1)Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill 2020:
Context: The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill 2020 has been passed by Rajya Sabha today. The Bill was earlier passed in Lok Sabha on 19th March, 2020.
This paves the way to establish a state-of-the-art Ayurvedic institution called the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) at Jamnagar, Gujarat, and to confer the status of Institution of National Importance (INI) to it.
The ITRA is sought to be established by conglomerating the presently existing Ayurveda institutes at Gujarat Ayurved University campus Jamnagar.
ITRA will be the first institution with INI status in the AYUSH Sector, and this will enable the institution to be independent and innovative in the matter deciding course content and pedagogy.
The institute is being established to achieve the following objectives
- To develop patterns of teaching in Ayurveda and pharmacy
- To bring together educational facilities of training of personnel in all branches of Ayurveda
- To attain self-sufficiency in post-graduation in the field of Ayurveda and to meet the needs of specialists and medical teachers of Ayurveda
- To make a thorough and in-depth study in the field of Ayurveda
Institute of National Importance (INI)
- It is a status that may be conferred on a premier public higher education institution in India by an act of Parliament of India, an institution which “serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state”.
- Institutes of National Importance receive special recognition and funding from the Government of India.
2) Construction of twelve (12) nuclear power reactors:
Ten (10) indigenous 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode & two (02) units of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be set up in cooperation with Russian Federation to enhance nuclear power capacity in the country.
India’s three stage nuclear power programme
Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor
- PHWR is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using enriched natural uranium as its fuel. It uses heavy water (Deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator.
- The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a typical pressurized water reactor.
- While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it yields greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel enrichment facilities.
Light Water Reactor:
- The light water reactor is a type of thermal- neutron reactor that utilizes normal water as opposed to heavy water.
- It is fuelled by Low Enriched Uranium.
- It uses water as both a coolant method and a neutron moderator.
- It produces heat by controlled nuclear fission.
Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor:
- A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes. These are designed to extend the nuclear fuel supply for electric power generation.
- Breeder reactors achieve this because their neutron economy is high enough to create more fissile fuel than they use, by irradiation of a fertile material, such as Uranium-238 or Thorium-232 that is loaded into the reactor along with fissile fuel.
- PFBR is a 500 MW fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu).
- It is fuelled by Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel.
Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel:
- MOX fuel is manufactured from plutonium recovered from used reactor fuel, mixed with depleted uranium.
- Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel provides almost 5% of the new nuclear fuel used today.
- MOX fuel also provides a means of burning weapons-grade plutonium (from military sources) to produce electricity.
- In order to produce fuel for certain types of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, uranium has to be “enriched” in the U-235 isotope, which is responsible for nuclear fission.
- During the enrichment process the fraction of U-235 is increased from its natural level (0.72% by mass) to between 2% and 94% by mass.
- The by-product uranium mixture (after the enriched uranium is removed) has reduced concentrations of U-235 and U-234. This by-product of the enrichment process is known as depleted uranium (DU).
Presently, two public sector companies of the Department of Atomic Energy, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI) are involved in nuclear power generation.
- There are presently twenty-two (22) reactors with a capacity of 6780 MW in operation in the country. In addition, nine (9) reactors, with a total capacity of 6700 MW are presently under construction. The Government has also accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for twelve (12) more reactors with an aggregate capacity of 9000 MW
- The present policy (Consolidated FDI Policy of Government) puts atomic energy in the list of prohibited sectors. However, there is no restriction on FDI in the nuclear industry for manufacturing of equipment and providing other supplies for nuclear power plants and related other facilities.
- Government of India has amended the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 in 2015 to enable the licensing of NPCIL’s Joint Ventures for setting up nuclear power projects.
- To boost domestic investment, Joint Ventures have been formed by NPCIL with public sector majors National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO).
3) Impact of Lockdown:
India’s overall export (merchandise plus services) has declined by 25.42% during the period April-June, 2020 as compared to the corresponding period of previous year.
The latest merchandise exports show a recovery, with export decline reducing to (-) 12.66% in August, 2020.
With the gradual opening up of the economy after the nation-wide lockdown, industrial activity has started to normalize.
The quick estimate of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation for the month of June, 2020 stands at 107.8 as compared to 53.6 and 89.5 in April, 2020 and May, 2020 respectively.
Government has taken the following key steps to boost exports:
- The validity of Foreign Trade Policy (2015-20) extended by one year i.e. up to 31-3-2021 and relaxations granted and time lines extended due to COVID-19.
- Interest Equalization Scheme on pre and post shipment rupee export credit has been extended by one year i.e. up to 31-3-2021.
- Line Ministries have notified various sectoral incentive packages, such as Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and PLI Scheme by Department of Pharma for Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs).
- Common Digital Platform for Certificate of Origin has been launched to facilitate trade and increase FTA utilization by exporters.
- A comprehensive Agriculture Export Policy is under implementation to provide an impetus to agricultural exports related to agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries and food processing sectors.
- Promoting and diversifying services exports by pursuing specific action plans for the 12 Champion Services Sectors.
- Promoting districts as export hubs by identifying products with export potential in the District, addressing bottlenecks for exporting these products, supporting local exporters/manufacturers to generate employment in the District.
- Strengthening eco-system for adoption / implementation of mandatory technical standards for goods, services and skilling.
- Energising Indian missions abroad towards promoting our Trade, Tourism, and Technology and Investment goals.
- Package announced to support domestic industry, including through various banking and financial sector relief measures, especially for MSMEs, which constitute a major share in exports.
4) Impact of Corona on Sezs:
A comparative statement in respect of merchandise exports from SEZs during the period of April to August is as under:
- However, Services exports has shown a growth of 9% during April’2020 to August’ 2020 in comparison to corresponding period of previous year.
To facilitate SEZ Developers/Co-developers/Units, following measures were taken during the COVID-19 outbreak:
The last date of filing of various compliances was extended from 31.03.2020 to 30.06.2020
- Development Commissioners (DCs) were directed to facilitate extension of Letter of Approvals (LoAs) and other compliances scheduled to expire during COVID pandemic, through electronic mode, in a time-bound manner.
- Power has been delegated to Development Commissioners for broad-banding
in case of manufacturing of essential items like masks, sanitizer, gowns and other protective/preventive products/instruments subject to post-facto ratification by the Approval Committee.
- Directions were issued that there should be no increase in lease rent for the units in Central Government SEZs for the Financial Year 2020-21.
- Payment of lease rent of first quarter was deferred up to 31st July 2020 for all the units in Central Government SEZs. Further.
- Development Commissioners were also requested to allow the units to clear the first two quarterly instalments of lease rent in six equal instalments starting from October 1st, 2020.
- Development Commissioners were also requested to advise developers of State Government/Private SEZs to consider similar relief measures in their zones. All DCs have been sensitized to adopt electronic work culture and to extend necessary support to the units, including those involved in manufacturing of drugs, essential items etc., and to follow COVID guidelines.
5) Steps to boost domestic investments in India:
Recently, Government has taken various steps in addition to ongoing schemes to boost domestic investments in India:
- The National Infrastructure Pipeline,
- Reduction in Corporate Tax,
- Easing liquidity problems of NBFCs and Banks,
- Various policy measures to boost domestic manufacturing.
- Domestic manufacturing of goods through public procurement orders, Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP), Schemes for Production Linked Incentives of various Ministries.
Further, with a view to support, facilitate and provide investor friendly ecosystem to investors investing in India, the Union Cabinet has approved constitution of Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS) for Investment chaired by Cabinet Secretary with CEO, NitiAayog, Secretary, D/o Commerce, Secretary, D/o Revenue, Secretary, D/o Economic Affairs and Secretary DPIIT as Members with following main
- To bring synergies and ensure timely clearances from different departments and Ministries.
- To attract increased investments into India and provide investment support and facilitation to global investors.
To facilitate investments of top investors in a targeted manner and to usher policy stability and consistency in the overall investment environment, Union Cabinet also approved constitution of Project Development Cells (PDCs) in all concerned Ministries/ Departments to fast-track investments in coordination between the Central Govt. and State Govt. and thereby grows the pipeline of investible projects in India and in turn increases domestic investments and FDI inflow. PDCs have the following main objectives.
- To create projects with all approvals, land available for allocation and with the complete detailed project reports for adoption/ investments by investors.
- To identify issues that need to be resolved in order to attract and finalize the investments and put forth these before the Empowered Group
6) EASE OF DOING BUSINESS:
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) in coordination with Governments of States and Union Territories (UTs), is working on improving business regulatory environment in States and UTs. The exercise involves identifying reforms which bring Ease of Doing Business (EoDB), in consultation with the States and UTs. Once identified, these reforms are compiled into an Action Plan and shared with States and UTs for its implementation in a time bound manner
DPIIT has, so far, released four editions of its assessment under the State Reforms Action Plan.
The first assessment was released on 14th September, 2015, followed by the second and third assessments on 31st October, 2016 and 10th July, 2018.
The latest assessment was released on 5th September, 2020. In the fifth edition of the exercise, DPIIT has prepared a 301-point State Reforms Action Plan, 2020 and shared with States/UTs on 25th August, 2020.
The Action Plan is spread across 24 reform areas with an addition of several sector-specific reforms to ensure sectoral coverage.
With an aim to take the reform agenda at grass-root level, DPIIT has also prepared and shared with States/UTs a 213-point District Reforms Action Plan, 2020 which is spread across 8 reform areas: Starting a Business, Urban Local Body Services, Land Reform Enabler, Land Administration and Property Registration Enablers, Obtaining Approval for Construction, Paying Taxes, Miscellaneous and Grievance Redressal/ Paperless Courts and Law & Order.
There is no specific funding of States/UT s for implementation of reforms. DPIIT supports states by organizing workshops/seminars for States/UTs to address concerns regarding implementation of Reform Action Plan.
DPIIT has prepared a 301-point State Reforms Action Plan, 2020 and shared with States/UTs on 25th August, 2020.
The Action Plan is spread across 24 reform areas and seeks to promote sector-specific approach so as to create an enabling business environment across various sectors in the country.
The various sector includes Trade License, Healthcare, Legal Metrology, Fire License/NOC, Cinema Halls, Hospitality, Telecom, Movie Shooting and Tourism
7) Government measures for the revival of industries:
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has severely impacted some of the major economies of the world.
It has affected countries across the globe including some of the major players like USA, European Union, UK, and India.
Both World Bank and IMF estimate contraction in global GDP for FY 2020-21 due to the spill over effects of the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Various sectors were affected due to the nation-wide lockdown. However, after the lockdown was relaxed, we see significant improvement in several sectors of the economy.
Measures for the revival of industries include:
- Relief measures for MSMEs such as collateral-free lending program with 100 percent credit guarantee, subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs with partial guarantee, partial credit guarantee scheme for public sector banks on borrowings of non-bank financial companies, housing finance companies (HFCs), and micro finance institutions, Fund of Funds for equity infusion in MSMEs, additional support to farmers via concessional credit, as well as a credit facility for street vendors (PM SVANidhi), amongst others.
- Regulatory and compliance measures: postponing tax-filing and other compliance deadlines, reduction in penalty interest rate for overdue GST filings, change in government procurement rules, faster clearing of MSME dues, IBC related relaxations for MSMEs, amongst others.
- Structural reforms announced as part of the Atmanirbhar Package which, inter alia, include deregulation of the agricultural sector, change in definition of MSMEs, new PSU policy, commercialization of coal mining, higher FDI limits in defence and space sector, development of Industrial Land/ Land Bank and Industrial Information System, revamp of Viability Gap Funding scheme for social infrastructure, new power tariff policy and incentivizing States to undertake sector reforms.
- Reduction in EPF contributions, employment provision for migrant workers; insurance coverage for workers in the healthcare sector; and wage increase for MGNREGA workers and support for building and construction workers, collateral free loans to self-help groups.
- Also, Government has launched National Infrastructure Pipeline, expanded Phase Manufacturing Programme, production Linked Incentive Schemes and created Centralised Investment Clearance Cell for end to end support for investment.
India has responded positively to the Covid-19 challenge. Indian manufacturers have enhanced production of PPE, N-95/N-99 masks, HCQ medicine and oxygen cylinders to meet the domestic/external requirements.
The Indian economy is known for its resilience and is expected to gradually return to its high growth performance in the coming months.
8) Single Window System:
The Central Government is working on setting up a Single Window System for clearances and approvals of industry in the country.
Despite the presence of several IT platforms for investing in India such as in departments of the Government of India and State Single Window Clearances, investors need to visit multiple platforms to gather information and obtain clearances from different stakeholders.
To address this, the creation of a centralized Investment Clearance Cell which would provide end-to-end facilitation support, including pre-investment advisory, information related to land banks; and facilitating clearances at Central and State level was proposed and the same is also a Budget Announcement 2020-21.
The cell is being planned as a One-stop digital platform to obtain all requisite central and state clearances/approvals required to start business operations in India.
The Investment Clearance Cell will be a National portal that integrates the existing clearance systems of the various Ministries/ Departments of Govt. of India and of State Governments without disruption to the existing IT portals of Ministries and will have a single, unified application form. This will eliminate the need for investors to visit multiple platforms/ offices to gather information and obtain clearances from different stakeholders and provide time-bound approvals and real time status update to investors.
Further, a GIS enabled land bank under Industrial Information System (IIS) is being developed, and it has been launched in a phased manner by the Department on 27th August, 2020 with integration of 6 States Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Odisha and Goa; other concerned states are being on boarded.
9) Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI):
The 10th Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) Group Meeting was held virtually
DTTI Group Meetings are normally held twice a year, alternating between India and the United States.
The aim of the DTTI Group is to bring sustained leadership focus to the bilateral defense trade relationship and create opportunities for co-production and co-development of defense equipment.
Four Joint Working Groups focused on land, naval, air, and aircraft carrier technologies have been established under DTTI to promote mutually agreed projects within their domains.
Further efforts to encourage U.S. and Indian industry to cooperatively develop next-generation technologies under the DTTI Group were highlighted by the 1st DTTI Industry Collaboration Forum (DICF), which took place virtually on September 10, 2020.
This forum offers an opportunity for Indian and U.S. industry to be directly involved in DTTI and facilitates dialogue between government and industry on issues that impact industrial collaboration.
What is DTTI?
- According to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, DTTI came about to expedite the scope of cooperation on defence technology that become narrow due to the presence of differing bureaucratic processes and legal requirements.
- Essentially, DTTI is an initiative to provide “increased US senior level oversight and engagement to get beyond these obstacles.”
What are its aims?
- While DTTI is not a treaty or law, it is a flexible mechanism to make sure that senior leaders from both countries are engaged consistently to strengthen the opportunities in the field of defence.
- Its central aims include strengthening India’s defence industrial base, exploring new areas of technological development and expanding U.S.-India business ties.
10) Government’s Preparedness to face the challenges and threats posed by Covid-19:
The global spread of the corona virus (COVID-19) followed by lockdowns has affected economies across the globe including India.
Covid-19 has resulted in large number of migrant workers going back to their native places.
- Government of has announced an economic package of Rs. 20 Lakh Crore. Aatmanirbhar Bharat which focuses on Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography and Demand to create jobs for the youth has also been launched.
- Government has launched Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) for the poor to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Measures are intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs.
- Under PMGKY, Government of India is contributing both 12% employers’ share and 12% employee’s share under Employees Provident Fund (EPF), totalling 24% of the wage for the wage month from March to August, 2020 for all the establishments having up to 100 employees with 90% of such employees earning less than Rs. 15000/-.
- Statutory PF contribution of both employer and employee has been reduced to 10% each from existing 12% each for all establishments covered by EPFO for three months.
- For generating employment in the country like increasing public expenditure on schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
- Self-employment is being facilitated under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY). Under PMMY collateral free loans up to Rs. 10 lakh, are extended to micro/small business enterprises and to individuals to enable them to setup or expand their business activities.
- Government of India has also launched PM SVANidhi Scheme to facilitate collateral free working capital loan up to Rs.10, 000/- of one-year tenure, to approximately, 50 lakh street vendors, to resume their businesses.
11) BS-VI fuel:
Prices of petrol and diesel have been made market-determined by the Government with effect from 2010 and 2014 respectively.
Since then, the Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) take appropriate decision on pricing of petrol and diesel in line with their international product prices, exchange rate, tax structure, inland freight and other cost elements.
BS VI fuels are superior quality fuels in terms of low Sulphur content (10 PPM Max) besides other improved quality parameters.
The production of BS VI fuels entailed huge investment for Indian Refiners.
What are Bharat Emission Standards?
- These are the standards set up by the Indian government which specify the amount of air pollutants from internal combustion engines, including those that vehicles can emit.
- If these emit more pollutants than the prescribed limit, they don’t get a clearance to be sold in an open market.
- Bharat Stage Emission Standards have been instituted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), instituted within the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change.
- Vehicle emission norms were introduced in India in 1991 for petrol and in 1992 for diesel vehicles.
- Since 2000, Euro norms are followed in India under the name Bharat Stage Emission Standards for four wheeled vehicles.
- Bharat stage III norms have been enforced across India since October 2010.
- In a few cities, Bharat stage IV norms are in place since April 2010.
- Bharat stage IV is proposed to be enforced throughout India by April 2017. It has already been put into use in 13 major cities.
Government of India skipped the implementation of BS5 in 2016 and decided to introduce Bharat Stage VI (BS6) in 2020 instead.
How does BS6 emission norms differ from BS4?
- Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) are being introduced with the roll-out of Bharat Stage VI norms, which were not a part of Bharat Stage IV.
- Real Driving Emission (RDE) will be introduced in India for the first time with the implementation of Bharat Stage VI emission norms. It will measure a vehicle’s emission in real-time conditions against laboratory conditions.
- On-board Diagnostics (OD) has been made mandatory for all vehicles.
- Sulphur and Nitrogen Oxide content: Sulphur traces in BS6 fuel is five times lower (10 ppm) as compared to sulphur traces in BS4 fuel (50 ppm).
- Further, nitrogen oxide level for BS6-grade diesel engines and petrol engines will be brought down by 70% and 25%, respectively.
- BS VI can bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 percent. The new norms will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 per cent and in petrol cars by 25 per cent.
Upgrading the emission norms requires the manufacturing companies to upgrade their technology, which in turn increases the cost of the vehicle.
Cost is one of the main reasons for the slow upgrade of emission standards.
However, there are also arguments that the increase in cost is made up by savings in health costs as the pollutants causing diseases are decreased with the upgrade in emission standards.
12) Russia inks pact to test, supply Sputnik V vaccine to India:
- The Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is piloting Russia’s Sputnik V candidate vaccine, currently in Phase 3 trials, has partnered with the Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to test, and subject to regulatory approvals in India, supply 100 million doses of the vaccine.
- The Phase 1 and 2 results have shown promise, and we will be conducting Phase 3 trials in India to meet the requirements of the Indian regulators.
- Sputnik V vaccine could provide a credible option in our fight against COVID-19 in India.”
- Agreement with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories doesn’t include its manufacture.
The RDIF said in the statement, “The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic. Deliveries could potentially begin in late 2020 subject to completion of successful trials and registration of the vaccine by regulatory authorities in India.”
13) Banking Regulation (Amendment) bill, 2020:
The bill aims to bring cooperative banks under the supervision of Reserve Bank of India. Lok Sabha passed an amendment to the Banking Regulation Act 1949 which will bring cooperative banks under the direct supervision of the RBI and bring them under some of the same governance norms as commercial banks
It will also allow the RBI to amalgamate or reconstruct a stressed Cooperative Bank without first imposing a Moratorium that protecting the interest of depositors
14) Hilsa Fish:
- Salt water fish which migrates from Bay of Bengal to fresh waters of Ganga.
- Distribution: It is well distributed in Ganga- Brahmaputra river systems in India and Bangladesh
- It is an endemic species of Bangladesh. IT is usually called the “King of Fish” for its pleasant flavour and soft texture. The Hilsa fish is the National Fish of Bangladesh.
- State symbol of West Bengal and Tripura
- The IUCN status of Hilsa fish is “Threatened”.
15) K N Dikshit committee:
Committee chaired by K. N. Dikshit is to conduct Holistic study of origin and evolution of Indian Culture since 12000 years before to present and its interface with other cultures of the world