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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 18 June 2018

Insights Daily Current Affairs, 18 June 2018


Paper 2:

Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.


NITI Aayog Governing Council

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently chaired the fourth meeting of Governing Council of NITI Aayog. The meeting was yet another attempt to take India – a federation of states forward with equal participation of all the stakeholders.


About NITI Aayog:

The Government, in January 2015, replaced Planning Commission with NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India). It established with the aim to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and to enhance cooperative federalism by fostering the involvement of State Governments of India in the economic policy-making process using a bottom-up approach.


Role of NITI Aayog:

The institution has to provide governments at the central and state levels with relevant strategic and technical advice across the spectrum of key elements of policy. This includes matters of national and international import on the economic front, dissemination of best practices from within the country as well as from other nations, the infusion of new policy ideas and specific issue-based support. The institution has to be able to respond to the changing and more integrated world that India is part of.


Composition of NITI Aayog:

  • Chairperson: Prime Minister of India as the Chairperson.
  • Governing Council comprising the Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories.
  • Regional Councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region. These will be formed for a specified tenure.  The Regional Councils will be convened by the Prime Minister and will comprise of the Chief Ministers of States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories in the region.  These will be chaired by the Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee.
  • Experts, specialists and practitioners with relevant domain knowledge as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister.


The full-time organizational framework will comprise of, in addition to the Prime Minister as the Chairperson:

  • Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by the Prime Minister.
  • Members: Full-time.
  • Part-time members: Maximum of 2 from leading universities research organizations and other relevant institutions in an ex-officio capacity. Part time members will be on a rotational basis.
  • Ex Officio members: Maximum of 4 members of the Union Council of Ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • Chief Executive Officer : To be appointed by the Prime Minister for a fixed tenure, in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
  • Secretariat as deemed necessary.


Facts for Prelims- Initiatives by NITI Aayog:

Its important initiatives include “15 year road map”, “7-year vision, strategy and action plan”, AMRUT, Digital India and Atal Innovation Mission.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: Composition of NITI Aayog, various initiatives.
  • For Mains: Cooperative federalism- meaning, significance and efforts by the government.


Sources: pib.

Topic: India and its neighbours.


Assumption Island

Context: After a growing political opposition, Seychelles President Danny Faure has cancelled the agreement with India for the development of Assumption Island.


Why should India be worried about this?

  • The decision by the Seychelles President to drop the deal in the face of protests over a perceived loss of sovereignty is a blow to the government’s “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) programme, announced by PM Modi during a visit to Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries in March 2015.
  • It also comes amid India’s troubles with another IOR country, the Maldives, where the government has demanded that India withdraw two helicopters, pilots and personnel from its atolls that had been sent there to help with maritime patrols.



Discussions regarding development of Assumption Island began in 2003, but were formalised in 2015. The deal was to include a 20-year access to the base, as well as permission to station some military personnel on ground with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by the Seychelles and jointly managed by both sides.



Why A Base On Assumption Island Is Crucial For Securing The Indian Ocean Region?

  • The deal is seen as important for India because it enhances its surveillance capabilities over the Indian Ocean.
  • In concert with a coastal surveillance radar station already operating in Seychelles, a naval base at Agalega in Mauritius, a coastal radar station in Madagascar, an array of radars in Maldives, and a strong presence in the littoral waters of Mozambique, Delhi’s acquisition of facilities on one of the 67 raised coral islands of the Aldabra group will create an impermeable surveillance net in the southwestern and central Indian Ocean.
  • Assumption Island’s position dominating the Mozambique channel, a key sea lane for merchant ships, adds to India’s kitty a second potential choke point after the Strait of Malacca; the latter is dominated by India’s augmented presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain as well as with naval agreements with Vietnam and Singapore.


The Indian Ocean is important for the following reasons:

  • It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.
  • Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin. Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.
  • Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed. Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.


SAGAR Programme (Security and Growth for All in the Region):

It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region. The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: Location of Assumption Islands, SAGAR and IORA.
  • For Mains: Significance of IOR and significance of base in Assumption Island for India.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.


SAARC fund


Context: Thimpu-based SAARC Development Fund will soon be launching a social enterprise development programme (SEDP) to fund 80 entities annually across eight-member states, including India.


What is social enterprise development programme (SEDP)?

  • The SEDP is being launched as part of its SAARC Development Fund’s social window.
  • The programme will be implemented in all the SAARC member states with the objective of identifying and building social enterprises by using a mix of grants and concessional returnable capital.
  • The programme intends to fund around 80 enterprises across the 8 SAARC member states annually.


About SAARC Development Fund:

  • SDF which was established by the heads of the eight SAARC Member States in April 2010. SDF have three Windows. They are Social, Economic and Infrastructure Windows.
  • Its governing council comprises finance ministers of the SAARC countries.


The aim of the fund is to:

  • Promote the welfare of the people of SAARC region.
  • Improve their quality of life.
  • Accelerate economic growth, social progress and poverty alleviation in the region.



A primary reason for establishing SDF was that the existing South Asian Development Fund (SADF) was found to be inadequate i.e. in terms of required quantum of funds and its limited scope of work. The Thirteenth SAARC Summit decided to reconstitute the SADF into SDF to serve as the “umbrella financial mechanism” for all SAARC projects and programmes.


Facts for Prelims:

In 1996, a first funding mechanism was created in SAARC, ‘South Asian Development Fund (SADF), merging the SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP) and the SAARC Regional Fund. SADF objectives were to support industrial development, poverty alleviation, protection of environment, institutional/human resource development and promotion of social and infrastructure development projects in the SAARC region.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: SDF, SADF, SFRP and SAARC Regional Fund- objectives and areas of investment.
  • For Mains: Need for regional cooperation in developmental activities.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.


Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)


Context: 28th NSG plenary meeting was held recently in Jurmala, Latvia. With this, Latvia has become the first Baltic state to Chair the NSG. There was no headway in India’s application for NSG entry in the meeting.


What is NSG?

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials. Interestingly, the NSG was set up in 1974 as a reaction to India’s nuclear tests to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes. Currently, it has 48 members.


India and the NSG:

India sought membership of the NSG in 2008, but its application hasn’t been decided on, primarily because signing the NPT or other nuclear moratoriums on testing is a pre-requisite. However, India has received a special waiver to conduct nuclear trade with all nuclear exporters.


Why India should be granted NSG membership?

In this game of developing nuclear weapons India has not indulged in any dubious/clandestine activity and its programme has been developed solely by years of hard work indigenously. By this single act India has shown that developing a credible nuclear weapons programme through honest and civilian means is possible for any country having high-level scientific manpower and materials.

Besides, by declaring a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear tests India has effectively acted in sense and spirit of NPT/CTBT provisions. By steering its programme only as a minimum deterrence and pledging NFU unless faced with an attack of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), India has established itself as a responsible nuclear state.


Benefits associated with NSG membership- Once admitted, an NSG member state gets:

  • Timely information on nuclear matters.
  • Contributes by way of information.
  • Has confirmed credentials.
  • Can act as an instrument of harmonization and coordination.
  • Is part of a very transparent process.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: NSG- objectives and members.
  • For Mains: Why India should be granted NSG membership.


Sources: the hindu.



Paper 3:

Topic: Awareness in space.



Context: Russia has successfully launched a Glonass-M positioning satellite using a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket from Plesetsk space center. With this launch, there are now 26 Glonass satellites in orbit.


What is GLONASS?

GLONASS is an acronym, which stands for Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema, or Global Navigation Satellite System. GLONASS is Russia’s version of GPS (Global Positioning System).


The various versions of GLONASS are:

  • GLONASS – launched in 1982, the satellites launched were intended to work for weather positioning, velocity measuring and timing anywhere in the world or near-Earth space by the military and official organisations.
  • GLONASS-M – launched in 2003 add second civil code. It is important for GIS mapping receivers.
  • GLONASS-k – started in 2011 again has 3 more types namely k1, k2 and km for research. Adds third civil frequency.
  • GLONASS-KM – will be launched after 2025 (currently in research phase).


How is GLONASS different from GPS?

  • GPS developed by USA has a network of 31 satellites covering this planet and has been widely used in commercial devices like mobile phones, navigators etc.
  • GLONASS is developed by Russia originally started by Soviet Union in 1976. This has a network of 24 satellites covering the earth.


Facts for Prelims: List of Global Navigation Satellite Systems:

  • GPS of the United States of America.
  • Galileo of the European Union.
  • IRNSS or NAVIC of India.
  • Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) of Japan.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Conservation related topics.


World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June

Context: The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The day is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels.

2018 Theme: “Land has true value – invest in it.”


The Gender Action Plan:

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recently created a new plan to support and enhance gender-responsive policy needs. The Gender Action Plan (GAP) that will increase and strengthen the participation and leadership of women at all levels of decision-making and local implementation of the UNCCD, including drought management as well as sand and dust storms and land degradation neutrality interventions, with the aim to reach gender parity by 2030.


Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals:

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, Goal 15 states our resolve to halt and reverse land degradation.


What is Desertification?

  • Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts.
  • It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.


Facts for Prelims:

  • The WDCD2018 global observance will be hosted by the Government of Ecuador. The country promotes sustainable land management as one of the pillars of bio-economy.
  • About UNCCD: Established in 1994, the United Nations to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.


Sources: the hindu.

Facts for Prelims:


Artillery gun Dhanush:

Context: The indigenously upgraded artillery gun Dhanush has successfully completed final user trials and is ready for induction into the Army.

Key facts:

  • Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Swedish Bofors gun procured by India in the mid-1980s.
  • Dhanush is a 155-mm, 45-calibre gun with a maximum range of 40 km in salvo mode.
  • It has been developed by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).