1.India moves up in ‘ease of doing business’ ranking :
India now ranks 130 out of 189 countries in the ease of doing business 2016, according to a World Bank report.
- The original ranking for 2015 had been pegged at 142, which would give India a jump of 12 ranks, but the WB’s mid-year revision had bumped up India’s rank to 134.
- The improvement in two indicators, ‘starting a business’ and ‘getting electricity,’ pushed India up the ladder, according to the report.
- The report also commended the legislative changes that eliminated the minimum capital requirement and the requirement to obtain a certificate to start business operations.
- ‘Sin tax’ for alcohol, tobacco industries in GST regime :
Alcohol and tobacco industries will soon have to pay more taxes towards an additional ‘sin tax’under the proposed GST structure.
- There is a provision in the proposed GST bill under which the sinful industries such as alcohol and tobacco will have to pay an additional tax. However, the rate at which this tax would be levied under the proposed GST regime is not yet decided.
What is Sin tax?
- ‘Sin tax’ is a globally prevalent practice under which products like alcohol and tobacco attract higher rates of tax. Typically, ‘sin tax’ is an excise tax that is levied on products and services considered to be bad for health or society such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling.
- GOLD DEPOSIT SCHEME
The Reserve Bank of India has issued guidelines for the gold monetization scheme that allow banks to fix their own interest rates on gold deposits.
Gold Monetisation scheme:
- Through the Gold Monetisation Scheme, gold in any form can be deposited with banks for a period of one to 15 years. This gold will earn interest and redemption will be at the prevailing market value at the end of the tenure of deposit.
- The scheme also provides for incentives to the banks, while individuals and institutions can deposit as low as 30 gm of gold, while the interest earned on it would be exempt from income tax as well as capital gains tax.
- The scheme is aimed at mobilising a part of an estimated 20,000 tonnes of idle precious metal with households and institutions.
- This scheme was actually announced in the Budget for 2015-16.
- Maharashtra imposes tax to tackle drought :
In a bid to raise funds to tackle the drought situation, the Maharashtra government has decided to impose ‘drought tax.’
- This is the first time since 1973 that a state government has decided to take such a drastic step.
- This tax is meant to help farmers who have been hit by one of the worst droughts in recent times. Drought tax includes:
- Tax on petrol and diesel, VAT on liquor, cigarettes and beverages, and surcharge on VAT for gold and diamond jewelleries.
- A tax of Rs. 2 per litre would be charged on petrol and diesel, while Value Added Tax (VAT) on liquor, cigarettes and beverages has been raised by 5%. Also, the surcharge on VAT for gold and diamond jewelleries has been raised from 1 to 1.20 %.
- PRADHAN MANTRI JAN DHAN YOJANA:
The PMJDY was conceived as a national mission on financial inclusion with
the objective of covering all households in the country with banking facilities and having a bank account for each household.
- It is a scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion.
Benefits under PMJDY Scheme:
- Interest on deposit.
- Accidental insurance cover of Rs.1.00 lac
- Accounts can be opened with zero balance. No minimum balance required.
- Life insurance cover of Rs.30,000/-
- Easy Transfer of money across India
- Beneficiaries of Government Schemes will get Direct Benefit Transfer in these accounts.
- After satisfactory operation of the account for 6 months, an overdraft facility will be permitted
- Access to Pension, insurance products.
- Accidental Insurance Cover, RuPay Debit Card must be used at least once in 45 days.
Overdraft facility upto Rs.5000/- is available in only one account per household, preferably lady of the household.
- India now most attractive investment destination: EY
India has been named the most attractive country for investment in a survey of more than 500 global investors published by accounting firm EY (Ernst & Young).
- According to the survey, the second most favoured investment destination is China and is followed by Southeast Asia and Brazil.
- 32% of the 505 executives questioned said India was their favoured market for investment, with China second on 15% of the vote. About 62% said they were looking at manufacturing, both to serve the Indian and global markets from India.
- Perception about India’s macroeconomic stability is up to 76% in 2015 in comparison to 70% in.
- Perception about political and social stability is up from 59% in 2014 to 74% in 2015.
- For relaxation in FDI policy the score improved from 60% in 2014 to 68% in 2015.
- For government’s efforts to ease doing business the score has improved from 57% in 2014 to 67% in 2015.
- Compared to the 2014 survey, the number of respondents, who believe that India would be among the world’s leading top three destinations for manufacturing by 2020, had increased from 24% to 35%, while those who believed India would evolve as a regional and global hub for operations was up from 9% to 21%.
- Among specific reforms expected to drive growth, 89% of the investors polled said that investment in infrastructure projects and the 100 Smart Cities project would be significant.
- Financial inclusion, including Digital India and the Government’s proposal to reduce the rate of corporate tax from 30 %to 25%, were considered significant by 83% of the respondents.
- Implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and legislation on land acquisition were also mentioned by investors as important for attracting FDI.
- Investors rated India’s domestic market and availability of labour among the most attractive features for doing business.
- Sunderbans to get a student army of conservationists :
An ambitious project has been started in West Bengal under which Schoolchildren in the Sunderbans area will learn about tiger conservation and pass on the experience to their elders.
- Under this project, two fully equipped edutainment boats carrying a projector, a sound system, generators, a library, films related to conservation and wildlife photographs will be launched in the Sunderbans which will help students in understanding the importance of this area.
- The Sundarbans is a natural region in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
- The Sundarbans covers approximately 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 sq mi) of which 60% is in Bangladesh with the remainder in India.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Mangroves in India:
- Mangroves in India account for about 3% of the world’s mangrove vegetation. Mangrove cover in India is 4,662 sq. km, which is 0.14% of the country’s total geographical area.
- Sundarbans in West Bengal accounts for almost half of the total area under mangroves in the country. Mangrove in India is famous for its rich variety of flora and fauna.
Composition of Mangroves in India:
The very dense mangrove comprises 1,403 sq. km (30.10% of the total mangrove cover), moderately dense mangrove is 1,658.12 sq. km (35.57 %) while open mangroves cover an area of 1,600.44 sq. km (33%).
9.What is Bioethanol?
Bioethanol is a form of quasi-renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks. It can be made from very common crops such as sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn. It is also made from corn, potatoes, milk, rice, beetroot and recently grapes, banana and dates depending on the countries agricultural strength.
- It is blended with petrol to make a truly sustainable transport fuel.
- It is used in cosmetic and other manufacturing processes.
- What are INDCs?
These are individual country commitments which are expected to indicate through their form and strength what shape any 2015 agreement might take.
- Countries across the globe have committed to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015.
- In preparation, countries have agreed to publicly outline what post- 2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
- The INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement with bottom-up system-in elements through which countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities, within the ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
- The INDCs will not only contain steps taken towards emission reductions, but also aim to address steps taken to adapt to climate change impacts, and what support the country needs-or will provide to address climate change.
- In February 2015, Switzerland became the first nation to submit its INDC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, later followed by the European Union.
- India to cut emissions intensity :
The Union Environment Ministry has finally submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels.
- All nations were due to come out with emission targets ahead of a climate change conference in Paris in December, where they are supposed to adopt a landmark deal to fight climate change.
- Including India, 120 countries have now submitted their INDCs.
India’s proposed targets:
- Reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.
- Achieve about 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance.
- Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
- Green India Mission Plans of Four States Approved :
National Mission for a Green India (GIM) falling under the Environment Ministry has approved annual plans for Kerala, Mizoram, Manipur and Jhakhand.
Green India Mission:
- It is one of the eight Missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
- It acknowledges the influence forests have on environmental amelioration through climate change mitigation, food security, water security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest dependent communities.
- It hinges on decentralized participatory approach involving grass root level organizations and community in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring.
- It lays emphasis on landscape approach and convergence with complementary schemes and programmes for better coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas in a holistic and sustainable manner.
- Taking cue from Centre, State bans a drug to save vultures :
The kerala state government has withdrawn Ketoprofen, a non – steroid anti- inflammatory drug (NSAID) used extensively for veterinary purposes, to save the vulture population in three districts of the state.
- The State government had included Ketoprofen based on an effort to identify an alternative to the banned drug Diclofenac.
- The Centre had banned Diclofenac multi-vial doses after wildlife biologists proved that presence of the drug in the carcasses of the cattle caused the vulture population to dwindle drastically.
How vultures are affected by these drugs?
- Vultures act as scavengers, preying on dead animals. Diclofenac in carcasses lead to slow death of vultures.
- Ketoprofen, which is seen as an alternative, causes the same effect on the vulture population.
- West Bengal to get India’s first dolphin reserve :
India’s first community reserve to protect the endangered Gangetic river dolphins will come up in West Bengal. This decision was taken at the recently held State Wildlife Board meeting in WB.
- The reserve will be set up in the Hooghly river.
- The methodology to develop the community reserve is being chalked out by a separate committee. The committee will take a decision based on inputs from all stakeholders since it’s a community reserve.
- Gangetic Dolphin:
- The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges- Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. It is a freshwater dolphin.
- Once found in thousands, there are fewer than 2,000 Gangetic dolphins left in the country in the entire distribution range along the Ganga and Brahamaputra river system.
- It was declared as the National Aquatic Animal in 2010.
- One of the main threats to the species is loss of habitat due in large part to the creation of dams and irrigation projects. It is also threatened by removal of river water and siltation arising from deforestation, pollution and entanglement in fisheries nets.
This species is also referred to as the “blind dolphin“.
- It has been classified as “endangered” by the IUCN.
- Fishermen apprehensive as Kerala prepares to roll out World Bank-aided project :
The Kerala government is gearing up to implement an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project aimed at livelihood improvement of coastal communities and conservation of the coastal ecosystem, amid voices of protest from the fishermen community.
- The project director has already been appointed by the government.
Why the fishermen are opposing?
The fishermen are apprehensive about the project and its impact on the coastline. They fear the project would pave the way for a construction spree, jeopardising the fragile coastal environment and further endangering their livelihood.
- Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM):
- ICZM aims to improve livelihood of coastal communities and conserve the coastal ecosystem.
- The ICZM plan involves identification of infrastructure requirements and livelihood improvement means in coastal districts. Conservation of mangroves is among the components.
- The national component of the project includes mapping of the country’s coastline and demarcation of the hazard line.
- It is a World Bank assisted project.
- It is being implemented by the Department of Forests and Environment with assistance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai, will provide scientific and technical inputs.
Kerala will be included in the second phase of the Rs.1,155.63-crore project that has already covered Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal.
- Project Loon:
- Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas.
- The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds.
How it operates?
- The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building.
- The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet.
Why stratosphere was chosen?
Google asserts that the stratosphere is advantageous because of its relatively low wind speeds and minimal turbulence. Google also claims that it can model, with reasonable accuracy, the seasonal, longitudinal, and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km stratospheric layer.
- First Scorpene class submarine set afloat :
Kalavari, the first of Scorpene class submarines being manufactured at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL), was recently set afloat in the Mumbai naval dockyard.
- The submarine will now undergo rigorous harbour trials and tests which will certify each system to its fullest capacity.
Kalvari is first of the Indian Navy’s Scorpene class stealth submarines being built under the Project 75, under collaboration with M/s DCNS, France.
- Chemistry Nobel for mapping how cells repair damaged DNA :
Tomas Lindahl, Paul L. Modrich and Aziz Sancar have jointly won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for having mapped and explained how the cell repairs its DNA and safeguards its genetic information.
Lindahl, of the Francis Crick Institute in London, was honoured for his discoveries on base excision repair — the cellular mechanism that repairs damaged DNA during the cell cycle.
- Modrich, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, was recognised for showing how cells correct errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division.
- Sancar, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was cited for mapping the mechanism cells use to repair ultraviolet damage to DNA.
- Kajita, McDonald win physics Nobel for neutrino work :
Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering the “chameleon-like” nature of neutrinos, work that yielded the crucial insight that the tiny particles have mass.
Kajita showed in 1998 that neutrinos captured at the detector underwent a metamorphosis in the atmosphere. Three years later McDonald found that neutrinos coming from the sun also switched identities.
- What are neutrinos?
Neutrinos are miniscule particles created in nuclear reactions, such as in the sun and the stars, or in nuclear power plants. There are three kinds of neutrinos.
- Neutrinos interact with matter via the weak force. The weakness of this force gives neutrinos the property that matter is almost transparent to them.
- Since they rarely interact, these neutrinos pass through the Sun, and even the Earth, unhindered. There are many other natural sources of neutrinos including exploding stars (supernovae), relic neutrinos, natural radioactivity, and cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere of the Earth.
- The neutrino was proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930; but it took another 26 years for it to be actually detected. In 1956 Reines and Cowan found evidence of neutrino interactions by monitoring a volume of cadmium chloride with scintillating liquid near to a nuclear reactor. Reines was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 in part for this revolutionary work.
- 3 win Nobel Prize in Medicine for parasite-fighting therapies :
Three scientists from the US, Japan and China have won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people every year.
The three scientists are:
- Santoshi omura from Japan
- Youyou tu from China
- William campbell from Ireland
- Campbell and Omura were cited for discovering avermectin, derivatives of which have helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms that affect millions of people in Africa and Asia.
- Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has helped significantly reduce the mortality rates of malaria patients. Tu Youyou is the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate.
River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. About 90% of the disease occurs in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Lymphatic filariasis can lead to swelling of the limbs and genitals, called elephantiasis, and it’s primarily a threat in Africa and Asia. The WHO says 120 million people are infected with the disease, without about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that still kills around 500,000 people a year, mostly in Africa, despite efforts to control it.
- DRDO sets up world’s highest terrestrial centre in Ladakh
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has established the world’s highest terrestrial centre at 17,600 feet above sea level at Changla near Pengong lake in Ladakh.
- The centre will serve as a natural cold storage for preserving rare and endangered medical plants for generations to come.
- The centre will act as an important utility for research work in frontal areas of food and agriculture and bio-medical sciences for well being of the soldiers deployed in high altitude cold desert.
- Other activities that are proposed to be undertaken here include human physiological work, designing, testing, validation and demonstration of mobile and portable greenhouses, soil-less microfarming technologies for fresh food in remote landlocked posts besides conservation and propagation of endangered extreme altitude medicinal plants and others.
GAGAN was develped by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a cost of Rs. 774 crore, over 15 years.
- GAGAN will provide augmentation service for the GPS over the country, the Bay of Bengal, South East Asia and Middle East and up to Africa.
- Some of its benefits are improved efficiency, direct routes, increased fuel savings, approach with vertical guidance at runways, significant cost savings because of the withdrawal of ground aids and reduced workload of flight crew and air traffic controllers.
- Gagan works by augmenting and relaying data from GPS satellites with the help of two augmentation satellites and 15 earth-based reference stations.
The system utilises the satellite-based wide area augmentation system (SBAS) technology which has been developed by Raytheon.
- Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme – “VIKALP”:
The Rail Ministry has announced a new scheme, called VIKALP, that would allow wait-listed passengers of a train to opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains.
- The Alternate Train Accomodation Scheme (ATAS), also called VIKALP, will come into effect beginning 1st November on a pilot basis for six months on Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Jammu routes for tickets booked online.
- The scheme has been launched with a view to provide confirmed accommodation to waitlisted passengers and also to ensure optimal utilisation of available accommodation
- In this scheme, wait listed passengers of a train can opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains.
In August 2015, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the road sector was responsible for the second highest amount of NPAs, after the steel sector.
A recent Crisil report said “almost half of the road projects, being constructed under the build, operate, transfer with a sanctioned debt of Rs. 45,900 crore, are at high risk of not being completed.
- Indian islands to be developed under Swiss challenge model :
The Centre is going to implement a comprehensive plan to develop Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, for an integrated modernisation of the region, under its ‘Sagarmala’ initiative.
- The plan is to develop these islands under the ‘Swiss challenge system’.
What is swiss challenge system?
Swiss challenge method is a process of giving contracts. Any person with credentials can submit a development proposal to the government. That proposal will be made online and a second person can give suggestions to improve and beat that proposal.
- It is a method where third parties make offers (challenges) for a project within a designated period to avoid exaggerated project costs.
Is it new to India?
- The Swiss challenge method is one that has been used in India by various states including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Gujarat for roads and housing projects.
In 2009, the Supreme Court approved the method for award of contracts.
- Sagarmala Initiative:
The Sagarmala project seeks to develop a string of ports around India’s coast. The objective of this initiative is to promote “Port-led development” along India’s 7500 km long coastline.
- It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and promotion of the optimum modal split, enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services.
- The Union Ministry of Shipping has been appointed as the nodal ministry for this initiative.
- Nirbhay is an all-weather low-cost long-range cruise missile with stealth and high accuracy. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km. It weighs about one tonne and has a length of 6 metres.
- Its relatively slow flight speed allows it to navigate its way precisely to the target.
- The Nirbhay cruise missile is an Indian version of the American Tomahawk.
- The missile is capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air.
- In particular, Nirbhay is being adapted for the Indo/Russian Su- 30MKI. The missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
- The missile is also capable of flying at different altitudes ranging from 500 m to 4 km above the ground and can also fly at low altitudes to avoid detection by enemy radar.
A key hurdle to developing a long-range cruise missile like the Nirbhay is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which forbids signatory countries from assisting or providing technology to any other country developing a cruise missile with a range of 300 km or more.
What is Zero rating?
Zero Rating is a practice by which Internet operators offer free data for specific applications. Advocates of Zero Rating services have argued that this enables those offline to try online services, thereby bridging the digital divide.
- Cyberdome to become operational next month :
Cyberdome, the hi-tech centre for cybersecurity being set up by the Kerala Police, is expected to become operational by mid-November this year. about Cyberdome:
Cyberdome will be a hi-tech centre for cyber security. The project is worth Rs.2-crore. The project is being established on the public-private partnership model with the technical support offered by IT companies.
Unique features of the project:
- As many as 500 ethical hackers and cybersecurity experts would be involved in the project
- It would have centres for social media awareness, protection of children on the Internet, Internet monitoring and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in service delivery.
- It would also host an Anti-Cyber Terror Cell and a cyber security training unit.
- It would be equipped with an automated crime intelligence gathering unit and a unit for anti-piracy on the Internet.
- It will have its server hosted at the State Data Centre. Software companies will provide technical support on a voluntary basis, develop software for the purpose, and supply technical manpower.
- The station will be manned by police officers with IT-related qualifications. The Additional Director General of Police (Crimes) will be in charge of the project.
- Cyberdome would be open to new models of partnership to find solutions to emerging threats and challenges.
- The Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is a joint project between NASA and ISRO to co-develop and launch a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar satellite.
- The satellite will be the first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequency and it is planned to be used for remote sensing to observe and understand natural processes of the Earth.
- It is slated to be launched in 2020-21.
- NISAR would provide information about a place more frequently than older satellites orbiting the Earth at present.
- Among the objectives of NISAR are estimation of soil moisture, agriculture and forest biomass.
- It is also designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet’s most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.