About: Core Industries, Index of Industrial Production (IIP), Core sectors and their weights in their 40.27% contribution to the calculation of IIP

Headline : Core sector output falls 1st time in 4 yrs

Details :

The News:

  • The eight core sectors reported their worst decline in at least eight years, shrinking 5.8% in October.
  • The fall is the sharpest since the start of the new data series using 2011-12 as the base year.

About: Index of Industrial Production (IIP)

  • Index of Industrial Production (IIP) shows the performance of different industrial sectors of the Indian economy.
  • The IIP is estimated and published on a monthly basis by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation..
  • The base year for the current series of IIP is 2011-12.
  • It is published monthly with a time lag of six weeks from the reference month.
  • As an all India index, it gives general level of industrial activity in the economy. It is a short term indicator of industrial growth till the results from Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) and National Accounts Statistics (Example: GDP) are available.

Importance of Index of Industrial Production:

  • The IIP is used by public agencies including the Government agencies/ departments including that in the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India etc. for policy purposes.
  • The all-India IIP data is used for estimation of Gross Value Added (GVA) of Manufacturing sector on quarterly basis.
  • Similarly, the data is also used extensively by analysts, financial intermediaries and private companies for various purposes.
  • It is crucial considering the IIP is the only measure on the physical volume of production.

 

About: Core Industries

  • The core sector is an aggregate of 8 core sectors that are fundamental to the Indian economy.
  • These are Electricity, Steel, Refinery products, Crude oil, Coal, Cement, Natural gas and Fertilisers.
  • These 8 sectors constituting the core sector are important because they account for nearly 40.27% of the overall IIP and hence have long term repercussions for corporate profit growth as well as for the overall GDP growth.
  • The growth of the country’s eight core sectors is a lead indicator of the monthly industrial performance.

Core sectors and their weights in their 40.27% contribution to the calculation of IIP

 

 

News Summary:

  • According to recent data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry, the core sectors saw a second straight month of contraction.
  • The slump in the eight core sectors in October to 5.8% was even worse than September, when the index saw a 5.2% decline.
  • According to data shared by the Commerce Ministry, overall growth has been hit by declining production in most core sectors, especially a steep drop in electricity production.
  • Only two industries — fertiliser and refinery products — in positive terrain.
  • Negative Growth Sectors (November 2019 data):
    • Electricity: – 4 per cent
    • Coal: – 17.6 per cent
    • Crude oil: -5.1 per cent
    • Natural gas: -5.7 per cent
    • Cement: -7.7 per cent
    • Steel: -1.6 per cent
  • Positive Growth Sectors (August 2019 data):
    • Refinery Products: 0.4 per cent
    • Fertilizer: 11.8 per cent

What it signifies:

  • These sectors are lead indicators for performance of the industrial sector.
  • Contraction in these sectors of the economy in October reflects the broader slowdown facing the Indian economy.
  • The weakness in these industry groups is expected to adversely impact the index of industrial production (IIP) since the core sector has an over 40% weight in IIP calculation.
  • The decline witnessed in electricity is mainly due to lower power demand in major industrial states.
  • A part of the reason for the decline in the core sector index may have been disruption caused by rains as also fewer working days due to the festival season.
Section : Economics

National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes

National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes

  • National Commission for Backward Classes was established in 1993 by an act of Parliament.
  • In August 2018, NCBC was granted the constitutional status under 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act. (123 Amendment Bill)
  • The 102 Constitutional Amendment Act inserted Article 338B in the Constitution to set up National for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.

 

Composition and Functions

  • The NCBC constitutes chairperson, a vice-chairperson and three other members.
  • NCBC recommends to the central government regarding inclusion and exclusion of a particular caste in the Central list of OBCs.
  • However according to Article 342 A parliament has to approve every inclusion into and exclusion from the Central List of OBCs.
  • The state and central governments are required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
  • NCBC investigates and monitors safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws.
  • NCBC has the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints with regards to violation rights of backward classes.
  • NCBC is duty-bound to present to the President of India (who lays it before Parliament) with reports that includes recommendations on the implementation of welfare measures to be taken by government.

 

Term

  • The of the members including Chairperson is 3 years which can be extended by President 6 months at a time.
  • The term of the members of current commission (formed in 2015) has been extended for the purpose of Sub-categorization of OBC list.

 

Section : Polity & Governance
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FASTags explained: What, why, how

Headline : FASTags explained: What, why, how

Details :

In News

  • From December 1, lanes on national highway toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag without human intervention.
  • All new vehicles bought over the last few years, in fact, already come with FASTag pre-installed.
  • However, one hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.
  • Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.

 

About: FASTags

How did the idea come about?

  • The idea was a brainchild of Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, the idea picked up after the Prime Minister’s call for a Digital India.
  • The government has been trying to make FASTag popular for years, but it was not really picking up.
  • Hence, it has now decided that the only way to bring vehicle owners on board was by making FASTag mandatory for toll payment.

How does FASTag work?

  • The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it. RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
  • A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required. It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
  • If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
  • If it is linked to a savings account, then money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
  • Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that sense, it acts like a prepaid e-wallet.

Where are FASTags sold?

  • They are available at 27,000 points of sale set up by 22 banks and the NHAI.
  • Places where NHAI counters are set up include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
  • Further, e-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM also sell these tags issued by various banks.

 

Is it working smoothly?

  • The technology is showing what officials call teething troubles. Users have complained that the tag-reader is often not able to read the tag; also, the SMS alert is often coming late.
  • However, the Ministry is actively identifying and working to resolve them.

 

Status of State highways

  • Under a new One Nation One FASTag scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
  • Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.
  • Further, the Centre has told state governments to turn all their cash toll points on state highways into electronic toll collection points. The Centre will help the State governments in the said conversion, free of charge.

 

Benefits of FASTags:

  • The initiative will remove bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and efficient collection of user fee.
  • It is likely to reduce the nation’s GDP loss by bringing down loss of fuel while waiting at toll plazas along with controlling pollution
  • India could save up to Rs 12,000 crore every year in terms of fuel and man-hours with the switch to 100% FASTag-based toll collection on national highways (NH).
  • A startup launched by two IIT-Kanpur alumni estimates 35% of the Rs 12,000-crore loss is on account of wasted fuel, while 54-55% is on account of wasted man-hours. Carbon emissions make up the rest of the lost value.
Section : Science & Tech

FASTags explained: What, why, how

Headline : FASTags explained: What, why, how

Details :

In News

  • From December 1, lanes on national highway toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag without human intervention.
  • All new vehicles bought over the last few years, in fact, already come with FASTag pre-installed.
  • However, one hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.
  • Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.

 

About: FASTags

How did the idea come about?

  • The idea was a brainchild of Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, the idea picked up after the Prime Minister’s call for a Digital India.
  • The government has been trying to make FASTag popular for years, but it was not really picking up.
  • Hence, it has now decided that the only way to bring vehicle owners on board was by making FASTag mandatory for toll payment.

How does FASTag work?

  • The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it. RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
  • A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required. It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
  • If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
  • If it is linked to a savings account, then money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
  • Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that sense, it acts like a prepaid e-wallet.

Where are FASTags sold?

  • They are available at 27,000 points of sale set up by 22 banks and the NHAI.
  • Places where NHAI counters are set up include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
  • Further, e-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM also sell these tags issued by various banks.

 

Is it working smoothly?

  • The technology is showing what officials call teething troubles. Users have complained that the tag-reader is often not able to read the tag; also, the SMS alert is often coming late.
  • However, the Ministry is actively identifying and working to resolve them.

 

Status of State highways

  • Under a new One Nation One FASTag scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
  • Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.
  • Further, the Centre has told state governments to turn all their cash toll points on state highways into electronic toll collection points. The Centre will help the State governments in the said conversion, free of charge.

 

Benefits of FASTags:

  • The initiative will remove bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and efficient collection of user fee.
  • It is likely to reduce the nation’s GDP loss by bringing down loss of fuel while waiting at toll plazas along with controlling pollution
  • India could save up to Rs 12,000 crore every year in terms of fuel and man-hours with the switch to 100% FASTag-based toll collection on national highways (NH).
  • A startup launched by two IIT-Kanpur alumni estimates 35% of the Rs 12,000-crore loss is on account of wasted fuel, while 54-55% is on account of wasted man-hours. Carbon emissions make up the rest of the lost value.
Section : Science & Tech

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles:
  • They are the reptiles of the order Testudines.
  • They live in almost every ocean basin throughout the world, nesting on tropical and subtropical beaches.
  • They migrate long distances to feed, often crossing entire oceans.
  • They spend their entire lives in sea, except when adult females come ashore to lay eggs several times per season every 2 to 5 years.
  • Different species rely on a different diet like sea grasses, jellyfish, soft-bodied animals, crabs etc.
IUCN status:
  • Six of the seven species of sea turtle are at varying threat levels on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The hawksbill turtle and the Kemp’s ridley trutle are  critically endangered.
  • The green turtle is endangered.
  • The loggerhead turtle, the leather back turtle and olive ridley turtle are vulnerable.
  • Only the flatback turtle isn’t listed as threatened, but there’s insufficient data for an assessment.
Some threats to turtles are:
  • Habitat loss (like uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches destroys the nesting and foraging habitats).
  • Climate change (impacts the nesting sites).
  • Altered sand temperatures (affects the sex of hatchlings).
  • Entanglement in fishing nets.
  • Anthropogenic factor (slaughtering for shells, meat and eggs).
  • They are also killed by humans for aphrodisiacs and decoration.
Conservation efforts:
  • Some of the conservation efforts which have helped to save turtles in many locations are:
  • Protecting beaches
  • Regulating fishing
  • Establishing marine protected areas
Section : Environment & Ecology

Punjab groundwater crisis: what it will take to move from paddy to maize

Headline : Punjab groundwater crisis: what it will take to move from paddy to maize

Details :

In News

  • With the massive groundwater crisis in Punjab, there is a huge stress on diversification of crops, and a move away from water-guzzling paddy.
  • In a recent meeting in Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, it was decided to strengthen maize — the most important alternative to rice.
  • This would be done by working towards narrowing the gap in economic returns between the two crops. The idea is to nudge farmers towards increasing the area under maize.

 

Background

Punjab’s water crisis:

  • According to central government estimates, over 70% of blocks in Punjab are in the dark zone on underground water stocks,.
  • At current rates of depletion, Punjab’s entire subsurface water resource could be exhausted in a little over two decades.

New law to conserve water led to change in paddy season:

  • To conserve the resource, the Punjab government brought a law in 2009 to mandatorily delay transplantation of paddy beyond June 10, when the most severe phase of evapotranspiration is over.
  • This law led to delay in harvesting to end-October and early November.

This led to air crisis crisis in North India

  • The law and change in paddy season left farmers little time to dispose of Paddy stubble before they can sow wheat for the Rabi season. As a result, farmers started burning the stubble as a method of quick disposal.
  • This ended up creating air quality crisis of North India, as atmospheric and wind conditions at this time of the year cause particulate matter and gases from burning paddy stubble to hang close to the surface.

 

What can be done?

Punjab needs to effectively diversify from paddy

  • According to experts, the area under non-basmati paddy must be cut by at least 12 lakh hectares, and maize, basmati, and cotton must be grown on this land — besides increasing the area under agro-forestry and vegetables.
  • Non-basmati paddy is currently grown on 23-26 lakh hectares and at least 5.50 lakh hectares should pass under maize.

Past efforts:

  • Under its New Diversification Policy launched in the 2013 kharif season, the previous government had, in fact, aimed to bring around 5.50 lakh hectares under maize by 2017-18.
  • However, data from the agriculture department show that the area under the crop has remained largely stagnant. Fluctuating prices of maize have been a disincentive for farmers.

 

Potential for Maize in Punjab:

Maize distribution in India

  • Nearly 46% of India’s maize area is in the pensinsular states of Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra too, have large areas under maize.

Maize cultivation in Punjab

  • Of the 42-odd lakh hectares under cultivation in Punjab, maize was grown on 1.60 lakh hectares this year — just 3.8% of the area.
  • The area under maize in Punjab is only 1.6% of the total area under the crop in India (98 lakh hectares).
  • In Punjab, maize can be grown in three seasons — spring (March-June), rabi (December-April) and kharif (June-October).
  • Kharif is the state’s main maize season, hence, there is a need to increase the area under kharif maize, which is also the paddy season.
  • Spring maize is grown on around 25,000 hectares, but the crop is not promoted due to its long duration, and because it consumes water during the hot summer days.

What ails the maize diversification efforts?

  • Unlike paddy and wheat, which are procured by the government, maize is sold in the open market and is subject to the actions of private players.
  • Maize is one of 24 crops for which the government fixes a minimum support price, but procurement is not its responsibility.
  • This is because maize is primarily a “feed” crop — of the 28 million tonnes produced in India, only 13% is consumed as food.

 

Way Ahead

  • Agricultural scientists strongly feel that more high-yield and good varieties of maize should be developed, for which there is a demand in the market.
  • However, more high-yield varieties won’t guarantee an increase in area under maize unless government policy supports the marketing of the crop.
  • Hence, the government should also earmark a portion of the MSP budget for maize, so that a fund is created from which farmers can be compensated in case the price of maize falls below what has been fixed by the centre government.
  • A very large number of tubewells (more than 14 lakh in 2015-16) running on free power pump out virtually endless amounts of water across the state.
  • Hence, the government must stop free power for paddy in order to disincentivise its cultivation and check the overexploitation of underground aquifers.
Section : Environment & Ecology

El Niño

El Niño

  • El Niño is a massive reorganization of atmospheric convection associated with severely disrupted global weather patterns, affecting ecosystems, agriculture, tropical cyclones, drought, bushfires, floods and other extreme weather events worldwide.
  • El Nino is defined as an interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere which happens in the tropical Pacific ocean at the equator.
  • The cycle begins when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator toward the coast of South America. Normally, this warm water pools near Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • During an El Niño, the Pacific’s warmest surface waters sit offshore of north-western South America and the trade winds weaken in the central and western Pacific.
  • The normal movement of surface water towards Indonesia is disrupted.
  • Surface water temperatures off South America warm up and there is less upwelling of the cold water from below to cool the surface.
  • The clouds and rainstorms associated with warm ocean waters also shift toward the east. The warm waters release so much energy into the atmosphere that weather changes all over the planet.
  • Rain and storm takes place in otherwise drier areas of S. America and California, while there is drought in Asia and Africa.

 

 

  • There are different sizes of El Nino – ranging from small to medium, large and the massive. The 2015 El Nino has been nicknamed as “Godzilla”.
  • El Ninos are also not to be confused with climate change. While an El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon, climate change is a man-made trend created mostly via the emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Every three to seven years, the surface waters of the tropical Southern Pacific ocean either warm or cool by 1 to 3 degrees Celsius, creating weather conditions that are often the exact opposite of the normal.
  • The El Nino Southern Oscillation, known as ENSO, is when the surface waters experience the warming. The reverse effect, as brought on by the cooling of the surface waters and is known as La Nina.
Section : Environment & Ecology

BharatNet

BharatNet

  • BharatNet is an ambitious initiative to trigger a broadband revolution in rural areas. It was envisaged as an information super-highway through the creation of a robust middle-mile infrastructure for reaching broadband connectivity to Gram Panchayats.
  • In the first phase of the project, 1,00,000 gram panchayats were connected by March 2017.
  • In the first phase, only underground optic fibre cable was used to establish connectivity.
  • Whereas, in the second phase a mix of underground fibre, aerial fibre, radio and satellite media would be utilised to connect the remaining gram panchayats.
  • The expenditure for the implementation of BharatNet will be funded from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
  • Some amount will be utilised for essential activities not covered in the initial BharatNet framework, such as last mile connectivity architecture, operation and maintenance and replacement of BSNL’s poor quality fibre being used in the project between block to gram panchayat.

Aim

  • The government aims to bridge the digital divide in rural and remote areas by providing affordable broadband at a minimum speed of 100 Mbps through a robust network infrastructure.

Significance

  • The modified implementation strategy of BharatNet project will enable effective and faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects of Central government and state governments.
  • It will facilitate electronic delivery of services to citizens thereby facilitating inclusive growth.
  • Economic benefits from the project are expected through additional employment, e-education, e-health, e-agriculture, etc., and reduction in migration of rural population to urban areas.

Section : Polity & Governance

Blackbuck

Blackbuck conservation reserves in India:
  • There are a few national parks and sanctuaries inhabited by blackbucks in the country, like the Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary (in Gujarat) and the Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary (in Karnataka). However, there are not many conservation reserves exclusively dedicated to the antelope.
Benefits of the conservation reserve:
  • It will help in conserving the blackbuck in an effective way.
  • It will create an awareness about biodiversity conservation.
  • It will provide opportunities for people’s participation.
  • It will help in encouraging the eco-tourism of the state.
  • It will help in providing employment opportunity to the local residents of the area.
Blackbuck:
  • It is also known as the Indian antelope.
  • Geographic range:- The Blackbuck formerly occurred across almost the whole of the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas.
  • Their range decreased during the 20th century and they are now extinct in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • Blackbuck are still present in the terai zone of Nepal.
  • The species has been introduced to the United States of America (Texas) and Argentina.
Habitat and Ecology:-
  • The species inhabits open grassland, dry thorn scrub, scrubland and lightly-wooded country as well as agricultural margins, where it is often seen feeding in fields.
  • It requires the water daily, which restricts its distribution to areas where surface water is available for the greater part of the year.
  • They are primarily grazers but lack of grasses forces it to depend on leaf litter, flowers and fruits.
  • They are mainly sedentary, but in summer may move longer distances in search of water and forage.
Threats:-
  • Blackbuck declined sharply during the 20th century due to unsustainable hunting. Although they are now protected but some are still shot illegally.
  • Blackbuck have disappeared from many areas due to habitat destruction (conversion to agricultural use)
Conservation:- 
  • Blackbuck is fully protected by law in India.
  • Blackbuck occur in many protected areas, including Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary in Gujarat and Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in the far south of India.
  • The species is listed in CITES Appendix III (in Nepal).
Section : Environment & Ecology

Headline : About Tham Luang Nang Non cave

Headline : About Tham Luang Nang Non cave

Details :

Why in News?

  • A group of twelve boys together with their soccer coach entered the Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady(Tham Luang Nang Non), located in the Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand and have been trapped there since then.

About the incident

  • After recent rainfalls, parts of the cave flooded and authorities feared that the group either drowned or was trapped inside the cave.
  • Thai Navy SEAL divers had been searching the caves ever since.
  • Owing to non-stop rain which further flooded the cave entrance, searches have been periodically interrupted.
  • Thai NAVYdivers soon got international help from American, Australian, British and Chinese divers, military members, and emergency personnel. 
  • The group was found alive after 10 days and all 12 boys along with their coach were reported alive.
  • They were found by British volunteer divers around 400 meters away from a spot nicknamed Pattaya Beach- an elevated mound in the cave.

About the Tham Luang Nang Noncave

  • The “Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady” (Tham Luang Nang Non) is located in the Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand.
  • It is a semi-dry limestone cavewhich is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long, and has many deep recesses, narrow passages and tunnels winding under hundreds of meters of limestone strata.
  • There are numerous stalactitesand stalagmites in some parts of the system.
  • The exact geography of this cave system is poorly known.

The science behind the cave

  • Water plays an important role in the formation of Thailand’s caves, but it is also by far the most dangerous element when exploring wild cave systems.
  • According to the geological map of Thailandthe Doi Nang Non mountain range is composed of a succession of sandstone, limestone, shale and chert.
  • Limestone is a sedimentary rock, vulnerable to tectonic deformation and erosion by water.
  • Water enters the mountain following superficial cracks and faults.
  • As limestone is dissolved by this groundwater, a three-dimensional network of caverns and conduits forms over time.
  • Such karstsystems act like a natural sponge inside the mountain.
  • During some days of good weather, the cave appears completely dry.
  • In fact, during the dry season (September-June), Tham Luang cave can be easily reached on foot. 

Section : Miscellaneous