1) SVAMITVA Scheme:
Context: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will launch the physical distribution of Property Cards under the SVAMITVA Scheme
- The launch will enable around one lakh property holders to download their Property Cards through the SMS link delivered on their mobile phones.
- This would be followed by physical distribution of the Property Cards by the respective State governments.
- These beneficiaries are from 763 villages across six States including 346 from Uttar Pradesh, 221 from Haryana, 100 from Maharashtra, 44 from Madhya Pradesh, 50 from Uttarakhand and 2 from Karnataka.
- Beneficiaries from all these states except Maharashtra will receive the physical copies of the Property Cards within one day
- Maharashtra has a system of recovering the nominal cost of Property Card, so it will take a month’s time.
- The move will pave the way for using property as a financial asset by villagers for taking loans and other financial benefits.
- Also, this is the first time ever that such a large-scale exercise involving the most modern means of technology is being carried out to benefit millions of rural property owners.
- Prime Minister will also be interacting with some of the beneficiaries during the event.
- Union Minister for Panchayati Raj will be present on the occasion.
- SVAMITVA is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, which was launched by the Prime Minister on National Panchayati Raj Day, 24th April 2020.
- The scheme aims to provide the ‘record of rights’ to village household owners in rural areas and issue Property Cards.
- The Scheme is being implemented across the country in a phased manner over a period of four years (2020-2024) and would eventually cover around 6.62 lakh villages of the country. About 1 lakh villages in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, and few border villages of Punjab & Rajasthan, along with establishment of Continuous Operating System (CORS) stations’ network across Punjab & Rajasthan, are being covered in the Pilot phase (2020-21).
- All these six States have signed MoU with Survey of India for drone survey of rural areas and implementation of the scheme.
- These States have finalised the digital property card format and the villages to be covered for drone-based survey.
- States of Punjab and Rajasthan have signed MoU with Survey of India for establishment of CORS network to assist in future drone flying activities.
Different States have different nomenclature for the Property Cards viz. ‘Title deed’ in Haryana, ‘Rural Property Ownership Records (RPOR)’ in Karnataka, ‘Adhikar Abhilekh’ in Madhya Pradesh, ‘Sannad’ in Maharashtra, ‘Svamitva Abhilekh’ in Uttarakhand, ‘Gharauni’ in Uttar Pradesh.
Move set to have a transformative impact on rural India and empower millions 6.62 lakh villages to be covered under the Scheme in a phased manner over a period of four years.
It will pave the way for using property as a financial asset by villagers
2) UN World Food Programme wins Nobel Peace Prize 2020:
Context: The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday announced the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the UN agency World Food Programme (WFP), “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”.
- The WFP is the 28th organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its inception in 1901.
What is the WFP?
- It was established in 1961. Then US President Dwight Eisenhower had suggested the idea of providing food aid through the UN system.
- Months after it was set up, the WFP faced a humanitarian crisis when more than 12,000 people died in an earthquake in Boein Zahra in northern Iran.
- The WFP sent tonnes of wheat, sugar and tea.
- Thereafter, it played an important role in providing food aid in Thailand and Algeria.
- It launched its first development programme in 1963 for Nubians in Sudan.
- In the same year, the WFP’s first school meals project – in Togo – was approved.
- The WFP is headquartered in Rome, Italy.
- It is governed by an Executive Board, which consists of 36 member states.
- It is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed jointly by the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- The Executive Director is appointed for fixed five-year terms.
What is the scale of its work?
- Today, the WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger.
- In 2019, it assisted 97 million people – the largest number since 2012 – in 88 countries, says the WFP.
- Every year, we distribute more than 15 billion rations at an estimated average cost per ration of US$ 0.61.
- These numbers lie at the roots of WFP’s unparalleled reputation as an emergency responder, one that gets the job done quickly at scale in the most difficult environments.
- WFP India said in a statement: “From the rebuilding of post-war South Korea in the late 1960s, through the emergency response after genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, the long-running conflict in South Sudan and the more recent wars in Yemen and Syria, WFP has been a constant presence for the poor and the destitute, refugees and the dispossessed.”
Why does the world need a food programme?
- Eradicating hunger is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The WFP is the UN’s primary agency that works towards this goal.
- According to the WFP, there are 690 million hungry people around the world and around 60% of them live in countries affected by conflict.
- The number of hungry people is expected to increase further due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The WFP estimates suggest that by 2030, nearly half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations.
- It says people living in countries with long-running crises are more than twice as likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere (2.5 times as much).
What is WFP’s role in India?
- The WFP has been working in India since 1963, two years after its establishment. Apart from focusing on reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System, it provides policy inputs, advocacy and technical assistance for improving access to food.
- The WFP has proposed some unique initiatives like Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti) and Mobile Storage Units for the effective implementation of TPDS.
- Annapurti allows beneficiaries to withdraw their food grain quota accurately and at a time of their choice.
- It can dispense two commodities at a speed of 25 kg per 1.3 minutes. It has a storage capacity of 200 kg to 500 kg.
According to WFP India, it has completed a pilot on rice fortification used in the government’s Mid-day Meals scheme in Varanasi.
- Even during the pandemic, WFP India has worked with the central and state governments. For instance, it signed a MoU with the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission.
- Under the agreement, WFP will provide technical assistance for setting up supplementary nutrition production units in 18 districts for supply of quality food to about 33 lakh beneficiaries of the Anganwadi scheme (Integrated Child Development Services).
3) Protest in Kyrgyzstan:
Street protests erupted in Kyrgyzstan earlier this week following Sunday’s parliamentary election.
- The opposition blamed the votes were rigged as protesters captured several government buildings in the capital Bishkek, forcing the President, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, to flee the White House, the presidential palace, and plunging the country into chaos.
What happened in the election?
- Kyrgyzstan, often referred to as Central Asia’s only democracy, had seen violent anti-government protests in the past.
- In 2005 and 2010, sitting presidents were forced out of office in ‘Tulip’ and ‘Melon’ revolutions.
- The current protests began after early results of the October 4 parliamentary election were announced.
- Political parties in Kyrgyzstan should win at least 7% of the popular vote to enter Parliament. The results showed that only four parties managed to cross the threshold and of which, three were pro-government parties.
Why is Kyrgyzstan important?
- This landlocked Central Asian country that shares a long border with China has been key to the strategic plans of both Russia and China.
- Moscow sees the region as its backyard and plays hard politics to retain its influence.
- For China, the country, located at the centre of Eurasia, is a vital link in its Belt and Road Initiative.
- China has built road and rail networks with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
- During the early stages of the Afghan war, the U.S. had used Kyrgyzstan for refueling and other logistical purposes.
- The U.S. base was shut down in 2014 by Parliament.
Where do the protests leave Russia?
- Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation and hosts a Russian air base.
- While Russia has cultivated strong ties with all political factions in Kyrgyzstan, radical political changes could throw up opportunities for its rivals.
- Belarus, another country in Russia’s backyard with a pro-Moscow President, is already witnessing political turmoil after August’s Presidential election.
- In the South Caucasus, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet Republics, over Nagorno-Karabakh, risks dragging Russia into a conflict it doesn’t want.
- All three combined, Moscow’s attempts to build stronger political and economic integration with the former Soviet region are suddenly facing critical challenges.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation on Friday conducted a successful test of the New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGRAM) also called the Rudram-1 at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Balasore.
- The missile has been designed to be launched from various fighter aircraft currently in the inventory of the Indian Air Force.
- The New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (Rudram-1) is India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile developed by DRDO for Indian Air Force was tested successfully today at ITR, Balasore.
- The missile has been designed to further enhance the Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability of the IAF.
- Anti-Radiation Missiles are primarily designed to track and neutralise the radar and communication assets of the adversary.
- Development of the anti-radiation missiles of this type was started by the DRDO around eight years ago and has been a collaborative effort of various DRDO facilities in India.
- Air to surface missile
What is an anti-radiation missile?
- Anti-radiation missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems.
- Such a missile’s navigation mechanism comprises an inertial navigation system — a computerized mechanism that uses changes in the object’s own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based.
- For guidance, it has a “passive homing head” — a system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed.
- Once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it is capable of striking accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between.
- Officials said the missile has an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.
5) PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP:
The troubled projects, ranging from ones where unfair risk allocation by government entities has upended the fortunes of the private partner, to ones where the private investor has managed to extract more than a fair share of benefits from the project.
- Currently, the quantum of private financing flowing into the infrastructure sector has ebbed to around 20 per cent of the total funding, for reasons that are well known — the crisis in the non-banking finance sector, the financial challenges faced by infrastructure companies, and the inadequately developed Indian market for infrastructure financing.
- The Economic Survey 2017-18 has assessed India’s infrastructure financing needs at $4.5 trillion by 2040.
- Reviving private investment flows into infrastructure creation to more sustainable levels of around 40 per cent will be key to attaining this threshold.
- The challenge of ramping up private investments in infrastructure will need action on two fronts:
- Refreshing institutions and policies for channeling financing; and providing a stable, durable, and empowering ecosystem for private players to partner with government entities in the task of infrastructure-creation.
- Learning from the past mixed experience of PPPs, we need to reimagine and redesign the PPP ecosystem along many fronts.
- The Vijay Kelkar committee had put out a timely, practical, and balanced report in 2015 on overhauling the PPP ecosystem, including governance reform, institutional redesign, and capacity-building.
- This report is laden with eminently sensible plug-and-play recommendations which can radically improve the PPP environment, if implemented with consistency and firm purpose.
- As the Kelkar committee has stated, there needs to be an approach of give and take, instead of government interlocutors trying to adopt a purely transactional approach without adequate focus on outcomes, while also trying to minimise risk to themselves by passing on uncertain elements in a project — like the land acquisition risk — to the private partner.
- This attitudinal change can be facilitated if laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act are further amended to encompass modern-day requirements, including factoring in the need for government agents to take calibrated risks while engaging with the private sector.
- The private partners also need to be incentivised to focus on project outcomes, with guard-rails in place to discourage rent-seeking behaviour.
- In sum, risk avoidance by the public entity and rent-seeking by the private partner are the twin challenges that need to be carefully addressed.
- Promulgate a PPP legislation which can provide a robust legal ecosystem and procedural comfort to the various actors and stakeholders.
- Such legislation should encompass the need for fostering innovation and global best practices, factoring in the requirements of diverse infra sectors ranging from water-supply to telecom and also enabling flexibility in project design and execution.
- Infrastructure projects typically have long-duration profitability cycles.
- The key to a successful PPP is to provide stable revenue flow assurances and a settled ecosystem to investors over long periods by means of policy stability, assurances possibly secured by law.
- PPP contracts also need to provide for mid-course corrections given that the ecosystem surrounding the infrastructure piece, including utilisation patterns, as well as the creation of competing infra assets may necessitate a dynamic approach to aspects like risk and revenue sharing.
- Given the complexity surrounding the creation of infra projects, and the difficulty of predicting the stability of revenue flows over long periods of time, government partners in PPP arrangements need to ensure that open-ended arrangements that might entail unforeseeable risk are minimised for the private investor, including aspects such as land availability and community acceptance.
- After we emerge out of this pandemic, a focus area for public policy has to be the creation of a modern-day, sustainable and resilient infrastructure that not only improves the ease of living for all Indians, but also absorbs a majority of the millions of young people who enter the workforce every year.
- Creating a stable policy environment that provides comfort and incentives to private investors will be key to attaining this goal.
6) First Dragonfly fossil:
Scientists from West Bengal has discovered the first dragonfly fossil in India from Jharkhand’s Latehar district.
- The fossil is at least 2.5 million years old.
- It is a well-preserved one. The fossil belongs to the late Neogene period, which dates between 2.5 million and five million years ago
- The dragonfly is around 3cm long and has a wingspan of around 2.5cm.
- This is, however, much smaller than the fossils of giant dragonflies, which have been found elsewhere in the world.
- It dates back to the Permian era, around 300 million years ago.
- In 2013, a giant, well-preserved dragonfly fossil, dating back 200 million years, was discovered in China.
- The nearest living member of the fossil is Libellula depressa, a species of dragonfly that is found in any tropical country, including India
- As dragonflies spend most of their lives near fresh water bodies, the scientists said that millions of years ago a freshwater body might have existed there, which has now dried up.
- The other fossils of plants and fishes, which the scientists have found, also support the theory.
- The very fact that the team has found the fossil of an adult dragonfly from the sedimentary bed is very interesting.
- Usually the prospect of finding an immature dragonfly from the sedimentary bed is huge because dragonfly-larvae live underwater.
- The prospect of finding insect fossils from sedimentary beds and coal beds is huge, but unfortunately little work has been done in India in this regard
7) Indigenous Calcium Nitrate and boronated Calcium Nitrate:
Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals India Ltd has launched an indigenous variety of calcium nitrate and boronated calcium nitrate
- For the first time in India, Calcium Nitrate and Boronated Calcium Nitrate is being manufactured locally.
- Earlier, India used to import it from other countries.
- These two products were launched in the retail market from Solan, Himachal Pradesh and Bhavnagar, Gujarat.
- These launches are the decisive step towards “AatmaNirbhar Bharat and AatmaNirbhar Krishi”
- Indigenous variety of calcium nitrate and boronated calcium nitrate will provide a quality product at a cheaper rate to the farmer community.
- Calcium nitrate is also called as Norgessalpeter.
- It is an inorganic compound having chemical formula Ca (NO3)2.
- It is a colorless salt that absorbs moisture from the air.
- Calcium nitrate is a water-soluble fertilizer.
- Though, it is mainly used as a component in fertilizers but has other applications such as in agriculture, wastewater treatment and to increase the strength of cement concrete.
- Its tetra hydrate is sometimes used in generable cold packs.
Boronated Calcium Nitrate
- Boronated Calcium Nitrate means Calcium Nitrate with Boron.
- Both the nutrients are important for fruits and vegetables.
- The compound is important for the growth, physical strength, fruit set and flowering fertilization of the plants.
- These are highly water soluble and are ideal for both soil and foliar applications.
- It improves the overall soil health.