Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - December 29, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Super Hornet fighter jets being tested for Navy use

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


Context

  • Boeing has announced the successful demonstration of the compatibility of its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets with the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers as part of its pitch for the Navy’s fighter procurement.
  • It is the world’s most lethal, advanced, combat-proven, multi-role frontline fighter-jet.

About the jet

  • The jet has been developed by US Aerospace Company, Boeing.
  • It is capable of tactical strikes, air reconnaissance, air defense, and maritime roles.
  • Enhanced computing and data link, advanced cockpit system, signature improvements are included.
  • Lowest cost per flight hour among all U.S. tactical fighters in production.

Source: The Times of India.

Great Indian Bustard

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Context

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) along with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India has come up with a unique initiative — a “firefly bird diverter” for overhead power lines in areas where Great Indian Bustard (GIB) populations are found in the wild.

About GIB

  • GIB is one of the most critically threatened species in India, with less than 150 birds left in the wild.
  • GIBs are one of the heaviest flying birds in India.

Highlights

  • Experts say only two districts in Rajasthan — Jaisalmer and Barmer — have a breeding GIB population in the wild.
  • The bird can also be found in very small numbers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The National Green Tribunal report in 2019, pointed out that power lines, especially high-voltage transmission lines with multiple overhead wires, are the most important current threat for GIBs in the Thar region, and are causing unsustainably high mortality in about 15% of their population.
  • Firefly bird diverters are flaps installed on power lines.
  • They work as reflectors for bird species like the GIB. Birds can spot them from a distance of about 50 meters and change their path of flight to avoid collision with power lines.
  • Smaller birds can change their direction [swiftly] but for larger bird species, it is difficult because their body weight and other factors.
  • A total of 1,813 firefly bird diverters are being installed in this stretch — a model that has been endorsed by experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Bustard Specialist Group.
  • The diverters are called fireflies because they look like fireflies from a distance, shining on power lines in the night.
  • The selected stretch is opposite the Pokhran Field Firing Range, which offers a safe habitat to a breeding population of GIBs outside the Desert National Park Sanctuary in Jaisalmer.
  • Death is most cases is due to impact with the wires and not due to electrocution.
  • The Supreme Court of India, in a recent hearing, directed that power lines in GIB landscapes should be placed underground.
  • The innovative firefly diverter installation could serve as an alternative means to species conservation.

Source: The Hindu.

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Centre approves merger of Five Film Media Units with National Film Development Corporation

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • The merger will be done by expanding the Memorandum of Articles of Association of NFDC, which will then carry out all the activities hitherto performed by them.
  • To support the film sector in India, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved to merge four of its film media units, namely Films Division, Directorate of Film. 

Background

  • Festivals, National Film Archives of India, and Children's Film Society, India with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd.
  • This will be done by expanding the Memorandum of Articles of Association of NFDC, which will then carry out all the activities hitherto performed by them.

Highlights

  • The merger of Film Media Units under one corporation will lead to convergence of activities and resources and better coordination, thereby ensuring synergy and efficiency in achieving the mandate of each media unit.
  • The merger of Film Media Units under a single corporation will lead to synergy amongst the various activities with better and efficient utilization of misting infrastructure and manpower. This will lead to reduction in duplication of activities and direct savings to the exchequer.
  • Further, the Cabinet also approved the appointment of a Transaction Advisor and Legal Advisor to advise on the transfer of assets and employees and to oversee all aspects of operationalization of the merger.
  • While undertaking this exercise of convergence, interests of the employees of all the concerned Media Units will be fully taken care and no employee will be retrenched, the Cabinet said.
  • According to the Cabinet, the umbrella organization, NFDC, consequent upon the merger of Film Media Units will be uniquely placed concerning promotion, production & preservation of filmic content - all under one management.
  • The vision of the new entity will be to ensure balanced and focused development of Indian cinema in all its genres-feature films, including films /content for the OTT platforms, children's content, animation, short films and documentaries.

Source: PIB.

Cabinet Approves Revision in Guidelines For Providing Direct To Home Services

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for revision of the guidelines for obtaining license for providing Direct-To-Home (DTH) broadcasting service in India.
  • License for the DTH will be issued for a period of 20 years in place of present 10 years.

Background

  • Further the period of License may be renewed by 10 years at a time.
  • License fee has been revised from 10% of GR to 8% of AGR. 
  • AGR will be calculated by deduction of GST from GR.
  • License Fee will be collected on quarterly basis in lieu of presently annual basis.

Highlights

  • DTH operators shall be permitted to operate .to a maximum of 5% of its total channel carrying capacity as permitted platform channels.
  • A one-time non-refundable registration fee of Rs.10,000 per PS channel shall be charged from a DTH operator.
  • Sharing of Infrastructure between DTH operators. DTH operators, willing to share DTH platform and transport stream of TV channels, on voluntary basis, will be allowed.
  • Distributors of TV channels will be permitted to share the common hardware for their Subscriber Management System (SMS) and Conditional Access System (CAS) applications.
  • The cap of 49% FDl in the existing DTH guidelines will be aligned with the extant Government (DPIIT's) policy on FDl as amended from time to time.

Source: AIR News.

Post Matric Scholarship To Students Belonging To Scheduled Castes (PMS-SC)

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.


Context

The Union Cabinet has recently approved major changes in the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Post Matric Scholarship to students belonging to Scheduled Castes (PMS-SC)’ to benefit more than 4 Crore SC students in the next 5 years so that they can successfully complete their higher education.

Background

  • A campaign will be launched to enrol the students, from the poorest households passing the 10th standard, in the higher education courses of their choice in the next 5 years.
  • The scheme will be run on an online platform with robust cyber security measures that would assure transparency and timely delivery of the assistance.

Highlights

  • The States will undertake fool-proof verification of the eligibility, caste status, Aadhar identification and bank account details on the online portal.
  • Transfer of financial assistance to the students under the scheme shall be on DBT mode, and preferably using the Aadhar Enabled Payment System. 
  • It shall start from from 2021-22. 
  • The Central share shall be 60% in the scheme. 
  • Monitoring mechanism will be further strengthened through conduct of social audits, annual third party evaluation, and half-yearly self-audited reports from each institution.
  • The Central Assistance which was around Rs 1100 crore annually during 2017-18 to 2019-20 would be increased more than 5 times to be around Rs 6000 core annually during 2020-21 to 2025-26.

Source: Times of India.

Medium Range Surface to Air Missile

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


Context

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has achieved a major milestone with the maiden launch of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM), Army Version from Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, off the Coast of Odisha.
  • The missile completely destroyed a high speed unmanned aerial target which was mimicking an aircraft with a direct hit.

Background

  • Army version of MRSAM is a surface to Air Missile developed jointly by DRDO, India and IAI, Israel for use of the Indian Army.
  • MRSAM Army weapon system comprises of Command post, Multi-Function Radar and Mobile Launcher system.

Highlights

  • The complete Fire Unit has been used during the launch in the deliverable configuration.
  • The team from the users i.e. Indian Army also witnessed the launch.
  • Number of range instruments such as Radar, Telemetry and Electro-Optical Tracking System were deployed and captured the complete mission data, validating the weapon system performance including the destruction of the target.

Source: Hindustan Times.

World Bank, govt ink pact for $500-mn project to develop green highways

Focus: GS3.                                

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

Context

  • The World Bank and the Government of India inked a pact for a USD 500-million project to build safe and green national highway corridors, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.
  • The highway corridors will be developed in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Background

"The Government of India and the World Bank today (on Tuesday) signed a USD 500-million project to build safe and green national highway corridors in the states of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh," the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said in a statement.

Highlights

  • The project will enhance the capacity of the MoRTH in mainstreaming safety and green technologies.
  • The Green National Highways Corridors Project will support MoRTH construct 783 km of highways in various geographies by integrating safe and green technology designs such as local and marginal materials, industrial byproducts, and other bioengineering solutions.
  • The selected stretches in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh will also help improve connectivity and promote economic development.
  • The ultimate objective of transport infrastructure is to provide seamless connectivity and reduce logistics costs, the statement said.
  • It added that the government has launched many investment programmes in road sector infrastructure to strengthen and improve logistics performance.
  • This project will also support analytics to map the freight volume and movement pattern on the national highway network, identify constraints, and provide innovative logistics solutions.
  • The project will support the ministry with an in-depth analysis of gender-related issues in the transport sector, it added.
  • It will also help in creating jobs for women by training women-led micro enterprises and women collectives to implement green technologies in the highway corridors.
  • The national highways carry about 40 per cent of road traffic.
  • However, several sections of these highways have inadequate capacity, weak drainage structures and black spots prone to accidents.
  • The project will strengthen and widen existing structures; construct new pavements, drainage facilities and bypasses; improve junctions; and introduce road safety features.
  • "It is imperative that the infrastructure investments are climate resilient. To this effect, disaster risk assessment of about 5,000 km of the national highway network will also be undertaken under the project," the statement said.
  • The USD 500-million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a maturity of 18.5 years including a grace period of five years.

Source: Business Standard.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt UNESCO’s list of intangible culture:
  • It is an annual list which focuses on those forms of performing art which are of outstanding value but are vulnerable due to lack of support.
  • Representative List comprises cultural practices and expressions that help to demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance.
  • Urgent Safeguarding list is composed of those cultural elements “whose continuous recreation and transmission” are threatened and are in need of immediate support.

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: D

  1. Shaheen-IX joint air exercise is between:

       A. India and Pakistan
       B. India and China
       C. China and Pakistan
       D. India and Maldives

Solution: C

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