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Current Affairs – 21 January 2021

NITI index

IN NEWS:

  1. The Innovation Index has been released by the NITI Aayog.

ABOUT:

  1. These rankings were part of NITI Aayog’s India Innovation Index Report 2020. The exercise was initiated in 2019 and is on the lines of the Global Innovation Index (GII), which ranks countries annually.
  2. The framework of the index includes globally considered parameters for measuring innovation, such as the percentage of GDP spent on research and development, while keeping them specific to the Indian economy.
  3. The indicators that the survey uses includes the level and quality of education especially in research, number of PhD students, enrolment in engineering and technology, number of highly skilled professionals, investment in R&D, FDI inflows, internet subscribers, knowledge intensive employment, number of patents and trademark applications filed, business environment, and safety and legal environment, among others.

GII:

  1. In 2015, India ranked 81 among 141 countries in the GII. By 2020 it ranked 48 among 131 countries.
  2. There were a number of areas in which India needed to improve to meet global competitiveness in innovation, including increased expenditure in R&D by the private sector.
  3. The Indian government is a major spender in R&D, while the investment of the private sector is very low.
  4. Compare this to Israel where private companies account for 70 percent of private investment in R&D, In 2017-18, the Indian government had the lion’s share of investment in R&D at 41 per cent.
  5. India also spends only 0.7 per cent of its GDP on R&D, much lower than the top spenders such as Israel (4.95 per cent).

PERFORMANCE OF STATES:

  1. The Innovation Index is divided in to three categories—major states, Union Territories, and hill and North East states.
  2. Karnataka has been ranked the most innovative among major states by the NITI Aayog with a score of 42.5 for the second year running.
  3. As states become more innovative, they have higher per capita GDP. The state’s success has been attributed to a high number of venture capital deals, registered GIs and ICT exports, and high FDI inflow.
  4. Delhi has scored the highest on the index in the country with a score of 46.6, while Lakshwadeep has the lowest score at 11.7. Delhi recorded the highest number of trademark and patent applications, along with the establishment of new start-ups and companies in the last financial year.
  5. Delhi also stood out as the top performer among both states and UTs.
  6. The Index pointed out a North-South divide in the findings of the report, with the southern states having fared much better.
  7. Maharashtra follows with a score of 38, while Bihar finishes last at 14.5. Four southern states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala —occupy the top positions on the index, apart from Maharashtra.
  8. Amongst North East and hill states, Himachal Pradesh has the highest score of 25.

 

Chenab hydel project

IN NEWS:

  1. The Centre decided to go ahead with the long pending 850 megawatt Ratle hydroelectric power project for the Rs 5,822 crore on the river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district, despite objections raised by the Pakistan government over the same.

BACKGROUND:

  1. The Project to be built near Drabshalla village in Kishtwar, the then Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the project on June 25, 2013.
  2. However, the Pakistan government had objected to the construction of the dam, claiming that it was not in conformity with the Indus Water Treaty.
  3. In August 2017, the World Bank allowed India to construct the dam and the following year, the erstwhile state government approached the Centre with a proposal to resume construction.
  4. An MoU was signed between the National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Limited (JKSPDCL) at Vijaypur in Samba district on February 3, 2019 and work on the project began in December 2019.

ABOUT:

  1. The project will be a joint venture between the NHPC and the JKSPDC having an equity of 51 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, and will be completed in five years.
  2. The JKSPDCL equity will be paid by the Centre.
  3. The power share of J&K from the project will start from 8 per cent and increase to 12 per cent in the 12th year. It will be the first hydel power project in the country from which we will start getting power from the day it gets commissioned.
  4. If calculated in terms of money, Jammu and Kashmir will get electricity worth Rs 5,289 crore free of cost and the Union Territory will also get water usage charges worth Rs 9,581 crore over a period of 40 years.
  5. The project will generate direct and indirect jobs for 4,000 people in addition to the 2,000 jobs created directly and indirectly in the commissioning of the 540 MW K war hydroelectric power project on the Chenab.

 

Dragon fruit

IN NEWS:

  1. GUJARAT state proposes to rename dragon fruit as ‘Kamalam’. This would “boost awareness and expansion” , “and contribute to reducing import dependence in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’”.
  2. Across the world it is known as dragon fruit and one thinks of China.

ABOUT:

  1. Dragon fruit “does not sound appropriate”, Kamalam was apt because the characteristic fuchsia ‘spikes’ or ‘petals’ of the fruit recall a lotus in bloom.
  2. Dragon fruit is the fruit of a species of wild cactus indigenous to South and Central America, where it is called pitayaorpitahaya.
  3. The fruit’s flesh is usually white or red — although there is a less common yellow pitaya too — and is studded with tiny seeds rather like the kiwi fruit.

WHERE IS IT CULTIVATED?

  1. The world’s largest producer and exporter of dragon fruit is Vietnam, where the plant was brought by the French in the 19th century.
  2. The Vietnamese call it thanh long, which translates to “dragon’s eyes”, believed to be the origin of its common English name.
  3. Dragon fruit is also cultivated in—a part from its native Latin AmericaThailand, Taiwan, China, Australia, Israel, and Sri Lanka.
  4. It was brought to India in the 1990s, and is grown in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  5. It grows in all kinds of soil, and does not require much water.

WHO’S OPINION MATTERS?

  1. Such a proposal would need approval from the Botanical Survey of India and the National Biodiversity Authority under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  2. Dragon fruit is not a species native to India and any change in its nomenclature in official annals can lead to international litigation. Hence, the opinion of BSI and NBA matters.
  3. ICAR does not do everything in this respect. ICAR is the recommending body. Whatever nomenclature, release of varieties, production, it is all done by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, the other wing, and not the research wing.

 

Geo-hazard Management

IN NEWS:

  1. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has entered into a framework memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) to strengthen collaboration in the field of technical exchange and co-operation on sustainable geohazard management.

ABOUT:

  1. As per the agreement, DRDO and MoRTH will co-operate in various mutually beneficial areas related to geohazard management.
  2. The initiative will ensure safety against the adverse effects of landslides and other natural calamities on national highways in the country.
  3. MoRTH is responsible for development & maintenance of National Highways across the country.
  4. Expertise of DRDO will be utilized in providing sustainable mitigation measures to damages caused by landslides, avalanche and other natural factors on various National Highways in the Country.
  5. Some of the areas identified for collaboration include detailed investigation of the critical avalanches/geo hazards, planning, designing and formulation of sustainable mitigation measures for geo-hazards on national highways including tunnels, monitoring and supervision of mitigation measures etc.

DGRE:

  1. DRDO’s Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment (DGRE) is working for the development of critical technologies for enhancing combat effectiveness in various kinds of terrains and avalanches.
  2. The expertise of DGRE in mapping, forecasting, control and mitigation of landslides and avalanches in Himalayan terrain will be utilized for designing national highways including tunnels.
  3. Terrain and modelling simulation is an important asset with DGRE, which will play an important role in planning and building robust road infrastructure in difficult terrains.

 

NPAs

IN NEWS:

  1. Banks are reporting that many of collateral free loans disbursed under the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbharNidhi (PM SVANidhi) programme are turning into non-performing assets (NPAs).
  2. Some banks are asking local authorities — who pushed for these loans — to help recover them.

ABOUT:

  1. This scheme was launched in June 2020 to help vendors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the PM SVANidhi scheme is a micro credit facility that provides street vendors a collateral-free loan of Rs 10,000 at concessional rates of an estimated 7.25%.
  2. On timely or early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy at 7% per annum is credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer on a six-monthly basis.
  3. Despite this interest subvention – making this an effectively interest-free loan — many accounts have turned NPAs.
  4. As loans under the scheme have no collateral, banks typically have no recourse in case of default.
  5. As per the guidelines, Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Town Vending Committees (TVCs) are responsible for identifying eligible borrowers and issue Certificate of Vending, Identity Card and Letter of Recommendation to them.

 

Aadhaar order

IN NEWS:

  1. The Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking a review of its 2018 judgment upholding the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (the Aadhaar Act).

ABOUT:

  1. The Aadhaar Bill had been certified by the Speaker of the House of People as a Money Bill under Article 110 (1), enabling it to get it cleared without getting the assent of a majority in the RajyaSabha.
  2. Speaker’s decision was not beyond judicial review though the scope was extremely restricted. The 2018 Aadhaar verdict had not answered conclusively the question as to what constitutes a money Bill under Article 110 (1) and had directed that it be referred to a larger Bench.
  3. Larger Bench will decide what constitutes a money Bill and the extent of judicial review over a certification by the Speaker was yet to be constituted.

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