.Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana

Source: PIB

Government of India (GOI) has approved a new Central Sector Scheme – Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crore for the period 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle. The scheme will be implemented by Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI)

Key facts:

  • PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana is a comprehensive package which will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
  • It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better process to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers income, creating huge employment opportunities especially in the rural areas, reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level and enhancing the export of the processed foods.
  • With a view to promote Food Processing Industries in the country, the Government has approved the umbrella Central Sector Scheme “PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN SAMPADA YOJANA” with and allocation of Rs 6,000 Crore for the period coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle.

4.2017 ‘Ekuverin’: 8th India-Maldives joint military exercise

Source: Indian Express

The two-week-long exercise focused on counter-terrorism operations, conducted by small teams in a semi-urban setting

  • The eighth edition of the exercise is named ‘Ekuverin’, which means ‘friends’ in Maldivian language. The seventh edition of the exercise was held at Kadhdhoo on Lammu Atoll in the Maldives in December 2016.

Background:

  • AT A time when diplomatic ties between India and Maldives are under strain over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the archipelago nation and China, the Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) have been carrying out a joint military exercise in Belgaum.
  • The two-week long exercise, focused on counter-terrorism operations conducted by small teams in a semi-urban setting.

5.Bamboo not a tree: Parliament passes Bill amending Forest Act

Source: The Hindu

The Bill permits felling and transit of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. However, bamboo grown on forest lands would continue to be classified as a tree.

The Parliament passed a Bill to exclude bamboo from the definition of tree under the Indian Forest Act, claiming it would improve the earnings of tribals and dwellers living around forests.

Highlights:

  • Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Harsh Vardhan said the Bill to amend the 1927 Indian Forest Act would benefit the tribals, forest dweller and farmers as their income would increase.
  • The Bill permits felling and transit of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. However, bamboo grown on forest lands would continue to be classified as a tree and would be guided by the existing legal restrictions
  • The major objective of the amendment was to promote the cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas and improve farmers’ income, keeping in mind the Government’s “ambitious” target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • The Bill would not only increase rural income but also help in increasing green cover across the country. Bamboo, was used extensively in a variety of applications such as furnishing, yarn, pulp and paper, handicrafts, decoration and musical instruments.

5.Year in review: How the banking sector performed in 2017

Source: The Hindu

The RBI has advised banks to set aside 50% provisioning against secured exposure and 100% against unsecured exposure in all cases referred for bankruptcy.

  • The government is likely to push ahead with banking sector reforms alongside the infusion of fresh capital in state-owned lenders in the new year.
  • Indian banks are saddled with bad loans and the government has made it a top priority to lift banks out of the extant non-performing assets non-performing assets (NPA) crisis, and revive lending growth from a 25-year low.

Key facts:

  • Special focus would be on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), financial inclusion and job creation. To facilitate consolidation in the public sector banking space, the Cabinet in August gave in-principle approval for PSBs to amalgamate through an Alternative Mechanism (AM).
  • As part of its resolve to bring down burgeoning NPAs, the government issued two ordinances — Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 – during the year.
  • The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 gave way to the Act permitting the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to direct any bank to initiate insolvency proceedings and give directions for resolution of stressed assets
  • The RBI’s internal advisory committee identified 12 large stressed cases worth over ₹5,000 crore, accounting to 25% (₹1.75 lakh crore) of total gross non-performing assets, for proceedings under the insolvency and bankruptcy code.
  • In a blow to defaulting promoters seeking to reclaim their firms that are under insolvency proceedings, the government last month promulgated an ordinance to bar wilful bank loan defaulters as well as those with NPA accounts from bidding in auctions being done to recover loans.
  • The ordinance, which is yet to be considered by Parliament, aimed at putting in place safeguards to prevent unscrupulous persons from misusing or vitiating the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
  • The amendments would be applicable to cases where the resolutions are yet to be approved. The changes essentially mean that certain promoters would not be allowed to bid for their own assets under the insolvency proceedings initiated to recover overdue loans.
  • On the social sector, the Finance Ministry launched the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) to provide social security during old age and to protect elderly persons aged 60 and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions.

7.Species facing extinction: IUCN updates red list

Source: The Hindu

              The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

What are the red list categories and what is it for?

According to their website, the IUCN Red List Categories are intended to be an easily and widely understood system for classifying species at high risk of global extinction.

The categories are:

  1. EXTINCT — the last individual in the species has died.
  2. EXTINCT IN THE WILD — it now lives only in captivity and not in its natural habitat.
  3. CRITICALLY ENDANGERED — facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  4. ENDANGERED — facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
  5. VULNERABLE — facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
  6. NEAR THREATENED — likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
  7. LEAST CONCERN — it is widespread and abuntant in the wild.
  8. DATA DEFICIENT — inadequate information.
  9. NOT EVALUATED — not yet been evaluated against the criteria

Species:

  1. The Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis) has been moved from Vulnerable to Endangered category. Its number has become almost half over the past 45 years. Accidental entanglement in fishing nets is the main cause of its decline.
  2. Blue-tailed Skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) of Christmas Island, Australia has gone extinct in the wild. Diseases and changes in inland ecology are the main causes.
  3. Kikuzato’s Stream Snake (Opisthotropis kikuzatoi), endemic to Kumejima Island and the rarest of all snakes in Japan is now listed critically endangered. This species declined dramatically over the past 15 years due to predation by invasive species.
  4. Christmas Island Forest-skink (Emoia nativitatis) is now extinct in the wild. The reason for their decline remains unclear, though predation by the invasive Wolf Snake introduced to the island in the mid-1980s may be to blame.
  5. Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) has moved from vulnerable to endangered In the Mekong River, the majority of Irrawaddy Dolphin deaths in recent years have been caused by entanglement in gillnets ̶ ‘curtains’ of fishing net that hang in the water.
  6. Okarito Kiwi (Apteryx rowi) and the Northern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) of New Zealand has move down from endangered to vulnerable. Both species of Kiwi have been facing threats including habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals. Government and community conservation efforts on predator control, and removing and incubating eggs for release into the wild has helped save the two species.
  7. Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis), has moved from vulnerable to critically endangered due to a fall in species numbers by over 80% in the past ten years. Australia’s increasingly dry and hot climate has led to their dramatic decline.
  8. Lister’s Gecko (Lepidodactylus listeri) native to Australia has gone extinct in the wild. Predation and lack of immunity to novel diseases are the main cause of their decline.

More Details: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/species-facing-extinction-iucn-updates-red-list/article21267684.ece

8.New species of blind fish discovered inside Meghalaya cave

Source: The Hindu

  • A new species of blind fish has been discovered inside a cave in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, a New Zealand-based science journal has revealed.
  • The fish — Schistura larketensis — gets its name from Larket village, where the cave has been found, the journal, Zootaxa, said.
  • The species has apparently lost its sight living in the perpetual darkness inside the cave, a joint team of scientists from the Gauhati University and the North Eastern Hill University said.
  • It has also lost its pigments too while adapting to its habitat in the dark waters, they said.
  • The new fish species can also be immediately distinguished from all other species of Schistura, barring Schistura papulifera — another cave fish from Synrang Pamiang cave system in the same district — for its vestigial subcutaneous eyes appearing as black spots
  • The researchers have also expressed regret to see the high level of siltation, pollution and acidification of the water drainage systems in Jaintia Hills due to accumulation of acid mine drainage (AMD) from open-cast coal mining.

Synrang Pamiang cave – Third Largest cave of India

  • A Critically endangered species of ray-finned fish, Schistura papulifera (Endemic Species) was discovered recently in the Krem Synrang Pamiang cave. Presently, as on 2014, this cave is the only place the species is found.
  • A Critically endangered species of ray-finned fish, Schistura papulifera was discovered recently in the Krem Synrang Pamiang cave. Presently, as on 2014, this cave is the only place the species is found.

Science and Technology Year End Review by The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/science-stories-of-2017/article22287952.ece



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