Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS: 18th August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for Government Exams:

Today Current Affairs: 18th August 2020 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc

 

Contents:

  1. National Cadet Corps:
  2. World Solar Technology Summit:
  3. Ethanol Blended Programme (EBP).:
  4. Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 2.0:
  5. Other important current affairs:

1.National Cadet Corps:

Defence Minister has approved a proposal of the National Cadet Corps for a major expansion scheme to meet the aspirations of youth in all the border and coastal districts.

  • The proposals of the scheme were announced by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on 15 Aug.
  • A total of one lakh cadets from 173 border and coastal districts will be inducted in the NCC. One-third of the Cadets would be girl Cadets. More than 1000 schools and colleges have been identified in the border and coastal districts where NCC will be introduced.
  • As part of the expansion plan, a total of 83 NCC units will be upgraded (Army 53, Navy 20, Air Force 10), to impart NCC training to the cadets in the border and coastal areas.
  • The army will provide training and administrative support to the NCC units located in the border areas, Navy shall provide support to NCC units in the coastal areas and similarly, Air Force will provide support to the NCC units located close to the Air Force stations.
  • The expansion plan would be implemented in partnership with the States.

NCC:

  • The NCC, which was formed in 1948, currently has a strength of around 14 lakh cadets from Army, Navy and Air Force wings. It enrolls cadets at the high school and college level and also awards certificates on completion of various phases.
  • Headed by a Director-General of three-star military rank, the NCC falls under the purview of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and is led by serving officers from the Armed forces at various hierarchical positions.
  • The NCC currently has 17 regional directorates which govern the NCC in units in various states or groups of states and union territories.

 

2.World Solar Technology Summit:

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) will organize the First World Solar Technology Summit on 8th September 2020 on a virtual platform.

  • The objective of the event is to bring the spotlight on state-of-the-art technologies as well as next-generation technologies which will provide impetus to the efforts towards harnessing solar energy more efficiently.
  • The Prime Minister of India will deliver the inaugural address of the First World Solar Technology Summit, to be graced by Ministers from member countries from across all ISA regions.
  • Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (jointly with John B Goodenough & Akira Yoshino) in 2019 for the revolutionizing discovery of the lithium-ion batteries.
  • CEOs of top global corporations will share their vision on how scientific breakthroughs and innovations can be commercially made available to all parts of the world for wider consumption.
  • Four Sessions: The event will hold four technical sessions that would be available to the participants in different languages namely English, Spanish, French & Arabic.
  • Session -1: Vision 2030 & Beyond: The overall context of Photovoltaic (PV) technology development and its future, on its way towards becoming the first source of energy worldwide, with PV technologies supplying 70% of the world’s electricity generation.
  • Session -2: Towards a Decarbonised Grid: The most recent advances (conversion efficiency improvements and declining costs) regarding key components such as PV modules and storage technologies.
  • Session -3: Disruptive Solar Technologies: On-grid applications, whether ground-mounted, floating, or integrated in residential and commercial rooftops.
  • Session -4: Solar Beyond the Power Sector: Innovative applications where PV is used to move, heat, cool, and drive eco-friendly industrial processes and produce fuels as well as off-grid applications, to provide universal access to energy.

I JOSE:

  • ISA would also launch the ISA Journal on Solar Energy (I JOSE) that would help authors from across the globe to publish their articles on solar energy, during the event.
  • The articles in this journal would be reviewed by global experts and will reach the Member countries through ISA’s vast network of NFPs (National Focal points) and STAR (Solar Technology and Application Resource centers) centers.

 

3. Ethanol Blended Programme (EBP).:

The government has set targets of 10% bioethanol blending of petrol by 2022 and to raise it to 20% by 2030 under the Ethanol Blended Programme (EBP).

  • The EBP was launched in line with the National Biofuels Policy, 2018.
  • Many countries, including India, have adopted ethanol blending in petrol in order to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and also to reduce the import burden on account of crude petroleum.
  • Currently, bioethanol blending in petrol stands at 5%.
  • It is estimated that a 5% blending can result in replacement of around 1.8 million Barrels of crude oil.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
  • The renewable ethanol content, which is a by-product of the sugar industry, is expected to result in a net reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).

Background:

  • The Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) program was launched in January 2003 by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG).
  • The EBP seeks to achieve the blending of Ethanol with Petrol with a view to reducing pollution, conserving foreign exchange, and increasing value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • The Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are to procure ethanol from domestic sources at remunerative prices fixed by the government.
  • The Central Government recently extended the ambit of the program to extract the fuel from surplus quantities of food grains such as maize, jawar, bajra fruit, and vegetable waste which was limited only to sugarcane previously.
  • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana to create an ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and boost to Research and Development in 2G Ethanol sector.
  • 1G bioethanol plants utilize sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material, while 2G plants utilize surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bioethanol.
  • This scheme is promoting Second Generation (2G) Biofuels Technology moving away from food crops used in First Generation(1G) to feedstocks, nonfood crops agricultural residues or waste.
  • The three public OMCs Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. are currently in the process of setting up 2G bioethanol plants.

 

4.Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 2.0:

The government has extended the scope of the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (PCGS) 2.0 to provide greater flexibility to state-owned banks in purchasing bonds and Commercial Papers (CPs) of Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).

  • The PCGS was announced in July 2019, allowing public sector banks to purchase high-rated (BBB+ or above) pooled assets from financially sound NBFCs and Housing Finance Companies (HFCs).
  • A pool of assets is basically a securitization of loan portfolio i.e. conversion of a loan into a marketable security, typically for the purpose of raising cash by selling them to other investors.
  • These are sold by NBFCs/HFCs to banks in return for an advance payment. NBFCs/HFCs get the much-needed money and banks get the interest-paying assets.
  • Credit ratings is an analysis of the credit risk associated with a financial instrument or a financial entity. These range from AAA to C and D.
  • As a part of the Aatmanirbhar initiative, the scheme was extended in May 2020 (PCGS 2.0) to cover primary market issuance of bonds/CPs by NBFCs, HFCs, and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) with low credit ratings.
  • The Centre provided a 20% first loss sovereign guarantee to public sector banks for purchase of bonds/CPs, resulting in liquidity infusion of Rs. 45,000 crore into the system.
  • The scheme covered papers with ratings of AA and below, including unrated papers, aimed at providing access to fresh liquidity support to non-bank lenders.
  • The Scheme has been extended for three months, giving public sector banks time till 19th November 2020 to build their portfolios of bonds and CPs from non-banking financial institutions.
  • Further, the government has allowed banks to invest up to 50% of total investments under the Scheme in AA and AA-rated bonds.
  • This decision was taken as the earlier limit for such investments at 25% was almost met.

 

 

Other important current affairs:

1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the demise of Pandit Jasraj. He was 90.

  • Pandit Jasraj (born 1930) was an Indian classical vocalist, belonging to the Mewati Gharana.
  • He has been awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (2010), Padma Vibhushan (2000) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987).
  • Jasraj created a novel form of jugalbandi called Jasrangi that is styled on the ancient system of moorchhana, between a male and a female vocalist, who each sing different ragas at the same time.
  • In 2019, a minor planet (Asteroid 300128) between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter was named after Pandit Jasraj.
  • Pandit Jasraj has also lent vocals to Oscar-winning movie ‘Life of Pi’.

2. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has observed that the pollutants are still being discharged into the river Ganga, despite several directions of various courts.

  • The states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal have failed in preventing discharge of untreated effluents in violation of provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • Constitutional Right: Pollution-free environment is the constitutional right of every citizen and constitutional obligation of States.
  • However, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal are certainly failing in providing pollution-free Ganga.
  • Monitoring: The NGT has directed the above states to periodically monitor the rejuvenation of the Ganga.
  • Joint Meetings: It has also called for periodic joint meetings of the above states to consider vital issues like the pooling of human resources and sharing best practices for rejuvenation of Ganga.
  • The meetings shall be focussed on preventing discharge of sewage and other pollutants in Ganga directly or through its tributaries or drains connected thereto.

3. President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the change in name of the Ministry of Human Resource Development as Ministry of Education. A gazette notification published said the President had given his nod to change the name of the Ministry.

  • The name change was among the key recommendations of the draft new National Education Policy, NEP which was cleared by the Union Cabinet last month.
  • In 1985, the Ministry of Education has renamed the HRD ministry when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister. P V Narasimha Rao was appointed the first HRD minister by PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • In 2018, the idea to change the name of HRD Ministry was also proposed by Ram Bahadur Rai, chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and also chairman of the joint organizing committee of the Conference on Academic Leadership on Education for Resurgence.

4.1984 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana has been appointed as the Director-General of Border Security Force, BSF.

  • According to a Personnel Ministry order issued, he will be in the post up to 31st July 2021, the date of his superannuation.
  • Mr Asthana is at present working as the Director-General of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, BCAS. He will continue to hold the additional charge of DG, Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • The Border Security Force (BSF) is the primary Border guarding force of India and has been termed as the First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.
  • It was raised in the wake of the 1965 War on 1 December 1965.
  • It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The BSF has its own cadre of officers but its head, designated as a Director-General (DG), since its raising has been an officer from the Indian Police Service.

5. Death Valley (USA) registered a temperature of 54.4°C which, once verified, could be the highest temperature in more than a century.

  • The temperature was recorded at the USA National Weather Service’s automated weather station at Furnace Creek on 16th August 2020.
  • The Death Valley in southeastern California is the lowest point in the North American continent and is a National Park. It is also the hottest and driest part of the continent.
  • The temperature has been termed as preliminary and not final as it awaits verification.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Death Valley’s all-time record high is 56.7°C taken on 10th July 1913 at Greenland Ranch.
  • It still stands as the hottest ever recorded on the planet’s surface.
  • However, since the temperature-recording mechanisms a century ago were not as advanced, many have doubted if that reading was reliable.
  • The high temperature is a result of a ‘heat dome’ that is smothering the west coast of the USA.
  • Heat Domes: High-pressure circulation traps hot ocean air like a lid or a cap trapping heat at the surface and favouring the formation of a heatwave.
  • Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.

6.The Gujarat government has awarded the contract for the Bhadbhut project in Bharuch.

  • The Inland Waterway Authority of India has given clearance for this project.
  • The project has faced protests from local fishermen because it is likely to impact fishing patterns, mainly those of hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha).It is located across the river Narmada, 5 km from Bhadbhut village and 25 km from the mouth of the river, where it flows into the Gulf of Khambhat.
  • The project is part of the larger Kalpasar Project, which entails the construction of a 30-km dam across the Gulf of Khambhat between Bharuch and Bhavnagar districts.

7.The Kerala government has taken control of Marthoman Jacobite Syrian Cathedral Church at Mulanthuruthy in Ernakulam district, Kerala.

  • Malankara Church: The Church at Mulanthuruthy has been in the focus of a dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church, a prominent non-Catholic Christian community.
  • The Malankara Church first split in 1912, into the Jacobite and Orthodox groups. However, the two Churches reunified in 1959, but the truce lasted only until 1972-73.
  • Since then, the two factions have been engaged in battle over ownership of churches and their wealth.
  • Management Shift: The Church at Mulanthuruthy has been managed by the Jacobite faction, but as per a 2017 Supreme Court (SC) verdict, its ownership went to the rival Orthodox faction.
  • The SC had upheld the validity of the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to govern the parishes (administration) under the Church.
  • However, the Orthodox faction was still denied access to the Church, therefore they appealed in the Kerala High Court, which directed the Kerala government to take over the Church and hand it over to Orthodox faction.

8.A heart was brought from Pune to Chennai with the help of a “green corridor” created for unrestricted movement.

  •  A green corridor is demarcated, cleared out special road route created for an ambulance that enables retrieved organs meant for transplant to reach the destined hospital.
  • Green corridors require a concentrated effort from transplant coordinators, local police, traffic police, and airport staff. Awareness of the general public towards green corridors is also important.
  • Procedure: When a patient is declared brain dead and his family consents to organ donation, the availability of a recipient is first checked within the city, state, region and then nationally.
  • Need: Organs have a short preservation time, and green corridors ensure the ambulance escapes traffic congestion and reaches the destination in the shortest possible time.
  • Coordinated by: The requisite regulatory procedures and coordination were carried out with the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO).

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