28&29, January 2018

  1. Stree Swabhiman Initiative

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has announced an initiative by common services centres (CSCs) on women’s health and hygiene. The initiative is named ‘Stree Swabhiman’.

Stree Swabhiman:

  • ‘Stree Swabhiman’ aims to create a sustainable model for providing adolescent girls and women an access to affordable sanitary products by leveraging CSCs.
  • Under the ‘Stree Swabhiman’ project, sanitary napkin micro manufacturing units are being set up at CSCs across India, particularly those operated by women entrepreneurs. The initiative is driven by awareness and personalised outreach by women entrepreneurs who produce and market sanitary napkins themselves.

CSCs:

  • Common Services Centers (CSCs) are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme. They are the access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India, thereby contributing to a digitally and financially inclusive society.

CSCs enable the three vision areas of the Digital India programme

  1. Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen.
  2. Governance and services on demand.
  3. Digital empowerment of citizens.

  1. Nodal agency to fight malnutrition

Source: The Hindu

Aiming to eradicate malnutrition among children, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia has introduced Child Nutrition and Development Nodal Agency Bill, 2017 in the Parliament. The bill proposes setting up a nodal agency for child nutrition and development.

Need for a nodal agency:

  • Despite thousands of crores of rupees being spent and a number of government schemes working for child development, the status of health and nutrition of children in the country remains abysmal. All nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive schemes work in silos. As a result, they are not able to achieve the intended outcome. Therefore, the establishment of a nodal agency that would facilitate coordination of all ministries and departments and execute the schemes in a convergent manner is urgently required.
  • The body would facilitate and supervise multi-sectoral programme in high, medium- and low-burdened districts with malnourished children. It would coordinate and administer policy implementation among various ministries responsible for implementing programmes aimed at eradicating malnutrition. At the end of each financial year, the agency will submit a report of its activities to the Central government.

Way ahead:

  • The need of the hour is to involve all field functionaries in a productive manner. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of the schemes using technological interventions and real-time data is also important. There is also a need to provide leverage budgets from related departments to develop an integrated plan with cross-sectoral collaboration to achieve nutrition-related targets.

  1. NASA Fund Researches the Potential of Blockchain Technology in Space

Source: The Hindu

NASA recently awarded a grant of $330,000 USD to the University of Akron to research the potential of blockchain technology to improve space communications.

NASA wants ways to reduce the time it takes for their exploration vehicles to receive signals and react to potential threats in space. Also, a decentralized blockchain would ensure there is no degradation or loss of the critical data collected by vehicles in space.

Background:

  • A major hurdle of space exploration today is the distance between the machines in space and their Earth-based controllers.
  • The distance creates a time lag between machine and operator. Semi-autonomous machines eliminate some of the barriers created by this time lag, by allowing the machines to make some decisions for themselves.

Blockchain

  • Blockchain is the digital and decentralized ledger that records transactions without the need for a financial intermediary, which in most cases is a bank.
  • A blockchain is an anonymous online ledger that uses data structure to simplify the way we transact. Blockchain allows users to manipulate the ledger in a secure way without the help of a third party.

Working process:

  • Blockchain enables two entities that do not know each other to agree that something is true without the need of a third party.
  • As opposed to writing entries into a single sheet of paper, a blockchain is a distributed database that takes a number of inputs and places them into a block. Each block is then ‘chained’ to the next block using a cryptographic signature. This allows blockchains to be used as a ledger which is accessible by anyone with permission to do so. If everyone in the process is pre-selected, the ledger is termed ‘permissioned’. If the process is open to the whole world, the ledger is called unpermissioned.

Benefits of blockchain technology:

  • A blockchain is anonymous, protecting the identities of the users. This makes blockchain a more secure way to carry out transactions. The algorithm used in blockchain reduces the dependence on people to verify the transactions

  1. Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) science satellite

Source: The Hindu

A long lost NASA satellite has been found alive. NASA has confirmed it stumbled across radio transmissions from Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) science satellite, which lost contact with mission control over 12 years ago.

Background:

  • On march 25, 2000, NASA launched the IMAGE satellite atop a Delta II rocket. The unmanned orbiter kept an eye on the Earth’s magnetosphere and how it reacts to the solar winds. Then on December 18, 2005, radio contact was lost for unknown reason. After weeks of attempts by NASA to regain contact, the probe was written off for good.

Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) mission:

  • IMAGE was the first satellite mission dedicated to imaging the Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by the Earth’s magnetic field and containing extremely tenuous plasmas of both solar and terrestrial origin. Invisible to standard astronomical observing techniques, these populations of ions and electrons have traditionally been studied by means of localized measurements with charged particle detectors, magnetometers, and electric field instruments. Instead of such in situ measurements, IMAGE employed a variety of imaging techniques to “see the invisible” and to produce the first comprehensive global images of the plasma populations in the inner magnetosphere. With these images, space scientists were able to observe, in a way never before possible, the large-scale dynamics of the magnetosphere and the interactions among its constituent plasma populations.

IMAGE used neutral atom, ultraviolet, and radio imaging techniques to:

  • Identify the dominant mechanisms for injecting plasma into the magnetosphere on substorm and magnetic storm time scales.
  • Determine the directly driven response of the magnetosphere to solar wind changes.
  • Discover how and where magnetospheric plasmas are energized, transported, and subsequently lost during substorms and magnetic storms.

  1. Prompt Corrective Action (PCA)

Source: The Hindu

The Finance Ministry is planning to initiate a performance review of heads of public sector banks that are under the RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) as part of the reform process.

Background:

  • So far, the Reserve Bank has put 12 public sector banks under watch in view of poor performance on parameters such as high levels of non-performing assets (NPAs), low capital level and low return on assets. These parameters indicate the financial health of banks and a need to initiate remedial measures to put them on the right course.

PCA

  • PCA norms allow the regulator to place certain restrictions such as halting branch expansion and stopping dividend payment. It can even cap a bank’s lending limit to one entity or sector. Other corrective action that can be imposed on banks include special audit, restructuring operations and activation of recovery plan. Banks’ promoters can be asked to bring in new management, too. The RBI can also supersede the bank’s board, under PCA.
  • The PCA is invoked when certain risk thresholds are breached. There are three risk thresholds which are based on certain levels of asset quality, profitability, capital and the like. The third such threshold, which is maximum tolerance limit, sets net NPA at over 12% and negative return on assets for four consecutive years.

What are the types of sanctions?

  • There are two type of restrictions, mandatory and discretionary. Restrictions on dividend, branch expansion, directors compensation, are mandatory while discretionary restrictions could include curbs on lending and deposit. In the cases of two banks where PCA was invoked after the revised guidelines were issued — IDBI Bank and UCO Bank — only mandatory restrictions were imposed. Both the banks breached risk threshold 2.
  • Banks are not allowed to re new or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income. Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs. They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business. RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from interbank market.



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