The government withdrew its a day before the order of reduction of 40-110 basis points in interest rates of small savings schemes including Public Provident Fund (PPF) and National Savings Certificate (NSC).
What was the announcement?
As per an announcement on March 31, the government announced a sharp cut in the interest rate of PPF, NSC, and others. As per the order, PPF would have fetched an interest rate of 6.4 percent and NSC 5.9 percent. But, the order has been withdrawn on April 1. The present interest rates of the schemes are given below.
Public Provident Fund (PPF)
A Public Provident Fund or PPF will give an interest rate of 7.1 percent (compounded annually). PPF is a long-term tax-saving instrument that provides a fixed rate of interest annually on the amount that you invested during the year. PPF has a lock-in period of 15 years. The interest earned in a PPF account is tax-free. The amount that is deposited during the fiscal year can be claimed under Section 80C.
National Savings Certificate (NSC)
A National Savings Certificate or NSC gives an interest rate of 6.8 percent which is compounded annually but payable at maturity. NSC has a tenure of five years and comes with a fixed rate of interest.
Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme
Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme will provide an interest of 7.6 percent compounded annually. It is also known as Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana and was launched in the year 2015 as part of the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” initiative of the government. It can only be opened by the natural or legal guardian of a girl child aged below 10 years.
The account matures after 21 years from the date of opening. If the marriage of the account holder takes place before 21 years, then the operation of the account is not permitted beyond the date of her marriage.
Kisan Vikas Patra
Kisan Vikas Patra is a savings scheme available at the India Post Offices in the form of certificates. The scheme provides a fixed rate and doubles the investment after a predetermined period of time. At present, the interest rate is 6.9% and the time period is 124 months.
Senior Citizen Savings Scheme
Senior Citizen Savings Scheme at present offers an interest rate of 7.4 percent (compounded quarterly). The scheme is available for those over 60 years of age.
The World Economic Forum has released the Global Gender Gap Report 2021. India has seen a decrease in its ranking on the index by 28 places.
India has been ranked 140th among 156 countries on the index. With this, India became the third-worst performer in South Asia.
As per the index, India has closed 62.5% of its gender gap to date.
In 2020, India was ranked 112th among 153 countries.
The decline also took place on the economic participation and opportunity subindex.
The report highlighted that India’s gender gap on this dimension widened by 3% this year, leading to a 32.6% gap closed till date.
Most of the decrease has been seen on the political empowerment subindex, where India regressed 13.5 percentage points. The women ministers have declined to 9.1% in 2021 from 23.1% in 2019).
One of the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women’s labor force participation rate, which decreased from 24.8% to 22.3%.
The share of women in professional and technical roles also decreased to 29.2%.
In senior and managerial positions, the share of women is also low. Only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and only 8.9% of firms are with female top managers.
The income earned by women in India is the only 1/5th of that earned by men. This has put India among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator.
Discrimination against women is also seen in the health and survival subindex statistics. With 93.7% of this gap closed to date, India has been ranked among the bottom five countries in this subindex.
India and its Neighbours
Among India’s neighbors, Nepal has been ranked 106, Bangladesh 65, Afghanistan 156, Pakistan 153, Sri Lanka 116, and Bhutan 130.
South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index among regions. The region has an overall gender gap closed at 62.3%.
In the South Asia region, only two countries- Pakistan and Afghanistan have been ranked below India.
Iceland has topped the index for the 12th time and is the most gender-equal country in the world. The top 10 most gender-equal countries are Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland, and Switzerland.
Recently, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a video message promised to implement Article 244 (A) of the Constitution in order to safeguard the interests of the people in tribal-majority districts of Assam.
What is Article 244(A) of the Constitution?
Article 244(A) of the Constitution allows the creation of an ‘autonomous state’ within Assam in certain tribal areas. It was inserted into the Constitution by the Congress government in the year 1969. It also includes a provision for a Legislature and a Council of Ministers.
How the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is different from Article 244(A)?
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — Articles 244(2) and 275(1) — is a special provision that allows decentralized governance and greater political autonomy in certain tribal areas of the Northeast through autonomous councils that are administered by elected representatives. If we talk about Assam, the hill districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi, Dima Hasao, and the Bodo Territorial Region are under the provision of the 6th schedule.
On the other hand, Article 244(A) provides more autonomous powers to tribal areas.
Why is the demand for implementing Article 244(A) in Assam?
Initially, a demand for a separate hill state came up in certain sections of the tribal population of undivided Assam in the 1950s. In the year 1960, several political parties of the hill areas came together to form the All Party Hill Leaders Conference and put forward the demand for a separate state. As a result of these prolonged agitations, Meghalaya was formed in the year 1972.
At that time, the leaders of the North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong were also part of this movement. They were given an option to stay in Assam or join Meghalaya. They stayed in Assam on the promise of the Congress government of providing greater powers, including Article 244 (A).
Since then, there has been a demand for implementing Article 244 (A) in the state. In the 1980s, a violent movement also took place for the demand.
Recently in February 2021, around 1,040 militants of five militant groups of Karbi Anglong district laid down arms at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
A new report titled Forest Governance by Indigenous and Tribal Peoples has been released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC).
The deforestation rates in the Caribbean and Latin America are lower in Indigenous and Tribal territories.
On the basis of over 300 studies published in the last two decades, the new report highlights that Indigenous and Tribal Peoples have generally been much better guardians of their forests in comparison to those responsible for the region’s other forests.
Indigenous and tribal peoples and the forests in their territories play important roles in regional and global climate action as well as fighting against hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.
These territories contain about 1/3rd of all the carbon stored in the forests of Latin America and the Caribbean and 14% of the carbon stored in tropical forests worldwide.
The best results were found in indigenous territories that have recognized collective legal titles to their lands: between 2000 and 2012, deforestation rates in these territories in the Brazilian, Bolivian, and Colombian Amazon were only 1/2 to 1/3rd of those in other forests with similar ecological characteristics.
Titled territories suffer lower deforestation, emit less carbon
As per one of the studies analyzed in the FAO/FILAC report, the deforestation rate inside indigenous woodlands where the land property has been ensured is 2.5 times lower than outside such areas in Brazil, 2 times less in Colombia, and 2.8 times lower in Bolivia.
In these three countries, the titled collective territories were found to avoid between 42.8 and 59.7 million metric tons (MtC) of CO2 emissions each year. These combined emissions were equal to taking between 9 and 12.6 million vehicles out of circulation for one year.
As per the FAO/FILAC report, the costs involved in securing indigenous lands are 5 to 42 times lower as compared to the average costs of avoided CO2 through fossil carbon capture and storage for both gas-fired and coal power plants.
Indigenous and tribal peoples are invaluable agents against climate change
It should be noted that around 45% (half) of the intact forests in the Amazon Basin are present in indigenous territories. The area of intact forest decreased by only 4.9% between the years 2000 and 2016 in the region’s indigenous areas. However, in the non-indigenous areas, the decline was 11.2%.
The Odisha state government has proposed a second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri. It is a mountain in the Gajapati district of the state. It is at an altitude of 1,501 metres. Mahendragiri is also the second-highest peak in the state.
The area of the proposed 2nd biosphere reserve of the state- Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve is approximately 470,955 hectares.
As per a feasibility report prepared by the Biosphere Reserve Committee for the proposed project, the hill ecosystem is acting as a transitional zone between the flora and fauna of southern India and the Himalayas. This makes the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversity.
The feasibility report has been submitted to the government which will now be taken up by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Recently, at a workshop titled Integrated Development of Mahendragiri Hill Complex, many environmentalists also urged the state government to send a proposal to centre for declaring Mahendragiri a biosphere reserve.
At some time, the protected archeological remains of Mahendragiri were listed in the tentative list of Unesco World Heritage Sites, thus, it is easy to declare it as a biosphere reserve.
Soura people are the inhabitants at Mahendragiri. Soura is a particularly vulnerable tribal group as well as the Kandha tribe.
As per the report of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve, Mahendragiri has diverse vegetation. The rich flora in Mahendragiri represents 40 percent of the reported flora of Odisha, with around 1,358 species of plants.
Also, out of the 41 species of threatened medicinal plants found in Odisha (as per the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), 29 are found in the biosphere reserve area.
The faunal diversity of the hills consists of 388 species of animals, including 165 species of birds, 27 species of mammals, 23 species of snakes, three species of turtles, 15 species of amphibians, and 19 lizards.
Similipal Biosphere Reserve
Similipal Biosphere Reserve is the first biosphere reserve of Odisha. It was notified on May 20, 1996. It has an area of a 5,569-square kilometre.
Scientists have developed a new technique for tracking the huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun, disrupting space weather and causing satellite failures, geomagnetic storms, and power outages.
Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)
The ejections from the Sun are technically called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). These cause several disturbances to the space environment and thus forecasting their arrival time is very crucial. The forecasting accuracy is however hindered by limited CME observations in interplanetary space.
Computer Aided CME Tracking Software (CACTus)
Computer Aided CME Tracking Software (CACTus) is a software-based on computer vision algorithm that was so far used to detect and characterize such eruptions automatically in the outer corona where these eruptions cease to show accelerations and propagate with an almost constant speed.
However, due to the vast acceleration experienced by these eruptions, this algorithm could not be applied to the inner corona observations.
This problem limited the capability to track the eruptions as CMEs accelerate in the lower corona.
In addition to this, with the advancement in space technology, there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of data obtained from spacecraft.
Thus, it can become a tedious task to identify and track the solar eruptions in a huge number of images if done manually.
CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (CIISCO)
Research led by Mr. Ritesh Patel, Prof. Dipankar Banerjee, and Dr. Vaibhav Pant from Aryabhatta Research Institute of observational sciences (ARIES), Nainital along with their collaborators from Royal Observatory of Belgium, has led to the development of an algorithm, CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (CIISCO).
CIISCO has been developed to detect and track the accelerating solar eruption in the lower corona.
CIISCO was tested on various eruptions observed by space observatories, including Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory, PROBA2/SWAP, and Solar Dynamics Observatory launched by ESA and NASA, respectively.
The parameters which are determined by CIISCO are helpful in characterizing these eruptions in the lower corona. When CIISCO will be implemented on the large volume of data available from space observatories, it will help in improving our understanding of eruptions in the inner corona.
Aditya-L1, the first solar mission of India, will observe the lower region of the solar corona. Thus, implementation of CIISCO on the Aditya-L1 data will provide new insight into the CME properties in this less explored region.
The first animal vaccine against the novel coronavirus in the world has been registered in Russia. It was announced by the country’s agriculture safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor.
The world’s first animal vaccine against the novel coronavirus has been named as Carnivac-Cov.
As per the watchdog, the immunity will last for 6 months after the vaccination. However, the developers of the dose are continuously analyzing this.
As per Rosselkhoznadzor, the mass production of the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to start as early as April 2021.
As per Russian scientists, the use of this vaccine can prevent the development of virus mutations in animals.
All about Carnivac-Cov
Carnivac-Cov vaccine for animals has been developed by a unit of Rosselkhoznadzor (Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance).
The clinical trials of Carnivac-Cov began in October 2020 and the trials included cats, minks, dogs, foxes, Arctic foxes, and other animals.
This vaccine is the world’s first and only product for preventing Covid-19 in animals.
The results of the trials showed that the vaccine is harmless and highly immunogenic as all the vaccinated animals developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100% of cases.
Covid-19 Cases in Russia
Coronavirus cases in Russia rose by 8,711 to 4,528,543 on 29 March. Russia already has 3 Covid-19 vaccines for humans to deal with the pandemic. The most popular vaccine used for humans is Sputnik V. Moscow has also given emergency approval to two others, CoviVac and EpiVacCorona.
The Union Cabinet has approved a production-linked incentive scheme for the food processing industry with an outlay of Rs 10,900 crore.
The scheme was announced by the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal.
The scheme is a fitting tribute to farmers and it will be helpful in generating employment for 2.5 lakh people.
The scheme would also lead to additional exports of Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 35,000 crore.
The aim of the scheme is to strengthen select Indian brand of food products for global visibility, support the creation of global food manufacturing champions, increase employment opportunities of off-farm jobs, ensuring remunerative prices of farm produce and higher income to farmers and wider acceptance in the international markets.
The scheme would cover ready-to-eat, ready-to-cook, marine products, processed fruits and vegetables, and mozzarella cheese.
Organic products, poultry meat, egg products, and free-range eggs were also covered.
The implementation of the PLI scheme will be helpful in the expansion of processing capacity for generating processed food output of Rs 33,494 crore.
It will also create employment for nearly 2.5 lakh persons by the year 2026-27.
The selected applicants for the scheme will have to invest in plant and machinery in the first two years – 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
Indian Army has closed its Military farms on March 31 after 132 years of service. Military farms are the farms that were formed with an aim to supply hygienic cow milk to troops in garrisons across British India.
Now, the military farms have been closed and all the officers and workers of the farms have been redeployed within the Ministry to continue providing service to the organization.
Various recommendations were given in the past to shut down the farms.
In the year 2012, the Quarter Master General branch had recommended their closure.
After this again in December 2016 Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar (retd) committee also suggested the shutdown of farms.
The first military farm was formed on February 1, 1889, at Allahabad.
After independence, the farms increased with 30,000 heads of cattle in 130 farms all over India.
In the 1990s, farms were even established in Leh and Kargil.
For over a century, these farms supplied 3.5 crore litres of milk and 25,000 MT of hay yearly.
The farms were required as cantonments were located at a distance from urban areas.
Now with urban expansion, cantonments have also come within towns and cities and milk procurement is being increasingly done from the open market.
Various allegations of corruption surrounding the farms were also noticed over the years. This was also one of the reasons contributing to the shut down of the farms.
The farms are also credited with introducing organized dairying in India and pioneering the technique of artificial insemination of cattle.
These farms provided yeoman service during the 1971 war, supplying milk at the Western and Eastern war fronts as well as during the Kargil operations to the Northern Command.
They established “Project Freiswal” in association with the Ministry of Agriculture. Project Freiswal is credited to be the largest cattle cross-breeding programme in the world. These farms also teamed up with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the development of bio-fuel.
Odisha will celebrate its 85th foundation day of the state on April 1. The day is also known as ‘Utkal Divas’. The day marks the date when the state became independent in the year 1936.
Utkal Divas or Utkala Dibasa or Odisha Day is celebrated on April 1 every year.
The day is celebrated in the memory of the struggle for achieving a separate identity for the state that was once part of Kalinga ruled by emperor Ashok, and later by Kharavela.
Odisha became India’s first independent state on a language basis on April 1, 1936, i.e. 85 years ago.
After a long struggle of more than three centuries, Odisha became a separate province.
The state was carved out of the combined Bengal-Bihar-Orissa province.
The day is usually celebrated through various public events. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the celebrations this year and the day will be celebrated in a low-key manner.
As of 2019, the state has 30 districts. It is the 8th largest state of the country by area and 11th largest by population. The neighboring states of Odisha are Andhra Pradesh to the south, Chhattisgarh to the west, and West Bengal and Jharkhand to the north.