Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - September 18, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

AICTE-SPICE

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


Context

  • The Union Education Minister has launched the AICTE-SPICES (Scheme for Promoting Interests, Creativity and Ethics among Students).
  • The idea behind this scheme is to promote healthy co-curricular activity amongst the students for their all-round development.

About the scheme

  • The Scheme provides financial support to institutions for developing students club for the well rounded development of students by promoting their interests, creativity and ethics.
  • This club should serve as a model for other clubs in the institution and also those in other institutions.

About the Eligibility

  • AICTE approved institutes which have been in existence for at least five years.
  • Only one proposal per institute for a club (with minimum student members 50) will be admissible.
  • The institute may choose its best performing club for applying under the scheme for the grant.

Source: PIB.

National Highway Excellence Awards 2020

Focus: GS3.

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


Context

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has invited proposals for the National Highways Excellence Awards for the year 2020.
  • Instituted in 2018, the aim of the awards is to recognise companies that are performing exceptionally well in the construction, operations, maintenance and tolling stages of highway development as well as in the arena of road safety.

Background

The motive behind starting an annual awards program is to create a spirit of healthy competitiveness amongst all stakeholders involved in the development of highway infrastructure in the country and to contribute to the larger goal of expanding the road network in the country.

About the categories

  • Excellence in Project Management
  • Excellence in Operation and Maintenance
  • Green Highway
  • Innovation
  • Excellence in Highway Safety
  • Excellence in Toll Management

Source: AIR News.

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Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context

  • Recently, the 56th ITEC day was observed online by the High Commission of India in Dhaka.
  • According to a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka , over 4000 young Bangladeshi professionals have benefitted from various ITEC programmes since 2007. 

Background

  • These training programmes provide an opportunity to share best practises which benefit both the countries.
  • In the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, in the current year, several specialised e-ITEC courses on COVID-19 management strategies were organised for health-care Professionals and Administrators from Bangladesh.

About the programme

  • An exclusive e-ITEC Bangla course for COVID-19 was organized by AIIMS Bhubaneswar in which over 150 trainees participated from all over Bangladesh.
  • Another online training for Provincial and District level administrative heads on ‘Good Governance Practices in a Pandemic’ was organized by the National Center for Good Governance, Mussoorie. 
  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Raipur organised an e-ITEC course for Healthcare professionals in which more than 90 health care professionals from Bangladesh participated. 

About the Highlights

  • It was launched in 1964 by the Ministry of External Affairs and is fully funded by the Government of India.
  • The Programme is essentially bilateral in nature. 
  • However, in recent years, ITEC resources have also been used for cooperation programmes conceived in regional and inter-regional context such as Economic Commission for Africa, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNIDO and Group of 77.
  • More than 10 thousand training slots are offered every year to more than 160 partner countries for training courses in various areas like Accounts, Audit, Management, SME, Rural Development, Parliamentary Affairs etc.
  • Division of Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal division for handling all capacity building programmes.

About the Components

  • Training (civilian and defence) in India of nominees from ITEC partner countries
  • Projects and project-related activities such as feasibility studies and consultancy services
  • Deputation of Indian experts abroad;
  • Study Tours
  • Gifts/Donations of equipment at the request of ITEC partner countries
  • Aid for Disaster Relief.

Source: AIR News.

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Focus: GS2.

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 Lok Sabha passed the bill to amend Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The bill seeks to deregulate food items, pulses, cereals and onion.
  • The amendment is already being implemented as ordinance.
  • The GoI, in June 2020, promulgated the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

Background 

  • The amendment provides conditions to impose stock limit to the essential commodities. They are as follows:
    • When there is 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce
    • When there is 50% increase in retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items
  • The increase is to be calculated over the price prevailing in twelve months or is to be compared with the average retail price of last five years.
  • The price whichever is lower is to be considered.

About the need for the amendment

  • Imposition of curbs on stocking of farm produce under Essential Commodities Act was one of the major reasons for less entrepreneurial spirit.
  • It hindered the investment towards agriculture sector.
  • India became surplus in most of the agricultural commodities and farmers were unable to receive better prices due to lack of investment in processing, cold storage and exports.

About the Highlights

  • The amendment empowers Government of India to control, supply, production, distribution, trade and commerce of certain commodities.
  • The Central Government can now regulate supply of onions, potato, edible oil seeds, oils, cereals, pulses under extraordinary circumstances.
  • The extraordinary circumstances include famine, war, natural calamity and extraordinary price rise.
  • It empowers the central government to regulate stock of essential commodities.
  • The amendment is not applicable to food items that are included in Public Distribution Systems.
  • Also, the stock limits are not applicable to PDS outlets. Under PDS system, the GoI provides food grains at subsidized prices to eligible prices.

Source: AIR News.

Govt prepares draft of Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020

Focus: GS3.

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


Context

The Power Ministry has drafted rules providing for Rights of Electricity Consumers for the First Time. 

About the objective
  • To provide consumer satisfaction, it is imperative to identify the key services, prescribe minimum service levels, and standards with respect to these services and recognize them as rights of consumers.
  • With this objective, a draft of Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020 has been prepared for the 1st time by the govt.
About the Highlights
  • Electricity Consumers are the most important stakeholders in the power sector.
  • It is imperative to identify the key services, prescribe minimum service levels.
  • It is important to have standards with respect to these services and recognize them as rights of consumers.
  • Proposes Simplified procedure for electricity connection.
  • Only 2 documents to be required for connection up to load of 10 kw
  • 2 to 5% rebate on serving bills with delay of sixty days or more proposed
  • Provision for 24×7 Toll free Call Centre
  • Web-based and mobile applications for common services envisaged.
  • SERCs to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for DISCOMs.
  • Only two documents for connection up to load of 10 kw and no estimation of demand charges for loads up to 150 kw to expedite giving connection.
  • Time period of not more than 7 days in metro cities,
  • 15 days in other municipal areas and 30 days in rural areas, to provide new connection and modify existing connection.
  • 2 to 5% rebate on serving bills with delay of sixty days or more.
  • Option to pay bills in cash, cheque, debit cards, net banking etc but bills of Rs. 1000 or more to be paid online.
  • They will have right to produce electricity for self-use and inject excess in the grid using same point of connection up to limits prescribed by the SERC.
  • For delay in service by DISCOMs; 
  • compensation to be automatic as far as possible, to be passed on in the bill.
  • 24×7 toll free call centre,
  • mobile applications for common services like new connection, disconnection, reconnection etc. with facilities for sms/email alerts, online status tracking and auto escalation.
  • Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum with 2-3 representatives of consumers at various levels starting from Sub-division for ease of consumer grievance redressal.

Source: AIR News.

Cycle 25/ Solar Cycle

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Context

  • The sunspots identified by researchers from IISER Kolkata herald the start of a new solar cycle called Cycle 25.
  • Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun’s photosphere that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas.
  • They are relatively cooler spots on the Sun’s surface.

About the Sunspots

  • They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection.
  • Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity with a leader and a follower.

About the Solar Cycle

  • From our safe distance of about 148 million km, the Sun appears to be sedate and constant.
  • However, huge solar flares and coronal mass ejections spew material from its surface into outer space.
  • They originate from sunspots, an important phenomenon that people have been following for hundreds of years.
  • They originate deep within the Sun and become visible when they pop out.
  • Their number is not constant but shows a minimum and then rises up to a maximum and then falls again in what is called the solar cycle.
  • Every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips.
  • This means that the Sun’s north and south poles switch places.
  • Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again.
  • So far, astronomers have documented 24 such cycles, the last one ended in 2019.

Source: Indian Express.

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 passed by Parliament, after Rajya Sabha's approval

Focus: GS3.                                

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


Context

  • The Parliament passed Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 on September 15, 2020 after it was approved by the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Lok Sabha had passed the bill earlier on March 17th.
  • The bill seeks to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934 and covert three existing regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) into statutory bodies. 

Background

  • The three regulatory bodies include the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
  • The bill has proposed each of the bodies to be headed by a Director General who will be appointed by the centre.
  • While tabling the bill in the upper house, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the legislation has given new definition to three bodies. 
  • The Aircraft Act, 1934 regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft and licensing of aerodromes. 

About the Highlights

  • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 proposes to convert three existing regulatory bodies under the Civil Aviation Ministry into statutory bodies under the Aircraft Act, 1934.
  • Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will be the regulatory bodies.
  • The three authorities will then be headed by a Director-General, who will be appointed by the central government.
  • The central government will also be empowered to issue directions to these authorities on concerned matters. 
  • Under the Act, the central government may make rules on several matters including registration of aircraft, regulating air transport services, the prohibition of flight over any specified area.
  • The amendment bill adds the regulation of air navigation services to this list.
  • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 also proposes to allow the centre to empower the Director General or any other authorised officer to issue directions and make rules on certain matters including inspection of aircraft, conditions under which an aircraft may be flown and measures to safeguard civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference. 
  • The bill also proposes the appointment of designated officers, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary to adjudicate penalties under the Bill.
  • Those concerned have the option of appealing against the designated officer’s order to an appellate officer.
  • The appeals, however, must be filed within 30 days of receiving the order. 

Source: AIR News.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment, DCOC/JA:
  1. India has joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment, DCOC/JA, as Observer.
  2. DCOC/JA is a grouping on maritime matters comprising 18 member states adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East Coast of Africa and Island countries in the Pacific Ocean Region.
  3. The DCOC, established in January 2009, is aimed at repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

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: C

  • DCOC/JA is a grouping on maritime matters comprising 18 member states adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East Coast of Africa and Island countries in the Indian Ocean Region.

  1. Kosi Rail Mahasetu is in:
   A. Uttar Pradesh
   B. Bihar
   C. Telangana
   D. Gujarat

Solution: B

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