28 , February 2017

Indian Railways introduced the first Antyodaya Express between Ernakulam and Howrah .  Antyodaya Express are long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for the common man to be operated on dense routes.

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Senior tribal leader from Chhattisgarh and ex-parliamentarian Nand Kumar Sai (71) took charge as Chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in Delhi.

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The National Science Day (NSD) i.e. Rashtriya Vigyan Diwas (राष्ट्रीय विज्ञान दिवस) is celebrated every year on February 28 in India. The 2017 theme is “Science and Technology for Specially Abled Persons”.

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1.Know about transformational reforms in cities
Source: PIB

The Ministry of Urban Development will discuss a set of five major reforms with States and Union Territories at a ‘National Workshop on Urban Development’

Major reforms recommended by the Group of Secretaries are :

1.Moving to a Trust and Verify Approach:

Instead of the present practice of verifying first and approving later, it has been recommended that trust needs to be reposed in the citizens and approvals may be accorded first and to be verified later, inverting the model of verifying first and approving later which is resulting in huge delays

This ‘Trust and Verify’ approach has been recommended in respect of Permissions for building construction, Change of title in municipal records (mutation) and Birth and Death registration, involving the largest number of physical interactions between city governments and citizens

2.Formulating Land Titling Laws:

The Group quoting a study by McKinsey noted that over 90% of the land records in the country are unclear and land market distortions and unclear land titles are costing the country 1.30% of GDP per year and accordingly recommended enactment of Land Titling Laws and their implementation in a specific time frame

3.Credit Rating of Urban Local Bodies

4.Value Capture Financing:

Noting that the total revenues of the municipal sector accounts for only 0.75% of the country’s GDP as against 6% for South Africa, 5% for Brazil and 4.50% for Poland, the Group recommended Municipal Bonds further to Credit Rating of ULBs and Value Capture Finance tools for meeting the capital expenditure needs of cities

5.Improving Professionalism of ULBs:

Quoting investment bank Goldman Sachs report, the Group of Secretaries noted that a bureaucracy that is based on merit rather than seniority could add nearly a percentage point annually to the country’s per capita GDP growth

It also expressed concern over shortage of qualified technical staff and managerial supervisors in ULBs preventing innovation, the Group recommended induction of professionals in city governments by encouraging lateral induction and filling top positions in cities (Commissioners and Heads of Finance and Revenue) through open competition

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2.CLMV Business Conclave
Source: PIB

The fourth edition of India – CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam) Business Conclave was held in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. India’s trade with the CLMV countries has grown from USD 1.5 bn to more than USD 10 bn in the last 10 years.

The two-day conference organised by Department of Commerce and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) held deliberations on manufacturing, renewable energy, agriculture and skilling among others sectors in the region.

The conference was aimed at identifying specific project opportunities and seeks business partnerships in the region. It consisted of business to business meetings and sectorial sessions.

The conclave focused on sectors such as Pharma, Healthcare, manufacturing, Agri Business, Food processing, Gems and Jewellery, Textiles, Leather, Renewable Energy and education.

Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam collectively, is the third largest economy in ASEAN, followed by Indonesia and Thailand.

Due to close proximity, India is looking to boost trade and investment with the CLMV region as part of the ‘Act East’ policy announced by the Prime Minister during the 12th India – ASEAN Summit in 2013.

About CLMV:

  • The CLMV conclave is an annual event which provides an opportunity for Indian business leaders to interact with government and business stakeholders representing these four Southeast Asian countries.
  • It facilitates to create and provide a platform for the decision makers from CLMV countries to interact with a range of Indian business companies involved in manufacturing, processing, trading, engineering, consultancy, construction etc.

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3.Three Forest Research Institutes Develop High-Yielding Varieties of Plant Species
Source: PIB

Three institutes of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Dehradun have developed 20 high-yielding varieties of plant species.

  • These three institutes are Forest Research Institute (FRI),
  • Dehradun Tropical Forest Research Institute (TFRI),
  • Jabalpur and Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB),

ICFRE’s Variety Releasing Committee (VRC) has granted approval for the release of these varieties of plant species. These developed varieties had gone through stringent long field trials and testing before release.

FRI, Dehradun:

  • It has developed 10 improved varieties of Melia dubia (popularly known as Dreake or Malabar Neem) and 3 clones of Eucalyptus tereticornis, the timber of which is in high demand in the industry.
  • The HYV cultivars of Melia have high productivity per unit area, with an average of 34.57 cubic metre per hectare per annum (cm/h/a). It is a desirable characteristic for plywood industry.
  • The HYV varieties of Eucalyptus have average recorded productivity as 19.44 (cm/h/a), against the present productivity 5-7 (cm/h/a). They are also resistant to wall gasp and pink disease.

IFGTB, Coimbatore: It has developed five inter-specific hybrids of Casuarina equisetifolia X Casuarina junghuhniana for timber use.

TFRI, Jabalpur: It has developed two varieties of medicinal plant Rauvolfia serpentina.

About Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) :

  • Dehradun based ICFRE was established as an autonomous organisation under Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • It carries out the holistic research on forestry species, transfer technologies developed to the states and other user agencies and imparts forestry education.
  • There are 9 research institutes and 4 advanced centres under ICFRE to cater to the research needs of different bio-geographical regions.
  • They actively engaged in improvement of plantation tree species to improve, quality, yield and productivity to meet the demand for domestic consumption by industries.

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4.Discovered Small Field activities in the State of Tamil Nadu
Source: PIB

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the award of 31 contract areas as part of the Discovered Small Field (DSF) Bid Round 2016.

These fields were offered under new policy for small fields known as Discovered Small Field (DSF) policy, 2015, which offers improved fiscal terms with the aim to enhance Oil and gas production and reducing import dependency of the country.

These fields were offered through an open and transparent international competitive bidding process. The bidding was open to all, including National Oil Companies (i.e. ONGC & OIL) and other central and state PSUs.

The two contract areas, Karaikal (10.4 Sqkm) located in Puducherry and Neduvasal (10.0 Sqkm) located in Tamil Nadu awarded under DSF bidding round have an in-place volume of 4,30,000 metric tonne of oil and oil equivalent gas.

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5.SEBI to tighten algorithm trading rules
Source: The Hindu

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is planning to further tighten the regulations for algorithmic trading to minimise instances of misuse of such systems.
  • The tight regulations aim to curb the instances of flash crashes that have happened overseas and also in India few times. India is one of the few countries in the world to regulate algorithmic trading.
  • Flash crash results in extremely rapid decline in the price of one or more commodities or securities caused by algorithmic trading. It can result in the loss and recovery of billions of dollars in a matter of minutes and seconds.
  • Many countries and regulators, including the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) are debating on this issue for many years, but only India had been able to come out with proper regulations.

What is Algorithmic trading?

Algorithmic trading in financial markets refers to transaction orders generated by using advanced mathematical models that involves automated execution of trade. It uses mathematical models and software codes to make transaction decisions on exchanges and execute them at high speed. This technology-driven trading enables traders to take advantage of any profit making opportunities arising in the market much before a human trader can even spot them. At present, on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), algorithm trades accounts close to 16% of all trades. On the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), it was 8.56% in January 2017.
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6.Madras HC orders TN Government to enact law to remove Seemai Karuvelam trees

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered Tamil Nadu government to enact a law with prohibitory and penal clauses to eradicate Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees within two months.
Seemai Karuvelam is invasive species of tree harmful to the environment as it sucks lot of water ultimately affect the environment and agricultural activities.

What is the issue?

The HC’s order came after it heard a batch of petitions including Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking directions to remove the seemai karuvelam trees claiming that they are harmful to the environment and agriculture. Earlier in December 2016, the bench of high court had directed state government to completely uproot this tree species from public as well as private lands in 13 districts under its territorial jurisdiction by mid February 2017.

What court order says?

State Government should enact a law with prohibitory and penal clauses to eradicate hazardous species Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees within two months from all 32 districts of the State. The State Government must also release perennial funds to the district collectors in the state for removing of these tree species completely from public as well as private lands.

About Seemai Karuvelam tree :

Seemai Karuvelam tree species are native to West Africa. It was brought to Tamil Nadu in 1960s as fuelwood. It disrupts the local ecosystem of its habitation by soaking in all the ground water near it. It is an invasive species that has infiltrated the water bodies and dry lands of Tamil Nadu.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of UN:

  • Conservator of Forests of Northern circle (Madras), was responsible for its introduction
  • He had requested the Secretary of the Revenue department of Madras to supply seeds of the plant for planting in arid tracts of South India in 1876
  • The seeds were received from Jamaica and sown in South India during 1877
  • Even in 1953, the Fodder and Grazing Committee of Madras decided to grow seemai karuvelam on a large scale on the slopes of barren hills and panchayat forests to augment fuel supply
  • While various species of Prosopis were introduced at the time, P. juliflora has spread over large areas and has naturalised in most of the arid and semi-arid regions of India
  • juliflora has survived where other tree species have failed, and in many cases, become a major nuisance

Nuisance: It has invaded, and continues to invade, millions of hectares of rangeland in South Africa, East Africa, Australia and coastal Asia

In 2004, it was rated one of the world’s top 100 least wanted species (Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN, 2004)

Preferred food for fauna:

  • Dispersal of the species is mainly through animals by endozoochory (dispersal via ingestion by vertebrate animals).The pods are succulent and are a preferred choice of food for animals
  • The FAO has reported that initially, the plant was observed to occur in areas of 150-750 mm annual rainfall
  • However, invasions have been recorded in large rice growing stretches of Cauvery River Delta in Tamil Nadu State with mean annual rainfall of 1500 mm and where the occurrence of floods and inundation are common
  • Also an injury from the thorn of the species would not heal easily despite intensive medical treatments, and using the wood in a fireplace could also cause dermatitis

Cattle toxicity:

  • According to reports by local afar pastoralists, the ingestion of the pod over long periods of time will result in death of cattle
  • Stomach poisoning by the pod may induce a permanent impairment of the ability to digest cellulose
  • This might be due to the high sugar content of the pod that depresses the rumen bacterial cellulose activity, and finally kills the animal

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