16th July, 2021 - Current Affairs

American President Joe Biden called on Congress to extend “Child Tax Credit Programme” because this programme has potential to reduce child poverty in America.

Key Points

Child Tax Credit (CTC)

CTC is a tax credit provided to parents with dependent children in several countries. Credit is given on the basis of number of dependent children a taxpayer has and his/her income level. In United States, families earning less than $400,000 per year can claim full CTC while in United Kingdom, tax credit is given to families earning less than £42,000. In United States, tax credit is “non-wastable” and paid irrespective of family’s net tax liability. Higher rates are provided for disabled children. CTC has been integrated with working tax credit that also provides support for childcare costs.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru has developed a heat-tolerant COVID-19 vaccine formulation. While studying on animals, it was found to be effective against all current SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

Key Points

Background

Most of the vaccines developed for covid-19 required refrigeration to remain stable and effective. For instance, Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield in India) requires storage temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius while Pfizer requires specialised cold storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

How IISc-Mynvax’s vaccine was developed?

IISc-Mynvax vaccine was developed using a part of viral spike protein called receptor-binding domain (RBD). It allows virus to connect with host cell to infect it. It differs from other vaccine because it only uses a specific part of the RBD (string of 200 amino acids) instead of entire spike protein.

Significance of heat-tolerant vaccine

Development of a heat-tolerant vaccine or thermostable or warm vaccine is significant for remote or resource-limited locations having extremely hot climates that lack reliable cold storage supply chains.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

IISc is a public, deemed, research university, established in 1909, providing higher education and research in engineering, science, design, and management. It is headquartered in Bangalore. Institute is locally called as ‘Tata Institute’ as it was established with active support from Jamsetji Tata. It was granted status of Institute of Eminence in 2018.

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan and tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda jointly launched ‘School Innovation Ambassador Training Program’ on July 16, 2021.

Key Points

Who designed the programme?

School Innovation Ambassador Training Programme was designed by innovation cell of education ministry and All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) for school teachers for first time.

School Innovation Ambassador Training Program

Skill Development course by CBSE

CBSE is first board in world that introduced artificial intelligence which is a skill development course launched from 2019 for students from Class 8. The design thinking subjects was introduced in 2021. CBSE has now converged with AICTE to promote sustainable innovation environment in schooling system.

All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

AICTE is a statutory body and a national-level council for technical education. It was established in November 1945 as an advisory body under Department of Higher Education. In 1987, it was given statutory status by an Act of Parliament. It is involved in proper planning and coordinated development of technical education & management education system across India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate and dedicate to the nation several key projects of Railways in Gujarat on July 16, 2021.

Key Facts

  1. Newly redeveloped Gandhinagar Capital Railway station
  2. Gauge converted cum electrified Mahesana- Varetha line and
  3. Newly electrified Surendranagar -Pipavav section.

Upgradation of Gandhinagar capital railway station

As per Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), upgradation of Gandhinagar Capital Railway station was completed at a cost of Rs 71 crore. This Station was provided with world class amenities on the line of modern airports. It has been made Divyang friendly station by providing it with a special ticket booking counter, lifts, ramps, dedicated parking space etc. Complete building is designed and provided with Green Building rating features. State-of-the-art external facade will have daily theme on the basis of lighting with 32 themes. The station also houses a five-star hotel.

Mahesana – Varetha Gauge conversion

This project of 55 km has been completed at the cost of Rs 293 crores. Electrification work was done at a cost of Rs 74 crores. It comprises of a total of ten stations. Four station buildings namely, Visnagar, Vadnagar, Kheralu & Varetha are newly built.

Electrification of Surendranagar – Pipavav Section

This process was completed at a total cost of Rs 289 crores. It will provide seamless freight movement from Palanpur, Ahmedabad and other parts of India up to Pipavav Port without any change of traction. This section will decongest Ahmedabad, Viramgam and Surendranagar Yards as it will avoid detentions for loco change over.

Twitter Inc announced on July 14, 2021 that it is going to shut down its Fleets feature.

Key points

About the fleet feature

Fleet feature of twitter was similar to “Instagram’s disappearing stories feature”. It was launched in November 2020 with the aim of targeting people who share thoughts publicly through tweets. This feature was launched after listening to this feedback of users in order to address some of the anxieties that people back from talking on Twitter. Fleets are a way that share fleeting thoughts. Fleets disappear after 24 hours and don’t get Retweets, Likes, or public replies. However, people can only react to Fleets with Direct Messages. Fleets are used by people who are already Tweeting to amplify their own Tweets.

About Twitter

Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service. Through this platform, users post and interact with messages called as tweets. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets. Unregistered users can only read those posts. Users access Twitter using its website interface or its mobile-device application software. This service could also be accessed through SMS before April 2020. It is provided by Twitter Inc., which is a corporation based in San Francisco, California. Twitter has more than 25 offices across the world. Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams and was launched in July 2006.

Central government has agreed to demand from Maharashtra government to extend cut-off date to enrol farmers from July 15 to July 23 for Kharif season 2021 under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

Key Points

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

PMFBY was launched on February 18, 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is an insurance cover for farmers for their yields. This scheme was formulated under One Nation–One Scheme theme. This scheme replaced two schemes called National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS) and incorporated their best features. This scheme was launched with the aim of reducing premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim. PMFBY is aimed at providing comprehensive insurance cover in case of failure of crop. Thus, it helps stabilising income of farmers.

Which crops are covered under PMFBY?

This scheme provided cover to all Food & Oilseeds crops and annual commercial or horticultural crops for which past yield data is available. It covers those crops as well for which requisite number of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) are being conducted under General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).

Who implements this scheme?

PMFBY is implemented by empanelled general insurance companies. Selection of Implementing Agency (IA) is done by concerned State Government by bidding. It is administered by Ministry of Agriculture.

Gift-City regulator, IFSCA (International Financial Services Centres Authority) has set up an expert committee to suggests on approach towards development of Longevity Finance Hub in Gift-City of Gujarat.

About Expert Committee

Why expert committee was set up?

As per Global estimates, there are one billion people in silver generation (a global cohort of individuals aged 60 and above) having a combined spending power of $15 trillion. This size is ever expanding. By 2040, there will be more members of silver generation than people under 20. This demographic change will bring about new challenges & opportunities in areas of wealth management, insurance, health, and other investment products. Development in medicinal science and technology will support in extending lifespan and longevity of silver generation. Thus, an expert committee was set up to suggest on same.

International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA)

IFSCA was established on April 27, 2020 in accordance with International Financial Services Centres Authority Act, 2019. Its headquarter is at GIFT City, Gandhinagar in Gujarat. It is a unified authority of developing and regulating financial products, financial services and financial institutions. Currently, it is a maiden international financial services centre of India.

Objective of IFSCA

Primary objective of IFSCA is to develop a strong global connect. It also focuses on needs of Indian economy and serves as an international financial platform for entire region and global economy.

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved implementation of special livestock sector package comprising of several activities by revising & realigning several components of schemes by government of India.

Highlights

About Livestock Sector Package

Rashtriya Gokul Mission

This scheme will help in development & conservation of indigenous breeds. It will also contribute in improving economic condition of rural poor.

National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) scheme

NPDD scheme targets on installing 8900 bulk milk coolers, providing benefits to 8 lakh milk producers. Under the scheme, 20 LLPD milk will be additionally procured. Benefits will be availed with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

National Livestock Mission (NLM)

NLM was launched in financial year 2014-15. It seeks to ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement across livestock production systems and capacity building for all stakeholders. It is being implemented as  sub scheme of White Revolution called ‘Rashtriya Pashudhan Vikas Yojana’ since April 2019.

Centre undertook complete control of district mineral foundation (DMF) funds from state.

Key points

Why centre undertook control?

According to Ministry of mines, this move was necessitated because there are instances where funds of DMF are being transferred to treasury or consolidated fund of state or state level funds or Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. This in turn was defeating the purpose of creation of DMF.

District Mineral Funds

According to MMDR (Amendment) Act, 2015, state governments are mandated to establish DMFs in all districts for interest and benefits of persons affected by mining-related operations.  Lease holders are mandated to contribute to these not-for-profit foundations a defined percentage of royalty apart from paying royalty to state governments.

Under what provision DMFs are created?

Sub-section 3 of Section 9(B) of MMDR Act, 2015 provides for composition and functions of DMF as may be prescribed by state government. Earlier, with an amendment to this Act, a proviso was added that provided that central government may give directions with respect to composition and utilisation of fund. However, recent order of July 12 provides that, no sanction or approval of any expenditure will be done at state level by the state government or any state level agency.

How funds are utilized?

DMFs are required to use these funds for welfare of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations. Thus, tribal population are principal beneficiaries. The scheme is also called as “Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana”.

Cultivation of ‘monk fruit’ from China has started in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. The fruit was introduced for field trials in Himachal Pradesh by Palampur-based Council of Scientific Research and Industrial Technology-Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (CSIR-IHBT).

Key Points

Conditions for cultivation of Monk fruit

Monk fruit is “a perennial crop”. It is having a life span of four to five years. Fruiting on this crop starts eight to nine months after germination. It prefers mountainous area having annual mean temperature of 16–20 °C and humid conditions.

Background

Monk Fruit took its name from Buddhist monks who first used it. During the 20th century, Professor G W Groff had also made an unsuccessful attempt to grow Monk plant because flowers did not appear.

Seed Germination Rate

Seed germination rate of monk fruit is slow and low. Thus, seed germination technique has been developed by CSIR-IHBT to increase germination rate and reduce germination time. Institute also developed planting method and standardised planting time. Method for generation of characterised planting material was also developed.

About monk fruit

Monk fruit (siraitia grosvenorii), is known for its intensely sweet taste. It is used as a non-caloric natural sweetener. The sweet taste of monk fruit is because of content of group of cucurbitane-type triterpene glycosides called mogrosides.

Union Cabinet has approved a scheme to provide Rs 1,624 crore as subsidy to Indian shipping companies.

Highlights

About scheme

Background

Announcement for this scheme was made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Union Budget 2021-22 to address cost disadvantage suffered by Indian flag ships. This scheme was announced over five years to promote flagging of merchant ships across India.

Why this scheme was proposed?

This scheme was proposed because despite having 7,500 km long coastline, a national exim trade which is steadily growing on annual basis, policy of 100 per cent FDI in shipping since 1997; Indian shipping industry is proportionately small as compared to global counterparts.

WHO & UNICEF recently released its data on Child Vaccination. As per report, India registered largest decrease in routine childhood immunization coverage in 2020.

Highlights

Key Findings

Why vaccine inequities surged?

As per report, most of the missed-out children live in communities affected by conflict across under-served remote places or in informal or slum settings. In these areas, they face multiple deprivations like limited access to basic health and key social services. Reason being this, vaccine inequities surged further. Covid-19 pandemic made situation worse.

Failing WHO’s target

Before covid-19 pandemic, global childhood vaccination rates against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and polio were stagnant for several years at 86%, well below 95% as recommended by WHO to protect against measles.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) & Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have published “OECD-FAO Outlook report 2021-2030”  recently making interesting reading insofar as major crops are concerned. The latest report covers pulses and a few other non-major crops under ‘other products’ category.

Highlights

Key Findings of report

Drawbacks of report