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National Current Affairs 2021

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Current Affairs June 07 to June 13

    ECOSOC: India has recently been elected to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the six main organs of the United Nations, for 2022-2024 term in the elections held in United Nations.

    Key Points:

    • India was elected in the Asia-Pacific States category along with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Oman.
    • From the African states, Cte d'Ivoire, Eswatini, Mauritius, Tunisia and the United Republic of Tanzania were elected.
    • From the eastern European states, Croatia and the Czech Republic were elected.
    • From the Latin American and Caribbean states, Belize, Chile and Peru were elected.
    • In the Economic and Social Council by-election, Greece, New Zealand and Denmark were elected for a term of office from January to December 2022 and Israel was elected for a term of office beginning January 1, 2022 and until December 31, 2023.
    • India is currently serving the 2021-22 term as a non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council and will assume the Presidency of the 15-nation UN organ in August.

    About ECOSOC:

    • ECOSOC is the acronym for United Nations Economic and Social Council.
    • ECOSOC was established ECOSOC in 1945 as one of the six main organs of the United Nations by the UN Charter.
    • It is headquartered in New York, USA.
    • ECOSOC is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as the implementation of internationally agreed development goals.

    Members:

    • The Council consists of 54 Members States, which are elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms.
    • Seats on the Council are allotted based on geographical representation with 14 allocated to African states, 11 to Asian states, six to eastern European states, 10 to Latin American and Caribbean states and 13 to western European and other states.

    Functions:

    • It coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, ten functional commissions and five regional commissions, receives reports from nine UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to member states.
    • Being the heart of United Nations system, it helps in advancing economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
    • It organizes follow-up, major UN conferences and summits.
    • It promotes high standards of living, full employment, economic & social progress,
    • It also identifies solutions for global economic, social & health problems etc.

    ECOSOC’s annual High-Level Segment includes:

    • High-Level Political Forum, which reviews implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is convened under the auspices of the Council every July.
    • Development Cooperation Forum reviews trends and progress in development cooperation.

    Specialized agencies:

    • The specialized agencies of the United Nations are autonomous organizations working within the United Nations System, meaning that while they report their activities to the Economic and Social Council, they are mostly free to their own devices.

    Ratle Hydroelectric Project: NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) limited, India’s premier hydropower company under Ministry of Power has formed a joint venture company, “Ratle Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited” for the implementation of 850 MW Ratle Hydroelectric Project.

    Key Highlights:

    • This comes in the backdrop of India’s plan to fully utilize its share of the waters under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.

    Note: The Chenab flows from India to Pakistan.

    • The Joint Venture Company (JVC) has been incorporated on 01.06.2021 with NHPC and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Ltd (JKSPDC) holding equity share of 51% and 49% respectively.
    • Ratle Hydoelectric Project (850 MW), is a Run of River Scheme located on River Chenab, Kishtwar district, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 03.02.2019 between JKSPDC, NHPC and the then Government of Jammu and Kashmir in the presence of Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
    • In January 2021, the Union Cabinet has given its approval for the investment of Rs.5281.94 crore for 850 MW Ratle Hydro Electric (HE) Project.
    • It shall be commissioned within a span of 5 years.

    About NHPC Limited:

    • NHPC Limited (erstwhile National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) is an Indian government hydropower board under the ownership of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI).
    • It was founded in 1975.
    • At present, NHPC Ltd is a Mini-Ratna Category-I Enterprise of the Government of India.
    • NHPC Limited was incorporated with an objective to plan, promote and organise an integrated and efficient development of hydroelectric power in all aspects.
    • Later on NHPC expanded its objects to include other sources of energy like Solar, Geothermal, Tidal, Wind etc.

    Largest Green Railways: Indian Railways (IR) is moving towards becoming the world’s largest green railway network by achieving “net-zero carbon emission” by 2030.

    Key Points:

    In a statement on World Environment Day 2021, IR had stated that the railways are moving towards a complete green restart.

    Along with the ambitious goal of achieving “net-zero carbon emission” by 2030, the IR is looking at helping the environment with steps ranging from massive electrification, water & paper conservation, to saving animals from being injured on Railway tracks.

    Steps taken by IR to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2030:

    To achieve the net-zero carbon emission, IR has taken some of the following steps:

    • The Railways is developing Dedicated Freight Corridors (Eastern DFC and Western DFC) in the form of a low carbon green transportation network with a long-term low carbon roadmap which will enable it to adopt more energy-efficient and carbon-friendly technologies, processes and practices.
    • Indian Railways has adopted modern measures such as Head-On-Generation systems, Bio-Toilets and LED lights, automatic coach washing plants, and water conservation.
    • In 2016, an MoU was signed between Confederation of Indian Industry and IR to facilitate green initiatives on IR. Following this, 39 Workshops, 7 Production Units, 8 Loco Sheds and one Stores depot were ‘GreenCo’ certified.
    • Note: The Green certifications are allotted keeping in mind the sustainable development goals such as the use of renewable energy, energy conservation measures, water conservation, Green House Gas emission reduction, waste management, recycling and material conservation.
    • Climate Change features have been incorporated into Indian Railways' risk assessments and disaster management protocols.
    • The Environment Sustainability Report, published annually by IR and subsidiary units, establishes a framework document defining strategies and focal points in the context of climate change, the issues at stake, and steps to address them. This helps the railways in helping support government commitments such as the Paris agreement on climate change, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and National Disaster Management Plans.

    Background:

    • The IR is guided by a holistic vision of being an environmental-friendly, efficient, cost-effective, punctual and modern carrier of passengers as well as freight to serve the growing needs of New India.
    • The IR network has enabled movement of essential items such as food grains and even medical oxygen at the height of the pandemic while being more environmentally friendly as compared to Road transport.
    • The IR, between April 2021 and May 2021, moved about 73 Lakh tonnes of food grains and have run 241 loaded Oxygen express trains, moving 922 loaded tankers, thereby transporting 15,046 tonnes of oxygen to various part of the country.  

    About IR:

    • IR refers to the Indian Railways.
    • IR is India's national railway system operated by the Ministry of Railways.
    • It is among the world's largest rail networks.
    • The first railway proposals for India were made in Madras in 1832.
    • The formal inauguration ceremony was performed on 16th April 1853.
    • The first passenger train in India ran between Bombay (Bori Bunder) and Thane.
    • The 14-carriage train was hauled by three steam locomotives: Sahib, Sindh and Sultan. It carried 400 people and ran on a line of 34 kilometres (21 mi) built and operated by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.
    • The current Minister of Railways is Piyush Goyal.

    Devika River Project: The Minister of State for Development of the North Eastern Region has recently requested suggestions for the Devika River project in Udhampur, J&K.

    The Namami Gange Project is compared to this project.

    About Devika River project:

    • This is a Rs. 190 crore Project.
    • The work on the project began in March 2019 as part of the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).
    • As part of the project the following will be done:
    • Bathing “ghats” (places) on the banks of the Devika River will be developed
    • Encroachments will be removed
    • Natural water bodies will be restored
    • Catchment areas will be developed along with cremation ground
    • Small hydropower plants and three solar power plants shall also be developed.
    • The project will result in the reduction of pollution and improvement of the water quality.

    About Devika River:

    • Devika River originates from the hilly Suddha Mahadev temple in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • It flows down towards western Punjab (now in Pakistan) where it merges with the Ravi River.
    • The river holds religious significance as it is revered by Hindus as the sister of river Ganga.

    Devika Bridge:

    • In June 2020, Devika Bridge was inaugurated in Udhampur.
    • Apart from taking care of traffic congestion, the Devika Bridge was also meant to help smooth passage of Army convoys and vehicles.

    About National River Conservation Plan (NRCP):

    • The NRCP is a centrally funded scheme.
    • The plan was launched in 1995.
    • It is aimed at preventing the pollution of rivers.
    • Programs for river conservation are being implemented under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority).

    Activities under NRCP:

    • Interception and Diversion works to capture the raw sewage flowing into the river through open drains and divert them for treatment.
    • Low Cost Sanitation works to prevent open defecation on riverbanks.
    • Electric Crematoria and Improved Wood Crematoria to conserve the use of wood
    • River Front Development works such as improvement of bathing ghats.
    • Public awareness and public participation.

    India and Kuwait: On 10 June 2021, India and Kuwait signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that brings Indian domestic workers in the Gulf nation within a legal framework that provides them with the protection of the law and streamlines their recruitment.

    The MoU was signed by Indian Ambassador Sibi George and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Majdi Ahmad Al-Dhafiri in the presence of visiting External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

    About MoU:

    • The MoU will bring Indian domestic workers in Gulf nation within the legal framework which will provide them protection under law.
    • A joint committee will also be set up to assess and review periodically on implementation of MoU.
    • Agreement will also streamline recruitment of domestic workers.
    • It will ensure rights and obligations of domestic workers as well as employer.
    • A 24-hour assistance mechanism will be established to assist domestic workers.

    Background:

    • MoU was signed between India and Kuwait during a three-day bilateral visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Kuwait to mark 60th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relations between India and Kuwait.

    Indians in Kuwait:

    • Indian community in Kuwait comprises of Indian expatriates in Kuwait and Kuwaiti citizens of Indian origin or by descent.
    • As per Indian ministry of external affairs, as of 2020, about 10 lakh Indians are residing in Kuwait.
    • Majority of Indians belong to Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
    • India is one of the largest trading partners of Kuwait and Kuwait is a key supplier of oil to India.

    CoEs at Seema Sadak Bhavan: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently inaugurated two centres of excellence at Seema Sadak Bhawan in New Delhi.

    Highlights:

    • Both the CoE has been established by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) to achieve excellence in road safety as well as foster growth in construction of roads, bridges, air fields and tunnels.
    • At the event, Mr. Singh also flagged off the first-ever solo women motorcycle expedition by Kanchan Ugursandi to Umling La Pass, Ladakh and back.

    About Centres of Excellence:

    CoEs have been established to achieve excellence in road safety and to foster growth in construction of roads, air fields, tunnels and bridges. Two CoEs are:

    • Centre of Excellence for Road Safety & Awareness (CoERSA)– which aims to create awareness regarding road safety by analyzing sharing of road accidents. It will also suggest methods to save lives.
    • Centre of Excellence for Roads, Bridges, Air Fields and Tunnels (CoERBAT)- that focuses on institutionalising knowledge gained in development of about 60,000 kilometres of roads, 19 airfields, 56,000 metres of bridges, and four tunnels in eastern and north-western part of India.

    Significance of CoEs:

    • CoEs seeks to play a significant role in saving precious lives. It will help in saving lives.
    • As per data, this silent pandemic (road accidents) claims about 1.5 lakh lives every year.
    • To save these lives, several measures like National Road Safety Policy, Motor Vehicle Act 2020 and identification of black spots on national highways have been initiated.
    • Furthermore, the CoEs will further boost the efforts of government.

    About BRO:

    • BRO refers to the Border Roads Organization.
    • In order to ensure coordination and expeditious execution of projects, the Government of India (GoI) set up the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) with the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Board and Defence Minister as Deputy Chairman.
    • The BRO was formed on 7 May 1960 to secure India's borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country.
    • It develops and maintains road networks in India's border areas and friendly neighboring countries.
    • It carries infrastructure operations in 19 states, three union territories and neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
    • It is also responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads along the borders with China and Pakistan.
    • Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service (BRES) and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
    • BRO has been entirely brought under the Ministry of Defence. Earlier it received funds from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
    • The current Director General of BRO is Lt. Gen. Rajeev Chaudhary.

Current Affairs May 31 to June 06

    WHO Director-General Special Recognition Award: World Health Organization (WHO) has awarded Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan with 'WHO Director-General Special Recognition Award' for his accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.

    • Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organizations in each of the six WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control?
    • This recognition takes the form of WHO Director-General Special Recognition Award and World No Tobacco Day Awards.

    World No Tobacco Day’ Event:

    • Meanwhile, Dr. Harsh Vardhan recently chaired an event to mark the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ on May 31, 2021 and led the pledge by everyone present to abstain from tobacco.
    • The theme for 2021 is “Commit to Quit.”

    Impact of Tobacco in India:

    • In India, over 1.3 million deaths are attributable to tobacco use every year amounting to 3500 deaths per day, imposing a lot of avoidable socio-economic burden.
    • Smokers face a 40-50% higher risk of developing severe disease deaths from COVID-19.
    • As per the WHO study titled “Economic Costs of Diseases and Deaths Attributable to Tobacco Use in India”, the economic burden of diseases and deaths attributable to tobacco use of tobacco in India was as high as Rs. 1.77 lakh crores, amounting to approx 1% of GDP.

    What steps have been taken in India to control Tobacco?

    The following steps have been taken in India to control tobacco:

    • Tobacco control legislation in India dates back to ‘Cigarettes Act, 1975’ which mandates display of statutory health warnings in advertisement and on cartons and cigarette packages.
    • A Central Legislation banned smoking in public places in 2002, on the directions of Supreme Court.
    • This was followed by comprehensive tobacco control legislation in 2003 [Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade, Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act –COTPA, 2003] which aims to provide smoke free public places and also places restrictions on tobacco advertisement and promotion.
    • The ‘Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019’ prohibits Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement of e-Cigarettes.
    • The National Health Policy 2017 has set an ambitious target of reducing tobacco use by 30% by 2025.
    • Tobacco Quitline service -1800-112-356 was initiated in 2016, that was expanded in September, 2018.

     

    RDSO: Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, has become the first standards body in the country to join the ‘One Nation, One Standard’ scheme of the central government.

    Highlights:

    • RDSO, Lucknow, is the the sole R&D wing of the Railways Ministry. It is one of India’s leading Standard formulating Body undertaking standardization work for railway sector.
    • It has now been recognised as a SDO (Standard Developing Organiszation)’ by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), for a three years period.
    • BIS is the implementing agency for the ‘One Nation, One Standard’ scheme.
    • To attain “ Nation One Standard” vision of Govt. of India, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the National Standards Body launched a scheme which provides for “Recognition of SDO”.
    • RDSO took the initiative to seek recognition as a Standard Developing Organization (SDO) under the BIS SDO Recognition Scheme.
    • Now, this partnership under the One-Nation-One-Standard mission, RDSO of Indian Railways and BIS will be jointly defining the parameters to ensure quality goods and services for the Railways.

    About One Nation, One Standard Scheme:

    The ‘One Nation, One Standard’ scheme was launched in 2019 with the objective to develop one template of standard for one given product in the country, instead of having multiple agencies set it, thereby building a ‘Brand India’ identity in the long run.

    About RSDO:

    • The Research Designs & Standards Organization (RDSO) is an ISO 9001 research and development organization under the Ministry of Railways of government of India (GoI).
    • It was founded in 1921.
    • It is headquartered in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.
    • It functions as a technical adviser and consultant to the Railway Board, the Zonal Railways, the Railway Production Units, RITES, RailTel and Ircon International in respect of design and standardization of railway equipment and problems related to railway construction, operations and maintenance.
    • RDSO is headed by the Director-General who ranks equivalent to the general manager of a Zonal Railway. The present Director General is Virendra Kumar

    About BIS:

    • A new Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 which was notified on 22 March 2016, has been brought into force with effect from 12 October 2017.
    • The Act establishes the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
    • BIS is responsible for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

     

    India and Japan: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) on Sustainable Urban Development between India and Japan by suspending the existing MoU of 2007 on Urban Development.

    Implementation:

    • A Joint Working Group (JWG) will be constituted to strategize and implement programmes on cooperation under the framework of the MoC.
    • The JWG will meet once in a year, alternately in Japan and in India.
    • Cooperation under MoC will continue for a period of 5 years, which can be auto-renewed for 5 years at a time.

    Significance of the MoC:

    • The MoC will promote strong, deep and long-term bilateral cooperation in the field of Sustainable Urban Development between the two countries.
    • It is expected to create employment opportunities in listed areas of sustainable urban development including Urban Planning, affordable housing, rental housing, Smart Cities Development, Urban Flood Management, water management, Sewerage & Waste Water Management, Disaster Resilient development and Urban Transport (including Intelligent Transport Management System, Transit-Oriented Development and Multimodal Integration).

    Objectives of the MoC:

    • The main objective of the MoC is to facilitate and strengthen India-Japan technical cooperation in field of Sustainable urban development and other listed areas such as Urban Planning, Smart Cities Development, Affordable Housing (including rental housing), Urban Flood Management, Sewerage and Waste Water Management, Intelligent Transport Management System, Transit-Oriented Development, Multimodal Integration, Disaster Resilient development as mutually identified by both Sides.
    • It will also enable exchange of key learning and best practices in above listed areas.

     

    SAGE Initiative: The Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri ThaawarchandGehlot virtually launched the SAGE (Seniorcare Aging Growth Engine) initiative and SAGE portal for elderly persons on June 4, 2021.

    SAGE programme and SAGE portal have been launched with a view to help such persons who are interested in entrepreneurship in the field of providing services for elderly care.

    Key Points:

    • The SAGE portal seeks to select, support and create “one-stop access” of elderly care products and services provided by credible start-ups.
    • The Project was formulated following the recommendations of empowered expert committee report on start-ups for elderly.
    • The SAGE portal is now opened for applications from 5th June, 2021 onwards.
    • Start-ups can apply to be a part of it through dedicated portal.

    Selection of Start-ups:

    • The start-ups will be selected on the basis of innovative products and services, which they should be able to provide across sectors such as health, housing, care centers.
    • Their selection will also be based on technological access linked to finances, food and wealth management, and legal guidance.

    Facilitator of the Scheme:

    • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will be the facilitator to enable elderly to access products through these identified and verified start-ups.

    Survey:

    • As per surveys, the share of elders, as a percentage of the total population in the country is expected to increase from around 7.5 per cent in 2001 to almost 12.5 per cent by 2026.

     

    Hisaab Ki Kitaab: Union Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Anurag Singh Thakur recently launched the six modules of short films of Investor Education & Protection Fund Authority (IEPFA).

    These six modules are titled “Hisaab Ki Kitaab”.

    About Hisab Ki Kitaab:

    1. Hisab Ki Kitaab is a series of 6 short films/modules of Investor Education & Protection Fund Authority (IEPFA).
    2. It has been developed by Common Services Centers(CSC) eGov as a part of their training tool.
    3. There are 6 short films/ modules are of 5 minutes duration each.
    4. They highlight the importance of budget, saving, importance of Insurance schemes, various social security schemes of the government etc. thus promoting Financial literacy.
    5. The modules also portray the consequences of a common man falling prey to the schemes and how they should protect themselves from Ponzi schemes.
    6. These short films will be used by IEPFA and its partnering organisation for Investor Awareness Programs across the country.

    About IEPF Authority:

    1. Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority (IEPF) has been established under under the provisions of section 125 of the Companies Act, 2013.
    2. IEPF was established by the Government of India (GoI) in 2016 for promotion of investors' awareness and protection of the interests of investors.
    3. The Authority is under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
    4. The Authority is entrusted with the responsibility of administration of the IEPF, make refunds of shares, unclaimed dividends, matured deposits/debentures etc. to investors and to promote awareness among investors.
    5. The Chairperson of the Authority is the Secretary Ministry of the Corporate Affairs.