29th December 2020

Thoubal Multipurpose Project

Recently, the Union Home Minister has inaugurated the e-office and Thoubal Multipurpose Project (Thoubal Dam) in Imphal.

  • The Thoubal Multipurpose Project on River Thoubal is located near the village Phayang in Manipur.
  • The sanctioned project envisaged construction of 1120 m long earth dam across the river Thoubal.
  • The Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose project, now known as Mapithel Dam, is a mega dam.
  • The project is implemented in Mapithel area in Phungyar subdivision of Ukhrul district targeting to irrigate 21,000 hectares of cultivable land.
  • The main purpose of the project is to utilize the water resource of the Yangwui Kong River which originates in the western hill slopes of Shiroi Hills and Hoomi in the Ukhrul District.
  • The project has been undertaken by the Government of Manipur’s Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD), with assistance from the central government.

Thoubal River

  • Thoubal River is one of the major tributaries of the Imphal River that originates from the hill ranges of Ukhrul.
  • It passes through Yairipok and Thoubal before joining the Imphal at Irong near Mayang Imphal.
  • The Imphal River rises in the hills of Senapati district and flows south.

 

National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)

Recently, while inaugurating the first-ever driverless Metro operations, the Prime Minister also launched the expansion of National Common Mobility Card to the Airport Express Line of Delhi Metro.

  • The national common mobility card, also known as the ‘One Nation One Card’, is an inter-operable transport card.
  • It is launched for passengers to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro and bus services, through a common card.
  • The idea of NCMC was floated by the Nandan Nilekani committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • NCMC will allow passengers with RuPay debit card, issued in the last 18 months by 23 banks, including SBI, UCO Bank, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank etc. to be swiped for Metro travel.
  • The NCMC facility will become available on the entire Delhi Metro network by 2022.
  • The NCMC card has 2 instruments on it i.e. a regular debit card which can be used at an ATM and a local wallet (stored value account), which can be used for contactless payments.

Need for National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)

  • The Public Transport is extensively used across India as the economical and convenient mode of commuting for all classes of society.
  • Cash continues to be the most preferred mode of fare payments across the public transport but there are multiple challenges associated with the cash payment e.g. cash handling, revenue leakages, cash reconciliation etc.
  • In order to ensure a seamless travel across metros and other transport systems in addition to retail shopping and purchases, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) came out with the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) Program.

Significance of National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)

  • The NCMC is an automatic fare collection system which will turn smartphones into an inter-operable transport card that commuters can use eventually to pay for Metro, bus and suburban railways services.
  • The national common mobility card also allows cardholders to pay their parking charges, toll taxes, retail shopping, as well as withdraw money.
  • The NCMC Ecosystem offers the value proposition for customers as they need not to carry multiple cards for different usage.
  • The super quick contactless transactions will improve the seamless experience in the post-COVID world.
  • It will also help in higher digital payments penetration, savings on closed loop card lifecycle management cost and reduced operating cost.
  • NCMC Ecosystem will further help government in digitization of low value payments and reduced cost for the entire ecosystem.

Strengthening of Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat

  • One Nation, One Fastag: It has made travel seamless on highways across the country and has saved commuters from jam and delays.
  • One Nation, One Tax: GST has ended the complications in the tax system and has brought uniformity in indirect tax system.
  • One Nation, One Power Grid: It is ensuring adequate and continuous power availability in every part of the country.
  • One Nation, One Gas Grid: Seamless Gas Connectivity is being ensured of the parts where gas-based life and economy used to be a dream earlier.
  • One Nation, One Health Insurance Scheme: Ayushman Bharat supports millions of people from India who can are take advantage of the scheme anywhere in the country.

 

International Blue Flag Certification

Recently, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has virtually hoisted the international blue flags in 8 beaches across the country.

  • India secured the International Blue Flag Certification for 8 beaches in October 2020.
  • The beaches where the International Blue Flags were hoisted are Kappad (Kerala), Shivrajpur (Gujarat), Ghoghla (Diu), Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka), Rushikonda (Andhra Pradesh), Golden (Odisha) and Radhanagar (Andaman & Nicobar Islands).
  • The ‘Blue Flag’ is a certification that can be obtained by a beach, marina, or sustainable boating tourism operator, and serves as an eco-label.
  • The certification is awarded by the Denmark-based non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).
    • The FEE sets stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria that applicants must meet and maintain.
  • It is awarded annually to beaches and marinas in FEE member countries.
  • It was started in France in 1985 and in areas out of Europe in 2001.
  • The programme promotes sustainable development in freshwater and marine areas through four main criteria i.e. water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.
  • India is the only country that has received the Blue Flag certification in 2 years’ time.
    • Japan, South Korea and UAE are the only other Asian nations that have been conferred with a couple of Blue Flag beaches in a time frame of about 5 to 6 years.
  • India is now in the league of 50 ‘Blue Flag’ countries.

India’s efforts towards Blue Flag Certification

Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services (BEAMS)

  • India launched its own eco-label BEAMS by e-hoisting the flag simultaneously at all the eight beaches.
  • BEAMS is launched under its ICZM (Integrated Coastal Zone Management) project.
  • BEAMS is one of the several other projects of ICZM that the central government is undertaking for sustainable development of coastal regions.
  • The eight beaches recommended under the BEAMS are Shivrajpur in Gujarat, Ghoghla in Daman and Diu, Kasarkod and Padubidri in Karnataka, Kappad in Kerala, Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh, Golden in Odisha and Radhanagar in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The primary objectives of BEAMS are:
    • abate pollution in coastal waters;
    • promote sustainable development of beach facilities;
    • protect and conserve coastal ecosystems and natural resources; and
    • seriously challenge local authorities and stakeholders to strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness, hygiene and safety for beachgoers.

I Am Saving My Beach Campaign

  • The campaign was started by Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM)-MoEFCC at 10 beaches in 2019.
  • It is a national level campaign that will be undertaken periodically at these nominated pilot beaches for Blue Flag certification journey.

 

Pneumosil

Recently, the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare has launched a vaccine called ‘Pneumosil’.

  • It is India’s first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
  • It has been developed by the Serum Institute of India Private Limited (SIIPL) in collaboration with partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Pneumosil was found to be safe and effective in the prevention of Pneumonia disease during the clinical trials.
  • Based on the clinical trials, the Drugs Controller General (India) has licensed the Pneumosil vaccine in July 2020 after approval from Subject Expert Committee (SEC).
  • The vaccine targets the pneumococcal bacterium, which causes pneumonia and other serious life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and sepsis.

Significance of Pneumosil

  • Pneumosil is an example of India’s capability in Research & Development and manufacturing high end sophisticated Vaccines.
  • It is matter of pride for India for this historical milestone during COVID-19 Pandemic because till now India was fully dependent on Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine manufactured by Foreign Manufacturers.
  • It is a significant milestone for the country’s public healthcare which will ensure that children are protected better against pneumococcal disease with an effective vaccine.

Pneumonia disease

  • Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs.
  • Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages.
  • It normally starts with a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
  • The treatment depends on the type and severity of the pneumonia:
    • Bacterial types of pneumonia are usually treated with antibiotics.
    • Viral types of pneumonia are usually treated with rest and plenty of fluids. Antiviral medications can be used in influenza.
    • Fungal types of pneumonia are usually treated with antifungal medications.

Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan Project

Recently, the Minister of State for Tourism & Culture has undertook a review meeting of the Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan Project.

  • It is a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India and State/ UTs Government.
  • The project was launched by the President of India on 27th September 2017 on the occasion of World Tourism Day.
  • It is aimed at developing tourism amenities at heritage/ natural/ tourist sites spread across India for making them tourist friendly, in a planned and phased manner.
  • The project aims to encourage companies from public sector, private sector, trusts, NGOs, individuals and other stakeholders to become ‘Monument Mitras’.
  • The successful bidders selected for adopting heritage, natural, tourist sites / monuments by the Oversight and Vision Committee shall be called as Monument Mitras.
  • The Private and Public Sector Companies, Trusts, NGOs and Individuals are eligible for adopting heritage site (s)/ monument (s) under this project.

Significance of Adopt a Heritage Project

  • It is a well-conceived initiative and by leveraging CSR, the project would help in providing the basic amenities such as cleanliness, safe drinking water, light, and sounds in the lesser-known monuments.
  • It provides that stakeholders should take up the responsibility of developing and upgrading the basic and advanced tourist amenities at heritage sites as per their interest and viability in terms of a sustainable investment model under CSR.
  • The objectives of the project are:
    • Developing basic tourism infrastructure in and around heritage sites, monuments, natural sites and tourist sites.
    • Develop facilities and amenities to improve the tourist experience at heritage sites, monuments, natural sites and tourist sites.
    • Promote cultural and heritage value of the country and develop avenues to create awareness about the heritage/natural/tourist sites in the country
    • Develop and promote sustainable tourism infrastructure and ensure proper Operations and Maintenance therein.
    • Develop employment opportunities and support livelihoods of local communities at the heritage, natural and tourist sites.

Challenges to India’s Neighbourhood First Policy in 2020

India faced a trifecta of challenges in its neighbourhood from China i.e. the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing competition for influence in South Asia and aggressive actions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Challenges to India’s Neighbourhood First Policy in 2020

  • COVID-19 Challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China has led to one of the biggest health challenges, causing heavy economic damage in South Asia.
    • India ranks second after the United States in terms of number of cases, and the worst-hit economy among G20 nations.
  • China doubled down on territorial claims and its transgressions along its borders with South Asia i.e. from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, leading to violent clashes.
  • China also laid claim to Bhutan’s Sakteng natural reserves and pushed along the boundary lines with Nepal, all of which changed India’s strategic calculations along its Himalayan frontiers.
  • India and Nepal saw their worst tensions in decades over the construction of a road to Lipulekh, leading to Nepal amending its constitution and map to claim Indian Territory.
  • A new defence pact between China and Pakistan vis-à-vis a sharp rise in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan to the highest levels since 2003, has made it clear that India must factor in among its military challenges at the LAC.

Measures adopted by India to tackle Challenges to Neighbourhood First Policy

  • India’s military ran a series of missions to SAARC countries and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with supplies of food and medicines, and India’s ‘Vande Bharat’ mission flew home nationals from neighbouring countries.
  • The government’s response to the challenges has been to assert its Neighbourhood First and SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) strategies as foreign policy priorities.
  • India has also upped its game on infrastructure delivery, particularly for regional connectivity in the past year, including completing railway lines to Bangladesh and Nepal, riverine projects, ferry service to the Maldives, identifying other services to Sri Lanka and IOR islands.

 

Maintaining Inflation target at 4%

Recently, an RBI Paper has said that maintaining 4 per cent inflation is appropriate for India as targeting a lower rate could impart deflationary bias to the monetary policy.

  • The study highlighted that the weighted average trend inflation declined from above 5 per cent until Q2 of 2008 to around 5 per cent by 2009.
    • It eased steadily thereafter and remained at 4.3 per cent in Q1 of 2020.
  • The concept of trend or steady state inflation, the level to which actual inflation outcomes are expected to converge after short run fluctuations from a variety of sources, including shocks, die out.
  • It is worthwhile to note that trend inflation still remains above the target under flexible inflation targeting (FIT), although it is on a declining trajectory.
    • It indicates that inflation expectations are not yet fully anchored to the target but convergence is underway.
  • The report said that the decline in the inflation persistence indicates that households and businesses in India are becoming more forward looking than before as credibility associated with monetary policy increases.
  • The study added that understanding persistence or the tendency of inflation to converge slowly to its trend is critical to fashioning appropriate monetary policy responses in terms of the size and timing of policy actions.
  • The target set below the trend imparts a deflationary bias to monetary policy because it will go into overkill relative what the economy can intrinsically bear in order to achieve the target.
  • The target that is fixed above trend renders monetary policy too expansionary and prone to inflationary shocks and unanchored expectations.

What is Trend Inflation?

  • Trend inflation can be thought of as the rate of inflation that would be expected to prevail if there were no temporary factors, such as a level of economy activity below the economy’s potential, influencing the inflation rate.
  • Trend inflation provides key insights for monetary policy committee in at least three important ways:
    • First, the level and variability of trend inflation indicate how anchored inflation expectations are.
    • Second, it is a valuable gauge of the appropriateness of the monetary policy stance and the necessity or otherwise of additional monetary policy actions to achieve steady state inflation.
    • Third, trend inflation provides a centering point for the evaluation of inflation forecasts over various time periods and can usefully inform the setting of monetary policy.

 

India to become fifth-largest economy in 2025

Recently, an annual report of Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has said that India will again overtake the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest in 2025 and race to the third spot by 2030.

  • India had overtaken the United Kingdom in 2019 to become the fifth-largest economy but India has been knocked off course somewhat through the impact of the pandemic.
  • The United Kingdom overtakes India again in this year’s forecasts and stays ahead till 2024 before India takes over again.
    • The U.K. appears to have overtaken India again during 2020 as a result of the weakness of the rupee.
  • The CEBR forecast that the Indian economy would expand by 9% in 2021 and by 7% in 2022.
    • The growth will naturally slow as India becomes more economically developed, with annual GDP growth expected to sink to 5.8% in 2035.

Concerns associated with Indian Economy

  • The rate of GDP growth sank to a more than the ten-year low of 4.2 percent in 2019, down from 6.1 percent the previous year and around half the 8.3 percent growth rate recorded in 2016.
  • The slowing growth has been a consequence of a confluence of factors including fragility in the banking system, adjustment to reforms, and a deceleration of global trade.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been a human and an economic catastrophe for India, with more than 140,000 deaths recorded as of the middle of December.

Recommendations of Think Tank for Indian Economy

  • With the majority of the Indian workforce employed in the agricultural sector, the reform process requires a delicate and gradual approach that balances the need for longer-term efficiency gains with the need to support incomes in the short-term.
  • India is better placed than many other developing countries to roll out the vaccines successfully and efficiently next year with a 42-year-old vaccination programme that targets 55 million people each year.
  • The infrastructure bottlenecks that exist in India mean that investment in this area has the potential to unlock significant productivity gains.
    • The outlook for the economy going forwards will be closely related to the government’s approach to infrastructure spending.

 

Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG)

Recently, the DRDO Young Scientist Laboratory for Quantum Technologies (DYSL-QT) has developed a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG).

  • The DRDO Laboratory has developed a fiber-optic branch path based QRNG.
  • The branch path based QRNG is based on the principle that if a single photon is incident on a balanced beam splitter, it will take either of the beam-splitter output paths randomly.

Need for QRNG

  • The QRNG system developed by the laboratory has passed the global randomness testing standards viz. NIST and Die-harder Statistical Test Suites at the speed of 150 kbps after post-processing.
  • The random numbers have essential roles in many fields, such as Quantum Communication, cryptography, scientific simulations, lotteries and fundamental physics experiments.
  • The generation of genuine randomness is generally considered impossible with classical means.
  • Quantum Mechanics has the inherent potential of providing true random numbers and thus has become the preferred option for the scientific applications requiring randomness.

Significance of QRNG

  • The Quantum Random Number Generator detects random quantum events and converts those into a stream of binary digits.
  • The generated random numbers are evaluated and verified using DRDO’s indigenously developed Randomness Testing Statistical Test Suite of SAG.
  • India enters the club of countries who have the technology to achieve the generation of random numbers based on the Quantum Phenomenon.
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