- Finance Commission is a Constitutionally mandated body that is at the center of fiscal federalism.
- It is set up under Article 280 of the Constitution.
- Its core responsibility is to evaluate the state of finances of the Union and State Governments, recommend the sharing of taxes between them, lay down the principles determining the distribution of these taxes among States.
- The first Finance Commission was set up in 1951 and there have been fifteen so far.
- The Fifteenth Finance Commission was constituted on 27 November 2017 against the backdrop of the abolition of the Planning Commission (as also of the distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure) and the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), which has fundamentally redefined federal fiscal relations.
- As per the terms of reference (ToR), the 15th Finance Commission was mandated to give its recommendations for five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
Doctrine of Colorable Legislation
- Legislation is considered as colorable when a legislature having no power or legislative competence enacts legislation that is so camouflaging that it appears to fall within its legislative competence.
- The objective lies in the fact that what the legislature cannot legislate directly; it cannot go beyond its competency to legislate it indirectly.
- Lok Adalat is one of the alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.
- It is a forum where disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at the pre-litigation stage are settled/ compromised amicably.
- Lok Adalats have been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- The Lok Adalat can compromise and settle even criminal cases, which are compoundable under the relevant laws.
National Policy on Rare Diseases, 2021
- The National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021 (NPRD) was notified on March 31.
- The policy provides financial support of up to Rs 20 lakh, under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi, for the treatment of rare diseases (RD) listed under group 1 (amenable to one-time treatment- either hematopoietic stem cell transplant or organ transplant).
- Beneficiaries for such financial assistance would not be limited to BPL families, but extended to about 40% of the population, who are eligible as per Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, for their treatment in government tertiary hospitals only.
- Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi Scheme provides financial assistance to patients, living below the poverty line and who are suffering from major life-threatening diseases, to receive medical treatment at any of the super-specialty Government hospitals/institutes.
- A rare disease is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.
- Orphan drugs are created and sold for this purpose.
- Many rare diseases appear early in life, and about 30% of children with rare diseases will die before reaching their fifth birthday.
- With only three diagnosed patients in 27 years, ribose-5-phosphate isomerase deficiency is considered the rarest known genetic disease.
- The most common rare diseases include Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle-cell Anaemia and Primary ImmunoDeficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis.
- TRIFED was established in August 1987 under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984 by the Government of India.
- It was a National level Cooperative body under the administrative control of the then Ministry of Tribal Welfare of India, with the basic mandate of bringing about socio-economic development of tribals of the country.
- It institutionalized the trade of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) & Surplus Agricultural Produce (SAP) collected/ cultivated by them.
- TRIFED through the successful implementation of Van Dhan Yojana seeks to shift the focus from mere collection of forest produce to value-addition of the high utility products.
Schemes in news
National Small Savings Fund
- The National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) is a fund body, which pools money from various small saving schemes.
- NSSF was established in 1999 within the Public Account of India. It is administered by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India
- It is under the National Small Savings Fund (Custody and Investment) Rules, 2001, derived from Article 283(1) of the Constitution.
- The money parked in the NSSF is used by the Centre and states to finance their fiscal deficit, while the balance is invested in central and state government securities.
- The interest rates for small saving schemes are announced by the Finance Ministry on a quarterly basis.
Small Savings Schemes
- Small saving schemes are backed by the government and inculcate the saving habit among individuals to build a substantial corpus for retirement or exigencies that may arise in the future.
- These schemes, which are launched by the government, banks, and public sector financial institutions, offer attractive rates of interest and tax exemptions on investment.
- Small Saving Schemes can be grouped under three heads:
- (a) Post office Deposits: Post Office Savings Account, Post Office Time Deposits (1,2,3 and 5 years), Post Office Recurring Deposits, and Post Office Monthly Account
- (b) Savings Certificates: National Savings Certificate and Kisan Vikas Patra
- (c) Social Security Schemes: Public Provident Fund, Senior Citizens Savings Scheme, and Sukanya Samriddhi Account.
Jal Shakti Abhiyan
- Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2019.
- It is a campaign for water conservation and water security in the country through a collaborative effort of various ministries of the Government of India and state governments.
- The focus of the campaign is on water-stressed districts and blocks.
- The Ministry of JAL Shakti was formed by merging of two ministries; Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Vivad Se Vishwas
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Friday further extended the due date for filing declaration under the ‘Vivad Se Vishwas’ (VSV) scheme till 31 March 2021.
- The Direct Tax ‘Vivad se Vishwas’ Act, 2020 was enacted on March 17, 2020, with the objective to reduce pending income tax litigation, generate timely revenue for the government, and benefit taxpayers.
- The entities who opt for the scheme have to pay a requisite tax following which all litigation against them are closed by the tax department and penal proceedings dropped.
Sankalp Se Siddi
- TRIFED under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has now launched “Sankalp Se Siddhi” – Village & Digital Connect Drive.
- Starting from April 1, 2021, this 100-day drive will entail 150 teams (10 in each region from TRIFED and State Implementation Agencies/Mentoring Agencies/Partners) visiting ten villages each.
- 100 villages in each region and 1500 villages in the country will be covered in the next 100 days.
- The main aim of this drive is to activate the Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in these villages.
- Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA), which is aimed towards ensuring remunerative prices to farmers for their produce, the government has taken an unprecedented step.
- It will help to protect farmers’ income which is expected to go long way towards the welfare of farmers. The government has already increased the MSP of Kharif crops by following the principle of 1.5 times the cost of production.
- It is expected that the increase in MSP will be translated to farmer’s income by way of a robust procurement mechanism in coordination with the State Governments.
- The three components outlined under the scheme are thus aimed towards enhancing agricultural productivity, reducing the cost of cultivation which will enable boosting and securing farmer’s income in the long run – Price Support Scheme (PSS), Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS), and Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS).
- La Perouse, the Indo-French Naval exercise “Varuna“ is scheduled in the Western Indian Ocean, wherein UAE too shall be participating.
- It is for the first time that Indian warships shall be participating in the La Perouse exercise
- This now completes the QUAD force representation in the French-led naval exercise.
- Exercise La Pérouse will witness advanced naval operations including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense exercises, weapon firing exercises, cross deck flying operations, tactical maneuvers, and seamanship evolutions such as replenishment at sea.
- The E9 is a forum of nine countries, which was formed to achieve the goals of UNESCO’s Education For All (EFA) initiative.
- The “E” stands for education and the “9” represents the following nine countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan, representing over half of the world’s population and 70% of the world’s illiterate adults.
- E-9 Initiative was launched in 1993 at the EFA Summit in New Delhi, India.
- E-9 Initiative has become a forum for the countries to discuss their experiences related to education, exchange best practices, and monitor EFA-related progress.
Eurasian Economic Union
- The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is an economic union of states located in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Central Asia.
- The Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union was signed on 29 May 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, and came into force on 1 January 2015.
- An economic union is a type of trade bloc which is composed of a common market with a customs union.
- The participant countries have both common policies on product regulation, freedom of movement of goods, services, and the factors of production (capital and labor), and a common external trade policy.
- The Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees is a key treaty in international refugee law.
- It entered into force on 4 October 1967, and 146 countries are parties.
- It defines who is a refugee and outlines the rights of refugees and the legal obligations of states towards refugees and people seeking asylum.
- The 1967 Protocol removed the Refugee Convention’s temporal and geographical restrictions so that the Convention applied universally.
- Article 1 of the Protocol says that countries that ratify it agree to abide by the Refugee Convention as well – even if they are not a party to it.
- These include respecting the principle of non-refoulment – that is, not sending refugees to a place where they are at risk of persecution, or to a country which might send them to such a place; providing refugees with legal status, including rights such as access to employment, education, and social security; and not punishing refugees for entering ‘illegally’ – that is, without a passport or visa.
- India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and does not have a national refugee protection framework.
- However, it continues to grant asylum to a large number of refugees from neighboring States and respects UNHCR’s mandate for other nationals, mainly from Afghanistan and Myanmar.
Eight Core Industries
- The eight core industries included are- Coal, Crude oil, Natural Gas, Petroleum refinery products, Fertilizer, Cement, Steel, and Electricity generation.
- These eight industries comprise 40.27% of the weight of the items included in the Index of Industrial Production.
- The Office of the Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, releases Index of Eight Core Industries.
- Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) deals with all matters relating to the management of Central Government investments in equity including disinvestment of equity in Central Public Sector Undertakings.
- The Four major areas of its work related to Strategic Disinvestment, Minority Stake Sales, Asset Monetisation, and Capital Restructuring.
- It also deals with all matters relating to the sale of Central Government equity through offer for sale or private placement or any other model in the erstwhile Central Public Sector Undertakings.
- DIPAM is working as one of the Departments under the Ministry of Finance.
- HSN code stands for “Harmonized System of Nomenclature”.
- This system has been introduced for the systematic classification of goods all over the world.
- HSN code is a 6-digit uniform code that classifies 5000+ products and is accepted worldwide.
- With effect from the 1st April 2021, it has been made mandatory for a GST taxpayer, having turnover of more than Rs 5 crore in the preceding financial year, to furnish 6 digits HSN Code.
- Consumer Price Index is used for estimation of price changes in a basket of goods and services representative of consumption expenditure in an economy is called consumer price index.
- Inflation is measured using CPI.
K shaped Recovery
- A K-shaped recovery occurs when, following a recession, different parts of the economy recover at different rates, times, or magnitudes.
- This is in contrast to an even, uniform recovery across sectors, industries, or groups of people.
- E-kuber is the core banking solution of the RBI that gives a high degree of access to commercial banks and other institutions to their current account with the RBI.
- e-kuber enables banks access with their current account at any time, everywhere across the country.
- The e-kuber is used by the RBI to execute various transactions with banks.
- Utility of e-kuber is that it is used to conduct exercises like auctioning of government securities.
- White goods consist of items such as a dishwasher, dryer, furnace, hot water heater, stove, trash compactor, and washer.
- large electrical goods used domestically such as refrigerators and washing machines, typically white in color.
Asset Reconstruction Companies
- An Asset Reconstruction Company is a specialized financial institution that buys the NPAs or bad assets from banks and financial institutions so that the latter can clean up their balance sheets.
- Or in other words, ARCs are in the business of buying bad loans from banks.
- ARCs are registered under the RBI and regulated under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act, 2002).
Government Securities Acquisition Programme (G-SAP)
- The RBI periodically purchases Government bonds from the market through Open Market Operations (OMOs).
- The G-SAP is in a way an OMO but there is an upfront commitment by the central bank to the markets that it will purchase bonds worth a specific amount.
- The idea is to give comfort to the bond markets. In other words, G-SAP is an OMO with a ‘distinct character’—in Governors’ words.
- Through G SAP RBI will purchase government securities worth Rs 1 lakh crore in the first quarter of FY22.
- The RBI also announced that it will continue with a variable rate reverse repo to suck excess liquidity.
Alternative Investment Fund(AIF)
- It comprises pooled investment funds that invest in venture capital, private equity, hedge funds, managed futures, etc.
- In simpler terms, an AIF refers to an investment that differs from conventional investment avenues such as stocks, debt securities, etc.
- Alternative Investment Fund is described under Regulation 2(1)(b) of the Regulation Act, 2012 of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
- AIF can be established in the form of a company or a corporate body or a trust or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
- Generally, high net worth individuals and institutions invest in Alternative Investment Funds as it requires a high investment amount, unlike Mutual Funds.
- Fair and remunerative price (FRP) is the minimum price at which rate sugarcane is to be purchased by sugar mills from farmers.
- The FRP is based on the recommendation of the Commission of Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP).
- The FRP is based on the cost of production of sugarcane and an element of assured profit as to cover the risk of sugarcane farmers.
- Under the FRP system, the farmers are not required to wait till the end of the season or for any announcement of the profits by sugar mills or the Government.
- Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food.
- Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa, with 97% of millet production in developing countries.
- Millets had been the major staple food in central India, southern India, and hilly regions of Uttarakhand for centuries till the time of the Green Revolution.
- After the advent of high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat during the 1970s, millets got sidelined from our food basket.
- Millets are regarded as smart crops.
Science & Technology
Quantum dots (QDs)
- Quantum dots (QDs) are man-made nanoscale crystals that that can transport electrons.
- When UV light hits these semiconducting nanoparticles, they can emit light of various colors.
- These artificial semiconductor nanoparticles have found applications in composites, solar cells, and fluorescent biological labels.
- Chemically modifying the surface of QDs can be an innovative pathway to alter their optical features and making newer optical materials, which are useful for fabricating white light-emitting (WLE) materials.
- They can be used as ratiometric sensors for detecting disease-responsive molecules or environmental pollutants, photocatalysts (for H2 production), and imaging of cancerous cells.
- Applications: QDs could be used for ratiometric tracing of in vitro pH, detection of amino acid and vitamin B12, developing advanced WLE materials that can emit day-bright light, capability to image cancerous cells, and packaging of enzymes to enhance their activity.
- A team of physicists at the University of Bonn in Germany has developed a technique to create optical ‘wells’ for a photonic Bose-Einstein condensate.
- Thousands of photons can be merged to form a single ‘super-photon’ if they are sufficiently concentrated and cooled.
- The individual particles merge with each other, making them indistinguishable.
- We call this a photonic Bose-Einstein condensate.
- In the experimental setup, a laser beam was rapidly bounced back and forth between two mirrors.
- In between was a pigment that cooled the laser light to such an extent that a super-photon was created from the individual light portions.
- It is the world’s first Microsensor-based Explosive Trace Detector (ETD) developed by NanoSniff Technologies, an IIT Bombay incubated startup.
- NanoSniffer is a 100% Made in India product in terms of research, development & manufacturing.
- The core technology of NanoSniffer is protected by patents in the U.S. & Europe.
- The Minister further said that this affordable device will reduce our dependence on imported explosive trace detector devices.
- It will also encourage other institutions, startups and medium-scale industries to research & develop products indigenously.
- The Minister appreciated that this home-grown Explosive trace detector device (ETD) – NanoSniffer can detect explosives in less than 10 seconds and it also identifies and categorizes explosives into different classes.
- It detects all classes of military, conventional and homemade explosives.
- NanoSniffer gives visible & audible alerts with sunlight-readable color display.
Flue Gas Desulphurization
- Flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) is a set of technologies used to remove sulfur dioxide (SO.) from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants, and from the emissions of other sulfur oxide emitting processes such as waste incineration.
- India had initially set a 2017 deadline for thermal power plants to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units that cut emissions of sulfur dioxides. But that was postponed to varying deadlines for different regions, ending in 2022.
- The new order dated April 1 from the Environment Ministry says plants near populous regions and the capital New Delhi will have to comply by 2022, while utilities in less polluting areas have up to 2025 to comply or retire units.
- In a flue gas desulphurization system (FGD), sulfur compounds are removed from the exhaust emissions of fossil-fuelled power stations.
- This is done by means of an industrial process through the addition of absorbents.
- This can remove up to 95 % of the sulfur dioxide from the flue gas, since the current threshold value for SO2.
- The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.
- It is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow from 1 to 12 November 2021 under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty addressing climate change, negotiated and signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992.
- A carbon budget can be defined as a tolerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in total over a specified time.
- The budget needs to be in line with what is scientifically required to keep global warming and thus climate change “tolerable.”
- A carbon budget is a cumulative amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions permitted over a period of time to keep within a certain temperature threshold.
- The world has 8% of the carbon budget left, which will be exhausted in the coming decade at current emission rates, according to the Global Carbon Budget report 2020.
- Covid-19 restrictions led to a record decrease of 7% in emissions.
- This was most pronounced in the U.S. (-12%), EU (-11%), and India (-9%) due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Places in News
- Pangong Tso or Lake is an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m.
- It is 134 km long and divided into five sub lakes, called Pangong Tso, Tso Nyak, Rum Tso, and Nyak Tso.
- In Ladakh, you never know what surprise nature has in store for you. Pangong Lake, situated at a height of almost 4,350m, is the world’s highest saltwater lake.
- Its water, which seems to be dyed in blue, stands in stark contrast to the arid mountains surrounding it.
- The Taklamakan Desert is a desert in southwest Xinjiang in Northwest China.
- It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains to the south, the Pamir Mountains to the west, the Tian Shan range to the north, and the Gobi Desert to the east.
- Because it lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, Taklamakan is a cold desert climate.
- Also known as Bajo de Masinloc, Panatag Shoal, Huangyan Island, and Democracy Reef, are two rocks in a shoal.
- It is located between the Macclesfield Bank and Luzon in the South China Sea.
- The nearest landmass from it is Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines.
- Indian Railways has completed the construction of the arch of Chenab Bridge, the world’s highest railway bridge located in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The construction of the 1,315m long bridge over the Chenab river is part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project (USBRL).
Reports & Index
Global Gender Gap, 2021
- India has fallen 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index.
- In 2020, India had ranked 112th among 153 countries on the index.
- The index benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions –
1)Economic Participation and Opportunity
3)Health and Survival
4) Political Empowerment
- It tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time
- India was the third-worst performer in South Asia, after Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bangladesh topped the list in the region.
India Energy Exchange (IEX)
- IEX is the energy exchange in India providing a nationwide, automated trading platform for physical delivery of electricity, Renewable Energy Certificates, and Energy Saving Certificates.
- The exchange platform enables efficient price discovery and increases the accessibility and transparency of the power market in India while also enhancing the speed and efficiency of trade execution.
- The Exchange is a publicly listed company with NSE and BSE.
History & Culture
- The Didarganj Yakshi is one of the finest examples of very early Indian stone statues.
- It used to be dated to the 3rd century BCE, as it has the fine Mauryan polish associated with Mauryan art.
- Place: Didarganj, Patna, Bihar, India
- Material: Polished/Chunar sandstone
- A Yakshi is a female earth spirit, accepted as a symbol of fertility by Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain faiths.
- It is the female counterpart of the male Yaksha.
E V Ramaswamy Periyar
- Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy, commonly known as Periyar or Thanthai Periyar, was an Indian social activist and politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam.
- He is known as the ‘Father of the Dravidian movement.
- Kudi Arasu was a Tamil weekly magazine published by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy in Madras Presidency in India.
Coal Bed Methane(CBM)
- Coalbed methane, coalbed gas, coal seam gas, or coal-mine methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.
- The country’s coal and CBM reserves are found in 12 states of India, with the Gondwana sediments of eastern India holding the bulk.
- CBM is extracted from what is known as unconventional gas reservoirs — where gas is extracted directly from the rock that is the source of the gas.
- The methane is held underground within the coal and is extracted by drilling into the coal seam and removing the groundwater.
- The resulting drop in pressure causes the methane to be released from the coal.
- The Damodar Koel valley and Son valley are prospective areas for CBM development, with CBM projects existing in Raniganj, Parbatpur block in Jharia coalfield, and the East and West Bokaro coalfields.
- CBM can be used for power generation, as compressed natural gas (CNG) auto fuel, as feedstock for fertilizers, industrial uses such as cement production, rolling mills, steel plants, and methanol production.
- The Hague Convention protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature, or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.
- To do this, the Hague Convention puts: safeguards in place to make sure that all intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the child and respects their human rights,
- System in place of cooperation among countries to guarantee that these safeguards are respected, and to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.
- For Hague adoptions, the authorities in both countries must agree to go ahead with the adoption.
- For non-Hague adoptions, requirements may vary from one country to another.
- The Hague Convention does not allow private adoptions in the child’s home country.
- Bauxite is aluminum-rich ore that is used for aluminum production (the metallurgical bauxites) and for the production of refractory materials, chemicals, or cement (the non-metallurgical bauxites).
- By States, Odisha alone accounts for 51% of the country’s resources of bauxite followed by Andhra Pradesh (16%), Gujarat (9%), Jharkhand (6%), Maharashtra (5%), and Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh (4% each).
- Major bauxite resources are concentrated in the East Coast bauxite deposits in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
- In India, opium poppy cultivation is prohibited, under Section 8 of the NDPS Act, 1985, except under a license issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics under Rule 8 of NDPS Rules, 1985.
- At present, the licit opium poppy cultivation is permitted by the Govt. of India in Selected Tracts (see tract notification) in three traditionally opium-growing states namely Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
- As a signatory to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 and as a licit producer of opium, India is required to adhere to the regulations under the said convention.
- Civil Aviation Ministry and DGCA launched the GARUD (Government Authorisation for Relief Using Drones) portal for providing fast track conditional exemptions to government agencies for COVID-19 related drone operations.
- The step has been taken to aid government entities in addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19 and will remain in force until further orders.
- GARUD portal helps to fast-track approval to COVID-19 related drone operations.