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      Question and Answer

       Q. 187. What is National Hydrology Project?
      Ans.
      The National Hydrology Project (NHP) is intended for setting up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management. It will also provide tools/systems for informed decision making through Decision Support Systems (DSS) for water resources assessment, flood management, reservoir operations, drought management, etc. NHP also seeks to build capacity of the State and Central sector organisations in water resources management through the use of Information Systems and adoption of State-of-the-art technologies like Remote Sensing.
      The MoWR, RD&GR has adopted a paradigm shift in the management of water resources of the country by adopting a river basin approach, in order to efficiently use and manage water resources of the country; adequacy of data, resource assessment, decision support systems, etc. are a prerequisite for allocation and prioritization of this fast depleting resource. 
      The NHP will help in gathering Hydro-meteorological data which will be stored and analysed on a real time basis and can be seamlessly accessed by any user at the State/District/village level.  The project envisages to cover the entire country as the earlier hydrology projects covered only 13 States.

      The NHP will result in the improvement of:
      • Data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination through National Water Informatics Centre.
      • Lead time in flood forecast from 1 day to at least 3 days.
      • Mapping of flood inundation areas for use by the disaster management authorities.
      • Assessment of surface and ground water resources in a river basin for better planning & allocation for PMKSY and other schemes of Govt. of India.
      • Reservoir operations through   seasonal yield   forecast, drought management, SCADA systems, etc.
      • Design of SW & GW structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, Smart Cities.
      • Fulfilling the objectives of Digital India.
      Elucidation on the impact of the Project:
      • Development of real time flood forecasting and reservoir operations in a manner that does not result in sudden opening of gates which inundates the area down below;
      • It will facilitate integrated water resource management by adopting river basin approach through collation and management of hydro-meteorological data.  This will also help in water resource assessment – as surface as well as ground water, for water resource planning, prioritize its allocations and its consumptive use for irrigation;
      • It will help in providing real time information on a dynamic basis to the farmers about the ground water position for them to accordingly plan their cropping pattern;
      • This will also help in promoting efficient and equitable use of water particularly of ground water at the village level;
      • This will also provide information on quality of water
      The programme envisages ultimate aim for water management through scientific data collection, dissemination of information on water availability in all blocks of the country and establishing of National Water Information Centre.  The automated systems for Flood Forecasting is aimed to reduce water disaster ultimately helping vulnerable population.  It is people and farmer centric programme as information on water can help in predicting water availability and help farmers to plan their crops and other farm related activities.  Through this programme India would make a place among nations known for scientific endeavours.
       
       Q. 186. Project Elephant
      Ans. Project Elephant was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives:
      • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
      • To address issues of man-animal conflict
      • Welfare of captive elephants

      Financial and Technical support are being provided to major elephant bearing States in the country. Main activities under the Project are as follows:
      • Ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants;
      • Development of scientific and planned management for conservation of elephant habitats and viable population of Wild Asiatic elephants in India;
      • Promotion of measures for mitigation of man elephant conflict in crucial habitats and moderating pressures of human and domestic stock activities in crucial elephant habitats;
      • Strengthening of measures for protection of Wild elephants from poachers and unnatural causes of death;
      • Research on Elephant management related issues;
      • Public education and awareness programmes;
      • Eco-development
      • Veterinary care
      • Elephant Rehabilitation/Rescue Centres
      Estimation of wild elephant population in the year 2007 and 2012.
      The all India enumeration of wild population of elephants in the country is carried out at every five-year interval. The comparative figures as below for the states shows that the estimated population of wild elephants in the country has increased to 29391-30711 as compared to 27657-27682 in 2007.
       
      Elephent Reserves: Till now 28 Elephant Reserves (ERs) extending over about 61830.08 sq km have been formally notified by various State Governments. Consent for establishment 2 more ERs – Khasi Elephant Reserve in Meghalaya and Dandeli Elephant Reserve in Karnataka has been accorded by MoEF&CC. Inclusion of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Mysore Elephant Reserve has also been approved by the Ministry.  The concerned State Governments are yet to notify these ERs.  

      Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme
      Mandated by CoP resolution of CITES, MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with following purpose:
      • To measure levels and trends in the illegal hunting of elephants;
      • To determine changes in these trends over time; and
      • To determine the factors causing or associated with such changes, and to try and assess in particular to what extent observed trends are a result of any decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties to CITES.
       
       Q. 185. What is the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme? Why is it important in the Indian context? Briefly mention the expansion and the results of the scheme.
      Ans.
      The Census (2011) data showed a significant declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), calculated as number of girls for every 1000 boys between age group of 0-6 years, with an all-time low of 918 in 2011 from 976 in 1961. The decline in CSR has been unabated since 1961. This is an alarming indicator for women disempowerment. It reflects both pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection, and post birth discrimination against girls. The decline is widespread across the country and has expanded to rural as well as tribal areas. Alarmed by the sharp decline, the Government of India has introduced Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme to address the issue of decline in CSR in 100 gender critical districts. Coordinated & convergent efforts are needed to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The Overall Goal of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao(BBBP) Scheme is to Celebrate the Girl Child & Enable her Education.

      The objectives of the Scheme are as under:
      • Prevent gender biased sex selective elimination.
      • Ensure survival & protection of the girl child.
      • Ensure education of the girl child.
      The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) initiative has two major components:
      • Mass Communication Campaign on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: The campaign aims at ensuring girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens of this country. The Campaign interlinks National, State and District level interventions with community level action in 100 districts, bringing together different stakeholders for accelerated impact.
      • Multi-Sectoral interventions in 100 Gender Critical Districts covering all States/UTs: Coordinated & convergent efforts are undertaken in close coordination with MoHFW and MoHRD to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The District Collectors/Deputy Commissioners (DCs) lead and coordinate actions of all departments for implementation of BBBP at the District level.
      It is a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Sectoral interventions under the programme include the following:
      • Ministry of WCD: Promote registration of pregnancies in first trimester in Anganwadi Centres (AWCs); Undertake training of stakeholders; Community mobilization & sensitization; Involvement of gender champions; Reward & recognition of institutions & frontline workers.
      •  Ministry of Health & Family Welfare: Monitor implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCP&DT) Act, 1994; Increased institutional deliveries; Registration of births; Strengthening PNDT Cells; Setting up Monitoring Committees
      • Ministry of Human Resource Development: Universal enrolment of girls; Decreased drop-out rate; Girl Child friendly standards in schools; Strict implementation of Right to Education (RTE); Construction of Functional Toilets for girls.
      Expansion ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’: 
      Given the criticality of the issue, this initiative has been expanded to 61 additional districts across the 11 States/UTs. Since its inception in January 2015, this programme has resulted in hundreds of local level innovative initiatives to promote the girl child.
      • Installing digital Guddi Gudda Display Boards in offices and public places in Jalgaon district, Maharashtra;
      • a social assistance scheme titled Ladli Beti for new born girl child born on or after 01st April 2015 by Jammu and Kashmir;
      • cash reward of Rs. 1 lakh for whistle blowers informing about illegal sex selection announced by Haryana; 
      • Ambassador of Girl Child (Chief Secretary) launched by Nagaland etc.
      Results of BBBP:
      • Increasing trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is visible in 58% of the BBBP districts;
      • 69 districts have reported progress in the first trimester registration against the reported ANC registrations during the previous year;
      • status of institutional deliveries has improved in 80 districts against the total reported deliveries in comparison to the previous year.
       
       Q. 184. Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute
      Ans.
      Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
      What is the row about?
      • At the heart of the dispute are eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea.
      • They have a total area of about 7 sq. km and lie north-east of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and south-west of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa.
      • The islands are controlled by Japan.
      They matter because:
      • They are close to important shipping lanes.
      • They offer rich fishing grounds.
      • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
      • They are also in a strategically significant position, amid rising competition between the US and China for military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
      What is Japan's claim?
      Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years in the 19th Century and determined that they were uninhabited. In 1895 Japan erected a sovereignty marker and formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory.
      After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. These islands, however, came under US trusteeship and were returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal.
      Japan says China raised no objections to the San Francisco deal. And it says that it is only since the 1970s, when the issue of oil resources in the area emerged, that Chinese and Taiwanese authorities began pressing their claims.
       
      What is China's claim?
      China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan.
      Separately, Taiwan also claims the islands.

      Why is the row so prominent now?
      The dispute has rumbled relatively quietly for decades. But in 2012, a fresh row ensued after outspoken right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he would use public money to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner. The Japanese government then reached a deal to buy three of the islands from the owner.
      This angered China, triggering public and diplomatic protests. Since then, Chinese government ships have regularly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands.
      In November 2013, China also announced the creation of a new air-defence identification zone, which would require any aircraft in the zone - which covers the islands - to comply with rules laid down by Beijing.
      Japan labelled the move a "unilateral escalation" and said it would ignore it, as did the US.

      What is the role of the US?
      The US and Japan forged a security alliance in the wake of World War II and formalised it in 1960. Under the deal, the US is given military bases in Japan in return for its promise to defend Japan in the event of an attack.
      This means if conflict were to erupt between China and Japan, Japan would expect US military back-up. US President Barack Obama has confirmed that the security pact applies to the islands - but has also warned that escalation of the current row would harm all sides.

      What next?
      The Senkaku/Diaoyu issue highlights the more robust attitude China has been taking to its territorial claims in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It poses worrying questions about regional security as China's military modernises amid the US "pivot" to Asia. In both China and Japan, meanwhile, the dispute ignites nationalist passions on both sides, putting pressure on politicians to appear tough and ultimately making any possible resolution even harder to find.
       
       Q. 183. India Post Payments Bank
      Ans.
      • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) will be set up as a public limited company under the Department of Posts with 100 per cent government equity.
      • The total corpus of the payments bank is of Rs 800 crore, which will have Rs 400-crore equity and Rs 400-crore grant.
      • A total of 650 branches of the postal payments bank would be established in India, which will be linked to rural post offices.
      • India has 154,000 post offices, of which 139,000 are rural post offices. IPPB will obtain banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by March 2017 and by September 2017, all 650 branches of the postal payments bank would become operational.
      • IPPB will offer demand deposits such as savings and current accounts upto a balance of Rs 1 Lac, digitally enabled payments and remittance services of all kinds between entities and individuals and also provide access to third party financial services such as insurance, mutual funds, pension, credit products, forex, and more, in partnership with insurance companies, mutual fund houses, pension providers, banks, international money transfer organisations, etc.
      The four key features of IPPB are:
      FINANCIAL LITERACY: Even a little saving can go a long way if channelized correctly. With trustworthy advice and services designed to include everybody, income can be invested correctly, more can be saved, and people can start moving forward, faster. IPPB aims to make India prosperous by ensuring that everyone has equal access to financial information and services, no matter who they are, what they earn and where they live.

      STREAMLINING PAYMENTS: Beneficiaries can access income from government’s DBT programs like MNREGA wages, Social Security Pensions and scholarships, directly from their IPPB bank account with near zero friction. They can also pay their utility bills, fees for educational institutions and many more from the same IPPB account. It ensures that wherever they are, they can make the most of financial opportunities available to them.

      FINANCIAL INCLUSION: Millions of Indians don’t have access to banking facilities. They cannot avail of government benefits, loans and insurance, and even interest on savings. IPPB will reach the un-banked and the under-banked across all cross sections of society and geographies. Services offered by IPPB will help them take the first step towards prosperity.

      EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY: IPPB is powered by the very postmen who deliver our letters. With over 1.54 lac post offices across the country, India Post enjoys the trust of Indians everywhere. The postal delivery system will make IPPB, India’s most accessible banking network. IPPB will also offer services through internet and mobile banking, and prepaid instruments like mobile wallets, debit cards, ATMs, PoS and MPoS terminals etc.
       
       Q. 182. Jallikattu
      Ans.
      Now that the dust has settled on Marina beach, where young protesters had camped to demand that the ban on Jallikattu—a traditional sport of bull jostling—be lifted, let’s discuss the larger and more serious issue of culture, tradition and their practice in the modern world. There is no doubt that traditional cultures had empathy with ecology—people had learnt to live with nature, optimise its resources and rationalise its use during scarcity. This “sustainable use” was woven into rituals, practices and beliefs, and became part of cultures. But times change, and so do the approaches and sensibilities of society.

      Jallikattu, the Tamils practise this tradition and say it is different from the bull-fighting of Spain. They do not kill the bull, only play with it by removing bundles of gold and money tied to its horns. The skill is tested in how the man—it’s always a man—removes the money and, in the process, tames the raging bull.

      Sequence of events:
      • In 2011, the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, agreed to include “bull” in the list of animals that were banned for use in training or exhibition under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
      • His successor, Prakash Javadekar, wanted to remove “bulls” from the list but the Supreme Court intervened.
      • In May 2014, the court ruled that Jallikattu, bull-racing and other such activities were indeed cruel to animals and upheld the notification banning the “sport”.
      But since then, each Pongal—the festival of harvest when Jallikattu is organised—the rumble of dissension has been growing. Proponents say Jallikattu is the only way to preserve the state’s traditional Kangayam species of bull. They say through this sport, the stud bull’s powers are demonstrated and it is selected for conservation. They go as far as saying that if the sport is banned, there will be no “value” in keeping the bull; it will be slaughtered and the ratio of cow to bull will further decline. 
      The only reason to seek continuation of the sport has been “culture” or “tradition”, and the plea has been that cruelty is not inherent in the sport and can be regulated. The proponents have never ever articulated the ecological purpose of the sport as this would require substantiation. 

      Fact check: Today, indigenous domestic animals across the country stand close to extinction. There is a compelling reason to argue that these species must be conserved, protected and bred. They are local and so, have the ability to cope with adverse ecological conditions. Today, Indian traditional cattle breeds are the basis of economic prosperity in other countries. Africa breeds our Sahiwal; Brazil our Nelore; even the American beef cattle comes from India’s Brahman. But we have taken fancy to foreign breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian. The 19th Livestock Census released in 2012 shows this decline. Between 2007 and 2012, there was a 19 per cent reduction in indigenous male cattle (bulls) and a parallel 20 per cent increase in exotic breeds of male and female cattle. When compared to the previous census in 2003, the loss is 65 per cent in indigenous milch cattle. The case is the same in Tamil Nadu. So, it would be fair to say there is absolutely no evidence to show that Jallikattu has aided in the conservation of indigenous breeds, other than saying that the species that could have gone extinct is surviving by the skin of its horns.
      Much more needs to be done to protect and ensure the continuation and use of indigenous breeds, which are vital for the country’s livestock economy. This is where the catch lies. This is the horn that matters.
       
       Q. 181. Wetland Rules 2016
      Ans.
      India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which includes in its ambit a wide variety of habitats, such as marshes, swamps, lakes, coastal lagoons, mangroves, peat lands, coral reefs, and numerous man-made wetlands, such as ponds, salt pans, reservoirs, gravel pits, sewage farms, and canals. The Central Government is desirous of mainstreaming full range of wetland biodiversity and ecosystem service values in sectoral development planning and decision making based on integrated management approach. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 14 December 2016 notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016.These rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and seek to address the issues related to the conservation and development of wetlands in a comprehensive manner.
      Highlights of Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016:
      1. The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of 'wise use' for maintaining their ecological integrity.
      2. Wise use of wetlands means preserving the ecological character of wetlands through the implementation of ecosystem approaches.
      3. However, the strategies adopted to preserve wetlands should be within the context of sustainable development.
      4. The rules prohibit any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland.
      5. Activities having or likely to have an adverse impact on the ecological character of the wetland are also prohibited.
      6. Wetland Authority will be set up by the State Governments or UTs to deal with wetland conservation, regulation and management. In a state, the authority will be headed by the respective Chief Minister.
       
       Q. 180. Space junk and ISRO
      Ans. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sent 104 satellites into orbit and the wild applause was soon followed by growing mutterings about India’s space agency adding to space junk. However, it’s irrational to blame the agency.
      If anything, carrying multiple payloads lowers orbital debris as each rocket used to send satellites to space also adds to the space junk.
      ISRO is also ideally located for launches because its proximity to the Equator gives the rockets an extra velocity kick into space so they use less fuel to launch heavier payloads.
      And unlike space tourism, satellites serve a practical purpose, providing data that support communication, navigation, scientific research, weather observation, military support, earth imaging, among others.
      ISRO has developed the models and software for statistical analysis of risk due to space debris and close approach of debris to the functional satellites and to prevent in-orbit break-up by designing spacecraft to be not susceptible to on-orbit explosion.

      Space junk
      Since the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union in 1957, dozens of countries have launched satellites, with close to 3,000 working satellites still orbiting the Earth. These functional satellites are just a fraction of the than 500,000 pieces of dead satellites ranging from the size of a marble to much bigger machines that continue to orbit the Earth.
      There are many millions of smaller pieces of dead spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris that are too tiny to be tracked.
      The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris. Debris shields can withstand impacts of particles smaller than 1 cm.
      Space junk travels at speeds up to 30,000 km an hour, which turns tiny pieces of orbital debris into deadly shrapnel that can damage satellites, space shuttles, space stations and spacecraft with humans aboard.
      Kessler syndrome: it is a scenario in which the density of objects in space is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges unfeasible for many generations.

      Tracking debris
      A multi-object tracking radar (MOTR) developed by the Satish Dhawan Space Centre allows ISRO to track 10 objects simultaneously. It tracks India’s space assets and space debris, for which India was solely dependent on data provide by the US space agency NASA till early 2016.
      ISRO is a part of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), an international governmental forum that coordinates global efforts to reduce man-made and natural space debris by sharing research and identifying debris mitigation options.
      Global mitigation measures take many forms, including preventing the creation of new debris, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, and improving operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, and predicting and avoiding collisions.
       
       Q. 179. Guar Gum and Shale Gas
      Ans. What is Guar Gum?
      Guar Gum Powder is extracted from the Guar Seed after a multistage industrial process. The most important property of Guar Gum is its ability to hydrate rapidly in cold water to attain uniform and very high viscosity at relatively low concentrations. Guar Gum, either modified or unmodified is a very versatile and efficient natural polymer covering a number of applications in various industries like food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paper, textile, construction, oil & gas well drilling, mining etc, due to its cost effective emulsifying and thickening properties.

      Functions: It is widely used in oil and gas well drilling due to its multi-function such as fluid and water loss control, lubrication and cooling of drill bits, shale inhibitor and solids carrier. It has excellent solution rheology, stability, solubility and compatibility with other auxiliaries used in oil well drilling.

      Over the last three years, guar has slowly lost its lustre due to oversupply, reduced demand on account of oil price crash, and emergence of substitutes that further reduced its demand. Guar products enjoyed their dream run for two successive years, 2011-12 and 2012-13, becoming India’s largest agricultural export item, surpassing the famed basmati rice. India accounts for 80 per cent of the world’s production of guar. Rajasthan is the leading producer, contributing 70 per cent of India’s production. Over 80 per cent of India’s guar products are exported, mainly to the US, Germany and China. The top consuming industry is oil & gas, accounting for 60-65 per cent, followed by food (25-30 per cent) and the rest by pharma. The textile printing industry is the major consumer of guar domestically.

      Guar gum started to play a key role in the extraction of shale oil and gas through the fracking process, post-2009. It helped the US to increase shale gas production to almost nine times from that in 2005. The shale revolution and speculation of drought in India, together with expectation of production shortfall, led to panic stocking by the US. As a result, the US became the top importer of guar, accounting for 73 per cent of global imports in 2012.

      An unprecedented rise in prices, especially after 2009, saw Indian farmers preferring guar over competing kharif crops, such as cotton, moong, soyabean and bajra. As a result, India’s guar production has risen. New guar processing facilities were built in Rajasthan. Cultivation was extended to non-guar producing States. However, sharp rise in the prices of guar products prompted importing countries, such as China and Australia, to encourage indigenous guar cultivation and processing. Also, the food industry’s demand for guar gum was adversely impacted by extreme volatility and sharp rise in prices. Higher prices also prompted guar consuming industries to explore and shift to cheaper substitutes. All these developments substantially reduced the demand for gaur with implications for prices.

      Crude oil price holds the key to demand for guar products. Crude oil prices seem to have bottomed out now. However, Iran seeking to capture its old market share may cause a further fall in crude prices. If that happens, it may pressurise guar.

      Guar price shocks in the past have prompted international buyers to look for cheaper alternatives, such as tara gum, locust bean gum and xanthan gum, which are being used in the food industry. Synthetic polymers are used in the shale oil and gas industry. But nothing has come out as effective as guar. Nevertheless, guar substitutes will keep guar prices from shooting up unreasonably.
       
       Q. 178. Union Budget: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in India
      Ans. The Union Budget has made a broad-brushed allocation of ₹2,675.42 crores to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), an apparent increase by 18.88% from last year. Even as the issues of forest management, resource conservation, pollution control and wildlife protection are manifest to be increasingly interconnected, they are treated in isolation with attention paid only at the macro-level. Often proactive measures for environment are disproportionately counter-balanced by lax regulation in other sectors such as energy and large industries.

      Areas of concern
      •     In light of the increasing challenges faced by environment in India, budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Environment under various heads is palpably inadequate.
      •     There has been superficial renaming of ‘Clean Energy Cess’ levied on coal, lignite and peat as ‘Clean Environment Cess’ with an increase in the rate of levy to ₹400 per tonne.
      •     Even as climate change and increasing pollution have been matters of great concern, a measly sum of ₹40 crores and ₹74.30 crore have been allocated to the Climate Change Action Plan and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), respectively. While the national capital reeled under the heavy effects of air pollution, triggering heated debates on spiralling pollution levels in prominent urban pockets, the funding received by the CPCB is visibly unremarkable.
      •     Similarly, for environment and ecology, coastal management, environmental monitoring and governance, National Afforestation Management have received funds sketchily with no accompanying rationale for such allocations or a clear framework for their utilisation.
      •     The treatment of wildlife conservation has been no different, with ambitious projects like Project Tiger having the budget slashed by ₹30 crore and Project Elephant receiving a marginal boost of ₹2.5 crore.
      •     Budgetary flow for the schemes under the Ministry of Environment has been fluctuating in the past and can be best described as insubstantial.
      •     In 2015, the total budget for the Ministry was reduced by 25% to ₹1,681.60 crore, only to be increased to ₹2,327 crores the following year.
      •     Centrally sponsored schemes have also experienced similar ups and downs with Project Tiger witnessing a slash of 15% in 2015. This time as well, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been allotted an arbitrary sum of ₹8.15 crore.
      •     But the persistent problem has also been of under-utilisation of existing funds, which would otherwise have been used for an effective overhaul of several environmental issues. A closer breakdown of the actual expenditure shows that out of the ₹850.02 crore dedicated to implementing the Centrally sponsored core schemes, the total outlay was only ₹566.38 crore. These Centrally sponsored schemes include Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats and Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems.

      In the Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement, the envisaged outlook for the financial plan states that: the government will aggressively focus on the objectives of pushing economic growth… (and) has the prime responsibility of providing a safe and stable environment for the private sector to create wealth. A small step in this regard would be to acknowledge the role of the environment in budgetary allocations and ensure rational dedication of funds.
       
       Q. 177. Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016
      Ans.
      It  replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The legislation  was drafted on the basis of the recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. The law will make a larger number of people eligible for rights and entitlements by reason of their disability since it recognises more disablities as compared to the 1995 Act. Apart from this, the  new law also complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Salient features:
      1.  covers 19 conditions, instead of seven disabilities specified in the  1995 Act  — blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness, the 2014 Bill was expanded to cover 19 conditions– including cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism and thalassaemia among others. The amended version also recognises two other disabilities — resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease. Apart from listing these disabilities, the Act  has also laid down provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.
      2.  The Act also mentions that individuals with at least 40 per cent of a disability are entitled to benefits like reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes and others. While the 1995 law had 3 per cent reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government, the new law  raised the ceiling to 5 per cent, adding 1 per cent each for mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.
      3. Many  rights and entitlements — including disabled friendly access to all public buildings — are conferred on the disabled individuals. The amendments include private firms in the definition of ‘establishments’, which previously referred to only government bodies. All such establishments have to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and are not discriminated against in matters of employment.
      4. It  laid down provisions in matters of guardianship of mentally ill persons.: District courts may award two types of guardianship. While a limited guardian is to take joint decisions with the mentally ill person, the plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting them.
       
       Q. 176. The UK and 3 Parent babies
      Ans.
      Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. But genetic defects in the mitochondria mean the body has insufficient energy to keep the heart beating or the brain functioning. Cells can have hundreds of mitochondria which are passed on solely from mother to child. About one in 10,000 newborns are affected by mitochondrial disease. Many of these children die young, as the mutations cause the brain, heart, muscles and other energy-demanding tissues to fail.

      The technique, developed in Newcastle (UK) combines the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman with DNA of the two parents.

      Doctors in Newcastle are ready to offer the experimental treatment, called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), to women whose faulty DNA puts them at risk of passing on devastating genetic diseases to their children. MRT was developed to help women with mutations in the DNA of their mitochondria to have healthy babies. MRT aims to prevent mitochondrial diseases from being passed on by replacing the defective mitochondria in a mother’s egg with healthy mitochondria from a donor. The resulting baby would inherit the full set of 46 chromosomes from its mother and father – it is this DNA that defines their appearance and other characteristics – but have the healthy donor’s mitochondria. The donor has no legal rights over the child. UK's historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically-related child. The first British baby made with the DNA of three people could be born in 2017  after the UK’s fertility regulator gave the green light for clinics to seek licences for the procedure.
       
       Q. 175. What are the issues plaguing our Defence Sector?
      Ans. Apart from the deterioration in relations with Pakistan, growing pomposity of China, a perceptible shift in Russia’s stance vis-a-vis India, and other developments in the region and beyond, there are at least three broad areas in which the pot only kept brewing during the past year.
      The first of these is in the area of higher defence management in which the primary focus remained on issues like appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and integration of the Services Headquarters (SHQs) with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
      Appointment of the CDS is perceived by many as the panacea for all sorts of problems besetting the defence establishment in India. Contrary to the expectation of CDS becoming a reality in 2016, the sluggish pace at which this issue moved during the year only ended up reinforcing the perception that the government is either unable or unwilling, or at best lacks a sense of urgency, to take the step.
      These perceptions prevented a dispassionate public discourse on how this step, if and when taken, will actually pan out. It is important to think it through because the experience of setting up of Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff shows that mere creation of an institution is no guarantee that the objectives for which it is set up will be achieved.
      The second important area in which there was no turnaround is the area of civil-military relations (CMR). If anything, recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission have queered the pitch further. Implementation of the recommendations posed a major challenge which continues to dog the establishment as the year drew to a close.
      The government’s decision on implementation of one-rank-one-pension might have quelled growing unrest in the ranks of the retired but it would be naive to believe that it has made a dent on the negative perceptions about the civilian bureaucracy.
      Two recent developments have exacerbated the problem. The action taken against the former Chief of Air Staff (COAS) has drawn sharp reactions. The unprecedented arrest of a former chief is largely being seen as inexplicable, if not unwarranted.
      The latest issue to stir the embers is the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff where the government deviated from the generally followed principle of seniority in appointment to the highest posts in the military establishment. This was met with much opprobrium, more so because it was evidently not taken into account while announcing the surprise move that any supersession in promotion, especially at the highest levels, is demeaning to those who get superseded.
      The third area in which there were mixed developments is the area of force modernisation. The year started on a somewhat disappointing note because, contrary to expectations, there was not much of a hike in defence allocation in the Union budget.
      Based on the recommendations of a committee of experts, set up belatedly by the government in 2015, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) came out with a revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), albeit in two instalments. The latest iteration does contain some interesting new provisions but it will take a couple of years, if not more, before the impact of the new provisions manifests itself.
      Many issues related to the defence acquisitions and promotion of the domestic defence industry remained ‘under consideration’ of the ministry or various committees set up by it. These include restructuring of the defence procurement organisation and, more importantly, adoption of the strategic partnership model.
      Lastly, the old bugbear of inordinate delays in concluding acquisition contracts continued to hold sway throughout the year, notwithstanding signing of a few big ticket contracts, mostly with US companies. Decision-making has been the bane of all defence acquisitions in the past. The developments in 2016 did little to dispel this impression.
      Having crossed the half way mark of its five-year tenure, all this should be a matter of some concern to the government. With each passing year, the possibility of reforms in the management of defence keeps becoming more distant. Or, so it appears. It is now over to 2017.
       
       Q. 174. Micro-finance (MF)
      Ans.
      Micro-finance (MF) is a small-scale financial intermediation, inclusive of savings, credit, insurance, business services and technical support provided to the needy borrower.
      Evolution of Micro-Finance
      The formal existence of MF was found in 1972. A charity based model (interest free loans where repayment was based on peer pressure) of MF was evolved in Ireland. Bangladesh Grameen model is based on the principle of trust and creditworthiness of poor with both, obligatory and voluntary saving schemes.
      MF has become a movement in India. Simultaneously it has become a unique tool of empowerment and capability enhancement in the following ways:
      • It has added millions of people to the banking system by developing the habit of thrift and saving.
      • It helps in poverty alleviation.
      • It encourages group and individual activities which provide livelihood on a regular basis.
      • Through MF, financial inclusion is possible with the common effort of Bank, NGO’s, Micro-Finance Institutions and other institutions.
      • It empowers women by making women not only economically, but socially and politically as well.
      As of now micro finance institutions are regulated like a Non-Banking Financial Institution by RBI. Further, new institutions like payments bank, small finance bank, local area bank etc. have been launched. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) established in 1993 as a national level autonomous organization under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development extends micro-finance to the poorest and asset-less women entrepreneurs.

      In the Union Budget 2015-16, government sponsored micro insurance and pension were launched for the disadvantaged sections of the society.
       
       Q. 173. Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) "Netra"
      Ans.
      The first indigenously built Airborne Surveillance System is a game changer in air warfare. The AEW&C System is a system of systems populated with state-of-the art Active Electronically Scanned Radar, Secondary Surveillance Radar, Electronic and Communication Counter Measures, LOS (Line of Sight) and beyond LOS data link, voice communication system and self-protection suite, built on an Emb-145 platform, having an air to air refuelling capability to enhance surveillance time. These airborne warning systems, capable of long range surveillance, are huge force multipliers. Netra is based on Embraer aircraft. A Complex tactical software has been developed for fusion of information from the sensors, to provide the air situation picture along with intelligence to handle identification/classification threat assessment. Battle management functions are built in house to work as a network centric system of Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS) node. 

      This system has been developed and evaluated through collaborative efforts between DRDO and the IAF. The AEW&C system has undergone all weather and environmental trials and has been accepted by the IAF for induction. 
       
       Q. 172. What is Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana?
      Ans. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by the Prime Minister Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. The initiative, in line with the dream of the Prime Minister of creating smoke-less villages across the country, has come as a moment of pride for the women in BPL- households for getting LPG connection as an identity of their own and to lead a smoke-free, less polluted, convenient and healthy life.
      To carry the scheme forward and implement it on mass level, special Ujjwala Melas for distributing LPG connections to identified beneficiaries under PMUY have been organised at all the LPG distribution outlets.
      • The main mantra of this scheme is Swacch Indhan, Behtar Jeevan – Mahilaon ko mila samman.
      • On the national level, 5 crore LPG connections will be provided in the next 3 years to eligible BPL households.
      • The scheme provides a financial support of Rs. 1600 for each LPG connection to the eligible BPL households.
      • The connections under the scheme will be given in the name of women-head of the households.
      • The OMCs will provide EMI facility for meeting the cost of stove and the first refill.
      • The scheme is aimed at replacing the unclean cooking fuels used in the most underprivileged households with clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas).
      • Ensuring women’s empowerment, especially in rural India, the connections will be issued in the name of women of the BPL households.
      • The identification of eligible BPL families will be made on Social-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data that is being provided by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
      • The scheme is implemented using the money saved in LPG subsidy through the ‘Give-it-Up’ campaign.
      • This is for the first time that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has launched such an enormous scheme.
      • PMUY aims at empowering the women and protect their health by reducing the serious health hazards associated with the cooking based on fossil fuel. The other aims of this scheme are to reduce the number of deaths resulted by the use of unclean cooking fuel and preventing toddlers from acute respiratory illness caused due to indoor air pollution caused by the unclean cooking fuel.
      Indian is home to more than 24 crore households out of which about 10 crores are still deprived of LPG as cooking fuel and have to rely on firewood, coal, dung – cakes etc. as primary source of cooking. 
       








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