Today Current Affairs: 1st September 2021 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways:
Concerns were raised against the Centre’s proposed monetisation of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR)
- There are four fully functional and operational railways networks in mountains and hilly terrains in India — the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) located in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal; the Nilgiris Mountain Railways located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu; the Kalka Shimla Railway located in the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh; and the Matheran Railway located in Maharashtra.
- DHR was built in the British era between 1879 and 1881; the Darjeeling toy train was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
- The main reason for the protest is that private companies’ focus would be on profit, and local aspirations of the people would be ignored.
- Concerns have also been raised on how the government has taken this decision in an unilateral manner without consulting the stakeholders involved
- Government should consult the stakeholders involved and create guidelines to meet their aspirations in a mutually beneficial manner.
World Heritage Site:
- A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made areaor a structure that is of international importance, and a space which requires special protection.
- These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO.
- UNESCO believes that the sites classified as World Heritage are important for humanity, and they hold cultural and physical significance.
Vande Bharat Express:
The Indian Railways plans to operate 102 Vande Bharat trains by March 2024.
About Vande Bharat Express:
- The Train18, later named Vande Bharat Express, was rolled out by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai under the Indian government’s Make in India initiative.
- The train was launched on 15 February 2019.
- It was showcased as India’s first semi high-speed train with an operational efficiency of 160 kmph.
- As of Aug 2021, the Indian Railways operates two Vande Bharat trains, onefrom Delhi to Varanasiand the other from Delhi to Katra.
- Vande Bharat trains are self-propelled “engineless” train sets.
- Its faster acceleration and deceleration results in reduced train travel time.
- Some of its passenger friendly features include; European-style seats, diffused LED lighting, GPS-based infotainment systems, modular bio-toilets, fully sealed gangways for dust-free environment, centrally controlled entry/exit doors with sliding footsteps, divyang friendly toilet and automatic sliding cabin doors.
Leaded Petrol Eradicated Globally: UNEP:
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that the use of leaded petrol has been eradicated from the globe.
- The use of leaded petrol has been eradicated from the globe as per the observation made by UNEP
- Achieving of this milestone will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths and save world economies over $2.4 trillion annually
- Algeria — the last country to use the fuel — exhausted its supplies last month
- India banned leaded petrol in March 2000
- Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children.
- At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death.
- Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disorders.
- Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus.
- The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated that in 2017, lead exposure accounted for 1.06 million deaths and 24.4 million years of healthy life lost (disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)) worldwide due to long-term effects on health.
- Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.
- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.
- It aims to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
- It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya
North Korea’s Main Nuclear Complex:
The UN atomic agency has observed that North Korea might have resumed its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor
- This observation is based on the resumption of work on the 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon — North Korea’s main nuclear complex
- North Korean leader had offered to dismantle part of the Yongbyon complex at a second summit with then U.S. President Donald Trump in exchange of removal of sanctions; however, the talks have been at a standstill since then
- North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
- The possible operation of the reactor follows a recent indication that Pyongyang is also using a nearby radiochemical laboratory to separate plutonium from spent fuel previously removed from the reactor.
- This situation underscores the need for resumption of dialogue between the stakeholders involved to ensure that the security situation in the Korean peninsula does not become worse
About International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- Set up as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. It reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. It is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
- It Works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
- Seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
- Board of Governors: 22 member states (must represent a stipulated geographic diversity) — elected by the General Conference (11 members every year) – 2 year term
- At least 10 member-states — nominated by the outgoing Board.
- Board members each receive one vote.
West Nile Virus Infections:
Russia warned of a possible increase in West Nile Virus (WNV) Infections this autumn as mild temperatures and heavy precipitation create favourable conditions for the mosquitos that carry it.
- It is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae.
- WNV is commonly found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America and West Asia.
- Older people, children and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
- WNV was first isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937.
- It was identified in birds in the Nile delta region in 1953. Before 1997, WNV was not considered pathogenic for birds.
- Human infections attributable to WNV have been reported in many countries for over 50 years.
- Transmission: WNV is an infectious disease spread by infected mosquitoes. It spreads from birds to humans with the bite of an infected Culex mosquito. It can lead to a fatal neurological disease in humans.
- The virus causes West Nile fever in around 20% of cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is related to the Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever Viruses.
- Those infected usually have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
- The symptoms include a fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. They can last a few days to several weeks, and usually go away on their own.
- If West Nile virus enters the brain, it can be life-threatening. It may cause inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, or inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called meningitis.
- There are no specific vaccines or treatments for human WNV disease.
- The best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.
Small Finance Bank:
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has received applications from two more entities under the “on-tap” small finance bank licensing guidelines of 2019.
- An “on-tap” facility would mean the RBI will accept applications and grant licences for banks throughout the year.
- These are the financial institutions which provide financial services to the unserved and unbanked region of the country.
- Registered as a public limited company under the Companies Act, 2013.
- Needs to open at least 25% of its banking outlets in unbanked rural centres.
- Required to extend 75% of its adjusted net bank credit to the Priority Sector Lending (PSL).
- The RBI mandates banks to lend a certain portion of their funds to specified sectors, like agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), export credit, education, housing, social infrastructure, renewable energy among others.
- At least 50% of its loan portfolio should constitute loans and advances of up to Rs. 25 lakhs.
- The maximum loan size and investment limit exposure to a single and group debtor would be restricted to 10% and 15% of its capital funds, respectively.
- They cannot extend large loans.
- If the initial shareholding by promoters in the bank is in excess of 40% of paid-up voting equity capital, it should be brought down to 40% within a period of 5 years.
- Subject to Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) and Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) requirements.
- Banks are required to hold a certain proportion of their deposits in the form of cash known as the CRR.
- This minimum ratio (that is the part of the total deposits to be held as cash) is stipulated by the RBI.
- The share of Net Demand and Time Liabilities that a bank is required to maintain safe and liquid assets, such as government securities, cash, and gold is termed as SLR.
Eligibility for Setting up SFBs:
- Resident individuals/professionals with 10 years of experience in banking and finance.
- The companies and societies owned and controlled by residents.
- Existing Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs), Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), Local Area Banks (LABs) and payment banks that are owned and controlled by residents.
- Primarily undertake basic banking activities of acceptance of deposits and lending to unserved and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised sector entities.
- Undertake other non-risk sharing simple financial services activities such as the distribution of mutual fund units, insurance products, pension products, etc. with the prior approval of the RBI.
Substantial Investment Subsidies (SIP):
The Government of India has introduced several solar irrigation schemes like PM KUSUM, Suryamitra Skill Development Programme, SPaRC Program, etc.
- These schemes seek to provide Substantial Investment Subsidies (SIP) and incentivise farmers to conserve groundwater and energy, increase farmer income and enable more efficient irrigation.
- SIPs promise a low carbon footprint, consistent energy availability, zero fuel costs and low operational costs. However, there are some issues associated with these schemes.
About Substantial Investment Subsidies:
- The Government of India through PM KUSUM has been promoting solar irrigation pumps by offering Substantial Investment Subsidies (SIP).
- The objective of SIP is to provide subsidies to farmers for buying and installation of solar pumps and power plants.
- The farmer will be able to use the generated solar power to meet the irrigation needs and the excess solar power will be sold to power distribution companies (DISCOMs) at pre-fixed tariff.
- The massive power subsidies in the Indian agriculture sector has led to development of the irrigation-energy nexus.
- Electricity in the agriculture sector is supplied at subsidised rates.
- This irrigation-energy nexus is characterised primarily by depleting groundwater and a growing debt burden of power DISCOMs.
- SIP can help in breaking this irrigation-energy nexus and provide other benefits.
What Is a Recce Troop?:
One soldier died and more than three dozen had to be hospitalised for heat stroke symptoms after taking part in a Corps Level Recce Troop Competition organised by the Army at the Mamum Military Station near Pathankot a week back.
- The Mamun-based Infantry Division of the Army had organised a recce troop competition in which all armoured and mechanised units of the Corps were taking part.
- The Division falls under Army’s 9 Corps, which is headquartered in Yol, a cantonment town in Kangra district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
- The competition was being held to judge the skills and fitness of the soldiers who form part of the recce troop in every armoured regiment and mechanised infantry battalion.
What is a recce troop?
- Reconnaissance or recce troop is a section level sub unit in every armoured regiment and mechanised infantry battalion of the Army.
- A section means that it comprises approximately one officer and 30 jawans.
- The recce troop is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the unit as well as the higher formations as, in a war, they are supposed to operate ahead of the main unit and keep an eye on the activities of the enemy.
- The recce troop is equipped with light four-wheeled vehicles and also have specialised equipment, which can help keep a tab on the enemy forces in the area.
Mapping Groundwater Sources:
Science and Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said, mapping groundwater sources by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will help to utilise groundwater for drinking purposes and supplement Prime Minister Modi’s Har Ghar Nal Se Jal Mission.
- CSIR in collaboration National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) have undertaken High Resolution Aquifer Mapping and Management in Arid Regions of North Western India to augment the groundwater resources.
- Heli-borne geophysical mapping technique of CSIR-NGRI provides high resolution 3D image of the sub-surface up to a depth of 500 metres below the ground.
- This technique is cost-effective, precise and is useful to map large areas within a short time to map the vast extent of groundwater resources in arid regions of our country.
- The entire work will be completed by 2025 with more than 1.5 lakh square kilometers of area with an estimated cost of 141 crore rupees.
- The ultimate aim of this project is to map the potential sites for groundwater withdrawal and conservation.
National Small Industry Day:
Every year on August 30, the country celebrates National Small Industry Day. On August 30, 2000, a comprehensive policy package for the SSI (Small Scale Industry) sector was launched, providing significant support to small firms in India.
Some of the key reforms introduced by Ministry of MSME are:
- Revision of MSME definition: Government of India approved the upward revision of MSME definition on 1st June 2020 under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Package. The Government revised the MSME classification by inserting composite criteria of both investment and annual turnover.
- Udyam Registration: Udyam is an online and simplified procedure of filing of registration which enables MSMEs to obtain registration without any documentation and fees.
- Champions Portal: It is an ICT based technology system aimed at making the smaller units big by solving their grievances, encouraging, supporting, helping and handholding throughout the business lifecycle. The platform facilitates a single window solution for all needs of MSMEs.
- National SC-ST Hub (NSSH): National SC-ST Hub has been launched to promote entrepreneurship culture in the SC-ST community and fulfill the 4% procurement target mentioned in the Public Procurement Policy order, 2018.
- Self-Reliant India (SRI) Fund: The scheme is expected to facilitate equity financing of Rs.50,000 crore in the MSME Sector. The infusion of equity will provide an opportunity to get MSMEs listed in stock exchanges.
- Procurement Policy: For providing marketing support to MSEs, all Central Ministries/Government Departments and CPSEs are required to procure 25% of their annual requirements of goods and services from MSEs including 4% from MSEs owned by SC/ST and 3% from MSEs owned by women entrepreneurs under the Public Procurement Policy.
- Establishment of Enterprise Development Centers (EDCs): Till date Ministry of MSME has set up 102 EDCs across India. The aim of these centers is to build a network of entrepreneurial leaders by providing professional mentoring and handholding support services to existing as well as aspiring MSMEs with special focus on rural enterprises on continuous basis.
Jallianwala Bagh Complex:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated the renovated Jallianwala Bagh complex in Amritsar on August 28, 2021.
- The monument was first opened by then President Dr Rajendra Prasad on April 13, 1961, as a tribute to the victims of the massacre on April 13, 1919.
- The central government set up the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust on May 1, 1951.
- The Prime Minister is the chairman, and permanent members include the president of Indian National Congress, Chief Minister of Punjab, Governor of Punjab, Union Minister in charge of Culture, and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- A 28-minute Sound and Light show re-enacting the events of April 13, 1919, will be shown every evening. A Salvation Ground has been built for visitors to sit in silence to honour the martyrs.
- Several new sculptures of martyrs have come up.
- Four new galleries have been created through adaptive re-use of underutilised buildings in the complex.
- The galleries depict the history of Punjab, history of the freedom movement, and the Gadhar movement.
- It also has a sculpture of Guru Nanak Dev, Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur, and a statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
- The Jallianwala Bagh has undergone several repairs and touch-upsover the years. But the narrow passage leading to the Bagh, had remained untouched for almost 100 years.
- While many other things changed, the thin entrance made of Nanakshahi bricks through which Dyer’s soldiers marched into the Bagh, continued to evoke the horrors of that day. In July 2020, it was rebuilt into a gallery with murals, leaving no trace of the old passage.
- The famous ‘Shahidi Khu’ or Martyrs Well, into which people jumped to escape the hail of bullets, is now enclosed in a glass shield — the decision has been criticised since it is perceived to restrict the view.