Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - November 02, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Context

  • Earlier this week, India and the United States signed last of the four foundational defence agreements, BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement), during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue.
  • Both the sides said that the pact will aid greater information-sharing between New Delhi and Washington.

Background

Captain Vikram Mahajan (Retd), the director of Aerospace and Defense at policy think-tank US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, told HuffPost India in an email interview that BECA facilitates the exchange of geospatial information. “It provides a framework (for) the bilateral exchange of mostly unclassified data which can aid targeting and navigation in the areas of common interest.”

Highlights

  • The four foundational agreements—GSOMIA, LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA — were signed between India and the US in 2002, 2016, 2018 and 2020 respectively. 
  • The deals enable India to purchase or lease certain strategic platforms of the US which otherwise would not have been possible. 
  • After BECA was signed, several reports looked at how the agreement could help India keep an eye on and counter threats from China.
  • If the deal would have been signed earlier, the situation at the Northern border of India could have possibly been different.
  • The signing of BECA will help in better and more extensive monitoring of the activities taking place not just at the Northern, but also the Western border, of India.   

Source: The Hindu.

Cabinet Approves Extension Of Norms For Mandatory Jute Packaging

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.


Context

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved that 100% of the foodgrains and 20% of the sugar shall be mandatorily packed in diversified jute bags.
  • The decision to pack sugar in diversified jute bags will give an impetus to the diversification of the jute industry.

Background

  • Further, the decision also mandates that initially 10% of the indents of jute bags for packing foodgrains would be placed through reverse auction on the Gem portal.
  • This will gradually usher in a regime of price discovery.

Highlights

  • The Government has expanded the scope of mandatory packaging norms under the Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, 1987.
  • In case of any shortage or disruption in supply of jute packaging material or in other contingency/exigency, the Ministry of Textiles may, in consultation with the user Ministries concerned, relax these provisions further, up to a maximum of 30% of the production of foodgrains over and above the provisions.
  • Considering that nearly 3.7 lakh workers and several lakh farm families are dependent for their livelihood on the jute sectors, the government has been making concerted efforts for the development of jute sector; increasing the quality and productivity of raw jute, diversification of jute sector and also boosting and sustaining demand for jute products.
  • The approval will benefit farmers and workers located in the Eastern and North Eastern regions of the country particularly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Source: Business Standard.

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Cabinet approves externally aided dam rehabilitation and improvement project - Phase II and Phase III

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Context

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) Phase II & Phase III with the financial assistance of the World Bank (WB), and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to improve the safety and operational performance of selected dams across the whole country, along with institutional strengthening with system wide management approach.

Highlights

  • The project cost is Rs10,211cr.
  • The Project will be implemented over a period of 10 years duration in two Phases, each of six years duration with two years overlapping from April 2021 to March 2031.
  • The share of external funding is Rs7,000cr of the total project cost, and balance Rs3,211cr is to be borne by the concerned Implementing Agencies (IAs).
  • The contribution of Central Government is Rs1,024cr as loan liability and Rs285cr as counter-part funding for Central Component.

About DRIP scheme

  • To improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner.
  • To strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level, and
  • To explore the alternative incidental means at few of selected dams to generate the incidental revenue for sustainable operation and maintenance of dams.

Source: Business Standard.

Cabinet approves Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA approved Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies under Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme.
  • Briefing media in New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said, earlier, there used to be one rate for ethanol but now there will be different prices.

Background

  • He said new Price fixed for Ethanol produced from sugar will be Rs. 62.65 per litre, ethanol manufactured from B heavy molasses will be Rs. 57.61 per litre and ethanol manufactured from C heavy molasses will be Rs. 45.69 per litre.
  • Additionally GST and transportation charges will also be payable.

Highlights

  • Oil Marketing Companies have been advised to fix realistic transportation charges so that long distance transportation of ethanol is not disincentivised. 
  • In order to offer fair opportunity to the localized industry within the State and reduce crisscross movement of ethanol, Oil Marketing Companies shall decide the criteria for priority of ethanol from various sources taking in account various factors like cost of transportation, availability, etc.
  • Government has been implementing Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme wherein OMCs sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10 per cent.
  • This programme has been extended to whole of India except Union Territories of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 1st April, 2019 to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels.

Source: AIR News.

National Productivity Council set to inspect food storage warehouses

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.


Context

National Productivity Council (NPC) has been granted accreditation conforming to ISO 17020:2012 by National Accreditation Board for Certification Body (NABCB), Quality Council of India (QCI) for undertaking inspection and audit work in the area of Food Safety Audit and Scientific Storage of Agricultural Products.

Background

  • This accreditation is valid for a period of three years. NPC has already formed an Inspection Division at its Headquarters for undertaking Inspection and audit activities.
  • The present accreditation of NPC will enable it to undertake “Independent Third-Party Audits of Food Business Operators” including Food Storage Warehouses as per Food Safety and Standards (Food Safety Auditing) Regulations, 2018 of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as well as inspections of Warehouses as per WDRA Rules, 2017.

Highlights

  • NPC, under Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, has been conducting inspections and audit for different statutory bodies such as Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and is already having high credentials in the area of inspections and audits.
  • WDRA empanelled NPC as an accreditation and inspection agency since 2011 for inspection of Warehouses all over India.
  • FSSAI had also empanelled NPC as an auditing agency for conducting Food Safety Audit of Food Business Operators (FBOs) across India in the area of Food Storage/Warehousing/Cold Storage.
  • NPC has also conducted Audits of Dairy Plants, Oil Extraction Units, Solvent Extraction Plants and Oil Refineries for FSSAI.

Source: PIB.

Pan India common phone number for Indane LPG refill bookings

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • Indane Gas booking number will be changed from today (November 1) as the old numbers will not be acceptable.
  • Indian Oil has started one common number for Indane LPG refill booking across the country for customer convenience.

Background

  • The common booking number for LPG refills for the whole country is 7718955555.
  • It is available 24x7 for the customers.
  • "The current system of telecom circle-specific phone numbers for booking Indane LPG refills will be discontinued after 31.10.2020 midnight and the common booking number for LPG refills i.e. 7718955555, will be in force," Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas said.

Highlights

  • This common number for all-India LPG refill booking – through SMS and IVRS - is an important step to boost customer convenience and ease of booking Indane LPG refills.
  • This means that even if customers move from one telecom circle to another across States, their Indane refill booking number remains the same.
  • Notably, Indane LPG booking can be done using the customer’s registered mobile number only.

About the process

  • The revised process of LPG refill booking and mobile number registration is as follows:
  • If the customer’s number is already registered in Indane records,
    • IVRS will prompt the 16-digit consumer ID.
    • Please note that this 16-digit consumer ID is mentioned on the customer’s Indane LPG invoices / cash memos / subscription voucher.
    • Upon confirmation by the customer, the refill booking will be accepted.
  • If the customer’s mobile number is not available in Indane records
    • One-time registration of the mobile number should be done by customers by entering their 16-digit consumer ID starting with 7.
    • This should be followed by authentication in the same IVRS call.
    • Upon confirmation, the customer’s mobile number will get registered and the LPG refill booking will be accepted.
    • This 16-digit consumer ID of the customer is mentioned on Indane LPG invoices/ cash memos / subscription voucher.

Source: LiveMint.

Indian Railways launches 'Meri Saheli' to provide safety to women passengers.

Focus: GS3.                                

Topic: Indian Railways launches 'Meri Saheli' to provide safety to women passengers .


Context

  • Indian Railways has launched “Meri Saheli” initiative for focused action on security of women across all zones.
  • It is launched with an objective to provide safety and security to lady passengers travelling by trains for their entire journey from starting station to destination station.

About Operation “Meri Saheli”

  • An initiative of RPF, the Strategy of the entails interaction with lady passengers especially those travelling alone by a team of young lady RPF personnel at the originating station.
  • These lady passengers are briefed about all precautions to be taken during the journey.
  • They are told to dial 182 if they face or see any problem in the coach.
  • The RPF team collects only the seat numbers of the ladies and conveys them to stoppages en-route.

About the role of RPF

  • The platform duty RPF personnel at the stopping stations en-route keep unobtrusive watch over the concerned coaches and berths and if need arises, interact with the lady passengers.
  • RPF/RPSF escort onboard also covers all the coaches or identified berths during its duty period.
  • RPF teams at the destination collect the feedback from the identified lady passengers.
  • The feedback is then analysed and corrective action, if any, is taken.
  • If some distress call comes from a train covered under “Meri Saheli” initiative, the disposal of the call is monitored at the level of senior officers.
  • The “Meri Saheli” initiative was started as a pilot project in South Eastern Railway in September 2020 and after getting encouraging response from lady passengers, it was extended to all zones and KRCL with effect from 17 October 2020.The operation is gathering momentum.

Source: PIB.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about “SERB-POWER”:
  • The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, launched the scheme to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering research in various S&T programs.
  • SERB – POWER Scheme will have two components namely (i) SERB-POWER Fellowship (ii) SERB- POWER Research Grants.
  • It targets women researchers in 35-65 years of age.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

    A. 1 and 2 only
    B. 2 and 3 only
    C. 1 and 3 only
    D. AOTA

Solution: A

  • It targets women researchers in 35-55 years of age.

  1. National Productivity Council (NPC) is under the Ministry of:

    A. Social Justice
    B. Labour and Employment
    C. Commerce and Industry
    D. Fertilizers

Solution: C

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