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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 April 2017

Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 April 2017


Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana


Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana was recently launched by the government. It was launched in District Nellore, Andhra Pradesh.


What is it for?

The Scheme aims at providing Senior Citizens, belonging to BPL category and suffering from any of the age related disability/infirmity viz. Low vision, Hearing impairment, Loss of teeth and Locomotor disability, with such assisted-living devices which can restore near normalcy in their bodily functions, overcoming the disability/infirmity manifested.



The proposal for formulation of a Scheme for providing Physical Aids and Assisted-Living Devices for Senior Citizens belonging to BPL Category was announced in the Budget 2015-16. Pursuant to this, the “Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana” has been formulated. 


Key facts:

  • The Physical Aids and Assisted-living Devices for Senior citizens will be distributed in Camp mode and the Scheme will be implemented through the sole implementing agency, ‘Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO)’, (a PSU under M/o SJ&E), which will undertake one year free maintenance of the aids & assisted living devices.
  • The devices will help the Senior Citizens to overcome their age related physical impairment and to lead a dignified and productive life with minimal dependence on care givers or other members of the family.
  • The ambitious Scheme, first of its kind in the country is expected to benefit 5,20,000 Senior Citizens over a period of the 3 years.
  • This is a Central Sector Scheme, fully funded by the Central Government. The expenditure for implementation of the scheme will be met from the “Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund“.
  • Under the scheme, free of cost distribution of the devices, commensurate with the extent of disability/infirmity that is manifested among the eligible senior citizens will take place.
  • In case of multiple disabilities/infirmities manifested in the same person, the assistive devices will be given in respect of each disability/impairment.
  • Beneficiaries in each district will be identified by the State Governments/UT Administrations through a Committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner/District Collector.
  • As far as possible, 30% of the beneficiaries in each district shall be women.


Under the Scheme, the following Aids and Assisted-Living Devices will be provided to eligible elderly beneficiary senior citizens, depending upon their physical impairment:

  • Walking sticks.
  • Elbow crutches.
  • Walkers / Crutches.
  • Tripods / Quadpods.
  • Hearing Aids.
  • Artificial Dentures.


Composition of senior citizens:

As per the Census figures of 2011, the population of senior citizens in India is 10.38 croreMore than 70% of the population of senior citizens live in rural areas of the country. A sizeable percentage (5.2%) of the senior citizens suffers from some sort of disabilities related to old age. Projections indicate that the number of elderly population will increase to around 173 million by 2026.


Sources: pib.


Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Fungus that eats plastic may help clean environment


Scientists have identified a soil fungus, which uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials.


Key facts:

  • Aspergillus tubingensis is a fungus, which ordinarily lives in the soil. In laboratory trials, the researchers found that it also grows on the surface of plastics.
  • It secretes enzymes onto the surface of the plastic, and these break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.
  • Using advanced microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, the team found that the fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia — the network of root—like filaments grown by fungi — to help break apart the polymers.
  • The fungus was found in Pakistan.


Significance of this discovery:

Humans are producing ever greater amounts of plastic — much of which ends up as garbage. Since plastic does not break down in the same way as other organic materials, it can persist in the environment over long periods of time.

  • Attempts to deal with plastic waste through burying, recycling, incineration or other methods are variously unsustainable, costly and can result in toxic by-products, which are hazardous to human health.
  • The new discovery is an advance that could help deal with waste problem that threatens our environment.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology. 


‘Grassoline’ may power future flights


In the quest of more sustainable energy sources, scientists have developed ‘grassoline’ — a biofuel derived from grass that could one day power aircraft.

  • Researchers investigated methods that can disintegrate and treat grass until it can be used as a fuel. Due to its vast abundance, grass is the perfect source of energy.


How was it done?

  • To improve its biodegradability, the grass is pre-treated at first.
  • Then bacteria are added which convert the sugars in the grass into lactic acid and its derivatives.
  • This lactic acid can serve as an intermediate chemical to produce other compounds such as biodegradable plastics (PLA) or fuels.
  • The lactic acid was then converted into caproic acid, which was further converted into decane. Decane can be used in aviation fuel.


Way ahead:

Right now the amount of biofuel that can be made from grass is still limited to a few drops. The current process is very expensive, and engines should be adapted to this new kind of fuel. Researchers hope to make improvements in this regard.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Govt withdraws subsidy to mild hybrids cars


The government has withdrawn incentives given to mild hybrid vehicles under FAME India scheme.

fame india

What is a mild hybrid vehicle?

A mild hybrid vehicle has an electric motor, which on its own cannot run a vehicle but assists normal engine by using recovered energy stored in a battery and helps save fuel.


How mild hybrid vehicles operate?

Mild hybrid technology is different from plug-in or conventional hybrid vehicles. Mild hybrid vehicles use the energy generated while applying the brakes and turns it into electric energy that is then stored in a battery. This energy can then be used to turn the starter motor when the car’s start stop system needs it.

In most cases, a mild hybrid will turn its engine off when at idle or when it comes to a halt at a traffic signal for instance. Research shows that mild-hybrids are only 7-15% more fuel efficient as compared to conventional hybrid systems that can run on pure electric power for short distances too.


About FAME India scheme:

With an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles, the government had launched the FAME India scheme in 2015 offering incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for bikes and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars.

  • FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India – is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals starting with the current year.
  • It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.


‘Foreign ownership norms a barrier’

The report on foreign trade barriers was recently released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The annual report points to a list of trade irritants in 63 nations.


Trade barriers in India as per the report:

Indian regulations on foreign ownership in e-commerce, banks, insurance and other online-related services were major barriers for overseas investors.



India allows for 100% foreign direct investment in business-to-business (B2B) electronic commerce, but largely prohibits foreign investment in business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic commerce transactions.

  • Foreign direct investment is allowed in a market-based electronic retailing model, but not in the inventory-based model.
  • According to the report, the only exception that was granted was to single-brand retailers. Single-brand retailers who meet certain conditions including the operation of physical stores in India may undertake to trade through electronic commerce. This narrow exception limits the ability of the majority of potential B2C electronic commerce foreign investors to access the Indian market.


Equalisation levy:

The trade barriers report also pointed out India’s tax (6% equalisation levy) on foreign online advertising platforms was not par with the international norms and warned the levy in its current form may impede foreign trade and increase the risk of retaliation from other countries where Indian companies are doing business.

The report also pointed out that the levy would result in taxes on business income even when a foreign resident does not have a permanent establishment in India or when underlying activities are not carried out in India.


Data storage:

According to the report, the Indian requirements of storage of data within India reduce productivity, dampen domestic investment and undermine the ability of information and communications technology companies to offer cutting-edge services.

  • The 2012 National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, issued by the Ministry of Science & Technology, which requires that all data collected using public funds — including weather data — be stored within the borders of India.
  • It also pointed out the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) guidelines requiring cloud computing service providers to store data within India to qualify for bidding for government procurements.


Compulsory public listing:

The report also highlighted Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority’s (IRDA) discussion paper that called for the compulsory public listing of life insurers that have been in operation in India for seven years or more.

According to the report, such a requirement, if implemented, would be another measure that would have a discouraging effect on foreign investors.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Centre may remove cap on parent maintenance


The government is mulling bringing legislative changes to remove the monthly ceiling of ₹10,000 on the maintenance paid by children to parents and introduce a rating mechanism for organisations providing home care services to the elderly.


Present scenario:

The MWPSC Act makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents.

At present, the maintenance for a parent or senior citizen that can be ordered by the tribunal as payable by the children or relative cannot be more than ₹10,000 a month.


What necessitated this move?

There have been complaints from many senior citizens’ associations that the maintenance amount was inadequate and not in keeping with the time in view of the rising costs of living.

With the increase in the number of elderly people staying alone at home, the government has realised the urgent need to ensure quality home care services to such people. Therefore, it is proposed that a rating mechanism is developed for such organisations and uniform regulations are developed for monitoring such services.


Way ahead:

The Ministry also intends to put in place a uniform regulation and a rating mechanism for organisations providing home care services to senior citizens.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Day cruise, forest trails planned at Chilika lagoon

The Odisha government is pushing for massive infrastructure improvement around the Chilika lagoon.

  • IPE Global, which has been asked to prepare a tourism master plan for the Chilika Lake and its catchment area, with emphasis on preservation of the ecosystem and natural habitat, has proposed 10 key projects with an estimated investment of ₹757 crore.



Chilika, with a wetland spread over nearly 1,165 sq. km and more than 25 pristine islands, has been attracting tourists from all corners of the globe, but its tourism potential could not be harnessed due to huge infrastructure gap.


About Chilika Lagoon:

  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia.
  • It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent.
  • It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle.
  • On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India.
  • The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.
  • Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bankof the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.


Now, China flags Tawang rail link


China has asked India to exercise “restraint” on its plan to link the strategic border district of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh with a railway network, saying any “unilateral action” might “complicate” the unresolved border issue.


What’s the issue?

Tawang, where the sixth Dalai Lama was born in 1683, is at the centre of Tibetan Buddhism and a friction point between India and China. China has in recent days upped its rhetoric on claims to Arunachal Pradesh, which it says is Southern Tibet.


About Tawang:

  • Tawang is a town on India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is the smallest of the 16 administrative districts of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India and with a population of 49,977 it is the eighth least populous district in the country.
  • It is inhabited by the Monpa people.
  • Visitors to Tawang district require a special Inner Line Permit from the government.
  • The district has two main rivers, the Tawang Chhu and the Naymjang Chhu, that together have 10 main tributaries. These two rivers meet each other before exiting the district in a southwesterly direction.
  • There are two major religious festivals of the Monpas viz “LOSAR” and “TORGYA“. Both festivals are celebrated once annually. The LOSAR s celebrated to the commencement of New year. Every third year of Torgya, the festival of Dungyur is celebrated.


Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Eclipses of binary star shed light on orbiting exoplanet

A team of scientists from Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru, and University of Delhi have seen for the first time indications of a massive planet orbiting a low mass X-ray binary star system.

  • The technique that has been used, namely, X-ray observations, is a new way of detecting exoplanets.

X-Ray Binaries Monitoring

What are X-ray binaries?

X-ray binaries consist of a pair of stars orbiting each other of which one is compact one such as a black hole or a neutron star (in this case, a neutron star). The neutron star draws matter from its less-massive companion. The mass when drawn generates X-rays which are detected by detectors placed in satellites in space.  



Key facts:

  • The star system in question, MXB 1658-298 is an X-ray binary and a part of the constellation Ophiuchus (serpent bearer).
  • The system is nearly 30,000 light years away and the planet is expected to be nearly 8,000 times as massive as the earth.


How was the planet discovered?

Discovered in 1976, this binary star system is so far and so faint that it may be observed only when it shows “outbursts” of X-rays. That is, an increase in X-ray intensity by a factor of 100 or more. Recently this system showed an outburst. This provided researchers with an excellent opportunity to try to trace the orbital evolution of this system.

  • As the two stars revolve around each other, the less-massive companion star hides the compact star everytime it crosses the line of sight, in between the detector and the neutron star, giving rise to eclipses.
  • In X-ray binaries, the time in-between eclipses of the source can increase, decrease and also shows abrupt changes. This system, MXB 1658-298, is special in that the time between the eclipses increases and decreases periodically.
  • The eclipse first arrived about ten seconds earlier and after about a year, arrived about ten seconds later that what would be expected [if these was no other body disturbing the system]. The team was surprised by this unusual behaviour.
  • This periodic variation implied that there was a third body orbiting the system.


Sources: the hindu.


Facts for prelims:


PowerTex India:

The Government has launched PowerTex India, a comprehensive scheme for powerloom sector development.

The comprehensive scheme has the following components:

  • In-situ Upgradation of Plain Powerlooms.
  • Group Workshed Scheme (GWS).
  • Yarn Bank Scheme.
  • Common Facility Centre (CFC).
  • Pradhan Mantri Credit Scheme for Powerloom Weavers.
  • Solar Energy Scheme for Powerlooms.
  • Facilitation, IT, Awareness, Market Development and Publicity for Powerloom Schemes.
  • Tex Venture Capital Fund.
  • Grant-in-Aid and Modernisation & Upgradation of Powerloom Service Centres (PSCs).


Chenani-Nashri tunnel:

  • Chenani-Nashri tunnel, a 10.9 km road tunnel which will shorten the driving time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours, was recently inaugurated.
  • The two-lane Chenani-Nashri tunnel will be Asia’s longest, which will cut the distance between Jammu and Srinagar to around 250km from the current 350km.
  • The tunnel, which took seven years to build, will act as an all-weather alternative to the existing Jammu-Srinagar highway. It will link Chenani in Udhampur district with Nashri in Ramban district.
  • It is the world’s sixth road tunnel with a transverse ventilation system enabled and controlled by ABB software. It also boasts features like Integrated Traffic Control System (ITCS), Video Surveillance System, FM Rebroadcast System, Entrance Detection Control System and Active Firefighting System.