National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 8th March 2019

Large hydro projects get ‘renewable energy’ status

Topic: Energy sector development

In News: The Union Cabinet approved a new hydroelectric policy aimed at boosting the sector, including according large hydro projects the status of renewable energy projects.

More on the Topic:

  • According to the new policy, large hydro projects will also be designated as renewable energy projects. So far, only smaller projects of less than 25 MW in capacity were categorised as renewable energy.
  • With the removal of this distinction, large hydro projects will be included as a separate category under the non-solar renewable purchase obligation policy. Under this policy, power purchasers will have to source a portion of electricity from large hydro projects.
  • The new policy had increased the debt repayment period for hydro projects to 18 years from the current 12 years with the provision to introduce an escalating tariff of 2%.
  • Renewable energyincluding large scale hydro-power currently adds up to more than 33% of the total installed power capacity in India. Wind power capacity was 34,046 MW as of 31 March 2018, making India the fourth-largest wind power producer in the world.

Source:Hindu

Lokpal

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal informed the Supreme Court that names for Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman, have been shortlisted and forwarded to the Selection Committee chaired by the Prime Minister.

More on the Topic

  • Under Section 4 (1) of the Lokpal Act, the Selection Committee consists of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition (LoP), the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist.
  • In the absence of an LoP, the leader of the single largest party in Opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha would be a ‘special invitee’. The appointment of Lokpal Chairperson or members would not become invalid “merely by reason of any vacancy in the Selection Committee.”
  • Eminent jurist to be nominated by President of India on basis of recommendations of the first four members of the selection committee “through consensus”.

About Lokpal:

  • Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
  • Term is 5 yrs or till age of 70. After ceasing to hold office member and chairperson shall not be eligible to hold any post under any government in India.
  • Chairperson shall be either a sitting or retired Chief justice of India or sitting or retired SC Judge or person of eminence in public affairs.
  • Members: 50% will be judicial members i.e. sitting or retired judge of SC / sitting or retired chief justice of HC and 50% members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
  • Non judicial members should have knowledge and experience of 25 yrs in field of vigilance, finance, anti corruption policyand public administration.
  • Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants.
  • All entities (NGOs) receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs 10 lakh per year are under the jurisdiction of Lokpal.
  • Centre will send Lokpal bill to states as a model bill. States have to set up Lokayuktas through a state law within 365 days.
  • Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any central investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  • PM has been brought under purview of the Lokpal, so also central ministers and senior officials.

Source: The Hindu

Army Reforms

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: In a major move, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has approved the first batch of reforms in the Army which include relocation of 229 officers from the Army headquarters, creation of a new post of Deputy Chief for Military Operations and Strategic Planning, and setting up new wings for vigilance and human rights issues.

More on the topic:

  • Finalised after 12 independent studies, the reforms are intended to make the 1.3 million-strong force leaner and meaner.
  • The sources said the number of officers being moved out was 20% of the number of officers in the Army headquarters in the national capital, and they would be deployed in forward locations along the borders with China and Pakistan.
  • The post of Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, Strategy, is being created to deal with military operations, intelligence, strategic planning and operational logistics.
  • The reforms will also include restructuring the Army’s officer cadre, bringing down age of key commands, arresting rising revenue expenditure and “rightsizing” the force.

Source: The Hindu

Ethanol production gets a leg-up

Topic: Economy/Energy

In News: In a bid to boost sugar mills’ ethanol-production capacity and help them pay off mounting arrears to cane farmers, the Union government has approved Rs. 3,355 crore in incentives.

More On the Topic:

  • The CCEA has approved Rs. 2,790 crore for bank loan interest subvention to mills, and Rs. 565 crore for loan interest subvention to the molasses-based standalone distilleries.
  • Banks will be able to extend soft loans worth Rs. 15,500 crore to mills and distilleries under the scheme. This is likely to benefit 268 mills and create an additional 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity, according to industry estimates.
  • Record harvests and sugar recovery have caused a glut in sugar production and brought the prices dow Cash-starved mills owe farmers more than Rs. 22,000 crore in arrears for the current season.
  • Production, thus reducing inventories and bringing in revenue to mills. Improved liquidity would help them pay off their dues.

Source:The Hindu

Janaushadhi Diwas

JAN

Topic: Government Initiatives

In News: Ministry of Chemicals and fertilizers has celebrated 7th March 2019 as ‘Janaushadhi Diwas’ across India.

More on the Topic:

  • It is to provide further impetus & create awareness about the use of generic medicines.
  • Under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana around 5050 Janaushadhi stores were opened.
  • It has provided the awareness about the availability of the high quality affordable generic medicines in the country.
  • About 10-15 lakh people benefit from Janaushadhi medicines per day.
  • The market share of generic medicines has grown over 3 fold from 2% to 7% in last 3 years.
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana Kendra (PMBJPK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.
  • BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs for co-coordinating procurement, supply and marketing of generic drugs through Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.

Source: The Hindu

Forward Search Experiment (FASER)

Experiment

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has announced its new experiment Forward search experiment.

More on the Topic:

  • It will complement CERN’s ongoing physics program, extending its discovery potential to several new particles.
  • It will look for light and weakly interacting particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
  • It will search for a suite of hypothesized particles including dark photons, particles which are associated with dark matter, neutralinos and others.
  • Dark matter is a hypothesized kind of matter that does not interact with the electromagnetic force and consequently cannot be directly detected using emitted light.
  • The mysterious dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe.

About CERN:

  • The European Organization for Nuclear Research is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border and has 22 member states.
  • Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership. CERN is an official United Nations Observer.
  • CERN’s main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research – as a result, numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN through international collaborations.

Source: The Hindu

Changes to Form 26 – Making Election Candidates Accountable

Topic: Indian Polity

In News: The Law Ministry recently amended Form 26 to make election candidates more accountable, after the Election Commission of India wrote to the Ministry.

More on the Topic:

  • A candidate in an election is required to file an affidavit called Form 26.
  • It furnishes information on candidate’s assets, liabilities, educational qualifications, criminal antecedents (convictions and all pending cases) and public dues, if any.
  • The affidavit has to be filed along with the nomination papers.
  • It should be sworn before an Oath Commissioner or Magistrate of the First Class or before a Notary Public.
  • Earlier, an election candidate had to only declare the last I-T return (for self, spouse and dependents).
  • The recent changes make it mandatory for candidates to reveal their income-tax returns of the last 5 years (for self, spouse and dependents).
  • Also they now have to furnish details of their offshore assets, which were not sought earlier.
  • This means “details of all deposits or investments in foreign banks and any other body or institution abroad and details of all assets and liabilities in foreign countries”.

Model Mains Question:The Law Ministry recently amended Form 26 to make election candidates more accountable. Discuss the major electoral reforms that took place in last few years.

Source: The Hindu 

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