19 September Current Affairs

1

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

In News:

DAC has approved Procurement of Equipment Worth Rs 9,100 Crores.

Details:

DAC has approved procurement of- Akash Missile systems and IUWBA:

Akash Missile Systems: The Missile to be procured is an upgraded version of the previously inducted Akash missiles and will include seeker technology, possess 360 degree coverage and will be of compact configuration with reduced signature. The upgraded Akash Weapon System is operationally critical equipment which will provide protection to vital assets.

The DAC also accorded approval for progressing Design and Development of Individual Under Water Breathing Apparatus (IUWBA) for T 90 Tanks. Developed by DRDO Lab DEBEL, the IUWBA is used by the crew of Tanks as a safety gear and is required by the Tank crew for emergency escape when negotiating water obstacles while deep fording.

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):

To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.

Objective: The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.

Functions: The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.

Source: The Hindu

Southern Zonal Council

In News:

The 28th meeting of the Southern Zonal Council was recently held under the Chairmanship of the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh in Bengaluru.

Details:

The Council reviewed the progress of the implementation of the recommendations made at the last meeting relating to security to fishermen, introduction of peninsular tourism trains, uniformity in allocation of funds in proportion to population of SC/ST for scholarship for all the courses etc.

What are zonal councils?

Zonal councils have been established by the Parliament to promote interstate cooperation and coordination. They are statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956 and not constitutional bodies. They are only deliberative and advisory bodies.

There are 5 five Zonal councils namely:

  1. The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
  2. The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  3. The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.
  4. The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
  5. The Southern Zonal Council is composed of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Composition:

Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.

Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.

Members– Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.

Advisers– One person nominated by the Planning Commission (which has been replaced by NITI Ayog now) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.

Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are:

  • Bringing out national integration.
  • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Facts for Prelims:

The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Sikkim and (viii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.

Source: PIB

‘e-Sahaj’ portal

In News:

The Government has launched an online ‘e-Sahaj’ portal for grant of Security Clearance. The portal will facilitate an applicant to submit application online and also to view the status of his application from time to time.

About Security clearances:

MHA is the nodal Ministry for security clearances in certain sensitive sectors before issue of licence/permit, permission, contract etc, to companies/ bidders/individuals by the administrative Ministry.

The objective of national security clearance is to evaluate potential security threats, including economic threats, and provide risk assessment before clearing investment and project proposals in key sectors.

The aim is to strike a healthy balance between meeting the imperatives of national security and facilitating ease of doing business and promoting investment in the country.

Significance of the portal:

With the introduction of online portal, the process has become standardized, resulting in a process which will be faster, transparent and easy to monitor. Various functionaries can access the application and documents online and take timely decisions.

Background:

MHA has cleared about 1,100 cases of security clearance in the past one year. Although the given timeline is 90 days, MHA strives to decide Security Clearance cases in 60 days (average time per case in 2018 is 53 days), which is being reduced further. In 2016, there were 209 cases which were over 6 months old; in 2017, this came down to 154 cases and further down to 47 cases in 2018.

Source: PIB

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

In News:

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced that it will establish its South Asia Area Office and Technology Innovation Centre at New Delhi.

About International Telecommunication Union (ITU):  

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is an agency of the United Nations (UN) whose purpose is to coordinate telecommunication operations and services throughout the world. Originally founded in 1865, as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU is the oldest existing international organization. ITU headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ITU consists of three sectors:

  • Radiocommunication (ITU-R) — ensures optimal, fair and rational use of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.
  • Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) — formulates recommendations for standardizing telecommunication operations worldwide.
  • Telecommunication Development (ITU-D) — assists countries in developing and maintaining internal communication operations.

Membership:

There are 193 Member States of the ITU, including all UN member states except the Republic of Palau, plus the Vatican City.

Membership of ITU is open to only UN members, which may join the Union as Member States, as well as to private organizations like carriers, equipment manufacturers, funding bodies, research and development organizations and international and regional telecommunication organizations, which may join ITU as non-voting Sector Members.

Functions:

The ITU sets and publishes regulations and standards relevant to electronic communication and broadcasting technologies of all kinds including radio, television, satellite, telephone and the Internet.

The organization conducts working parties, study groups and meetings to address current and future issues and to resolve disputes. The ITU organizes and holds an exhibition and forum known as the Global TELECOM every four years.

Another important aspect of the ITU’s mandate is helping emerging countries to establish and develop telecommunication systems of their own.

Although the recommendations of the ITU are non-binding, most countries adhere to them in the interest of maintaining an effective international electronic communication environment.

Source: The Hindu

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

In News:

7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism is being held in Seoul, capital of South Korea.

Theme: ‘A 2030 Vision for Urban Tourism’.

Organized by: World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Seoul Metropolitan Government and supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of South Korea and Seoul Tourism Organization.

Significance: The summit provides unique platform to discuss key issues shaping future of urban tourism in the context of the 2030 Urban Agenda. It brings together high-level representatives from National Tourism Administrations, city authorities and related stakeholders, serving as platform to exchange experiences and expertise.

About UNWTO:

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

Members:

UNWTO’s membership includes 158 countries, 6 Associate Members and over 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.

As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.

UNWTO encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, to maximize tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development worldwide.

UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries around the world.

Source: The Hindu

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY)

In News:

Government has modified operational guidelines for Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY). The new operational guidelines come at the onset of the rabi season, which starts from 1st of October.

Modified guidelines:

  • Provision of penalties for States and Insurance Companies for the delay in settlement of insurance claims has been incorporated.
  • There is a Standard Operating Procedure for evaluation of insurance companies and remove them from the scheme if found ineffective in providing services.
  • The Government has also decided to include perennial horticultural crops under the ambit of PMFBY on a pilot basis.
  • The scheme, as per the new operational guidelines provides add on coverage for crop loss due to attack of wild animals, which will be implemented on a pilot basis.
  • Aadhaar number will be mandatorily captured to avoid duplication of beneficiaries.
  • The insurance companies are given a target of enrolling 10% more non-loanee farmers than the previous corresponding season.
  • The insurance companies will have to mandatorily spend 0.5% of gross premium per company per season for publicity and awareness of the scheme.

Significance:

The new operational guidelines address the current challenges faced while implementing the scheme by putting forth effective solutions. The much demanded rationalization of premium release process has been incorporated in the new guidelines. As per this, the insurance companies need not provide any projections for the advance subsidy.

About PMFBY:

In April, 2016, the government of India had launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) after rolling back the earlier insurance schemes viz. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), Weather-based Crop Insurance scheme and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).

Premium: It envisages a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops, and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.

The scheme is mandatory for farmers who have taken institutional loans from banks. It’s optional for farmers who have not taken institutional credit.

Objectives:

  • Providing financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/damage arising out of unforeseen events.
  • Stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • Encouraging farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • Ensuring flow of credit to the agriculture sector which contributes to food security, crop diversification and enhancing growth and competitiveness of agriculture sector besides protecting farmers from production risks.

Source: PIB

The case for making Pluto a planet again

In News:

Scientists are arguing that denying Pluto planetary status is invalid and erroneous. A team of scientists is indicating that the basis on which Pluto was rejected as a planet does not have any support in research literature.

Background:

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was the ninth planet in the solar system based on an overestimation of its size. However, Pluto seemed to look out of place among the other larger planets after the discovery of swarms of ice dwarfs – icy rocks in the Kuiper Belt, at the very edge of the solar system billions of miles from the sun. Due to this, some astronomers suggested that Pluto could be just another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) and not a planet.

How is a planet defined?

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) laid out some guidelines for a celestial body to be called a planet. The IAU said that there were three conditions that must be fulfilled for a celestial body to be termed as a planet: 1) it must be round; 2) it must orbit the sun; and 3) it must have “cleared the neighbourhood” of its orbit.

Why was Pluto rejected?

According to the IAU’s definition, Pluto does not meet the criteria, as Neptune’s gravity influences it, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt.

Pluto downgraded to “dwarf planet”:

After several years of intense debate, astronomers finally reached a consensus in August 2006. They decided to demote Pluto in an extreme redefinition of planethood that seemed to favour scientific reasoning over historic and cultural influences. The decision meant that Pluto will not be a planet anymore.

Pluto stood apart from the other discovered planets. Not only because of its small size, but because its elongated orbit was tilted with respect to other planets, and it goes insider Neptune’s orbit as part of its 248-year journey around the sun.

Key facts:

  • Pluto has five known moons, the largest of which is Charon. Charon is about half the size of Pluto itself, making it the largest satellite relative to the planet it orbits in our solar system.
  • Pluto orbits the Sun about 3.6 billion miles (5.8 billion km) away on average.
  • A year on Pluto is 248 Earth years. A day on Pluto lasts 153 hours, or about 6 Earth days.
  • Pluto has a thin atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. The atmosphere has a blue tint and distinct layers of haze.

Source: The Hindu

Industrial licensing

  • Recently, the home ministry has got the power to issue industrial licences for defence manufacturing from Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP).
  • The defence manufacturing includes electronic aerospace and defence equipment manufacturing.
  • The following are the 6 industries which require compulsory licensing
  1. Arms and ammunition, explosives and allied items of defence equipment,
  2. Defence aircraft and warships,
  3. Atomic substances,
  4. Narcotics and psychotropic substances,
  5. Hazardous chemicals, distillation and brewing of alcoholic drinks,
  6. Cigarettes/cigars and manufactured tobacco substitutes.

Space Technology Incubation Centre

  • ISRO has recently launched a space technology incubation centre in Tripura capital Agartala.
  • It is the first of six such centres planned nationally to build capacity in new locations.
  • The Centre was launched at the first edition of ‘Spacetronics’ organised by the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA).
  • The centre will incubate start-ups which would build applications, offer services and products which can be used internally and expolit global opportunities.

India and Germany Pact

  • India and Germany have signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) to focus on the field of dual vocational education and training and skill development.
  • Under the MoA, students who complete specific training courses in India will get a certificate that is recognised in India and in Germany too.
  • These students can apply for jobs in India and also in Germany.

Akash Missile

  • Akash is an indigenously developed medium-range, surface-to-air missile defence system.
  • DRDO developed Akash as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme initiated in 1984.
  • It can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 m.
  • It consists of Rohini radar that detects incoming aircraft with a range of 120 km.
  • It can intercept fighter jets, cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles.
  • It soon will get an upgraded variant and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave its procedural approval to the variant.
  • Recently, it was test fired with an indigenous radio frequency seeker.
  • This is the first surface-to-air missile with indigenous seeker that has been test fired.
  • With this success, India has achieved the capability of making any type of surface-to-air missile.

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By Naveen