Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

23rd October 2019 Current Affairs

1. Science and Technology Cooperation between India and the USA.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the proposal for Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation between India and the United States of America.


  • Agreement will open a new chapter in bilateral relations as both sides will leverage complementary strengths spurred by a significant convergence of mutual interests in science and technology.
  • The Agreement would provide an opportunity to promote ‘high quality’ and ‘high impact’ research and innovation partnerships as well as broadening and expanding relationships between the extensive scientific and technological communities. 

Salient features:

The cooperation would be made in the various forms which include the following:

  • Exchanges of scientific & technical information and experts.
  • Convening of seminars and meetings.
  • Training of scientists and technical experts.
  • Conduct of cooperative research projects.
  • Establishment of science & innovation-based public-private partnerships.
  • Use of advance research facilities.

2. CCEA approves Review of Guidelines for Granting Authorization to market Transportation Fuel

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Review of Guidelines for Granting Authorization to market Transportation Fuels. This marks a major reform of the guidelines for marketing of petrol and diesel.

Why need to review? The existing policy for granting authorization to market transportation fuels had not undergone any changes for the last 17 years since 2002. It has now been revised to bring it in line with the changing market dynamics and with a view to encourage investment from private players, including foreign players, in this sector

Salient features & Major Impact:

  • Much lower entry barrier for private players – the entities seeking authorisation would need to have a minimum net worth of Rs.250 crore vis-à-vis the current requirement of Rs. 2000 crore prior investment.
  • Non – Oil Companies can also invest in the retail sector. Requirement of prior investment in Oil and Gas Sector, mainly in exploration and production, refining, pipelines/terminals etc., has been done away with.
  • The entities seeking market authorization for petrol and diesel are allowed to apply for retail and bulk authorization separately or both
  • The companies have been given flexibility in setting up a Joint Venture or Subsidiary for market authorization.
  • In addition to conventional fuels, the authorized entities are required to install facilities for marketing at least one new generation alternate fuel, like CNG, LNG, biofuels, electric charging, etc. at their proposed retail outlets within 3 years of operationalization of the said outlet
  • More private players, including Foreign players, are expected to invest in retail fuel marketing leading to better competition and better services for consumers
  • The new entities will bring in latest technology for marketing of fuels and also encourage digital payments at the ROs.
  • Entities will also encourage employment of women and ex-servicemen at the retail outlets.
  • CCTV facilities will be set up at all retail outlets
  • The authorized entities are required to set up minimum 5% of the total retail outlets in the notified remote areas within 5 years of grant of authorization. A robust monitoring mechanism has been set up to monitor this obligation.
  • An individual may be allowed to obtain dealership of more than one marketing company in case of open dealerships of PSU OMCs but at different sites.
  • . The new Policy will give a fillip to ‘Ease of Doing Business’, with transparent policy guidelines. It will boost direct and indirect employment in the sector. Setting up of more retail outlets (ROs) will result in better competition and better services for consumers

3. Eastern Zonal Council

  • The 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Eastern Zonal Council was held at Patna
  • . The five Zonal Councils (Northern, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Central Zonal Councils) were set up under the States Reorganization Act, 1956
  • To foster Inter-State co-operation and co-ordination among the States. The Zonal Councils are mandated to discuss and make recommendations on any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning, border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport etc.
  • They are regional fora of co-operative endeavor for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high-level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective Zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.
  • All Zonal Councils have constituted Standing Committees consisting of the Chief Secretaries of the member States to screen agenda items to be placed before the respective Zonal Council for discussion apart from keeping a watch on the progress of implementation of the Council’s recommendations.

4. First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India Launched

  • The First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day.
  • Snow Leopard enumeration of the Nation, which is the first of its kind, has been developed by scientific experts in association with the Snow Leopard States/UTs namely, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh.
  • To chalk out practical program and lead to winning the battle against climate change by preserving and improving nature and by multiplying the epitome of ecology that includes Leopards, Tigers, Lions, Elephants, Rhinos and all animal kingdom.
  • They agreed to start thinking about capacity building, livelihood, green economy, and green pathway even in the Snow Leopard areas of the Himalayan range and cross country cooperation. This forms the basis for all Snow Leopard range countries.”

It is noteworthy to mention that Snow Leopard is found in 12 countries. They are India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The 4th Steering Committee meeting of the GSLEP is being attended by Ministers from Nepal, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia along with senior officials from nine of the Snow Leopard countries. The Steering Committee meeting of GSLEP chaired by Nepal and Co-Chaired by Kyrgyzstan, will be sharing their experiences to intensify collaborative efforts towards conserving the Snow Leopards and its ecosystem. The Steering Committee will also assess efforts in combating poaching and illegal wildlife trade of Snow Leopards.

5. Successful Firing of The Brahmos Surface To Surface Missile at Trak Island

  • Indian Air Force BrahMos unit has successfully fired two Surface to Surface missiles at Trak Island in Andaman and Nicobar
  • The BrahMos land attack cruise missiles engaged the designated mock targets close to300 Km away and achieved direct hit in both the cases. The launch was smooth and both the missiles followed the desired trajectory.
  • The firing by IAF demonstrates the mobility and agility of IAF units to operationally deploy and launch at targets with pin-point accuracy.
  • IAF had previously successfully fired the land version of the BrahMos missile at Pokhran.

         About BrahMos

  • The 2.8 Mach BrahMos missile is a state-of-art supersonic cruise missile
  • The BrahMos missile provides Indian Air Force a much desired capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy by day or night and in all weather conditions.
  • Supersonic speeds combined with capability to attack the assigned target in Single or Salvo mode ensures quicker target engagement with a high degree of assurance. The missile functions on the Fire and Forget principle with high accuracy.
  • The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land.
  • The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.
  • It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defense (DRDO),
  • In 2016, as India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), India and Russia are now planning to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with 600 km-plus range and an ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy. In 2019, India upgraded the missile with a new range of 500 km.

6. GeM Partners with Federal Bank for payment related services

  • Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a one stop portal 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.

7. CCEA approves MSP for Rabi Crops of 2019-20 to be marked in Rabi Marketing Season 2020-21

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for all mandated Rabi Crops of 2019-20 to be marketed in Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2020-21.
  • With the intention of giving enough policy thrust to income security of the farmers, Government’s focus has shifted from production-centric approach to income-centric one.
  •  Enhancing the coverage of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) to all farmers in its first Union Cabinet meeting on 31st May 2019, is another major step in boosting the income of the farmers.
  • The PM-KISAN Yojana was announced in the interim Budget for the year 2019-2020, where the small and marginal landholder farmer families with cultivable land holding upto 2 hectare across the country were assured of Rs 6000 per year. 
  • The new Umbrella Scheme “Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan” (PM-AASHA) announced by the government in 2018 will aid in providing remunerative return to farmers for their produce. The Umbrella Scheme consists of three sub-schemes i.e. Price Support Scheme (PSS), Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS) and Private Procurement &Stockiest Scheme (PPSS) on a pilot basis.

8. Indradhanush 2.0

 Government will launch the second phase of nationwide immunization drive, i.e. Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0, to mark the 25 years of Pulse polio programme.

  • Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0 aims to achieve at least 90% pan-India immunization coverage by 2022.
  • Mission Indradhanush that was launched in December 2014 has increased India’s immunization coverage significantly to 87% from 67% in 2014.

a. Mission Indradhanush

  • The aim is to fully immunize more than 89 lakh children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated under UIP.
  • It targets children under 2 years of age and pregnant women for immunization.
  • It provides vaccination against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) i.e. diphtheria, Whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia, Hemophilus influenza type B infections, Japanese encephalitis (JE), rotavirus vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and measles-rubella (MR).
  • However, Vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus influenza type B is being provided in selected districts of the country.
  • It is a nationwide initiative with a special focus on 201 high focus districts. These districts accounted for nearly 50% of the total partially vaccinated or unvaccinated children in the country.

b. Intensified Mission Indradhanush

  • The Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) was launched by the Government of India in 2017 to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunization programme.
  • Under IMI, greater focus has been given on urban areas which was one of the gaps of Mission Indradhanush.
  • The target under IMI was to increase the full immunization coverage to 90% by December 2018. However, only 16 districts in the country have achieved 90% coverage so far.
  • The Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0 will target the districts which have immunization coverage of 70% or below.

9. Industry-University Index

PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in association with the Ministry of Science and Technology has released the Industry-University Index assessing input-output relations between the education sector (Universities) and industries.

  • The survey identifies 10 sectors for improving industry linkage through capacity building, research and development activity, including agro and food processing, textiles, information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services, energy, cement, pharmaceuticals, and automotive sectors.
  • Industry linkages are found moderate in India with an overall score of 4.7 on a scale of 10.
  • Karnataka, Kerala, and Gujarat have topped in University-Industry Linkages (UILs) and have scored 7.8, 7.3 and 6.7 respectively.
  • The survey identifies 10 sectors for improving industry linkage through capacity building, research and development activity, including agro and food processing, textiles, information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services, energy, cement, pharmaceuticals, and automotive sectors.

10. White bellbird

According to a study, published in the journal ‘Current Biology’, the male white bellbird’s mating call is about three times louder than screaming phias — the previously loudest bird.

  • The discovery offers another example of the consequences of sexual selection.
  • In general, sexual selection is a theory in postulating that the evolution of certain conspicuous physical traits—such as pronounced coloration, increased size, or striking adornments—in animals may grant the possessors of these traits greater success in obtaining mates.
  • The white bellbird is one of the four bellbird species in South and Central America.
  • It is ‘Least Concern’ category under the IUCN.

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