Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

 Q. 455. National Testing Agency (NTA)
Ans.
National Testing Agency (NTA)
The Union Cabinet has approved creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, and as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.
Features:
  • The NTA would initially conduct those entrance examinations which are currently being conducted by the CBSE.
  • Other examinations will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up.
  • The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best.
  • In order to serve the requirements of the rural students, it would locate the centres at sub-district/district level and as far as possible would undertake hands-on training to the students.
Constitution: NTA will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by MHRD.
Finances: NTA will be given a one-time grant of Rs.25 crore from the Government of India to start its operation in the first year. Thereafter, it will be financially self-sustainable.
Impact: Establishment of NTA will benefit about 40 lakh students appearing in various entrance examinations. It will relieve CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from responsibility of conducting these entrance examinations, and also bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem solving abilities of the students.
Background: In view of the need to have a specialized body in India like the most advanced countries, the Finance Minister had announced setting up of a National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct all entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.
 
 Q. 454. India Youth Development Index and Report 2017
Ans.
India Youth Development Index and Report 2017
Ministry Youth Affairs and Sports has released the India Youth Development Index and Report 2017.  The objective of constructing the India Youth Development Index (YDI) 2017 is to track the trends in Youth Development across the States. The Index enables recognizing the high and low performing states, identifies the weak domains and informs the policy makers the priority areas of intervention for youth development in the states.
The Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, an Institute of National Importance has come out with Youth Development Index and Report 2017. This is a pioneering attempt made by the Institute in 2010 which it followed up with the India Youth Development Index in 2017.
Constructing Youth Development Index for the year 2017 was done using the latest definition of youth as used in National Youth Policy – 2014 (India) and World Youth Development Report of Commonwealth (15 – 29 years) as well as using the Commonwealth Indicators in order to facilitate Global comparison.
In the India Youth Development Index 2017, the first five dimensions are retained same as that of Global YDI. The indicators and weights have been modified based on the availability of data at sub-national level and the importance of the indicators in explaining Youth Development with the aim of capturing the multidimensional properties that indicate progress in youth development at the sub-national level i.e., state level. Global YDI is different from YDI constructed for India in one unique way; YDI for India adds a new domain, social inclusion, to assess the inclusiveness of societal progress as structural inequalities persist in Indian society. This construction helps to identify the gaps that require intensification of policy intervention.
This report is of immense value to enable comparisons across geographical areas and categories, as human development index has done in comparing the development situation across regions, nations and localities. The index also measures the achievements made besides serving as an advocacy tool for youth development and facilitates to identify priority areas for development of Policy and Interventions.
 
 Q. 453. System of Rice Intensification
Ans.
System of Rice Intensification
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It is a low water, labor-intensive, method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools. It was developed in 1983 by the French Jesuit Father Henri de Laulanié in Madagascar.
The central principles of SRI are:
  • Rice field soils should be kept moist rather than continuously saturated, minimizing anaerobic conditions, as this improves root growth and supports the growth and diversity of aerobic soil organisms.
  • Rice plants should be planted singly and spaced optimally widely to permit more growth of roots and canopy and to keep all leaves photosynthetically active.
  • Rice seedlings should be transplanted when young, less than 15 days old with just two leaves, quickly, shallow and carefully, to avoid trauma to roots and to minimize transplant shock.
SRI is initially labour intensive
  • Needs 50% more man-days for transplanting and weeding.
  • Mobilises labour to work for profit.
  • It offers an alternative to the resource poor, who put in their family labour.
  • Once the right skills are learnt and implemented, the labour costs will be lesser.
SRI encourages rice plant to grow healthy with
  • Large root volume
  • More and well filled grain panicles and higher grain weight
  • Resists insects because it allows rice to absorb soil nutrients naturally
 
 Q. 452. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City
Ans.
Gujarat International Finance Tec-City
Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) is a globally bench marked International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) developed by Government of Gujarat through a joint venture Company.  It houses India's first and only International Financial Services Centre.
GIFT is planned as a financial Central Business District (CBD) between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar as a greenfield development. The city's master plan reflects a sophisticated planning approach that integrates the intended program into the existing context of both the site and the region. More particularly, state-of-the-art connectivity, infrastructure and transportation access have been integrated into the design of the city.
Termed  as India’s first ‘Smart City,’  the project encompasses top notch infrastructure facilities like, District Cooling System (DCS), Underground Utility Tunnel, Automated Waste Collection etc.; many of which are being introduced in India for the first time.
The project is located on the bank of the Sabarmati River and is around 12 km from Ahmedabad International Airport. GIFT is easily accessible from all directions through 4-6 lane State and National Highways. GIFT City is India’s first operational smart city and only International Financial Services Centre.
 
 Q. 451. Electoral bonds
Ans.
Electoral bonds
Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties. These are issued by Scheduled Commercial banks upon authorisation from the Central Government to intending donors, but only against cheque and digital payments (it cannot be purchased by paying cash). These bonds shall be redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party within the prescribed time limit from issuance of bond. Electoral bond was announced in the Union Budget 2017-18.
The electoral bonds with a life of only 15 days can be encashed only through a designated bank account of the receiver. The bonds, which would be valid for 15 days, will not carry the donor's name even though the purchaser would have to fulfil KYC norms at the bank. The electoral bonds, which are being pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties, will be available at specified branches of State Bank of India (SBI) for 10 days each in months of January, April, July and October. Electoral bonds can be purchased for any value in multiples of ₹1,000, 10,000, 10 lakh, and 1 crore from any of the specified branches of the State Bank of India.
Electoral Bond is an effort made to cleanse the system of political funding in India. The scheme of electoral bonds addresses the concerns of donors to remain anonymous to the general public or to rival political parties.
Further, in accordance with the suggestion made by the Election Commission, the maximum amount of cash donation that a political party can receive is stipulated at Rs. 2000/- from one person, pursuant to the announcement in Union Budget 2017-18. However, Political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from their donors. Every political party would have to file its return within the time prescribed in accordance with the provision of the Income-tax Act. Existing exemption to the political parties from payment of income-tax would be available only subject to the fulfilment of these conditions.
As per Section 29C(1) of The Representation of People Act, 1951, the political party needs to disclose the details of non-governmental corporations and persons who donate more than Rs. 20,000 to it in a financial year. Vide the Finance Bill 2017, it has been specified that no report needs to be prepared in respect of the contributions received by way of an electoral bond.
This reform is expected to bring about greater transparency and accountability in political funding, while preventing future generation of black money.
 
 Q. 450. Dam safety
Ans.
Dam safety conferences are organized as an annual event under the Dam Safety Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) project being run by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation  (MoWR,RD & GR) in the seven states of Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand. It was launched in the year 2012 with a financial outlay of Rs. 2100 Crores.
This World Bank aided project aims at  the rehabilitation of old dams in the country that may be experiencing distress and are in need of attention for ensuring their structural safety and operational efficiency.
The project also aims to strengthen the institutional capacity and project management in this area. As part of this exercise, DRIP has been engaged in bringing greater awareness on dam safety issues and finding novel solutions to address them by pooling the best technologies, knowledge and experience available around the world.
A software programme - Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA)-  will also be launched during the conference. DHARMA is a web tool to digitize all dam related data effectively. It will help to document authentic asset and health information pertaining to the large dams in the country, enabling appropriate actions to ensure need based rehabilitation. It is a new stride in asset management aspect by India.
Dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural and rural growth and development, which have been key priorities for the Govt. of India since independence. Over the last seventy years, India has invested substantially in the critical infrastructure required to manage and store the limited surface water resources in reservoirs to ensure food, energy, and water securities. Globally India ranks third after China and the United States of America in terms of number of large dams (5254 large dams in operation and 447 large dams under construction) with a total storage capacity of about 283 billion cubic meters. About 80% of these large dams are more than twenty-five years old, and about 213 dams exceed the age of 100 years and were built in an era whose design practices and safety considerations do not match with the current design standards and the prevailing safety norms. This necessitates special efforts at rehabilitation of old dams and ensuring their long term structural safety.
 
 Q. 449. New science schemes
Ans.
New science schemes
Ministry for Science & Technology has announced four schemes to promote young scientists and researchers in the country. The scheme primarily aims at early recognition and reward to young talent in the field of science.  The schemes focus on youth to empower, recognize and motivate them.

Teacher Associateship for Research Excellence (TARE) scheme
Teacher Associateship for Research Excellence (TARE) scheme aims to tap the potential of trained faculty in Universities, colleges and private academic institutions. 500 teachers will be assisted under the Teacher Associateship for Research Excellence (TARE) scheme. It will connect them to leading public funded institutions like IIT, IISc or national institutions like CSIR, preferably nearer to their place of work to pursue research. They will be paid Rs. 5 lakh yearly, and a monthly out-of-pocket expense of Rs. 5,000. This will be in addition to the salary from their existing employer.

Overseas Visiting Doctoral Fellowship
Overseas Visiting Doctoral Fellowship of SERB has been instituted for enhancing the international mobility of Indian research students which has the potential to create a talented pool of globally trained manpower.  The scheme provides an opportunity for research students to gain exposure and access to top class research facilities in academia and labs across the world. This scheme offers opportunities for up to 100 PhD students admitted in the Indian institutions for gaining exposure and training in overseas universities / institutions of repute and areas of importance to country for period up to 12 months during their doctoral research. The selected fellows will be paid a monthly fellowship amount equivalent to US $ 2000, one-time Contingency / Preparatory allowances of Rs. 60,000/- to cover visa fee, airport transfer charges, medical insurance etc.

SERB Distinguished Investigator Award
SERB Distinguished Investigator Award (DIA) has been initiated to recognize and reward Principal Investigators (PIs) of SERB/DST projects who have performed remarkably well. The scheme aims not only to reward the best PIs of completed projects but also to motivate the ongoing PIs to perform exceedingly well. This positive reinforcement strategy would effectively improve the productivity of the research undertaken and the overall efficiency of the research ecosystem. DIA is a one-time career award devised to specifically cater to the younger scientists who have not received any other prestigious awards or fellowships. The award carries a fellowship of Rs. 15,000/- p.m. and an optional research grant for three years, based on peer review of the project proposal submitted.

AWSAR (Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research) of National Council of Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC)
AWSAR (Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research) of National Council of Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), DST has been initiated to encourage, empower and endow popular science writing through newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media, etc. by young PhD Scholars and Post-Doctoral Fellows during the course of their higher studies and research pursuits. As over 20,000 youth are awarded PhD in S&T every year in India, the scheme aims to tap this tremendous potential to popularize & communicate science and also to inculcate scientific temperament in the masses. AWSAR carries monetary incentive of Rs.10,000/- each for 100 best entries from PhD scholars in a year along with a Certificate of Appreciation besides getting the story published/projected in mass media. In addition, three leading stories from the selected hundred would also be awarded cash prize of Rs.1,00,000/-, Rs.50,000/- and Rs.25,000/- respectively. Further, twenty entries would be selected from articles submitted exclusively by Post-Doctoral Fellows relating to their line of Research for monetary incentive of Rs.10,000/- each and the most outstanding story to be given a cash prize of Rs.1,00,000/-.
 
 Q. 448. Rapid Reporting System for the Scheme for Adolescent Girls
Ans.
Rapid Reporting System for the Scheme for Adolescent Girls
Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has launched Rapid Reporting System (RRS) for the Scheme for Adolescent Girls - a web based on line monitoring for the Scheme for Adolescent Girls. The RRS will facilitate the monitoring of the scheme and taking corrective measures by ensuring faster flow of information, accurate targeting of the beneficiaries and reduction of leakages. This Portal has been developed in collaboration with National Informatics Centre (NIC).

Need
The scheme is based on the realization of the multi-dimensional needs of out of school adolescent girls (11-14 years).  
The scheme has an aim to motivate these girls to join school system, approved continuation of the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) for out of school girls in the age group of 11-14 years.
The scheme aims at providing them nutritional support @ Rs.9.50/beneficiary/day for 300 days in a year, motivating out of school girls to go back to formal schooling or skill training under non-nutrition component of the scheme.
Government has also approved expansion and universalisation of the Scheme for Adolescent Girls in a phased manner i.e. in additional 303 districts in 2017-18 and the remaining districts in 2018-19 with the simultaneous phasing out of Kishori Shakti Yojana.

Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG)
Presently, MWCD is implementing the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) in selected 508 districts across the country. SAG aims at empowering out of school adolescent girls of 11 to 14 years by improving their nutritional and health status, upgrading their skills.
In addition to the nutritional support under the scheme, the girls are equipped with information on health, hygiene and guidance on existing public services. The Scheme aims to mainstream out of school girls into formal education or non-formal education. The scheme is being implemented using the platform of Integrated Child Development Services Scheme.
Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) are the focal point for the delivery of the services. Scheme for Adolescent Girls is a centrally sponsored scheme, implemented through Centre and State share in the ratio of 50:50, for nutrition component 60:40 for the rest of the activities for State and UTs with legislation, 90:10 for NE and three Himalayan States and 100% for UTs without legislation.
 
 Q. 447. Global Centre for Cybersecurity
Ans.
Global Centre for Cybersecurity
World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced a new Global Centre for Cybersecurity, in a bid to safeguard the world from hackers and growing data breaches — especially from nation-states. — the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday announced a new Global Centre for Cybersecurity.
The centre has its headquarter in Geneva.
Global Centre for Cybersecurity offers first platform for governments, companies and international organizations to diminish the impact of malicious activities on web.
The aim of the centre is to establish the first global platform for governments, businesses, experts and law enforcement agencies to collaborate on cybersecurity challenges. As a truly borderless problem, cyber-attacks are surpassing the capacities and institutions that are currently dealing with this threat in an isolated manner. Only through collaboration, information exchange and common standards can the global community successfully counter organized digital crime.

The centre will focus on the following aims:
  • Consolidating existing cybersecurity initiatives of the World Economic Forum
  • Establishing an independent library of cyber best practices
  • Helping partners to enhance knowledge on cybersecurity
  • Working towards an appropriate and agile regulatory framework on cybersecurity
  • Serving as a laboratory and early-warning think tank for future cybersecurity scenarios
 
 Q. 446. PADMA AWARDS
Ans.
PADMA AWARDS
The Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day. The Awards are given in three categories: Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and Padma Shri (distinguished service). The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.
The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The nomination process is open to the public. Even self-nomination can be made.

HISTORY AND RELEVANCE
The Government of India instituted two civilian awards-Bharat Ratna & Padma Vibhushan in 1954. The latter had three classes namely Pahela Varg, Dusra Varg and Tisra Varg. These were subsequently renamed as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri vide Presidential Notification issued on January 8, 1955.

BHARAT RATNA
Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the country. It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. It is treated on a different footing from Padma Award. The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President of India. No formal recommendations for Bharat Ratna are necessary. The number of Bharat Ratna Awards is restricted to a maximum of three in a particular year. Government has conferred Bharat Ratna Award on 45 persons till date.

PADMA AWARDS
Padma Awards, which were instituted in the year 1954, is announced every year on the occasion of Republic Day except for brief interruption(s) during the years 1978 and 1979 and 1993 to 1997.
The award is given in three categories, namely,
  1. Padma Vibhushan for exceptional and distinguished service;
  2. Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of a high order; and
  3. Padma Shri for distinguished service.
All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards. However, Government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these Awards.
The award seeks to recognize works of distinction and is given for distinguished and exceptional achievements/service in all fields of activities/disciplines.
The award is normally not conferred posthumously. However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously.
A higher category of Padma award can be conferred on a person only where a period of at least five years has elapsed since conferment of the earlier Padma award. However, in highly deserving cases, a relaxation can be made by the Awards Committee.
The awards are presented by the President of India usually in the month of March/April every year where the awardees are presented a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion.
The recipients are also given a small replica of the medallion, which they can wear during any ceremonial/State functions etc., if the awardees so desire. The names of the awardees are published in the Gazette of India on the day of the presentation ceremony.
The total number of awards to be given in a year (excluding posthumous awards and to NRI/foreigners/OCIs) should not be more than 120.
The award does not amount to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the awardees’ name

WHO DECIDES
All nominations received for Padma Awards are placed before the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The Padma Awards Committee is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes Home Secretary, Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members. The recommendations of the committee are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India for approval.
 
 Q. 445. Zero Budget Natural Farming
Ans.
Zero Budget Natural Farming
Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), which is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, has spread to various states in India. It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved. ZBNF inspires a spirit of volunteerism among its peasant farmer members, who are the main protagonists of the movement.
The four pillars of ZNBF:
  1. Microbial culture: It provides nutrients, but most importantly, acts as a catalytic agent that promotes the activity of microorganisms in the soil, as well as increases earthworm activity; During the 48 hour fermentation process, the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria present in the cow dung and urine multiply as they eat up organic ingredients (like pulse flour). A handful of undisturbed soil is also added to the preparation, as inoculate of native species of microbes and organisms. It also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases.
  2. Treatment of seeds, seedlings or any planting material: It is effective in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seedborne diseases that commonly affect plants after the monsoon period.
  3. Mulching: Soil Mulch: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling. It promotes aeration and water retention in the soil. Straw Mulch: Straw material usually refers to the dried biomass waste of previous crops, it can be composed of the dead material of any living being (plants, animals, etc).
  4. Moisture: it is a necessary condition for the roots of the plants.
It is, basically, a natural farming technique that uses biological pesticides instead of chemical-based fertilizers. Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection. Intercropping and Contour Bunds are some of the techniques of ZBNF. It reduces farmers’ investment. It also protects the soil from degradation.
ZBNF works not just in agronomic terms, but also brings about a variety of social and economic benefits.  ZBNF brings improvements in yield, soil conservation, seed diversity, quality of produce, household food autonomy, income, and health. 
 
 Q. 444. Khelo India Programme
Ans.
Khelo India Programme
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has launched Pledge for Khelo India at Khelo India School Games Carnival in Delhi. The pledge resonates with vision of Khelo India programme and is aimed at inspiring youngsters to build mass participation and excellence in sports.

Some of the salient features of the Programme include:
• an unprecedented Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines.
• Each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship worth Rs. 5.00 lakh for 8 consecutive years.
• This is the first time ever that a long-term athlete development pathway would be made available to gifted and talented youngsters to excel in competitive sports and will create a pool of highly competitive athletes who can compete to win at the world stage.
• The Programme aims to promote 20 universities across the country as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sports persons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports.
• The Programme also aims at creating an active population with healthy life-style.
• The Programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive, which will not only measure the physical fitness of all children in the age group, but also support their fitness related activities.

Impact:
• The power of sport in promoting gender equity and social inclusiveness is also fully recognized and special measures are provided for to achieve these objectives.
• The programme also aims at engaging youth living in disturbed and deprived areas, in sporting activities, to wean them away from unproductive and disruptive activities and mainstream them in the nation-building process.
• The programme strives to raise the standards of competition, both at school and college level, to have maximum access to organized sports competitions.
• It also includes the use of latest user-friendly technology in all aspects of sports promotion such as, use of mobile apps for dissemination of sports training; National Sports Talent Search portal for talent identification; interactive website for indigenous sports; GIS based information system for locating and using sports infrastructure, etc.
• This programme strives to promote “Sports for All” as well as “Sports for Excellence.”
 
 Q. 443. Measles-Rubella campaign
Ans.
Measles-Rubella campaign
India, along with ten other WHO South East Asia Region member countries, have resolved to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020. In this direction, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner across the nation. The campaign aims to cover approximately 41 crore children.
The Measles-Rubella campaign is a part of global efforts to reduce illness and deaths due to measles and rubella/CRS in the country. Measles immunization directly contributes to the reduction of under-five child mortality, and in combination with rubella vaccine, it will control rubella and prevent CRS.
The first phase of measles-rubella vaccination campaign has been successfully completed during February 2017 in five states, namely, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Lakshadweep and Puducherry. The campaign was carried out in schools, community centres and health facilities.
The campaign aims to rapidly build up immunity for both measles and rubella diseases in the community so as to knock out the disease, therefore, all the children should receive MR vaccine during the campaign.
In order to achieve maximum coverage during the campaign, multiple stakeholders have been involved, which includes, apart from Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, other Ministries, development partners, Lions clubs, professional bodies, for example, Indian Association of Paediatrics, Indian Medical Association, Civil Society Organizations etc.
All children from 9 months to less than 15 years of age will be given a single shot of Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination during the campaign. Following the campaign, MR vaccine will become a part of routine immunization and will replace measles vaccine, currently given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months of age of child.
 
 Q. 442. Jal Marg Vikas Project
Ans.
Jal Marg Vikas Project
The Government is developing National Waterway-1 (NW-1) under the Jal Marg Vikas Project, with assistance from the World Bank. NW-1 refers to 1620 km Haldia-Allahabad stretch of River Ganga. The project would be completed over a period of six years at an estimated cost of Rs. 4,200 crore. Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch.
The project includes development of fairway, multi-modal terminals, strengthening of open river navigation technique, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking, construction of a new navigational lock at Farakka etc.  Multimodal Terminals with rail and road connectivity are to be constructed at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj. 
 
 Q. 441. Harvest Festivals Of India
Ans.
Harvest Festivals Of India
1. Makar Sankranti
  • Where? Pan India in different ways but mainly in the north
  • Celebrated all over the country, Makar Sankranti is the oldest and the most colorful harvest festival in India. As per Hindu mythology, this festival marks the end of an unfavorable phase and the beginning of a holy phase. Particularly in villages of Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Himachal, West Bengal, and Punjab, people celebrate the harvest of new crops with bonfire, carnivals, songs, dances, kite flying, and rallies.
  • Key attractions of Makar Sankranti festival: Kumbh Mela and various sumptuous sweet dishes made of sesame and jiggery.
2. Baisakhi
  • Where? Punjab and Haryana
  • People of Punjab and Haryana celebrate Baisakhi or Vaisakhi by thanking God for the good harvest. And the farmers of the country express their happiness and delight through this Indian harvest festival. People wear their best colorful dresses, sing the happiest songs, and dance to the melodious beats of Dhol. Baisakhi fairs are also organised where acrobatics, wresting, algoza, and vanjli performances can be seen.
  • Key attractions of Baisakhi festival: Bhangra by menfolk and Giddha by women
3. Ladakh Harvest Festival
  • Where? Ladakh, Zanskar, Kargil
  • Ladakh Harvest Festival has gained immense popularity and fame all over the world. Ladakh looks bright, beautiful, and absolutely stunning with the commencement of this harvest festival. Monasteries and stupas are decorated and pilgrimages to Thangka of Kyabje Gombo are mandatory things as a part of this celebration. Archery along with old  social & cultural ceremonies and art & handicrafts are the other features of the event.
  • Key attractions of Ladakh Harvest Festival: Dramas or ‘Chhams’ are performed to display life and teachings of Buddha and different dance forms of Tibetan culture
4. Lohri
  • Where? Punjab
  • Lohri is a renowned harvest festival in Punjab that showcases traditional dance and songs. To kill the chills of winter, the entire family and neighbours gather around the bonfire and sing together and offers grains, corns, and nuts to respect and appreciate the grand harvest of sugarcane crops.
  • Key attractions of Lohri festival: The Punjabi folklore Sunder Mundriye sung by everyone
5. Basant Panchami
  • Basant Panchami marks the onset of spring season. Celebrated in different states of North India, it is considered an auspicious day. This festival is associated with yellow color, which is a color of spirituality. One can see the magnificent mustard crop fields in the countryside, especially rural areas of Haryana and Punjab.
  • Key attractions of Basant Panchami festival: Indian cuisine like Meethe Chawal, Maake ki Roti, and Sarso Ka Saag
6. Bhogali Bihu
  • Where? Assam
  • Every year in January, the entire state of Assam showcases enthusiasm and delight in celebrating Bhogali Bihu. The farmers of Assam celebrate and cherish the efforts of cultivation and reap the benefits. The celebration starts one night before with Uruka—the community feast. On the day of Bihu, the mejis or pavilion made of clay and hay are burnt. Local women wear stunning mukhlas and participate in group songs and dance. Also known as Magh Bihu, this is an exotic and most vibrant name on the list of harvest festivals of India.
  • Key attractions of Bihu festival: Bihu dance, bullfight, bird fight and Sunga Pitha, Til Pitha and Laru
7. Wangala
  • Where? Meghalaya and Assam
  • Wangala is the merriment of 100 drums played by Garo tribes of northeast India. This is one of the popular harvest festivals of India marking the onset of winter. During this festival, Sun God is worshiped with immense devotion and zeal. Women wear their traditional colourful clothes and dance while men rhythmically drum their fingers on the traditional drum pads.
  • Key attractions of the Wangala festival: Musical extravaganza with drums, flutes, and gongs
8. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem
  • Where? Meghalaya
  • The inhabitants of Khasi hills worship Goddess Ka Blei Synshar and celebrate the plentiful harvest with vigour and excitement. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem brings ultimate joy and happiness to the community. The celebration comprises of animal sacrifice and Nongkrem dance with sword in one hand and yak hair whisk on the other.
  • Key attractions of Ka Pomblang Nongkrem festival: Pemblang ceremony and Ceremony of Tangmuri
9. Nuakhai
  • Where? Orissa
  • Nuakhai is an age old harvest celebration in Odisha. Locally ‘nua’ means new and ‘khai’ means food. This is not only a popular harvest festival in India, but also celebrated to appreciate the passing away of the past and evil days while welcoming the new and beautiful with open arms. The festival is also known as Nuakhai Parab or Nuakhai Bhetghat.
  • Key attractions of Nuakhai festival: The delicious Arsaa Pitha (sweet pancakes)
10. Gudi Padwa
  • Where? Maharashtra
  • Gudi Padwa is a grand festival in Maharashtra marking the  beginning of an auspicious New Year. People make rangoli designs at the entrance of their homes and decorate it with flowers and a handmade doll . Folks meet friends and relatives, exchange wishes, and women cook sweets like Puran Poli, Shrikhand, and Sunth Paak.
  • Key attractions of Gudi Padwa festival: Local people make Gudi (bamboo doll) using mango and neem leaves and hang them at the entrance.
11. Nabanna
  • Where? West Bengal
  • This is one of the most celebrated traditions of Bengal, where new rice is harvested with sheer joy and stocked in homes. Farmers from Bengal cheerfully participate in this harvest ritual in the Bengali month of Agrahayan and offer the first grains to Goddess Lakshmi while thanking her for all blessings.
  • Key attractions of Nabanna festival: Payesh (Kheer) made from the newly harvested rice and Nabanna fair.
12. Onam
  • Where? Kerala
  • Onam is a legendary harvest festival of Kerala celebrated with great enthusiasm in different parts of Kerala. The festival is celebrated for 10 days with the arrival of Mahabali. To relish the successful harvest, Malayalee people decorate their house entrance with floral rangoli, wear new traditional clothes, women cook delicious food, and celebrate with traditional music and dance.
  • Key attractions of Onam festival: Traditional Malayalee recipes like Rasam, Payasam, Avial, brown rice and parippu curry are offered to guests in traditional green leaf, snake boat race and tiger dance are also exciting to watch.
13. Pongal
  • Where? Tamil Nadu
  • Pongal is another name for Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated during the same time in various cities of Tamil Nadu. This is a thanksgiving celebration where people express their deep gratitude to mother nature for the produce of the year. This is one of the most colourful harvest festivals of India celebrated for 4 days. The first day is the Bhogi Festival devoted to Lord Indra for abundance of rain. On the second day, newly harvested rice and milk is cooked outdoor and offered to Sun God. Third day is for cattle worship and on the fourth day, Pongal or traditional coloured rice is offered with turmeric, betel leaf, and betel nuts.
  • Key attractions of Pongal festival: Decorated houses with Kolam, bull taming contests, bonfire with agricultural wastes and worship for the family’s prosperity
14. Ugadi
  • Where? Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
  • Ugadi is a regional New Year celebration for people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This harvest festival is considered auspicious to start new work and ventures. On the day, local people take oil bath, wear traditional clothes, decorate homes with earthen lamps and rangoli, and perform Ugadi puja at home.
  • Key attractions of Ugadi festival: The Ugadi delicacies like Ugadi Pachadi, Pulihora and Bobbatlu are prepared with raw mango, jaggery, neem, and tamarind.
15. Vishu
  • Where? Kerala and Karnataka
  • Grand worship of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna, elaborate family lunch, evening prayers, and fireworks sum up the complete picture of Vishu festival. This is an interesting harvest festival celebrated on the first day of Malayalee New Year. Women of the house prepare Vishukkani—varieties of traditional cuisine to offer to Gods—, with rice, golden lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, yellow konna flowers, and betel leaves.
  • Key attractions of Vishu festival: Kani Kanal—the first holy sight of Vishnu and the Sadya—the grand mid-day meal spread
 
 Q. 440. National Nutrition Strategy
Ans.
National Nutrition Strategy
The nutrition strategy envisages a framework wherein the four proximate determinants of nutrition – uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods – work together to accelerate decline of under nutrition in India. Currently, there is also a lack of real time measurement of these determinants, which reduces the capacity for targeted action among the most vulnerable mothers and children.
Supply side challenges often overshadow the need to address behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services. This strategy, therefore, gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as a key determinant to address India's nutritional needs.
The Nutrition Strategy framework envisages a Kuposhan Mukt Bharat - linked to Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat. The aim is to ensure that States create customized State/ District Action Plans to address local needs and challenges. This is especially relevant in view of enhanced resources available with the States, to prioritise focussed interventions with greater role for panchayats and urban local bodies.
The strategy enables states to make strategic choices, through decentralized planning and local innovation, with accountability for nutrition outcomes.
 
 Q. 439. Swaminathan Report: National Commission on Farmer
Ans.
Swaminathan Report: National Commission on Farmer
The National Commission on Farmers was chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan. The findings and recommendations encompass issues of access to resources and social security entitlements.

Key Findings and Recommendations
  • Farmer's distress: Agrarian distress has led farmers to commit suicide in recent years.  The major causes of the agrarian crisis are: unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing.  Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems. Farmers need to have assured access and control over basic resources, which include land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets.  The Committee has recommended that "Agriculture" should be inserted in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.
  • Land Reforms: are necessary to address the basic issue of access to land for both crops and livestock.  Land holdings inequality is reflected in land ownership.  In 1991-92, the share of the bottom half of the rural households in the total land ownership was only 3% and the top 10% was as high as 54%. The committee has recommended preventing diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes; ensuring grazing rights and seasonal access to forests to tribals and pastoralists, and access to common property resources.
  • Irrigation: Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 per cent of the gross cropped area and 45 per cent of the total agricultural output.  The report recommends: a set of reforms to enable farmers to have sustained and equitable access to water; Substantial increase in investment in irrigation sector; minor irrigation and new schemes for groundwater recharge.
  • Productivity of Agriculture: the per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop producing countries. The NCF recommends: Substantial increase in public investment in agriculture related infrastructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc.; A national network of advanced soil testing laboratories with facilities for detection of micronutrient deficiencies; Promotion of conservation farming, which will help farm families to conserve and improve soil health, water quantity and quality and biodiversity.
  • Credit and Insurance: timely and adequate supply of credit is a basic requirement of small farm families. The NCF has suggested: Expanding the outreach of the formal credit system to reach the really poor and needy; Reducing rate of interest for crop loans to 4 percent; Moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in distress hotspots and during calamities, till capability is restored; Establishing an Agriculture Risk Fund to provide relief to farmers in the aftermath of successive natural calamities; Issuing Kisan Credit Cards to women farmers, with joint pattas as collateral; Expanding crop insurance cover to cover the entire country and all crops, with reduced premiums and create a Rural Insurance Development Fund to take up development work for spreading rural insurance.
  • Food Security: the report recommends implementing a universal public distribution system. The NCF pointed out that the total subsidy required for this would be one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product; eliminating micronutrient deficiency induced hidden hunger through an integrated food cum fortification approach; promoting the establishment of Community Food and Water Banks operated by Women Self-help Groups (SHG), based on the principle ‘Store Grain and Water everywhere'; formulating a National Food Guarantee Act continuing the useful features of the Food for Work and Employment Guarantee programmes.
  • Farmer's Suicides: Cases of suicides have been reported from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Some of measures suggested include: Providing affordable health insurance and revitalizing primary healthcare centres; Setting up State level Farmers' Commission with representation of farmers for ensuring dynamic government response to farmers' problems; Restructuring microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, i.e. credit coupled with support services in the areas of technology, management and markets; Covering all crops by crop insurance with the village and not block as the unit for assessment;
  • Bioresources: Rural people in India depend on a wide range of bioresources for their nutrition and livelihood security.  The report recommends: Preserving traditional rights of access to biodiversity, which include access to non-timber forest products including medicinal plants, gums and resins, oil yielding plants and beneficial micro-organisms; Conserving, enhancing and improving crops and farm animals as well as fish stocks through breeding;
 
 Q. 438. Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology
Ans.
Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology
NASA has invented a new type of autonomous space navigation that could see human-made spacecraft heading into the far reaches of the Solar System, and even farther - by using pulsars as guide stars. It's called Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT (named after an 18th century nautical navigation instrument), and it uses X-ray technology to see millisecond pulsars, using them much like a GPS uses satellites.
Pulsars are highly magnetised, rapidly rotating neutron stars - the result of a massive star's core collapsing and subsequently exploding. As they spin, they emit electromagnetic radiation. From the right angle they can appear as sweeping beams, like a cosmic lighthouse. They're also extraordinarily regular - in the case of some millisecond pulsars, which can spin hundreds of times a second, their regularity can rival that of atomic clocks.
This is what led to the idea behind SEXTANT. Because these pulsars are so regular, and because they're fixed in position in the cosmos, they can be used in the same way that a global positioning system uses atomic clocks.
SEXTANT works like a GPS receiver getting signals from at least three GPS satellites, all of which are equipped with atomic clocks. The receiver measures the time delay from each satellite and converts this into spatial coordinates. The electromagnetic radiation beaming from pulsars is most visible in the X-ray spectrum, which is why X-ray detection has been employed in SEXTANT.
It could take a few years for the technology to be developed into a navigation system suitable for deep-space vessels, but the concept has been proven. Eventually, SEXTANT could be used to calculate the location of planetary satellites far from the range of Earth's GPS satellites, and assist on human spaceflight missions, such as the space agency's planned Mars mission.
 
 Q. 437. Accessible India Campaign
Ans.
Accessible India Campaign
Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) has launched Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) as a nation-wide Campaign for achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). It has the following three important components :

Part A: Built Environment Accessibility
An accessible physical environment benefits everyone, not just persons with disabilities. Measures should be undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities, and workplaces. These would include not only buildings, but also footpaths, curb cuts, and obstacles that block the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Part B: Transportation System Accessibility
Transportation is a vital component for independent living, and like others in society, PwDs rely on transportation facilities to move from one place to another. The term transportation covers a number of areas including air travel, buses, taxis, and trains.

Part C: Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility
Access to information creates opportunities for everyone in society. Access to information refers to all information. People use information in many forms to make decisions about their daily lives. This can range from actions such as being able to read price tags, to physically enter a hall, to participate in an event, to read a pamphlet with healthcare information, to understand a train timetable, or to view webpages. No longer should societal barriers of infrastructure, and inaccessible formats stand in the way of obtaining and utilizing information in daily life.  
 
 Q. 436. India Hypertension Management Initiative (IHMI)
Ans.
 
India Hypertension Management Initiative (IHMI)
The IHMI aims to reduce disability and death related to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death in India, by improving the control of high blood pressure (hypertension), reducing salt consumption and eliminating artificial trans-fats, leading risk factors for CVD.
The initiative is an attempt to raise awareness about NCDs amongst families regarding packaged food and processed foods with excessive salt and trans-fat. The risk factors have to be managed at a very young age and we need to look into behavioral issues related to food intake, especially salt.
The India Hypertension Management Initiative (IHMI) is a collaborative project of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), State Governments, World Health Organization (WHO), and Resolve to Save Lives initiative of Vital Strategies.
The IHMI is focused on five essential components of scalable treatment of hypertension:
  • It will support the adoption of standardized simplified treatment plans for managing high blood pressure,
  • ensure the regular and uninterrupted supply of quality-assured medications,
  • task sharing so health workers who are accessible to patients can distribute medications already prescribed by the medical officer, and
  • patient-centered services that reduce the barriers to treatment adherence.
  • Data on hypertension will be improved through streamlined monitoring systems, and the lessons learned and practice-based evidence will inform further interventions to improve cardiovascular care.
Around 200 million adults in India have high blood pressure, yet control rates for the condition remain low. In rural areas in India, only one quarter of people with hypertension are aware of their condition, and only around 10 percent have their blood pressure controlled. In urban areas, around 40 percent of people with hypertension are aware of their condition, and only around 20 percent have their blood pressure controlled.